Toramitsu: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Toramitsu: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Toramitsu 2006-12-23 03:36 0
Toramitsu: The Midnight Warrior
Chapter 04: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon...[]

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"Siyaaah!"

Toramitsu just had time to look up before Ichimitsu descended upon him with a falling axe kick, which the tiger ninja avoided via backflip. Ichimitsu, recovering from his landing, sprung into action, aiming a flying side kick right at Toramitsu's chest. "Demon Arrow!" he shouted, announcing the name of his technique. Reacting quickly, Toramitsu rolled underneath Ichimitsu, recovering on the other side. He only just had enough time to get to his feet, however, before he felt Niimitsu's fists connect with his spine. "Shark Attack!" came the cry from behind as Toramitsu was dropped forward onto his chest by the Manji ninja's attack. Using the momentum of the attack, however, Toramitsu pushed up with his forearms, going into a handstand for a moment before pushing off with his arms and forcing his feet into Niimitsu's back as he continued forward, effectively reversing the situation, with the difference of ending with Toramitsu holding down Niimitsu with his left foot.

Seeing Sanmitsu and Ichimitsu coming at him from either side, the former with another shark attack and the latter leaping with fist ready to strike high, Toramitsu crouched down, keeping his foot firmly planted on the back of Niimitsu's neck. Adjusting his footing slightly, he launched off the ground (and Niimitsu) in the direction of Sanmitsu, avoiding Ichimitsu's attack. Toramitsu grabbed hold of the leaping Sanmitsu in mid-air, keeping himself close and parallel to his opponent, and forced the two of them into a spin around their common center of gravity. His momentum more than equalled Sanmitsu's, so they continued in the Toramitsu's chosen direction, rather than simply colliding and stopping. As they landed, Toramitsu forced Sanmitsu into the ground, planting him into the floor with his head a perilous few inches away from the wall, before leaping off Sanmitsu and running up the wall to avoid two bladed stars thrown at him from across the room: Niimitsu's work.

"Yoshimitsu did not say to use weapons," Toramitsu called, anchoring himself in the corner between ceiling and wall.

"He didn't forbid them, either," came Niimitsu's reply. Niimitsu was the youngest of the three, who Toramitsu had found out last night were actually brothers. Their homes had been destroyed by the Mishima Zaibatsu, back when Heihachi Mishima ran it. All three of them wore similar demon masks, pale white with grinning faces, blood-red eyes, and golden fangs. Over the left eyebrow of each was a Chinese character in red: One for Ichimitsu, the eldest, two for Niimitsu, and three for Sanmitsu, who had been the last to agree to join the Manji. The shoulder armor they wore bore these identifying numbers as well, though their hairstyles also told the three of them apart. Ichimitsu's hair was spiked up well above his head, a burning red; Niimitsu's was cut short and bleached blonde; Sanmitsu wore his jet-black hair in a long ponytail, held straight for a few inches by a bamboo tube. Toramitsu had learned to differentiate between the three quickly, for utilitarian reasons. Now he readied himself to take the fight a bit further.

"Well, then, if you want weapons, let us continue," he shouted, leaping down from the wall with arms crossed in front of him. The three brother ninjas prepared themselves when they heard this; they'd heard of Toramitsu's deadly skill with a sword. Ichimitsu drew his ninja-tō from the sheath on his back, Niimitsu readied two more throwing stars in his hands, and Sanmitsu, who had gotten back onto his feet, drew two kunai from sheathes on his lower back. When Toramitsu landed, he kept crouched down and snapped his arms out to his sides, the left one now holding Tiger Sword. With a yell, Ichimitsu led the attack.

As Ichimitsu's right hand, wielding his ninja-tō, came down to slash the still-crouching Toramitsu, Tiger Sword came up to meet it, blocking the blade away before the midnight warrior knocked Ichimitsu away with a thrusting front snap-kick. He turned on his heels just in time to block Sanmitsu's right-hand kunai, which came down at him almost without warning. But Sanmitsu wielded two kunai for a reason; while the one was blocked, he slashed at Toramitsu with the one in his left hand. The tiger ninja deepened his stance and avoided the strike, but as a consequence he let free Sanmitsu's right hand. Before Sanmitsu could counter, Toramitsu rolled backwards, underneath a bladed star thrown by Niimitsu, and recovered with his blade holding down Ichimitsu's, so that the ninja could not get to his feet, as he had been trying to do. Looking around for Niimitsu, Toramitsu saw him just in time to avoid a second throwing star, which lodged in the wall a few feet behind him.

"Your aim is excellent, Niimitsu," called Toramitsu, "but you need to be faster."

"Is this fast enough?" called Sanmitsu, coming from Toramitsu's other side with a lunging strike. Yoshimitsu has taught them moving invisibly, if nothing else, Toramitsu mused to himself as he rolled away and got to his feet, leaving Sanmitsu to land on top of his brother. Another throwing star came his way, but instead of dodging it, Toramitsu focused his mind, and his form faded away, and the star passed right through where he had been only a moment before. In the next moment, however, Toramitsu was all the way across the room, standing right behind Niimitsu, who stood dumbfounded, looking at the empty space where Toramitsu had been. By the time he realized what had happened, he felt a blade pressed lightly to the back of his neck.

"Okay, okay, you win!" Niimitsu shouted, dashing forward and feeling the back of his neck, as if he expected it to be cut and bleeding. Sanmitsu helped Ichimitsu to his feet, and all four of them put away their weapons. "You've got to show us that teleportation technique," Niimitsu continued.

"Yes," said Sanmitsu. "Yoshimitsu-sama showed us a similar move, but it takes longer to perform. We have to do all this meditation beforehand."

"And Nii here has yet to manage it even once," added Ichimitsu, raising his hands to block the punch his brother threatened to throw at him.

Toramitsu shook his head. "Some techniques I can teach you, but this one I cannot; it is a skill that requires?something more." He turned away and, unclasping his cloak, went to the door of the training room, a different one than the one in which he had fought Yoshimitsu earlier. The walls of this one were not as high, and the ground was concrete, not sand. It was painted to resemble a forest clearing, though the effect was lost after being in the room a while. Toramitsu placed his hand on the flat panel by the door, which opened with a hissing sound onto the hallway.

After he'd walked out, Niimitsu turned to Ichimitsu, taking off his demon mask. "What do you think he meant, ?something more'?" he asked, scratching his head.

"Well, if you don't have it," Ichimitsu responded, "I have a pretty good idea what it is." He laughed, dodging straight punch to the face from Niimitsu.

"Be serious," said Sanmitsu. "You both know Toramitsu has been training longer than the three of us combined. Remember, Yoshimitsu said he'd been traveling through different worlds; I'd be honoured just to learn even one of his techniques." Sanmitsu was always the most serious of the three, though at first he hadn't wanted to be trained as a fighter. Ichimitsu had always been the leader, being the eldest, but Sanmitsu had always been the one making them train harder. "Put your mask back on, Nii. Yoshimitsu-sama said that the mask should become one with the body, so that you think about the fight than your face."

"Yes, Sanmitsu-san," replied Niimitsu, pressing his mask back onto his face. "So should we go see what Toramitsu's doing? It looked like he was going off to the meditation room."

"No," said Ichimitsu. "I've got to go watch the monitors now; it's my shift, and Kenmitsu will be angry if I show up late. You-know-who's supposed to be coming back to base this evening, and he has to go make himself ready." He walked up to the door panel and placed his hand on it to open the door.

"Hah!" laughed Niimitsu, following behind his brother. "Think he's finally going to tell her today? He gets as mute as Nomitsu whenever he sees her."

Sanmitsu remained silent, following after the other two as they filed out into the hallway. The door whirred shut behind them as they made their way off to the showers: the Doctor always wanted to keep the place sanitary.

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Hwoarang woke up late, as usual. It'd been two days since he'd met David Sin, but he'd showed up at the do jang too late or too early, yesterday and the day before, and hadn't run into him again. Just as well, Hwoarang thought. I'd only have to kick him into the ground, and sa bom nim would yell at me again. Crazy American...

Yawning, he pulled himself to his feet and looked out the window. He could see the owner of a convenience store yelling at some kids riding skateboards down the sidewalk, but thankfully the glass shielded Hwoarang from having to listen to it. That old man had yelled at him many a time before. The old lady in the apartment above him was yelling at her granddaughter, though, which he could hear through the thin floors which probably only just supported the old lady, for all her voice sounded. He'd never met the granddaughter, but he knew she went by bus every day to the Mishima Institute; she couldn't afford to live closer to campus, apparently. Like I care, Hwoarang suddenly thought to himself, wondering why his thoughts always turned to the issue of money. I've got enough worries without adding money to the list, he decided.

Not really in the mood to go anywhere today, or at least not at the moment, he collapsed back onto his bed after throwing on some clothes. Looking up at the ceiling, he could hear the old grandmother still going at it. For absolutely no reason whatsoever, he listened in, as best as he could hear.

"You had better get going soon, or you'll be kicked out of the school, and then where will you be? Huh? Out on the street, like your mother!" the grandmother yelled. Hwoarang laughed. Crazy woman, he thought to himself. I feel sorry for the poor girl, if half the things her grandmother says about her are true. The ?poor girl' apparently didn't have an opinion on the subject, as she didn't once speak; at least, not that Hwoarang could hear. But the grandmother continued.

"And don't let me catch you coming in at all hours of the night again! I almost got out my gun and shot you, before I saw it was you! And then I almost shot you anyway, for scaring me! Go on, get out of here! You've got your classes, and I've got my poor heart to mend from you nearly making it collapse every day. If I find out you've been going to see a boyfriend, I'll call the police, I will! What, don't think they'll do anything? Well, I'll have them do something! I pay my taxes now and again, after all!" At this point, Hwoarang heard a door slam loudly; he assumed it was hers. He was right, for a moment later her grandma shouted after her, "And don't slam the door!"

Hwoarang turned his head enough to be able to look out his window, just as the granddaughter was exiting the building. She was already dressed in the uniform which the Mishima Institute forced its students to wear; that was one of Hwoarang's main reasons for avoiding further education. After watching her walk out of sight around the corner, Hwoarang looked over at his alarm clock. Almost noon, he thought. Not as late as I'd hoped. I'm awake now, though, so no use trying to go back to sleep. Yawning one more time, he lurched to his feet and stretched a few times before going to the door. About time I went ?looking for a job,' anyway, he mused.

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Chiyo Tsushima arrived at the Institute late, as usual, though she didn't waste energy with running. Her first class had started at ten o'clock that morning, and would be just letting out about now. As she approached the classroom door, she heard the instructor's voice from inside.

"And we're out of time for today, it seems; make sure you read chapters 4 and 5 for next class. I realize this is the summer semester, but if you have to, do your homework outside. We'll be having a quiz on this material a week from today." About half the class responded, "Yes, professor," in one form or another, and almost immediately came the sound of chairs scraping against the floor and people bustling towards the exit. Chiyo stood to the side, just before the door opened and out came a stream of her classmates. Well, they would be her classmates, if she were ever on time to this class.

The last two students to exit the classroom were none other than Xiaoyu and Miharu. They greeted her cheerily, and the three of them walked away down the hall. Before they could get very far, however, a voice came from within the classroom: "I'll want to meet with you sometime, Miss Tsushima, to discuss your recurrent tardiness. Understood?" Without turning around to face him, Chiyo responded, "Yes, professor," before continuing onward.

Dashing a few steps to catch up with Chiyo, Xiaoyu and Miharu rejoined her. They were both carrying heavy books in their hands; Chiyo had been borrowing one of theirs the whole semester to turn in assignments, not having one of her own. "The professor isn't going to give you a very good grade for this class, you know," Xiaoyu said.

"I'll manage," responded Chiyo. "I turn in assignments, and I show up for exams, so why should he complain?"

Shaking her head, Miharu said, "I sure hope you know what you're doing, though; this is a required course."

When Chiyo did not respond, Miharu changed the subject. "It's so strange, walking between classes, with half an hour between each, sometimes. Not at all like high school."

Xiaoyu nodded in agreement. "The Mishima Institute is supposedly based off of more Western models."

"If that's so," queried Chiyo with a note of cynicism, "Why are we still wearing uniforms and taking classes all the way through the end of July?"

Neither of the other two could find a suitable answer, so they continued walking in silence for a bit. Finally, Xiaoyu spoke again.

"I think Jin was really pleased with our theme park proposal; it'd be great if he'd be able to start it soon; we might be able to use it for a final group project."

Miharu laughed. "You only seem to think about two things, Xiao: schoolwork, and Jin."

Xiaoyu's face blushed faster than she could hide it with her book. "He's a really good friend, is all. He always says nice things to me, encouraging me to follow my dreams."

"That makes sense, then," said Miharu. "All your dreams are about Jin, after all."

"Stop it," demanded Xiao, dropping her book. "Just?stop it." There was a hint of tears in her voice, and in her eyes. "Jin's life has been a long, sad story, and now it's just finally turned around. Now he runs the Zaibatsu, and his evil grandfather is in jail, where he belongs."

"And his father is dead, once again," Chiyo added. After the fifth tournament, Kazuya Mishima had tried to storm the Zaibatsu throne room in an attempt to take it for himself, but the guards gunned him down before he could get halfway across the room. Even with all Kazuya's burning rage, it had seemed that he was still no match for hot lead.

Xiaoyu was about to say something, but then she stopped. "Yes," she said instead. "Now he's finally dead, and Jin's troubles can be buried in the past."

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"Come in, Yoshimitsu," the Doctor called, recognizing the footstep that followed the opening of the door. "You are neither late nor early, as always."

"Time is one thing of which I never have enough, Boskonovich-san," replied Yoshimitsu. "How run your experiments?"

Shaking his head, Dr. Boskonovich directed Yoshimitsu's attention to a computer screen, on which were displayed several numerical data and an outline of a human form, annotated with various terms Yoshimitsu still did not understand. "You destroyed the perpetual power generator which I installed in the patient's body quite effectively. It cannot be fixed, and it will take time to build another one. Yet at the same time, while the patient remains alive artificially, he will soon begin to deteriorate. He was dead once, Yoshimitsu; are you sure you want to bring him back?"

The cyborg ninja was silent for a few moments. Still fresh in his mind was the memory of what this monster, Bryan Fury, had done in place of gratitude the last time he had been saved from death by Dr. Boskonovich's hands. Yet he felt that he could not let even this evil being die, not just yet.

"I need him alive, for now," he said. "I still have faith that he can be turned to good. His mind is poisoned, but it was not always so. You have transferred his mind to the new body you built for him?"

The Doctor looked concerned. "The transfer is still underway, but it should not take more than a few days to complete. When he wakes up after that, if he wakes up at all, it will be in that new body, identical in most ways to his old, but more efficient, untainted by Abel's malicious machinery."

"Good," said Yoshimitsu. "Let us also hope he leaves behind his decayed heart with the old body. This will be his true rebirth."

Nodding in agreement, Dr. Boskonovich asked, "I will try keep his old body preserved, until I the new one is fully operational, but nothing is for certain until the mind transfer is completed."

Yoshimitsu wandered over to another of the computer panels in the lab, showing a live camera feed of the two body cases, and the wires through which Bryan Fury's mind was now traveling. That is a voyage I would not want to take, yet I am forcing him to sail it, he thought to himself. Am I selfish for this? No. I want to give him a chance for true redemption. Yoshimitsu's blade has been tainted enough with evil; I would not want to add his evil death to it.

With this decision made in his mind, Yoshimitsu turned around and asked the other question that had been burning in his mind since the other day. "I have not asked you yet why you did not tell me of your refusal to help Jin Kazama," he said in a flat tone of voice.

Looking somewhat startled, Dr. Boskonovich turned around in his chair. "Surely you see my reasons for refusing him, Yoshimitsu. We both know he will destroy himself if he continues, and I did not want to be a part of it."

Yoshimitsu nodded. "I am in agreement with you there. But why did you not tell me that he had approached you? You are not wont to keep secrets from me, I hope."

The Doctor sighed. "I was not certain, at first, that you would share my views. After all, you most of all would want to end the tyranny of the Devil gene once and for all. I knew you would find out about his experiments through your usual means, but I did not want to bring the subject up before then, so that you would investigate for yourself before coming to a conclusion."

Yoshimitsu raised a hand to the chin of his metallic skull mask as if it were a beard. "Perhaps you are right, Boskonovich-san. I do not hold it against you, and ask you only to trust me further, especially now that second-guessing is becoming so dangerous."

"I will trust you, friend, as I always have," the Doctor replied. Getting up from his chair, he said, "Well, I know the time as well as you do; time to boil water for the tchainik and make some tea. Shall we?"

With a mechanical laugh, Yoshimitsu followed the Doctor out the door. "Of course, we shall," he said.

Meanwhile, in an unseen part of Bryan Fury's transient mind, he suddenly became aware of himself again. He was alive, he knew, but for some reason he could not move, or feel, or open his eyes. What is this? he thought in confusion. I thought I was dead. Yoshimitsu...that pesky insect won't leave me in peace, will he? Maybe I should just die now and have him out of my hair permanently.

But he didn't die. He didn't die that moment, or the next. Instead, a voice spoke to him, one he'd never heard before. The sensation was not like hearing, but more like having another's thoughts spoken directly into his mind. {It is not your time to die, Bryan Fury,} the voice said, or thought, or whatever. {You have a task still to perform.}

Forget tasks to perform, thought Bryan. I'm done; I've lived two lives, one more than I should have. What do I need with more work to do?

{Are you so sure you want to face the next life just yet?} came the reply, though Bryan hadn't meant his thoughts as a direct response. {What do you think waits for you there?}

If this is a sermon from Yoshimitsu implanted in my mind, I'll kill him for this, Bryan thought. I don't care what's waiting for me; all I know is that it won't involve Yoshimitsu. That's enough for me.

{But what if it were Yoshimitsu dying, and you still had life? What would you trade for a chance to reverse this situation, to have his life in your hands, and to take it away from him?} The voice had a gentle quality to it, almost pleasing to hear. Yet somehow Bryan wished that he could be truly silent while he pondered this. It's never easy to bargain with someone who knows your every thought, after all.

I would love to see Yoshimitsu dying, he thought, almost as much as I want to see him dead. He's become nothing but a nuisance. He kept me from finding Dr. Boskonovich when Abel sent me after him, so I had to keep going back to Abel for repairs and more power. More power...until Boskonovich gave me that machine. I'd never felt power like that before. It was like..

{Was it like being alive again?} came the other's thoughts. {Was it what you really wanted?}

What I really wanted...repeated Bryan. What I really wanted was...to be alive again, without any strings attached. I was free again, free to do as I pleased, until...

{Until Yoshimitsu took it away from you. Again.}

Yoshimitsu...if I keep hearing that name, I may just have to stay alive, just so I can snap his neck and force his sword through his throat. Bryan felt tired, now. He still didn't know how he was alive, or where he was alive, or why he couldn't even feel his mind connected to a body.

{I offer you life,} came the voice again, {and I offer it freely. Your time has not yet come; we both know this. But Boskonovich cannot bring you back; he only delays your death. Take the life I offer; Yoshimitsu will mourn your death no more than you will his.}

I mourn nothing...tears are too human, after all. Show me this life, then, if you're not just my imagination. It can't be worse than this.

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David Sin was walking down the hallway at the Arts & Humanities Research building at the Mishima Institute of Technology. It was the smallest building on campus, and for good reason: the Institute was geared toward scientific studies, and only had an Arts & Humanities section because of arguments that, without art, inspiration suffers. David had come as an exchange student in the Modern Languages department, though his Japanese still hadn't improved since he'd arrived. His primary field of study was in European languages, but Mishima Tech had gained quite a reputation since it was first founded, and the opportunity to study there was not one to be missed, even if it meant studying during the summer, which he hadn't done before.

He was also fortunate enough to find a tutor to help him in Japanese, an engineering student named Miharu Hirano. In fact, he was presently going to the place where they were to meet today for practice, an open lounge area near the entrance to the building. As he turned the corner into the lounge, he saw Miharu sitting on a sofa with two other girls, friends of hers he didn't know. As David approached, Miharu, seeing him, waved him over. He, waving back, came and sat down at a couch opposite Miharu's. A long glass table was set between the two sofas, and on this he set the textbook he'd been carrying all that way.

"Sorry for being late, Miharu-san," he said, muttering out what halting Japanese he could manage. One of Miharu's friends, a Chinese girl with her hair in pigtails, giggled at his attempts, and David felt himself reddening in embarrassment. She looked familiar, somehow; David assumed it was because he'd seen her elsewhere on campus.

"You're doing much better, David-san," Miharu reassured him. "I can tell you practiced."

David bowed his head. "Thanks a lot, Miharu-san. So, who are you friends?" He was stuttering quite a bit, and hardly expected the other two girls to understand him at all. At least Miharu had had practice listening to him.

As soon as she understood his broken Japanese, however, the girl with pigtails introduced herself before Miharu had a chance. "My name's Ling Xiaoyu," she said, then repeating it in accented English. "Xiaoyu Ling. I'm one of Miharu-chan's classmates." She then pointed to the other girl, a short, quiet girl with black hair, highlighted blue at the tips, and large brown gloves covering her hands and forearms. "This is Chiyo Tsushima, another engineering student." Chiyo nodded, but didn't say anything. David noticed that she seemed to have somewhat of a distant stare, as if she were paying more attention to things in her mind than things around her. ?I?m David Sin,? he said, to complete the introductions. ?Miharu-san and I agreed to use first names, so she wouldn?t have to keep calling me ?Sin-san.?? Xiaoyu and Miharu giggled at that, though Chiyo seemed to miss the humor. Perhaps she doesn?t speak English after all, thought David.

"Miharu told us she was tutoring an exchange student," Xiaoyu continued, recapturing David's attention. "Are you a first-year too? I suppose so."

Glad abundantly that he didn't have to answer in Japanese, he said, making sure he wasn't mumbling, "No, actually, I'm a second-year student back home, and I'd be going into my third year in the fall."

Xiaoyu looked impressed, "Miharu must be a great teacher, tutoring an upperclassman."

Miharu, blushing, said, "David's just a great student, is all."

Then David remembered something, and he spoke again. "Now I remember now where I've seen you before," he said to Xiaoyu. "Aren't you the same Ling Xiaoyu who fought in the last King of Iron Fist Tournament?"

Nodding, Xiaoyu replied, "The last three, actually, though I didn't manage to win any of them. Were the fights broadcast in America? I suppose so."

David nodded affirmatively. "I thought you did really well," he said, "considering some of the competition. I'm a fighter too, so I didn't miss watching a single round."

Xiaoyu looked interested. "Really? What's your style?"

Still impressed that so many people around here spoke English better than he could speak Japanese, he responded, "I practice Tang Soo Do, a traditional art from Korea. Not very flashy, but good for self-defense." He raised his arms in a defensive position, as if in exhibition.

Miharu laughed. "Toshiro-san saw us studying the other day and he asked me if David-san was my new boyfriend," she said. "David-san didn't understand, and he thought Toshiro-san was picking on me, so he almost beat him up right there." David looked sheepishly embarrassed after this revelation, so Xiaoyu decided not to pursue the matter further, though she too laughed at it.

Chiyo's gaze returned to the real world for a moment, however. "Oh wow, Miharu-chan," she said, speaking in Japanese, "not only is he an upperclassman, but a fighter as well. Lucky." Somehow, though, her voice lacked the proper enthusiasm which would have made that statement seem sincere.

Miharu got a bit angry at that. "What exactly do you mean by that?" she returned, also in Japanese. "David-san is only my tutoring student, in case you?re thinking what I think you?re thinking. Why everyone has to think our friendship goes further is beyond me. Especially with you, I should think you'd be a bit slower to form conclusions. Understand? He's just a friend, I - ?

?Take it easy,? interrupted Xiaoyu, playing the peace-maker. ?David-san can?t understand you when you talk so fast, Hirano-san.? Miharu looked over at David, who indeed was giving a blank stare, completely lost as to what was being said, and why his name was being brought into it.

Trying to get back to friendly conversation, Xiaoyu said, "There was a Korean fighter I saw during the third Iron Fist tournament, and I think he was in the last two as well, who you should meet, then. He has the same 'likeable' personality as Toshiro-san. You probably watched him; his name was Hwoarang."

At this, David's eyes went wide in recognition. Why hadn't he remembered before? Chiyo took notice, and gave him a questioning look, still saying nothing.

"Something wrong, David-san?" asked Xiaoyu.

Shaking his head negatively, David replied, "I can't believe it; an Iron Fist competitor, and I go to the same training school now. Can't believe I didn't recognize him."

At this, Xiaoyu's eyes went wide as well. "You trained with him? How funny; what a small world. Tell me; did he try to pick a fight with you?"

Scratching the back of his head, David answered, "Well, yes and no, but it ended in a fight anyway."

Giggling, Miharu asked, "Who won?"

"Well," said David, "He fought well, but I won in the end, just before his master came in and yelled at him."

Miharu and Xiaoyu burst into laughter. "That's just what he deserves, I guess," said Miharu. "Wasn't he always trying to fight with Jin?"

This caught David's attention. "Do you mean Jin Kazama, the head of Mishima Zaibatsu?" he asked. When the others nodded in affirmation, David said, "Good luck there; Jin Kazama's no easy fight, from the fights. Didn't he win the last two tournament, too? The broadcasts always seem to cut off for the final rounds of these tournaments."

Xiaoyu nodded. "And the one before that," she corrected. "Jin doesn't like talking about the end of the third tournament..." She trailed off, quickly realizing that she was saying too much. Rising to her feet, she then said, ?Anyway, Chiyo and I should get going now, and leave you two alone to study.? Picking up her plush panda bookbag, she said, ?It was nice to meet you, David-san,? before walking away with Chiyo, who followed willingly. There?s something strange about that Chiyo, David thought to himself. I can?t quite figure it out, but she doesn?t seem like she?s really aware of things all the time.

His attention was brought back to the current situation by Miharu, who took out her copy of the Japanese for Beginners textbook and said, ?Okay, then, let?s begin our tutoring.?

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"You're late, Ichimitsu," Kenmitsu called from his chair in front of the surveillance monitors in the security room. Like all the Manji, he wore a mask, though in his case it was in the likeness of a wolf's head, the mouth closed but with a few fangs showing out the side. He wore dark navy clothes, of the traditional style among ninja, though the belt around his waist in which he stored his twin daggers, crossed over the small of his back, was a deep crimson. He got up from his seat and walked over to Ichimitsu as he entered.

"Sorry, Kenmitsu," Ichimitsu replied in a penitent tone. "Training with Toramitsu went longer than expected. But I'm here now, anyway."

"I suppose," replied Kenmitsu. "So how was the training? I haven't yet seen more than a few glimpses of the famous Toramitsu, and here you three have fought him twice already."

Ichimitsu laughed. "Count yourself fortunate, Kenmitsu," he said. "Tora-san is probably the strongest fighter among us, except maybe Yoshimitsu himself. Even then, I wouldn't want to see the fight between them."

"That tough?" Kenmitsu asked. "You don't seem too bruised, though admittedly there isn't much of you to see."

Ichimitsu scratched the back of his head. "I'll ask if you can replace me, next time," he said. "So can I take over controls now, or what?"

Turning around quickly to flick a final switch to lock the camera controls, Kenmitsu said, "Sure. There you go, all set for you to log in to the system. I've got to get going anyway. I need to get some training in before.."

"Before Yamimitsu comes back, I know. Go ahead, I've got a handle on it," said Ichimitsu, sitting down and punching a few buttons. The computer displayed, "Access Granted," and the camera controls were activated again. Kenmitsu's fists clenched, but he decided not to say anything and walked out the door, letting it slide closed behind him. He had to go get ready.

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Toramitsu sat alone in the room set aside for meditation, a small, circular room lit only by a row of candles near the front. There had been a small Buddhist statue behind the candles, but Toramitsu had moved it to a corner; he would not need it. His mask was set down at his side; he would not need it, either. Tiger Sword was laid on the ground in front of him, but his gaze was forward. He sat Indian-style, though his feet were pressed sole to sole instead of crossed. His hands were held close in to his chest, the right hand held out horizontally, palm facing upward, and the left resting vertically inside it, palm facing right. The Tiger Flame.

I have found what the Dragon seeks, the midnight warrior thought to himself. Dusk has fallen over this land; now the night must begin. As before, each time I have come to a new reality, he waits until I know how to find him. His thoughts then turned to the scene in the basement laboratory of the Mishima Zaibatsu headquarters, and the man doing battle with the devil. Jin Kazama does not know what he faces. He does not see that he is already becoming a servant, for I felt that much from him. My senses must be quick in the future as well. I pray for favor, and for victory. Even so.

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