Toramitsu: Many Meetings

Toramitsu: Many Meetings
Toramitsu 2007-01-17 03:11 0
Toramitsu: The Midnight Warrior
Chapter 5: Many meetings...[]

Jin Kazama stood on the edge of a cliff, overlooking a seemingly bottomless ravine. Rain fell against his face, but he could not feel their impacts. Lightning flashed, and he fell to his knees, supporting himself with his hands. His left shoulder began to throb, and he grabbed it, as if that would stop the pain. Looking over the edge into the nothingness below, he heard a voice coming up from its depths.

Give in to the anger!

Hate me!

Curse me!

The voice was his father's, he knew. He'd met him for the first time only a little over a year ago, but Jin Kazama knew his father's voice. If only you were dead, he thought. If only you were dead...

I am dead! You killed me! the voice came back, accusatorily laughing. You killed your father. But it's not over, is it?

As the falling rain became a torrential downpour, Jin realized they were his tears. You're not dead, father, he thought in his defense. I kept you alive. You're still alive.

I am dead to you, Jin Kazama, his father yelled back at him. The voice still came from the bottom of the ravine, but it was so loud he might have been shouting in Jin's ear. I am dead, as your mother is dead. And you killed me, as I killed her.

Jin felt his elbows begin to shake, and his hands clenched into fists. Devil killed my mother, he thought in return. You were already dead by then.

But you said I'm not dead! You said you saved me from death! his father shouted back at him. You couldn't save your mother, either. And now you've killed your father, too. Do you know what that makes you?

Jin tore his head away from the ravine and looked up at the sky, but he saw nothing but blackness, until the clouds parted to reveal the full moon, pale and luminous. As he stared, he saw a winged shadow moving across it.

No, he thought. No, I can't be that.

Do you know what that makes you?! his father shouted again. The winged shadow began to fly toward him. A flood of dread fell over Jin, and he felt all strength leave him.

I don't want to be that, he pleaded. No. Not that.

As the dark figure flew down upon Jin, he knew that it was what he had become that night after his grandfather betrayed him. It was what he became two years later, as he had the power to return the favor. It was that from which he had been running since then, that which he tried so desperately to separate from himself.

Give in to the anger!

Hate me!

Curse me!

The winged shadow came closer, ever closer, and Jin could not move. He was chained to the ground, he realized. No! he tried to cry out, but no voice would come.

Hate me! the voice cried again, but this time, Jin realized the voice was now his own.

Curse me!

Do you realize?!

"Do you realize what time it is, Jin?" Xiaoyu's voice came through the clouds, and Jin realized that he had fallen asleep. He woke with a start and found her standing over him as he sat at his desk, collapsed over his work. I'm not in the laboratory, he realized: a comforting thought. She didn't find me there.

"Jin? Are you okay?" she asked, seeing him stare at her through reddened eyes. He must have been up all night, she thought. "Your receptionist let me in; she was worried that you hadn't come in to work today, but the security cameras showed you in here sleeping."

Still half asleep, Jin held his forehead in his hand. "I was working late," he said. "I guess I must have fallen asleep without realizing it." He looked down at the papers under his hands: proposals for half a dozen acquisitions, all of a genetics-oriented nature. All part of his research. He rubbed his eyes. "What time is it?" he asked.

"It's already three o'clock in the afternoon," Xiaoyu responded. "You've been asleep all morning, your receptionist said, and she was afraid to wake you." She paused, biting her lower lip briefly, before asking, "Are you sure you're all right?"

Jin nodded. "I'll be fine," he assured her. To cement the impression, he pressed the intercom button. "Kimiko-san," he said to the receptionist, "tell one of the interns to go get some tea and bring it to my office, would you?"

After a pause, the receptionist's voice answered. "Right away, sir," she said. It was evident in her voice that she was relieved to hear her boss awake and speaking.

Jin said, "Thank you, Kimiko-san," and let go of the intercom button. "I'll be fine, once I get some caffeine into my body," he said to Xiaoyu. Turning to the matter he hadn't thought to address until now, he asked her, "Did you come here just to wake me up, or did you have something else on your mind?"

Xiaoyu straightened, forgetting, in the shock of the moment, what it was she was going to ask him. "I...what makes you think I didn't just come in to say 'Good morning?'" she asked, defensively, trying to remember why she'd come so purposefully this morning.

"Your friends aren't with you," Jin answered. "So, what is it? You know you can tell me, or ask me, anything."

Xiaoyu looked downward, at the clipboard she held to her chest. That reminded her. Looking up and smiling, she said, "Well, I was going to tell you that we've picked the site for the theme park; it's just outside of town. Everyone will want to come, and..."

Jin gave her a look that told Xiaoyu that he knew she had something quite different in mind. "And..." she tried to continue, but it was no use. She had to get it off her mind. "Jin, I know why you're spending so much time working late at night," she said. "You showed me the laboratory, and I agree that you're working for the best. It's just, I don't think you should kill yourself with work in the attempt. I'm sure the scientists can..."

"I need to make sure they're being careful," Jin said in justification. "And I need to go over their results, so I know how close we are to success. We went to the same high school, Xiao. I know enough biology to understand it."

Xiaoyu set down her clipboard on Jin's desk, holding it there with her fingertips. Her cheeks began to flush. "All the same, my grandpa always told me to live life, not work. I worry about you, Jin; we haven't gone to a movie, or a concert, or even out to lunch for a month."

Jin let out a sigh. She has a point, he thought to himself. Perhaps I do think too much about work. But the dream from which he had just awoken was still with him. He shook his head. "We may have our first conclusive results within a few days," he told her. "I want to make sure nothing goes awry." Seeing her eyes begin to water, he added, "I promise, we'll go for a full-out night on the town, once that happens. It'll be the weekend by then, anyway."

Xiaoyu wasn't completely satisfied, but she knew how important this project was to Jin. Besides, she told herself, I have my own project as well. "All right," she said. "But I'll remember you promised."

It was at this point that the doors opened to admit an intern, dressed in a highly-starched uniform dress suit, though he wore a baseball cap which covered his face. He carried a silver tray, on which was set a decorated porcelain teapot, cups, sugar, and a small pitcher of milk. "Sir," the intern coughed, in a nervous voice. "Here's your tea; I would bow, but I'm afraid it would spill."

Xiaoyu giggled at his comment, but Jin only motioned him to come forward. He cleared away the papers scattered across his desk so that the intern had room to set down the tray, which he did with all caution. "Thank you," he said. The intern did not make raise his eyes, so Jin could not see his face clearly, but there was something familiar about him. Especially familiar was the red hair which poked out from underneath his baseball cap. But before Jin could ask his name, the intern bowed turned on his heels and disappeared behind the elevator doors.

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The digital clock display read half past five o'clock, the same as it had a moment ago, the last time Kenmitsu had looked up to check. Yami is late, he mused, tension pulling every nerve within him tighter than a bowstring. He stood by the sliding door which led to another of the base's entrances, all of which were hidden and secret except to the Manji themselves. He stood, for there were no chairs around; in any case, he didn't want to be caught sitting when Yamimitsu finally returned. She should be here by now, he said to himself firmly. He drew one of his twin daggers from its sheath, tucked into his belt behind his back, and drew it across a whetstone he held in his other hand. Always remain sharp, Yoshimitsu had told him. Having had time to prepare, his blood-crimson hair was now tied back in a ponytail, held together by a gold band. Like all Manji, he wore a mask to cover his face, in his case in the form of a smiling wolf with glowing emerald eyes, but he still took pride in his appearance, whenever Yamimitsu was around. He drew his blade across the whetstone once more, and then looked up at the clock again. Five thirty-one. He slid the dagger, a straight, double-edged blade, back into its sheath. If the tension wasn't broken sometime soon, he was sure he'd snap himself.

He was in the same position, ten minutes later, when he was called to attention by a hissing sound which preceded the opening of the door. A shadow walked through the doorway and out into the light. Although her hair was obsidian-black, tied back in a ponytail, the light revealed that the tips were dyed blue. She wore loose-fitting purple clothing with blue stripes down the sleeves and legs. A metal armor plate, plain and undecorated, was secured on her left shoulder by leather straps. Her hands were covered by large leather gloves, and in her navy-blue cloth belt was her weapon, a short tantō knife. The handle and scabbard were both gold wrapped in dark blue ribbon. It was her mask that truly distinguished her, however: although pale white like all Manji masks, it had no shape, only two openings for eyes, through which came a blue glow.

"Yamimitsu," began Kenmitsu, hoping against hope that he would be able to keep his voice for more than two words this time. "It is good to ? "

"Tell Yoshimitsu-sama that I have returned," interrupted Yamimitsu, walking past Kenmitsu with hardly a glance in his direction. She continued down the hallway without another word.

Meanwhile, Kenmitsu stood in shock, though not disbelief. Yamimitsu seldom gave him even that many words, to his disappointment and frustration. She only outranks me because of Yoshimitsu's favor, he said to himself. Why must she always treat me as though I were invisible?

With these thoughts in mind, Kenmitsu went off along a different hallway to do as Yamimitsu had requested.

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"Choon Bee!"

David Sin pulled back his fists to his sides, picked up his left knee and stepped out his left foot so that his feet were shoulder-width apart, planted his feet, and snapped his arms downward into ready stance. "Yes, sir!" he shouted in reply to Master Kim. He'd been at the do jang early each morning for the past few days, but today he couldn't make it until the afternoon.

"Pyong Ahn Sa Dan!" ordered the sa bom nim, giving David the form he wished him to execute. "Begin!"

David looked quickly to his left, crossed his arms, and snapped them open in a double knife-hand block, one hand high and the other low. My opponent is invisible, but no less real.Turning his head to look the other way, he then crossed his arms and blocked to the other side, keeping his fighting stance low. Turning his head to the left, he pulled his fists back to his right hip and stepped out towards the front of the do jang with a low two-fisted block in a front stance, followed by a middle two-fisted block in fighting stance. Keeping himself low, he snapped his left foot up to his right knee and brought his hands around to his side. Balance, David, balance, he thought to himself. Keep your weight centered. Looking to his left, he snapped out a side kick and punch, leaving his fist extended, so that as he brought his foot back down in a front stance, he had hold of his imaginary opponent's head as he slammed his right elbow into it. Turning to face the opposite direction, he performed the same combination. Then, twisting his arms around his body, he shifted into a front stance, again facing the front of the room, his left hand blocking over his face and his right hand in a neck-level chop. His right knee came up as he, keeping his hands in the same position, kicked his imaginary opponent in the solar plexus before leaping forward with a ki hap yell and an outside-inside block turned into a face strike. Keep it together. Breathe.

Turning his head to look behind him and to his right, David then pivoted around, open hands crossed in front of him, and, reaching into his opponent's do bok, landed in a front stance and snapped his arms apart. Twisting his right hand to choke the invisible adversary, he attacked with a right-leg front snap kick, followed by two punches. Turning towards the other corner of the room, he repeated the combination, with hands and feet reversed, on another invisible attacker. Hands and feet together; use your waist, not your shoulders. Next followed a series of three two-fisted middle blocks; after the third of these, he quickly shifted into a front stance and opened his hands to grab his opponent's shoulders before forcing them down as his knee came up to strike. He ended the form with two middle knife-hand blocks and a yell, before returning to ready stance.

"Well done," said Master Kim, who had been standing in the corner of the room the whole time. "Watching you takes me back to my youth; my first style was Tang Soo Do, back in my military days."

"Ko map sum ni da," David said, bowing before standing at attention. "If you don't mind me asking, why did you turn to Taekwondo?"

The sa bom nim did not seem to mind. He answered, "After I left the service, I thought I could make a living by fighting in tournaments, and as you know Taekwondo is the more competitive art. I spent the better part of a decade making tournament circuits, before I was injured during one and realized I'd better retire and stick to teaching."

"How were you injured?" David asked.

"The last opponent I ever fought in a tournament was the renowned Baek Doo San, who happens to be Hwoarang's first instructor. I was overconfident, and so was he ? we were both in the prime of our life, he 27 and I 25 ? but he got the better of me and broke two of my ribs. That must have been over twenty years ago, back at the second King of Iron Fist ?"

"You were an Iron Fist competitor?" David broke in, astonished. He'd suspected that Master Kim was good, from the trophies displayed in the window, but only the best fighters ever made it to the King of Iron Fist tournaments.

Master Kim smiled. "For that one time, yes," he said. "Looking back, I can't believe I ever made it past the qualifying rounds. I heard the runner up in that tournament was thrown into a volcano; lucky thing it wasn't me."

David nodded. He hadn't even been alive back then, but he'd read all about that tournament, and how Heihachi Mishima had defeated his son, Kazuya, to take back control of the Mishima Zaibatsu, which he had lost in the first tournament. Blood feuds only end in blood, he had thought, upon reading about it. "I saw Master Baek Doo San fighting in the last tournament," he mentioned. "He didn't make it very far, though."

The sa bom nim looked up, trying to picture his old rival's face. "He is still one of the greatest," he said, "but he, like me, is growing old. Tournaments are for the young; teaching is the fight of the no-longer-young."

David thought about that for a minute, then asked, "So why is Hwoarang training here, instead of with Master Baek?"

Raising a hand to scratch his chin, where stubble was beginning to overtake his face, Master Kim replied, "After the last Iron Fist tournament, Hwoarang was left with no trophy, and no money for a plane ticket home. When he showed up at my do jang, I sent his master a letter, to see if he would lend him the money." He laughed a bit. "Doo San replied, saying that Hwoarang should learn to plan better next time, and told him he must get a job and earn the money ? legitimately ? if he wanted to come back to his school. You can understand how Hwoarang took the news."

Indeed, David could imagine the hot-headed fighter's rage; he couldn't imagine that Hwoarang was the type to keep a job for very long. "Has he found a job yet?" he asked, just out of curiosity.

At this, Master Kim laughed out loud. "He keeps promising to find one, but if he has found one, I haven't heard about it. Something like that would make the ten o'clock news, surely."

David laughed as well. "Well, I can't say that I have a job either," he said, "but studies take up whatever time I have, outside of training."

Nodding, Master Kim said, "Well, then, let's get back to training. Sip Soo choon bee!"

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If the security cameras noticed an intern slipping into the supply closet on the ground floor, they thought nothing of it. As Hwoarang closed the door behind him, checking first to see that none were around, he pulled off his baseball cap and pressed the third button down on his white formal-style business shirt. Backing away from the door, he lodged himself in between two shelves full of tools and supplies, so that his voice would be muffled, should anyone happen to be passing by the door.

"Agent Hunting Hawk reporting in," he said quietly, to nobody present. Luckily, the microphone in his button was sensitive enough that he did not have to bend over it in order to be heard clearly; he used this freedom to keep his head up and ears alert.

"Acknowleged," responded one of the agents at Headquarters. "Please state your security passphrase."

Making sure, once again, that nobody was walking by, Hwoarang answered, "Feet of fury," the passphrase he'd chosen.

A crackling sound preceded Headquarters' response: "Passcode recognized. Agent Hunting Hawk, please make your report."

Hwoarang chose his words carefully, so that he said the maximum amount in the fewest words possible. He did not know how much time he would have. "Have acquired authorization key to laboratory. Security forces estimated manageable. Captured photographs of documents on desk of Target Name: Son of Thunder, submitting wirelessly now." He pressed a hidden button on the inside of his cap's brim, in which was hidden the miniature camera he'd been issued. "Requesting permission to investigate said laboratory. Report over." Just then, he thought he heard footsteps, but it was only his imagination. He breathed a sigh of relief.

After a minute or so, Headquarters replied, "Permission granted. You are warned to use extreme caution. Recommended equipment is being transferred to location 2A-6 for your pick-up. No escape vehicle will be available during your mission. All understood?"

Hwoarang realized it was fruitless to nod, but he did so anyway. "Understood," he said. He checked his watch: five o'clock. He would wait until midnight before attempting his mission. Suddenly, his muscles tensed; he was sure he heard footsteps now. "Agent Hunting Hawk, ending communications," he said, quickly pressing the button again to turn off the microphone. Peering through the peephole in the door, he spied two other employees walking in his direction. One of them appeared to be a mechanic, but the other was Jin Kazama's Head of Operations for the South American branch of the Zaibatsu, Eddy Gordo. Having spoken to Eddy personally during previous King of Iron Fist tournaments, Hwoarang did not want to risk being recognized, so he remained hidden and silent, hoping they would pass by him and leave him undiscovered.

At the same time, however, it became apparent that the mechanic was leading Eddy Gordo directly to the supply closet in which Hwoarang was hiding. At their rate of approach, Hwoarang knew he would not have time to hide himself. Knowing he would be seen whatever he did, Hwoarang thought quickly and formulated an alibi. Placing his baseball cap back on his head, he reached for a roll of duct tape, just as the door opened behind him. Feigning surprise and bewilderment, he turned around, eyes cast downward and duct tape clutched tightly.

"What are you doing in here," inquired the mechanic. "This closet is for employees only."

With a bit of a nervous shake in his voice, only half-faked, Hwoarang replied, "I'm an intern...I...my supervisor said to find him a roll of duct tape, and all the other closets nearby were out." He showed them the tape roll, to prove his story. Without waiting for a reply from them, Hwoarang darted around the two figures in front of him and headed off down the hallway. Apparently, they both bought his story, as neither of them said anything to him as he made his escape. Luckily they're used to seeing nervous interns, he thought to himself. Most of the interns here have been here since the days of Heihachi; I wonder how many faced his wrath.

As the "intern" rounded a corner, however, Eddy Gordo took off the sunglasses he wore at all times, his brow furrowing. Something was amiss here, even if he couldn't put his finger on it right then. Even so, he turned to the now-confused mechanic and said, "Now; show me where you claim there's a hidden passageway."

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Toramitsu pressed his palm to the panel by the door of the meditation room as he used the other to put his mask back on his face. He had replaced the statue that had been sitting in the middle of the room, now that he was finished praying.

Almost as soon as his hand touched the flat surface, the door slid open. Toramitsu learned the reason immediately; someone else had opened the door from the outside just as he had gone to open it from the inside. She was obviously a Manji, though her mask had no shape to it, and he recalled Yoshimitsu mentioning that one would be returning tonight with information.

"You are the one called 'Toramitsu,' the female ninja said to him, after a brief pause of silence.

Nodding, the midnight warrior replied, "Yes. You are the one Yoshimitsu said would be returning tonight. 'Yamimitsu?'"

She nodded. "Yes," she said. Her voice was strange to him, but something about her struck his memory; the glow from her eye-holes was a deep blue, like his, but that meant little. It was only when Toramitsu noted the blue tips of her hair that he recalled his visit to Mishima headquarters the other day.

"You greet me as though we had never met," he commented. "but I have seen you before, though I had not yet learned your name."

Yamimitsu remained calm and unflinching. He's more perceptive than most, seeing what's in front of his eyes and not what he wants to see, she thought. "Perhaps we have," she said in a vague tone of voice, fixing her gaze on his eyes. "but speak nothing of that; I keep my two lives as separate as darkness and light."

Toramitsu took her meaning immediately. "Your name," he said. When Yamimitsu nodded, he continued, "Shadow and light. So then, which one do you prefer?"

The female ninja remained still as a statue; that her mouth was hidden as she spoke only helped this effect. "I prefer whichever suits me best, at any given time. I've grown used to both, and am afraid of neither."

Toramitsu took a step outside the meditation room and stood against the wall outside. "Fear and unfamiliarity are two different things; I fear no darkness, though it is seldom my friend. So, are you here to meditate?"

At this, Yamimitsu looked down, for a brief moment, before turning her gaze upward again. "I was sent her to get you; Yoshimitsu-sama has called a meeting. I assume you know its purpose."

Toramitsu nodded. "I assume the same of you," he replied.

"Assumptions are often dangerous," Yamimitsu remarked. "In your case, however, you assume well." Pointing down the hall, she said, "The meeting's that way, in the lower meeting hall." She began to walk in that direction, not waiting for Toramitsu to follow her. He did, after taking a moment's pause. What thoughts lie beneath that mask? he wondered to himself, before walking after her. And how many masks is she truly wearing?

The lower meeting hall was a circular room ? more than that, it was truly spherical ? with little decoration, other than a magnetically levitated circular table which hovered over the "floor" at the center of the room. Ridges and notches were carved into the sides of the sphere to create bench-like seats, on which the Manji sat. Against the far wall, on the top level, were Niimitsu and Sanmitsu; Ichimitsu was still on the monitors. On the level below them sat Nomitsu, one of the senior members among the Manji, whose mask was shaped like the face of a tengu spirit, its long nose and wrinkled brow making him seem older than his years. Beside Nomitsu sat a Manji whom Toramitsu had not yet met, wearing a mask shaped like a wolf's head. Toramitsu noticed that Yamimitsu avoided the gaze of this one, though he apparently took notice of her. Yamimitsu went to sit on the lowest level, directly beneath Nomitsu, and Toramitsu took the place next to her, as it was the only one left open.

Two figures stood beside the floating table: Yoshimitsu, whose samurai-style helmet framed a grinning skull mask, and the one called The Doctor, a short man with only wisps of white hair around his temples, clad in a laboratory coat over a semi-casual suit. As soon as Yamimitsu and Toramitsu settled into their seats, Yoshimitsu called the meeting to attention. "Our fight has always been against tyrants," he proclaimed, in his mechanical voice, "and against those who would inflict harm upon others. The task which we now face will require of us our utmost in terms of strength, resolution, and loyalty." There were more than a few head nods and other gestures of agreement as Yoshimitsu said this. He went on: "All of you have been briefed with the details of Toramitsu's mission to this world, as he has related them to me. If there are any who doubt these words, let them speak." None did; Yoshimitsu's word was trusted unquestionably among the Manji, and he had cast his vote of confidence in Toramitsu quite audibly. "Then," said Yoshimitsu, after the short pause, "we must now discuss our plans for battle."

The warrior with the wolf mask called down from his seat, "How are we to fight an enemy who has not yet shown himself, Yoshimitsu?"

Toramitsu was glad that Yoshimitsu had an answer. "We must fight those limbs of the enemy which have shown themselves, Kenmitsu," he said. "Toramitsu has confirmed his suspicion and mine, that the demon known as the Dragon is extending an influence over the mind of Jin Kazama, the head of the Mishima Zaibatsu, the one bearing the mark of Devil."

It did not escape Toramitsu's attention that Yamimitsu's fists clenched slightly at the mention of the name "Jin Kazama," but he also took note of the name of the wolf-masked ninja sitting above him. Kenmitsu, he thought. So that is the one about whom I've heard whispers. If those whispers are true...

Toramitsu's thoughts were interrupted by Sanmitsu, who called out, "The Manji have raided Mishima bases before, Yoshimitsu-sama, but our numbers have seldom been fewer. How many shall be left behind in defense of the base?"

This comment gave everyone in the room cause for silence, it seemed; Toramitsu knew the Manji were few; only a dozen were seated in the meeting room. Yoshimitsu had said that a monster had caused great damage to them and reduced their numbers to this, but he had said no more. Even so, defense was always a wise concern.

It was the Doctor who spoke next. "The Base has protections other than its human defenders," he said, with a thick accent. "Only a few are needed to keep it both secret and safe from invaders."

Niimitsu shouted, "And how about keeping it safe from the inside?" His tone was almost accusatorial. "It wasn't an outside attacker that caused all that damage last time, if I was told correctly."

Yoshimitsu's response was swift and to the point. Drawing his sword, the blade of which glowed with an eerie green light, and thrusting it forcefully into the middle of the table surface, he said, "The first person who does not trust the Doctor to correct past mistakes, come take the sword. Matters have become too dangerous for us to waste any time in accusations and mistrust. That road has ever led us through ill passages."

"Remember," the Doctor added, "that without trust there can be no true healing for the wounded."

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"Kazuya...are you awake yet?" a voice whispered in his ear. Kazuya Mishima was not sure if he was alive or dead, but he knew immediately that he wasn't awake, if that voice was truly the one he thought it was.

Jun, he thought he heard himself say. Then I really must be dead, if you're here. He saw nothing, and realized his eyes were still closed.

"Open your eyes, then," came the voice again, "and see for yourself."

Suspecting he was dreaming, if anything, Kazuya opened his eyes, or at least so it felt to him. He was sitting in a forest clearing, by a stream that flowed down from a waterfall not far away. The grass was green, but for some reason he couldn't feel it between his fingers. The day was cool, but he couldn't feel any breeze. And there, sitting with her legs dangling over the edge of a rock into the water, was Jun Kazama. She won't leave me alone, even in my dreams, he heard himself think.

He knew at once he had somehow thought it aloud, for Jun began to laugh. "I thought you never dreamed, Kazuya," she said to him. "You're the man who lives for revenge, remember? Dreams would only be a distraction." She held out her hand toward him, and Kazuya got up from the ground and went over to her.

If this is some trick of my mind, he thought to himself, or some psychic game, I'll -

"You'll what?" Jun asked. Her face hadn't aged a day since he'd seen her last, though when he looked down at himself he was just as he had been the last he could remember, all the old scars still visible.

I'll put an end to it, he said in his thoughts. I told you that you couldn't change me, Jun. I told you that it was only one night. I told you -

"You told me that if I ever showed my face to you again, you would break it," Jun replied, in the bold tone of voice she'd used so often with him, whenever their discussions turned heated. "Well," she continued, "so do it. Can you, now?"

At this, Kazuya became angry, almost irrationally so. This must be a dream, he thought. All my emotions are exaggerated. But he couldn't stop himself from becoming ever angrier, and he clenched his right fist.

Yet he couldn't raise it. It was being held back, somehow. Kazuya looked down at his arm, and saw that it was held to the ground by a chain; looking to the other one, he saw it was chained as well. I know these chains, he thought to himself. These are the chains that held my son. They look the same.

"Your son looks much like you, Kazuya Mishima," Jun called down from her rock perch, which was now higher than it had seemed before. Kazuya realized that this was because he was now on his knees, looking up at her. "Whenever you heard his voice for the first time, did it not remind you of yourself, vowing to kill your own father?"

Kazuya cursed her. Why should he not sound like me; he is my son, after all. And what do I care if he wants to kill me. Like father, like son.

"Like father, like son," Jun repeated. "That's the first time in your life you've ever called yourself a father. Do you realize what that means? You've become the very thing you hate, the very thing you most want to destroy."

Kazuya struggled against his chains, but it was no use. They pulled him downward, and he felt himself sinking into the ground. Then I'll destroy myself, he shouted back, after I've destroyed my father, and my son. I'll destroy my son. He took the Zaibatsu from me, after I came back from the dead to take it for myself. And instead of killing that cursed Heihachi, he put him in prison. Coward. Just like you; that Kazama brat!

"He's a Mishima by blood, Kazuya," Jun called down to him. Kazuya had now sunk several inches into the ground, pulled down by the chains. "Your flesh, your blood. He's your son."

I never claimed him as my own, Kazuya tried to shout, though his voice, even in thoughts, was now muffled. He was yours for fifteen years. He still uses your family name, not mine.

"Tell me you haven't considered doing the same," Jun called down to him. Her voice sounded far away now. "Tell me all the times you wished you had some other name. But a Mishima by any other name -"

Would kill his father, all the same! Kazuya found the strength to interrupt. It's a family tradition, or haven't you noticed?

"Name one living Mishima who's actually killed his father," Jun answered. "Your father is alive; you didn't kill him. You are alive; your son hasn't killed you."

But all of us have tried; it's only been fate, and force of will, that has kept us from a resolution to this feud. The broad scar across Kazuya's chest suddenly began to surge with pain, as if the injury were new all over again. He forced himself not to yell out in pain.

"You're hurt, Kazuya," Jun called down to him. "Why don't you ask your son to help you?"

I'm fine, answered Kazuya, and the only think I'd ask my son to do for me is die, slowly and painfully, in my arms after I squeeze the life out of him.

"What a touching picture," responded Jun. "But remember that you're not dead yet, despite being shot down by your son's guards. For all you know, the situation might have been the exact opposite, if your son hadn't spared you."

More proof of the fool he is, Kazuya shouted, though it sounded to him like a whisper. He was now in a hole several feet deep, and Jun was only just visible, peering over the edge of it. Kazuya kept pulling against his chains, but the more he did so, the further down he sunk. I've sold my soul to the devil already; it's no use to try to save me. He has to know that, by now.

"Where is Devil, then?" Jun asked him. "If he's still inside you, why doesn't he let you escape those chains? Why does he not even speak? He has abandoned you, Kazuya, just as you abandoned your father to die when you were attacked at Honmaru. The only one who has not yet abandoned you is Jin Kazama ? your son."

Tell him to let me die, Kazuya heard himself think. I've no use for his mercy. I've no use for a son. More like he has use for me, if he's as scheming as every other Mishima.

"You said he was a Kazama," Jun laughed. "So now you do claim him as your own."

I claim nothing, woman! Kazuya's rage was boiling by now. I want nothing from you! And you will gain nothing by continuing to talk to me.

"Perhaps not," Jun called down. Her voice was now beginning to fade. "But you will wake up soon. It may be that you will gain something by talking with your son..."


"Rise, Kazuya Mishima!"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The pain in his head came suddenly, so suddenly that he almost didn't recognize it at first. No...not again, he thought to himself. A burning sensation spread across his forehead, and the sound of screaming began to fill his ears. No...it's just the blood rushing through capillaries, he reminded himself, though clarity of thought was becoming harder to maintain. No screaming...just my heart pumping faster.

But Jin Kazama could not ignore the reality of what was happening. His eyes, wide open and bloodshot from days of little sleep, darted frantically from his work table to the laboratory tables behind him. Where is it? The myriad test tubes and scientific machines seemed more reflective than usual; the light hurt his eyes, but he could not stop until he had found the flask filled with a green liquid. I need it, he screamed inwardly.

He could already feel the changes going on in his body. Even if he could not see it, he knew that black markings had now appeared on his forehead and would soon spread to his chest. Pain now roared through his mouth as his canine teeth began to elongate. Not again, he told himself, still searching for the flask. I thought I was keeping it under control. Where is it?

His breathing became strained as the changes continued to wreak havoc on his bodily systems. In the beginning, they hadn't been so painful, or as frequent, but now, for some reason, they came on him at unexpected hours and with more pain, almost, than he could endure. Only one thing had been able to cure the changes, if only temporarily. Finally, he saw the flask, sitting on a table across the room. Just in time, he thought, as another pain began to erupt, this time in his shoulders. No flying for me tonight. He half staggered, half crawled over to the table and, grasping the flask with both hands, the nails of which had already half become claws, poured the emerald liquid down his throat. It tasted horrible, but he had learned to abide it.

He began to cough almost immediately, but even in those first few seconds after drinking he felt the changes begin to reverse and subside. Did I drink the whole flask? he thought to himself. A few weeks ago, he'd only needed a thimbleful to restore him; now it was a different story. I must find a more permanent cure, he thought to himself. It will not be long now. He looked at the LED clock on his desktop: half past midnight. All the scientists had gone home hours ago. He was all alone again.

Resting against the side of the table opposite the one where the flask had sat, he looked up, his eyes no longer clouded by pain. Before him stood the large glass tank, in which he held his father captive, a subject for his experiments. Do I really care if he's my father? Jin thought to himself. He's never been a father to me; if I didn't need his body alive, all he'd be now would be ashes. Jin found the strength to pound his fist against the table drawer at his back. He did this to me, he told himself. He made the pact with Devil, and cursed his whole bloodline. "If only he had died when Heihachi threw him off that cliff," he said aloud. "If only he had never been born."

"Then you wouldn't have been born, either," came a voice from behind him. Xiaoyu. He saw her shadow before she rounded the corner and stood over him as he sat, still slumped against the laboratory table. "I thought I'd find you down here," she said. She reached down a hand, and Jin took it, standing up with her help.

"How did you get in here?" Jin asked Xiaoyu. "The only person who has a key to this laboratory is ?"

"You, and the computer. And now me." Xiaoyu's face began to redden. "I just couldn't let you stay another late night down here; I keep feeling this weird vibe all around this building. Miharu-chan and Chiyo-chan feel it too."

"This is not the time for this argument again," said Jin, holding his forehead. The markings are gone, thankfully.

"I agree," said Xiaoyu, in a firm tone of voice. "Let's get out of here; you need rest, not work."

Jin sighed. Despite how much he cared for Xiaoyu, he was not in the mood to talk to anyone at the moment, especially her. "I'll go from here," he said, "but tonight I need to be alone."

Xiaoyu looked hurt, but said nothing. She walked toward the door, her head hanging low. Jin caught up with her in a step or two and put a hand on her shoulder, gently. "I don't want you to feel the same pain I feel," he told her. "I don't want ?"

Jin's sentence was interrupted by the sound of glass cracking loudly under pressure. He knew of only one thing that could make that sound in the immediate vicinity. When he turned his head around, his fears were confirmed. The glass chamber which encased his father had cracked all the way through, and liquid was now flowing through it, making it wider. When the liquid hit the electronics at the capsule's base, sparks flew up from the console. There was only a short pause between the sound of the electronics shorting out and the explosion that followed. Jin raised his arms to protect both himself and Xiaoyu as a torrent came down upon them before they had a chance to move away.

Xiaoyu screamed, but Jin blocked all of the glass shards that flew their way, bearing the pain with only a slight grimace on his face. More sparks came from the containment apparatus, but luckily none of them made a current along the floor. Jin peered through the smoke from the explosion and the steam from instantly vaporized liquid to see, still standing in the midst of the broken glass, his father, Kazuya Mishima, awake and staring back at him.

Jin heard Xiaoyu run for cover, but as for himself, he stood facing his father as Kazuya ripped the wires from his body and, keeping his eyes focused on Jin, stepped down onto the floor. He was naked except for a pair of waterproof elastic shorts, upon which Jin had insisted before his father was placed into the capsule. Kazuya looked down at his arms, clenching his fists, then began walking toward Jin.

"How ? how did you wake up?!" Jin shouted at his father. There had been an intravenous tube which constantly administered a sedative, to keep Kazuya unconscious. It was no longer doing so, obviously.

"I was summoned," Kazuya said with a laugh. "Didn't you say those very words just now that I said to you back in Honmaru? 'Rise, Jin Kazama!' I recognized your voice, for it is so very much like mine."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hwoarang, still dressed as an intern, pressed the elevator button from the eleventh floor. When the doors opened, he took a look around and, sure that he wasn't being followed, went inside. I'm only going to have a limited time, he reminded himself as he pressed the button for the lobby. Going to where he knew the hidden security camera was installed in the elevator, he took out the roll of duct tape he'd gotten earlier and, tearing off a piece, used it to obscure the camera's view. Since he was still wearing a baseball cap, a different one from earlier today, his face was hidden from the camera all the while. That will trip the alarm, and blow my cover, he thought. Oh well; this job's about to be done anyway.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out the key card he'd programmed with the access codes he'd found still open on a computer that had been left on in an office. Why do I always have to be so lucky? he wondered. Jin Kazama had only just switched the access to the basement laboratory from a metal key to a key card the other day. Flicking up the hidden panel, as the elevator was passing the fifth floor, he inserted the key card and removed it quickly. An LED beside the card slot lit up green, and the elevator continued past the lobby, several more floors down, to the top-secret basement laboratory.

By the time the doors opened again, Agent Hunting Hawk had changed into a black stealth suit, with a mask to cover his face. For a weapon, he had a combat knife he'd acquired while in the service, but other than that he had only his hands and feet, in the event that he ran into trouble.

He ran into trouble. He recognized it from the moment the elevator doors opened, and he saw that some type of explosion had taken place. Down at the other end of the room, Jin Kazama was fighting with the one Hwoarang recognized as Jin's father, Kazuya Mishima. Why do I always have to be so lucky? he thought to himself. He dashed to cover behind a cluster of instruments whose power hadn't yet been shorted out by what looked like water all over the floor. Jin and Kazuya didn't seem to notice that the elevator door had opened and closed; they seemed a bit preoccupied just now.

"So you thought I was out of the game, Jin," laughed Kazuya as he brought his left elbow down on Jin's head, dropping him to the floor. "So did everyone else." He pressed his foot down on Jin's face, pushing his head into the floor. Kazuya's victory was short-lived, however, as Jin reached up and, grabbing his father's foot, pushed it upwards and spun it over as he got to his feet, causing Kazuya to flip and land face-first on the ground.

"This game is over, Kazuya," Jin spat. "There's no reason to fight."

Hwoarang itched to get into the fight, but he remembered that he was on a mission. The main prize is a bit occupied right now, he thought, so I'll just take what data I can, while those two fight. He found the data input port on the nearest computer, a monstrous thing with a processor faster than Hwoarang powering through dinner, and inserted a thumb drive. They said this thing holds ten gigs, he thought, quickly managing to find his way into the computer's files. That should be enough to be interesting, if I ever make it out of this alive.

Meanwhile, Kazuya had gotten back on his feet and resumed his fighting stance. Jin stood ready, waiting for his father's next attack. With a yell, Kazuya leapt at Jin with a flying kick, which his son just barely dodged by sidestepping out of the way. While his father's back was turned, Jin let fly a double-punch combo, first to the back of the head and then to the middle of the back, followed by a round kick which sent Kazuya flying across the room. Jin ran after him and, before his father could roll over and get up, aimed a sweeping kick which caught Kazuya in the back of the head. Jin then leaped up and fell with a punch down onto his father's prone body. "You should have stayed asleep, Kazuya," he said.

"Don't you know your manners, boy," Kazuya groaned through gritted teeth. He got to his feet and, before Jin could react, caught him in the jaw and on the forehead with his double-hitting Tsunami Kick. Kneeling down, Kazuya grabbed hold of Jin's neck, saying, "You're supposed to call me 'father.'"

Jin fought to keep consciousness, but Kazuya was cutting off his air supply. He grabbed his father's wrist, trying to break free, but it availed him naught. He looked up into his father's eyes, wondering if this was truly how he was going to die, and saw something that made him loosen his grip momentarily. Whereas before one of his father's eyes had been red, a sign of his possession by Devil, now they were both normal, both human. So it has worked, he thought to himself. This is not over; it has only just begun. With a new burst of strength, he launched himself upward, trying to surprise Kazuya and get him to loosen his grip, but he only managed to raise his torso a foot or so from the ground before Kazuya slammed his son's head back on the ground. "No," Jin's father said to him. "No, this ends tonight." He raised his other hand in a fist, the blow that would end his son's life.

With all his attention turned to Jin, however, Kazuya had failed to remember that someone else was in the room. Before he could deliver the final blow, he felt a kick connect with his backside. By the time Kazuya realized what had happened, he had been propelled several, having only stopped because a laboratory table was in the way. He had landed on his head; fortunately for him, this was the most durable part of his body, but he was still not in a favorable position. The sudden attack from behind had made him loosen his grip on Jin, who was still lying on his back. As Kazuya's vision returned to clear focus, he saw his attacker. At first, he thought his sight had been damaged, for there seemed to be two figures standing where only one ought to be. For a few seconds at a time, his attacker appeared to be the girl called Ling Xiaoyu, but then her form would flicker, like a television screen changing channels, and in her place stood a female ninja, wearing a white mask through which glowed burning blue eyes. A memory was stirred within him, a recollection from twenty years in the past. No, he thought to himself. No it can't be her; G-Corp listed her as 'deceased.' Someone else.

The female ninja held out a hand and helped Jin Kazama to his feet. She was strong, for her small size, it seemed. By this point, the flickering had stopped, and only the masked form remained. "Who are you?" asked Jin; she gave no answer, but turned back toward Kazuya, who had by this point righted himself and begun to recover from the shock, if not the pain. Before Kazuya could get to his feet, however, the ninja rushed up to him and, first grabbing his head with both hands to slam it against the table, switched her grip to his torso and pulled him up as she leaped spinning into the air. The two of them came back down spinning; as Kazuya was the taller one, his head was the first thing to reach the ground, and the female ninja made sure that he made contact so that the shock went straight down his spinal column before leaping away and rolling to her feet. Kazuya let out a groan, then fell silent as he apparently lost consciousness.

It was at this point that Jin came to grips with what he had just seen happen. Even if she had saved his life, this was not Xiaoyu; moreover, she had managed to gain access to his secret laboratory. The question remained in his mind, Who is she? Now having recovered his breath and energy, he called out to her, "Where is Ling Xiaoyu? What have you done with her?" The female ninja made no response. She grabbed Kazuya's head and dragged his body up to a table, clearing it off with a sweep of her gloved hand. Without a word, she pointed to Jin and beckoned him to help her. The two of them lifted Jin's father onto the table; he was still breathing. Good, thought Jin. There's still hope. He wasn't sure whether he meant hope for his father, or hope for the experiments' continuing. But the matter of this mysterious female ninja remained.

He took hold of her shoulder. "Speak," he ordered her. "Who are you, and how did you gain access to this place? And where is Xiaoyu?" And for just how long have you been posing as her?

The ninja's mask was blank, save for the two eyeholes, so it seemed almost strange to hear the voice that came from her. "She is safe," the ninja said. "She knows nothing of this."

Jin noted that she answered neither of his other questions. "So who are you?" he demanded. "Are you with the Manji?" The thought unsettled him. Yoshimitsu knows too much, he thought. "What are you d-"

His question was interrupted by the sound of something dropping and someone cursing, hidden behind the supercomputer in the far corner of the laboratory. I know that voice, Jin said to himself. And I should have known, all along.

"Hwoarang!" he yelled, angrily. "Come out. I know you're back there." Rage began to seethe within him; this night should not have ended like this. Too much stress, all at such an important time. He knew he shouldn't let his anger rise so high, but it was hard to help it. After a moment, Hwoarang stepped out of the shadows; he had a black cloth mask over his face, but there was no mistaking who it was for Jin.

"Kazama," said Hwoarang, "I don't want to hurt you, so just back off, and I'll be out of your hair. That okay with you?"

Jin shook his head. "You've been a spy, all this time," he said. "I never would have thought it of you; I guess there's just nothing too low for you." The anger gave him words to say. You're scum, Hwoarang, it said. I never should have left you alive, or let you get in my way at all. "If you've stolen anything," he said, trying to keep his voice calm, "you won't get out of here with it. Leave, now, minus anything that isn't yours."

Hwoarang laughed. "Relax, Kazama," he said in mock-reassurance, lowering his mask. "you still have all your precious files. I'm not that cruel. Anyway, it looks like you've got other things on your hands, so I'll leave you and the girl alone for a while." Before Jin could come back with a response, Hwoarang dashed into the elevator and pressed the button. "Oh, and I'll thank you for telling your guards to leave me alone; they might not let me just walk out, if you know what I mean." He turned away from Jin, waiting for the elevator to arrive.

When the doors opened, Hwoarang stepped forward, but something caught him by the collar. When he turned to deliver a smart remark, he found himself staring into Jin's fist, which sent him reeling into the elevator car.

"Hey, what gives, Kazama?!" complained Hwoarang, colors flashing before his eyes. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw the ninja girl say something into her palm.


What he didn't have time to notice, however, was that Jin had already begun to change.

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