My Hero - Chapter 13 - Conclusion

My Hero - Chapter 13 - Conclusion
SparkyMularkey 2020-08-24 19:09 2
Author’s Note: It’s been an entire decade since I started this story, but I finally finished it. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being so patient. I only hope it was worth the wait.

Chapter Thirteen: My Hero!

The truck shook and rattled over the rough mountain road as Yoshimitsu and Hiyamitsu sped towards Dr. Bosconovich’s home. They leapt out of the vehicle as soon as they came to a stop. The exterior of the home looked calm and undisturbed, but they could see the smoke billowing from the rear of the house, where the lower-level laboratory was. Yoshimitsu opened the front door and drew his sword as he stepped inside, Hiyamitsu following closely behind him.

“Dr. Bosconovich!” Yoshimitsu shouted, making his way through the front room and down a flight of stairs. At the bottom of the stairs, they passed through the sliding glass doorway to the doctor’s laboratory.

It was then that the two saw the extent of the carnage. Dented metal tables that were twisted as if they were made of tin foil, crumpled computer terminals, sparking wires hanging here and there… and the bodies…

“Kannon above…” Yoshimitsu felt his heart drop into the pit of his stomach, and a ghastly chill overcame him as he realized what he was looking at. They were the bodies of his fellow Manji clansmen. Dozens of them. All dead.

“Kawamitsu?! Anyone?!” Hiyamitsu cried out, hoping for a response through the smoky lab chambers. The duo finally received a stifled response from a separate room, closed to them behind a heavily fortified metal door.

Yoshimitsu and Hiyamitsu approached the thick metal door in time for it to slide open, revealing Dr. Bosconovich with Kunimitsu close by his side.

“You’re alive!” Yoshimitsu felt a faint ripple of relief wash over him. He sheathed his sword and rushed over to them, placing his hands on the elder doctor’s shoulders.

“Thanks to her,” replied Dr. Bosconovich, motioning to Kunimitsu, “It’s a lucky thing that she was here in the lab. She got me to safety while the distress call was sent out to the others…” He trailed off, seeing the extent of the massacre.

“What happened?” asked Hiyamitsu as she continued to search among the dead.

“Bryan Fury has awoken. I tried my best to calm him, but he was overcome with a senseless rage. My work was not finished. He took off with the perpetual power generator installed, leaving this destruction in his wake!” Dr. Bosconovich gladly let Yoshimitsu lead him out of the makeshift bunker of a lab chamber.

“How did he wake up?” Yoshimitsu asked.

“I woke him up.” Kunimitsu knew there was no sense in denying the role she had played.

Yoshimitsu froze in place, turning his head to look over at Kunimitsu. She was relieved she didn’t have to see the look on his face.

“… You… Kunimitsu, why?!” His fists clenched slightly, the pulsating glow of the red details in his suit of armor adding to the building anger in his demeanor, adding to the ferocity of his fanged skeletal mask.

Kunimitsu stood motionless, her mind racing to find the right words to say.

“I… I can’t live like you, Yoshimitsu. You have ideals, and that’s all well and good, but this is not an ideal world. There is a reality some of us can’t escape.” Kunimitsu clenched her fist, trying to find her resolve.

In no mood for her usual habit of concealing information, Yoshimitsu took Kunimitsu roughly by the arm and pulled her into another room in the lab so that they could talk alone. To emphasize how serious he was, he held Kunimitsu firmly against the wall, determined to get answers from her.

“Why did you wake him without even knowing what would happen? What were you even doing here in Doctor Bosconovich’s lab?!” His normally deep and composed voice took a dive into a darker, more throaty realm, thick with emotion. It made Kunimitsu shiver.

“I have enemies, Yoshimitsu! I need to do what I can for myself. Aikuchi is still after me, and if I don’t start sending some serious cash his way, it’s only going to get worse. I didn’t think anyone would get hurt! I thought it was a machine, a lifeless machine! I thought I could steal it and sell it…"

“What are you talking about?" Yoshimitsu released her with a shove, overcome with resentment. As far as he was concerned, she had betrayed him. Again.

“I found something in that G Corp. building. Blueprints. I didn’t know what they were for exactly, but I thought… I thought whatever it was, it was probably important. Expensive. I thought I could sell it to pay off my debt to that thug and his gang, to get them off my back.”

Yoshimitsu recalled their infiltration of G Corporations downtown office, not at all surprised that Kunimitsu had managed to pilfer something in the meantime. He should have known that she would still keep secrets from him.

“Kunimitsu, I could have helped you. You would have been protected here with us. With me!”

“So what, I’m just supposed to rely on you forever? Live here in the mountains like a hermit? I can’t live like that, Yoshimitsu! I never could.”

“We would have found a solution. We could have fought them off!”

“Oh yeah?” Kunimitsu crossed her arms. “When, exactly? After you were done wasting your time with that new girlfriend of yours?"

“Xiaoyu has nothing to do with this and you know it,” Yoshimitsu retorted bitterly, "You've always done this. You've always looked to place blame on others, always looking to take or destroy what others have!"

"That's what we do, Yoshimitsu! That's what the Manji Clan does! We take from the powerful! We take whatever we want!" Kunimitsu slammed an open palm down on one of the nearby metal tables.

"To help those in need!" Yoshimitsu paused then, dropping his voice back down to a lower volume, "I cannot believe - after two decades - we're still having this same argument…"

"Yoshimitsu, I just-"

"No." He didn't look at her.

"... What?"

“There’s no time for this. Every second of delay puts Fury that much further from me. I need to track him down. I need to clean up your mess. Again. This is the last time, Kunimitsu..."

Kunimitsu burned with frustration and anger. He was using that tone of voice he always had when he was her mentor and instructor, disappointed in her… Maybe he always would be?

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Allowing you back here was a mistake. Trusting you was a mistake. Now go, Kunimitsu, and never come back." He looked at her then, grasping the hilt of his sword, the sword she had once tried to kill him for.

Kunimitsu stood in silence for a moment, and Yshimitsu half expected her to brandish her dagger and strike at him. Instead, she clenched her fists and turned towards the door. Stopping just short, she glanced over her shoulder to say one last thing.

"Someday, Yoshimitsu, you'll finally realize that the world doesn't play by your rules, that being pure and good and noble is not enough to survive in this life. Eventually, there will be a day when even you won’t be able to live to such a lofty standard."

Yoshimitsu said nothing as he watched her disappear through the doorway.

Kunimitsu silently moved past Dr. Bosconovich and Hiyamitsu, exiting through the busted front door and out into the afternoon air. She found that her feet seemed to be moving of their own accord, mindlessly propelling her forward until she reached a wide forest path. Before long, she was running. She didn't know where to.

She just ran. Off the path, through the forest, leaping over fallen logs, zipping between silent trees. This forest knew. It knew of her defeat, of her failure and betrayal. These trees were the same as before, ancient and aware. They pitied her and she hated it. Her eyes burned with tears, she realized, and she hated herself for crying.

Soon, she was heaving with sobbing breaths until she suddenly ran right into the arms of a man hiding behind one of the larger trees.

"Hey!" Kunimitsu cried out, startled as Mikel de Garonne grabbed her.

"Easy, easy!" Mikel said, grasping her shoulder. "I wasn't sure what was going to happen, so I stuck around. I heard you running and followed you. I thought you ninja types here supposed to be quiet."

Kunimitsu was grateful that her mask hid tears.

"Well? What do you want?" she asked, straightening herself out, hiding her sadness with the gruffest voice she could manage.

"I take it your old man wasn't too happy?" Mikel asked, crossing his arms carefully.

"I'm done here. I'm done with him," Kunimitsu replied bitterly, "What are you still doing here?"

"I told you I got what I came for, but I wanted to see how you turned out. Why didn't you get out when you had the chance?"

"I had my reasons." Kunimitsu said, wondering herself why she had stayed. Had she been hoping for forgiveness? Would she ever have deserved it?

"Well, like I said, I got what I came for," Mikel continued, "I've informed G Corps that the job is done. Bryan Fury is awake and on the move. They'll attempt to capture him once they have his location." Mikel crossed his arms carefully and leaned against a nearby tree. "So… What's your plan?"

“My plan…” Kunimitsu trailed off, at a loss of what to say. Everything had gone so not according to plan. Bryan Fury, the deal with Aikuchi, her attempt at redemption… “Plans never work out like you think they will. I have no plans.”

“Well, if that is the case,” Mikel straightened himself, “Come with me.”

“What?”

“Yeah,” he grinned, “Itsatso is safe. They released her. I’m going to go retrieve her and then I’m taking her someplace far, far away. After that, I’m going to rest up, but as soon as I’m healed, I’m getting back to work. Come with me. Assassin work would suit you. The gigs are right up your alley, and they pay big.”

Kunimitsu let out a cynical chuckle, crossing her arms. Leave Japan? Just leave everything behind? She realized that she had been so focused on her lifelong goal of attaining the sword of the Manji Clan and making something of herself here that she had never even entertained the idea of leaving it all behind and never looking back. She glanced over her shoulder, looking back in the direction she had come, back to him.

“Goodbye.” Kunimitsu whispered it, like a prayer, and she could feel something inside of her begin to release. It was painful at first, a long-held tension that she lived with for so long she had thought it was a part of her. It frightened her, but only for a moment.

She looked at Mikel and nodded, and he nodded in return. He continued on his path towards the city, and she followed him, eager to begin her new adventure. She thought about the money she would make, how she might pay Aikuchi back and maybe, someday, she would return. For revenge or redemption, she wasn’t sure.

~*~*~

Yoshimitsu stood alone for a few deep breaths, feeling the pain of the bonds that held him and Kunimitsu together being pulled apart. He could feel the fabric ripping and snapping, as if it was the very fiber of his own flesh being torn. It took everything in him not to chase after her. ‘Let go,’ he told himself. ‘Let her go… Nothing is permanent…’

With that, he returned to find that Dr. Bosconovich and Hiyamitsu were continuing to examine the dead bodies, hoping for any survivors. So far, they had found none.

Yoshimitsu continued on deeper and deeper into the lab until he came to a room with a gaping hole in the wall, the embers of a fire still smoldering. Additional bodies of his now-dead clansmen were lying about, with one corpse lying closest to the destroyed wall where Bryan Fury had surely made his escape. Yoshimitsu could feel his chest begin to heave, holding down sobs. He approached the final body and held his breath when he saw the distinct throwing knives that had been strewn about the room, a small knife still clasped in the body’s cold hand.

“Kawamitsu! No! Hiroyuki!”

Yoshimitsu’s world lurched into a wild spin. His legs suddenly felt weak, and his abdominal muscles tensed as he fought back the desire to be sick on the floor, the taste of bile in his mouth. A dreadful chill flowed through his arms, but a slumbering darkness had been sparked to life inside his pounding heart, each beat hammering home the urge for violence.

He fell before Kawamitsu’s body, his hand shaking as he placed them on the dark cloth of his dearest friend’s jacket.

“Hiroyuki… I brought this to you...”

Through the quiet rage boiling up inside of him, he heard hurried footsteps as Hiyamitsu made her way into the grisly room. He promptly rose and turned to Hiyamitsu and enveloped her in his arms. He wasn’t quick enough to shield her eyes, however, and she caught sight of the mangled figure in front of the gaping whole in the wall. A millisecond passed before her realization, and a shriek sprang from deep inside her small body. Yoshimitsu pressed her head to his shoulder, holding her more tightly, wishing he could take her pain away.

"No, no, no!” The strength in Hiyamitsu’s legs gave out for a moment, and Yoshimitsu held her up as she wailed. “Hiroyuki! No! No!”

“Kitsune, I’m so sorry… I-” Yoshimitsu could think of nothing to say.

“I should have stayed! I’m cruel for leaving him!” Hiyamitsu was wracked with guilt, her mind flooding with what-ifs and should-haves. Memories of herself passing up opportunities to share time with him were met with a horrible anguish in her heart.

“Kitsu… Bryan Fury would have killed you. There was nothing you could have done.” Yoshimitsu also felt overcome with regret. An immense shame flooded his conscience at recalling his past actions. He had entertained himself with Hiyamitsu’s lovely company while his beloved friends and followers had suffered and died.

As Hiyamitsu moved away from him to face the sight of her slain love, falling to Hiroyuki’s side while Yoshimitsu fought back a cry of despair. He clenched his teeth as the sinister seed of vengeance continued to grow inside of him, twisting into a dark vine that pierced his heart with thorns of rage.

As if in response, he felt an unexpected surge of threatening, negative energy. His sword. It was coming from the ancient blade sheathed at his side, and he slowly felt himself lose slight control of his thoughts. Visions of bloodshed filled his mind, making his heart race with a primal desire to find the man responsible and make him pay. Yoshimitsu was well-versed in scripture, having read many enlightened teachings and chanted countless mantras. He knew the importance of restraint, the great virtue one might find in taking a higher path, but none of that mattered to him now.

“Bryan Fury…” Yoshimitsu’s deep, resonating voice shook with his unchecked rage. “I gave him a chance. I rescued him when others abandoned him. I could have left him to die!” Yoshimitsu’s sword seemed to be calling to him, pleading with him for a chance to extract repayment.

Blood. I demand blood.

“Yes,” Yoshimitsu answered the call by unsheathing the ancient blade, his robotic grip firmly around the hilt. “He’ll pay for what he has done.”

Hiyamitsu looked over her shoulder at Yoshimitsu and immediately noticed a change in his demeanor. She watched as he made his way towards the gaping hole in the wall, looking into the direction Bryan had fled.

“… Yoshimitsu?”

"Hiyamitsu, stay here. When you’re ready, finish looking for survivors, then regroup with the others at the Main Building. Do not leave the base until I return."

Hiyamitsu rose to her feet uneasily. “Wait, where are you going?”

Yoshimitsu paused and looked back at her for just a moment.

“To seek retribution.”

He leaped out into the forest in pursuit of his prey.

~*~*~

Hiyamitsu opened her eyes and sat up, lifting her head from where she had been resting against the unmoving chest of Kawamitsu’s corpse. The doctor had long since returned to the upper levels of his home, leaving her to process her grief. She was unsure of how much time had passed since Yoshimitsu had left, but she knew that sitting here in sorrow was not helping.

She looked down at Kawamitsu’s body, his face still covered by his cloth mask, his eyes closed as if he was merely sleeping…

Hiyamitsu rose to her feet and exhaled, focusing her mind on what she needed to do. Yoshimitsu might have caught up with Bryan Fury by now. They could be fighting this very moment, close to killing each other. She knew she didn’t stand a chance against an opponent with Bryan Fury’s strength, but despite her master’s orders, she also knew she couldn’t stand aside and do nothing.

“I’m not strong enough to fight that maniac…” Hiyamitsu thought aloud, “He’s a King of Iron Fist fighter, like Yoshimitsu…” They were on another level, she knew. If she followed them and joined the fight, she would just get in the way, another target for Bryan to kill. She frowned, thinking, before clarity reached her. “I don’t have the experience fighting someone like him… but I know someone who does. I only hope she’ll hear me out, after what I said to her before…”

She steeled her resolve, determined to make amends. Even if that meant swallowing her pride, pleading, begging even. She’d do anything to help Yoshimitsu fight this evil.

Hiyamitsu turned to go but stopped herself. She looked down at Kawamitsu’s body, bowing to his memory.

“You know now,” Hiyamitsu whispered, “what’s in my heart. I’m… I’m sorry. You taught me so much, gave me so much of yourself… But I need to go now. I will always love you.”

She bowed again and raced out of the lab. She found the truck where they had left it and climbed inside, the engine roaring to life. She turned it towards the Manji Clan complex and said a silent prayer, hoping that the Manji Clan helicopter hadn’t been destroyed in Bryan Fury’s attack.

~*~*~

Xiaoyu sighed with relief as she entered her quaint apartment, letting the door close behind her as she slipped off her outdoor shoes and kicked them towards the coat closet. She immediately opened the fridge and pulled out a juicebox, taking a particularly big gulp as she made a direct route to her bedroom.

It was a relief to see the pastel pink bedspread and various stuffed animals scattered about her room. Her cheerful, innocent decor was familiar and comforting, and yet she was surprised to find that she already missed the ancient wooden floors and serene tranquility of the Manji Clan mountain base. She missed the smell of incense and the low hum of Yoshimitsu’s voice…

Xiaoyu shook herself out of her thoughts. As she neared her desk, she let her backpack slide off her arm as she sat down, booting up her desktop computer with renewed focus. The plan was to catch up on her studies and to go to take a much-needed visit to the panda habitat to resume her caretaking duties, but first…

Holding her breath, Xiaoyu checked her inbox to see if she had finally received any message from her long-lost friend Jin Kazama. Once again, there was nothing. She exhaled with disappointment, whispering quietly, “Jin, where are you?” She leaned back in her chair, letting it spin slowly to the left as she looked out the window of her bedroom.

‘Maybe once this business with Kunimitsu blows over… I could ask Yoshimitsu for help? Would that be weird?’ Xiaoyu asked herself, feeling an unexpected unease at the idea, ‘No, he’d… probably say no. Or would he?’ She took another drink of juice.

Just then, Xiaoyu heard a knock at the door. Perplexed, she set the juicebox down on her desk. She pushed herself up from her chair and walked to the front door, curious to see who it might be, as she wasn’t expecting any visitors. She peeked through the door to see a woman in a green uniform and a hat, holding a medium-sized cardboard box.

The young woman knocked again before calling out, “Excuse me. Delivery!”

“Oh,” Xiaoyu said, trying to remember if she had ordered anything. She opened the door and, with a polite smile, answered, “Yes?”

“Are you Ling Xiaoyu?” asked the delivery woman, businesslike.

“Yeah, I am, but-” Xiaoyu couldn’t finish her reply before the woman suddenly kicked the door open, dropping the empty cardboard box to reveal a long knife. The kick caused Xiaoyu to stumble back, but she quickly took up a defensive stance. The fake courrier made a lunging stab at Xiaoyu, who evaded the attack with a quick dodge before reaching for the woman’s wrist. As she did, her attacker countered with a left hook directly into Xiayou’s side.

Xiaoyu gasped in pain but her grip remained firm. She pulled her attacker towards her, forcing the other woman off balance as Xiaoyu twisted her arm up towards the ceiling. With the grace of a dancer, Xiaoyu ducked under her arm and used the leverage to throw the other woman over her shoulder and onto the ground in a sweeping motion.

“Who are you?!” Xiaoyu asked, startled and angry at being attacked out of nowhere.

The woman said nothing, quickly rising to her feet before dashing towards Xiaoyu again. She shouted as she slashed at her, and Xiaoyu just narrowly dodged her attack with a sidestep, following up with a swift kick to her back. The nameless attacker twisted her body and wrapped her arm around Xiaoyu’s leg, holding her close as she brandished her knife.

Xiaoyu, caught off balance, readied herself for a battle when there was suddenly an explosion of glass as a dark-clad figure crashed through the window. There were shouts from outside, and Xiaoyu realized that she hadn’t even noticed the familiar chopping sound of helicopter blades until just now.

Hiyamitsu, just having swung through the window, launched herself at Xiaoyu’s attacker with a flying kick. Her powerful cybernetic leg struck the back of the assailant’s head, and the woman uttered a groan before collapsing to the ground unconscious. The kick had also knocked Xiaoyu to the ground, but she rose quickly, startled to see a masked Manji ninja standing in her apartment.

“It’s you!” Xiaoyu blurted, still shocked. “H-How-? Why are you-?”

“There’s no time. Aikuchi sent men after you. We took the others out. Come with me, now.” Hiyamitsu was already back at the window, knocking the remaining shards of glass out of the frame with the hilt of her sword. She perched herself up on the window sill and reached out for the cable she had used to swing down into Xiaoyu’s apartment.

“Wait, wait!” Xiaoyu said, not having moved from her spot, “I’m attacked and then you show up like this and, just- What’s going on?!”

Hiyamitsu, still crouched up on the window sill, turned to look back at Xiaoyu, and as she did, Xiaoyu could see that her eyes were red with tears.

“Something awful has happened,” Hiyamitsu said over the rushing sound of the chopper blades, “We were attacked. Hiroyuki and so many others… They’re dead. And Yoshimitsu… He’s in danger. I need your help, Xiaoyu.” She sighed, a ragged sound, betraying her desperation. “Before, at the base, when I talked down to you… I apologize. I saw how close Yoshimitsu and you were getting and I... I was being childish and stupid. I was so stupid.” Her voice wavered and she held a hand up to her face, struggling to retain whatever composure she was still clinging to.

“Hey,” Xiaoyu replied softly as she came to Hiyamitsu’s side, reaching out with a tentative hand, “It’s OK. Really.” Xiaoyu placed a hand on her shoulder softly. “What can I do?”

“I need you to come with me. We’ve been attacked by Bryan Fury. Yoshimitsu went after him, and I want to help, but I know I’m not strong enough to fight someone like that man. He’s not human. He’s a powerhouse, a force of nature. Yoshimitsu needs help and, well, you’ve fought in the King of Iron Fist tournament. You’re the best ally he could have right now. But we need to hurry.”

“Right,” Xiaoyu said, not wanting to waste anymore time, “Let’s go.”

Hiyamitsu helped Xiaoyu get a firm grip onto the cable and the two were quickly pulled up into the passenger hold of the Manji Clan’s helicopter. There were only two other Manji ninja in the back with them, who both nodded to Xiaoyu silently. They all looked tired and broken. Xiaoyu looked forward to the cockpit. She could recognize the pilot Iiguru from before, but his co-pilot Taka wasn’t there. The empty seat beside him said all she needed to know.

The long flight back towards the Manji Clan mountain base was silent and fast, a heavy sense of grief and foreboding filling the air. The sun was lowering on the horizon, and Xiaoyu peeked out as she watched the helicopter carefully descend into a clearing surrounded by a dark, dense forest. They had bypassed the Manji Clan base altogether and instead landed as close as they could to Dr. Bosconovich’s residence.

The others rushed out of the helicopter while Iiguru began his post-flight checks and Xiaoyu followed after them, growing more and more nervous.

There were groups of people scattered around the yard of the house, sitting or lying down as they groaned in pain or remained silent and dazed. Casualties from the attack, Xiaoyu assumed. Those dead and injured were a mix of both Manji clan members as well as the innocent people they had been aiding.

Once inside, Xiaoyu saw the interior of the house was even more crowded than the exterior. Attendants and able-bodied volunteers were rushing to and fro, and Xiaoyu stuck close by Hiyamitsu’s side as they found the doctor in the crowd.

“Dr. B!” Hiyamitsu said with a rushed bow. “I’m back. I’ve brought Xiaoyu.”

“Hiyamitsu, you’re back! Excellent. Please, we need all the hands we can get.”

“Of course,” Hiyamitsu said, and she looked around the room, at a loss of where to begin. There was so much chaos.

“Xiaoyu, I- I’m sorry, I can’t-”

“Don’t worry. You stay,” Xiaoyu replied quickly. “They need you here. I’ll go find Yoshimitsu. Just- Which way did he go?”

“Come with me.” Hiyamitsu said as she grasped Xiaoyu’s shoulder. She quickly guided Xiaoyu through the crowd and out of an opening in the side of the building.

Xiaoyu didn’t have time to be surprised at seeing the wall completely caved in. Before she knew it, another Manji ninja had rushed up to them leading a large white horse to her.

“Gessekai!” Xiaoyu exclaimed, instantly recognizing Yoshimitsu’s stallion. She reached out and stroked his neck and ears, comforted by his calming presence amid the calamity.

“Can you ride?” asked the other Manji ninja.

Xiaoyu faced him and hesitated. She thought back to the last time she rode Gessekai, seated behind Yoshimitsu. It was all she could do to cling to him and try her best not to fall off, eyes closed tightly in fear.

“I…” Xiaoyu exhaled with a puff, her soft eyes focusing with resolve. “I can do it.”

“Good,” Hiyamitsu replied, helping Xiaoyu up into the saddle. “This very well may not work, but it’s your best chance. He’s a smart horse.” She walked to stand in front of Gessekai, placing her hands on either side of his head. She leaned her forehead to touch his, closing her eyes in an almost prayer. “Keep her safe. Find Yoshimitsu.” 

With that, Hiyamitsu let out a shout and gave Gessekai a swift pat on his rump. Xiaoyu swallowed a shriek, her heart jumping as they lurched forward into a swift canter which quickly became a full gallop. She tried not to hold her breath as she leaned forward, grasping the reign tightly. Her inner thigh muscles tensed as she used all her strength to hold herself into the saddle, fighting the urge to scream. This was more of a rush than any rollercoaster, and it would have even been fun under less desperate circumstances. The others and the house were quickly out of her field of vision, and soon they were surrounded by trees as Gessekai flew down the forest path.

‘Just hold on, Yoshimitsu,’ Xiaoyu thought to herself, the wind rushing through her hair, ‘I’m on my way!’

~*~*~

Yoshimitsu knelt down, pushing some of the far-reaching branches out of his way as he peered down at the damp forest pathway. With his enhanced vision, he could easily parse out the deep indents of combat boots, freshly made and in wide steps. His quarry couldn’t be too far. He continued on as swiftly and quietly as he could, straining to listen for any telltale sounds through the increasing din of the early evening forest. Yoshimitsu had no idea where Bryan Fury was running to and, in all honesty, he didn’t care. All he could think about was finding the murderous, ungrateful cyborg and cutting him in half.

Yoshimitsu pressed on, his senses heightening. He could feel it. He was closing in on his prey.

~*~*~

The sluggishness he felt upon waking had long since passed, and Bryan Fury delighted in the feeling of the cool air on his skin. He was awake, alive, and he felt stronger than ever. That old man, Dr. Bosconovich, had told him he’d fit him with a new body, that he would make right the wrongs of Dr. Abel’s sub-par cybernetic work. He had failed, and the realization of that failure had set Bryan’s mind on fire. There was no gradient, no spectrum to his thought processes and emotions. Frustration led to violence, joy led to violence. Destruction and death. It’s all he could seem to do, all he could think of, and it felt good.

‘Gonna see what else this power can do! But first, I need to get out of this fucking forest,’ Bryan had thought to himself as he scanned the horizon for any sign of where to go. The surrounding area was obscured by the great pines of the forest, and impatience spurred him on in no particular direction. It wasn’t long before he had finally spotted the uppermost spire of some kind of tower, poking itself above the line of treetops. Seeing the perfect vantage point, he had sprinted in that direction and now found himself approaching the periphery of what looked like some kind of abandoned construction site, the partially finished tower left standing to be slowly overtaken by the surrounding forest.

Bryan easily vaulted over the chain link fence that surrounded the site, and he was just nearing the dark metal stairwell when he heard the sound of the fence rustling behind him.

"Bryan Fury!"

Bryan stopped in his tracks and casually glanced over his shoulder to see Yoshimitsu perched up high on the fence, perfectly balanced on a post with his sword bared, reflecting the setting sun.

“So, you found me,” Bryan turned slowly, smirking as he clenched his fists. His smirk turned into a smile as he could feel the power generator in his chest increase its output. Every sense was heightened, every nerve alight with the possibility of carnage. He lived for it, and he could almost taste it in the air. It was like a drug, and it filled him with a gleeful rage.

“How dare you!” Yoshimitsu’s deep voice boomed throughout the clearing, and he could feel the energy from his sword, the prized relic of the Manji Clan, radiate from the blade itself up through the hilt and into his body. It called for retribution. It called for blood. “Foul, villainous bastard! I saved your life! We gave you a place of refuge! And this is what you do in return?! You disregard my goodwill and you murder my people?! That is unforgivable!”

“Yeah, I killed them! And I enjoyed it! So, what are you gonna do about it?!” Bryan asked, almost laughing. The absolute joy and excitement from the thought of a fight to the death was more than he could contain.

“I’m going to send you straight to Hell!” Yoshimitsu shouted, readying himself.

“Come on!” Bryan laughed wickedly and, with lightning speed, he reached over and latched his mechanical hands onto a nearby support beam, ripping it from the structure and hurling the mass of steel through the air as if it was nothing.

Yoshimitsu, light on his toes, leaped into the air with a rotating flip, easily gliding over the steel beam as it crashed into the fence where he had been standing. He landed on his feet and looked up towards where Bryan Fury had been standing to just catch the last glimpse of his legs as the other cyborg ascended the rusty stairwell, laughing as he baited Yoshimitsu to follow him.

“Get back here, you coward!” Yoshimitsu instantly followed after him, blinded by his lust for revenge. He raced up the first set of stairs in only a few quick strides. As he turned the corner, just as he expected, Bryan Fury attempted to surprise him with a powerful kick to the torso.

Yoshimitsu was ready, though, and he dodged the kick with a quick spinning evasion in the cramped space. He immediately lunged with a sword stab meant for Bryan’s chest, but Bryan parried the attack and sent the blade straight into the thin metal wall of the stairwell.

Yoshimitsu swore to himself as he tried to pull his sword out, feeling it catch slightly on the sheared metal of the wall. Bryan continued dashing up the stairwell, his mocking laughter echoing as he went. Yoshimitsu could hear a voice inside of him growing increasingly faint, urging him to be calm, to find his center, and to remain mindful and grounded, but the dark drive for vengeance grew stronger and stronger, drowning out his reason. As soon as his sword was free, he continued in pursuit, taking quick and purposeful steps to make up for lost time.

He cleared flight after flight of steps until he came to some sort of centralized bridge, where Bryan was waiting for him. Yoshimitsu tightened his grasp on his sword, feeling it almost shudder in his hands, and he readied himself for a fight as he stepped out onto the rusty bridge.

There was silence. Nothing but the wind through the swaying trees, the calls of insects and birds, and the soft sound of each step as Yoshimitsu neared his opponent. Another heartbeat and then... an eruption of movement.

The two charged at each other with lightning speed. Yoshimitsu went on the offensive with a flying kick, which Bryan blocked before responding with a powerful punch. Yoshimitsu narrowly dodged it, going for a sweeping low kick, knocking Bryan off his feet. Yoshimitsu tried to stab him right through the chest, but Bryan was fast. Very fast. He was already rolling to his feet, grabbing Yoshimitsu’s arm and pushing it out of the way. He shot a swift knee right into Yoshimitsu’s side, which sent a wave of pain radiating through his body. He could feel his lungs tense with a seething gasp, and he could feel the immovable strength in Bryan’s inhuman grip. He was strong. Yoshimitsu escaped from his grasp with a quick teleportation to Bryan’s other side, putting space between them.

Yoshimitsu turned to face Bryan and shook out his shoulders as he regained a defensive stance. He would have to be much more careful. He tried to clear his mind, to focus, but he could feel the anger and lust for revenge bubbling up again, blurring his thoughts. He saw Hiyamitsu, crying over Kawamitsu’s body. He saw the crumpled, mangled forms of the others. His friends, his family... He couldn’t let Bryan get away. He had to make him pay for what he did.

Bryan was suddenly lunging at him, screaming as he came at him with an axe kick, leaving a dent in the groaning metal bridge at the space where Yoshimitsu had just vacated, dodging back. Such power! Bryan could feel this new energy coursing through the fibers of his cybernetic body, and it made him laugh with exhilaration. He charged at Yoshimitsu again, who dodged over him with a leaping somersault, turning quickly to try to slash at him. Bryan was still too fast, and he ducked under the slash and tackled Yoshimitsu to the ground.

With Bryan on top of him, Yoshimitsu knew he couldn’t stand a pummeling from those impossibly strong fists. He closed the distance, leaning into Bryan’s chest and wrapping his arms around his torso. Too close for Bryan to punch, Yoshimitsu used his legs to bridge himself up, chopping his mechanical arm into Bryan’s side, who shouted as they rolled over. Now on top, Yoshimitsu screamed as he once again tried to stab Bryan with his sword, aiming for his throat.

Bryan growled a shout in reply, knocking Yoshimitsu’s blade aside and popping off a swift jab into Yoshimitsu’s chest. The pain was incredible. It lit his blood on fire, worsening the anger already boiling over inside of him. Bryan shoved Yoshimitsu off of him and rose to his feet, following up with a kick that Yoshimitsu caught and parried out of the way. Yoshimitsu followed up with a powerful chopping strike into his side, and while Bryan grunted at the impact, he seemed hardly bothered. He grabbed Yoshimitsu’s arm and suddenly threw him over his shoulder, sending him flying into the metal wall on the far side of the bridge.

Yoshimitsu fought through his daze, pushing himself up and rolling backwards just in time to dodge Bryan’s charging attack, a running kick that put a dent into the metal wall and sent a shudder throughout the dilapidated structure. Yoshimitsu found himself backing into the next dark stairwell, slowly ascending each flight of steps as he dodged and parried Bryan’s relentless attacks. Having the high ground certainly gave him an advantage, but it was all he could do to stave off Bryan’s tireless barrage of kicks and jabs.

Yoshimitsu felt his back press up against a closed door at the top of the stairwell, and with more effort than it would normally require, he teleported through the door, finding himself once again out in the cool evening air. The sun was now well below the horizon, and the moon and stars were beginning to fill the night sky.

In a matter of seconds, Bryan had kicked the metal door right off of its hinges, and he laughed when he saw that they were now at a dead end, having reached the uppermost platform of the abandoned structure. He could see that Yoshimitsu was beginning to grow tired, becoming more cautious, and he grinned wickedly.

“Nowhere left for you to run!” Bryan shouted, palming his fist menacingly as he slowly approached Yoshimitsu.

The two kept their distance and began circling each other. Yoshimitsu knew he couldn’t make the first move. It was a painful truth, but he knew that Bryan was inherently stronger than him. He needed to focus, to clear his mind…

“I can see why it was so easy to kill your people,” Bryan suddenly said, smiling, his voice dripping with sadistic antagonism. “With someone as weak as you leading them, no wonder.”

Yoshimitsu clenched his jaw, his grip tightening on the hilt of his ravenous sword. His mind knew that Bryan was just trying to get a rise out of him, but his stomach twisted with indignation and rage. He could feel the sword reaching out to him, like a clawed hand wrapping around his brain, invading his thoughts with nothing but anger and bloodlust. ‘Stay calm,’ he thought, ‘Breath. Stay in the moment. Breath.’’

“Snapping their bones like twigs, crushing their heads, tossing them around like rag dolls…” Bryan taunted him further. “I only wish I could have done the same to that feeble old man.” He could see Yoshimitsu growing more and more tense. “Would have ripped him apart if it weren’t for that fox-faced bitch. Never seen her before.” He grinned, probing for a weak point. “I should try to track her down, pay her a visit... Have a little fun with her!”

That was enough. Yoshimitsu’s resolve broke. He screamed as he charged at Bryan, who was ready and waiting for him. 

~*~*~

“Woah, woah!” Xiaoyu exclaimed, trying her best to stay upright while Gessekai sped down the forest path, moving from clearing to clearing. They had galloped from Dr. Bosconovich’s lab all the way back to the Manji Clan mountain base, and when Yoshimitsu wasn’t there, Gessekai had continued on, going deeper and deeper through the valley, past great caves and a serene lake. Xiaoyu did her best to hold on, to let the brilliantly white stallion lead the way, but she was starting to wonder if they were even heading in the right direction.

Xiaoyu groaned, feeling the inner thigh muscles begin to feel sore from the effort of keeping herself firmly planted in the saddle.

“Gessekai, are you sure we’re going the right way, buddy?” Xiaoyu asked aloud, taking note of just how much darker it was getting. “Oh, where is he? How are we ever going to find him?”

At that moment, Gessekai’s head perked up, his ears pointing in a direction that went deeper into the sprawling forest. With a whinny, Gessekai charged through the brush, causing Xiaoyu to shriek and wrap her arms around his neck, leaning as low as she could to avoid the grasping branches whipping past them.

“W-Wait, oww! Ouch! Gessekai, where are we going?!”

Xiaoyu closed her eyes and held on for dear life, determined to keep them closed until they got to wherever they were going. However, she suddenly heard a clanging sound that seemed to echo through the forest, followed by a blood-chilling laugh. Her eyes snapped open. Bryan Fury. They were close!

“Yoshimitsu?!” Xiaoyu called out, unable to see where the laugh had come from. The forest was so dark. Before long, the two were once again in a wide clearing, and Xiaoyu could see the large, imposing shape of some kind of abandoned metal structure. She heard a loud clanging sound again, and the cries of a fight. Gessekai bucked up slightly, whinnying urgently, and Xiaoyu almost fell as she hopped off of him.

“Thank you! Now please, go on! Go back home!” She replied, looking up at the structure worriedly as Gessekai charged back into the forest. The moonlight and stars were easily visible in the large clearing, but Xiaoyu still strained to see exactly where the sounds were coming from. Then there was another crash, the sound of metal shearing as she could see two dark figures crashing into the railing of the topmost platform. She could hear broken pieces of the metal railing pelleting the ground at her feet. Up above her, she caught a glimpse of armor, of a faint red glow, and then knew it was them.

“Yoshimitsu!” she shouted, unsure if she could be heard from so far below. Wasting no time, Xiaoyu charged up the stairwell, ignoring the fear that began to build up with each step she took. She only hoped she wasn’t too late.

~*~*~

Yoshimitsu leaned his shaky sword-arm against what was left of the torn railing, struggling to hold himself up as he grasped at his side with his free hand. That was the eleventh direct hit he had taken from Bryan, and he could feel a sharp pain with each breath he took, and while he was very familiar with the pain of a broken rib, this felt so much worse. It was sharp and sucking and wet. His armor had finally failed, cracking under Bryan’s fists, and he could feel that something had punctured his insides.

Bryan growled, flexing his mechanical leg, angered at the deep gash that Yoshimitsu’s blade had cut into it. It was an annoyance, but not something that would stop him so easily. He had taken more than his fair share of hits. Yoshimitsu had been disappearing and reappearing frantically, striking him at every opportunity but never seeming to land a hit deep enough to stop him. It had become a battle of attrition.

Bryan didn’t give Yoshimitsu time to recover. He rushed him, starting with a strike that Yoshimitsu was just barely able to block. Before he could get away, Bryan reached for him with a grapple, but Yoshimitsu spun out of his reach and slashed at his back. He was tired and off-balance, so the slash had not been deep, but it sparked and had been enough to cut a line or two inside of Bryan’s mechanized body.

Bryan screamed with rage and, lightning fast, he turned and tackled Yoshimitsu to the ground. Yoshimitsu groaned from the sharp, shooting burn in his side, crying out in pain and rage as he tried to run his sword through Bryan’s side. But Bryan, once again, was just that much faster, elbowing Yoshimitsu in the face as he grasped Yoshimitsu’s mechanical left arm in his cybernetic hands.

Bryan roared, using his formidable strength to slowly push Yoshimitsu’s arm, and the blade, further and further away from his side. Yoshimitsu groaned, desperately trying to find the leverage he needed to drive his blade into Bryan and finally end their brawl. They strained against each other, and Bryan shifted his grip on Yoshimitsu’s arm to have one hand grasp his robotic wrist. The tip of his sword began to pierce Bryan’s side, but only barely, and Yoshimitsu was suddenly overcome with dread, seeing that Bryan was beginning to direct all his strength against his wrist joint. He tried to spin his robotic hand, to break Bryan’s grip, but the other cyborg was unstoppable. Yoshimitsu screamed as Bryan slowly, agonizingly ripped his robotic hand right out of its socket. 

There was no pain exactly, but Yoshimitsu’s internal receptors were blaring. A horrible twinge traveled through his arm and up to his brain, and he knew there was no way he could last one more minute against Bryan without his robotic hand. He watched as Bryan tossed it, and his sword, aside.

Then, with his inhuman strength, Bryan grasped Yoshimitsu’s throat in one hand as he lifted the exhausted Manji leader up off of the floor and held him out over the edge of the now broken railing. Yoshimitsu’s body tensed in agony as he felt himself being strangled, his feet high above the ground below. With his only functioning hand, he clutched at Bryan’s arm, straining to free himself from Bryan’s death-grip.

Yoshimitsu’s lungs were on fire, burning for want of air. Bryan’s vice grip around his throat only tightened, and even through blurry vision, Yoshimitsu could see the gleam of sadistic glee in Bryan’s dead eyes.

“Just look at you... So weak!” declared Bryan, sneering with contempt, “I could kill you so easily right now, you know?” His grip tightened around Yoshimitsu’s throat, enraging the exhausted Manji leader. “But that’s no fun. I’m going to take my time. Yeah… Nice and thorough…”

Yoshimitsu could only choke back a growl in response, his own grip around Bryan’s arm tightening with determination. He was struggling violently, then, kicking at Bryan’s chest and sides, doing everything he could to stave off the crushing hold of this mechanical maniac. He could feel his strength begin to falter.

Thoughts of death flared up in his mind, the possibility of defeat tinting his psyche. Bryan’s laughter began to fade, and a flurry of visions bombarded Yoshimitsu’s mind. His earliest memories, the faces and voice of people he had long since forgotten. A woman’s voice, singing about a mountain and a toy drum. His mother.

His childhood. Years of training. Breaking his leg one summer. His chief, the leader of the Manji Clan. He was so strong, so confident. Yoshimitsu had silently cried when he had to fight him to the death to accept the title of leadership for himself. Kunimitsu. She left him, again and again. He already missed her so much. He would miss her forever. He saw the faces of his fallen comrades, his family. Hiroyuki, his beloved friend...

And Xiaoyu! Beautiful, strong, tenacious Xiao. His heart ached more than his wounds. He would no longer be able to protect her. He could see her, in his mind’s eye, standing there… She looked worried, tired. She was panting. She was saying something, a look of angry determination on her face, but he couldn’t hear her. Bryan Fury turned to look at her. Everything was moving so slowly. He could barely hear Bryan’s muffled laughter.

Then, everything sped up. Bryan had released him, and he could feel the air rushing back into his lungs. As he hit the ground, his clarity returned to him. The cool night air, the deep throbbing pain in his side, the taste of blood in his mouth, and Xiaoyu. She wasn’t a vision. She was real. She was here.

“Xiao…” Yoshimitsu’s voice sounded so quiet and raspy that Xiaoyu almost didn’t hear him.

“Well, well, well... What a surprise.” Bryan grinned deviously at seeing Xiaoyu, whom he instantly recognized as one of the other fighters from the King of Iron Fist tournament. Although he was admittedly surprised to find her in a place like this, he relished the unexpected opportunity for more delightful destruction.

Xiaoyu could see his expression change from a threatening grin into something else, something darker. A shiver went up her spine. She could see that he would enjoy hurting her, and she couldn’t help but shudder as fear seeped into her body. Her foot instinctually stepped back into a defensive stance. Adrenaline began to charge through her limbs, and she braced herself for the worst.

Bryan knew no fatigue, and he lunged at Xiaoyu, swinging with a broad left jab. Xiaoyu, fresh to the fight, quickly ducked under his attack. Her arms fanned out gracefully, and she rose again to side step Bryan’s follow-up kick. He snarled in frustration, and Xiaoyu did her best to stay one step ahead, redirecting or evading each attack. He was stronger, but she was faster, more nimble.

Xiaoyu parried another of Bryan’s brutal jabs, this time sending the heel of her foot into the back of his knee. He staggered momentarily, but he was able to power through her attack, retaliating with a leg sweep. Artfully, Xiaoyu leaped in the air, launching herself over Bryan to land behind him. With her back still turned him, she thrusted her foot backward in a reversed kick, catching him in the back. Further enraged, Bryan quickly spun around and landed a devastating backhand fist across Xiaoyu’s face. She cried out in pain, falling to the cold metal floor.

“Oh, I’m going to make you scream, you little- Arghh!” Bryan’s threat was cut short, and he shouted as Yoshimitsu stabbed him in the side with the sharp, severed metal of his torn prosthetic wrist.

“Xiao, run!” Yoshimitsu shouted to her. Still struggling with his injuries, he had recovered just enough to grasp onto Bryan’s legs. He stabbed him again, doing all he could to keep him away from Xiaoyu.

Xiaoyu shook her head, regaining her bearings after such a forceful blow, and she was about to scramble to her feet when she realized what was lying right in front of her: Yoshimitsu’s sword. She could see his robotic hand still firmly grasping the hilt of the ancient, deadly blade. She could hear the sounds of Yoshimitsu struggling with Bryan behind her, and she knew it was now or never.

Bryan had turned to face Yoshimitsu, and he had wrestled him back onto the ground, kneeling over him as he began dealing him blow after blow. Yoshimitsu covered his head with his arms and only hoped that Xiaoyu was able to make her escape. This wasn’t how he thought his life would end, but if it meant that Xiaoyu was safe, he was more than willing to die here and now. He closed his eyes and exhaled, letting the crushing pain envelope him.

“Get off of my friend, you psycho!”

Yoshimitsu heard Xiaoyu shout, and the hits suddenly stopped. He opened his eyes and looked up to see the shining blade of his sword piercing Bryan’s upper shoulder from behind, going clean through his cybernetic body. Bryan screamed and tried to turn his body to face Xiaoyu, but Yoshimitsu grabbed the collar of his jacket with his remaining hand and rolled his weight upward. Xiaoyu, her hands grasped firmly onto the hilt of the sword, put her foot into Bryan’s back and, following Yoshimitsu’s momentum, she kicked Bryan forward and off of the blade so that Yoshimitsu could use his legs to send Bryan flying over the edge of the platform.

Yoshimitsu and Xiaoyu heard Bryan scream as he fell, followed by the horrible sound of his mechanized body hitting the ground far below. Xiaoyu caught her breath and, after a moment, she carefully stepped closer to the edge. With slight hesitation, she peered down. She could see an impact site, a deep indent in the soil below, but Bryan was nowhere to be seen. Already gone, he must have made a run for it, deciding it wasn’t worth the trouble. She sighed with relief and knelt next to Yoshimitsu, helping him lay flat on his back.

“Easy there. Everything is OK now. I’m sorry it took me so long to find you.” Xiaoyu said, trying to keep her voice calm. He looked horrible, and she was trying not to start crying with worry.

Yoshimitsu gazed up at the beautiful face of Xiaoyu, his savior. He shakily brushed a few strands of her dark hair out of her eyes as he caressed her face with his one good hand.

“My hero!” Yoshimitsu let out a weak, raspy chuckle while he winced at the pain in his torso. He could already feel the cold seeping into his legs. “I… I told you-” A painful cough erupted from deep in his throat. “I told you that you were the hero of the story… You saved me, Xiao.”

Xiaoyu tried to give him a reassuring smile, to let him know that everything was going to be okay, but she was unable to take her terrified gaze away from the blood that was pooling around his side. She had seen this in movies before: the good guy kneeling next to the badly-injured friend, telling him not to talk and that he was going to make it. Was she supposed to do that now? Her thoughts were frantic, and she pressed her hand against the spot where that dark blood was seeping from, pushing down against his cracked armor, hoping she could somehow stop the bleeding.

“You’re going to be OK. This-This is OK, just- Don’t die! Please, Yoshimitsu. Don’t die!”

“Xiao…” There was something different about his voice now. She could hear the synthetic timbre of his voice float down into a softer resonance. “Lovely Xiao… Hold me. Please…”

Upon hearing his plea, Xiaoyu was silent as she looked up at his mask, that constant presence that forever hid his face from her. He had become so close to her, and she couldn’t help but feel a deep and indescribable intimacy with him in this moment. Emotions she hadn’t ever thought to voice welled up in her chest, and she felt overwhelmed with tenderness for this enigmatic man. “Yoshi, I...” She placed her hands on his arms, leaning down closer to him. “I want you to know that I...I think I…”

“Hold me by the legs, I mean,” Yoshimitsu interrupted, shakily pointing down to his feet, “I’m about to go into shock.”

“Oh! Uh, right!" Xiaoyu scurried to his legs, blushing with embarrassment. “W-What do I do? Just lift them up?”

“Yes,” Yoshimitsu answered weakly as he watched his vitals on his internal display steadily drop, “Si… Sit cross-legged and prop my legs up on your knees. I need more… more blood to my head…” He found it more and more difficult to keep his eyes open.

Xiaoyu obeyed feverishly, trying her hardest to recall any instructions that she may have been taught in school or casually heard in a public service announcement. She quietly cursed at herself for not having paid more attention.

Yoshimitsu could feel his pulse quicken and his hands become cold and clammy. He wanted so badly to sit up. The look on Xiaoyu’s face made him want to reassure her, to take her away from this awful scene. He then unexpectedly coughed again, and Xiaoyu tightened her arms around his legs, her heart dropping from the sight of a small spattering of blood seeping out between the fanged teeth of Yoshimitsu’s fierce mask.

“You’re going to be OK!” Xiaoyu blurted, trying to reassure herself just as much as him. “You have to be. Who else will be there to push me to the ground when a bullet is whizzing towards my head, huh?” She shook his feet a little, hoping to keep him from going unconscious. “And- and besides… You and I still need to go back to that dumpling stand! We didn't eat nearly enough. And we need to go back to the arcade! Please, Yoshi…”

“Xiao...” Yoshimitsu answered, the pain in his body beginning to fade as he teetered in and out of awareness. “All conditioned things are impermanent…”

“What?” asked Xiaoyu, genuinely confused. Yoshimitsu’s synthesized voice had begun to waver, and she almost didn’t understand him. “Yoshi? What did you just say?”

“As a water bead on a lotus leaf… Yes, Xiao, we can do… all of those things. For e-… eternity and longer. I just need… to rest...” He closed his eyes.

Just then, there was the flicker of a spotlight that suddenly surrounded them, completely enveloping them in a blinding halo of white light. Xiaoyu heard a chopping sound and felt gusts of wind begin to blast them from above. Squinting up into the light, Xiaoyu could see that the Manji Clan’s helicopter had arrived, and it hovered over them as a scant few Manji ninja quickly repelled down to them. She could have shouted with joy if she wasn’t so scared.

"Yoshimitsu, they’re here! The others are here!" Xiaoyu shook his legs again, "Yoshi? Hey! Yoshimitsu!"

Yoshimitsu opened his eyes again, in a haze. He felt so cold and so very tired, but he could see the Manji ninja around him, working quickly to stop the bleeding and get him stabilized. They had lowered a gurney, and he could feel them working together to lift him up and strap him in. Xiaoyu took his hand and squeezed it tightly.

“Xiaoyu… Thank you…” He held onto her hand for as long as he could.

~*~*~

“Yoshimitsu! There you are!”

Yoshimitsu opened his eyes, taken out of his meditative healing trance by the sound of Xiaoyu calling out to him over the roar of the nearby waterfall. Dr. Bosconovich had repaired his armor and replaced his robotic arm, and Yoshimitsu had spent every day at this favored spot beside this pristine mountain lake in order to meditate and heal in solitude, quickly recovering from his wounds after his encounter with Bryan Fury only a week ago.

Yoshimitsu rose to his feet, happy to see Xiaoyu once again. She had returned to her home following his initial recovery, and he hadn’t expected to see her again anytime soon. Xiaoyu smiled at him from her place at the lakeshore, waving as he approached her. The two walked along the shore together, turning onto the path that would take them back towards the Manji Clan base.

“It’s good to see you, Xiaoyu. What brings you back here?” Yoshimitsu asked, casually stretching and closing the fingers of his new robotic arm.

“I wanted to see how you were doing,” Xiaoyu replied, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be here for the funerals.”

“That’s alright,” Yoshimitsu said, thinking back to the dreadful, heartbreaking task of having to cremate so many of his dead comrades, “It was better that you didn’t see it.” 

Xiaoyu nodded solemnly.

“Also,” she said, stopping along the path, “I’m sure you heard the news. The King of Iron Fist Tournament 5 was just announced. No one knows who the sponsor is, since the rest of the world still believes that Heihachi is dead, and Jin is still missing…”

Yoshimitsu stood alongside her and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“What will you do?” he asked.

“I want to do everything I can to help Jin and the Mishima family finally stop fighting. I’m entering the tournament to try to win the funds. I… I have an idea. It’s crazy, but I’m going to pursue it.” As Xiaoyu said this, she thought it odd that she was telling her plans to Yoshimitsu, a fellow competitor, someone she might very well have to face later on down the line. She hoped he would decide against joining himself.

“I wish you luck, and I hope that, whatever happens in the tournament, our paths do not cross,” Yoshimitsu replied.

“So, you’re entering the tournament, too?”

“Yes. Bryan Fury murdered my family, Xiao. He’s still out there, and if he takes pleasure in violence and destruction as much as we know he does, he’ll enter the tournament as well. He must pay for what he has done.” Yoshimitsu had thought of nothing but vengeance since he began his recovery. He would train, he would meditate, he would plan and prepare and do everything in his power not to make the same mistake he had made before. This time, he would be ready.

“Well, then, I guess… this is goodbye?” Xiaoyu stood to face him, moving closer to him.

“Yes, I suppose it is. Our time together… it was… something I will not soon forget, Xiaoyu. You’ve taught me a lot about myself and I… I enjoyed your company.” Yoshimitsu hesitated, a bit lost for words. There was so much he wanted to say, and so much he felt that he could never say to her. “I am… I’m going to miss you. I wish you the best, and I hope you stay out of trouble. I’ll always be here to help you, if you need. And I… I value our… friendship, and-”

Xiaoyu leaned in suddenly and, standing up on her tippy toes, she planted a quick kiss on the grinning mouth of his skeletal mask. Yoshimitsu knew she didn’t have to see his face to know that he was blushing profusely.

“Xiao..! Suddenly-! You just… I-I mean… Reikan santo!” Yoshimitsu stammered, clasping his hands together and bringing them up to his mouth. He was so thankful that she couldn’t see him smiling like an idiot.

“Thank you for everything, Yoshimitsu. You’re seriously one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.” Xiaoyu grinned, taking his arm as they continued down the path. “Come on. Let’s enjoy our friendship just a little longer, before we have to go back to being competitors in a global martial arts tournament where fame and fortune is on the line. Let’s eat dumplings and play video games.”

Yoshimitsu laughed, smiling as Xiaoyu leaned against him. Kunimitsu was gone and so many others had perished. He didn’t know if he would ever truly recover from this great loss. His heart weighed heavily with pain and determination to seek vengeance, even if it would kill him. His future and the future of his clan were uncertain, but knowing that there were bright and loving souls like Xiaoyu in the world gave him hope.

Amicitia semper prodest, amor et nocet.

Comments

  1. As usually, awesome chapter :) I liked the brutality of Bryan vs Yoshi fight. Too bad there won't be any chapter that would show a reverse sweep from Yoshi - or maybe? :)

    I hope that someday Tekken will inspire you more to write some new stories! Maybe Kunimitsu will be announced...? 

    2020-08-31 18:41
  2. Oh boy gotta read this sometime, i'm glad you're still writing Aozame ;)  I love the dynamic you created with Xiaoyu and Yoshi! Heck I think i'll will be better if i start from the begining again =0 

    2020-08-25 17:38

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