End of a Journey

PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype TrainJoined: Posts: 2,394
Author's Note: Hi-ho, folks? Just thought I'd drop in with a story to tell. This story takes place a few months after 3rd Strike, and takes a lot of cues from the Nakahira mangas as well as the actual canon. Being that this is my very first full-on Street Fighter story, I look forward to seeing how this eventually turns out. Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1: Arrival

?UUUGH!?

With one final standing kick to the sternum from his opponent, the big man went down at last. Up until that point, the fighter known as only as ?Han? had accumulated a twenty-man strong winning streak, accepting any challenge from those brave enough to stand up to him. He had been unceremoniously ex-communicated from his school of martial arts when he was caught extorting his classmates, but to Han, all that meant was that he was being freed to show off his skills in street fights and prove to them why they made a bad decision.

All of that came to a halt with this latest opponent. Sure, he was nothing short of ?ripped? physically, his muscles chiseled as if he were hand-sculpted, but Han had almost a full foot of a height advantage, and was probably one-hundred pounds heavier. How in the world could this foreigner wearing a red headband and white gi with the sleeves torn out defeat him in such a short time. He wasn?t even wearing shoes! ?You?you must have cheated,? Han growled as he rose up to one knee, clutching his chest and breathing heavily. ?Just who the hell are you to beat me so easily!??

?I?m just a fighter passing through,? the stranger said quietly, his breathing as steady and calm as if he had just gone through a brisk walk as opposed to a heated fight. With that being said, the stranger with the headband walked over to Han and stood over him, peering down at him like a vulture looking down at carrion. When the stranger started to lean down, Han instinctively turned his head away, expecting a knockout blow?but it never came. Opening his eyes, Han saw that the stranger was outstretching his gloved hand to him in friendship. ??can you stand?? he asked.

Once it became clear that the stranger had no intention of hurting him any further, Han swallowed his pride and accepted the stranger?s friendly gesture, taking the hand and allowing himself back onto both of his feet. ?I suppose you want my earnings now,? Han grumbled as he reached over to the bucket of money that he had accumulated throughout his many street fights over the past couple of days. The big man in the nylon jacket and red martial arts pants turned away as he lifted the bucket up and held it in front of him. ?Take it all. Just don?t come back here??

Clearly not done with the surprises, the stranger took Han?s outstretched hand and lowered it. What in the world was wrong with this guy? Did he think himself too good for Han?s money? Isn?t money the driving reason of why street fights take place: to place your bets and make a decent living when you don?t want to go through the mundane laws of the world? ?Thank you, but I have enough for now,? the stranger said with a smile before reaching into his gi and pulling out a photograph and showing it to Han. ?I was wondering if you knew where I could find this person??

It didn?t even take Han a second to recognize the young lady in the photograph, her brown hair held up by two white hair buns and the all-too-familiar confident smile on her pretty face. He had several encounters with the woman in the past, mostly in his teenage days when he would shoplift from some of the stands around Hong Kong. He had become so familiar with the woman catching him and giving him a strict talking-to that he even knew her on a first-name basis. ?How the hell do you know Chun-Li?? Han asked the stranger perplexedly.

?She?s a very good friend of mine,? the stranger replied, putting the photograph back in his pocket. ?Years ago, she helped me get through a very tough phase in my life: a time when I was about to become consumed by own desire to become stronger. Sometimes I think I take for granted to just how good a friend she is.? The stranger let out a single quiet chuckle, looking up into the sky as he continued. ?Heh?I?m sorry. I?ve been doing this for so long, sometimes I can?t help but get sentimental about old times.?

?Well?if you want to know where you can find her,? Han replied, not really knowing what the stranger was talking about. With his bald, tattooed head shining in the sun as he moved, Han pointed northward down to an open street. ?She runs a martial arts school for kids about seven miles down that way. It?s a big, wide-open area with a lot of traditional architecture: you can?t miss it.?

?A martial arts school for children?? The stranger repeated out loud before smiling. ?That sounds just like her, trying to help those less fortunate than she is.? With that being said, the stranger lowered his body and graced Han with a polite bow before taking his white duffel bag off the ground and slinging it over his shoulder. ?Thanks for the fight, friend: maybe if we?re lucky, we?ll face each other again when we?ve both become stronger.?

Thanks for the fight?,Han thought to himself as he watched the stranger walk away. Did this stranger take him on simply because of the thrill of battle? Most of the guys he knew who fought just for the sake of fighting were bad news: guys who joined gangs and enjoying hurting other people because they could. But this guy?this guy was as gentle as a lamb, and he fought Han not for his money, but for information that he could have gotten much easier. Is he some kind of adrenaline junkie? ?Hey, you,? Han called out, causing the stranger to stop walking away and stand in place. ?What?s your name, anyway??

The stranger turned his head slightly before smiling another one of those soft, serene smiles and lifting his hand to wave goodbye. ?My name is Ryu. It?s a pleasure to have met you, sir??


One o?clock?almost time for class to start, Chun-Li thought to herself as she finished securing her trademark hair-buns and tightened the sash on her equally-recognizable blue qipao. Looking out the window of her office, she saw her students filing into the court grounds of the dojo. Good to see that they?re showing up early, anyway. It?s always better to be early for something than to be too late.

Once her clothing was properly secured, Chun-Li turned around to the two small shrines she had set up behind her desk, each surrounded by candles. The first shrine, on her left, contained a picture of her late father. The second shrine, on her right, contained a picture of her deceased partner Charlie Nash. Kneeling down in front of them, Chun-Li clapped her hands together and closed her eyes. Father?Charlie?please help me make this another good and productive day for my students. Please?help me protect them from the evils of the world that claimed both your lives?

Though Chun-Li currently had a reputation as the strongest woman in the world, there were times when she wished she could trade in that title in exchange for the lives of those she was now praying to. Chun-Li?s father, a powerful martial artist in his own right, was a police officer trailing the international crime syndicate known only as Shadaloo. Whether it was because her father wasn?t careful enough to avoid being detected or was simply unaware of how much influence it had, he went missing during his investigation. In order to find her father, Chun-Li followed in his footsteps as an Interpol detective to become the new lead investigator in the Shadaloo case.

Joining her on the case was a United States Air Force officer named Charlie Nash. Like herself, Charlie was a highly-respected martial artist who could no longer stomach the corruption that Shadaloo spread, and together they did their best to expose the organization to the world. This, in turn, brought them into conflict with Shadaloo?s terrifyingly powerful leader, Bison. As Chun-Li and Charlie delved deeper and deeper into the organization?s influence, they discovered that Bison wouldn?t settle for anything less than world conquest, and that Chun-Li?s father was just one of the many, many victims he had claimed.

Unfortunately, Chun-Li?s father wouldn?t be the last person close to her that Bison would slay. In an act of selfless heroism, Charlie sacrificed his life to destroy the Psycho Drive: an engine that granted Bison his limitless evil power. While Charlie managed to destroy the machine, he was unable to destroy the man powering it: Bison survived and would go on to host the second Street Fighter tournament. Seeing a chance to avenge both her father and her partner, Chun-Li entered the tournament to finally take down Bison.

While she advanced remarkably far into the tournament and gain a reputation as ?the Strongest Woman in the World,? she opted to take on a more indirect approach to defeating Bison, raiding all of his major bases of operations and bringing Shadaloo to its knees. When it came time to finally face him in one-on-one combat, however?Chun-Li learned that someone had already beaten her to it. Bison had already been slain, though his killer was never made public information.

A few years had passed since that time, and Chun-Li had given up the life of a detective and instead start up a martial arts school for children who nothing else to look forward to. Sure, she would occasionally find herself caught up in evil plots: a couple of months prior, she was forced into action to rescue one of her young students from a madman known as Urien. Apart from the occasional hiccup such as that, however, Chun-Li believed that she had finally avenged the demise of her father and her partner. Now, she was at peace.

At least, that?s what she kept telling herself.

As Chun-Li rose up from her prayer, she took a deep breath and headed out the door and onto the large courtyard of her dojo. A part of her still missed the thrills and experienced she gained from street fighting, and she wondered what happened to all of the friends she made on her quest to topple Shadaloo. While she was searching for Urien, she met a new crop of fighters, all with different reasons for fighting. However, there was one fighter that stood out most to her: one that she admired and respected above all the others, of either her generation or the next.

With all of her students lined up in rows, Chun-Li stepped up to the forefront and called out to her students. ?It?s good to see everyone here today,? she said loud enough for everyone to hear (one of advantages of training in a courtyard of a large temple was that its walls allowed for her voice to echo). ?I hope everyone is ready for another day of fitness and enlightenment!?

?Yes, ma?am,? the students answered energetically.

?Then let?s get started with a basic kata,? Chun-Li said with a smile as she stood at attention and tucked her fists to her hips, causing the other students to do the same. ?We?ll get things started with Kata number 7. Let?s do it!? With her palms shooting out in front of her while her foot stomped on the ground, Chun-Li let out a shout while her students mimicked her movements, collectively creating a shouting sound that echoed throughout the courtyard. ?And?breathe.?

What followed was a steady, flowing motion of the arms and legs, as natural and as peaceful as a gentle breeze. Taking what her father taught her about martial arts and mixing it with whatever other martial arts she could learn from others, Chun-Li had created a style of Kung Fu that combined power and impact with speed and grace. It was every bit as effective for fierce combat as it was for enhancing one?s inner tranquility. While in the early parts of her fighting career, Chun-Li fought recklessly and was headstrong, she had modified her method of combat based on something that one of her closest friends she made in her journey told her:

Through strength, learn gentleness?and through gentleness, strength would prevail.

Ryu, Chun-Li thought as she returned to a standing position and exhaled deeply, ending the kata and watching her students do the same. What are you up to right now? Are you in battle, trying to soak in as much experience as you can? Are you traveling, wondering if the next battle will bring you any closer to enlightenment? Maybe you?re training, thinking about all of the fighters you?ve met. Wherever you are, I can only hope that you?re getting closer to finding the answers you?re looking for?being that you helped me find mine.

?Now that we?re all stretched out, let?s review what I was talking about yesterday,? Chun-Li said out loud, putting aside her thoughts of old friends in favor of the present. ?Yesterday I said that I was going to show you the ?Hazan Shu:? the falling splits kick. The idea of this attack is to jump into the air, extend your leg, and have it fall down onto your opponent?s head. It?s an unpredictable attack that can catch your enemy off-guard if you do it right.?

?But Miss Li,? one of the voices of the children called out, causing Chun-Li to look out to where the voice came from. Once she identified the source of the voice, a young girl who couldn?t have been older than eight, Chun-Li listened to what her student had to say. ?What if you land on your head when you try the move??

?If you listen to what I have to say, Pai, then you won?t have to worry about that,? the young woman explained before taking a few steps back and planting her feet. ?When you attempt this move, the first thing you should do is make sure you have stable ground. If you take off and you can?t spring off the ground correctly, it can mess up your balance and you could land awkwardly.? After taking a sharp breath, Chun-Li leapt into the air and performed a forward flip, moving as gracefully and naturally as if the technique was something as natural to her as breathing. With both her legs shooting in opposite directings at the zenith of her height, Chun-Li came back down to Earth with her left leg fully extended, making a loud ?thud? and kicking up a large cloud of dust.

Rising back to her feet, not at all bothered by the full splits she performed, Chun-Li dusted off her thickly-muscled legs and returned to attention. ?While I might have made that look easy, this is a very difficult move: it took me years to perfect it and make it more efficient. Originally it was called the ?Sen?en Shu,? but-?but??

Chun-Li?s voice trailed off as she looked out into the distance and saw someone standing at the entrance of the school. While it was not uncommon for her to get visitors, especially given her fame and reputation as a street fighter, the particular figure standing several meters away was someone that she most certainly did not expect to be there. ?Ryu?? she said to herself quietly, causing the other students to turn around and follow her gaze.

After a moment to collect herself, Chun-Li looked back at her students. ?Class, we?re going to be taking a quick break. Take the next few minutes to think about what I just showed you, and don?t try doing it without my supervision, OK?? Walking briskly past her students and to the entrance, Chun-Li approached the Wandering Warrior even as he did the same with her. Once they had reached each other, Chun-Li flashed a bright smile to help contain her surprise at seeing him there. ?It?s been a long time, Ryu! How have you been??

?I?ve been just fine,? Ryu returned the smile with one of his own, though his was not quite as bright as Chun-Li?s. ?I just flew in from Hawaii today, and I thought that I would catch up with all of my friends I have in Hong Kong.? Looking past Chun-Li and to the students that were shifting about the courtyard patiently waiting for their teacher to return, Ryu?s smile decreased ever so slightly. ?So?are all of these students yours??

?Yes indeed they are,? Chun-Li answered with a nod, following Ryu?s gaze to the students. ?After Shadaloo was destroyed, I decided that I would pass on what I?ve learned from my travels to the next generation.? Chun?s smile faded as her eyes shifted to one particular student: the girl that she had rescued from Urien?s clutches. ?As much as we might try to deny it, there are some very bad people in this world: people who would take advantage of these children and manipulate them for their own selfish gains.?

??I heard about what you did to Urien,? Ryu replied quietly as he followed Chun-Li?s eyes to the girl, even as Chun-Li turned back to him in surprise. ?I had the unfortunate honor of running into both him and his brother Gill during the third tournament. It makes me sick sometimes that street fighters like us are sometimes lumped into the same category as monsters like them??

??speaking of the third tournament,? Chun-Li changed the subject, reminding herself that the life of a crime fighter was behind her, ?I actually got to watch you fight: you seemed more powerful than ever! I was surprised that you didn?t actually win the tournament. Did something happen??

?I ran into someone stronger than me,? Ryu said with a shrug. ?I think we both know that no matter how strong we become, there?s always a bigger fish.? Placing his duffel bag on the ground, Ryu opened it to pull out what appeared to be a wallet, though it was obvious to Chun-Li that it was a far cry from fresh, making it obvious to her that Ryu has probably had it for years. Pulling out a small picture from the wallet, Ryu showed Chun-Li a picture of him getting forcefully slammed into the ground by a very old man in a brown sash, possibly well over one-hundred years old. ?I learned a very important lesson that day: never let your guard down when someone challenges you, no matter who they may be.?

?Heh?how did you get this picture?? Chun-Li said with a light chuckle, finding amusement in the shock on Ryu?s face as he was slammed into the ground with one arm by what appeared to be an exhumed corpse: ominous glowing eyes and all.

?A bystander at the tournament gave it to me after I lost,? Ryu said with a slightly embarrassed smile as Chun-Li returned the picture to him and he put it back in his wallet, which in turn was returned to his duffel bag. ?It?s weird, but it seems like every time I?m training alone, I can hear that old man?s voice calling out to me, telling me to improve??

??hey, Ryu,? Chun-Li said after a couple of seconds of silence, causing Ryu?s eyes to light up and return the present. ?How long do you intend on staying in Hong Kong??

?I?m not really sure, Chun-Li. I guess I?ll stay until it?s time for me to move on, like always,? Ryu answered truthfully, though there was some uncertainty in his voice. ?It?s been like that for as long as I?ve been a street fighter: arrive in one place, see if there?s anything new I can learn, and then figure out where to go next.? Noticing the slightly distant expression in Chun-Li?s face, Ryu asked a question of his own. ?Is something wrong, Chun-Li??

?Hm? Oh, not really,? Chun-Li said with a smile. ?I was just wondering if you had a place to stay, that?s all! It?s so rare nowadays that I get to talk to old friends that I met during the tournaments that it would be nice for us to hang out together and catch up on old-*GASP*!? Realizing what she was saying, Chun-Li quickly covered her mouth as if to keep in what she was about to say. What in the world am I saying? She thought to herself as Ryu looked at her with a hint of confusion. We haven?t seen each other for quite some time and I just indirectly asked him out. Talk about awkward!

?Actually, Chun?? Ryu said to break the awkward silence that came between them, ??I haven?t decided where I?m going to stay. Usually when I?m in the city, I get a sleeping bag and sleep in the lobby of a hotel using the money I get from street fights?but if you have a place where I could stay for a few days, then I would really appreciate it!?

Chun-Li looked at Ryu?s honest expression, completely devoid of any embarrassment or awkwardness that would normally come from being ?asked out? from out nowhere, and composed herself back to the calm, level-headed woman she had become since the last time they spoke. Of course?it?s Ryu. It?s always business with him, she thought. ?I have a spare room in the school, in case visitors like you come along. Come on, I?ll show you!?

The room in question was modest to the casual eye: a chest and drawers for clothing, a bed for sleeping, and a dresser with a cheap alarm clock. For Ryu, however, it was the equivalent of a luxury suite, especially since he was so used to sleeping on the ground or the on the floor of whatever place was kind enough to take him in. ?This is more than enough, Chun-Li,? Ryu said as he looked around the room and planted his duffel bag down next to the door: a sign that he had found a place to stay. ?I can?t possibly thank you enough.?

?It?s no problem, Ryu,? Chun-Li responded, clearly pleased with herself that the room was to Ryu?s liking. ?We?ve helped each other so much over the years that letting you stay here isn?t a problem at all. Again, you don?t know how good it is to have friends from the tournament come over and?and??

Chun-Li?s voice trailed off as she took a whiff of the air around her, identifying the smell as sweat. Turning her head and following the smell to the man next to her, it didn?t take a detective such as herself to figure out where it originated from. ?Hey, Ryu, when was the last time you took a bath??

?Heh?about two days ago in Hawaii, before I went on the plane here,? Ryu rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment before looking out to the hallway. ?Chun-Li, I am sorry to be such a burden to you so soon, but is there any chance you have a place where I could wash up, as well??

Chun-Li sighed as she took Ryu by his hand and led him down the hallway to another door that revealed a moderate-sized bathroom with a toilet, sink, mirror, bathtub and shower nozzle, complete with curtains covering the bathtub. ?If you have to spend a long time in there so that you?re presentable, I won?t hold it against you,? Chun-Li said bluntly as she shoved Ryu into the bathroom and prepared to close the door. ?I need to teach class anyway: when I get back, I expect you to be able to smell nice enough to a point where you won?t attract attention to yourself!?

?Heh?hehehe,? Ryu started to laugh softly, causing Chun-Li to raise an eyebrow in curiosity. ?When we first met years ago, right after the first tournament?you said almost the exact same thing to me when you washed my gi. I was complaining about how it was disrespectful to wash the smell of battle off of it, and you pretty much said, ?too bad!??

?Oh yeah?heh,? Chun-Li smiled as she remembered what Ryu was talking about. ?That was back when I ran into you going crazy with all of that Satsui no Hadou craziness. I was so impulsive back then??

?We both were?but you were also very brave and kind to take your time to help me get over that,? Ryu smiled as he bowed his head. ?Thank you for that?and for all of this, too??

Feeling warmth in her cheeks, Chun-Li cleared her throat and pushed Ryu further into the bathroom before closing the door. ?I?ll check in on you after my class is finished. See you in a bit!? That Ryu, she mumbled to herself as she realized that she was blushing. He always says things that throw me off-guard. Hard to believe someone like him earns his keep in the world by fighting strangers on the street?

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  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Chapter 2: Doubt

    Disgusting.

    The word echoed throughout the young man?s head as he watched the last of his opponents crash down to the ground after taking the full brunt of his kick. The brutal, unforgiving art of fighting was something that he loathed more than anything else in the world. It was the cause of his father leaving his family to fend for themselves. It was the cause of the premature death of his sweet, innocent older sister. It was the cause of turning him from a peaceful youth into a violent monster.

    For Remy, there was nothing more disgusting in this world than a martial artist.

    Brushing back his long, teal hair, Remy looked down on the two pieces of trash that had the audacity to conduct a street fight, especially in front of children. The first of the men was a huge fellow, wearing a nylon jacket and red martial arts pants. Fortunately for both of them, he had fallen unconscious and wouldn?t give Remy any problems. The second man, a brown-haired Thai sporting green boxing shorts with his fists and feet taped up, was not so lucky, still groaning in pain and rubbing his jaw.

    For that lowlife, the thrashing would continue. Remy couldn?t show any mercy to his mortal enemy, the street fighters.

    Stepping towards the Thai fighter who couldn?t have been any older than he was, Remy gazed down at him with his eyes burning with fire. Remy couldn?t help but wondering what was going through the mind of his adversary, staring at him with his eyes wide with fear, or anger, or something akin to those. If he knew what martial artists thought about when they were in combat, what motivated them to challenge other people to fights for only God knows what, then perhaps he wouldn?t hate them so much.

    ?How many lives have you ruined with your fists?? Remy asked coldly.

    ?I-I don?t know what you?re talking about,? the Thai fighter said, shaking slightly and giving Remy all the indication he needed that the man lying at his feet was indeed scared. ?I?I?ve never killed anyone: I?m always careful about not getting carried away?and I never fight someone who doesn?t want to fight first!?

    ?I wasn?t talking about how many people you?ve killed, trash,? Remy growled, leaning down to grab the Thai fighter by his hair and pull him back onto his feet. ?I was talking about how many lives you?ve ruined. How many times did you leave your opponents a bruised mess? How many times did your opponent have to come home to their family swollen and hurt? How many times did they try to kiss their spouses or children with their faces pummeled like meat??

    Though his voice was as cold as ice, Remy? eyes were burning with a hellish rage, and the Thai fighter started sweating a little bit more as he took notice. Taking the Thai fighter?s left index finger and holding it in his hand, the French Savate fighter tightened his grip around it and started pulling back. ?I?m going to make sure that those families won?t have to worry about their fathers or mothers because of your carelessness. You?ll heal, but at least you?ll think twice before-?

    ?Mister, that?s enough!?

    Before Remy could break the man?s finger, the voice of a little girl called out to him, causing him to turn his head and look down at the child. Upon seeing the fear in her eyes, sanity started slipping back into the youth?s head. No matter how much he might have hated martial artists, and how he wanted to ensure that at least one of them wouldn?t make the same mistakes his father did?he wasn?t going to do it in front of children, especially little girls.

    Pushing the Thai fighter away, Remy simply left him with a warning. ?Next time you start a street fight, think about the consequences of your actions,? he growled before turning to the little girl and kneeling down so that he was at her height. ?I?m sorry you had to see that, mademoiselle. I can only hope that you don?t have to experience the same kind of problems that I have when it comes to people like that.?

    ?It?it?s OK,? the little girl said with a pause in her voice, causing Remy to frown. There was nothing in the world more sacred than children, for it was them who held the keys for the next generation. Regardless of however pure Remy?s motives might have been, the fact remained that he had lost his temper in front of children, and as such became the enemy that he hated so much.

    He had to make it up to her somehow.

    Putting a warm smile on his handsome face, Remy placed a hand on the girl?s shoulder. ?Tell you what: how about if I walk you home? I bet a sweet little thing like you has a family who?s waiting for you!?

    ?Actually, I?m an orphan,? the little girl replied with a hint of fear in her voice, causing Remy?s smile to disappear as quickly as he put it on. ?I live at my teacher?s school with some of the other orphans in the area.? Seeing the sad expression on the young man?s face, this time the little girl put on a smile and placed her own hand on Remy?s shoulder. ?Mister, I think you should meet my teacher! I bet someone as strong as you would have a lot to talk about!?

    ?Um?sure,? Remy nodded his head once before standing up and holding the little girl?s hand. ?Please, lead the way!?

    Ryu groaned slightly as the beam of sunlight came through the window and brushed against his eyelids, forcing him to awaken from his slumber. Once his eyes came back into focus and he fully regained consciousness, the Japanese martial artist turned his head to see the alarm clock. 10:15 AM, Ryu thought to himself as he lifted himself off of the bed and planted his feet onto the floor. I usually wake up much earlier than this?but I guess having a bed to sleep on makes it easier for me to lose track of time.

    As a wandering warrior, Ryu had been fighting for as long as he could remember. In hindsight, he might have first taken up martial arts as a way to ignore the feelings of loneliness he would sometimes have due to never knowing what his parents looked like, but Ryu?s reason for fighting has long since evolved passed that. As soon as Master Gouken, a man who was not only his teacher but his surrogate father, told him that he was ready to leave the dojo and go out into the world on his own, Ryu dedicated himself to discovering what it truly meant to be strong.

    Due to his vagabond lifestyle, Ryu wasn?t able to afford many luxuries, being forced to save what little money he earned on things like food and clothing. It was quite rare that Ryu slept in anything other than his sleeping bag, and he had lost count of the times where he was forced to sleep outside due to either not being anywhere close to civilization or not having enough money for shelter. That?s why at times like these, when the friends he?d made over the course of his travels offered him a place to stay for a while, Ryu was grateful.

    I guess I can do my morning push-ups outside, after I have some breakfast, Ryu thought as he heard his stomach growl. Reaching out for his gi draped over the edge of the bed, Ryu quickly clothed himself, tightening his black belt and red headband before stepping out of his room and entering the hallway. He could already smell some sort of pastry baking a few doors down, which indicated that it wasn?t too late for him to go to the kitchen. Sounds like it?ll be one of those rare treats for me?

    After following the smell to what he believed to be the kitchen, Ryu opened the door to see that he wouldn?t be having breakfast alone. Sitting quietly at the table was his host, the lovely Chun-Li, wearing a white t-shirt and black jeans, sipping on a cup of steaming tea. ?I never figured you were a guy who slept late,? Chun-Li told her guest as she saw him step into the kitchen. ?I always thought a guy like you was up when the sun came up, already getting to work on training.?

    ?That?s usually the case?but it?s not every day that I have a bed to sleep in and a warm breakfast waiting for me when I wake up,? Ryu replied with a smile as he grabbed an apple sitting in a basket on the stone counter before walking over to the table and sitting down. ?Usually the only person who gives me this kind of shelter is Ken whenever I visit him in San Francisco?so I can?t stress enough how grateful I am.?

    ?I told you, it?s not a problem,? Chun-Li returned the smile with one of her own as she reached out for the teapot at the center of the table and poured Ryu a cup of tea. ?Most of our generation have moved on from their lives of street fighting, myself included. I?m starting to think that of everyone from the second tournament, you?re the only one that still goes to these type of competitions.?

    ?Ken was at the last one, too?but I think at this point, he?s only doing official competitions,? Ryu added as he graciously received the tea from his host and took a sip of it. After taking a moment to savor its taste, Ryu placed the cup down and returned to his apple. ?He has a family to look out for, after all: Ken might be reckless at times, but he knows better than wantonly jump into fights that he might not walk away from??

    ?Hm?hmhmhmhm,? Chun-Li started to giggle a bit at Ryu?s comment about his best friend. ?I remember when you first introduced me to him: all he would do is flirt with whatever lady crossed his path. I find it funny that a skirt-chaser like him is now happily married with a five-year-old son.?

    What a nice laugh?like the tinkling of bells, Ryu thought with a smile. Chun?s grace and beauty have always been something I?ve admired from her, and something I?ve tried to emulate on my travels. Coming here was definitely a good idea: it?s good to see her again.

    ?So, Ryu?how have things been going on your end?? Chun-Li asked as she noticed Ryu smile. ?As you know, I?ve retired from Interpol and now I?m a martial arts instructor. Ken?s now a father, Guile is back with his family, Cammy still works with Delta Red?but you seem to still be doing what you were doing when I first met you: trying to discover what it means to become strong. Do you feel like you?re making any progress??

    ?Actually?no,? Ryu replied, surprising Chun-Li with his seriousness and hint of disappointment. ?I?m actually getting a little bit worried that I?ve stopped making progress on my quest?and that I haven?t for a long, long time.?

    ?What do you mean, Ryu?? Chun-Li asked with a slight hint of concern. She had expected Ryu to grace her with his tales of battle and what he had learned from them, like he had started to do the day before after the students had left. ?You?re much stronger than you were when I last saw you: you look absolutely shredded now, to a point where I think even Zangief would be impressed.?

    ?I don?t doubt that I?m getting stronger physically: my daily training regimen is a lot more severe than it was back then...? Ryu said as he looked to his left arm on the table, taking a moment to see what Chun-Li was talking about. ??it?s just that, mentally, I feel like I?ve been going in circles. I like to think that every fighter I meet is a new opportunity to learn something?but it feels like I?m not getting any closer to finding the answers I?m looking for.?

    ?What do you mean??

    Ryu paused for a moment as he tried to find the words he was looking for. It was difficult for him to properly convey his feelings: if he had a way to do so, then perhaps he wouldn?t be in the moral quarry he was in. ?I look at Ken, and see him with his wife Eliza and his son Mel: he?s changed so much since we were kids. He?s focused now, and he has a definite meaning in his life. He doesn?t fight as actively as I do, and yet he?s stronger now then he?s ever been.?

    Looking at the finished apple that was now on the table, Ryu held it up by its stem and continued. ?It?s like I?m trying to eat an apple, but can?t seem to get anywhere close to its core. I?m digging and digging away, but I?m not closer to finishing it off than I was when I started. I still don?t know what it means to be a true martial artist?and I?m beginning to think that I will never know.?

    ?So what you?re saying is that even though you?re getting stronger physically, you?re in a rut in your training spiritually,? Chun-Li surmised, to which Ryu nodded his head. ?That?s so unlike you, Ryu: I always figured that you?d be able to find an answer to something like that after a few moments of meditation and reflection??

    ?At the third tournament, I watched an entirely new crop of fighters rise up and take their generation by storm. A lot of these fighters had families: people who cared for them and waited for them to come home. The fact that I didn?t even get to the finals of the tournament was enough for me to confirm something that had been bothering me for a while...?

    ?And what?s that??

    ??that maybe I should reconsider my vagabond lifestyle, because traveling constantly like do isn?t getting me any closer to the answer I?m looking for on what it means to be a true martial artist??


    After finishing breakfast, Ryu and Chun-Li walked outside to the courtyard of the school, ready to get the day started. I haven?t seen Ryu doubt himself like this in a long, long time, Chun-Li thought to herself as she watched Ryu approach the center of the courtyard and drop to his hands and knees to do his morning push-ups. It reminds me of when I first met him, back when he was struggling to control the Satsui no Hadou. He was questioning himself constantly, worried that one more battle could turn him into a soulless killing machine.

    As she watched Ryu rise and fall rhythmically, Chun-Li placed her hand on her chin and smiled slightly. Even after seeing the power of the Satsui no Hadou for myself, I can honestly say that I could never imagine Ryu staying unsure of himself for long. He?ll find his answers, I?m sure of it?even if it means that I have to help him along the way.

    ??someone?s coming,? Ryu suddenly spoke, pushing himself completely off the ground and rising to his feet.

    ?That?s probably Qiao,? Chun-Li added as Ryu walked over to her, a light coating of sweat covering his face. ?She usually goes out by herself to talk to her friends at the marketplace. It?s right about the time where she comes back with some rice balls from the Japanese vendor.?

    ?It?s not her I?m sensing,? Ryu continued, his voice touched with a bit of concern. ?Someone with a strong ki signature is walking with her. Can?t you sense it??

    ??yeah,? Chun-Li nodded her head once once she focused her senses enough to sense what Ryu was feeling. Most fighters who used ki in their attacks, like Ryu and Chun-Li did, could sense the presense of those who used it, as well. Chun-Li once compared it to an internet connection, where all the ki users in the area were connected via a ?wireless? link that only they could detect.

    And the user that was approaching them was a powerful ?subscriber? indeed.

    After a few seconds of uneasiness, Chun-Li and Ryu identified the source of the ki as he walked through the entrance of the school, with the little girl Qiao running ahead of him carrying a brown paper bag in her arms. The man was fairly tall, with a red pants and a black leather jacket zipped up to reveal the symbol ?Omega? on his chest. His long, feminine teal hair flowed in the wind, revealing a youthful, handsome face.

    ?Teacher,? Qiao called out as she ran to Chun-Li, who knelt down to meet her. ?This man walked me home all the way from the marketplace! He came all the way from France to visit Hong Kong!?

    However, the foreigner didn?t seem to share Qiao?s pleasant enthusiasm. Instead, when he laid eyes on the two adults standing in the courtyard of the school, his eyes only widened with rage. ?What kind of cruel, bitter fate has God put on my shoulders,? he hissed as he started walking towards them. ?Why is it that everywhere I turn, I run into my sworn enemies??

    ?I?I know you,? Chun-Li said as she put Qiao to the side and stepped forward. ?I ran into you while I was looking for Urien: you?re Remy!? Assuming her fighting stance, Chun-Li?s eyes narrowed and her expression hardened. ?What are you doing here? Did you come back from another beating??

    ?I don?t have any business with you, Chun-Li,? Remy replied as his pace quickly slightly. ?You practice martial arts to protect others, so I?m willing to give you a pass?but him?? Walking past Chun-Li, Remy instead made a beeline for Ryu and quickened his pace, his teeth now bared in rage. ??it?s people like HIM that I will never forgive! I?ve been tracking this scumbag for weeks?and now I?m going to drive his face into the pavement!?

    (continued next post)
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Sensing the youth?s violent intent, Ryu threw his arms up and blocked Remy?s high snapping kick. Being that Ryu didn?t even have his gloves on, the Japanese martial artist didn?t expect a street fight, especially in a place like Chun-Li?s dojo. Still, if someone like Remy wanted to fight him, then it wasn?t his place to try and stop him. Seldom was the occasion that Ryu turned down a challenge, and with a dangerous young man like Remy invading his friend?s school, he wasn?t going to start now.

    After parrying the attack, Ryu countered with an attack of his own: a standing roundhouse kick that stunned Remy momentarily. Sensing an opportunity to continue pressing onward, Ryu followed up with a quick Tatsumaki Senpukyaku-the Hurricane Kick- to knock Remy away and put some distance between them. ?I don?t know what I?ve done to make you hate me so much,? Ryu said as he tightened the belt of his gi and properly assumed a fighting stance, ?but if you really want to fight, you better be prepared for me to give it everything I have.?

    ?Shut up,? Remy snapped before charging his ki into his right hand. ?You have no right to look down on me!? Swiping the air with his glowing hand, the youth unleashed a wave of turquoise energy that swiveled in the air like a boomerang, surprising both Ryu and Chun-Li. Being that the trajectory of the ki attack was too unstable, Ryu was forced to throw his arms up once again and block, instead of dodging out of the way like he usually would.

    Unfortunately, that moment taken to block was all Remy needed to close the gap between them, charging forward as Ryu lowered his arms. With no time to counter or parry, Ryu was swept off of his feet by Remy?s low kick. Landing hard on the ground, the wandering warrior groaned and looked up, only to see that Remy was lifting his leg for an overhead axe kick.

    This time, Ryu was able to parry the axe kick, lifting both his hands and catching the leg in between his wrists. That move he did might have looked like a Sonic Boom, but it moves too unpredictable and doesn?t have the raw impact of Guile?s or Charlie?s, he thought as he looked into Remy?s angry visage. His movements are too flowing and smooth to be the same style as theirs?so I?ll need to treat his way of fighting as something I?ve never seen before.

    ?SHORYUKEN!?

    Lowering one of his hands only to drive it into Remy?s chin, Ryu went skyward with his leaping uppercut, the famed Shoryuken that had once been banned by his master Gouken, and took Remy along for the ride. The Japanese fighter had lost track of how many times the technique had gotten him out of a pinch, and that definitely held true here. Ryu landed safely on the ground, but so did Remy, who recovered in mid-air and landed on his feet and hand.

    This time, Ryu was the one who charged his ki before firing off his signature technique: the blue Hadoken. The ball of energy rocketed towards Remy, but not fast enough to catch him completely off-guard. Charging his ki once again, Remy cancelled out the Hadoken with another one of those unpredictable waves of ki that troubled Ryu so much. Still, the Hadoken did what he wanted it to do: distract Remy long enough for him to take to the offensive and gain some momentum.

    Charging forward, Ryu met eyes with Remy once again, watching him get ready to defend. However, instead of attacking high like Remy anticipated, Ryu instead drove his fist into Remy?s stomach, plunging it deeper upon impact for a 2-hit combination. Remy shot out a wad of saliva from his mouth, telling Ryu that he was stunned long enough to another Shoryuken?or so he thought. Recovering faster than he thought possible, Remy was able to block Ryu?s Shoryuken, allowing the Japanese fighter to soar into the air alone.

    ?Got you,? Remy shouted out as Ryu continued ascending into the air, leaving him wide open. With both his feet glowing with energy, Remy took to the air in a backflip and struck his mortal enemy with his Rising Rage Flash. As Remy landed gracefully onto the ground, Ryu crashed down hard onto his back. Ryu kipped up back to his feet, but Remy was already waiting for him and he tossed another wave of ki at him, this time having it hover low above the ground like a frisbee.

    Seeing the wave come at him just in time, Ryu took to the air and jumped over the attack. He?s really strong, he thought as he contemplated his next move. If not for the fact that he seems to deeply resent me for no reason, I might be enjoying this challenge. Deciding to go with a kick, Ryu shot his leg out and struck Remy with a flying kick?but it only hit Remy?s knee, leaving Ryu open to a pummeling as soon as his own feet touched the ground.

    Attacking with a flurry of kicks, Remy proceeded to wail on the Japanese fighter with such precise footwork that even Chun-Li had trouble pinpointing exactly where Remy?s attacks were coming from while she watched from afar. After twelve kicks to the chest, head, neck, and knees, Remy completed his combo with a massive Rising Rage Flash, sending Ryu arcing backwards into the air before landing hard on his neck and shoulders.

    That hurt...quite a bit, Ryu grumbled as he returned to his feet, tasting blood in his mouth. Turning to see Remy charge his ki once again, Ryu resumed his fighting stance and narrowed his eyes. At least now I know what his method of attack is: he uses his superior reflexes to force his opponent into making a mistake, and then capitalizes with his more powerful single strikes, like that flip kick or that barrage I just ate. Seeing the French youth rear back for what appeared to be another wave of energy, Ryu exhaled and gathered his own energy. That means I?ll have to feint him?just need to figure out how.

    Letting out a fearsome shout, Remy unleashed all of his stored energy into a hail of energy waves, hurling them towards Ryu like discuses. Rather than block or jump, realizing that was probably what the young man was hoping for, Ryu instead fired off a fiery red Hadoken into the volley. To Remy?s astonishment, the barrage of attacks did nothing to deter the Hadoken?s path. Instead, the Hadoken continued to power through the volley and head towards Remy!

    Perfect: since he can?t put as much energy into each wave, he?s having a harder time stopping the Hadoken, Ryu thought as he chased after his attack, weaving out of the way of whatever wave of energy passed by the Hadoken. Now I just need to get in close and capitalize!

    Realizing that he could not stop the Hadoken, Remy lifted his arms and blocked the attack?but as soon as he did so, he felt Ryu clip at his legs with a crouching kick! With his footing disrupted, Remy struggled to maintain balance, allowing Ryu to knock him away with another Shoryuken, this one landing two hits in the stomach and chin and causing Remy to go airborne only to crash down on his stomach.

    By this point, Ryu was fully aware how dangerous Remy was if given a moment to compose himself, and he wasted no time dashing towards the young man just as he was returning to his feet. Seeing Ryu come for him, Remy took to the air and came down with a swiping kick, but the experienced martial artist saw it for what it was: a desperation strike. He easily brushed the kick aside and countered with one of his own: a standing thrust kick that connected with Remy?s stomach and sent him sprawling backwards.

    With his blue ki swirling around his fists, Ryu watched Remy crash down onto the ground, only to rise back up. As he initially suspected, the reason Remy was so careful about not letting any weaknesses show was because his thin body prevented him from taking heavy damage. Now that he was actually getting hits in, the young man was stumbling. It?s time to end this, Ryu thought as the energy in his hands began to compress into a ball. Maybe then I can get some answers.

    ?Shinku?Hadoken!?

    Unleashing his stored energy, Ryu fired off a thick beam of energy that rushed towards Remy like a freight train. Remy?s eyes widened in surprise as he saw the beam coming, and tried to charge his ki so that he could cancel it out, but it was too little, too late. The beam collided with Remy?s body and eliciting a roar of pain from the man before he was blown away like a thistle in the wind. When the beam subsided, Remy took deep gasps of air and tried to return to his feet?but just as soon fell down onto his hands and knees, sweat dripping from his forehead.

    ?Ryu!?

    Chun-Li called out to her guest as Ryu breathed heavily and lowered his hands. ?Are you all right? You took a bit of a pounding early on!?

    ?Just a little winded,? Ryu answered as he wiped the sweat from his brow. ?This is just what I was talking about at breakfast: there?s an entirely new generation of martial artists ready to seize the moment. I can?t help but wonder what this guy is going to be like with a couple of years more training and experience.? After exhaling deeply, knowing for sure that the battle was over, Ryu stepped towards Remy with Chun-Li following close behind. ?Now, let?s see why he?s here??

    ?Don?t come any closer,? Remy hissed the shadows of Ryu and Chun-Li loomed over him.

    ?You?re a very strong young man?Remy,? Ryu said after a pause, remembering what Chun-Li called the man. ?It was an honor to-?

    ?SHUT UP!?

    Remy?s outburst caused Ryu to pause, his eyes widening in surprise. ?How dare you patronize me after all of the hurt and misfortune that you?ve brought me,? the young man hissed. ?It?s people like you?people like you who seek to become stronger that I can?t forgive!?

    ?Why are you being so harsh on martial artists?? Chun-Li interjected, her face stern and slightly peeved. ?When I met you a few months ago, you were hell-bent on crusading against street fighters. What did we do to you that makes you hate us so much??

    ?It?s him,? Remy growled, pointing an accusing finger at Ryu. ??To live is to fight, and to fight is to live:? my father became so obsessed with these words that he abandoned my family to try and discover its meaning. Because of those words?because of people like Ryu who live by them?my older sister is dead and my father is missing! You may claim that words like that lead to enlightenment, but I know the truth: all it leads to is heartbreak and torment!?

    Ryu was so stunned by these words, shaken up by Remy?s resentfulness and sorrow, that even Chun-Li noticed that he seemed as if he had just been shot with a handgun. ?I don?t want your sympathy or your words of encouragement,? Remy uttered with a defeated undertone, still looking down on the ground. ?Just leave me alone??

    After what seemed like an eternity of uneasy silence, Ryu got down onto one knee in front of Remy, causing the youth to look back at him and see a sad expression on his face, as if he had been the one who had been defeated and not Remy. ??I?m sorry,? he whispered. ?You?re right to hate us?and I can only hope that one day you can forgive both your father and myself what we?ve done to you.?

    Chun-Li was in disbelief as she watched Ryu solemnly return to his feet and walk back inside without saying a word. I don?t think I?ve ever seen Ryu look that?ashamed, she thought as she turned back to Remy, who was rising back to his feet hanging his head down, his long hair obscuring his face. I know Ryu is compassionate?but I didn?t know it was to a point where he?d doubt his own convictions because of what someone else did in his name.
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Chapter 3: Clock

    "To live is to fight, and to fight is to live?You may claim that words like that lead to enlightenment, but I know the truth: all it leads to is heartbreak and torment!"

    Ryu opened his eyes and grit his teeth in frustration before slamming his hands against the ground and standing back up. No matter how hard he tried to meditate the young man's words away, they rang through his head as loud as church bells. It was one of Ryu's steadfast beliefs that there was something to learn from every fighter, but Remy's anguished warnings about his lifestyle haunted him to a point where he wished he could just ignore it.

    But he couldn't.

    I've been so obsessed with discovering what it means to become a true martial artist that I've never thought about the far-reaching consequences of my actions, he thought as he flopped down onto the ground before getting started on yet another set of fifty push-ups: his fifth in that past hour. Because of my lifestyle and how it influences others, that young man's father abandoned him, and his sister is dead.

    When he entered Hong Kong, Ryu was contemplating his career as a martial artist thus far. He had won some amazing battles, and lost a few, as well. He had made several rivals along the way: some of them, like his host Chun-Li, became his friends, while others like the late Bison became his enemy. What was constant throughout all of that, however, was Ryu's dedication to his quest to become strong. Through that quest, Ryu did his best to set a good example for other aspiring martial artists, especially when he became aware that one such individual, Sakura Kasugano, took up street fighting just to "walk in his shoes."

    Through the revelation that Remy's father was also one of those inspired by Ryu's actions, however, the wandering warrior couldn't help but feel ashamed. Even as the sweat dripped from his forehead upon completing his fifty push-ups, he couldn't stop thinking about it. Am I going to one day become like his father?, Ryu muttered as stood up once again, not sure what else he could do to erase the feelings of doubt. Am I going to one day abandon those who are important to me just for the sake of martial arts?

    "Ryu?"

    Broken out of his trance by a familiar voice, Ryu turned around to see Chun-Li standing in front of him, wearing her blue qipao and trademark hair buns. "Ever since you've woken up you've done nothing but fidget about," she said as she looked past Ryu to see the puddle of perspiration on the hardwood floor. "What's bothering you?"

    "?It's that young man from yesterday," Ryu replied solemnly, following Chun-Li out of the training room and into the hallway. "I've been thinking a lot about his story, and how I'm responsible for what happened to his family. I guess?it just makes me think harder about where I stand as a martial artist."

    "If his father abandoned his family, then he was a scumbag," Chun-Li responded with a hint of disdain in her voice, apparently none too happy about Remy's story. "You shouldn't let a story like that bother you: if his father was so obsessed with fighting that he was willing to forsake his wife and children for it, then his problems go a lot deeper than trying to find the meaning of the fight."

    "?yeah," Ryu nodded his head once as he entered the kitchen along with Chun-Li, picking up an apple on the way in. "Some of history's worst monsters did things claiming that they served a higher purpose. Maybe that's one of the reasons why I've been thinking about my life as a wandering warrior up to this point: I'm trying to find a balance between being dedicated and getting carried away."

    "Just remember that you're nothing like that Remy's father," Chun-Li opened one of the cupboards to take out two tea cups. "Before he left, that young man told me that no one had ever apologized to him for being a martial artist like you did. You've given that guy a lot to think about: maybe he won't hold a grudge against martial artists as heavily as he once did."

    Ryu took a bite of his apple before nodding his head in agreement. "I can only hope so. Thanks for talking to me about it, Chun-Li: I feel a lot better now." Turning to Chun-Li just as she turned around from the cupboard to look into another one, Ryu smiled warmly. "I just wish I was as sensible as you: maybe if I was, I wouldn't be so unsure of myself."

    Turning her head to see Ryu smiling at her, Chun-Li felt warmth go to her cheeks. Apparently, Ryu's ability to knowing just what to say to get her embarrassed hadn't been hindered by yesterday's events. "Y-yeah?no problem at all, Ryu," Chun-Li nodded her head once before digging into the cupboard. "We can all learn something from each other: that's what makes martial arts so?so?damn."

    "What's wrong?"

    Pulling her head away from the cupboard, Chun-Li let out an exasperated sigh. "In all of the craziness yesterday with Remy coming over and him insisting that he stay and watch my class, I forgot to pick up more tea bags." Looking up at the clock, the Chinese woman let out a frustrated grunt. "I'll have to go get it myself before the rest of the students get here?though I don't think I'll be able to get back on time."

    "I could watch over them until you come back," Ryu suggested thoughtfully.

    Pausing what she was doing, Chun-Li turned to Ryu and looked at his face. It was completely serious, knowing full well what he had just said. "Do you think you can handle it?" Chun-Li asked with a raised eyebrow. "These aren't hardened martial artists you'll be dealing with: these are kids who can be anywhere from five to twelve years old. They don't really respond well to strangers."

    "Well, it's a good thing I'm not a stranger then," Ryu said with a thin smile, rubbing the back of his head as he stood up. "I got along pretty well with Ken's son Mel, so it's not like I'm totally inexperienced when dealing with children." With his eyes lighting up, the wandering warrior added thoughtfully, "Plus, I have some experience with teaching classes: every now and then I'm hired as a temporary assistant in dojos when I'm looking for a way to make some extra money."

    "Well?that's quite an impressive resume," Chun-Li replied with an amused smile before heading out the door. "I should be back in about an hour and a half, just in time for class to begin." As she entered the hallway, the martial arts master shouted behind her. "Don't teach them anything that would be too advanced: remember, these children aren't you!"



    While the marketplace was well within walking distance, the tea that Chun-Li liked to purchase was seldom available via the stands. The quality tea that she enjoyed, the ones imported from Japan, could only be found at a certain shop in the shopping mall. Ever since the shopping mall was built, it was a hub for massive amounts of activity: it was no understatement when it was said that pretty much everyone shopped there, even at the early hour Chun-Li was there.

    Fortunately for her, there wasn't much of a line at the tea shop when she got there, and she was able to buy the tea she enjoyed without much of a hassle. At this rate, I can get back well before the students start showing up for class, Chun-Li thought expectantly as she bowed her head to the clerk at the cash register and headed out the door. I can enjoy a nice, quiet breakfast with Ryu and hopefully help him forget about what that guy said.

    As she walked out the door of the tea shop, Chun-Li paused for a moment. In most cases, simply getting back in time to meet her students was enough motivation for her to return to her school. Now she was already adding "Ryu" to the list of reasons on wanting to get back. He's just a friend, Chun-Li reminded herself as she resumed walking and made her way towards the exit. It's rare that I get friends from the tournament over, so having him around is good for old times' sake. That's all!

    As soon as she told herself that, a familiar shop caught the edge of her eye. Turning her head, Chun-Li caught a glimpse of her favorite clothing store, along with what was behind the glass: a white button-up shirt for men. Walking over to the store, Chun-Li looked thoughtfully at the shirt. You know?Ryu could use some new clothes, she mused, imagining Ryu wearing the shirt that was on display. If he's going to live at the school, it would be cruel of me to just let him walk around with only one pair of clothes!

    Deciding that Ryu wearing such a fancy shirt would likely be out of character for him, Chun-Li walked inside the store and made a beeline straight for the men's section. I've still got plenty of time before I have to head back, she thought as she lifted her hand to look at her watch. I'm sure Ryu will appreciate what I'm trying to do for him! After all, more clothes for him are more things to warm him up on those cold nights he sleeps outdoors?and maybe he wouldn't smell as ripe!

    Upon reaching the men's section, Chun-Li scanned the area to see if there was anything Ryu could reasonably pull off and not look awkward. Being that he was a vagabond martial artist, he would need something that he could wear no matter what season it was, and something that would endure those long hikes he endured during his travels. Ken once told her that whenever Ryu came to visit, he had a taxi take him to the rural parts of California where he ran anywhere up to thirty miles to his destination.

    As she thought about that, she shifted her eyes towards a white t-shirt with a Chinese dragon design running across the front. "Now that's something I can picture him wearing," Chun-Li said out loud as she reached up and grabbed the shirt from its rack. After looking at the size to make sure it wasn't too big or small for Ryu, Chun-Li hung it around her arm and continued searching for clothing.

    Spotting a pair of blue tiger-striped sweat pants, Chun-Li imagined Ryu wearing them and giggled a bit. I know Ryu isn't exactly hip when it comes to fashion and wouldn't care either way, but I don't think he's cool enough to pull off Zubaz pants, she thought with a smile as she flipped the rack over to see a pair of gray nylon pants. This I think is more up his alley: something flexible so that he can train in them, and not too heavy so that he doesn't overheat in the summer.

    Picking the pants up and putting them over his arm like the shirt, Chun-Li turned towards the footwear. He'll need socks, too, the Chinese martial artist looked to a pair of white socks and a hand under her chin. He'll need some shoes, too. He always goes around barefoot: I can only imagine how many times Ryu has had a piece of glass or crap like that get lodged in his foot and he has to pull it out. I just don't know what kind of shoes he'd-

    Suddenly, Chun-Li's thoughts about dressing up Ryu were forcefully shoved to the side: an immensely powerful ki signature was heading her way. What made this ki signature different from Remy's, however, was that there was something else to it. It wasn't just powerful, but unmistakably evil. What's with this chill I'm feeling, she told herself as she looked out towards the outside of the shop to see if the ki signature was going to pass by. Such a dark energy: there's no reason for something this overwhelmingly vile to be here.

    Looking at the clothes that were wrapped around her arm, and the shopping bag from the tea shop in the other, Chun-Li walked over to the cash register and placed them all down in front of the clerk. "I need you to keep an eye on these for me," she said as politely as she could, though the slight hint of worry in her voice made it seem a little bit cold. Before the clerk could say anything, Chun-Li told her "thank you very much" and headed out the door to see where the evil ki was coming from.

    Once she was outside into the main hallway, Chun-Li closed her eyes and focused herself. The "wireless network" of ki that she so aptly named became clearer and clearer as a result, causing her to start to pinpoint what triggered a response in the first place. Whoever the "subscriber" of the network was, he or she was definitely getting closer to her. In fact, Chun-Li could sense that she was heading right for her position.

    Within seconds, the target turned the corner and entered Chun-Li's eyesight. It was a young Asian woman, wearing a small, purple custom-made tanktop with black straps, showing off her chiseled midriff for the world to see, along with baggy white pants that accompanied most Tae Kwon Do practitioners. Coupled with her fingerless gloves and infamous horn-like bangs in her black hair, it was made clear as day just who triggered Chun-Li's senses.

    "Juri Han!"

    (continued next post)
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Blurting out the woman's name, Chun-Li made her way towards the woman as the Korean lady turned her head to her. Chun-Li was all too familiar with Juri Han, having several run-ins with her in the past. As a former operative of Shadaloo's S.I.N. sub-division, Juri Han took a distinct pleasure in fighting anyone and everyone to satisfy her seemingly limitless desire for bloodshed. During her days as a detective, Chun-Li would trade kicks with Juri in an attempt to bring her to justice for her heavy crimes, but Juri would always escape either.

    When Shadaloo crumbled, Chun-Li had assumed Juri had shared its fate. Unfortunately, as she could now see, Chun-Li was wrong. "Well, look who it is," Juri said with an air of sadistic sultriness. "I should have expected I'd run into you sometime soon, being this is Hong Kong and all?but I didn't think we'd meet in a place like this."

    "What are you doing here, Juri?" Chun-Li retorted a clenched fist, not forgetting the bitter rivalry the two of them once shared. "Are you here to stir up trouble?"

    "I'm just here to look for some new clothes: I figure as long as I'm here, I might as well buy one of those sexy Chinese dresses," Juri said as a mischievous smirk came over her face, scanning Chun-Li from the legs up. "Speaking of sexy, look who grew all the curves in the right places. You must be one of those girls who only gets better with age: not bad at all for an old maid?"

    "I find it hard to believe that a maniac like you is just here to shop," Chun-Li's eyes narrowed as unclenched her fists and regained her composure. "What are you doing in Hong Kong?"

    "I'm tracking someone, under orders from my new employers in the Illuminati," Juri answered nonchalantly, causing Chun-Li's eyes to widen. The Illuminati were the organization that Urien hailed from, the man who kidnapped one of Chun-Li's students. If Juri had anything to do with those madmen, then it was clear that whatever she was doing in Hong Kong, it involved something bad.

    Sensing Chun-Li's anger, the smirk on Juri's face grew into a Cheshire grin. "You know, we haven't seen each other in a long time," the Korean maniac said as she licked her lips. "I'm sure you're just itching for us to catch up on old times, aren't you?"

    "?not here," Chun-Li said reluctantly, turning her head to see the civilians walking by them. "There's too many people here. If you want to settle things, give me a time and place where there aren't as many bystanders and we'll-"

    "BAM!"

    Adding a verbal exclamation point to her actions, Juri spun around and struck an adult male walking next to them with a spinning backfist. Completely unprepared and defenseless against the surprise attack, the man crumpled to the ground and fell flat on his face unconscious. "Oh dear, I'm dragging innocent bystanders into the mix," Juri put her hands to her cheeks in mock concern as she watched Chun-Li's expression contort from surprise to anger. With her left eye glowing purple, Juri licked her lips and watched Chun-Li charge her. "Looks like you'll have to fight me here and now, after all!"

    Throwing out both her palms, Chun-Li attempted to strike Juri with her Sou Hakkei, but Juri took to the air and jumped over Chun-Li's head, avoiding the attack in the process. Quickly spinning around, Chun-Li lifted her leg to prevent herself from being left completely defenseless. Good thing, too, as Juri did the same to try and hit Chun-Li from behind. The two powerful legs collided with each other and made a loud "thwack" sound.

    With the battle joined, Chun-Li and Juri lowered their legs and jumped backwards to enter their respective fighting stances. While Chun-Li might have been the current holder of the title "Strongest Woman in the World," a part of her always dreaded fighting Juri. She was mentally unstable and highly volatile, with enough power to fight a dozen armed soldiers without so much breaking a sweat. Every time the two of them clashed, Chun-Li would have friends to back her up.

    Here, she was alone.

    With her leg burning with her purple ki, Juri's foot swiped through the air and unleashed a swath of energy that made its way towards Chun-Li's head. To protect herself, Chun-Li quickly gathered her ki before projecting it outward into a basketball-sized globe of energy: a miniature version of her trademark Kikosho. As such, the purple swath was absorbed into the globe and did not damage to Chun-Li.

    As soon as the globe faded, however, Chun-Li noticed that Juri was no longer standing in front of her. "I'm up here," the Korean purred, causing Chun-Li look into the air to see Juri diving down to her leg-first. Quickly throwing her arms up to block, Chun-Li absorbed Juri's diving kick and the three additional kicks that followed before she finally planted her feet on the ground. Chun-Li had been on the receiving on her Juri's Shikusen before, and she didn't care for experiencing it again.

    Time to go on the offensive, Chun-Li thought to herself as she extended her leg and began kicking Juri with a rapid flurry. While a few of the kicks hit their mark and hit Juri clean in the face and chest, they didn't do enough damage to keep Juri from eventually blocking the attacks so that they had no effect. Lowering her leg as quickly as she extended it, Chun-Li couched down and swept the legs out from under Juri, forcing the Tae Kwon Do ace to slide away and return to her feet.

    Deciding to pursue, Chun-Li went airborne and leapt towards Juri with her legs extended for a kick. However, Juri only smiled at Chun-Li's attack, and made her pay for her hubris with ki-infused vertical put that struck Chun-Li's extended leg and caused her to flip back onto her feet. As soon as Chun-Li landed, however, Juri kicked the air once again and called forth another swath of energy. This time, the Fuhajin hit its mark and blasted Chun-Li in the face, effectively blinding her.

    As Chun-Li struggled to regain her sight, which was currently obscured in a sea of sparkles, Juri licked her lips in anticipation and leapt into the air once again with her Shikusen diving kick. This time, Chun-Li took the full brunt of the attack, eating an additional two hits before being sent flying backwards into one of the glass windows of the shop. Chun-Li's body bounced off the hard glass like a basketball and landed on her face, leaving a large web-like crack in the window.

    The Chinese kenpo master flipped back onto her feet and resumed her fighting stance, even though her sight still hadn't recovered. Hearing the sounds of footsteps rapidly approach her, Chun-Li's charged her ki and fired off a blue Kikoken in an attempt to cut her off. When she didn't hear the familiar "popping" sound her Kikoken made upon detonation, she started to worry. Where did she go?

    "Over here?"

    Before Chun-Li could turn around from the taunting voice behind her, she received a battering-ram like thrust kick to her spine, launching her forwards until she crashed into a tree planted in the hallway of the mall. With her forehead crashing against the hard branch, the Chinese woman let out a shout of pain she gripped her head. No blood, thankfully, Chun let out a sigh of relief as she felt her forehead and noticed that there wasn't anything copper-smelling coming from it.

    Her eyes were beginning to come back into focus, as well, which was an even better sign. Turning around to see Juri dashing towards her with her burning leg raised, Chun-Li preformed a splits and ducked under Juri's thrust kick, which instead collided with the tree and broke it in two like piece of celery. Shooting out her palms, Chun-Li spun around while still in a splits position and successfully struck Juri in her hamstrings, causing her to stumble backwards.

    Rising back up with her hands on the ground, Chun-Li's twirled around and extended both her legs in a splits before catapulting off the ground and coming down on Juri with a Hazan Shu. However, Juri caught the guillotine kick with both her hands, leaving Chun-Li to land on only one foot and struggle to maintain balance. "That's not an axe kick, silly," Juri hummed before she let go of the leg and performed a forward flip, striking Chun-Li on the top of her head with an overhead soccer kick. "THAT'S an axe kick!"

    While Chun-Li gripped the top of her head, Juri's legs spun around vertically in a pinwheel and struck her opponent with a barrage of circular saw-like kicks. Like a flap on a waterwheel, Chun-Li was struck multiple time Juri's burning legs before being sent careening away with the final kick. With her back and tush crashing against a wooden bench, Chun-Li groaned even as Juri continued pursuing.

    Not even willing to let Chun-Li get up from her seat, Juri lifted her leg and, with her left eye glowing brightly like a star, began pummeling Chun-Li with rapid kicks that shouldn't have been possible for any natural human being. Sadly for Chun-Li, Juri was a far cry from a natural human being, having her impressive abilities augmented to superhuman degrees by both S.I.N. and the Illuminati. After a crushing 20 kicks, Juri planted her foot against Chun-Li's neck and watched her struggle to breathe. "Is this really the best you've got, old maid?"

    Chun-Li didn't say anything in response, only focusing on getting Juri's foot off of her. Wrapping her fingers around Juri's leg, Chun-Li used all of her strength to try and pry Juri's foot off of her neck?but Juri only pressed down harder, applying more pressure to her throat. "You know, Chun-Li, you and I have more in common than you're willing to admit."

    "H?how?" Chun-Li asked between grit teeth.

    "Both of us wanted Bison dead: he took away our families and we took steps to make sure that we could get even with that bastard," Juri explained, her smirk disappearing to give way to a look of silent fury. "But before either of us could kill him, someone did the job for us. I still don't know for sure who it was, but someone managed to kill that asshole Bison and take away our revenge forever."

    Chun-Li didn't say anything in response, not willing to give Juri the satisfaction of knowing that they had something in common. "I'll take it from your silence that you agree with me?but I think we can both agree on is that we've figured out a way to move on with our lives?or at least I have."

    Leaning in closer to Chun-Li's face, Juri licked her lips once again. "An old maid like you, hanging out with a bunch of children, I'm willing to bet that the reason you're taking in kids is because you want to see what it's like to raise little ones just like your father raised you." Once she was next to Chun-Li's ear, Juri's voice became a seductive whisper. "Or maybe you're just trying to find a way to ignore that biological clock?right until Ryu decides to set off the alarm?"

    She knows about Ryu?then that must mean she knows about the school, too!

    With that realization, Chun-Li charged the ki in her palms and created another small Kikosho, this time around Juri's leg. Rather than risk losing her foot in the vortex of energy, Juri backflipped away to narrowly avoid getting engulfed in the attack. "You stay away from my school, you witch," Chun-Li screamed as she pushed herself off of the bench and resumed her fighting stance. "If you get anywhere close to either my students or my guests?I'll make it so that you'll be eating fried rice through a straw!"

    "Oooh?sounds like I hit a nerve," Juri cooed as both her legs started burning with purple ki. "Looks like I know what I'll be doing tonight after I take your broken carcass and-AGH!"

    Before Juri could complete that sentence and unleashed the stored energy in her legs, a sharp pain rose through her brain, forcing her to place one hand on her temple. Although Chun-Li was confused at first, she realized what was happening when Juri's eye started to flicker. Throughout their past encounters, Juri's greatest weapon was her Feng Shui Engine: the device that acted as her left eye. When it was at its peak, it was an invulnerable weapon that allowed her powers bordering on goddesshood. When it was running out of juice, it left her drained.

    This was one of those times.

    "Stupid piece of trash," Juri grumbled as she slapped the side of her head trying to alleviate the flickering. Once the light gave out completely, Juri let out a grunt of frustration and turned towards Chun-Li, who was charging towards her with her own legs glowing softly with her blue ki. "Oh hell," Juri whispered as Chun-Li entered striking range, with her voice progressively getting louder. "Oh hell, oh hell, OH HELL!"

    Not willing to show Juri any mercy, Chun-Li lifted her leg and struck the vulnerable Juri with a rapid series of left-legged kicks, moving faster than the eye could see. After that barrage, Chun-Li unleashed another flurry with her opposite leg, not losing any speed. Concluding the barrage with a final high kick that launched Juri into the air, Chun-Li charged her ki into her legs and sprang feet-first into Juri as she came down, driving her legs into Juri in a corkscrew motion.

    "HOSENKA!"

    With one final horse-like kick in mid-air, Chun-Li sent Juri spiraling away while she landed gently on her feet. Juri, on the other hand, crashed down hard on her arm and felt something twist inside of her, eliciting a shout of pain coupled by an obscenity. She wouldn't have much time to curse, however, as shortly after she landed, she could already feel Chun-Li's hands wrap around her and pin her against the wall. "Stay away from my school, Juri," the Chinese woman said with her eyes narrowed and her voice filled with malice. "I might not be a police officer anymore, but I would happily gather some friends to take you down if the situation called for it."

    "?heh...HAHAHAHHA," Juri unleashed another one of those chilling cackles of hers: something that had become a bit of a trademark in their many fights. "Oh, Chun-Li?it's good to see that after all these years, you've finally grown a backbone." Pushing Chun-Li off of her but wincing soon after, Juri held onto her damaged arm and smirked at her rival. "My employers have given me strict orders to leave your school out of my trip to Hong Kong, and I'd rather not get on Gill and Urien's bad side just yet."

    "Then why are you here?"

    "Why should you care? You're not a cop anymore," Juri spat back as she started to walk away. "Here's a piece of friendly advice, just between us girls: keep a close eye on your guest Ryu. If you let him slip through your fingers?well, just remember that he's made a lot of enemies over the years, and you never know who might try to use that against you and your students?"

    As Juri walked away, Chun-Li considered going after her?but then remembered that she was no longer an Interpol detective, and it was no longer her place to do that. However, Juri's words bothered her, especially the part about her "biological clock." Ryu and I are just friends, she told herself as she looked at her watch and tried to regain her composure. We don't see each other like that?right?
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Chapter 4: Acquaintance

    "What happened after that?"

    "Well, after I beat Adon, I made it all the way to the final round of the tournament, where Sagat was waiting," Ryu explained as the circle of children sitting around him listened intently. "Sagat was?IS everything you could ask for in a fighter: powerful, fast, cunning. Before I met him, people said that he was a tiger in human form, and I have a hard time disputing that claim. When I first laid eyes on Sagat, all I could think about was how?perfect he seemed."

    With Chun-Li out to get more tea, it was up to Ryu to keep the students of the school occupied until she returned, just like he promised he would. Being that he still had a few minutes until it was time for class to officially began, the Japanese martial artist thought it would be a good idea to share some of his many, many battle experiences with the children. After all, if they were interested in martial arts, then they should learn from as many different fighters as possible.

    She should have been back by now, Ryu thought, slightly worried about his host's well-being. I don't doubt that she can take care of herself, but it's not like her to be out later than she said. Police officers are known for being very punctual about being on time. Standing up from the chair that he was sitting on, Ryu looked down at the children sitting in front of him and smiled. At least it looks like I'm not boring them with my story?but maybe I should spice things up a bit.

    Assuming a fighting stance that resembled his old arch-rival Sagat, Ryu continued his tale. "Muay Thai fighters like Sagat are among some of the toughest fighters I've been in contact with. A kickboxer's greatest weapon is his endurance: because their moves are delivered with such force, they're required to be able to take a beating even better than they can dish it out." Throwing a quick one-two combination of punches while swaying to the side, Ryu added a little bit of pantomime to his tale. "There was no one tougher than Sagat in the world of Muay Thai, and possibly the entire world: he was well over seven feet tall, and he knew how to use his size advantage to his benefit."

    After inhaling and exhaling deeply, Ryu hopped forward slightly while simultaneously shooting his knee out in front of him. "That move I just did is called a 'Tiger Knee Crush.' Muay Thai fighters are well known for using their knees and elbows as their primary weapons, and Sagat used that particular version of a knee strike to finish off a lot of opponents. I was on the receiving end of one of these Knee Crushes and it was like being hit in the jaw with a sledgehammer." The Japanese martial artist placed his hand on his right jaw and leaned in closer to the students. "He hit me right here: my jaw hurt for almost a month and it made chewing on tough food like steak absolutely painful."

    "Mister Ryu?"

    Shifting his eyes to the little girl called "Qiao," Ryu called out her name. "Yes, Qiao? Is there something you'd like to ask?"

    "If Sagat was so strong, why didn't you just use that blue fireball?"

    "'Blue fire'-OH! You mean the Hadoken," Ryu corrected the little girl on his trademark technique's name. It would make sense for Qiao to ask that question, being she witnessed a battle between Ryu and the young man Remy the day before where they flung their ki at each other like a foot fight. "Well, that's what makes Sagat so special. In addition to being a Muay Thai fighter where any one of his attacks could be a knockout blow, he had a mastery of ki projection that I could only dream about at the time."

    "Oh, OH," one of the children suddenly stood up: a little boy with a ponytail. With a girl standing up with him that was not only the same age, but bore quite a striking resemblance, the boy picked up the girl and hoisted her above his head so that she was sitting on his shoulders. "My sister and I have seen some of Sagat's matches and know exactly what you're talking about!"

    "Is that right?" Ryu raised an eyebrow as he watched the two siblings walk over to a bowl of fruit sitting next to the chair that Ryu had been sitting on.

    With the girl taking an handful of apples and oranges, the boy ran several feet away from the group before turning around and speaking again. "Whenever someone tries to put some distance between them and Sagat, he just flings Tiger Shots at them! Show them, Ji!"

    "Tiger," the little girl shouted as she wrapped her hand around one of the pieces of fruit and threw it to Ryu, who easily caught it with one hand. With the boy turning slightly so that he was facing his classmates, the girl started throwing more and more "Tiger Shots" at the children, each time repeating the trademark phrase used by the Muay Thai Emperor. "Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!"

    Unable to contain himself, Ryu burst out laughing as he watched the siblings throw fruit at rest of the class. His battle with Sagat from the first Street Fighter tournament seemed so long ago (and in truth, it happened before many of the students were even born) and almost every recollection of that first fight with the giant kickboxer was quite unpleasant. However, watching children emulate the fight in their own special way, Ryu couldn't help but find humor in it. So full of innocence, Ryu thought with a smile as he composed himself while the siblings ran out of "Tiger Shots" to throw. If only my fight with Sagat was more like they envisioned it?

    Looking up at the sun's position in the sky, Ryu's smile faded as his thoughts once again returned to Chun-Li. Class was going to have to start soon, and Chun-Li still hadn't returned. I'm certain that Chun-Li wouldn't be late for these children unless something bad happened, he thought as his eyes narrowed. Maybe I should go look for her?though that would mean leaving these kids alone, and I can't do that.

    "Mister Ryu," the familiar voice of the little girl Qiao once again called Ryu's name, causing Ryu to look down and see her gently tugging on his pants. "Why did you come to Hong Kong?"

    "Well?it's a little hard to explain," Ryu knelt down onto one knee so that his face was closer to Qiao. "As martial artists, each of us has a specific reason on why we fight. My reason has to do with finding enlightenment: I'm trying to discover what it means to become a 'true martial artist.' This means that I have to do a lot of traveling around the world so that I can find the answer." Ryu smiled warmly to the young girl as he continued. "I guess you can say that I'm just here visiting."

    "How do you know Miss Li?"

    "Well?we met not long after I beat Sagat," Ryu explained as he remembered his first meeting with Chun-Li. "I was dealing with some really bad personal issues, and because of those issues, I got to meet Chun-Li while she was still working with Interpol. She could have just left me alone, but your teacher was a noble person even back then. Thanks to her, as well as some of my other friends, I was able to snap out of my funk and continue being a martial artist."

    The "personal issues" Ryu was referring to was the time where he was afraid he would be consumed by evil intent: the Satsui no Hadou that everyone who practiced the art Ansatsuken had to deal with. After experiencing its effects for himself, inadvertently summoning it to defeat Sagat and leave a massive scar on his chest, Ryu became deathly afraid of fighting again, lest he completely consumed by its temptation. If not for friends like Chun-Li, Ryu might not have still been a martial artist, or worse, he would have lost himself to darkness forever.

    "Mister Ryu," Qiao called out Ryu's name yet again, noticing that he was spacing out a bit. "Do you like Miss Li?"

    "Do I like her?" Ryu repeated the question before giving the best answer that he could. "Of course I do, Qiao. She's kind and just, which is something that I've tried to copy on my travels. She was even nice enough to let me stay here at the school until it's time for me to move on." Ryu let out a sigh as his thoughts once again drifted back to Chun-Li. "I just hope she gets back soon: I'm starting to worry about her."

    "I don't think she was asking if you like her, wise guy?she was asking if you LIKE her?"

    Surprised at the very familiar voice, Ryu's head darted upward to see a man that was about the same age he was, wearing a lavender business suit with a white button-up shirt and a black tie. With his neck-length blonde hair contrasting with the black eyebrows on his handsome face, Ryu instantly identified the man as his childhood friend and rival, Ken Masters. "How're you doing, buddy?" Ken asked with the same confident smirk that seemed ever-present with him.

    "?Ken," Ryu suddenly said after a moment of awkward silence, clearly not expecting his best friend to show up and arrive at Chun-Li's school, much less be in Hong Kong altogether. Standing back up on two feet, Ryu reached out and clasped Ken's hand as the American martial artist lifted it to engage in their usual handshake. "This is a pleasant surprise! What are you doing in Hong Kong?"

    "I'm here on a business trip," Ken said with a distant sigh. "Maintaining my father's company is tougher than running up the mountains with buckets of water draped over my shoulders: at least Master Gouken would let us have a rest after a while. I'd like to spend more time with my family, but I guess I gotta do what I have to in order to make sure that I do some real good in this world?"

    "Sounds like you wish you could be doing something else right now," Ryu said with a smirk of his own before taking a few steps back and assuming a fighting stance. "In the mood for a bit of sparring? That always seems to brighten your spirits."

    "Heh," Ken chuckled once before putting his hands in his pockets. "Normally I'd love to, but I promised Eliza that I wouldn't do any street fighting on this trip. She'd have a fit if I got blood stains on this suit that she picked out for me." With his smirk widening a bit, Ken motioned his head over to one of the more open spaces of the courtyard. "Still, I think I could use a bit of exercise. How about we show these kids some of the moves that made us famous?"

    "Sounds like a plan," Ryu replied with a smile before turning back to the students. "Everyone, this man is Ken Masters: he's my best friend in the whole world, and has been studying martial arts for as long as I have. We're going to show you some of the moves that we've learned over the years. If you pay close enough attention, then you might be able to see exactly what we're doing and you can try taking the move as your own!"

    "Hello, Mr. Masters," the children said in unison.

    "Hey, kids," Ken waved once as he and Ryu walked over to the open space of the courtyard. Once they felt they had put enough distance between themselves and the children, Ken and Ryu threw their hands to their sides and bowed to each other before the American fighter turned back to the children and raised his voice loud enough to hear. "Be sure to keep all flash photography and video recordings to yourself: we don't want our super-secret special moves to show up on the internet! I could be made liable if some amateur accidentally put some guy in the hospital trying to copy us!"

    "Heh?well, that'll be your problem and not mine," Ryu smiled at Ken's humor before they turned around and charged their ki into their palms. "You're the famous rich person: I'm just a vagabond who barely has enough money to stay healthy!"

    (continued next post)
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    "HADOKEN!"

    Once they had gathered enough energy, Ryu and Ken simultaneously fired off a ball of blue ki: the famed "Hadoken" that had become synonymous with their fighting style. Even though both of them had used it in battle countless times now, it was still a sight to behold to see two men fire off a wave of light, and the children applauded politely as a result. "So, Ken," Ryu said as he watched his Hadoken pass by Ken's before fading away. "It's been a couple of weeks since I visited you in the States. Has anything major happened since I left?"

    "Mel's been getting into fights at school," Ken said with a mischievous grin. "The principal tells me that he's a ruffian and that I must be setting a bad example for him. I told that old fogey that martial arts exist only to promote self-discipline and moral development. If Mel was getting into fights, then the other kid must have deserved it!"

    "Oh yeah?" Ryu planted his feet as if he were about to perform a pirouette, with Ken doing the same albeit rearing back a little bit more for extra momentum. "I imagine Eliza isn't too happy about that?"

    "Heh?after Mel told her that he was fighting a fifth-grader because they were picking on his friend, she was thrilled. She told me that he was taking after his father, protecting the pride of his friends against overwhelming odds."

    "TATSUMAKI SENPUKYAKU!"

    Extending one of their legs as they propelled themselves off the ground, Ryu and Ken took to the air and spun around like tops, executing their respective "Hurricane Kicks." While Ken's spinning was considerably faster than Ryu's, the Japanese martial artists' spin was more controlled, and as such went farther than Ken's technique. It was but one of the many contrasts between the two despite sharing the same teacher: Ken favored rapid aggressive strikes while Ryu preferred focused, single strikes that allowed him to conserve his energy for other attacks.

    As the two safely landed back on the ground, Ryu and Ken made eye contact with one another and noticed that Ryu had sailed farther than Ken. "Heh?guess I tend to overdo that spin a little bit," Ken said with a smirk as Ryu walked back so that he and Ken were once again even with one another. "Well, you know what I'm doing in Hong Kong?now I want to know what you're doing here!"

    "You know me, Ken," Ryu replied as he tightened his headband, seeing that it had loosened a bit during the spin. "I'm just a wandering warrior trying to find his place in the world. Hong Kong is just where I'll be until I figure out where I should go next."

    "Oh, I figured that's why you're in Hong Kong," Ken said as he realized he was already working up a sweat. Taking off his jacket and throwing it off to the side, the blonde martial artist let out a sigh of relief before turning towards the children. "What I want to know is why you're here, at this school. Are you planning to start up a chain of martial arts schools?"

    "This school is where I'm staying for the time being," Ryu explained as he followed Ken's gaze to the children. "I came to Hong Kong so I could catch up with the friends I've made here. Chun-Li offered me a place to stay at her martial arts school: maybe she figures that having someone like me around would rub off on her students?"

    "?or maybe she's just lonely," Ken added suggestively with a grin. "You know, Ryu, I'm sure a lot of men would do some pretty crazy things to be where you are now, rooming with a total babe like Chun-Li," Walking up to Ryu and leaning in close to him, Ken smiled deviously. "I don't suppose the two of you have?gotten to know each other a little better, huh?"

    "N-no," Ryu shook his head and pushed Ken away, suddenly going on the defensive. "Chun-Li and I are just friends. We've helped each other a lot over the years and we're just helping each other out. There's nothing more to it than that!"

    "Uh-huh?whatever you say, buddy," Ken nodded his head, satisfied with Ryu's reaction. Lifting up his fist so that it was being held up to his face, Ken's expression suddenly became serious as he continued speaking. "Hey, Ryu?have you felt like you've been getting any closer to finding the answers that you've been looking for? When we spoke two weeks ago, you told me that you felt like your training was going in circles?"

    "Yeah?and it hasn't changed since then," Ryu nodded his head as he too lifted his fist and looked at it. "I've been thinking a lot about what Master Gouken told us just before he said we were ready for the first Street Fighter tournament: 'What lies beyond our fist?'" Looking up and exchange a nod with Ken, the two martial artists crouched down slightly and placed their fist next to their hip. "Lately it just seems like every time I lift my fist, it's just another fight I have to go through?"

    "SHORYUKEN!"

    Launching into the air like rockets, Ryu and Ken took off with their fists arching skyward in their signature "Dragon Punch" attack. While Ryu's fist only glowed softly with the attack, Ken's entire attacking arm was engulfed in his fiery ki, giving off the appearance that his arm had been set ablaze. When the two of them landed on the ground, Ken's arm returned to its original state, and his clothes were completely unaffected by the fire: the sign of someone who had gained full mastery of controlling their ki.

    While Ryu once had difficulty controlling his power, Ken never had that kind of problem. For that, Ryu always envied his friend.

    "When we first showed off the Shoryuken to Master Gouken, he told us it was a forbidden technique and we were never allowed to use it," Ryu told his friend as they returned to a full standing position. "He said that it would lead down the path of the Satsui no Hadou, which in turn would lead to ruin. When I scarred Sagat with this move, I thought I witnessed first-hand what Master Gouken was talking about?but lately, I think there was something else to what he said."

    "Oh, really?," Ken raised an eyebrow and Ryu's sudden philosophical speech. "What do you think he meant now?"

    "The Shoryuken was so powerful that it would be easy for us to try and improve it so that it could be unbeatable. We'd continue seeking new challenges and new opponents, that we'd eventually lose sight of the purpose of martial arts." Ryu looked down at his fist and let out a sigh. "I'm starting to think that the reason I don't feel like I'm making progress in my training is because I've learned everything possible from being a wandering warrior."

    "Whereas I'm getting stronger despite putting that life of traveling behind me," Ken finished Ryu's thought as he turned towards his friend and walked towards him. Once he was standing in front of his long-time friend, Ken waited for him to make eye contact with him and continued. "Basically, you're wondering if it's time to stop the life of vagabond and settle down."

    "?yeah," Ryu nodded his head once before lowering his fist and smiling at Ken. "I think that's exactly what it is?maybe I'm just jealous of the life you have and I'm wondering if something like that can happen to me."

    Hearing the sounds of footsteps approaching, Ryu and Ken turned to the front gate of the school to see Chun-Li walking towards them, carrying clothes in one arm and a shopping bag in the other. Walking over to welcome their mutual acquaintance back to her school, Ryu and Ken put aside their conversation for the moment so that they could help Chun-Li with her obviously full arms.

    "Oh?Ken," Chun-Li said with a bit of surprise as she identified the blonde fighter. "I didn't know that you were in town. If I did, I wouldn't have gone to the mall so I could have you over."

    "Don't worry: I didn't announce beforehand so I'm the one at fault," Ken answered politely: a habit he picked up during his younger days as a womanizer.

    Ryu was about to say something when he noticed something on Chun-Li's visage: reddish marks on her neck, as well as some small bruises on her jaw and arms. "Chun-Li, you're hurt," Ryu said with concern as he took the bags and clothes away from her and placed them into Ken's unexpecting arms. Upon getting a closer look at Chun-Li's wounds, Ryu's eyes widened in concern. "What happened?"

    "I had a bit of a scuffle at the mall," Chun-Li replied calmly.

    "'A bit of a scuffle' isn't something that would leave those kind of marks on you," Ryu exclaimed, surprising Ken, Chun-Li, and perhaps even himself with how concerned he was. "I find it especially hard believe that someone could do this to a high-class fighter you like if it was just a little scuffle!"

    "It?it was Juri Han," Chun-Li managed to say, more than a little taken off-guard that her well-being could elicit such a reaction from Ryu. "I ran into her in the mall, and she started attacking civilians so I took her on." Running her hand across the marks on her neck, the female fighter continued. "She certainly hasn't mellowed out since the last time we saw her, but she left me this little souvenir when she grinded her heel into my throat?"

    "?doesn't look too serious," Ryu said after carefully examining the wound. "Looks like she just made the skin raw: it should go away in a couple of days." Taking the clothes and bag back from Ken, who had been watching the conversation unfold intently, Ryu noticed a men's t-shirt and a pair of dark gray pants. "These look too big for the children," he observed before turning back to Chun-Li. "Who are these clothes for, if you don't mind me asking?"

    "They're for you, of course," Chun-Li replied with a smile as she took the shirt and held it against her body, showing off the dragon design on it. "Since we don't know how long you'll be staying with us, I thought I'd take it upon myself to get you another set of clothes so you don't have to spend every day in your gi."

    "But?I do have other clothes?it's just that-"

    "I've seen the inside if your bag, Ryu," Chun-Li's voice suddenly became stern, as if she were talking to a family member rather than a friend. "You only have like three sets of clothes in there, and I've never seen you wear the other two sets." Shoving the t-shirt back in Ryu's hands, Chun-Li tossed the pants over his shoulder and took the bag away from him to head back to the school, where her students were watching them intently. "It's just like I told you when you first came: if you're going to live in my home, I expect you to smell presentable!"

    "Hehe?"

    Hearing a quiet laughter, Ryu turned his head to see Ken hanging his head down, his bangs obscuring his features slightly. "Ken?" Ryu called out to his friend as the quiet laughter continued to come from the American's lips, his shoulders shuddering along with it. "What's up? Are you OK?"

    "?HAHAHAHAHA!"

    No longer able to contain himself, Ken exploded in uproarious laughter, causing Ryu to jump back in surprise. "Hahaha?'If you're going to live in my home, I expect you to smell presentable,'" Ken repeated in his best Chun-Li impression before bursting into laughter once again. "HAHAHA?aw man, Ryu, I'm glad I decided to come over here: seeing the look on your face as she said that was even better than a fight!"

    "W-what do you mean?" Ryu felt warmth go up to his cheeks as he felt the embarrassment of being laughed at by Ken get to him. "I?I was just concerned for her, that all! Did you see those marks on her? For I knew someone could have tried to strangle her and she barely escaped with her life!"

    "Dude, that was TOTALLY a lover's quarrel," Ken retorted as he turned to see Chun-Li talking to her students. "She goes out to buy you clothes, and then when you argue, she goes on the defensive and turns the tables! Back when Eliza and I were still dating, she'd always get on my case about how I would smell to high heaven from training so hard and forgetting to wash up, or getting my good clothes ruined because I had a street fight in them."

    "You think?that's what Chun-Li and I were just?" Ryu turned to Chun-Li, then back to Ken, then back to Chun-Li, and finally back to Ken before folding his arms and turning his head away, "?well, you're wrong! My relationship with Chun-Li doesn't go any farther than friendship: I'm willing to bet she would have done the same thing if someone like Guile came over."

    "?whatever you say, man," Ken said with a shrug before walking over to his jacket still lying on the pavement. Slinging the jacket over his shoulder, the blonde fighter started walking away from Ryu and towards the front gate of the school. "I think it's about time to get to my meeting: I'll be in Hong Kong for the next four days so if you want to talk about old times, be sure to look for me."

    Ryu nodded his head once and waved goodbye to his friend. Before Ken left the gate, however, he paused and turned his head back to Ryu. "By the way, Ryu?what you said about wondering what your life is going to be like if you decide to put aside the life of a wandering warrior?"

    "Yeah, Ken?"

    The blonde fighter gave his Japanese counterpart a confident wink. "Maybe if you stay around this school a little while longer, you'll find your answer."
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Chapter 5: Family

    "You want to go with me into the city?"

    "That's right," Ryu nodded his head as Chun-Li poured him a cup of freshly-bought tea. "Since your students don't meet today, I thought this would be a good day to just spend some time with each other. You're the one who's been telling me that it's rare that you have friends over, so we might as well make the most of my time here."

    "Well, that's really thoughtful of you, Ryu," Chun-Li replied with a smile as she sat down at the seat opposite of her guest and the two of them started drinking their morning tea. After putting her cup back down, the Chinese woman gave Ryu a curious glance. "I don't suppose this has anything to do with what happened to me yesterday at the mall with Juri, would it?"

    "?yes, it does," Ryu nodded his head once, deciding to be honest with his host rather than come up with another excuse. "You told me that Juri said she was in town working on a mission for Gill and Urien. We both know what kind of sick people those two are, so I'd feel a lot better if I accompanied you to the city. That way, I won't have to worry about them trying to gang up on you for rescuing one of your students from their clutches?"

    There's that compassionate side flaring up again, Chun-Li thought as she looked at Ryu's completely serious expression. It's only been three days since he came here, and already I'm learning so much more about him than I have since we first met years ago.[/i] Prior to his current visit in Hong Kong, Chun-Li saw Ryu as the epitome of the dedicated martial artist: if someone was a street fighter, they either respected or idolized him. Based on all of their previous meetings, Ryu was brave, kind, and stoic: no matter how bad a situation would become, Ryu would always keep his thoughts to himself and focus on the task at hand.

    But ever since Remy attacked Ryu, he had been showing a different side of himself: an empathetic and caring side that she hadn't seen before. Maybe he's always been like this, and the reason I've never noticed is because every time we meet, it's usually because there's a bad guy to be fought, Chun-Li mused as she reached out for the cream at the center of the table and put some of it into her tea. I've always seen him as a role model and a hero to us street fighters, so now that there isn't anything going on, I'm seeing what he's like when there isn't a battle to be fought.

    "Chun-Li," Ryu called out to his host, breaking her train of thought and bringing her focus back onto him. After shifting his eyes slightly downward, the Japanese martial artist asked, "?does missing out on the chance to avenge your father's death bother you?"

    "?what brought this up?" Chun-Li asked as she raised an eyebrow in curiosity.

    Before saying anything, Ryu turned his head towards the wall, where a large photograph was mounted proudly. Within the photograph was a picture of a younger Chun-Li, probably no older than sixteen years old, wearing a blue cheongsam holding a heavy-looking golden trophy, while an old mustached man stood over her beaming with pride. "I've noticed there are a lot of pictures of your father in this school," Ryu said after a bit of a pause. "He must have been an amazing individual."

    "He was my inspiration to become a police officer and martial artist," Chun-Li replied before letting out a sigh, resting her head on her hands. "That picture was taken after I won my biggest and most important martial arts tournament for my age group. I'd always place high, but that was the first time I was the grand winner. I'll never forget how proud my father looked when I held that trophy up in front of him."

    "I imagine he'd be even prouder of you if he saw what you've done for these children," Ryu added with a smile, once again performing his recent habit of saying just enough to make Chun-Li blush. "If your father was anything like you, then he must have been an amazing person. It's a shame that I never had a chance to meet him before he?," Ryu's smile disappeared as he inadvertently stumbled across a topic that Chun-Li would find sensitive, "?before he?"

    "It's OK, Ryu," Chun-Li cut off Ryu as her own expression became somber. "I came to grips with my father's death a long time ago. After I learned that it was Bison who was responsible, I swore that I would never cry again until I had avenged his death." Looking down at her tea as her expression embittered just a little bit more, the young woman sniffed before continuing. "Bison is dead, and Shadaloo with it. I don't know who did the deed, but as long as Bison is gone for good, I'll consider my father avenged."

    "?I know who killed him."

    Chun-Li's head darted upward in surprise, staring at Ryu's distant face with widened eyes. "You?you do?," she managed to sputter out.

    Ryu nodded his head once before turning around to look out into the morning sky from the window. "As much as either one of us would have liked to have been the ones to bring down Bison's evil reign forever, the only one who can truly take credit for delivering the final blow is the same man who killed my Master Gouken?his own brother?"

    "?Akuma," Chun-Li finished Ryu's sentence, to which Ryu acknowledged with a simple nod. Deciding that she needed a drink, Chun-Li took another sip of her tea, only to feel that it had cooled down significantly. After deciding that she was suddenly wasn't thirsty anymore, Chun-Li pushed her tea away and continued speaking. "Why would Akuma have anything to do with Bison?"

    "I don't know," Ryu said solemnly, this time hanging his own head down low. "Maybe Akuma and Bison had a history that we don't know about, or maybe Akuma just wanted to prove a point by taking him out." The Japanese martial artist lifted his clenched fist and looked at it pensively. "What I do know is that Akuma used the deadliest and most forbidden move in our martial art, the Shun Goku Satsu, to put Bison down and annihilate his evil soul."

    "Akuma?" Chun-Li repeated the name as she gathered his thoughts to the martial artist in question. The name had been brought up to her several times in the past, either by fellow street fighters or from Interpol. Despite the impressive database of information Interpol had to offer, she knew very little about Akuma or his background. In fact, she had never even seen Akuma apart from a few photos, many of which were obscured by his overwhelming aura. "?to think that someone like him is responsible for ending Bison's life."

    "?I'm sorry if I've bothered you by saying that, Chun-Li," Ryu bowed his head apologetically as he noticed Chun-Li start to drift off in thought. "It's just?being that I know how much heartache Bison has given you, with how he killed your father and Charlie, I thought that you should at least know who was responsible for taking away your opportunity at justice."

    Chun-Li once again turned to the picture on the wall, thinking of her father and the time they shared before his early death. "I actually feel a lot better now, strangely enough," Chun-Li said with a thin smile as she turned back to Ryu. "Now that I know the guy who killed him, I at least know for sure that he's dead. After all, there was never any body found so there was still a part of me that worried that he would come back from the dead again!"

    "Someday, there's going to come a time when I'll have to face Akuma for all of the sins he's committed," Ryu's eyes narrowed as he once again looked down at his hand. "For years, Akuma has told me that unless I awaken the Satsui no Hadou within me, I won't be able to defeat him?but I intend to prove him wrong and avenge my master's death honorably. Ken and I had a duel not long after the third tournament to decide once and for all who was going to face him?and I came out on top, so the burden in mine to bear. After all?it's not like I have anyone waiting for me to come home like he does?"

    "?speaking of Ken," Chun-Li changed the subject, realizing that both of them were starting to become uncomfortable in regards to the topic of losing their fathers, either biological or surrogate. "What did the two of you talk about while I was away? He must have been there for a while given how much of the sweat the two of you worked up, and he didn't even stay to talk to me."

    "Oh?nothing much," Ryu replied, putting a smile back on his face now that he was talking about friends rather than enemies. "Ken is just here on a business trip, and he tracked me down to your school. He must have felt my ki signature: someone like me probably stood out like a lantern in the dark, so it wouldn't have been too hard to find me. We just talked about this and that, what we've been up to since we last spoke a couple of weeks ago?you know, stuff like that."

    "He was laughing pretty hard before he left," Chun-Li pointed out as she tilted her head curiously at Ryu's rather broad answer to her question. In most cases, Ryu wouldn't hold back giving the entire truth about something, like he did moments ago in revealing the identity of Bison's murderer. "What was so funny that he'd just start guffawing like that? Don't tell me you've picked up a sense of humor on your travels?"

    "Oh, uh?you know Ken," Ryu rubbed the back of his head as he smiled a bit wider, though at this point it was obvious that he was just putting it on to hide something. "He finds something funny in just about everything I do, no matter what it is. We were just, uh?laughing about how funny it was that I was staying at a school run by one of our old friends from the tournaments!"

    "?hmhmhmhm," Chun-Li giggled slightly as she noticed Ryu fidgeting in his seat, embarrassed for whatever reason about what they were talking about. This more human side of Ryu took me a bit off-guard at first?but now that a couple of days have passed, I think I can really get used to talking to him like this, rather than always talking about fighting and martial arts.
    After finishing their breakfast, Ryu and Chun-Li made their way to the bustling urbanized area of Hong Kong, where all manner of tourists hailing from many different ethnicities roamed the streets like ants scurrying about their colony. The diverse combination of noises, which including bicycle ringing, car horns honking, and people shouting in many different languages, was almost overwhelming to Ryu. Growing up in a very rural part of Japan separated from modern civilization made it difficult for the wandering warrior to adjust to his surroundings at first.

    However, what separated this trip to the bustling streets of Hong Kong from his previous visits to the city was that he had a guide. With Chun-Li leading him by the hand, Ryu had someone to focus on and allow him to filter out all of the noise and madness of the busy metropolis. Eventually, the two martial artists waded through the crowded sidewalks and made their way to a candy shop located near the heart of the city.

    "You've led us to a candy store?" Ryu said as he and Chun-Li entered the store where rows and rows of confectionaries greeted him, with their colors as wide and diverse as a rainbow. "I try not to eat too many sweets: I don't have any dental insurance so if I get a cavity, I have to borrow money from Ken to get it treated."

    "Everyone has a sweet tooth, Ryu," Chun-Li replied as she walked away from him to head over to one of the counters, where the familiar cold stone of an ice cream parlor stood. "This place has the best ice cream in all of Hong Kong: it's sweet, filling, and there isn't much of that artificial stuff that you normally see in places like this." Pulling her purse away from her shoulder, Chun-Li unzipped it to pull out her wallet. "You can look around and see if you find anything you like: I'm going to order a sundae in the meantime."

    Ryu was about to object, but upon seeing how longingly Chun-Li was looking at the ice cream buckets beyond the counter, he decided to do as he was told and look around the store. There was this one type of sugarless gum Ken introduced me to while I was visiting him, he thought as he looked to the stands where packaged gum would be. If Chun-Li is really insistent on me getting something, I might as well get something that I'll use later?

    After a few seconds of scanning, Ryu found what he was looking for, albeit with a slightly different package: some lemon-lime flavored chewing gum in a six-stick package. Taking out four of them, Ryu placed them in his hand and was about to head back to Chun-Li?but noticed something catch his eye. Turning his head to see what he was, Ryu saw rows and rows of chocolates, each one looking as if it were delicately hand-made with many different types of colors and designs.

    Hmmm?Ken did say that women are really fond of chocolate, Ryu mused as he walked over to the rows of chocolate and looked at them thoughtfully. He said that there was a nutrient in chocolate that women were especially respondent to. Turning back to Chun-Li, Ryu noticed that she was ordering vanilla ice-cream with plenty of different types of toppings: from chocolate chips to sprinkles to nuts to fudge topping. Then again, if I got Chun-Li candy, I doubt she'd be very picky about what I give her, if that sundae is any indication.

    Ryu reached for a nearby plastic bag and was about to start scooping out chocolates when suddenly, he paused. Wait a second, he thought as he remembered the rest of his conversation with Ken about chocolate. Ken told me that when he proposed to Eliza, he gave her chocolate to try and 'soften her up' for the big question. Turning his head to see more chocolate, only this time packaged in a red heart-shaped box, Ryu gulped as he turned back to Chun-Li, still at the ice cream counter eyeing her sundae expectantly. If I bought Chun-Li chocolates, would that mean that it would look like I was trying to make a move on her or something?

    "Dude, that was TOTALLY a lover's quarrel!"

    Ken's words from the day before echoed throughout Ryu's mind as he looked down at the clothes he was wearing: the white t-shirt with the dragon design and the dark gray nylon pants, along with a pair of white sneakers with red shoelaces. She?she's just my friend, Ryu told himself once again as he started shoveling chocolates into the plastic bag still in his hand. These chocolates are just my way of thanking her for letting me stay at her place for the time being. I'm sure she'll understand my gesture for what it is: just a favor between friends!

    BANG!
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Ryu's train of thought, and indeed, everyone else's in the store, was broken by the sound of gunfire. "What in the world?" Ryu said out loud as he turned towards the windows of the store to see people scattering about as if a giant monster was attacking their city. Ryu might not have spent too much of his time in large cities, but there was one thing he knew for certain: gunfire going off in a heavily populated area was ALWAYS a cause for alarm.

    Throwing aside his bag of chocolates, Ryu hurried over to Chun-Li, who had already forgotten about her sundae in the wake of gunfire. "Chun-Li," he said with the concern in his voice as clear as day. "Do you think we should check that out?"

    "Absolutely," Chun-Li nodded her head as she put her wallet back into her purse and headed out the door along with Ryu. "As much as I love sweets, there's no way I can have it take precedence over guns going off in the street!"

    Once they had left the candy shop, Ryu and Chun-Li quickly started wading through the crowd while following the continuing sounds of gunfire. Even though Chun-Li was no longer a police officer, and Ryu was never a part of law enforcement to begin with, neither of them could ever turn a blind eye to the prospect of innocent people at risk. Fighting should have been left to people who were actually trained to fight: it was both unnecessary and unsettling to see innocent bystanders get caught in their battles.

    After about a minute and a half of wading through the fleeing crowd, Chun-Li and Ryu came across several police cars parked in front of a jewelry store. "Looks like it's a heist that's taken a turn for the worse," Ryu observed as they approached the scene of action. "No matter how many times we see these kind of robberies played out in pop culture, the real thing is always a sight to see?"

    "We can admire it when we read about it in tomorrow's newspaper," Chun-Li added as she pulled out her identification from her purse and got it ready to show to the police. "I might be retired, but there's no way I can just sit back and watch the bullets fly. I promised my father and myself that I would protect the innocent from evil and that's just what I'm going to do."

    Chun-Li walked up to one of the police officers, a young woman with her hair cut short so that it didn't go past the top of her neck, and tapped her on the shoulder. "My name is Chun-Li: I'm a former Interpol detective that happened to be in the area," she introduced herself as she held her identification in front of her before motioning over to the jewelry store. "What's the situation here?"

    "About twenty minutes, Six men concealed weapons tried to hold up the store, but they weren't fast enough to prevent the silent alarm from tipping us off," the officer explained as she turned back to the jewelry store. "We tried getting in, but those guns are keeping us from making any real progress. Right now there's about thirteen hostages in there, and they're telling us they won't talk to us unless we get a negotiator."

    "Twenty minutes ago!" Chun-Li exclaimed in disbelief. "What is keeping you? Isn't at least one of you qualified to pull this off?"

    "They said they're not going to talk to cops," the officer continued. "They were quite specific that they wanted the negotiator to be a neutral party: a civilian in other words."

    "?I'll do it."

    Chun-Li and the police officer turned around to see the source of the voice: Ryu with his arms folded, as he had been listening intently to what was being said. "I'm afraid I can't let you do that, sir," the police officer stepped in front of the Japanese martial artist just as he was taking a step forward. "The police station is finding a professional negotiator now: we can't just let a civilian get involved and possibly become another hostage."

    "The longer you wait, the longer those people are at risk," Ryu retorted as he unfolded his arms. "I've dealt with armed thugs in the past: you just have to get them to doubt themselves long enough for you to close in and take them out quickly. I think my experience with it will help ensure that these guys are not only brought to justice, but everyone will be able to get out safely."

    "I'm sorry, sir, but-"

    "We're out of time, officer?and I this man is more than qualified for the job," Chun-Li interjected before turning towards Ryu. "Ryu, just remember that there's going to be hostages. I don't doubt that you could take out all of these guys without breaking a sweat, but everyone else in there probably isn't as durable as you if bullets start going in every direction."

    "Everything will be fine, Chun-Li," Ryu said as he put a comforting hand on her shoulder. Putting on an equally comforting smile, the martial artist reassured his host. "Fighting is something we only do as a last resort: with any luck, there won't be any need for fighting."

    "Yeah," Chun-Li nodded her head and let Ryu pass her, turning around to watch him walk into the jewelry store. "It's good to think like that?but just remember that not everyone is as understanding as you?"
    Stepping through the door and watching it close behind him, Ryu turned frontward and scanned the area. There were five glass cases in the center of the room, and behind each of them stood an armed man dressed in what appeared to be black riot gear, with a ski mask and goggles covering their faces. There were six hostages on each side of the wall, lined up and sitting down, while a thirteen hostage was being held down on top of one of the glass cases by an armed robber. The sixth and final armed robber: the one with the biggest gun and therefore Ryu's biggest cause for concern, was standing in front of him, with no hostages in his immediate grip.

    I could take him out now, and then take his gun to try and bluff the others into thinking I'm some sort of crazy maniac, Ryu thought as he went through possible scenarios in his head, trying to decide which of them would lead to zero casualties. After scanning the room one last time to see if he missed anything, the wandering warrior approached who he assumed to be the lead gunman with his arms held up to show that he wasn't armed. But that's too risky: one of them might panic and shoot a hostage. Before I take action, I'll need to see if I can reason with these guys.

    "Turn around," the man who didn't have any hostages ordered Ryu, to which he complied. Once he had his back fully turned towards the gunman, Ryu patiently waited for the gunman to finish feeling his pockets to make absolutely sure that he wasn't concealing any type of weapon. Once he was certain that Ryu wasn't armed, he forcefully spun him back around and pointed his gun at his face. "Are you the negotiator?"

    "That's right," Ryu nodded his head once before lowering his hands. "My name is Ryu: I'm a visitor from Japan who volunteered to be the civilian negotiator you guys asked for." There was something odd about this particular gunman: the way he was holding his gun seemed much more professional than his comrades, and his voice had a slight accent: it was as if it were a mix of English and Middle-Eastern dialect. On top of that, this guy doesn't have the same kind of evil intent that the other gunmen have, Ryu thought as he looked at the gunman curiously. Maybe I can talk him out of this. "You don't sound like you're from around here. What's your name?"

    "That's not of your damn business," the gunman snapped back.

    "As a negotiator, I think it is very much my business," Ryu replied coolly, noticing the anxiety in the gunman's body language. "Besides, I told you my name: I think it's only fair that you told me yours."

    "?it's Moshe," the gunman answered as he finally lowered his weapon. Ryu probably could have taken him out as soon as the weapon was down, but the Japanese martial artist sensed a chance to settle the matter without violence, and he went for it.

    "The way you hold your gun seems very skillful: I can tell from your aura that you're not on the same level as the rest of your comrades. What did you do before you decided to hold up this place: a policeman? A soldier?"

    "Mercenary," the gunman answered curtly.

    Turning towards the hostages, Ryu folded his arms and breathed in deeply before continuing. Talking himself out of a tough situation was one thing, but having so many lives depend on whether or not he could convince someone of the error of their ways was another entirely. "If you're a mercenary, then you should know that civilians should never be involved in battle. Why don't you let these people go: if you do, I'm sure the police will be merciful."

    "?the hostages are to make sure that the police don't come in before we're ready," the gunman replied after a pause. "If you want to see these hostages free, tell the police that we demand an escort to take us to the port, where a boat will be waiting for us."

    "You know I can't do that, friend," Ryu responded as he noticed something else in the man's body language: uncertainty. Leaning in close so that the other robbers couldn't hear him, the martial artist whispered in Moshe's ear. "Why are you here with these people. I can tell that you don't want to be here, and you certainly don't take any pride in doing this."

    "My?my wife is pregnant back home in Israel," Moshe replied lowly.

    "And why would you risk spending years in prison and not being there for your wife and child?"

    "I was here in Hong Kong finishing a job when I heard the news?they told me that she has been having severe birthing complications, and if I don't come up with enough money?then I'll have to choose between my wife or my child on who will live," Moshe answered, his voice cracking up as he did so. "The only job available that paid enough was this heist?"

    "There's always another way out, Moshe," Ryu said, once again making sure the gunmen couldn't hear him. "I don't know what your friends will do, but if you surrender now, before you do something that'll make your wife cry?I promise you that I'll do everything in my power to make sure that you'll be able to come home to your wife and watch as the two of you become parents to a healthy child."

    Moshe hesitated for a moment as he moved back a bit, finally noticing the red headband around Ryu's forehead. "You're that 'World Warrior' fellow," Moshe whispered with astonishment, realizing that the negotiator for the heist is a celebrity. "If you wanted to, you could have taken us all out easily?why did you hear me out instead?"

    "Because I know better than anyone how easy it is to make mistakes when you're determined to win at all costs," Ryu replied as a smile came over his face, confident that the threat Moshe posed had been neutralized. "If you let me help you...no, if you help yourself by surrendering peacefully, then you have my word that you will be able to save your family."

    As Ryu said that, he felt the violent intent in the other five guards rise considerably. Shifting his eyes around the room, Ryu watched the gunmen sling their rifles over their shoulder and pull out what appeared to be nightsticks. However, when the gunmen pressed a button on the nightsticks to cause their tips to glow a neon blue, Ryu recognized them for what they were: stun batons, the weapon of choice for those who favored torturing opponents over killing them.

    "Your comrades seem to want to take me as a hostage," Ryu said as Moshe turned around to notice his fellow gunmen closing in on them. Noticing Moshe shaking with uncertainly, Ryu told him bluntly. "If you choose to help them, I won't hold it against you: just know that I won't show any mercy and that promise I made to you will go out the window."

    Without saying a word, Moshe placed his rifle on the floor and fell down onto his stomach. As soon as he did so, however, the other five gunmen surrounded Ryu and prepared to attack. "Since it's pointless to waste my time talking to you particular five," Ryu said as his blue ki swirled around his hands for a Hadoken while the gunmen lifted their batons to strike, "just let me apologize for hurting you like I'm about to!"
    "What was that light just now?" one of the officers shouted as they noticed the blue flash that came out of the window like a bulb going off in a camera. "Something happened in there: we have to go in there, now! Tell the SWAT team to-"

    "There haven't been any shots fired yet," Chun-Li interjected as she ran over to the officer that was about to give the order to invade the building. "You need to put more faith in Ryu: there's no one I'd trust more to get everyone out of there in one piece!" At least, that's what I keep telling myself, Chun-Li added mentally as she saw more blue flashes go off, which she instantly recognized as Ryu's ki. Ryu might know how to deal with guns, but what is he going to do if someone pulls a grenade?

    No sooner did she complete that thought, the sound of gunfire once again erupted, this time with bullets shooting out of the window and ricocheting off of the barricade of police cars. "Shots have been fired," another officer exclaimed before waving his hand towards the building, a team of heavily-armored gunmen filing out next to him. "Get in there, now! Take those guys out, but remember that the hostages have to be-"

    Just as the SWAT team was about to enter the building, the door suddenly opened to reveal an elderly Chinese man cautiously walking out of the building. Recognizing the man as one of the hostages, the SWAT team let the man pass?and watched as the twelve other hostages safely stepped out of the building breathing sighs of relief, with some of them loudly proclaiming how grateful they were to be alive and one adult woman kneeling down and kissing the pavement. I'm glad the hostages are all right, Chun-Li thought as she bit her lip worriedly, but what about Ryu?

    Once all of the hostages had cleared the barricade, Chun-Li's worries were alleviated when Ryu stepped out of the jewelry store, looking none the worse for wear, leading one of the robbers outside with him. "Be gentle with this one," Ryu said as the SWAT team collected the robber. "He surrendered peacefully and without a fight, and I promised him that you guys wouldn't be too tough on him."

    Spotting Chun-Li in the crowd, Ryu quickly approached her and flashed a confident smile. "I hope I didn't worry anyone too much," he said as he turned around to watch the SWAT team members file into the building, where the defeated bodies of the other five gunmen were waiting for them unconscious on the floor. "Some of them were uncooperative, but I was able to take them down before they did something crazy."

    "Not only that, you even got one of them to surrender willingly," Chun-Li added before reaching out to Ryu's chest and brushing off a speck of dust. "The only other person I've ever seen resolve a situation like that so efficiently?was my father."

    "Is that right?" Ryu said as he turned to see Moshe unmask, revealing a blonde man with a five o'clock shadow and a muscular jaw. "When that man over there said that he was just doing this heist so that he could help his family?I guess I just became determined to make sure that he could see them again and not be ashamed of it." Looking up into the sky, Ryu smiled a bit. "Maybe?your father was watching over me to make sure that everyone got out OK."

    "Yeah," Chun-Li nodded her head as she took Ryu's hand and led him away from the scene so that they could resume their day. "Maybe he was?"
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Chapter 6: Inspire

    "Miss Li," one of the students called out to his teacher, tugging on the woman's leggings until she finally looked down from her newspaper. "Where is Mr. Ryu? He told us he would tell some more cool stories."

    "Mr. Ryu is out getting some groceries for dinner," Chun-Li answered before folding up her newspaper and brushing her hand through her student's hair. "He should be back in a few minutes. In the meantime, you should get some water so that when the break ends in a few minutes, you're fresh and ready for some more lessons! Don't forget that I'm expecting you to have mastered the Hazan Shu by tomorrow."

    "OK, Miss Li," the boy nodded his head enthusiastic before running over to the water cooler where several of his classmates were gathered. "Just you wait: I'll have that move mastered by the end of class today!"

    The Kung Fu master smiled at her student's enthusiasm. There was a time when she was like them: full of youthful vigor and eager to make her mark on the world as quickly as possible. Of course, she had no idea even back then just how much of an impact she would make upon the world once she reached adulthood. What started as a dream to become strong turned into worldwide fame as the "Strongest Woman in the World" and the one held responsible for bringing Shadaloo to its knees.

    Opening her newspaper again and resuming the article that had caught her attention, Chun-Li realized that she wasn't the only famous person that was calling this school home. The jewelry heist that she and Ryu stumbled across the day before had made the headlines: "Brave Tourist Saves Hostages; Defeats Suspects." Even though the situation was a very troubling one, Ryu had selflessly put himself in danger so that he could protect innocent lives. For most people, such an act would have been a defining moment in their life, but for Ryu, it was just business at usual.

    Not only did he defeat the suspects, he even got one of them to surrender without a fight,[/i[ Chun-Li thought as she looked at the picture in the newspaper that must have been snapped just before she and Ryu had left the scene. It was a picture of Ryu stepping out of the jewelry store, leading one of the armed men outside as the suspect was holding his hands up in submission. Ryu told me that he made a promise to that man to help him solve a dilemma with his family in exchange for surrendering, so it'll be up to me to go to the police station tomorrow and arrange for that guy's release. It'll be tough, but I'm sure I can set him free while Ryu has a word with Ken about money.

    While Ryu's compassionate side was something Chun-Li was only recently becoming familiar with, one thing that she had always associated the wandering warrior with was his steadfast belief that no matter what the situation, there was always an opportunity to make a new friend or rival. "Every new challenge is another chance to find something in common with someone else," Ryu told her years ago, not long before the second Street Fighter tournament. "In the world of martial arts, there's no room for grudges: only the promise that you'll be stronger when you see an opponent again."

    'There's no room for grudges,' Chun-Li repeated the words in her head as she put the newspaper down and stood up from the staircase of the school, stretching out her arms before doing the same with her powerful legs. I only wish there were more people like Ryu who thought that way. Too often have I run into fighters who live only by getting even with someone who did they wrong?and I should know: for a very long time, I was one of those people.

    The day before, Ryu had asked Chun-Li if she had gotten over the fact that someone had taken her opportunity for revenge against Bison for not only taking the life of her father, but her partner Charlie, as well. When Ryu divulged the identity of Bison's killer, Chun-Li put on a smile and told Ryu that she felt better knowing that Bison was truly dead with someone to pin his death on: the "Master of Fists" Akuma. The truth is, Chun-Li wasn't being entirely honest.

    Chun-Li made a promise on her father's grave that she would be the one to topple Bison and destroy his evil empire of Shadaloo. While she was able to do the latter thanks to her role as an Interpol detective and a series of police stings that led to the discovery of Shadaloo's main base and ultimately its destruction, Chun-Li missed out on the chance to have her fateful confrontation with the mighty Bison. She had trained so very hard for the moment where she would break Bison's jaw with her peerless kicks, then wrap the handcuffs around his crushed wrists and bring him to justice.

    So, regardless of what she told Ryu, there was some lingering bitterness that Bison was lost to her forever at the hands of someone who cared nothing for her vendetta or Shadaloo. The ironic part about it is that Ryu intends to seek out Akuma someday and settle his own vendetta, and avenging the death of his Master Gouken, Chun-Li mused as she stepped towards the courtyard while her students took heed of her and walked away from the water cooler and to their respective spots in line. Both of us lost our father figures to murder, and both of us intended to avenge their deaths with a showdown with their killers. I just hope Ryu doesn't lose his chance at justice like I did mine.

    "Welcome back to class, everyone," Chun-Li called out to her students while she put aside her regrets. What was important to her now, much more than her vendetta that had long since been taken out of her hands, was training her students. It was children who held the keys to the next generation, and as a seasoned veteran of martial arts it was her duty to make sure that they didn't have to go through the same heartache that she went through. "Now that we're back from break, we're going to do our first trial of the Hazan Shu. Lon, please step forward."

    Waiting for the short-haired ten-year-old to come to her side, Chun-Li assumed a ready stance while Lon did the same. "Show me what you've learned with this technique," the woman said calmly. "Remember: flex your legs so that you get as much lift-off as possible, press your hands against the ground once you're low enough?and then use all fours to lift off and bring your leg down as you fall."

    Lon nodded his head once as he crouched down, flexing his legs and planting his hands on the ground like he was told. Noticing the nervous trembling in the boy, Chun-Li placed a comforting hand on his shoulder and leaned down next to him. "I know it's tough, but as long as you have confidence in your abilities, then you should be able to do it," Chun-Li told the boy before crouching down and planting her own feet and hands. "I'll do it with you, Lon. You ready?"

    "Y-yeah," Lon nodded his head once again.

    "OK?go!"

    The two Kung Fu practitioners flexed their muscles before performing the technique?but suddenly, Chun-Li stopped, leaving Lon to perform the technique alone. Though the arch of the guillotine kick wasn't nearly as high as her own, Lon performed the forward flip and landed safely on the ground, with his both of his legs extended on the ground. "That was very good, Lon," Chun-Li stated with a smile as she stood up and clapped her hands. "Everyone, we should give Lon a big round of applause for doing that all by himself!"

    "By myself?" Lon repeated as the rest of his classmates gave a polite round of applause. Turning his head towards his teacher, Lon looked at her with confusion. "Miss Li, I thought you told me you were going to do it with me?"

    "I did do it with you: I was watching you the entire time," Chun-Li replied as she beamed with pride and helped Lon back onto his feet. "Even if I didn't do the move physically, I was with you every step of the way in spirit, and you did the Hazan Shu on your first try." Watching the boy blush in embarrassment, Chun-Li's smile widened further. "You should be proud of yourself, Lon: I knew you could do it."

    As Chun-Li turned her head to see who she could call on next, she noticed a figure standing at the front gate of the school. Looks like we have another visitor, Chun-Li thought as she tried to make out who the figure was, though it was difficult being that the sun was in the way. It seems like ever since Ryu came over, people have been coming from all over. Maybe he brings good luck with him, being that before I was complaining that we didn't have a lot of outsiders come over.

    Walking past her students to get a closer look at who was standing at the front gate, the glare from the sun faded into a cloud and allowed Chun-Li to finally get a clear view of the visitor. It was a young Japanese woman with short brown hair wearing a red sports jacket and black shorts, along with red fingerless gloves and a white headband across her forehead, with the long straps flowing in the passing wind. Well, this is a very pleasant surprise indeed, Chun-Li thought as she recognized the young woman that was watching her and her class intently. I didn't think I'd be seeing her again!

    "Hello, Chun-san," the young woman said with a polite bow before raising her head and smiling happily. "I hope you don't mind me dropping in for a visit!"

    "Sakura," Chun-Li returned the bow before outstretching her arms and embracing her guest. "I haven't seen you in so long! You've grown up so much!"

    Sakura Kasugano and Chun-Li first met when the former was searching for her idol, Ryu, in hopes that that he would spar with her. Unlike Chun-Li and Ryu, Sakura was never formally trained in martial arts. Instead, she combined what the Saikyo-ryu founder Dan Hibiki was willing to teach her for free with what she learned from watching Ryu fight. Giving how strong Sakura was, it was a common theory among several of her fellow street fighters that if she had been given proper training, especially with her role model Ryu, she would have been nothing short of dominant.

    Sakura was only a high schooler when she first met Chun-Li. Years later in the present, she was now a full-grown woman in her early twenties. She might have become an adult in the body, but her eyes still shine with the same optimism they had when we first met, Chun-Li mused as they broke the embrace and she took note of Sakura's bright demeanor. I'm happy to see that the years haven't changed her too much.

    "What are you doing in Hong Kong, Sakura?" Chun-Li asked Sakura stepped into the school, with the Chinese martial artist leading her inside eagerly. "Are you still looking for Ryu? He's actually staying here for the time being, so if you wait a little longer, you'll be able to meet up with him and catch up on old times. I bet he'd be thrilled to talk to you again after so long?"

    "Ryu's here?" Sakura asked in wide-eyed disbelief. "I just came to Hong Kong because Hibiki-san invited me over to check out his newly-opened dojo! I had no idea Ryu was here, too!"

    Strange, Chun-Li thought to herself as she took note of the surprise in Sakura's face. One of the defining goals of Sakura's life, from her own words when they first met, was the constant pursuit of her idol, Ryu. The promise of one day facing Ryu and perhaps becoming his pupil drove Sakura into the world of street fighting, and from that goal she drew strength that had won her many notable victories in her career. I would have thought the reason Sakura would come here was because of Ryu?

    "This school you have is beautiful," Sakura said as she scanned the area to look at the classical Chinese architecture, with sculptures of phoenixes, dragons, and tigers abound. "It looks like something off the set of one of Fei-Long's movies! How much money did you have to pay to reserve a place like this?"

    "It was something I'd been saving up for since the second tournament," Chun-Li replied proudly as the two street fighters walked past the curious children until the reached the front of the class. "With my salary as an Interpol officer, the money I've won from tournaments, and even a bit of modeling I did on the side, I was able to buy out this old temple from the previous landowner. You should see the inside of this place: I completely refurnished it so now it doubles as my house!"

    "That's incredible," Sakura exclaimed excitedly as she prepared to walk into the school. Just as she took a step forward, however, she felt something brush against her foot. When she looked down, the Japanese fighter noticed a bag of multi-colored candy sitting next to her shoe. "Those are some pretty chocolates," she said as she bent over to pick up the bag. "I don't suppose I could have some, could I? I haven't had fancy chocolates like these in a long time."

    "Go right ahead," Chun-Li said as Sakura picked up the bag and pulled out a candy. Watching Sakura throw the candy into the air and open her mouth for its landing, Chun-Li continued, "Ryu bought them for me yesterday while we were in the city. I don't think I ever told him about my love of chocolate either."

    Upon hearing those words, Sakura lost her concentration and the chocolate wound up going straight down her throat. With her eyes watering, she started coughing uncontrollably as the chocolate made its way down her gullet with no prior chewing. "Sakura, are you alright!" Chun-Li quickly ran behind Sakura and wrapped her arms around her diaphragm in preparation for a Heimlech. "Can you speak!"

    "Y?yeah," Sakura managed to gag out before gently patting her chest and letting taking deep breaths of air. After wiping the spit from her mouth, the young woman turned back around to Chun-Li. "I was just taken off-guard when you said Ryu-san bought you chocolates. I don't think I've ever heard of him giving chocolates to a girl, and he was my obsession for years."

    "Was your obsession?'" Chun-Li repeated with a curious eyebrow raised. "There was a time when people could have mistaken you for Ryu's crazed stalker! What suddenly make you decide to move on?"

    Sakura was silent for a moment as she contemplated Chun-Li's question. While she might have added the past tense in passing, it was a valid question. Sakura Kasugano emulated Ryu as much as she could, ever since she first laid eyes on him while street fighting. "...I'm not really sure exactly when I stopped chasing him," she said after a while, sitting down in the chair that Chun-Li had been sitting at earlier. "I guess it just happened after I did a bit of soul searching."

    "What were you soul searching about?"

    "I think it was after I graduated high school that I started thinking about my career as a street fighter," Sakura replied as she looked down at her gloved hand. "Back when I first saw Ryu, I was filled was all kinds of feelings: I was almost certain that I had fallen in love, because all I could think about was how he fought with such conviction and how?regal he seemed while in combat. So I took up street fighting myself, so that I could live in his world and see what it was like to be in his shoes."

    "The last time I saw you, you sounded like you were certain that Ryu was the right guy for you," Chun-Li added, to which Sakura nodded her head in agreement. "Do you still have feelings for him, Sakura?"

    "Mmm," Sakura nodded her head again as reached for her white headband and untied it so that it was lying in her hand. "Ryu touched me deeply all those years: I don't think these feelings would ever go away?but now that I'm older, I realize that what I was feeling was something even greater than just love between a boy and a girl." Clenching her hand so that the white headband furled inward, Sakura looked up to Chun-Li standing over her and smiled. "Ryu is my inspiration: some people say they find their purpose through God or Jesus or Buddha?well, I found my purpose through Ryu: he inspired me to become a better person, and because of the morals I've tried to emulate from him, I'm now the current 'Gym Teacher of the Year' in my district!"

    "That's incredible, Sakura," Chun-Li said encouragingly as Sakura stood from her seat and tied her headband back across her forehead. "I've always said that if you're a street fighter, you either respect or idolize Ryu. It seems that with you, he's helped shape you to become a strong young woman." Staring at Sakura's headband a little longer, Chun-Li let out a sigh and folded her arms. "?it seems that every time I hear his name, I've learned that Ryu has had a positive impact in someone's life."

    "?hey, Chun-san," Sakura called Chun-Li's eyes back to her own and lifted her fist with a confident smile. "If you don't mind?how about you spar with me for a little while and let you show both you and your students what I've learned since the last time we met face to face?"

    "Hmhm?you sure you're up for it?" Chun-Li replied with a sparkle in her eyes as she gracefully assumed her fighting stance while Sakura did the same. "I imagine being a gym teacher doesn't allow you much time to get experience street fighting?"

    "I told already, Chun-san," Sakura chimed as she planted her feet, "street fighting is now as much a part of me as eating and breathing: even if I haven't done it in a while, that doesn't mean I've forgotten how to do it!" After crouching down as if she were going for a sprint, Sakura charged forward and lifted her fist for an attack while Chun-Li patiently waited for her. "Here I come!"

    (continued Post #12)
  • Missing PersonMissing Person Righto. Joined: Posts: 13,793
    Really liking this so far. Keep it up.
    XBL: WatCnBrwnDo4U | PSN: LanierIsPlusEV/FORpowerfulGame | CFN: MissingPerson/YddeDdeDe GGPO/FightCade: Missing Person | Steam: [TAS] Missing Person | Battle.net: MissingPersn#1365
    Twitter: JTMMissingPersn | Instagram: jtmmissingperson | Twitch: twitch.tv/missingpersonsrk
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Once she was within striking distance, Sakura began attacking with punches and kicks. Even though every attack was thrown with conviction, Chun-Li noticed that none of her hits really had any violent intent in them: it was as if she was just showing Chun-Li what she had rather than actually attacking her. I guess she wasn't kidding when she only said she wanted to spar, Chun-Li thought with a smile as she noticed the bright expression in Sakura's face as she continued her "onslaught." She's grown up more than I thought: everything used to be all or nothing to her.

    Lifting her right arm up, Chun-Li successfully parried one of the punches and gave Sakura a confident smirk before attacking with her own flurry. While Sakura's attacks were headstrong and brash, Chun-Li's movements were flowing and smooth, as if she were performing an intricate dance rather than engaging in a fight. There was a time when Chun-Li and Sakura both had a certain brashness to their attacks, but the years had matured Chun-Li and her method of combat. Besides, Sakura had no intention of actually hurting Chun-Li, so it was only fair that Chun-Li give Sakura the same mercy.

    After Sakura had enough and parried Chun-Li's kick, the gym teacher charged her fist with energy before stepping forward and creating a barrier of ki in front of her. "SHOUOKEN!" Using her barrier of ki as a battering ram, Sakura continued pushing Chun-Li backwards before jumping into the air and striking Chun-Li in the chin with a leaping uppercut: her own version of her idol's Shoryuken maneuver. The barrier of ki is new, Chun-Li thought as she landed on her feet and rubbed where she had been hit. Surprisingly, the attack didn't hurt any longer than a couple of seconds, despite how visually impressive it looked. I guess she discovered a way to compensate for her imperfect Shoryuken by giving it a few add-ons.

    "My turn," Chun-Li shouted out before flexing her legs and performing an aerial forward flip for her Hazan Shu. However, she was carefully not to put too much force into the attack, and her overhead kick bopped Sakura on the top of her head, causing her to take a few steps back in a daze. "I hope you don't mind me pulling back on that a bit," Chun-Li said as Sakura rubbed her head before slapping her face and resuming her fighting stance. "I don't want to split your head open or anything like that."

    "Don't worry about me, Chun-san," Sakura replied as she too flexed her legs for lift-off. "I'll be just fine!" Taking off with an impressive vertical leap, Sakura lifted her hands over her head as she descended onto Chun-Li's position. Just as she was about to hit the ground, Sakura brought down her hands in a double-fisted hammer, forcing Chun-Li to throw her arms up in a block and protect herself from the Sakura Otoshi that had concussed so many fighters in the past.

    As soon as Sakura planted her feet onto the ground, Chun-Li put her hands down and sprang off of them in a spinning motion, spiraling like a top towards Sakura and bombarded her with multiple spinning kicks. "SPINNING BIRD KICK!" Feeling each of her propeller-like kicks blocked, Chun-Li returned to her feet and immediately followed her Spinning Bird Kick with rapid standing kicks: her Hyakurestu Kyaku that had become one of her trademarks over the years.

    Sakura put a stop to the flurry in the similar manner that Chun-Li started it: by spinning around like a top, albeit this time going into an arch while performing the kicks. Not expecting Sakura's sudden outburst, Chun-Li took all of the Shunpukyaku with the final kick of the attack launching her into the air. With her opponent launched skyward by that final arching kick, Sakura took to the air and once again performed her Sakura Otoshi on Chun-Li, this time smashing her back down to the ground.

    Chun-Li landed on her feet and smiled as Sakura started floating back down to the ground. Returning the mid-air attack done to her in kind, Chun-Li's leg spun around in a vertical axis and bombarded Sakura with multiple high kicks to propel her further into the air. Once again, however, the kicks didn't hurt more than a couple of seconds, and both attacker and defender easily landed on their feet and resumed their fighting stances.

    "How are you feeling, Sakura?" Chun-Li said as the sweat glistened from her beautiful face just as Sakura's was. "Is this as much fun as it was when you first started?"

    "It feels amazing," Sakura answered as that bright, confident light once again filled her brown eyes. "I still do a bit of street fighting in my free time, but being a gym teacher means that I need to do it away from public eyes. You don't know how good it feels to be doing this out in the open, where there aren't any secrets to be kept?or any worry that losing would mean a trip to the hospital!"

    "Of course: if either of us got hurt doing this, we'd be depriving our students of a good education," Chun-Li nodded her head in agreement as she noticed Sakura once again charging her blue ki into her palms. Gathering her own ki as a result, Chun-Li reared back slightly and prepared to unleash it into an attack. "We'll keep going until you feel like you've had enough!"

    "Sounds good to me," Sakura said as she released her gathered energy into a projectile of ki. "HADOKEN!"

    While Ryu's Hadoken was compact and shapely, allowing it to travel a great distance without losing any of its power, Sakura's Hadoken was full of unstable energy, sacrificing distance in favor of spectacular flash. However, it was close enough to hit Chun-Li, and the Chinese martial artist realized it. Once she had gathered enough power, Chun-Li attacked the Hadoken with her own bubble-shaped projectile of energy, the Kikoken. When the two attacks clashed, they both exploded in a brilliant shower of sparkles:

    In the eyes of both Chun-Li and Sakura, it was nothing short of beautiful.

    It wasn't beautiful enough, however, to keep them from once again gathering their energies for a renewed assault. As soon as the light show brought about by their ki faded, Chun-Li and Sakura rushed towards each other with renewed passion. Chun-Li went high with a snapping side kick, but Sakura decided to go down low by shooting out her leg and spinning like a top on the ground. The result was Chun-Li's ankle being clipped five times by Sakura's Haru Ichiban before being sent spiraling away with a rising roundhouse.

    Landing on her hands, Chun-Li spun around gracefully in a handstand before returning to her feet to see Sakura charging towards her. Sakura skid to a halt when she saw that Chun-Li was waiting for her, but it was too late to defend herself from Chun-Li's next move. Stepping forward at the exact same time Sakura tried to stop herself, Chun-Li lifted her leg and unleashed a barrage of one-legged kicks on the Japanese gym teacher, moving faster than the eye could see. Then she lowered that leg and stepped forward again to do the same manner of rapid kicks with the other leg. Once that barrage was done, Chun-Li concluded the offense with a snapping kick to Sakura's chin, knocking her away as if she had been teed off with a golf club.

    "Ow?that was pretty cool!" Sakura shouted as she landed on her feet and rubbed her jaw, noticing that the kick had put several meters between the two. "I've never seen you do that before! What do you call that?"

    "It's called the 'Houyoku-Sen,'" Chun-Li shouted back, cupping her hand to her mouth so that Sakura could hear her. "I came up with it when I was trying to find a way to make the Senretsu Kyaku more suitable for my students." Lifting her leg and performing a quick kicking demonstration, Chun-Li winked at the Japanese gym teacher and motioned her to come forward. "It might not be as all-out as the old move, but you have to admit it sends you on a trip in a pretty fancy way, right?"

    "?I think it's about time we finished this up, Chun-san," Sakura said as she once again started gathering ki, with her pure and untainted energy swirling in her palms while she slowly started walking forward. "This last attack is going to decide the winner of this sparring session! I hope you're ready!"

    "I'm always ready, Sakura: that just comes with being a police officer," Chun-Li said before inhaling deep and focusing her own ki into both of her palms, spreading out her arms like wings. Watching Sakura charging at her now with a full run, the Chinese martial artist exhaled and waited for the opportunity to strike. "Here we go, Sakura: let's see what you've got!"

    "Shinku?HADOKEN!"

    "KIKOSHO!"

    Each of the women, upon entering range, unleashed their gathered energies into one final attack. The children watching eagerly said nothing, watching with astonishment as the women were engulfed in a vortex of blue as violent winds were kicked up and blown in every direction. "This is awesome," one of the students managed to say after a full seven seconds passed where the vortex of energy wasn't showing any signs of slowing down. Given the display of power and passion, it was hard for anyone to disagree.

    Finally?mercifully after a full twenty seconds, Sakura was launched out of the vortex and landed on her bottom. Groaning in pain and wincing as she rubbed where she landed, Sakura looked up and watched the vortex fade to reveal Chun-Li taking a deep breath and lowering her hands striking a dynamic pose with her leg lifted. "How about that, Sakura?" Chun-Li said as she walked over to the fallen Japanese martial artist and offered her hand. "What do you think of my new and improved Kikosho?"

    "?I like it," Sakura hummed as she flashed Chun-Li a bright smile and accepted her hand. Once she was back onto her feet, the gym teacher dusted herself off and bowed once again. "That was a really refreshing sparring session, Chun-san! Thank you very much for that!"

    "It was my pleasure, Sakura," Chun-Li returned the smile with one of her own before turning to her students, who were still awestruck at what had just transpired. "Class, I would like to introduce you to Miss Sakura Kasugano. She came all the way from Japan to help with the class and give you a sparring demonstration. Everyone say 'Thank You, Sakura!'"

    "Thank you, Sakura," the children repeated graciously.

    "?by the way, Chun-san," Sakura said after a pause, her eyes shifting a bit. "Do you remember me asking you a long time ago if you were Ryu's girlfriend, since you always had so much to say about him?"

    "Um?yeah," Chun-Li nodded her head once as she recalled what Sakura was talking about: a question the predated even the second tournament. "What about it?"

    "When you denied it, your cheeks turned bright red and you quickly took the conversation away from that direction," Sakura reminded the older fighter, eliciting a strikingly similar blushing reaction to when she first asked the question so long ago. "Now that Ryu is staying at your place and you're spending more time with him?do you think that maybe you'll be able to come up with a concrete, honest answer?"

    "I?I," Chun-li stammered as she continued to feel the warmth rise up to her cheeks. As she turned away from Sakura to alleviate some of the embarrassment, she noticed that Ryu was standing several feet away from them. Noticing that he was wearing the clothes Chun-Li bought for him while cradling a large brown bag in his muscular arms, Chun-Li went silent as the moment became just a little more awkward.

    "Chun-san," Sakura leaned closer to Chun-Li and whispered so that Ryu couldn't hear them. "That sparring match we just had?that was actually a duel."

    "?a duel?" Chun-Li repeated curiously. "A duel for what?"

    "It was a duel to see who would be the one to confess their feelings to Ryu," Sakura answered with a thin smile, once again making Chun-Li's cheeks warm. Upon noticing her reaction, the Japanese gym teacher tilted her head fondly and laughed a bit. "Hmhm?you can't go back on the rules of a duel, Chun-san, so you better make the most of your opportunity!"

    With those parting words, Sakura waved goodbye before walking over to Ryu and starting up a conversation with him. First Ryu buys me chocolates, and now his biggest fangirl is telling me to 'make the most of my opportunity' with him, Chun-Li thought as she watched Sakura and Ryu start walking into the school, still talking too quietly for her to hear. Come to think of it, I never have given my relationship to Ryu any serious thought other than 'really good friend.'

    Turning back to her students, Chun-Li took a deep breath and prepared to resume her class, but not before asking herself one last question. Are other people seeing something between me and Ryu that I'm not seeing?
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Chapter 7: Grief

    Slowly opening his eyes, Ryu awoke from his slumber as a ray of sunshine brushed against his eyelids. Once he regained a sense of where he was, the wandering warrior rolled over and looked at the electronic clock on the dresser. 8:23 AM, Ryu muttered as he pushed himself off the bed only to fall on the floor to begin his morning exercises. Looks like I'm getting closer to usual wake-up time. For the past few days I've been sleeping past 9:00, and by that time the day has long since started.

    Rolling over onto his back and beginning his set of stomach crunches, Ryu slowly went over the events of the previous day. After coming back from Ken's hotel and convincing him to provide the money for Moshe's wife (to Ryu's good fortune, Ken didn't need much coaxing as he was happy to do it), Ryu went grocery shopping with the list Chun-Li gave him acting as his guide. For someone in such amazing physical condition, Ryu noticed that she enjoyed a lot of sweets, as he found himself purchasing candies and cakes in addition to the usual assortment of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products that would be more suitable for martial artists of their caliber and conditioning.

    When he returned from grocery shopping, he noticed that Chun-Li had another visitor from Japan: Ryu's old admirer Sakura Kasugano. Being that Ryu hadn't seen Sakura for several months, the two of them quickly went inside the school and caught up on what they had been up to since they last spoke. Ryu was already aware that Sakura had become a gym teacher, as the last time they met he had accidentally caught her in the middle of teaching her class, but he wasn't aware of Sakura's recent accolade as "Gym Teacher of the Year." Needless to say, Ryu was quite proud of Sakura's quick strides in her field.

    For years she wanted me to become her sensei?and already she's earned renown as a better teacher than I could ever be, Ryu thought as he completed his fiftieth stomach crunch, immediately rolling over onto his belly before planting his hands on the ground and beginning the next part of his early routine: fifty push-ups. Just like Ken, Sakura has found her strength outside of the world of fighting, and she's thriving because of it.

    The main reason Ryu didn't offer to formally teach Sakura all those years ago was because he didn't feel like he was worthy of being a teacher, especially with the Satsui no Hadou looming around him, threatening to consume him at a moment's notice. While his ability to contain the Satsui no Hadou had risen exponentially since then to a point where he no longer pays heed to its temptation, Ryu still didn't feel like he was worthy of being a sensei. There was still so much that he had to learn: if he was going to be a teacher, he would need confidence in his own knowledge before anything else.

    After telling Sakura about his recent worries about where his journey to enlightenment was leading him, the young woman had a strikingly similar answer to what Ken had told him days before. "I think what you need to do is to stop and smell the roses. Take a moment to look back at what you used to be and then look forward on what you could be," she said before almost reciting Ken's advice word for word. "If you stay here at this school, I think you might figure out what your next step in life is going to be."

    Two of my best friends I've made in life have told me the same thing: stay here in Hong Kong and the answer will be made clear, Ryu thought as he completed his push-ups, only to roll over onto his back once again to do more stomach crunches. There's obviously something that they're seeing that I'm oblivious to right now. Damn it all?I wish I had their insight so I could know what they were talking about!

    Hearing the sound of footsteps in the hallway behind the door, Ryu paused from his exercise and listened to them intently. One thing that Ryu was sure of was that Ken and Sakura were referring to Chun-Li. While it was true that Ryu greatly admired Chun-Li for her sincerity and belief in justice, it was only recently that he was beginning to see Chun-Li as a woman, graceful and beautiful like a phoenix. While Ryu did not feel himself worthy to be a teacher, Chun-Li was a very good one with a plethora of students and the admiration of all of them at her disposal.

    Pushing himself off the ground, Ryu decided that he'd complete the next set of his push-ups later: Chun-Li was obviously awake, so it was time for him to get his day started correctly with a hearty breakfast and conversation with his host. Sakura also told me that, when she first met Chun-Li, she mistook her for my girlfriend...and Chun-Li got embarrassed when she said that, Ryu thought as he reached out for the doorknob. Maybe there's more to our long-time friendship than I originally thought?I wonder if Chun-Li thinks of me as anything more than a friend, as well.

    Just as Ryu was about to wrap his hand on the doorknob, a loud knocking on the door echoed throughout his room. "Ryu?" the familiar voice of Chun-Li called behind the door, "Are you awake? I need to talk to you right now."

    She sounds worried about something, Ryu mumbled as he opened the door. Upon seeing Chun-Li already dressed in her blue qipao, along with a very concerned look on her face, the wandering warrior's concerns were justified. "Good morning, Chun-Li," Ryu greeted his host as he noticed her eyes wavering. "Is something wrong? You seem a little bit?rattled."

    "We need to get going to the hospital," Chun-Li replied, her voice quick with anxiety. "It involves Master Gen."

    "Master Gen?" Ryu repeated as he remembered who Chun-Li was talking about: the elderly assassin that at one point could claim that he was not only Akuma's greatest rival, but also the only one who survived the Shun Goku Satsu. "What's wrong with Master Gen?"

    "He was just admitted to the emergency room early this morning," Chun-Li answered with the same fervor before biting her lip worriedly. With her eyes shifting downward, the Chinese martial artist continued. "The leukemia that he's been fighting for years took a massive turn for the worse: the doctors don't expect him to last the rest of the week and they said I should come over as soon as possible."

    Going to the hospital to visit someone was nothing new to Chun-Li.

    As a former police officer, she had lost count of how many times she went to see a comrade that had been shot, or stabbed, or poisoned, or beaten to a pulp. Over the years, she had come to associate the disinfectant aroma of the hospital with sadness and pain: while her comrades might put on a smile to make her feel better, they couldn't mask their suffering from her. Losing a fight is never a good experience, and the "life or death" stipulation that the police lived by made losing the fight a very dangerous option.

    When Chun-Li and Ryu arrived at the hospital Master Gen was admitted in, they learned that the old assassin had already left the emergency room. In most cases, that was a sign that Gen had recovered from whatever has stricken him and was recuperating in a less-intensive area, but the seriousness of the doctor's voice indicated a more grim situation. Instead, Gen had been moved to hospice: the place where patients were moved when they weren't expected to live.

    Chun-Li's relationship with Gen was, to say the least, very complicated. Gen was an old friend of Chun-Li's father, and the two would often laugh and drink with one another when Chun-Li was still a child. There was a time early on when Gen would assist Chun-Li's father with her training, but the friendly ties ended very shortly after her father disappeared. Chun-Li learned of Gen's occupation as an assassin and his remorseless nature, and her respect for the elderly martial artist dropped like a rock as a result. They hadn't spoken to each other in a long time.

    Despite how bad their relationship had been over the past few years, when Chun-Li entered hospice to see the old man, with blood staining his white beard and purple cheongsam, she could help but gasp in horror at what had become of him. Even when I first learned that Gen had become sick, I never once pitied him, she thought as she and Ryu approached the old man, who seemed to be staring off into the distance with his ghostly eyes. He even told me that his leukemia was really the ghosts of everyone he'd killed trying to get revenge on him so that they could rest in peace.

    So why?why do I feel so mortified to see him like this on his deathbed?


    "Gen," Chun-Li called out to the gaunt figure lying in bed, his eyes still staring off into the ceiling like he was already dead. When Gen didn't immediately answer, Chun-Li lifted her hand and placed it on Gen's shoulder. "Gen, I need to you wake up! Ryu and I came to-"

    "RYU," Gen suddenly sprang to life, shooting upward into a sitting position and turning his head towards the two warriors. With his ghostly eyes suddenly sparkling with violent intent, a wily smirk came over the old man's face. "Finally, this damn hospital brought me something I can use: a true warrior worthy of defeat at my hands!"

    "How can you think about fighting at a time like this," Ryu interjected, apparently more than a little bit peeved at Gen's sudden eagerness for a fight, much less his arrogance of thinking he could win in his condition. "Chun-Li and I came here to see that you were alright: the least you can do is say thank you. You should be grateful that people would visit you at all, with how much suffering you've caused."

    "HAH?idealistic to the last, eh Ryu?" Gen let out a single loud laugh as his smirk wided into a twisted grin. "Well, step right up and I'll be more than happy to rip those ideals out of your chest and crush it in between my fingers!" Dramatically pointing his index finger at the two warriors, Gen continued his rambling. "I challenge the both of you to a fight to the death! I might not look like much right now, but my killing techniques are still peerless under the heavens! If I fight both of you at once, then maybe things will be interesting enough that I can finally have the death match that I've craved for so-HHCK!"

    As Gen suddenly started coughing up blood with loud hacks, Chun-Li slowly covered her mouth as she fought back tears. The time that had passed has weathered the old master in a way that wasn't limited to his physical condition. I didn't think it was possible, but he's gone senile, Chun-Li thought as she turned her head to see Gen's electronic pulse going crazy. Thank goodness my father isn't alive to see him like this: he would have been absolutely horrified at what Gen has become.

    Ryu, brave soul that he was, reached out and clasped Gen's withered hand, too concerned for the old man's health that he was willing to ignore the fact that Gen just told him that he would have liked to fight him in a death match. "You need to calm down right now, Master Gen," Ryu said sternly as Gen finally regained control of his coughing and began taking deep gasps of air. "You're in no shape to fight anyone right now?"

    "Yes?that's an unfortunate truth," Gen hissed as he regained enough air to continue speaking. "Sadly, I wasted my chance of a true death match last night."

    "What happened last night?" Ryu asked after letting out a sigh of relief that Gen's murderous frenzy had subsided.

    "While I was returning home from a contract kill, I spotted that idiot of a fighter Dan Hibiki sweeping up the back of the porch of his moronic school. He recognized me and challenged me to a match," Gen explained as he quickly yanked his hand way from Ryu. "His boasting had been annoying me for some time and I decided that putting him in a coma for a few months would at least give me a bit of reprieve?but then my damn leukemia took hold and I became helpless to his ridiculous attacks!"

    "You shouldn't be so upset," Ryu replied as he folded his arms. "Dan is a martial artist like any one of us: if you let your guard down even for a second, no matter who your opponent is, you're going to regret it?"

    "If not for this damn illness, I'm certain I could have killed him easily and added him to the legion of screaming ghosts that follow me around," Gen grumbled as he stroked his beard. Looking at the blood that was now on his hand, his ghostly eyes narrowed in fury. "As if losing to that fool wasn't bad enough, he further added insult to injury by refusing my request to deliver the finishing blow! He told me that it's against his code of honor to fight the sick and elderly?BAH!" Gen once again made a loud outburst as he smashed his fist against the metal siding of his bed. "If he were a true martial artist, he would have been merciful and put me out of my wretched misery! Now I'm here in this disgusting hospital waiting for death like a coward instead of embracing it like a-"

    "SHUT UP, GEN," Chun-Li shouted as loud as she could, drawing attention to herself from the other patients and doctors in the room. Once it was clear that she had Gen's attention, Chun-Li continued with her voice cracking with anger. "You talk about how we're weaklings for not embracing death, but at least Dan knows the importance of life! As far as I'm concerned, Dan humiliating you is just an example of karma, and I'm glad that it's finally catching up with you?"

    An uncomfortable silence came across the three as Ryu shifted his eyes from Gen to Chun-Li. If it wasn't already obvious that there was some bad blood between Gen and Chun-Li that shouldn't exist between master and pupil, then it was certainly obvious now. "?Master Gen," Ryu broke the silence and leaned in so that Gen could hear him without Chun-Li hearing. "I've been meaning to ask you something: is it true that you survived Akuma's Shun Goku Satsu technique?"

    "Of course it is, whelp," Gen growled, though he was also careful to make sure Chun-Li didn't hear him. "Do you think this old man would make up something like that? The Shun Goku Satsu is the type of attack that every martial artist would love to add to their arsenal: surviving such a barrage is the mark of someone who is truly worthy of calling themselves a follower of the fist."

    "I need to know what you did to survive the attack," Ryu replied, his voice filled with fatalistic seriousness. "Someday soon, I will have to face Akuma and avenge my master's murder. In order to do that, I need to figure out a way to break through the Shun Goku Satsu. You're the only person I know who was able to walk away from the attack?so I am begging you to tell me."

    "Heheheh?what's wrong, Ryu?" Gen chuckled as he spoke loud enough for Chun-Li to hear. Turning his head to her, the old man sat back up. "Everyone dies someday: the question is when, why, and how painfully. Sure, we may try to run from it, saying that we'd be leaving behind our friends and loved ones, but the fact of the matter is that death is an inevitable outcome. If you don't want your time to come before you're ready, then you must clear your soul of doubt and embrace what's important to you."

    "And what about my father, Gen?" Chun-Li said with her voice low with contempt. "Did he die because he didn't prepare himself for Shadaloo's trickery? You were the one who first told me that Father was taken by Shadaloo, which meant that you were at the scene when it happened?and yet you didn't save him! He was willing to look the other way from your assassinations because of the friendship you shared, and you left him to the wolves to save your own-"

    "I would have done anything to save your father, Chun-Li," Gen interjected, his voice ripe with frustration. "In my profession, it's remarkably common for comrades to betray you: it matters little what side on the law you're on. But your father...he was willing to put that aside because he believed that I was a good man inside." The old man turned his head to look at his reflection through a small hand mirror sitting in a tray next to his bed. "What a fool he was. I am as wretched as they come: I couldn't even save my only friend from evil?"

    As Gen continued to stare into the mirror, Chun-Li clenched her fists and did her best to prevent herself from losing her composure. No matter what her own feelings about this man were, Gen was a close friend of her late father. She owed it to him to be more sympathetic towards the old man in what was obviously the final days of a long and arduous life. "?Gen," Chun-Li cleared away the malice in her voice and tried to sound more comforting: whatever sort of monster he was, Gen was now a dying old man and of no threat to anyone. "Is there anything we can do to make your moments?less painful?"

    "Come closer, child," Gen replied as he turned away from the mirror and back towards the woman that had once been his best friend's daughter. "There is something that I would like to tell you that I do not wish for your friend to hear." Once Chun-Li complied with his request and leaned in next to him, Gen's voice became a hushed whisper. "I have not seen you in quite some time, child: how is your school doing?"

    How does Gen know about the school? I've never spoken to him about it, Chun-Li thought, taken aback by the sudden gentleness in Gen's voice. Maybe Yun and Yang mentioned it to him: they did work at Gen's old restaurant. "My school is doing very well, Gen," Chun-Li answered honestly, the lingering traces of malice in her voice disappearing. "All of my students are making great progress and enjoy my company. I have no doubt that it'll continue to do well if I put my mind to it."

    "Good, good," Gen nodded his head, seemingly less like a murderous wretch and more like a feeble old man. "Your father would be so proud of you if he were alive: you've accomplished so much and yet there are still so many years left of your life that you can accomplish even more." Slowly bobbing his head towards Ryu, Gen waited until Chun-Li turned to where he was motioning to before whispering in her ear. "Do not make the same mistakes I did, traveling the journey of martial arts alone: treasure your friends, and protect them. Don't let what I allowed to happen to your father?happen to?"

    Letting out a weak and pathetic sigh, Gen's head flopped down onto the pillow of his bed and the chilling beep of the ECG indicated that the old master had flatlined. Though it took a moment for it to sink in, Chun-Li realized that Gen had just given her his final words, stepping back as nurses and doctors rushed to his bed and huddled around him like vultures over carrion. "We need you leave now," one of the doctors shoved Chun-Li and Ryu away from the scene and motioned for two of the guards to escort them away. "We'll do everything we can to help him?but for now, you have to get out of here."
    ----
    There was a very uncomfortable silence between Ryu and Chun-Li as they were taken to the lobby of the hospital. Watching a person breathe their last, whether it was of natural causes or outside forces, was always a surreal experience that left witnesses breathless for a moment. However, Ryu couldn't help but notice Chun-Li's trembling as they left hospice and were taken to the exit. She's always so strong and steady, like a tree, Ryu thought as he musted up the courage to say something. I've never seen her so rattled?

    "What did he say to you?" Ryu finally asked.

    "?he told me that my father would be proud of what I've accomplished?and that I should protect my friends in a way that he couldn't," Chun-Li answered, her voice cracking and her composure crumbling away like a sandcastle against a wave. "It was the first time in a very long time I have ever heard Gen say something that nice to me..."

    "I'm sorry that he's in such bad shape," Ryu replied solemnly.

    "Don't be," she whispered while she clenched her fists. "Gen and I trained together when I was still a kid, but when I learned about what kind of a man he really was, we never really got along after that. I've lost count of how many times I told him to stop killing people, and despite my warnings he'd kill and kill. Even after I convinced him to open up a restaurant to step away from the killing, he'd take on contracts and shed more blood. For the longest time I thought he was taking advantage of my father's friendship, because he knew that I could never arrest him with that hanging over our heads."

    "It sounds like your relationship is very strained," the wandering warrior observed as he noticed Chun-Li's trembling was getting worse.

    "But?despite all of that," Chun-Li's voiced started to crack up as tears welled up into her eyes. "Seeing him like that on his deathbed, crazed and defiant?it?it hurts so much and I don't know why?"

    Unable to contain herself any longer, tears began streaming down Chun-Li's cheeks as she quietly sobbed. Ryu didn't say anything: how could he say anything? It was made plainly obvious from their visit that Chun-Li and Gen had issues that they never resolved, but no matter how bad their relationship soured, she obviously still cared enough about him to shed tears for him. "I?I'm sorry, Ryu," she managed to spit out as the tears continued to fall. "I just told you how much I hate him, and yet here I am crying in the same way that I lost my-"

    Deciding that he had heard enough, Ryu did what he thought was best to comfort Chun-Li: he wrapped his arms around her and pressed her head against his muscular chest. "?you don't have to say anything, Chun-Li," Ryu whispered as gently as he could, momentarily silencing her sobbing. "When I found my Master Gouken's corpse in the dojo, I cried, as well. It's never easy to lose someone that you've called Master?and I can't imagine what you must be feeling, to have actually heard your master's final words and watched him die."

    Noticing that Chun-Li was not saying anything, Ryu lowered his eyes to see Chun-Li looking up at him, a little startled at his sudden act of caring. "Ryu?"

    "You don't have to say anything, Chun-Li," Ryu cut her off and tightened his embrace. "Just let it all out?and know that I'm here for you, to help you get through this." With those words, the wandering warrior allowed Chun-Li to continue crying into his shirt, doing his best to comfort her in her time of need. With my Master Gouken, he was murdered: one day I can avenge his death by facing Akuma, he thought as he slowly rubbed Chun-Li's back. With Master Gen, it's something that's out of our control?and somehow, that makes it all the more painful. The only thing we can do?is have friends be there for us in our time of need.
  • mikrosmikros Yo, Joe! Joined: Posts: 1,010
    Pretty well written fic, although the amount of coincidences makes Chun Li's school seem to bend the strands of fate like the island of Lost.

    I'm not a ChunXRyu fan, but that was a good read after all. Looking forward for more chapters.:woot:
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Thanks Mikros! That's a really big compliment especially coming from you!

    There's also going to be some minor tie-ins to FeLo's SFG Mugen Project (not sure if you've seen it on PCS, but he's been working on spriting characters for it, as you might have seen with how he's been doing Viper).

    As for how people seem to magically be attracted to Chun-Li's school...well, in a world where there are people who shoot fire, ice, electicity, balls of energy, perform super jumps, and create tornados from their stomachs, sometimes things seem to work out like that XD.
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Chapter 8: Wind

    "OOF!"

    Landing flat on his face, Ryu groaned and rubbed his jaw to make sure all of his teeth were back in place. Being it was only the early afternoon, Ryu usually had no trouble focusing on a friendly street fight to keep his skills honed. It was not only his way of making new friends and catching up with old ones, but testing out what new things he's learned in whatever city he was visiting at the time. He didn't earn the title of "World Warrior" for nothing, after all.

    On this day, however, Ryu couldn't seem to find his metaphorical groove. Ever since visiting Master Gen in the hospital, and watching him breathe his last, he couldn't clear his thoughts. Master Gen was one of the most feared martial artists on the planet, even when the first signs of leukemia started to take hold. Even Gen's story about losing to the street fighting community's running joke Dan Hibiki did not take away how revered he was in the world of martial arts. If not for his illness, Gen would possibly be even stronger; perhaps deadlier than the fearsome Akuma that Gen saw as his one true rival.

    But when confronted with death, Gen was a shell of the master that Ryu had known him for: insane, decrepit, and delirious. Seeing him like that brought forth a lot of uncomfortable questions that Ryu had been asking himself lately, on where the path of the warrior will inevitably lead. It was as if Remy's words about the path to becoming strong were being made an example of right before his eyes: all it would lead to is heartache and ruin, just as Gen had become, in his own words, "a pathetic wretch."

    And then there was the matter of Chun-Li. One of the many attributes that Ryu found admirable about her was how she was always looking forward towards a brighter tomorrow. Even when they were embroiled in the war against Shadaloo, Ryu took note of her bravery and hopefulness and claimed it for his own, drawing strength from it whenever he felt like things were dire. These traits had only been amplified since Shadaloo crumbled, now that she was teaching children and create a foundation for that brighter tomorrow she sought to create.

    With Gen's grim situation, Ryu saw a different side to her: a side that cried bitter tears upon seeing the old master in such a horrible condition, torn between the grudge she held against the old master for perceived crimes against her father and the part of her that still felt for Gen and felt horrible that he was on his death bed in such bad shape. Unable to see the woman like that, Ryu followed his instincts and embraced her, telling her that it was OK for her to cry.

    As the day went on after they left the hospital, Chun-Li continued to cry on and off. She had known Gen her entire life, and being the recipient of his final words was a very morbid experience. I'm lucky to have not had any real family apart from Master Gouken, Ryu thought as he stood back up and dusted himself off. Losing someone close to you makes you think about your own mortality and how much time you've got left. I only had to go through that with Gouken's death: Chun-Li has lost her father, Charlie, and now Master Gen.

    "You seem off today, Ryu," his conqueror of that particular fight called out.

    Looking back up to see the Chinese teenager in the red kung-fu shirt and black pants with his brown hair styled in a spiky quaff, Ryu let out a sigh and walked over to the youth. "Sorry, Yang," Ryu apologized to the young man as he outstretched his hand for a handshake. "I haven't been able to focus all day: I only wish I could have been more of a challenge to you today."

    Yang and his twin brother Yun were two of the people Ryu had intended to visit during his trip to Hong Kong, but he became so caught up with Chun-Li that he hadn't a chance to seek them out. Yang and Yun first met Ryu in the third tournament as part of the next generation of street fighters looking to get a strong footing in that sort of world. Yang had the honor of facing Ryu in the tournament, but his inexperience led to a solid defeat at the wandering warrior's hands. There was no bitterness in Yang's loss, however, and the two promised to have a rematch in the future so that Yang could prove to his brother how much progress he had made.

    In that rematch, Yang had evened the score and defeated a former Street Fighter champion, but the teenager wasn't arrogant enough to think that he won strictly because he was better on that given day. "Your punches didn't have the same conviction that they normally do," he said as he clasped Ryu's hand and gave it a shake before the two fighters broke away and bowed to each other. "I've been training long and hard to finally defeat you?but I won't be satisfied with something like that. It was like you were punching at shadows and didn't even realize I was in front of you."

    "Yeah?I'm sorry about that," Ryu apologized once again as he looked down at the shirt that Chun-Li bought for him days before. "It's just that?I'm having a lot of trouble thinking about the world around me. Usually I don't have this kind of problem, but?"

    "?it's Auntie Chun, isn't it?" Yang filled in the blank that Ryu left when his voice drifted off. "I know you've been staying at her school for the past few days: to be honest, Yun and I were going to head over there ourselves soon and challenge you there. When we heard about Master Gen's condition, we decided that we'd hold off on that and let Chun-Li have her space. She'll never admit it, but she cared more for that creepy old guy than anyone else: we figured she would have been super-depressed."

    "She spent all day crying yesterday," Ryu replied as he and Yang turned their heads to look at the restaurant they were fighting in front of: the same restaurant that Gen once owned. "She's always so strong and confident: you should have seen her when we were fighting Shadaloo years ago. When I saw her like that?I just felt horrible, and I just held her close and told her that I'd be there for her."

    "It's good that she cried," Yang said as he noticed Ryu's distant expression even as he was looking at the restaurant with him. "Auntie someone who puts on a smile for everyone because she's an icon in this city and people look to her like she's a superhero. In her eyes, showing vulnerability is letting people down: she's carrying the happiness of the city on her shoulders." Putting a hand on Ryu's shoulder and snapping him out of his trance, Yang smiled. "If she was able to let herself cry, then having you around has definitely been good for her."

    "You think so?" Ryu smiled a bit in return as his thoughts drifted back to Chun-Li during her happier times. "I always figured that when you're around other people, you should hold in your tears so that you don't make others sad."

    "Heh?that sounds just like my big brother, always acting macho so that you look tough," Yang replied with a chuckle. "Me, I think being able to express your emotions freely is what true bravery is. If the two of you are able to convey what you're feeling to each other with no reservations, then I'm really happy for both of you." Yang paused for a moment before he chuckled a little bit more. "Hehehhe?Auntie is so pretty, I was surprised when people started thinking she'd die a young maid. I'm glad to see that everyone was wrong?"

    "What do you-?oh," Ryu cut himself off as he thought about what Yang was talking about. "You're the second person this week who's told me that she and I are an item. Chun-Li and I are just friends: close friends." The wandering warrior felt warmth go to his cheeks as he continued, thinking about how good it felt when he embraced Chun-Li and getting embarrassed as a result. "She told me she missed having friends from the tournament over, so I'm just?staying as long as I can to make her feel better!"

    "You shouldn't deny it, Ryu," Yang responded with a friendly smile. "You keep talking about how you're seeking the meaning to become a true martial artist, and part of that means accepting everything that you are. Unless you want to wind up like Master Gen, crazy and alienated from others when you're old, I think you should think long and hard about why you're being so nice to Auntie and be prepared to take your friendship to the next level." Yang's smile suddenly faded and gave way to a stern glare: one that Ryu certainly wasn't expecting. "Otherwise, you'll not only be hurting yourself, but Auntie, as well. If that happens, you better believe that my brother and I will make you pay for hurting her."

    Ryu was silent as he looked into Yang's eyes. When Ken suggested there was something between him and Chun-Li, he took it as just some friendly banter. Now Yang was in essence telling him the same thing, but there was no humor in his statement. For as long as he could remember, Ryu had focused on the pursuit of true strength, accepting some lessons and rejecting others. Given that he had felt that he had reached his peak as a wandering warrior, was Ryu's devotion to martial arts turning him into what Remy accused him of being: obsessed?

    "?I'm going to make things easier for you," Yang said when he realized Ryu was at a loss for words. Reaching into his pants pocket and pulling out a cell phone, Yang started dialing and placed the phone to his ear. "?hello, Auntie? It's Yang?I'm doing fine, thank you very much. I actually just finished having some fisticuffs with Ryu: he told me that he can't stop thinking about you and he'd like to talk to you right now so you could meet him somewhere where you could have some personal time."

    What is Yang doing!?, Ryu thought panickedly as he reached out to snatch the phone from Yang's hand. Chun-Li and I are just fine where our relationship is now: if Yang is wrong, he could do some serious damage to that!

    Using his agility made possibly by years upon years of training and conditioning, Yang sprang into the air over Ryu's head just as was about to grab the phone from him, bouncing off of Ryu's head as if to further taunt him. "He doesn't have a cell phone on him, so he had me call you at your place," Yang continued speaking into his phone as he landed gracefully on his feet while Ryu rubbed his head. "?yes, he's here now. Hold on a sec."

    Before Ryu could make another attempt to go for the phone, Yang suddenly toss it his way. After fumbling with the phone for a couple of seconds, Ryu managed to the phone stable enough for it to be held up to his ear. "C-Chun-Li? I'm sorry about Yang, we were just talking about-"

    "Hey, Ryu," the voice of Chun-Li buzzed from the other side of the line. Ryu immediately noticed that her voice was no longer filled with grief like it had been that morning when he left, which was definitely a good sign. "Yang said that you'd like to hang out after class today. I'm guessing you want to meet somewhere from where you are, if you're borrowing Yang's phone."

    "Um?yeah, that's right," Ryu said after a pause. She sounds a lot happier: it would be heartless for me to turn her down now. I might as well roll with the punches. "I was thinking?about the park around here. When we went into the city, there was a lot of craziness that kept us from really enjoying ourselves. I was thinking we could go someplace quiet like the park: with everything that's happened, especially Master Gen's condition, it would be good for both of us to just unwind for a bit?"

    "?I'd like that very much, Ryu," Chun-Li replied, prompting Ryu to breathe a quiet sigh of relief. "What time would be good for you?"

    "5:00 would be good for me," Ryu said, blurting out the first time that came to his mind without really thinking about it. If he had any plans at 5:00, they certainly didn't matter now that he was spending time with Chun-Li. "How about you?"

    "5:00 would be perfect," Chun-Li chimed happily before hanging up. "I'll see you then: be sure to wear some clean clothes!"

    Ryu held the phone to his ear for some time after Chun-Li hung up, only snapping out of his trance when the phone started beeping at him signaling that the call had ended. I don't believe it?but I think I just asked Chun-Li out on a date, Ryu thought as he finally put the phone down and turned to Yang. I guess it's too late to back out on it now: looks like I'll be discovering first-hand whether or not I see Chun-Li as anything more than a friend.

    "?thanks for giving me a push, Yang," Ryu said as he handed Yang his cell phone and reached over for his white duffle bag still sitting on the sidewalk. Slinging the duffle bag over his shoulder, the wandering warrior realized that he had a destination to go to. "I actually feel a lot better now that I've at least made a move."

    "Don't mention it," Yang said with a smile before slipping on his roller blades that were sitting next to Ryu's bag and skating away. "You be sure to treat her right, you hear!"

    (continued next post)
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Though he had been to Hong Kong many times before, Ryu never got tired of the intense beauty that surrounded him every time he entered the area. In addition to being on the cutting edge of technology and modern society, Hong Kong also possessed a deep natural beauty that captivated the martial artist, and apparently many other people who chose to make it the setting of their movies or television shows. Whenever Ryu had a chance to step away from the urbanized parts of the region, he would make his way to the parks that displayed the type of artwork that could only be created by nature, with the powerful cities and lights acting as a backdrop.

    Lifting out his hand to catch one of the falling cherry blossoms coming from the old tree he was training under, Ryu let out a content sigh before dropping the blossom and continued throwing punches. The power of nature was very much like his own martial art: it could be kind and gentle in one instance, but ruthless and unforgiving in others. Though his martial art was rooted in Ansatsuken, the art of destructive assassination, Ryu's master Gouken recognized the importance of finding balance to create a complete experience for his practitioners.

    When Ryu became aware of the dangers of only showing the "yin" side of combat, the part that craves victory at all costs and would destroy everything in its path, he took steps to hone his fist so that he would find the balance that would earn him certain victory while at the same time protecting his opponents from unnecessary harm. Instead of continuing to use the Metsu Hadoken to destroy opponents, I created the Denjin Hadoken to merely knock them unconscious, Ryu thought as he turned towards the tree and gathered his energy, his hands crackling with power. After a few seconds of building up his energy into a ball of static-like ki, Ryu let loose his attack and watched it collide with the tree. There is no need to create an attack that destroys everything: you only need an attack that ensures victory.

    The tree crackled with power as the Denjin Hadoken connected with it, giving it a weak illumination like someone hollowed it out and put a light inside of it. However, the crackling eventually subsided, and the tree returned to its original state. Walking towards the tree and rubbing where the Hadoken hit, Ryu let out a sigh of relief and gently pounded his fist against the tree. Just as there must be a balance between wanting to win and wanting to destroy, there must also be a balance between being devoted and being obsessed. Twice now I've been told that if I want to continue advancing as a warrior, I should stay here in Hong Kong and spend more time with Chun-Li.

    As he looked down at his white gi, Ryu realized that he'd forgotten something important. I don't think I told Chun-Li exactly where in the park I'd meet her. She must be wondering where I am, he thought worriedly as he tried to figure out a way to contact her. He didn't carry a phone (despite Ken's insistence that he should change that) and there weren't any pay phones anywhere in the area. I guess if I keep on training, she'll be able to sense my ki and she could find me like that?

    "Ryu?"

    There she is, Ryu thought as a smile formed across his face, hearing Chun-Li's gentle voice from behind. I guess doing a bit of training before she arrived helped her find me. Turning around to face his most gracious host, Ryu started speaking. "Thanks for coming out here, Chun-Li. I'm sorry it was on such short notice, but that it would good if?if?"

    As he laid eyes on Chun-Li, Ryu's voice trailed off as he entered a stunned trance. Instead of wearing her usual modified blue qipao, or her casual clothing of a t-shirt and jeans, the Chinese warrior was instead wearing a stunning sapphire Mandarin gown, with the design of a phoenix going up from the bottom up etched in silver lining. Gone were her combat boots and spiked bracelets, instead replaced with black slippers and light stockings. I've never seen her wear something like that before, Ryu thought as his cheeks turned red, noticing how the dress seemed to hug her body and accentuate her curves. She looks like?a goddess?

    "Why?why are you wearing that?" Ryu managed to say after a long silence.

    "I was trying to figure out what I was going to wear for Gen's passing?but then I remembered something Dee Jay once told me," Chun-Li answered with a smile as she ran her fingers across the smooth silk of her dress. "Death is only the beginning of another journey, because the death of the mortal body is the passage to immortality of the soul. Instead of worrying about how Gen is about to pass on, I thought it would be better for both his soul and mine if I celebrated how he's finally going to be rid of that sickness-driven body by wearing this outfit that I wore when I was working at Gen's restaurant a while back."

    Don't stare, Ryu, the Japanese martial artist turned his head to the side, trying his best to not look at how the dress hugged her body, making it quite easy for him to see the outline of her breasts. Just think of it like staring at the sun: no matter how bad you want to look at it, you can't because the consequences are severe.

    "Is something wrong, Ryu?" Chun-Li tilted her head curiously as she noted Ryu turning away, not to mention blushing like a stoplight. "You're turning really red?"

    "Um?everything's fine, Chun-Li," Ryu said after a moment to collect himself, turning his head back around to make eye contact with the woman who in his eyes was very rapidly becoming something more than a friend. After another moment of silence between the two, Ryu mustered up the courage to say something. "That dress looks very beautiful on you, Chun-Li. I'm happy to see that you're not dwelling over Master Gen's passing."

    "Well, I already cried my tears out, thanks to you," Chun-Li said with a smile before slowly assuming a fighting stance. "So?if you're in your gi, I'm guessing you called me here because you wanted to spar. We haven't duked it out in a long time?too long, I think. I've learned so many new moves that I want to show off to you?and from what I've seen from you on TV with the third tournament, you've got some new stuff to show me, as well."

    "Yeah?I guess I am in my gi," Ryu replied as the blushing finally subsided and he felt confidence seep back into his system. There's no way I could find the right words for this kind of moment?so I'll convey them through my moves, he thought as he tightened his black belt before pulling down his red combat gloves. It doesn't have to be something intense and all-out: I just need to do enough to show her how I feel, like the wind. I don't need to blow her away?just a gentle breeze for my feelings will be enough to get through. Putting a smile on his face, Ryu entered his fighting stance and motioned for Chun-Li to come at him. "Let's do this, Chun!"

    Shooting out both her palms while leaning in, Chun-Li fired off a football-sized Kikoken at Ryu to start things off. Ryu had seen the attack many times before and while it was potent attack, he felt no fear or anxiety as it came at him. Rather than cancel it out with a Hadoken or jump over it, Ryu instead decided to block the attack and feel the ki attack brush against him. It?doesn't hurt at all, he realized as he lowered his arms and felt the tingling sensation going through them. Her ki feels different, like a splash of water gently brushing against me instead of a solid hit.

    In a way, the Kikoken was exactly what Ryu was seeking: a display that didn't overwhelm the recipient, but did just enough to make its point. Chun-Li was telling Ryu how she was feeling: in control, focused, and content. Let's see if I can return the favor, Ryu thought as he focused his energy into the Hadoken he had used countless times before. He didn't need something forceful like what he'd use to punch through a barrage of attacks, or something overwhelming to take out multiple opponents. All Ryu needed was just enough force to make himself known to Chun-Li.

    "Hadoken!"

    Unleashing his gathered energy, Ryu watched the ball of energy travel to the woman that had done the same to him. Chun-Li stared at the projectile to a point where Ryu wondered if she had suddenly frozen up like a deer caught in a car's headlights. However, when he noticed the confident smile on her face, he realized that she wasn't intimidated by it, but instead waiting for it just as he waited for her Kikoken.

    Lifting her arms as if to embrace the attack, Chun-Li caught the Hadoken full-on and closed her eyes to shield herself from the flash. "...that feels pretty good," Chun-Li said as she opened her eyes and watched the last remnants of the sparkles fade away. "Every other time I've taken a Hadoken, it feels like someone punching me in the chest. But this Hadoken is different?it's more like a tight embrace, like you'd get from a family member or?"

    "?or what, Chun-Li?"

    "Or from someone that really cares for you," Chun-Li replied softly, her cheeks turning red as she realized what she was saying. "Your Hadoken is different from what it used to be: it's calm and soothing, like a gentle stream of a river, or the wind on an autumn day?" After a moment of losing herself, Chun-Li shook her head and charged forward. "Let's do some hand-to-hand sparring! Hope you're ready for this!"

    As soon as she was within striking distance, Chun-Li lifted her leg and unleashed a standing kick: one that was easily parried by Ryu. While the kick possessed enough force to show that it indeed came from Chun-Li's thickly muscled legs, he could tell that it wasn't a kick that was meant to hurt him. It was a friendly kick, that was more of a proper greeting than an actual attack. As Ryu's eyes met Chun-Li's, he smiled and pushed the leg away to counter with a punch.

    Chun-Li moved her head to the side as the fist narrowly brushed against her cheek. Over the years, Ryu's punches had become revered by street fighters, being that they were able to carve a permanent mark into the mighty Muay Thai Emperor, Sagat. As Ryu's gloved brushed by Chun-Li's cheek and hit a cherry blossom falling from the nearby tree, the woman realized that, like her kick, the fist wasn't meant to hurt him. In fact, when the punch hit the blossom, it only pushed it away like a strong wind instead ripping it apart.

    The next few minutes that followed consisted of more punches and kicks, thrown with conviction and confidence but lacking any type of violent intent. From the sweat glistening from their foreheads, to the sounds of blows smacking against bodies, it certainly seemed like they were engaged in an intense street fight. If an observer would look closer, however, it would seem that the fight was more like an intricate dance, like two artists playing with each other to express themselves.

    And throughout those minutes, Ryu found it easier and easier to get lost in his thoughts. A day before, Ryu told Chun-Li that he would be her shoulder to cry on whenever she was sad. Because of that offer, she quickly learned to dry her tears and move on with her life. Now, Chun-Li was returning the favor by telling him in essence the same thing, only she was telling it with her fists. Ryu might not have been sad in the strictest sense, but the uncertainty that was wavering in his heart since he arrived in Hong Kong was being washed away by their sparring.

    After it seemed that both of them had long since lost themselves, Chun-Li suddenly broke away with a snapping flip kick that bopped Ryu in his chin and caused both of them to step backwards. "This is?pretty refreshing, Ryu," Chun-Li said as she wiped the sweat from her brow. "You know, Sakura sparred with me a bit when she came over, and it was kind of like this: we were showing off what we could do without really hurting each other."

    "I'm glad that you're enjoying yourself, Chun-Li," Ryu replied as he also took a moment to catch his breath. "You looked downright miserable yesterday, so you don't know how much it means to everyone that you're back in a good mood." Once again resuming his fighting stance, Ryu lifted his hand and motioned Chun-Li to come at him once again. "I know you've still got some more left, Chun-Li! Let's get it on!"

    "Hmhm?careful what you wish for, Ryu," Chun-Li rubbed the bridge of her nose once before charging forward once again. "You know, you just might get-w-w-whoa!" As she charged forward, a bunch of cherry blossoms suddenly blew into Chun-Li's eyes, temporarily blinding her to a rock lodged into the ground. Tripping over the rock, Chun-Li lost her balance and started hopping uncontrollably in an attempt to keep from falling over.

    To her good fortune, Ryu was there to catch her and keep her from doing so. "Are you alright, Chun-Li?"

    "Yeah, I'm fine," Chun-Li replied. "Thanks for the helping?hand?"

    For once, both the stoic Ryu and verbose Chun-Li were at a loss for words as their eyes met, suddenly withdrawn from the world around them. She's so close?I can hear my heart pounding against her, Ryu thought, completely stricken by how beautiful Chun-Li looked, especially with the sun setting around them. I've been so absorbed in trying to find the answer to becoming strong, and traveling to find worthy opponents?that I've never noticed what lovely eyes she has?

    The moment continued to intensify as Chun-Li wrapped her own arms around Ryu, bringing herself even closer so that her body was pressed deeper against him. Her heart's racing, too?

    Ryu's eyes shifted down to Chun-Li's lips, realizing that they were gradually getting closer to him. No longer able to hold back what he was feeling, Ryu's eyes became heavy as he prepared himself to kiss her...until just as their lips touched, the sound of a bicycle ringing caused both of them to open their eyes, and re-introduce them into the outside world. Pulling away from each other and breaking their embrace, Ryu and Chun-Li realized that both their cheeks were burning.

    "I?on second thought, I think we've done enough for today," Chun-Li managed to say before putting her hand to her fist and bowing to Ryu. "Thank you very much for sparring with me, Ryu. I feel infinitely better than how I did yesterday, and it's largely thanks to you."

    "Um?it was my pleasure, Chun-Li," Ryu stammered out as he reached over for his white bag leaning against the cherry blossom tree that seemed to only amplify the moment between them. "Let's head back to the school. I'm looking forward to another sample of your great cooking!"

    Ken and Sakura were right: I was wondering what awaits me if I put the life of the vagabond aside, and by staying here in Hong Kong, I've found my answers, Ryu thought as he walked next to Chun-Li and left the park together. If there was any doubt in my mind before, it's gone now: I've spent too much time with Chun-Li, and now I've fallen in love with her?
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    OK, it came to my attention today that I forgot to upload chapter 5, so I've edited my posts to put Chapter 5 directly after Chapter 4. Go read it if you haven't yet!
  • mikrosmikros Yo, Joe! Joined: Posts: 1,010
    I had been too lazy to make in-depth comments before.

    I liked Gen?s scene a lot; not so much because of the explicit advice he gives but because of how Ryu sees his own future reflected on Gen. You pulled that one off really well.

    About the robbery, I think you should include a couple of lines where Chun Li is discarded as a negotiator for having been a policewoman (either the robbers recognize her or she fears she?s going to be recognized, depending on how well known she is in your setting). As much as Chun trusts Ryu, I?m sure that she would have preferred to handle the situation herself. It was her job, after all.

    Now a side rant related to the paragraph above. One of the reasons the official SF story is bad, is because Capcom has failed to respect each character?s home ground and specialties. If Akuma has more raw power than Zangief, that makes the Zangief character obsolete in all aspects of fighting, and that?s bad, very bad. If you made Ryu talk to criminals, dodge bullets or conduct an investigation better than Chun Li you?d be making her skillset obsolete, which would be unfun and dumb. You didn?t fall to this explicitly (i.e. you didn't show Ryu explicitly outperforming Chun in those feats), so I don?t know how close you are, but allow me to advice you to be careful in that aspect just in case.

    As for how people seem to magically be attracted to Chun-Li's school...well, in a world where there are people who shoot fire, ice, electicity, balls of energy, perform super jumps, and create tornados from their stomachs, sometimes things seem to work out like that XD.
    Yeah, in SFA3 everybody is in Thailand for no reason. I suppose that these people tend to meet each other, so it shouldn?t be a problem as long as they have something interesting to do or say. It's justified so far. ^_^-b
    OK, it came to my attention today that I forgot to upload chapter 5, so I've edited my posts to put Chapter 5 directly after Chapter 4. Go read it if you haven't yet!
    Lol, you had made me scratch my head as I read mentions to the skipped events. I though it might be a weird way to imply that some days had passed or something like that.:rofl:
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Mikros: I think I had Yang mention how the community saw Chun-Li as a their version of a superhero, so that could contribute as to why she didn't go in there herself. But I see what you mean.

    Chapter 9: Moments

    "It was a duel to see who would be the one to confess their feelings to Ryu. You can't go back on the rules of a duel, Chun-san, so you better make the most of your opportunity."

    Sakura's words echoed throughout Chun-Li's mind as she continued to think about what had happened at the park several minutes ago with her guest Ryu. When Ryu had called her to the park, she had naturally assumed that he wanted to spar with her in a natural setting. Being that he was wearing his gi when she found him, it was easy to think that it was the correct assumption.

    But as they trade fists, Chun-Li noticed something markedly different about him: his attacks had a subtle gentleness to them that she hadn't seen before during past sparring sessions with him. All of his attacks struck true and should have hurt given how powerful Ryu was, but Chun-Li didn't feel any type of pain from his attacks. In fact, she felt the exact opposite: his moves were comforting and soothing, like she was being made privy to his inner-most thoughts.

    As if that wasn't unnerving enough, there was the part where Chun-Li stumbled into Ryu's arms and became lost in his brown eyes. Chun-Li had always had a strong admiration for Ryu, with his dedication to martial arts and his kind personality. When she was in his arms, however, she noticed some other things about him: he was exceedingly handsome, and his touch felt warm to her. It was as if that, in that moment, she felt completely safe next to him, and there was no where else she would have rather been.

    We almost kissed, Chun-Li thought as her cheeks reddened upon thinking about that heated moment. Turning her head to see Ryu walking next to her, his bag still over his shoulder, the Chinese martial artist looked around forward to see that they were finally arriving at the school. The sun had just set below the towering buildings of the city, giving way to the cool darkness of night with the stars dotting the sky. The way Ryu's eyes sparkled?I just lost control of myself and felt myself get closer to him.

    Looking back on it, Chun-Li's feelings for Ryu probably stemmed back to a point long before where they were now. Even since she first met him after the first Street Fighter tournament, Chun-Li always found something beautiful about Ryu and his quest to become strong. Too often had she seen martial artists who fought only to inflict pain upon others, caring only for the thrill of dominating the opponent. With Ryu, who fought only to become stronger than what he was the day before, she was reminded of her father and how he always looked to a brighter tomorrow, even when surrounded by evil.

    During the time Ryu and Chun-Li spent together while cooperating to defeat Shadaloo, she acted as his guardian angel, staying by his side to support his self-conflict with the Satsui no Hadou while he in turn assisted her in fighting Bison and his henchmen. It was a mutual understanding that made them close friends, especially after Chun-Li lost her partner Charlie and she was left alone once again. Chun-Li had become so familiar with Ryu, monitoring his movements across the globe when it came time for them to separate, that Sakura asked her if she was his girlfriend.

    She didn't think much of that question back then, because her duties to Interpol took priority and she couldn't weigh herself down with frivolous questions while Shadaloo still existed. Years later, now that Shadaloo had been destroyed and Chun-Li had moved on with her life, Ryu had returned to her trying to decide what he should do if he wanted to end his vagabond lifestyle. Ryu could have gone to any one of his friends, Chun-Li thought as she and her companion reached the front gate of the chol. Why did Ryu choose to come see me?and better yet, why did I offer him a place to stay?

    "Hey, Chun-Li," Ryu called out to his host, breaking her train of thought and causing her to turn her head to him. Once he saw that he had Chun-Li's attention, Ryu pointed to a motorcycle parked outside of the front gate. "Are you expecting company?"

    "I don't?think so," Chun-Li said after a pause to see if she knew the bike. After deciding that she had never seen it before, the woman ran over to the bike and gave it a closer look. "Judging from the tag and license plate, it looks like this is a rental," she deduced, using her detective skills to their fullest. "I guess whoever came on this bike is just visiting."

    "Sharp as ever, kid," a gruff voice added as he stepped out behind the wall of the front gate and into the line of sight of the two martial artists. If his green wifebeater and camouflage army pants didn't give away his identity, his dog tags, American flag tattoos, blonde hair styled so that the top was flat as an iron, and stern face certainly did. "I'm glad to see that retirement hasn't dulled your senses."

    "You should know me better than that, Guile," Chun-Li said with a smile as she opened arms and embraced the US Air Force officer. "Just because Shadaloo is dead doesn't mean there isn't any evil left in the world. People like us have to stay vigilant just in case some scumbag tries to make trouble in the world."

    Both Chun-Li and Ryu were quite familiar with Guile: as Charlie's best friend, he had a grudge against Shadaloo that rivaled even Chun-Li's. In fact, some would say that his obsession with defeating Bison surpassed Chun-Li's grudge, bordering on fanatic behavior. Despite that, however, Guile commanded an immense amount of respect in the street fighting world: unless Bison was involved, he would remain cool under pressure no matter what the situation, and his stern nature made even the stoic Ryu seem like a party animal in comparison.

    "I see I'm not the only one who's been visiting you, Chun-Li," Guile added as he parted from the embrace and turned to Ryu. "It's been a while, Ryu: I see that you've taken some of my workout tips and added some muscle mass to that body of yours."

    "Yes, and I'm grateful for that," Ryu smiled as he lifted his armed and flexed his bicep. "Adding muscle has definitely given me some extra explosiveness to my attacks that I didn't have in the second tournament. On top of that, I take damage better than I used to and I don't get injured as often. Those tips you gave me on how to sculpt muscle using only the environment around you really did the trick."

    "Hmph! Of course it did the trick: I may seem like a grumpy closet case, but I know what I'm talking about when it comes to working out," Guile said with a scoff as he turned back to Chun-Li. "Unfortunately, I didn't come here strictly on a social visit: I wanted to see how Chun-Li was doing after being attacked by Juri Han." Reaching out to Chun-Li, Guile gently lifted her head with his chin to look at the fading marks on her neck. "Doesn't look too serious, but you never know what that psycho has up her sleeve. Did she stab you or anything like that?"

    "She didn't poison me, if that's what you're wondering," Chun-Li replied as she pulled her head away from Guile's hand. "She said that she was in Hong Kong under orders from the Illuminati, looking for someone. At first I thought she was after Ryu, but she already knew he was staying at my school so if she was going to make a move, she would've already done so."

    "So that crazy bitch now works for those fanatics?wonderful," Guile grumbled as he folded his arms and let out a grunt. "Damn it! Just when I thought the world was finally going back to normal, a new bunch of crazies are coming out of the woodwork to make things difficult for everyone."

    "If she comes by again and starts up trouble, I'll be sure to let you know," Chun-Li assured her former comrade before putting her hand on Ryu's shoulder. "Besides, no matter how good Juri might be, there's no way she'll be able to take on both Ryu and myself at the same time. Besides, I've also got Yun and Yang to help out, and if things really get bad I could give a shout-out to Fei-Long. We've got all the bases covered, Guile!"

    "I'm sure you do?but it's better to be safe than sorry," Guile said before turning back to Ryu. "Hey, Ryu, would you mind going inside? I'd like say something to Chun-Li in private."

    "If it involves Juri or the Illuminati, you don't have to worry about hiding it from me," Ryu replied. "If garbage like them is messing with my friends, then I'll do everything I can to protect them. If you're planning on taking them on, just say the word and I'll be with you every step of the way to help you bring them down."

    "Heh?don't worry, Ryu: I've fought with you enough to know that you can handle yourself when things get dicey," Guile allowed himself a rare smile and slapped Ryu on the shoulder before pushing him towards the front gate. "I just need to have a couple of minutes alone with Chun-Li about personal stuff. We'll talk again and catch up on old times tomorrow, OK pal?"

    "Sounds good to me," Ryu returned the smile with one of his own and started walking to the school. "See you then, Guile!"

    Once Guile was certain that Ryu was out of earshot, he turned back to Chun-Li and his smile disappeared. "How long as Ryu been staying at your place, Chun-Li?"

    "He arrived here last week saying that he was visiting, so I offered him a place to stay until it was time for him to move on," Chun-Li answered truthfully. "Since then we've spent a lot of time together just doing stuff like friends should. I'm learning a lot about him by being around him so much: a few days ago, he put a stop to a jewelry heist all by himself, and a couple of days before that, he protected my school from some crazy kid who used moves that kind of looked like yours."

    "Yeah, I've been hearing about some kid who's been using moves that kind of look like mine and Charlie?Remy, I think his name was," Guile said after recalling who Chun-Li was talking about. "I told a look at the kid's file, but I've never seen him before: it's probably just a coincidence. Good for Ryu to taking care of business, though: he would've made a fine soldier in another life."

    "?how about you, Guile?" Chun-Li asked as she realized that she hadn't seen Guile in quite some time, either. "How is your family doing?"

    "Jane is doing just fine: she keeps insisting that I get the other street fighters into social networking so could keep in touch with everyone, but I keep telling her that we're not interesting in that kind of stuff," Guile replied as he put a hand into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. Opening the wallet and pulling out a photograph, Guile showed the picture of Chun-Li to reveal him standing with his wife and daughter, though his daughter looked much taller and more mature than when Chun-Li last saw her. "As you can see, Amy is in high school, giving me the kind of headaches that only a teenage daughter could give their father."

    "She's grown up into quite a looker," Chun-Li added as Guile took the picture from her and put it back into his wallet. "I bet you're really proud."

    "It took me a while, but I finally remembered that my family is what's most important to me," Guile said as he put the wallet back into his pocket and folded his arms. "Speaking of family, don't you think it's time that you started thinking about forming one yourself? Someone as pretty and sweet as you shouldn't spend the rest of their days as an old maid: maybe you should ask Ryu if you want to do something, see how well he-"

    "Don't start with that, Guile," Chun-Li interjected, cutting off Guile before he could say what so many others had told her that week. "Ryu and I are just friends. If he wants to take it to the next level, that would be one thing, but so far he hasn't said anything and until he does, I'm going to-"

    "You and I both know that Ryu isn't the kind of guy to make the first move," Guile interrupted, his voice suddenly quite serious. "If you want something to happen in your life, you're going to have to be the one to grab it?what I don't understand is why you haven't." Seeing that he had hit a nerve with Chun-Li's eyes wavering, Guile pressed further. "What are you afraid of, Chun-Li?"

    "?I?I guess I'm afraid of getting hurt again," she finally answered after a long pause. "I've already lost my father, and we both know what happened to Charlie. If I did let someone else into my life?then I run the risk of being hurt if something were to happen to them." Another long pause came over Chun-Li, with Guile's gaze boring into her like drills. Clearing her throat to say something to break the silence, Chun-Li continued. "I have no problem with having friends or students to protect?but if I had someone more important in my life to worry about, then I don't know what I'd do if I lost them like I lost my father or Charlie."

    "Chun-Li?"

    "Yeah, Guile?"

    "WAKE UP," Guile's voice suddenly made a huge leap to a bellow, causing Chun-Li's eyes to widen in shock as she almost leapt out of her skin. Quite certain that he had Chun-Li's full and undivided attention, Guile's voice became stern, as if he were talking to a subordinate rather than a friend. "Bison is dead, and Shadaloo is gone. Believe me, it took me a long time to come to grips with that, but Charlie and your father's death have been avenged. I've finally learned to move on with my life and take care of what's important to me?but it seems you haven't."

    "W-what are you talking about, Guile?" Chun-Li protested, still shaken up by Guile's outburst. "I'm no longer a detective: I'm now raising the next generation to make sure that they don't deal with the same heartache that I dealt with! I'm making sure that when someone tries to attack the people they care about, they have the power to protect them. Don't you dare accuse me of not being able to move on!"

    "Then prove me wrong, Chun-Li," Guile retorted as he turned his back to Chun-Li and went for his motorcycle. "I'm happy that you're helping the next generation, but it's time that you helped yourself and let go of the ghosts." Lifting the kickstand and placing his butt on the seat, Guile revved up his motorcycle and drove away into the night, but not before he told Chun-Li one last thing. "I'm not going to tell you whether or not Ryu's the right guy for you?but the only person keeping you from finding out is yourself."
    (continued next post)
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    "I'm not going to tell you whether or not Ryu's the right guy for you?but the only person keeping you from finding out is yourself."

    Chun-Li continued to stare into the shower nozzle as it sprayed down upon her naked form. His words were certainly ironic considering how fanatical Guile had been in trying to prove that Charlie wasn't dead. Even after his superiors denied him further resources to aid in his search, Guile went alone into enemy territory against orders to find Charlie and prove to the world that everything turned out OK. It wasn't until years after the second tournament that Guile finally came to terms that Charlie was dead after finding no trace of him.

    So for Guile to tell her of all people that she needed to move on from his death was something that caused Chun-Li to think long and hard about herself. Before Guile asked me, I never really gave much thought as to why I haven't found someone to share my life with, she mumbled as she looked down at her fingers and realized that they were pruning. Deciding that was enough of an indicator that she had spent too long getting lost in thought, Chun-Li turned off the shower and stepped out onto the floor to begin drying herself off. Perhaps he's right: I haven't been able to move on, so I've been running away by drowning myself in my work.

    Running the towel through her long, silk-like hair that went down to her back, Chun-Li lifted her hand and ran her fingers across her lips, right where Ryu's lips had touched before they were so rudely interrupted and their kiss was broken before it could even start. "I can still feel him wrapped around me," she said out loud as she grasped herself, thinking back to what had happened earlier in the evening with his sparring session. "I haven't felt this way in so very long?maybe it's time I start being more honest with myself about Ryu and what he means to me."

    What had started as a friendly gesture to Ryu the previous week had turned into a blossoming relationship between the two martial artists. Chun-Li had become increasingly comfortable around Ryu's presense, divulging more and more of her personal thoughts to him as if he was someone that she had known for much longer. In return, Ryu had also opened up to her, taking conversations away from just business and more towards personal matters, as well as acting as her support whenever she felt despair.

    But that evening in the park was the first time Ryu had shown a physical interest in Chun-Li. Guile had claimed that Ryu wasn't the type of person to make the first move, but his actions at the park said otherwise, embracing her and preparing to kiss her. Or maybe I was the one who was about to kiss him, Chun-Li reminded herself as she finishing driving her body and reached out for her bra and panties. I was the one who hugged him back and got in closer, after all.

    After she finished putting her undergarments on and wrapped a bathrobe around her body, Chun-Li stepped out of the bathroom and into her bedroom. Whatever happened between Ryu and Chun-Li in the park had passed, and with it, the heat of the moment. Neither of them said much on their way back to the school, probably too overwhelmed by how intimate they became. After all, what kind of words could be said to possibly explain what had happened?

    As soon as Chun-Li was about to sit in her bed, she heard a rapping at her door that snapped her back to attention. "Chun-Li, it's me," the familiar voice of Ryu called from the other side of the door. "I?I need to talk to you about something. Please, open the door."

    Having a very good feeling what Ryu was going to talk to her about, Chun-Li quickly got off the bed and opened the door to reveal her guest, wearing that dragon t-shirt that he had became so attached to since Chun-Li bought it for him, along with a pair of black shorts that he had brought with him to Hong Kong. However, Ryu's profuse blushing told her that while he was decent, Chun-Li's bathrobe had come open to reveal her muscular, voluptuous form for him to see. At?at least I'm wearing underwear, she thought to herself as she quickly closed her bathrobe back up. How embarrassing would it have been if I gave him a full frontal?

    "S-sorry for looking," Ryu turned away in embarrassment. "I...I'll come in the morning and talk about it if that's what you want."

    "No, it's fine," Chun-Li said as she tied the belt of the robe up tight. Taking Ryu's shoulder and having him turn back to her to show that she was covered, the woman smiled gently. "We can talk like this: besides, I already have a feeling about what you're going to talk about. It's about what happened at the park, isn't it?"

    "Yeah?it is," Ryu nodded his head once and stepped into Chun-Li's room to sit on her bed. "I've been thinking a lot about what happened. Things got a little bit out of control and?maybe I got a little bit carried away. If I made you feel uncomfortable in any way back there?then I apologize from the bottom of my heart."

    HE got carried away?, Chun-Li thought with amusement as she noticed Ryu hanging his head down in embarrassment. He's more of a gentleman than I realized. I was the one who fell into his arms: I should be apologizing to him.

    "But?I just want to let you know that I've had an amazing time here so far, Chun-Li," Ryu continued, swallowing hard as he began to blush again. "I've visited so many places so many different times?but I don't think I've enjoyed myself as much as I have these past seven days. I've learned so much about you, and about myself. When I came to Hong Kong, I was worried about if I had hit a dead end as a martial artist?but when I'm spending time with you?"

    Lifting his head to gaze into Chun-Li's eyes, the woman noticed that, with the lamp shining against them, Ryu's own eyes seemed to glimmer like stars. "?when I'm spending time with you, that doesn't seem like as bad of a thing as it once did. If by some chance, I have to stay at this school for a long time to figure out what to do next?then it would all be worth it, because you'd be here every step of the way."

    ?this is it, Chun-Li thought as she became lost in Ryu's eyes, reaching out to put her hand around his. Leaning in closer to his face, Chun-Li closes her eyes and seized the opportunity. If there was a chance to see if what happened at the park wasn't just a fluke?then this is it. Time to make the most of it?

    Before Ryu could say anything, Chun-Li pressed her lips against his and engaged the kiss that should have happened earlier in the evening. Once it was clear that nothing was going to interrupt them, Chun-Li placed her other hand on Ryu's back and pulled him in closer as gave him a taste of what they missed in the park. He doesn't know how to react, she thought as she deepened the kiss while she felt Ryu's hand cautiously place itself around her waist. This must be his first kiss?

    Feeling herself getting lost in the moment, Chun-Li leaned in so that she was pushing Ryu down onto the bed, deepening the kiss as she felt Ryu's resistance drop completely and return her kiss. This feels good?it's like being filled with a gentle breeze, she thought as she gently broke the kiss and looked into Ryu's eyes once again. Earlier in the week, Ryu's eyes had a tinge of uncertainty to them, especially after encountering Remy. Here in her bed, that uncertainty was gone, replaced by a gentle gaze that made her feel at ease.

    Pressing her lips against him once again, Chun-Li's buried herself deeper into the moment and reached for Ryu's shirt, pulling it off of him while her bathrobe once again found itself becoming undone. As she took his shirt and tossed it to the side, Chun-Li pressed herself against Ryu's exposed abs and smiled. This feels sooo good, she hummed in her mind as Ryu began running his fingers through her hair. He's so gentle: I didn't think a tough vagabond like him could be such a sweetheart in bed.

    The two martial artists continued to let their passions speak for themselves, kissing each other passionately and their deep friendship that had accumulated over the years bloom into a full-on romance. It seemed that everywhere each of them turned, one of their peers would suggest that there was a spark between them, and each side denied it. It wasn't until now, years after they had met, were they nurturing the spark into a full-on flame.

    "Chun?"

    Chun-Li heard her name whispered into her ear by the wandering warrior that had finally found his ultimate destination. It wasn't on a battlefield swarming with enemies, or an area filled with worthy opponents: it was here in Hong Kong, in her arms. Why should either of them deny what had been building up over the past week? They were both far too advanced and experienced to hold back their feelings, especially when the feelings in question were as pure as these.

    Slipping her bathrobe off completely so that her body was completely against Ryu's bare chest, Chun-Li started to reach for her bra?but Ryu put her hand around hers and called out once again. "Chun," he whispered as he gently pulled her hand away and back onto the bed. "I think?that's enough for now. Everything is happening so fast?I don't want to rush into things."

    His words were enough to bring Chun-Li back from whatever high she was feeling to the reality of the fact that Ryu was now lying on her bed with her on top of him, while she was wearing nothing but her underwear. "I?I'm sorry, Ryu," Chun-Li stammered as she leaned over to reach for her bathrobe. "Now it's my turn to apologize to you for getting carried away?I think the craziness of the past couple of days is-"

    Chun-Li was cut off by Ryu's hand grabbing onto her wrist and bringing it closer to him. "Don't apologize, Chun-Li: you did nothing wrong. To be honest?I really enjoyed that, and I wouldn't mind doing it again later." Using his strong arms to bring Chun-Li closer to him, Ryu allowed Chun-Li to feel his heartbeat before he continued. "But for now?I think we should just enjoy the knowledge that we at least discovered how we feel about each other. We can figure out the rest later?"

    "?yeah," Chun-Li nodded her head once while Ryu reached out and pulled the blanket of the bed over them. "I think you're right, Ryu. It's been a wild day, and we need a moment to collect ourselves. We don't want to go headlong into things when we're only now discovering that there's a spark between us." Reaching her arm over to the lamp by the bed, Chun-Li switched it off and bathed the room in darkness. "Good night, Ryu."

    Leaning her head down on Ryu's chest and listening to his heartbeat while he wrapped an arm around her, Chun-Li closed her eyes and allowed herself to drift off to sleep with him. Bison is dead, she reminded herself as she became lost in Ryu's heartbeat. He won't be able to take Ryu away from me?not this time.
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Chapter 10: Nightmares

    He's here.

    The clouds parted in the night sky to reveal the full moon, bathing down lunar light on the classical architecture of the school. Ryu found himself alone in the courtyard, with the school turned to his back. The wandering warrior didn't think that HE of all people would come seek him out, especially at a place like this. It doesn't matter, he thought as he clenched his fists as felt the evil presence becoming closer and closer to him. I've waited a long time for this, and I'm definitely not going to fall here.

    "Behind you."

    With his eyes shooting wide open, Ryu spun around to strike the source of the voice calling out to him. Lifting his leg into the air, Ryu delivered a spinning roundhouse kick to his attacker's hand, altering his aim and successfully causing his ki to fly off to the side instead of into his face. Hearing the blast of ki explode against the wall of the school, Ryu lifted his fist and attempted a punch?but his opponent vanished in front of his eyes, leaving Ryu to punch through his afterimage.

    "No more games, Akuma," Ryu shouted as he turned back around to find his attacker. Even if his enemy could disappear and reappear at will, he couldn't hide from Ryu's ability to sense ki. "Show yourself and face me with honor!" Not that Akuma would know anything about that, Ryu added bitterly as he scanned the area, focusing his thoughts so that he could find his nemesis. He murdered his own brother just for the pursuit of strength. Anyone who does something that horrible doesn't deserve to be called a warrior.

    "You dare accuse me of lacking honor, whelp?" Akuma's voice boomed, echoing throughout the school and into the inner corridors of Ryu's soul. "What does that say about you, who refuses to fight with everything they have in battle?" Turning in the direction of the voice, Ryu fired off a Hadoken hoping to strike his attacker. This time, the Hadoken was swatted away like a fly, where it detonated against a tree and forcing it to explode into splinters like it had just been struck with lightning.

    Though his dark aura obscured his features, it wasn't intense enough to keep his red eyes from glowing like the pits of hell, staring a hole into Ryu's consciousness. "Akuma," Ryu whispered as he lifted his fists and assumed a fighting stance. "I don't know why you've come here, but I'm going to make you regret it. There are children who go to this school, and I'd rather die than let you ruin it."

    "Then defend it, whelp," Akuma growled as he bared his fanged teeth for Ryu to see. There was a time when Akuma was an ordinary human, like anyone else, but his pursuit of power via the forbidden art of Ansatsuken, the Satsui no Hadou, turned him into something noticeably different. No ordinary human could do the things that he was now capable of, or radiate the overwhelmingly evil aura that even the most oblivious of martial artists could detect.

    Just as the name suggested, he had become a demon.

    Lifting his own hands and entering his fighting stance, Akuma's eyes burned even brighter, almost blinding Ryu. However, it wasn't enough to keep Ryu from charging forward with his ki swirling around in his right fist. Once he was in striking distance, Ryu crouched down slightly and prepared to take out Akuma with his Shoryuken. Unfortunately for Ryu, Akuma wasn't interested in receiving the attack and drove his palm into Ryu's face just as his feet let the ground, sending Ryu sprawling backwards with his nose bloodied.

    "Too slow," Akuma grunted as Ryu landed on his hands and kipped back to his feet, the blood already streaking down his mouth. "If you intend to protect this place, you'll have to do better than that." With his aura intensifying so that it appeared that he was being engulfed in blood red flames, the renegade warrior once again dematerialized and disappeared from view. Ryu tried to focus to see where he went, but he was still dazed from the palm he took a moment before, making it almost impossible to sense him.

    Almost, but not completely. Hearing the sound of Akuma's animalistic breathing coming at him from behind, Ryu lifted his leg and spun around into the air, covering all sides of him so that he couldn't receive a sneak attack. Even as Ryu sailed through the air with his Tatsumaki Senpukyaku, he could still hear Akuma's rapid footsteps following him. As soon as I hit the ground, I'll be made vulnerable to attack, he thought as he felt his momentum failing. He'll be counting on that to strike?so I'll just have to surprise him.

    As soon as Ryu felt his feet touch the ground, the wandering warrior clenched his fist once again and turned around to deliver a devastating straight right into Akuma's jaw. Being that he had been running full force after Ryu, he didn't have time to slow down and he received the full brunt of the attack. "Got you," Ryu shouted as the man-turned-demon was sent flying away, bouncing off the tiled ground like a rock skipping against the water before landing on his feet and skidding to a halt.

    "Your fist lacks devotion," Akuma chastised the warrior as he stood back up. Rather than assuming a fighting stance, the demon merely folded his arms and frowned. "I have given you much time to hone your fist into something worthy of my time, and yet you attack with such a feeble punch. Dispappointing?"

    Damn: my attack didn't even leave a mark, Ryu cursed as he ran towards Akuma, cupping his hands to form another Hadoken. What is it going to take to faze this guy? Even though Ryu was coming at him crackling with power, Akuma refused to unfold his arms, instead patiently waiting for the younger fighter to come at him. Whether it was out of contempt for the wandering warrior or simply because was arrogant enough to think that Ryu was of no threat to him didn't matter: there were crimes that he had to answer for, and Ryu was going to make sure he paid the price.

    Suddenly and unexpectedly, Akuma jumped high into the air just as Ryu pushed his hands forward for a Hadoken. "NO," Ryu screamed as he realized the Hadoken was going to crash into the school. Lifting his hands upwards just before he launched his ki, Ryu watched his Hadoken veer into the air like a missile being launched from a war boat. Time seemed to stand still for him as he watched the Hadoken go farther into the air, hanging on a prayer that the fireball wouldn't hit the school. When the Hadoken skeeted past the tiles of the roof and faded away from view into the night, he let out a sigh of relief?

    ?though his relief was short lived as Akuma came plummeting back down from his aerial roll and grabbed into Ryu's shoulders. Using the rotational momentum from his Demon Flip, Akuma flung Ryu over his shoulder and to the tiled ground, watching him crash down onto his back. "Your fists lack devotion, because you are not willing to fight with everything you have. What is so wrong about going into battle with all your powers at the ready!"

    "Fighting with everything you have isn't fighting at all," Ryu retorted as he once again flipped back to his feet and resumed his fighting stance, the blood from his nose now staining his teeth. "If we don't show restraint when in battle, then we're nothing more than animals attacking each other!" Wiping the blood from his mouth with his gloved hand, the wandering warrior's eyes narrowed. "I'm not like you, Akuma: I'm not going to sell my soul to become tough!"

    "Then you will suffer a dog's death, Ryu," Akuma once again vanished from view, leaving Ryu once again to wonder what direction he was coming from. Less than two seconds later, Ryu found his answer when he heard Akuma let out a fearsome shout directly behind him. Turning around with his leg lifted for a kick, Ryu received Akuma's Tatsumaki Zankukyaku right to the side of his head, knocking him off of his feet like he had just been hit with an axehandle. Not only was the attack strong, but it was fast, hitting Ryu multiple times to a point where he was still ascending into the air while Akuma landed on his feet.

    "GOU SHORYU!"

    Akuma let out another roar as he struck the airborne Ryu with his own lethal variation of the Shoryuken: the Go Shoryuken. Not merely content with the power lying within his physical self, Akuma ignited his attacking arm so that it was consumed in his lethal purple ki. As a result, the violet flames added a terrifying burning sensation to the agonizing pain delivered from the Go Shoryuken, causing Ryu to let out a shout of pain as he was struck in mid-air and propelled further upwards.

    Ryu crashed down hard onto his back as Akuma landed on his feet, his ki still surrounding his body. "If you were a truly ready to face me in battle, you would use everything at your disposal to achieve victory," the demon said as Ryu struggled back onto his feet, still feeling the effects of the flurry of forbidden attacks he received. "Our style's purest form is stained in blood and death. Gouken was a fool for denying Ansatsuken's true purpose?just as you are a fool for not embracing it!"

    "S-shut up, demon," Ryu spat back as he grit his teeth trying to push himself off the ground. The techniques Akuma used were rooted in assassination: people weren't supposed to survive being on the receiving end of them. The fact that Ryu could still move, much less breathe, was a testament to how much he had been training to defeat the renegade warrior. "I'll never accept that: I'd sooner die myself than stain my soul with the lives of others!"

    "?we will see how long you hold onto that," Akuma grumbled as he turned away from Ryu, instead looking at the hole in the wall of the school that his Hadoken had left earlier. "I have noticed that you have neglected your training, whelp: instead of searching for worthy opponents to test your strength against, you have instead made residence at this school, where there are only children instead of warriors?"

    Ryu said nothing as Akuma looked out at the wall, pensively staring at it with those crimson eyes. Akuma was many horrible things, but one thing he most certainly was not was a killer of children. Why would he suddenly turn his focus away from Ryu to talk about the school?unless?

    "Akuma," Ryu sputtered out as he felt the demon's evil ki rise sharply, his body being engulfed in power like he was self-combusting. "Akuma?what are you doing? The people here are of no threat to you! The children-"

    "There are no children here in the present," Akuma interjected before planting his feet into the ground and entering a horse stance, gathering all of his destructive ki into his hands. With his aura blowing Ryu backwards like a thistle in the wind, the renegade warrior bared his fangs and spoke once again. "This school is only made of stone and metal: it can be rebuilt over time. For you, however?the damage will stay with you for eternity!"

    "Akuma?NO!"

    Ryu's protests fell on deaf ears as Akuma unleashed his hellish energy into a surge of power that didn't just damage the wall, but spread around the wall like an electic current going through a fire. Completely and utterly breathless, Ryu watched in abject horror as the walls of the school were completely engulfed in flames. All of those children's hopes and dreams for the future, Ryu thought bitterly as the sight of the fire etched itself deep into Ryu's psyche, they're burning away, and I couldn't do a thing about it!

    When Akuma lowered his hands to assess the damage, seeing the flowers burn and the statues melt and contort, Ryu thought that the demon had finished his work, and charged forward to attack. "MONSTER," Ryu screamed as he took to the air and lifted his leg, this time putting his ki into the Tatsumaki Senpukyaku and giving his foot a powerful glow. Due to how powerful the move was on its own, being able to clear forests like a buzzsaw, Gouken forbade Ryu from pouring his ki into the technique. However, Ryu's grip on reality was quickly slipping, washed beneath a waterfall of anger and sorrow that he felt towards Akuma.

    Just before Ryu's attack would have connected, Akuma once again leapt into the air and evaded the wandering warrior's attack. "Come down and face me, demon," Ryu hissed before pouring his rage into his ki, which in turn swirled around his hands and kicked up violent winds around him. Ryu had abandoned the Metsu Hadoken years before due to how difficult it was to perform without seriously hurting an opponent, but right now, what Ryu wanted more than anything was to "seriously hurt" Akuma.

    "TENMA," Akuma roared before unleashing a hailstorm of ki blasts onto the school itself: the same place that Ryu had been staying over the past several days, and where his host Chun-Li had called home. Unable to contain his anger, Ryu let out a fearsome shout before unleashing his Metsu Hadoken onto the airborne Akuma. This time, Akuma did not swat away the attack, as he was too occupied in destroying the school. Akuma paid for his narrow-mindedness by taking the full brunt of Ryu's attack and having it explode around him in a massive burst of purple energy.

    Finally stopping Akuma's assault, Ryu turned to the school and dropped to his knees in despair as he watched it literally go up in flames. "What was it all for," he whispered bitterly as he looked down at the tiled ground. Lifting his mighty arm, the wandering warrior pounded his fist against the ground and repeated what he had said, as if he was expecting an answer. "What was it all for, all of my training and hard work? Did I come this far just to fail everyone close to me!"

    Ryu cursed himself as he continued pounding his fists against the ground. Had he not been so worried about the damage done to his surroundings, or went all-out right from the start instead of holding back until the last minute, Ryu might have prevented the school from being engulfed in flames. Fighting with everything he had with no restraint was exactly the sort of thing that led down the path to the Satsui no Hadou?but with something precious to stake, would fighting to preserve it be worth the price to be paid?

    "?the true warrior enters the arena with all of his power at the ready."

    Ryu shot to attention as he heard Akuma's voice echo throughout his ears, his body, his mind, and his heart. Even the untamed destructive power of the Metsu Hadoken wasn't enough to take him out, it seemed. Standing back up and scanning the area for his nemesis, Ryu felt his heart racing even faster than it had been earlier when engaged in combat. The demon had now not only taken away his master's life, but now he had destroyed Chun-Li and her student's dreams and hopes for the future by destroying her school. "Show yourself, Akuma," Ryu shouted once again, both his fists radiating with power. "Show yourself and let me break your face!"

    "Now you're starting to see things my way, warrior," Akuma's seemingly disembowled voice called out to Ryu, confusing and angering him further. "We all fight for something, whether it be power, wealth, fame, glory, family, or just the thrill of victory. For many years now you have become stronger and stronger, yet you are no closer to your ultimate goal than you were when you were a mewling puke. That is because you fight just for the sake of fighting: this way of thinking is cyclical and you will forever wander the world seeking answers that you are blind to but have always been in front of you?"

    With those words fresh in Ryu's mind, the smell of perfume filled the warrior's nostrils as someone appeared in front of him that was decidedly not Akuma. Instead, it was a stunningly beautiful woman wearing a blue qipao with her long brown hair flowing in the wind. "Chun-Li," Ryu whispered as the woman smiled at him, not saying anything despite how her school was burning behind her. Even in the madness of the moment, however, Ryu felt his rage subside and his heartbeat calm down. No matter how horrible seems things seemed, as long as she were alive, there was hope for the future. This held true not only for her students, but for Ryu, as well.

    So enamored was Ryu with Chun-Li's presense that he didn't sense Akuma hovering towards him, his entire body engulfed in black energy. "?Ryu," Chun-Li said softly as she turned her head to see Akuma coming at him. Realizing what was happening, Chun-Li sprang into action and pushed Ryu out of the way, protecting him from the onslaught that was rapidly approaching. "Ryu?watch out!"

    Rolling onto his feet, Ryu looked up to Chun-Li in confusion?but when he saw Akuma grab onto Chun-Li's neck literally dripping dark energy, he knew immediately what was going on. There was a blinding flash of light, coupled with the sound of Chun-Li's blood-curtling screams and the sounds of fists ripping into flesh. "CHUN-LI," Ryu screamed as he ran towards where Chun-Li had been standing, the screams telling him where she was even when he couldn't see her. "AKUMA?STOP IT!"

    When light finally faded, Akuma had disappeared?but in his wake, he had left Chun-Li lying on the ground, her dress stained with blood with her eyes glazed over in death. Scooping up the woman in his arms, Ryu shook her vigorously in desperation and sorrow. "Wake up, Chun-Li! Say something!" However, Chun-Li did not move, whether it be a twitch of the finger or even the rising and falling of her chest for breathing. As the awful reality of the situation seeped into Ryu's mind, the warrior started screaming. "Chun-Li! CHUN-LI!"

    "Temper your fist with a purpose and a destination," Akuma's voice boomed as Ryu felt his blood boil and his vision turn red with fury. Even as Ryu's screams became ferocious howls, the voice of the Master of Fists continued. "Otherwise, you will be unable to meet your destiny as the true martial artist?and all you will bring about is suffering to yourself and those you hold dear?"

    (continued next post)
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Ryu's eyes shot open as he let out a gasp and felt his heart pounding. Noticing the darkness surrounding him instead of the glow of flames, Ryu's eyes shifted from left to right and noticed that he was no longer in the courtyard of the school. I'm in Chun-Li's room, he thought with relief as breathed in something sweet. Looking down to see where the scent was coming from, Ryu saw Chun-Li sleeping peacefully next to him, with her head resting on his chest. While that would have been enough for any man to feel at ease, Ryu felt something dark and ugly well up inside of him. Just a few hours ago, this woman was giving me my first kiss?and just now, I dreamt about her death at the hands of Akuma.

    There were so many bad things about the nightmare Ryu had just awoken from: the overall uselessness of his attacks against Akuma, the inability to prevent the demon from destroying the school, the sense of dread Ryu felt as he got pummeled. However, the two most disturbing things about the dream were easily watching the murder of Chun-Li before his eyes and feeling himself fall into the murderous rage of the Satsui no Hadou shortly after. Even though Ryu had violently rejecting anything to do with the dark arts, watching the woman's demise was enough to push a man over the edge.

    That wasn't the kind of nightmare that happens at random, Ryu thought as he took deep breaths to regain control of himself, doing his best to take comfort in the knowledge that Chun-Li was still breathing next to him, warm and healthy as opposed to bloody and lifeless. It's the kind of nightmare that's trying to tell me something?and I know exactly what that message is.

    After the conclusion of the third tournament, Ryu began asking himself a serious question: what is the meaning of true strength? Did it come from rigorous training and devotion? Did it come from having something or someone to protect? Perhaps it came from fighting for a cause. As he watched his best friend Ken become a loving parent, and as a result become stonger than ever, Ryu started to ponder when and if he would find time to settle down and start a family of his own. Enlightenment was a goal that all martial artists strove for, but it was useless without someone to pass it on to.

    Ryu had thought he had put those questions aside when he started staying in Chun-Li's home, putting his obligations as her friend before his obligations as a wandering warrior. Now that his view of the woman had blossomed into something much more than a friend, those questions were coming back to literally haunt him in the form of a terrifying dream. No matter how much he wanted it to go away, Ryu still had to keep a promise that he made on his master's grave. As long as Akuma was still out there waiting for their final showdown, Gouken's death would be unavenged and Ryu would continue to fight.

    Chun-Li?, Ryu leaned down and gently kissed Chun-Li's hair before carefully maneuvering his body to get out of the bed without waking her up. Please forgive me for what I'm about to do. Though it took some very slow and careful movement, Ryu was able to put his legs out onto the floor while at the same time removing Chun-Li's head from his chest and onto her soft pillow. The woman muttered something unintelligible as her face fell into the pillow, and Ryu worried for a moment that Chun-Li was waking up. However, the muttering ceased as quickly as it started and she went silent again safe for the light breathing of sleep, causing Ryu to let out a sigh of relief.

    Using all of his training to stealthily step out of the room, Ryu entered his own room and gathered his things. For as long as I can remember, I've come and gone from so many different places, Ryu thought as he started packing his belongings into his bag, being extra careful not to take anything that didn't belong to him. Once he got to the dragon shirt to Chun-Li bought for him, however, Ryu hesitated and felt his heart sink like a rock in the ocean. So why is it that, even though I know that I can't stay here?that I feel so horrible leaving?

    Realizing the longer he stayed, the more painful it would be to leave, Ryu slipped the shirt on and put his gi over it. Any doubt that Ryu had about his feelings for Chun-Li had been erased the day before, and he was now certain that he was in love with her. When Ryu asked Ken years ago what it felt like to be in love, as Ken had resolved to get married to Eliza, he described it as the absolute best feeling a person could experience. "Master Gouken is always talking about finding enlightenment?well, falling in love has to be the closest thing to it because when you feel that way about someone, there isn't anything in the world that can top it."

    What Ken didn't tell me was how at the same time, it can be more devastating and horrible than getting hit in the chest with a battering ram, Ryu thought as he closed his bag and headed for the kitchen, turning on the light so that he could see the telephone on the counter. If I do this, I will have hurt Chun-Li in a way that would make the worst trouncing in the Street Fighter tournament seem like a tickle in comparison?but if I don't do this, I might put both of us in danger, and there's no way I could live with myself if that happened.

    Picking up the phone on the counter, Ryu dialed the number that he had dialed many times before in the past. Being that the caller on the other end was also in Hong Kong (at least as far as Ryu knew), it would also be very early in the morning from him, as well. A part of Ryu wished that the caller wouldn't pick up on the other end, then he could write off his leaving as a bad idea he could stay with Chun-Li as long as he wanted. However, it was a part of him that Ryu did his best to ignore: no matter what his heart was telling him, this was something that must be done.

    "Uuuh?hello, Ken Masters speaking," a voice on the other end of the phone answered groggily.

    "Ken, it's me," Ryu said solemnly.

    "Ryu? It's 3:30 in the morning," the voice of Ken replied, sounding more conscious than he did a moment before. "It's not like you to call this late. What's up?"

    "I need you?I need you to make arrangements for that plane trip I was telling you about when it was time for me to move on from Hong Kong," Ryu said after fumbling with his words a bit, finding the request much more difficult to make than he would have the week before. "I need to out of Hong Kong as soon as possible: first thing in the morning, if it's possible."

    "'First thing in the morning?'" Ken repeated with a hint of confusion in his voice. "It shouldn't be a problem, but it's not like you to suddenly rush into a plane ride on such short notice. What's going on? Did something happen between you and Chun-Li?" There was a long pause from Ryu, giving Ken a reason to worry. "Hey Ryu? You still there?"

    "?yes, Ken," Ryu responded quietly, trying his best not to wake up Chun-Li. "Remember what said when you came over to the school, that if I stayed here I'd find the answers I'm looking for. Well, I think I've found them: I've fallen in love with Chun-Li, and I really think that she feels the same way about me?but I can't stay here with her just yet."

    "?you didn't make her pregnant or something, did you?"

    "What?" Ryu raised his eyes in surprise as Ken's voice asked such a ridiculous question, though there wasn't anything humorous about his voice. "Ken, don't joke around like that. You know I'd never do something like run away from that kind of thing."

    "I was just checking, Ryu?but don't think I wouldn't kick your ass if you did knock her up and you tried to high-tail it out of there. I had to make adjustments for when Eliza was pregnant with Mel, so I would expect the boring half of Master Gouken's pupils to do the same," Ken grumbled before his voice became more clear. "If you've in love in her, why in the world would you leave her?"

    "?it's Akuma," Ryu answered, his voice low with grim fatalism. "I just had a nightmare about that monster murdering Chun-Li and destroying the school. There's no way I can just ignore something like that: it's my subconscious reminder that until I've defeated Akuma, the 'Master of Fists,' I can't move on with my life?no matter how badly my heart tells me that I have to stay."

    "You think that if you stay in Hong Kong, Akuma will come after you himself and endanger Chun-Li," Ken surmised before a pensive pause came from his end of the line. The voice that returned was a concerned whisper. "You've been in contact with Akuma more often than I have: do you think he'd do something as terrible as that?"

    "Akuma has killed people before: he murdered Master Gouken just to send a message to me that I should nurture the Satsui no Hadou that scarred Sagat instead of rejecting it like I have," Ryu reminded his friend as his eyes shifted to the mounted picture of the teenager Chun-Li standing next to her father. "There's no guarantee that Akuma won't do the same to Chun-Li and this school if he thinks it would get a rise out of me."

    "?not only that, I'm sure a lot of other Street Fighters would come after Akuma's head?giving that guy the 'ultimate challenge' he keeps looking for," Ken added grimly. "OK, Ryu: I'm going to call the airport now and get that ticket plan of yours ready so that you'll be leaving pretty much as soon as the sun comes up. Are you at least going to say goodbye to Chun-Li before you go?"

    "I?I can't," Ryu's voice started cracking as the topic of Chun-Li suddenly became too much for him to bear. "If I had to say goodbye to her, especially now that I know how I feel about her?there's no way I'll be able to go through with this. I have to leave now, before she wakes up: I think it'll be better for both of us if I was gone and she wasn't there to see me leave." Clearing his throat and doing his best to regain his composure, reminding himself that crying would only wake up the beautiful woman in the other room, Ryu strengthened his resolve. "If I just leave a note explaining what's happening, and something for her to keep safe for me?then she'll know that I have every intention of coming back when this is over."

    "If that's what you feel like is the best option, then I won't stop you," Ken said as Ryu opened up the notebook next to the phone and tore out a sheet of paper. "I should have the tickets in your e-mail account within the hour for you to print out. Just remember that if you do this, you absolutely have to come back alive. This isn't just about some friendly rivalry between you and more, or the promise of a rematch to Sagat?this is about coming back to Chun-Li because you care about each other. If for some reason you don't come back from this?then Chun-Li is going to feel it for the rest of her life."

    "Don't worry, Ken: I have no intention of dying to a fiend like Akuma," Ryu assured his friend. "Goodbye, Ken?and in case I don't make it back?I want you to tell Chun-Li that-"

    "You can tell her herself when you return, because you WILL be making it back. Safe travels, Ryu?"

    Hearing the receiver click on the other end, Ryu slowly hung up the phone and focused on the piece of paper. Once the pen was in his hand, the wandering warrior poured his soul out onto the words and created a note for his gracious host that explained the situation. In a way, it was easier than speaking to her because expressing his thoughts on paper was always easier than doing it verbally. In another way, it was harder because it might be the last time Ryu ever communicated with Chun-Li.

    Don't think like that, Ryu, the wandering warrior reminded himself as he completed the note and left it next to the phone. You will be coming back?and to prove it, you'll be leaving something with her that you'd otherwise never part with.

    Steeling his nerves, Ryu quietly went back into Chun-Li's bedroom to see that he was still sound asleep, holding something very important to him in his hand. The red headband that Ken gave to him as a gift had seen countless battles, and had become Ryu's trademark over the years. It acted as the binding to a promise he made to Ken to who would become the world's strongest fighter first. This belongs to you now, Chun-Li, he thought as he carefully placed the headband down on the pillow next to Chun-Li and headed out the door. This is my promise to you that I'll come back to you safely?so that I can tell you how much you mean to me in person.
  • mikrosmikros Yo, Joe! Joined: Posts: 1,010
    I just cheated and read it at DA :wgrin:

    I loved how you gave Dan the respect he deserves :woot:,
    although it's very little plausible that he was able to hold a rushing Chun Li long enough at the airport, even goofiness aside.

    It was great to see Ryu using some Dan inspiration later
    You could have named it "Kikosho Goku", as in the EX series. Now that I mention those games, it would have been cool to see Hien Shuus somewhere
    I've got to say that I went "meh, yet another unlikely encounter" when Alex appeared. I guess it might have been a bit dull to have Ryu alone as he set the castle on fire, but I wonder if it could have been done through first person thoughts
    I find the magical changes of clothes unnecessarily cheesy, but I suppose that's the sentai touch.

    Getting a Shichisei Senku Kyaku to the face as you charge forward must hurt lots. :lovin:

    So... how long before she dumps Ryu? :rofl:

    That was a great work. :clapdos:
    There's not going to be a honeymoon chapter, is it? :rofl:
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    In response to Mikros'
    I suppose if Chun-Li wanted she could have barreled through Dan. Guess I didn't go for that in favor of the sad moment
    I haven't played an EX game in quite some time, but I remember seeing it called the Cho Kikosho so I went with that. If it's really called the Goku Kikosho (which is what the attack was supposed to be), then I'll change it to that when it comes time for the SRK update
    I felt it necessary to include Alex in the chapter as I thought it would be a proper sendoff to Ryu's career as a street fighter, by facing the man who would be his successor as the World Warrior like Capcom tried to make Alex in SF3
    I wish I could say that the reason "Bison" can change clothes is because he has Rose's DNA now and she could do it too for some of her win poses...but I'd be lying. I just thought it would be cool since I looooove me some Sentai :D
    Something I've learned a long time ago is that it is incredibly hard to make those kind of chapters without it either sounding a) unintentionally hilarious or b)really, really cheesy. The stuff that happened in Chapter 9 is as far as I'm willing to go with THAT kind of action because 99 times out of 100, they come off as stupid.
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    ,Chapter 11: Goodbye

    Chun-Li moaned lightly as she opened her eyes and awoke from her slumber. Turning her head to see the alarm clock, the woman noticed that it was only seven o'clock in the morning: still too early for her to be up and about, especially with no classes that day. The bed feels so warm, she thought with a smile as her thoughts drifted back to the night before, where she enjoyed Ryu's company both in sparring and in bed. I could definitely get used to waking up with?with?

    As Chun-Li rolled over to get a look at the man she kissed, her eyes widened when she noticed that he wasn't there. Instead, all that was left of him was the red headband that he kept with him almost constantly. "Ryu?" she called out her guest's name as she grabbed the headband and stepped out of the bed. Quickly covering herself with a t-shirt, Chun-Li stepped out of her bedroom and entered the kitchen. She had heard stories from her colleagues about men staying with their girlfriends just long enough to take what they wanted and leave. Ryu wouldn't do something like that?would he?

    Don't think like that, Chun-Li, the martial arts master told herself as she spotted a piece of paper spread out next to the phone. You know Ryu better than that: he's probably out doing some exercises, or buying some groceries. Walking over the phone and picking up the piece of paper, Chun-Li recognized Ryu's handwriting and told herself that it was probably nothing. Unfortunately, as she read the note, she realized that it was most certainly not "nothing," rather quite the opposite.

    Chun-Li,

    When I first came to Hong Kong, I was had become lost on the path to becoming a true martial artists: I had seen countless battles and made some amazing friends, but I felt no closer to finding the answers to the questions I've asked myself since the days of my childhood. What was the meaning of true strength? What did someone have to do in order to obtain it? What is meant by the words "to live is to fight, and to fight is to live?"

    When you offered me a place to stay, I didn't think too much of it: you and I have known each other for years, and helping each other had become as natural as saying hello. Please know that even before this past week, I would have done anything for you. If you were ever hurt, or needed someone to raise you up when you fell down, or there was a fiend that had to be taken down that you couldn't handle alone, I would have run to your side and fought next to you even if it was a god on the other side of our fists. After staying at your school, and getting to know your students, I started thinking about how amazing their sensei must be to make them so polite and sweet.

    After Remy came over to the school and attacked me, telling me his story about his father abandoning his family to pursue the martial arts, the doubts I had coming into Hong Kong were increased dramatically. All my life, I've devoted myself to achieving true strength of mind, body, and soul. I've met countless warriors along the way, each of them fighting for something different. But at the same time, I've also met countless people who had nothing to do with fighting, who offered me a place to stay or gave me food when I was hungry. What if I was hurting them by not staying around longer, already thinking about the next fight?

    That's why I made an effort to stay in Hong Kong longer than usual, and perhaps longer than I should have. As I started to spend more time with you, I started noticing things about you that I hadn't noticed before. You are strong, brave, and had a strong sense of justice?but at the same time, you're graceful, kind, and beautiful. The longer I was around you, the stranger I started to feel. When Ken and Sakura came to visit a few days ago, they told me that I should stay at your school, and eventually the answers to all my question would be made clear.

    After last night, when I held you in my arms, I found the answer to my question. True strength comes from having something to fight for. I've always fought for the sake of the fight and the thrills and experiences that come with it. While I don't doubt that I've become a strong fighter because of it, there's a limit to how far this can propel me, and that's why I haven't felt like I've come any closer to my goal than I was when I first started. Now I have something better to fight for, and that's you.

    But I can't completely forsake my old life just yet. I've already told you about Akuma, and how he murdered his own brother, my master Gouken. This wasn't just a random act of murder: it was a message to me and Ken that he'd be waiting for one of us to challenge him. You've already lost your father and your partner to murder, so you can understand the need to avenge them. However, I'm not just doing this for Master Gouken: Akuma has already decided that I'm the better challenge between myself and Ken. What if he did to you and this school what he did to Master Gouken, just to send another message to me?

    I have to face him, and defeat him once and for all, or I'll never be able to move on with my life. I'm not strong enough to say goodbye, but what I can do is make you a promise: I will return to you as soon as Akuma is out of my life forever. As proof of that promise, I'm leaving my headband in your care. That headband was given to me by Ken as a bond of our friendship, and through that headband, I have made so many promises to other warriors that we'd have a rematch someday. By giving you that headband, I am putting all of those promises aside for this one promise that I'm making to you.

    Take care of yourself, and look forward to my return,

    Ryu.

    Even though Chun-Li had already had a very lengthy cry two days before when she witnessed Gen's final words, that horrible sinking feeling in her heart was coming back to make her feel like crying again. This was a situation that was even worse that Ryu simply being a scumbag that took what he wanted and ran. Chun-Li had already lost two people she cared about to evil: losing someone for a third time would have driven her over the edge and was the reason why she was careful not to let in anyone closer than friends.

    When she went to bed with Ryu, she told herself that Bison was dead and could no longer haunt her. However, she had forgotten that Bison's own killer Akuma was still at large, and he was still very much capable of hurting her through Ryu. Bison was, at one time, believed to be the most powerful fighter in the world. If Akuma was the one that killed him, did that mean that Akuma was even more terrifying? As strong as Ryu was, could he possibly stand up to someone like that?

    Don't cry, she told herself and she took a deep breath and tried to figure out what to do. Ryu couldn't have gotten too far: he must have written this only a few hours ago, so he couldn't have already left the region on foot. He would have needed a way to fly out to Japan: who could he have contacted to get him a plane ticket on such short notice? Chun-Li closed her eyes and used her skills of deduction that had earned her renown as a detective, clearing her mind of any unnecessary thoughts and focusing only on the map that she was creating in her mind on possible ways Ryu could leave the country.

    After a few seconds of narrowing down the choices, Chun-Li opened her eyes and lifted her phone, immediately bringing forth the caller history. There's a number on here that isn't from this area, she thought as she racked her thoughts once again to see if she recognized the area code. Once she was sure that she had never seen it before, Chun-Li instead pressed the "Send" button on the phone and called the number. It didn't really matter where the number came from: the only thing that was important was if the number would lead her to someone that could tell her where Ryu is.

    Come on, Chun-Li impatiently tapped her finger on the counter as she listened to the tone on the other side of the line. Pick up, whoever you are. Give me something I can use!

    "Hello, Ken Masters speaking," the voice on the other side of the line finally said. Ken Masters answering the phone immediately confirmed Chun-Li's suspicions as to who Ryu could have called in order leave the country as quickly as possible.

    "Ken, it's Chun-Li," the woman blurted out as she watched the clock continue to tick by, reminding her that she was running out of time to stop Ryu from doing something that could spell his end. "I need you to tell me where Ryu is. He left me a note saying that he was going to face Akuma!"

    "?he's a fighter, Chun-Li: he comes and goes as he pleases," Ken responded nonchalantly, though Chun-Li had been in police work more than enough to know when someone was holding in some kind of anxiety. "Ryu and I decided a while ago that he'd be the one to beat Akuma and avenge Master Gouken, and I think he's strong enough to take him down. Just give him some time and he'll be back-"

    "I'm not kidding around here, Ken," Chun-Li interjected with her voice filled with frustration. "Ryu told me that Akuma was the one that killed Bison. You and I both know how frighteningly powerful he was: it took so many of us just to keep him occupied long enough to destroy his base. Do you really think that Ryu could take down someone who killed Bison all by himself!"

    "?we need to have faith in Ryu," Ken replied lowly once it was clear that his air of confidence wasn't going to fool anyone. "There's a reason why people call him the 'World Warrior,' Chun-Li. If there's anyone in this world who could realistically take down Akuma, it's him. Believe me, I'd like to be there with him taking him on, but it's something that has to be done alone. If Ryu doesn't defeat him, one-on-one, then Akuma will never stop chasing him."

    "I know?but," Chun felt herself trip over his words as the tears started to well up in her eyes again. Using all of her willpower and training to keep herself from crying, the woman continued, "?but I at least need to try and talk him out of it! Destroying Shadaloo and avenging my father was a team effort: I think it's only fair that we do the same when avenging your master's murder!"

    "That's not going to fly, Chun-Li. We both know that Ryu isn't going to-"

    "PLEASE," Chun-Li's voice suddenly rocketed to a desperate shout, immediately quieting Ken on the other line. The next time Chun-Li spoke, there was a croaking overtone to it that made it clear that she was on her wit's end: something that even Ken on the other line could notice. "I've already lost two people I cared about to murder. Even though I know Ryu has to do this in order to find peace?I have to just see him one more time, before he goes?so please tell me where he is, Ken."

    There was a long and uncomfortable silence on the other end of the line, and for a moment Chun-Li worried that Ken had hung up on her without her noticing. "Ken?I know you care about him, too," Chun-Li whispered as she broke the silence. "You're the only one who'd be able to get Ryu out of the country on such short notice. I need to at least watch him leave?"

    "?you know, the reason Ryu didn't wake you up last night was because he didn't want you to worry about him," Ken finally responded to Chun-Li's pleas with his own voice low and solemn. "If you really want to see him, though, he's going to be boarding a plane at the Hong Kong International Airport, Gate 26. The plane leaves at 8:30, so you better make tracks."

    (continued next post)
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    I don't have much time left until boarding time, Ryu thought as he looked at the large electronic clock mounted outside of the bathroom he just walked out of. I better head over to my gate so that I don't miss my flight.

    Though it was difficult to find a place that would allow him access to a computer during the very early hours of the morning, Ryu eventually stumbled across a 24-hour cyber café after leaving the school, giving him the means to print out his plane ticket that Ken provided for him. True to his word, Ken was able to give Ryu the means to leave Hong Kong as soon as possible, though Ryu called Ken later to make a slight adjustment to his flight.

    He would be returning to Japan, but his flight would be via a two-day "delay" in Thailand. While defeating Akuma was the biggest thing on his to-do list, Ryu had to make sure that he wasn't running to his death. When it comes to gauging how far I've come since the first Street Fighter tournament, there's only one fighter I can really rely on. We've fought so many times over the years, and each time our battles could have gone either way. The only way I'll be able to have faith in myself against Akuma?is if I defeat that one fighter, decisively and without dispute.

    So engrossed was Ryu in thinking about his rival in Thailand that he didn't notice someone accidentally bump into his shoulder when he passed by. "Hey, watch where you're going, pal," a loud and boisterous male voice called out, breaking Ryu's train of thought and forcing him to turn around. "You can't just go bumping into people like that without saying you're sorry!"

    "Oh, uh?I'm sorry about that," Ryu said as he bowed his head in apology and made eye contact with the stranger. "I guess I wasn't pay attent?ion."

    Ryu's voice drifted off as the two men recognized each other. The stranger that bumped into Ryu, wearing a pink karate gi with a black belt and undershirt, and long brown hair tied back in a ponytail, was not really a stranger at all. "It's you," the man blurted out as he walked towards Ryu while at the same time obliviously bumping past other pedestrians. "Sakura told me that you were in town, but I guess you just couldn't help but follow in the same footsteps as the Master of Saikyo-ryu, Dan Hibiki!"

    Like Ryu, Dan Hibiki was a street fighter that once trained with Master Gouken, though his early expulsion from the school led him to create his own martial art called "Saikyo-ryu," roughly translated as "the Strongest Style." While Saikyo-ryu had a fancy name befitting for someone as confident as Dan Hibiki, the founder's own martial arts record was less than rosy. He had gained a reputation among the street fighting community as having more bark than bite, and was treated as a joke as a result.

    To those who knew him better than that and looked past the bravado and taunting, however, Dan was a dedicated fighter who understood more about the deeper meaning of martial arts than he was willing to let on. It was from Dan that Sakura learned the art of ki projection, and it was with his guidance that Sakura delved into the world of street fighting so that she could search for Ryu. Even though most of the other street fighters found Dan annoying, Ryu owed Dan a great deal for keeping an eye on Sakura and making sure she stayed out of trouble when he couldn't protect her.

    For that, Ryu would always see Dan as his friend, even if the feeling wasn't entirely mutual.

    "It's been a while, Dan," Ryu said as he outstretched his hand in friendship. "How have you been?"

    Looking at the hand with a perplexed look, clearly not expecting Ryu to shake his hand in friendship, especially with how often Dan would say that Ryu's moves were just a cheap knock-off of his own when it was more like the exact opposite, the Saikyo-ryu fighter cautiously reached out and clasped the hand in a slow handshake. "I?I've been just fine, thanks for asking," Dan answered before pulling his hand away and flexing his thick biceps. "It's been a long road, but I've finally opened 30 Saikyo-ryu branches across Eastern Asia! People are coming from all over to learn from the master and take the glory of Saikyo as their own!" Lowering his arms and reaching into his sleeve, Dan pulled out a business card and handed it to Ryu. "You should come over to one of the main schools in Japan: I bet kicking your butt would get a lot of publicity!"

    "Heh?I'll think about it," Ryu said as he put the card in his own gi, bringing Dan's attention to the white t-shirt he was wearing.

    "Hey, Ryu, what's with the shirt?" Dan's voice suddenly became belligerent, as if Ryu had offended him in some way. Seeing the look of confusion in Ryu's eyes, the Saikyo-ryu master pointed an accusing finger at Ryu. "You're trying to steal my fashion sense, too, aren't you! First you imitate my moves, and then you wear a shirt under your gi just like I do! Can't you anything original!"

    "?what are you talking about?" Ryu blinked once as he noticed the rage boiling in Dan's face as he marched over to him and got in his face. Feeling Dan's hot breath coming down on him, the wandering warrior's confusion continued to well up. "I wasn't even thinking about you when I put this on. This shirt was just a gift from-"

    "Look, just play along," Dan's yelling suddenly dropped to a cautious whisper, his eyes shifting from left to right as curious bystanders started to gather around them. "I'm going to Brazil to visit Jimmy and I need to keep interest in my school high so I can still have business when I get back. I'll make it up to you later."

    Looking at the clock to see how much time he had left until it was time to board his plane, and then to the terminal a few meters away that he needed to be at, Ryu smiled and tossed his bag to the side. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were challenging me to a street fight, Dan," Ryu said as he jumped away and assumed his fighting stance. "Show me what you've got! Come at me with everything you have!"

    "That's right, Ryu," Dan shouted as he pumped his fist and flexed his bicep once again. "I'll show you, and the world, that nothing can beat the Glory of Saikyo!" As soon as he finished taunting, Dan charged forward with his fist raised, immediately giving away his method of attack to Ryu. He's going to just charge forward and see what I've got, Ryu thought as he exhaled and waiting for Dan to come at him. Once Dan had entered striking distance, Ryu reared back his fist and prepared to attack. If nothing else, Dan's guts are master-level.

    As as a result of Ryu's patience in attacking and Dan's lack thereof, the two martial artists wound up punching each other in the face full-force, making a loud thud as their gloved hands collided with each other like hammers. The recoil of the attack send Dan sprawling backwards until he rolled across the ground and stopped on his bottom. Ryu, on the other hand, stumbled backwards several steps before regaining his footing and rubbing his jaw. "Ow?that was a pretty good punch," Ryu said as Dan groggily stood back up, "You've been practicing since the last time we met, haven't you?"

    "?SHUT UP," Dan screamed before wincing in pain, noticing that the spot where Ryu tagged him was turning purple. "Don't diss the power of Saikyo!" Charging his blue-green ki into his left hand, the master of Saikyo-Ryu thrusted his arm forward and hurled a baseball-sized ball of energy towards Ryu. The "Gadoken" had often been described as an inferior version of Hadoken, even by Dan's friend Sakura who went so far as the call it, "the Hadoken's handicapped brother." It would often disappear as quickly as it reappeared, thus making it a very poor substitute for the original technique taught in the Ansatsuken that Saikyo-ryu was rooted in.

    However, this Gadoken traveled considerably farther than what Ryu was used to, surprising him enough to lift his hands up and block the attack instead of waiting for it to peter out like it normally would. Ryu let out a soft grunt as the Gadoken bumped against his arm and burst into sparkles. Not bad, he thought as he lowered his arms to see Dan charging at him once again. His Gadoken feels more like a solid hit than the quick slap that it usually feels like. Let's see what else he's got.

    Hopping into the air once he was within striking distance, Dan lifted his knee and attempted to bop Ryu with a quick Dankukyaku. Unfortunately for Dan, Ryu didn't hesitate this time and he safely ducked under the attack only to rise back up and strike Dan right under his chin with a Shoryuken. While Ryu normally shot for the heavens with his Shoryuken, he instead decided to jump only a few feet into the air for the attack so that he didn't drive Dan's lower jaw into his brain. Sakura probably wouldn't appreciate him sending Dan to the emergency room before he left, though she might have thanked him for forcing doctors to wire his jaw shut.

    When Dan crashed down onto his shoulders instead of landing on his feet like most everyone else did when taking such a light move, Ryu wondered if maybe he applied too much force. "?Dan?" Ryu called out when he noticed that the pink-clad warrior hadn't yet gotten up from the attack. Walking over to Dan and standing over his fallen body, Ryu noticed that his eyes were rolled up into the back of his head. "Are you OK? Dan!"

    Suddenly, Dan's eyes suddenly returned to their normal position, his eyes suddenly burning with vigor. "KORYUKEN," Dan screamed as he launched himself off the ground and high into the air, striking Ryu hard underneath his chin with a flying uppercut just as Ryu had done to him. He was playing possum, Ryu thought as he sailed through the air like he had just been hit with a golf club. With both fighters landing on their feet, Ryu tasted blood in his mouth and realized that he had lacerated his tongue when the attack connected. He might have become stronger, but he's still the same Dan at heart.

    Already seeing that Dan was charging towards him, Ryu lifted his leg and spun around for his Tatsumaki Senpukyaku. Even if Dan himself had become stronger, his moves were still just imitations of moves that he had been using for years. Using the real thing would give Ryu a serious advantage, unless Dan had invented moves that weren't linked to the original art at all. Hearing Dan skid to a halt as Ryu spun towards him, the wandering warrior waited for his kick to connect against his body.

    What he received instead was yet another Koryuken that hit the inner part of his knee, eliciting a shout of pain from Ryu as he careened through the air and flopped down onto his face. Attacking Ryu's spinning leg with another Koryuken was nothing short of reckless and downright foolish, but somehow Dan managed to get the job done and knock Ryu out of the air. I'm going to have to try that with my Shoryuken the next time I face Ken, Ryu thought as he stood back up, though a sharp pain went through his leg when he did so. I wonder if that would work on Akuma, as well?

    Seeing Ryu stumble a bit as he put pressured on the attacked leg, Dan once again hopped into the air and delivered a jumping knee followed by two aerial sharp kicks to Ryu's head and shoulder, his completed Dankukyaku. With Ryu still feeling the effects of getting a Koryuken to his knee, Dan landed on the ground and performed a second Dankukyaku, this time with all of the attacks hitting Ryu's head with the final kick knocking Ryu over like he'd been hit with a club.

    Brushing the cobwebs out of his head, Ryu stood back up as best he could with only one good leg and fired off a Hadoken to provide at least some kind of respite from Dan's assault. It was a desperate ploy that would have normally been avoided by skilled fighters, but Dan took the full brunt of the blue fireball and stumbled backwards to give Ryu some room to breathe. "I bet you think you're so tough because your fireball is bigger than mine," Dan shouted as he angrily shook his fist at Ryu while the wandering warrior gingerly bent his leg to make sure nothing was broken. "Well...well, size isn't everything, you know!"

    After deducing that everything was where it should be in his leg, Ryu charged forward and gathered his ki into his hands. Suddenly I can see how Dan could have defeated Gen, Ryu thought as he watched Dan rear back his fist for a shuttle punch, holding his other arm out in front of him. Dan might be a goofball, but if you give him an inch to breathe, he's capable of pulling off an upset. I better get serious before I wind up on my face and-w-w-whoa!

    Just as Ryu was about to strike, he felt something bump up against his leg, once again causing him great pain and forcing him to lose his footing. Stumbling towards Ryu uncontrollably, Ryu turned his head to see an umbrella hanging out of a suitcase that had passed by them and cursed his luck before turning back just in time for Dan's right fist collided with his body, over and over again until his arm became faster than the eye could track. "DANRETSUKEN," Dan gave voice to his attack as his right-handed barrage pummeled Ryu all across his body.

    However, instead of concluding the barrage with one final strike, Dan instead continued the barrage, with every hit becoming slower and lighter. When the final hit did come, a pushing kick that knocked Ryu onto his bottom, Dan put his hands on his knees and took deep, tired breaths. "H?how about that?buddy," Dan gasped out as he heaved to get some air in his lungs. "What?do you think?of my?Danretsuken?"

    "To be honest, Dan," Ryu said as he pushed himself off the ground and wiped the sweat from his brow, "I'm really impressed with what you've shown me so far. You've created some pretty cool moves that no one else has, and you've even added some new tricks to your repertoire. To me, that's the sign of a true martial artist." Dusting himself off and resuming his fighting stance, Ryu gave Dan a friendly smile. "I'm really enjoying this battle so far, Dan: thanks for challenging me!"

    "Hmph! We'll see how long you say that after you see my new surefire victory move," Dan said before inhaling and exhaling deeply, swirling his arms around clockwise while his ki flashed in his hands. His ki has risen greatly: looks like he's ready to put this away. Planting his feet and letting out a sigh of relief now that his leg had stopped throbbing, Ryu focused his own energy and prepared for Dan's attack. I better do the same if I don't want to wind up on my back.

    "Haooooooooh?" Dan let out a deep breath before suddenly sucking inward and thrusting both of his hands forward in a wide arch, unleashing his gathered energy in a wave surge of power. "?GADOKEN!"

    Unfortunately for Dan, while his attack was wide and impressive-looking, it wasn't wide enough to keep Ryu from jumping into the air and successfully vaulting over the Haoh Gadoken. "T-that's not fair," Dan stammered as he watched Ryu flip over his surefire victory move without any kind of damage. "You can't just dodge my awesome move and expect to-"

    Dan's protests were put to an end as Ryu drove his fist down onto Dan's face, immediately following with a swift Joudan Sokutou Geri ? the Sword Kick ? to Dan's sternum that sent him sprawling backwards. Noticing how much trouble Dan had getting up from the attack upon landing, Ryu charged forward and went in for the kill. He must have spent all of his energy on that Haoh Gadoken. Guess it's up to me to teach him that he can't throw it all out there if there's a chance the enemy can get away!

    "Why, you-"

    "SHINKU TATSUMAKI!"

    Dan attempted to stop Ryu in his tracks with another Gadoken, but Ryu was faster and delivered multiple propeller-like kicks to Dan's jaw with an enhanced Hurricane Kick. The fourth and final revolution sent Dan spiraling away headfirst into a trashcan, spiking him into the receptacle with his legs hanging out as a result. After some wilding kicking, the Saikyo-ryu Master managed to return to his feet?but the trash bin was still over his head and torso, preventing him from doing much of anything except stumbling around blindly?

    ?right into Ryu's Shoryuken, this time with all of the warrior's power behind him. While the trash bin absorbed the brunt of the impact, it was painful enough for Dan to yelp in pain as he was lifted upwards only to fall back down to the ground. "Denjin," Ryu grunted as both his hands started to crackle with blue electricity as he watched Dan fall to the ground beneath him. He couldn't leave anything to chance: if there was a time to deliver the finishing blow, it was now. "?HADOKEN!"

    Throwing his hands under him, Ryu unleashed his gathered energy onto Dan just as he hit the ground. Due to the electric properties of Ryu's Denjin Hadoken, as well as the metal properties of the trash bin, the Master of Saikyo received all of Ryu's power in the form of a very painful shock that caused him to convulse wildly while incoherent babbling sounds came from within the trash bin over his head. The convulsing didn't end until Ryu had already landed gracefully on his feet and resumed his fighting stance, and Dan fell to his knees before flopping over onto his face defeated, the trash bin still trapping him.

    When Dan didn't move thirty seconds later, Ryu started to worry that the pink-clad warrior was suffocating instead of the bin. Quickly running over to the fallen Dan, Ryu wrapped his hands around the bin and gave it a sharp yank to pull the bin away from him to reveal Dan's hair sticking up on end from his Denjin Hadoken. "Are you alright, Dan?" Ryu looked down at the Saikyo-ryu innovator who still had his face to the ground (though he was careful not to get too close, unless he wanted to get another sneak attack).

    "?DAMMIT," Dan screamed with such fervor that even the even-tempered Ryu jumped back a bit in surprise. The pink-clad warrior pounded his fist on the ground as tears streamed down his cheeks. "Why, why, WHY can't I beat you after all of this time! I've been training so hard?why can't I finally beat you and prove once and for all that I'm the strongest street fighter!"

    Before Dan's sobbing fit could get into full swing, Ryu reached down and placed a hand on his shoulder, causing him to look up in surprise. "You've become much, much stronger since the last time we fought," Ryu said with a comforting smile. "I had to really think on my feet to beat you this time: you've improved leaps and bounds and it was a huge honor fighting you, Dan."

    "You?you serious?"

    "You bet I am," Ryu outstretched his arm to help Dan back to his feet, with the Saikyo-ryu fighter looking at the hand perplexedly. "It's very easy to see why Sakura speaks so highly of you. Next time I'm nearby, I'll definitely stop by one of your dojos and watch you teach lessons. Maybe I can pick up a trick or-"

    "Now boarding, Gate 26 to Bangkok."

    Interrupted by the sound of a female computerized voice calling out the name of his flight, Ryu helped Dan back onto his feet and shook his hand one more time. "Dan, thanks for an interesting fight: I was in a bad mood and you really helped me shake off the cobwebs."

    "Well, uh?yeah, you weren't so bad yourself, pal," Dan replied with the same bravado he had when he the fight first started. "I was just going easy on you today because if you bled all over your flight, all of the attendants would be over you and you'd delay everyone. I'm not cruel enough to keep these fine people waiting on their flight just because I got carried away." However, Ryu wasn't really paying attention to Dan's excuses, instead focusing on a very, very familiar ki signature that was quickly approaching him. "Hey, Ryu! Pay attention when I'm-"

    "Dan," Ryu suddenly put both his hands on Dan's shoulders as he felt the ki signature coming closer. "Chun-Li is going to be coming over here very shortly: whatever you do, DON'T let her follow me into the gate."

    "What are you talking about?" Dan asked as he lifted his head to see what he thought was Chun-Li's head in the distance hidden in the sea of pedestrians (though with her hair buns gone, it was hard to be sure it was her). "I don't know what kind of issues the two of you have, but you better leave me out of-"

    "Dan?"

    Dan's protests were cut short when he notices Ryu's body trembling and his voice cracking. "Please?don't make this harder than it already is." Slowly lifting his head, Ryu's eyes wavered to reveal a very pleading, pathetic look that Dan had never seen before from the warrior. In fact, it was the sort of sad, desperate expression that would have been completely out of the character for the one known as the "Wandering Warrior" and widely hailed as the Ultimate Street Fighter.

    However, it was the kind of look that told even the foolhardy Dan what kind of situation Ryu was in. "Y-yeah, man. I understand." Dan nodded his head and patted Ryu's shoulder, signaling for him to quickly grab his bag and head for the terminal. Seeing the woman with the long brown hair that bore a striking resemblance to Chun-Li getting closer, Dan went into motion and put himself between her and Ryu.

    "Ryu! Get out of my, Dan! Ryu!"

    Ignore it, Ryu, the wandering warrior told himself as he did his best to turn a deaf ear to Chun-Li's protests. Keep telling yourself that this is for the better. No matter how much your heart aches?this is something that has to be done. Going up to the ticket counter and showing the teller his ID and ticket, the wandering warrior received approval to step onto the airplane with Chun-Li still calling out his name.

    "Ryu! RYU!"

    Unable to stomach it any longer, Ryu paused at the gate and slowly turned his head to see Chun-Li reaching out for him, being held back by Dan's strong arms. Their eyes met, and for a moment, it was as if everything around them stopped existing. The sadness in Chun-Li's eyes, telling Ryu just how much he was hurting her even after explaining things to her in his letter, was enough for the wandering warrior's heart to sink even deeper than it had earlier.

    He wanted to badly to run into her arms, and tell her that he'd never leave her side?but if he did that, all he'd do is run the risk of hurting her even worse later. Forgive me, Chun-Li, Ryu thought as he turned his head away and walked into the gate. I promise I'll make it up to you when I return.

    As Ryu heard Chun-Li cry bitterly into Dan's shirt, the wandering warrior felt tears well up into his own eyes, as well. I'm coming back, he reminded himself as he walked onto the plane and looked for his seat, his sad expression attracting the attention of some of the passengers. So why does it feel like that I've just left behind everything that matters to me?
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Chapter 12: Rival

    As the capital of the country of Thailand, Bangkok was by far the largest and most advanced city the nation had to offer. The architecture of the city was, to say the least, full of contrasts. On one hand, it posted several modern buildings and facilities befitting of a city its side. On the other hand, within the city were slums that looked close to forty years behind the times, ripe with crime and corruption. Even though the city claimed to be always looking for the future, Bangkok could never seem the shake off the impure factions that haunted them.

    One thing that everyone seemed to respected, no matter their allegiance to the law, was the art of fighting. In Thailand, the national sport was the powerful martial art of Muay Thai. No matter what direction the city of Bangkok went on, one thing that never changed was the immense respect Thai kickboxers commanded amongst the people. Warriors from all over the globe would come to Thailand to test their mettle against the might of Muay Thai, and there was no Muay Thai champion more renowned and feared than the mighty Sagat, who held the very first Street Fighter tournament to prove his might.

    Ryu's interest in Bangkok lay not in the city, but the ancient temples out the outskirts of it. This area holds so many memories, Ryu thought as he stepped away from the cover of the trees and entered the village that he had visited many times in the past: a good twenty-mile run from the city. It was in this village that the finals of the first Street Fighter tournament took place, where I gained worldwide fame and recognition and my reputation as a warrior was cemented forever.

    Ryu smiled as he remembered the anxiety he felt when he first entered the village so many years ago. He was so young and brash back then, having just received his Master Gouken's approval to leave the dojo and thus swelling his ego immensely. Ryu had been eager to make his mark on the world and see what other fighting styles had to offer. He ran into so many fighters during that first tournament: fighters that he had never seen the likes of before (or since, now that Ryu thought about it), and he defeated all of them to make his way to the tournament's head Sagat.

    The good times ended very shortly thereafter, with Sagat pummeling Ryu within an inch of his life like he was nothing more than a child. But it was at that moment, where Ryu felt his consciousness fading, that he lost control of his emotions and ripped a deep scar into the Muay Thai Emperor's chest with a forbidden technique, the Metsu Shoryuken. It was in this village that Ryu first tasted the power of the Satsui no Hadou, and it was here that Ryu's innocence vanished in favor of a deep-seated fear of the power that lurked deep inside of him.

    Walking into a field of tomatoes, Ryu looked at one of the stocks and picked off one of the fruits. The tomato was firm and healthy: a sign of the tender care that had been given to the farm. The wandering warrior took a whiff of the tomato and smiled: it smelled fresh as well, and he hadn't eaten since he left the Bangkok Airport that morning. Still, Ryu wasn't without his manners: he would need to ask the farmers for permission to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and thus he followed the rustling of the fields to where one farmer was hard at work.

    Seconds later, Ryu followed the rustling to a teenage girl with a deep tan and long black hair tied in a braid, wearing a gray t-shirt and a pair of jeans. "It's been a while, Chit," Ryu called out to the young woman, causing her to turn away from the hedge she was chopping down with her machete. Once he made eye contact with the woman, Ryu walked over and waved hello. "You've grown up quite a bit since the last time I saw you!"

    "Mr. Ryu," The young woman called Chit smiled back at the wandering warrior and embraced him in friendship. As her arms wrapped around him tightly, Ryu noticed how much thicker her muscles seemed since the last time they met, when she was just finishing up middle school. No doubt that the reason for her toned figure was working in the fields so much, caring for her tomatoes. Either that or she's been training with Sagat, Ryu surmised as he returned the embrace before the two parted. She and her brother spend so much time with him that it wouldn't be out of the question if he made them his pupils.

    Several years ago, very shortly after Ryu defeated Sagat, the Muay Thai Emperor found himself caught up in an illegal tiger hunt, where young children were used as live bait so poachers could lure in tigers for profit. Two of the children involved in the conflict were Chit and her older brother, with the latter being found critically wounded by Sagat while he was attempting to burn off his rage over his loss. Unwilling to accept such nefarious activity under his watch, Sagat then proceeded to completely destroy the tiger hunts and rescue Chit. Since that time, the two siblings had stayed by Sagat's side as if he were their own father, and Ryu always made it a point to visit them whenever he was in the area.

    "Where's your older brother?" Ryu asked as he noticed that Chit was alone in the field, which was odd because it was quite rare that he saw the two of them separated. "If you've grown up this much, I can only imagine what kind of man he's grown into since the last time we met."

    "Brother had to go into the city to pick up some supplies," Chit explained as she turned back to the hedge and gave it one swift chop with her machete to finish it off. Satisfied with a job well done, Chit turned back to Ryu and noticed something different about him. "Hey, Mr. Ryu, where's your headband?" she asked as she pointed to the exposed forehead of Ryu, noticing a bit of a tanline where the headband would normally go. "I don't think I've ever seen you come here without it?"

    Ryu's smile faded as he was reminded of how he was leaving Chun-Li behind for this one final journey, remembering how painful it was to hear her sobs as he left Hong Kong. "I?I left it with a very close friend," Ryu answered after a pause before sucking in air and putting a smile back on. "I made a promise to her with that headband that I'd come back to her as soon as I finished up some loose ends that need to be addressed."

    "'Her?'" Chit replied with a sly smile as she reached over to Ryu's chest and spread out the folds of his gi to reveal the white t-shirt with the dragon design that was worn underneath. "It sounds like Mr. Ryu the Drifter finally found a lover! You've given her your trusty headband as proof of your love, and she gave you that shirt to prove that she feels the same! Now you'll never truly be apart and you'll feel each other scent wherever you go!"

    "Heh?I never thought of it like that," Ryu said as his cheeks reddened and he rubbed the back of his head. Seeing Chit giggle at his reaction, Ryu started chuckling a bit as well. "When you put it that way, suddenly it doesn't feel quite as painful as it did when I left her side yesterday." Remembering why he came to Thailand in the first place, Ryu's smile diminished a bit as he turned the topic towards business. "Do you know where I can find Sagat, Chit? That's sort of the reason why I came here."

    "Is there ever a time where Sagat ISN'T the reason you come here?" Chit asked rhetorically before she pointed to the giant Buddha statue in the distance, lying on its side with its head propped up against its arm. "He's standing up there, waiting for you to come like he always does. He told me that you'd be coming soon, and that he was looking forward to facing you again."

    "So he already sensed me coming," Ryu said as he squinted his eyes to see a tall human figure standing on top of the statue, apparently throwing kicks and punches. "I guess he knows me so well at this point that he can see me coming from miles and miles away. I should have expected as much from my greatest rival?"

    "It's not much of a rivalry when you're always getting your butt kicked," Chit added thoughtfully. "Every time you come here looking for a rematch, Sagat beats you like a piece of a meat. You always put up a good fight, but you've never been able to say 'I've been Sagat, no questions asked.'" The teenager girl but her hands on her hips and smiled amusingly as Ryu stared off into the statue. "I'm beginning to think that you're some kind of masochist."

    "?I've got a good feeling about today, Chit," Ryu replied with a confident smirk before turning to see a tomato hanging down by the corner of his eye from a stock. "I think if I have one of your healthy tomatoes, I'll be able to get a good solid win today!"

    "Well," Chit tapped her chin thoughtfully as she pondered whether or not to give Ryu her blessing in the form of her produce. After a few seconds to think about it, Chit nodded her head and plucked the tomato closest to her before tossing it to Ryu. "?if you think it'll lift your chances against the Muay Thai Emperor, then go ahead and eat it. Prove to Sagat that you're not going to get your butt kicked because you have someone waiting for you!"

    "It was good talking to you, Chit," Ryu said as he turned around to leave the farm. "I'll see you around!"

    A fifteen minute walk later, Ryu stepped onto the tiled ground of the ancient prayer grounds that he had stepped onto so many times in the past. These prayer grounds were less of a place of worship and more like an unofficial arena, where countless battles had been fought between the Muay Thai Emperor Sagat and whoever dared to challenge his claim as the strongest. When Ryu first came to this temple, he was an inexperienced fighter just freshly released from the dojo. When he left the temple, he was suddenly older and wiser than he had been moments before.

    The main attraction of the prayer grounds, the relaxed Buddha statue, held a dark secret that seldom knew: not even Chit and her brother knew the statue's true purpose. The statue was, in truth, a deactivated robotic weapon created by the fiendish Shadaloo many years ago. By disguising it among the locals as a statue that was supposedly a national treasure, Shadaloo could possess a destructive machine of massive power and no one would know anything about it. Had the machine ever been activated, the criminal organization would have possessed the ability to level cities in an instant and even the most powerful nations would have cowered in fear.

    However, thanks largely to the efforts of the Street Fighters, the machine never had the chance to wreak its destruction, and years later it was lying dormant as the statue that it was supposed to mimic, with no one wiser to its sinister purpose. No one except myself and Sagat, Ryu added as he scanned the area to see where his ultimate rival was hiding himself. Sagat allowed himself to fall under Shadaloo's employ, and invited them into his village to create that thing. Being associated with those scumbags is bad enough, but if word got out that Sagat gave Shadaloo the opportunity to create such a horrible machine, his reputation would be destroyed.

    Hearing the sound of ponderous footsteps approaching, Ryu turned his head and gazed upon the visage of the giant that he toppled in the first Street Fighter tournament. To say this man was massive was no exaggeration: he stood over seven feet tall and was every bit as thickly muscled as he was tall, seemingly devoid of any kind of body fat. His massive feet and hands were wrapped in white boxing tape, and his purple boxing shorts with red trim were almost big enough to fit two grown men inside of them. With a black eyepatch covering the right eye of his stern face and a large scar blemishing his gargantuan torso, the titanic Sagat folded his arms and looked down at the smaller Ryu with his one good eye, though its milky white color gave the man an almost inhuman look like he was something greater than a man.

    "It's been a while, Sagat," Ryu said as he dropped his bag and entered his fighting stance. "I think you know why I'm here by this point."

    "...something is different about you, Ryu," the giant Sagat rumbled as he unfolded his arms and entered his own fighting stance: the stance of the brutal variation of Muay Thai that he had innovated.

    "It's the lack of the headband," Ryu responded. "It's rare that I don't have it with me so-"

    "I am not talking about something as inconsequential as that," Sagat interjected as his eye narrowed, peering into Ryu's soul as the smaller warrior remained strong and true in his stance, careful not to reveal any weaknesses. "Your aura is different that what it was since the last time we fought?and not in a way that could be changed simply by changing training methods. What did you learn in Hong Kong that could have changed you so much?"

    Ryu raised an eyebrow in curiosity at Sagat's question. "How would you know that I've been in Hong Kong?"

    "I am your eternal rival, Ryu," Sagat answered, his voice matter-of-fact and emotionless like it was something as natural as saying that he was alive. "The promise of facing you again and becoming stronger is the one thing that drives me to continue fighting. I have long since lost interest in the Street Fighter tournaments, so I spend my days monitoring your progress, thinking about the new things you have learned in your quest to become a worthier opponent for me." The Muay Thai Emperor allowed himself a thin smirk as he continued. "So tell me, Ryu?what brings you to my realm this time?"

    "?there's someone I have to defeat," Ryu answered, silently gathering his energies for the time where the talking would cease and their battle would begin. "There's a possibility that I will not leave that battle alive, so I've come to you to see if I am ready for the battle that lies before me."

    "So you are using me as a benchmark for this 'deadly opponent' you must confront," Sagat concluded as his milky white eye started to glow yellow. "Very well: I shall see for myself how much you've grown since our last encounter. But beware, Ryu: if you treat me as nothing more than a preliminary bout?" With his orange energy burning in his hands, Sagat reared back for one of the many techniques that made him so frightening as a warrior. "?then you shall pay for your insolence with your life!"

    (continued next post)
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    When Ryu was recounting his very first encounter with Sagat to Chun-Li's students, the children made light of Sagat's attacks and even mimicked them in their own little way. There was one technique in particular, the Tiger Shot, that Ryu found particularly troublesome since it made even his Hadoken look inconsequential in comparison. The Tiger Shot represented a mastery of ki that few in the world could comprehension, and the students paid homage to the mighty technique by throwing fruit instead of ki.

    Unfortunately for Ryu, the real thing was considerably more terrifying than a piece of fruit being thrown at him. The authentic Tiger Shot, shaped like a blade of fire that sped towards him like a bullet, had taken down so many powerful fighters, and it took all of Ryu's skill and reflexes to roll out of the attack's way so that he didn't get leveled by it. As soon as he returned to his feet, Ryu unleashed a blue Hadoken that sped towards Sagat with equal fervor, hoping to get an early start. However, Sagat's mastery of ki allowed him to gather enough energy for another Tiger Shot that destroyed the Hadoken before it could hurt him.

    As the two ki blasts exploded against each other, Ryu charged the giant kickboxer. As intimidating and massive Sagat was, there was no way Ryu could defeat the Muay Thai Emperor in a battle of ki attacks. The only way I'm going to win is if I bring the fight up close and personal, Ryu told himself as the explosions faded to reveal Sagat already waiting for Ryu in his fighting stance. No matter what happens, I'm going to get hurt?but if I keep this in close quarters, I can at least have a chance to win.

    As soon as Ryu entered striking distance, Sagat's long leg shot out like a whip and struck Ryu's arm with a standing knee, with the leg fully extending for a second kick upon impact. Even though Ryu managed to block the attack, the pain of the kick shot up through his arm and pushed him back. The giant kickboxer, sensing that Ryu was now out of his reach, charged his energy for another Tiger Shot, but the wandering warrior was quicker this time and unleashed a second, more powerful Hadoken that struck true in Sagat's abdomen.

    Now's my chance, Ryu thought as Sagat stumbled backwards while the red flames from Ryu's Shakenetsu Hadoken died down. The remaining flames acting as a target, Ryu's leg shot out in a javelin-like motion for his Joudan Sokotou Geri, striking Sagat right in his sternum. In almost every other case, the kick had such power that it would send anyone sprawling backwards like they'd been hit with a battering ram. However, for an an opponent as powerful and massive as Sagat, the attack only buckled Sagat over and forced him to grip where he had been hit.

    With Sagat's head now much closer to him than it would have had been while the kickboxer was standing upright, Ryu lowered his fist and prepared to drive it into Sagat's chin?but the kickboxer recuperated faster than he had anticipated, leaving Ryu open to a devastating straight punch to his chest. Ryu tried to let out a scream of pain, but the sound was stuck in his throat and only a pathetic gasp came out instead. Sagat's arms were bigger than Ryu's head, and were capable of shattering rocks. The wandering warrior was lucky that Sagat's fist didn't simply punch a hole through his chest.

    With his opponent clutching his upper body like someone had just struck him with a spiked mace, Sagat returned to his feet and looked down upon the man he called his rival. "You'll have to be faster than that if you want to stop me," Sagat growled before using his giant hand to palm Ryu's head and lift the warrior off the ground as easily as Ryu would lift an apple off of the ground. "I told you: if you treated me as nothing more than a preliminary bout, you would pay the price."

    Realizing how much trouble he was in, seeing Sagat crouch down slightly to deliver the devastating knee lifts that Muay Thai fighters were famous for, Ryu quickly gathered his energy and fired off another Hadoken, this time to Sagat's head. Although the Hadoken didn't have much power going into it, it struck the Muay Thai Emperor right in the face and blinded him enough to drop Ryu and cover where he had been hit. That was way too close, Ryu though as he let out a sigh of relief before rearing back for a more powerful attack. The next time that happens, I might not be able to get free!

    "Tatsumaki Senpukyaku!"

    Realizing how quickly Sagat could recuperate, Ryu took to the air and spun around with his leg extended for his powerful Hurricane Kick. The old scriptures of Ansatsuken described the attack as a technique with the power to clear forests like an unstoppable tornado. If that were the case, then what did that say about the hulking tree known as Sagat, who stood his ground even as the legs collided with his body like the blades of a helicopter. Whereas just one strike from the Hurricane Kick would send an opponent sprawling, Sagat endured all three of the revolutions before stumbling backwards and falling over.

    Unfortunately for Ryu, Sagat threw his legs into the air and flipped back to his feet, reminding the wandering warrior that Sagat was every bit as athletic and swift as he was muscular and huge. "Damn," Ryu cursed before charging forward once again and attacking with a thrusting punch to Sagat's lower abdomen, pushing his fist as deep as it could go hoping it would have an effect. While Sagat did grunt in pain, it wasn't enough to keep him from lifting his elbow and dropping it on top of Ryu's head. Ryu let loose an anguished shout as the pain ran through his entire head, stunning him long enough for Sagat to once again pick him up and hold him into the air.

    This time, Ryu was unable to prevent Sagat from driving his right knee into his midsection multiple times. It was bad enough to be caught in a clinch from a Muay Thai fighter, but it was even worse to be receiving them from the Emperor of Muay Thai fighters who made his peers look like pipsqueaks. The knees were delivered with piston-like force, and Ryu felt something collapse inside of him as he began to cough up blood. Sagat stopped for a moment when he felt the blood splatter against his chest, and then growled in frustration before slamming Ryu's head back into the ground.

    "I know you've been training harder than that, Ryu," Sagat bellowed as he watched Ryu slowly get back to his feet, clutching his midsection where the giant almost impaled him onto his knee. "Why don't you show me what you can really do!" Lowering his guard and rubbing his hand against the massive scar on his chest, the Muay Thai Emperor continued to taunt Ryu. "I have not forgotten the promise we made on this scar, Ryu! You told me you would become stronger so that you could defeat me honorably! Show me what you can do!"

    "HYAH!"

    Letting out a powerful shout, Ryu drove his fist into Sagat's exposed sternum, making the Emperor pay for letting down his guard before the fight was over. Not willing to give Sagat a chance to recuperate, Ryu continued punching the sternum with rapid alternating fists. I have to keep pouring it on, Ryu thought as he continued punching Sagat's sternum while the Emperor's grunts started to become pained shouts. I don't know what's bothering me so much that I can't take him down, but if I fall here, there's no way I can possibly defeat Akuma!

    Unlike Dan's Danretsuken, which kept punching rapidly until the punches started to lose power, Ryu was quite aware of how many punches he could throw before they stopped being effective. After the ninth punch connected, Ryu kept his hand lodged into Sagat's body before crouching down and jumping high into the air. As a result, his lodged fist rolled up Sagat's body like a car and collided with the giant's chin, lifting him off of his feet and into the air as Ryu completed his Reppu Jinrai Shou: a series of moves that he created specifically to create an opening for his powerful Shoryuken.

    Sagat was the one to land first, planting his feet onto the ground and rubbing his chin while Ryu slowly descended onto his feet and let out a deep breath. "That's better," Sagat commented before he suddenly decided he was done waiting for Ryu to come at him, charging forward with great speed that belied his size. Even though Ryu had already entered his fighting stance waiting for the attack, he couldn't react fast enough to counter Sagat's leaping Tiger Knee Crush, with the attack hitting his sternum hard before riding up his body and colliding with his jaw. "But that is not the Shoryuken that I desire!"

    Ryu landed on his shoulders and groaned in pain, cursing himself for not being able to track Sagat's attack. Opening his eyes, the wandering warrior gasped as he saw the giant plummeting down towards him knee-first. Quickly rolling out of the way, Ryu narrowly avoided getting crushed by Sagat, though the tiled floor beneath the monstrous kickboxer cracked into several fissures from his weight and power. The wandering warrior once again sensed an opportunity to attack, and made the most of it by running towards Sagat as he was still standing up and driving another Shoryuken into his chin.

    "That is still not the Shoryuken I'm looking for," Sagat roared as he looked up to see Ryu still ascending into the air. Crouching down like the tigers he sparred with, the Muay Thai Emperor took flight and drove his own fist into Ryu's airborne body with a leaping uppercut of his own, the famed and terrifying "Tiger Uppercut." "Show me your true Shoryuken! Show me the true power of the move that left this scar upon my chest!"

    Ryu crashed down hard onto his stomach, further damaging the area where Sagat's knees had been pounding into him like hammers and causing him to scream in pain. He's so unbelievably powerful, Ryu thought as he struggled to push himself off the ground, ignoring the voice in the back of his head telling him to give up. Even at his advanced age, he hasn't lost any of his speed and power. What is it going to take to bring this guy down!

    "Your fists have told me much about what you have been doing since the last time we traded blows," Sagat rumbled as Ryu finally returned to his feet and resumed his fighting stance. "In the past, your fists were in the developing stages, searching for a defined form that would lead you to victory. However, your aura now is noticeably different: they speak of a man who knows where to channel his resolve and draw strength for that defined purpose!"

    "Defined?purpose?" Ryu repeated with tired breaths. "What do you mean by that?Sagat?" As soon as Ryu finished those words, the sound of thunder rumbled throughout the area, causing both warriors to look into the sky and notice that during their battle, dark clouds had been gathering around them. Seconds later, Ryu felt droplets of rain come down on him, cooling off his body and mind and giving him a moment to reflect on Sagat's words.

    "You have found true purpose in this world to continue fighting," Sagat said the rain started pouring down on him, washing off the sweat and blood covering him. "In the past, your fists were like the lightning in the clouds, randomly striking whatever stood in its way searching for the quickest way to its goal. Now, your fists are like this rain, whose purpose is to cleanse the land of impurity. Ryu?you too have a defined purpose now?but do you realize what it is?"

    Closing his eyes as he too looked up at the rain falling down on his face, Ryu's thoughts drifted back to the sparring session he had in Hong Kong days before. This rain is like Chun-Li's Kikoken, he thought as he remembered the woman's signature ki technique brush against him, as well as the feelings from that time. The Kikoken didn't need to wash me away like a raging torrent: all it had to do was splash against me to confirm its existence.

    Opening his eyes, Ryu lowered his head back down to Sagat and saw that the Muay Thai Emperor was conjuring up a bigger, more powerful ki attack by forming a vortex of energy between his hands: the immensely powerful Tiger Cannon. Without saying a word, Ryu cupped his hands and placed them to his side, creating his own vortex of energy by summoning crackling, electric-like ki and pouring it into his hands. There's no need to annihilate everything with unnecessary force: all that is required for victory is one strike to confirm my existence to my opponent.

    "TIGER CANNON!"

    "Denjin Hadoken!"

    Unleashing their gathered energies, Sagat and Ryu pitted their respective ideologies against each other. Sagat was the tiger, the mighty lord of the Asian jungles that mauled everything that dared stood against it. Ryu was the wind, carrying the potential for great destructive capabilities but also capable of gentleness and tranquility. When those ideologies clashed in the form of their ki, there was chaos and plenty of bright sparking as the two attacks struggled to gain dominance.

    After several seconds of being deadlocked, both attacks punched through and continued speeding towards their targets, but their great power had been lost. Instead of blowing the opponent away like they intended, what remained of the Tiger Cannon and Denjin Hadoken brushed against the two warriors lightly. "Your Tiger Cannon?it tells of a man who has been seeking to cleanse his fist of the darkness that dwelled inside of it," Ryu said the heat from the attack faded away.

    "This Denjin Hadoken of yours is like nothing else I've felt from your ki attacks," Sagat replied as he looked down his crackling hand which he used to block the Hadoken. "Instead of using unrestrained destructive energy to overwhelm your adversary, you use focused, tamed energy to stun them. Impressive." Clenching his hand into a fist, Sagat washed away the foreign energy by gathering his ki into his hand. "Ryu?it's time to bring an end to this. I shall pit your most powerful Shoryuken against my own finishing move, the Tiger Destruction."

    Inhaling and exhaling deeply, Ryu focused his own ki into his right fist until it hummed with blue energy. Once his power had reached his zenith, the wandering warrior charged towards Sagat. The key to victory would lie not in who could summon the most destructive and deadliest attack, but who was most aware of what he was truly fighting for. As he rushed closer and closer to Sagat even as the giant was coiled to strike with his mighty attack, all Ryu could think about was the woman who he had decided would be his ultimate destiny.

    Chun-Li?

    Seeing Sagat's burning fist rushing to meet him head on, Ryu moved his head to the size and narrowly avoided getting his jaw sent rocketing into his own brain. Even as the Tiger Destruction missed him, Ryu could feel the intense heat radiating from it. "My turn," Ryu shouted as he drove his glowing fist into Sagat's stomach, stopping the giant dead in his tracks. Pushing his fist deeper into the giant's body, Ryu crouched down before flying high into the air, causing his fist to ride all the way up Sagat's torso and driving it into his chin. "SHIN!" With his fist going past Sagat's chin and finally finding into destination under the bridge of Sagat's nose, Ryu soared higher into the air as Sagat rocketed upwards like a space shuttle. "?SHORYUKEN!"

    Ryu landed softly on his feet as Sagat crashed down hard on the ground. Now that the battle was over, Ryu could once again feel the drops of rain pouring down on him?but the serenity was quickly broken when the rain coming down wasn't water, but blood! With his eyes looking back down to the fallen Sagat, he realized that the mighty emperor's chest with bleeding with a freshly-opened scar. "Sagat," Ryu rushed over to his rival as he watched the giant's blood pool on the soaked tiles. "Are you alright?"

    "?Alright?" Sagat repeated amusingly as he sat back up and looked down at his wound. Though he started by chuckling softly, the Muay Thai Emperor eventually erupted into a hearty laugh as the blood from his scar stained his shorts. "HAHAHAHAHAHA?Ryu, you have fulfilled your promise to me wonderfully, and now my scar is weeping in joy!" Once again bursting into laughter as he returned to his feet, the giant looked down at Ryu and smiled at him. "There is indeed something different about you?and it is for the better. That Chun-Li is truly a remarkable person to have unlocked this side of you."

    "How would you know about what happened between Chun-Li and I?" Ryu asked perplexedly.

    "I told you, Ryu?monitoring your progress is how I pass the time now," Sagat explained as he pressed his hand against his scar. "I have contacts around the world telling me the progress of those that I deem worthy opponents, so that I can look forward to facing them. You spent several days in the former detective's care?and from what I was told, you found something within her that went deeper than mere respect between fighters." Looking at the blood now staining his hand, Sagat instead folded his arms even as blood streamed down him from the rain. "Tell me, Ryu?do you think she is the one?"

    "?yes," Ryu nodded his head once before looking down at the white shirt covering his body now soaked in the rain. "The reason I have sought you out is because I intend to finally confront my master's killer. If I can defeat him, then I can be free to be by Chun-Li's side forever." Looking back to the smiling Sagat, Ryu bowed his head in respect. "I needed to face you one last time, Sagat, and prove to myself that I could succeed in this nearly-impossible task in front of me."

    "You now have what you need from me, Ryu," Sagat said before pointing past Ryu towards, to the East. "Return to Japan and face your master's killer. This new scar you have given me will act as the promise that you will return alive, not just for myself, but for Chun-Li."

    "?thank you for your blessing, Sagat," Ryu bowed once again before picking up his bag and walking out of the training grounds. "But no matter what happens to me when I face that man?know that you will always be the one that I call 'my greatest rival' and that I couldn't ask for a worthier opponent."
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Chapter 13: Scorn

    If there was one thing Chun-Li could find solace in, it was going out to the town in the evening and enjoying the bright lights that Hong Kong had to offer once the sun went down. While she put on a front of being calm and reserved for her students, there was a fun-loving, wilder side to her that she liked to bring out every now and then. With a city that had as vibrant a nightlife as Hong Kong did, it was incredibly difficult for someone to not find at least something to do once the sky became dark and the buildings turned bright.

    However, it would seem that spending the night out on the town had lost the appeal that it once had. No matter how hard Chun-Li tried to wash away the concern she felt towards Ryu, she couldn't get the wandering warrior out of her head. It's already been three days, and I haven't heard anything back from him, the woman thought as looked down at the red headband tied around her arm. I don't know why I'm so worried: Ryu is as tough as they come, and a former Street Fighter champion. If anyone can find a way to defeat Akuma, it's him?

    At first, Guile visited Chun-Li to try and comfort her, pretty saying what everyone else was telling her. "It'll all work out in the end, Chun-Li," the Air Force officer said once he heard that Ryu had left the country to face Akuma. "Ryu's the complete package in street fighting: he's got strength, speed, skill, smarts, and guts. I don't know much about this Akuma guy, but whoever he is I can't say I envy him if he's pissed off Ryu. Give him time and Ryu will come back to you."

    For whatever reason, Chun-Li listened to Guile's words, taking comfort in them. After all, this wasn't just any fighter they were talking about: it was the World Warrior himself, who defeated the mighty Sagat and helped topple the mighty Shadaloo and its demonic leader Bison. Why should one more fight make any more difference to him? He always found a way to win when the situation was most dire, and there shouldn't have been any doubt that he'd figure a way to emerge victorious against this daunting Akuma.

    But what if he fails?, voice in the back of Chun-Li's head asked. What if he can't find a way to win, and he never comes back?

    Now that Guile had left Hong Kong, having determined that his target Juri Han was no longer in the city, Chun-Li was once again alone, just as she'd been before Ryu had come to visit her. Before she had been complaining that no one from the tournament came to visit her and her school, and in the past two weeks she had caught up with more friends and rivals than she had in quite some time. And all of it started with Ryu's visit: it was like he was the answer to her wishes. He brought with him friendship, enlightenment?and eventually, love.

    Now that Ryu was gone from her life once again, Chun-Li only had one thing in her possession to remember him by: the red headband that was given to her by the wandering warrior as part of his promise that he would return to Hong Kong. Ryu's headband was something that he was rarely seen without, and represented his fighting spirit and determination to become strong. By leaving that headband with Chun-Li, he was telling her that he was willing to put all of that aside so he could go through with this one last fight. To a street fighter, there couldn't have been a greater gift from the one who had been hailed as the Ultimate Street Fighter.

    But he's more than just a fellow street fighter to me now, Chun-Li reminded herself as she continued to look longingly into the red handband. During the time he stayed with me, he revealed a side to him that I couldn't help but find attractive. I let him into my life?and I even let him into my bed. I was ready to spend the rest of my life with him?and then he goes off to fight his master's killer, so that he can be with me with no reservations.

    Chun-Li knew better than anyone how the drive to bring justice to the murderer of someone close to you could overwhelm a person, but the difference between her quest and Ryu's quest is that Chun-Li didn't feel the need to go it alone. She had people like Guile, Ryu, Cammy, and the rest of Interpol to help her topple Bison and destroy the massive Shadaloo organization. Ryu, on the other hand, was running solo into Akuma's waiting fists, possibly racing to his destruction in the process.

    I've already lost my father and Charlie to murder, Chun-Li thought as she turned away from her headband and back to the marketplace she was walking through, seeing if she could find something that could help her take her mind off of her troubles from the stands. I don't think I could handle it if I lost Ryu, as well. I just need to keep thinking positive thoughts. Ryu will come back alive?he has to!

    As she was telling herself that, the glare of a television set from one of the stands caught the corner of her eye, causing her to turn around to see Ryu on the screen. With her hopes suddenly raised, Chun-Li quickly made her way over to the television to see the wandering warrior fighting another battle, determination flashing in his eyes just like they always did whenever he was in combat. Is this Ryu's fight with Akuma?, Chun-Li asked herself as she watched Ryu fire off one of his trademark Hadokens. Did someone record the fight on camera?

    Chun-Li's hopes, unfortunately, were dashed as quickly as they were brought up, as the camera panned out to reveal Dan Hibiki getting blasted by the Hadoken. Seconds later, the footage of Ryu's battle with Dan was replaced with the Saikyo-ryu's master smiling face as he shilled his school of martial arts, claiming that even a "famous fighter" like Ryu respected the school of Saikyo. "That figures," Chun-Li grumbled as she turned away from the television and went back to looking for something that struck her fancy. "I can't believe that I'm so obsessed with Ryu that I got suckered in to watching one of Dan's lame commercials?"

    As soon as those words escaped her lips, the familiar tinge of feeling someone's ki signature ran down her spine and alerted her to the presence of someone who could only be a fellow fighter. What a strange sensation, Chun-Li murmured as she lifted her head and looked around to see where the ki signature was coming from. It's a ki signature completely different from anything I've ever felt before?but at the same time, it feels strangely familiar?

    Stepping away from stand that she had been browsing over, Chun-Li carefully walked towards the direction of where she was feeling the ki signature and focused herself. Being attuned to her fellow "subscribers" of ki users was something that had gained a lot of practice with since Ryu came over to visit. Whereas before she would have to close her eyes to pinpoint someone, Chun-Li had been utilizing the ability to sense other fighter's aura so often over the past two weeks that she could just go forward without having to pause.

    A few seconds later, Chun-Li found the person who she believed to be the source of the ki signature. He was a tall, slender and handsome young man, wearing a black leather jacket and long red pants with a large Maltese cross on either leg. What stood out most to Chun-Li, however, was the young man's short purple hair with his bangs partially obscuring his face. I know that I've never seen this guy before, Chun-Li thought as she approached the stranger, who was leaning against a building staring off into the evening sky, so why can't I shake the feeling that I've sensed this energy before?

    It wasn't until Chun-Li was directly next to the young man who couldn't have been older than twenty years old that the stranger shifted his eyes and noticed that there was a beautiful woman next to him. "Oh?hello there, sinjorina," the young man said with a thin, friendly smile. Motioning his head over to a table sitting several feet away from them, the young man continued. "Would you like to have your fortune read?"

    "I was just noticing?your aura," Chun-Li replied after a bit of a pause. "Are you by any chance a martial artist?"

    "I do practice martial arts?but I hate fighting," the young man replied before looking down to notice Chun-Li's blue qipao. "You, however, seem to be the type of woman who loves the thrill of battle. Your own aura tells of someone who feels alive only when engaged in combat, whether it be in a friendly sparring session or in a life-and-death struggle against a fiend."

    "?Hmph," Chun-Li scoffed as she put her hands on her hips. "You talk a big game, but I'm not oblivious to ignore that fact that I'm pretty famous, especially when I'm wearing this qipao. You could have seen a picture of me in a magazine or on the world news." Looking over to the table the young man was pointing to, where a tortoise shell, old Chinese coins, and a crystal ball were all waiting to be used, Chun-Li allowed herself a smirk. "If you want me to buy your services, you're going to have to do better than that, mister??"

    "Just 'Xaeraph' will do," the young man answered before fully turning to Chun-Li and closing his eyes. With one arm reaching out so that it was hovering over Chun-Li's face, the youth called Xaeraph gently ran his hand down the woman's body until it stopped at the headband tied around her arm. "?I sense a wide spectrum of emotions emanating from this headband," Xaeraph stated without opening his eyes. "It comes from someone who is torn with conflict. On one hand, he is a fighter like yourself and has spent his life gathering strength so that he can meet his destiny?but on the other hand, he is passionately in love and cannot bear to spend a moment away from you. He has given you this headband to satisfy both his urge to complete his journey?and his promise to return to you."

    "?now THAT is impressive," Chun-Li said with an amazed whistle. Once Xeraph had opened his eyes (which Chun-Li noticed had a very distinct shade of purple), the woman walked over to the table Xaeraph had been pointing at and took a seat. "Just for that, I think I'll let you tell my fortune." Once the young man had taken a seat on the opposite side of the table, Chun-Li held out her hand thoughtfully. "Show me what you can do, hot stuff!"

    "I don't think it's your fortune you're interested in, sinjorina," Xaeraph replied before pointing to the headband around Chun-Li's arm. "I can tell from the emotions emanating from that headband that you are worried about the person who gave it to you. I think it would be much more beneficial to you if I told gave you his fortune." A mysterious sparkle flashed in the youth's eyes before he added. "Wouldn't you like to see if the two of you have a?how would you say it?'happily ever after?'"

    This guy definitely isn't an ordinary fortune teller, Chun-Li thought as Xaeraph silently asked for the headband. Loosening the headband and placing it on the table, the woman watched the young man take the headband and examine it carefully before carefully flattening it out in front of him. He seems to know an awful lot about myself and Ryu. I wonder if that ki signature I felt from him indicates that he has some kind of psychic power?

    Once the headband was flat on the table, Xaeraph reached over for his coins and tortoise shell. It was a method that Chun-Li had seen many times before from fortune tellers in Hong Kong, usually by men who were much, much older than Xaeraph. The coins would be swirled around in the tortoise shell, and then spilled out onto the table, with the direction of the symbols on the coins indicating the fate of the subject. Chun-Li never paid too much attention to the rules as she lost interest in fortune-telling once she "grew up," but this Xaeraph seemed considerably more competent than most other con men in his profession.

    Spilling the coins out onto the table, Xaeraph rubbed his chin in concern. "?this is not good," the young man said, causing Chun-Li's eyes to waver. "The fates tell me that your friend is about to engage in a battle that he will not walk away from. Even though his motives are pure, his once-indomitable will has been shaken by the conflict within. Without you, he cannot properly focus his energy to the task at hand, and with the battle ahead of him, that kind of conflict can prove lethal."

    "You mean he's going to fail?and die," Chun-Li concluded as she felt despair fill her heart. Despite what Ryu promised her, and despite what all of her friends had told her, the wandering warrior was walking into his last fight just as she had feared. "You have to tell me what I can do to stop that from happening! Tell me, Xaeraph!"

    "Please calm down, sinjorina," the young man placed a hand on Chun-Li's shoulder and gently pressed her back down into her seat. "Please know that the future isn't set in stone: I am merely telling you what the fates are telling me. Remember that, if one's will is strong enough, fate can be overcome and a new path can be forged." Xaeraph picked the red headband off of the table and returned it to Chun-Li. "The only thing that is keeping him from winning the battle that lies ahead is your absence. If you are there to provide support for him, and remind him of how much you mean to him?then he can fight without regret or reservation, and focus on victory."

    "Can you tell me where he is?"

    "?perhaps," Xaeraph replied with uncertainty as he looked down at his crystal ball. With his hands glowing with bluish-green energy, the young man pressed his hands against the ball and forced it to glow with energy. "?your friend is currently?on an airplane, it looks like. He is thinking about the great battle that lies ahead of him, and how he must emerge victorious if he is to ever know true peace. If you know where he is heading, perhaps you can-"

    "I found you at last?"

    Xaeraph's divining was cut short by the sound of a hauntingly familiar voice coming from behind Chun-Li. Slowly turning her head, and hoping that the source of the voice wasn't who she thought he was, the Chinese martial artist's eyes widened in shock as she gazed upon a tall, muscular man wearing purple-and-yellow matador trousers with a red sash, with black shoes covering white leggings. Despite the man's handsome visage, there wasn't a thing Chun-Li found attractive about the man: in fact, it was the exact opposite reaction. "Vega!" Chun-Li blurted out at the man brushed back his long blonde hair. "What are YOU doing here!?"

    "Well well?if it isn't the lovely senorita Chun-Li," the man purred seductively as a sinister grin came over his face. While Bison might have been the leader of Shadaloo, Vega had been the organization's top assassin, and was every bit as ruthless and vile as the man he served. When Shadaloo collapsed, Vega managed to evade the authorities, and it was up to the British MI6 branch of Delta Red to try and capture him. So far, all of their searches turned out fruitless.

    And yet, here was Vega in Hong Kong, staring down Chun-Li with the same slimy look he always had when dealing with her. Bison may have been Chun-Li's sworn enemy, but only the Spanish ninja assassin known as Vega could be called Chun-Li's nemesis. "I'll ask you again, Vega," Chun-Li said as she lifted her hands and assumed her fighting stance, "What are you doing here?"

    "I have no obligation to tell you the specific details of the glorious mission that I have received," Vega replied nonchalantly, as if he were discussing the matter over tea. "However, I do believe that is necessary for a gentleman such as myself to greet a lady as gorgeous as you in a proper manner." Forcefully ripping off his white button-up shirt to reveal the purple snake tattoo coiled around his torso, Vega pulled his trademark mask and claw from his hips and attached them to his face and hand. "It's been such a long time, senorita?I'm curious to see if your blood has aged as well as you have."

    An instant after he finished that sentence, Vega suddenly let out a shrill yell and thrust his claw at Chun-Li in an attempt to impale her. Although Chun-Li was able to move her head in time to avoid getting stabbed, the claw did manage to connect with her right hair bun. As a result, the hair bun was completely severed from her head, leaving her long hair to fall down across her back. "You picked the wrong day to mess with me, Vega," Chun-Li growled as she lunged forward and struck Vega in the chest with a ki-infused punch. "Surrender now or I'll send you to the hospital!"

    (continued next post)
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    With her left leg shooting out and moving faster than the eye could see, Chun-Li attempted to bombard Vega with rapid kicks, but Vega's near-inhuman agility allowed him to backflip out of the way and successfully evade the attack. Seeing an opening, Vega took to the ground and rolled forward Chun-Li, bouncing off the ground like a wild tire. Realizing the roll for what it was, a prelude to something nasty, Chun-Li jumped into the air and narrowly vaulted over Vega's Rolling Crystal Slash, coming down hard on Vega's head with both her feet being planted into his skull.

    Unfortunately for Chun-Li, Vega recuperated much quicker than she would have liked, as he sprang back to his feet as soon as Chun-Li turned back around. With her rage fueling her, Chun-Li sprang into the air with a forward flip, performing a mid-air splits to attempt to bring the full weight of her muscular leg down on Vega's head with her Hazan Shu. Rather than block or evade the attack, Vega instead opted to counter with a flipping attack of his own: a jumping flip kick that struck her in mid-air and sent her crashing back down to the ground on her buttocks.

    "Tsk, tsk, tsk," Vega clicked his tongue and mockingly wagged his finger at Chun-Li as she returned to her feet. "Such reckless behavior is unbecoming of a woman with your beauty and stature." Crouching down like a frog about to make a great leap, Vega took off and soared through the air like a bird?over Chun-Li's head and onto the wall of a building behind her. After bouncing off the wall to jump even higher into the air, the ninja's eyes widened in bloodthirst as he did a swan dive to the woman below him. "You really should learn to work of your manners, senorita!"

    "TENSHOKYAKU!

    Before Vega could deliver an aerial slash, Chun-Li instead kicked Vega out of the air with her legs spinning vertically to deliver multiple hits: her Tenshokyaku that had saved her many times before. Vega is at his most dangerous while he's in the air, Chun-Li reminded herself as both warriors landed on their feet, though Vega had to take a moment to straighten his mask. If I want to beat him, I need to keep him grounded, or at least make it seem like going into the air is a bad idea!

    Chun-Li charged Vega once again, this time leading in with a spinning high kick to Vega's head. If there was one weakness that Vega had, it was his obsession with avoiding hits to the head. One of the ninja's defining characteristics was his narcissism, and he always took extra care in avoiding having his face struck in fear of having his beautiful face blemished. If Chun-Li targeted the head, then it was possible that Vega could make a mistake and give her an opportunity for victory.

    It was a good idea in theory, but she didn't anticipate Vega catching her leg and holding it on his arm. With his long fingernails digging into her thigh, the ninja's eyes narrowed in silent anger. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were trying to damage my face," he hissed before lifting his free, clawed hand. "That, my dear, is grounds for discipline!" With a swift slash, Vega cut through Chun-Li's stocking and left a gash in her trapped leg, eliciting a cry of pain as blood streaked out of her leg.

    Using all of her power to pull her leg free, Chun-Li delivered another rapid series of kicks. This time, the flurry hit its mark and Vega was sent stumbling backwards as the kicks rocked his head, chest, and abdomen. With Vega stunned, Chun-Li took the opportunity to check her leg to make sure that it wasn't too damaged. It looks like I broke away just before he could dig his claws in too deep, Chun-Li thought as she looked at the blood dripping from the gash. Still, it's going to be hard to focus with how bad it stings!

    "CHAO!"

    Hearing Vega's battle cry, Chun-Li looked up and saw Vega lunging towards her incredibly fast, soaring through the air in a straight line like he had just been shot out of a gun. Had she been any slower, the attack would have skewered her and that would have been the end of the battle. Luckily for her, she was able to duck just in time to avoid that grisly fate and turn around to see Vega land gracefully on his feet. "KIKOKEN," Chun-Li shouted as she fired off a blast of ki to where Vega had landed.

    Turning around just in time to see the attack speeding towards him, Vega lifted his claw and attempted to slash through the ki like he would cut through a piece of paper. While that might have worked for a lesser attack, Chun-Li put a good deal of force into her Kikoken, and Vega instead got the full brunt of the ki attack in his arm, causing him to let out a shout of pain. "Agh?not bad," Vega said reluctantly as he watched Chun-Li charge at him. "Perhaps there is something to your current state of mind, after all."

    "SPINNING BIRD KICK!"

    Planting her hands on the ground and spiraling around like a top, Chun-Li outstretched bother her legs in a splits and battered Vega with multiple helicopter-like kicks, hoping that at least someone of them would hit true. Hearing Vega's grunts as the spinning kicks connected with his body, Chun-Li smiled as she flipped back to her feet and prepared to unleash another series of kicks to Vega's body?

    ?but Vega once again recovered faster than Chun-Li would have liked, and instead delivered a snapping kick of his own to Chun-Li's head. Stunned by the attack, the Chinese martial artist's vision became blurred with stars, allowing Vega a chance to send Chun-Li flying into the air with another one of his backflip kicks: a technique that he had dubbed the "Scarlet Terror." With Chun-Li rocketing skyward into the air, Vega kept his eyes the woman and pursued her, jumping over to the nearest wall and ricocheting off of it to increase his ascent.

    Though it would have been impossible for pretty much anyone else, Vega was able to catch Chun-Li in mid-air and wrap his fingers around her waist. "Long have I waited to smell your sweet aroma again, senorita," Vega hummed as he altered his hold on Chun-Li so that both of them were upside-down, plummeting head-first to the ground that was rapidly closing in. "Perhaps absence makes the heart grow fonder, but there is something about you that is even more alluring than before?I wonder what it is."

    *THOOM*

    With gravity powering them down, Vega and Chun-Li crashed down hard into the earth, with Chun-Li landing on her neck and shoulders while Vega safely landed on his feet. Dazed by the Izuna Drop that had become synonymous with ninjas of Vega's caliber, Chun-Li groggily returned to her feet and resumed her fighting stance?but her equilibrium had been so altered by the drop that she just as soon tipped over onto her side and groaned. "D-damn," Chun-Li cursed as she held her hand to her head. "Not here?not to you?"

    Just to make sure that Chun-Li wasn't trying to lure him into a trap, Vega once again rolled forward for a Rolling Crystal Slash. This time, Chun-Li did nothing to defend herself, and as such Vega's claw was driven into her mid-section. "Don't worry, my dear," Vega hummed as he looked up to see Chun-Li cough up blood on his mask. Removing his claw with a sharp tug, the ninja stood back up and watched as Chun-Li grip where she had been stabbed. "I am not going to kill you?just yet, anyway. First I'd like to see what has changed you so much."

    Chun-Li lashed out at Vega with a snapping kick, but the ninja easily dodged and attacked the leg with another slash, eliciting another cry of pain from the woman. I can't?let it end like this, Chun-Li thought as she continued swinging at Vega, hoping that at least one attack would get through. However, Vega had timed his stab well: it was the type of move that wouldn't kill her, but slow her movements down to the crawl so that he could take his time with her. Every time Chun-Li's attack missed, Vega would counter with a kick or a slash that would cause her immense agony. I can't go down to him?not before?I?ACK!

    As Chun-Li felt her reflexes slowing down, Vega once again launched her into the air with a Scarlet Terror and vaulted after her. This time, however, instead of pursuing her with another Izuna Drop, Vega instead lunged at her claw-first, slashing her clothes as he passed by. While that drew a streak of blood and another scream of pain from Chun-Li, it did little but to fuel Vega's lust for blood as he pressed his legs against the building opposite of the one he jumped from and went after Chun-Li again. Again and again, Vega bounced from building to building like a pinball, with Chun-Li getting caught in his ricocheting as more and more pieces of bloody cloth was ripped from her body.

    Finally?mercifully, Vega landed on the ground with his claw now soaked with her blood, while Chun-Li crashed down to the ground with her stockings torn, her midriff exposed, and half of her bra hanging out with slash marks all across her body. Lifting his mask above his face, Vega held his stained claw to his mouth and stuck his tongue out, gently running it across his weapon. "Mmmmm," Vega moaned in ecstasy as he turned back around to see Chun-Li somehow trying to return to her feet. "I know what's different about you now: you've had a man in bed, haven't you?"

    "H?HCK," Words seem to be stuck in Chun-Li's throat as bloody saliva dripped out of her lips. "?How?would you know about that, slime? Have you been spying on me?"

    "There's no need: I can taste him on you," Vega said with a sadistic grin as he once again licked the blood from his claw. "There is nothing more beautiful in this world than a woman in love?barring myself, of course." Walking over to Chun-Li as casually as he would approach his car, Vega cupped his hand around the woman's chin and held her close to his face. "Tell me, senorita, who is the fortunate one to have enjoyed your body and given you pleasure?"

    "Drop dead, Vega," Chun-Li hissed. "I'd rather die than let you get your slimy hands on him!"

    Even as Chun-Li was yelling at him, Vega was silently staring at her lips, taking a deep whiff of her breath and pondering what was different about it. There were always horror stories about how brutal Vega was in combat, but Chun-Li had traded fists with the ninja more than enough times to know that the horror stories were being too generous to him. Above all else, perhaps even above his narcissism, Vega was a creepy sadist who got off on the suffering of others, especially those that he deemed worthy of his time.

    "?I smell the breath of a vagabond," Vega said as he let go of Chun-Li and let her fall down to her knees. "I had heard rumors from my contacts that Ryu was in Hong Kong staying with you, but I didn't think he'd sample the?house special, as it were. Still, it's too bad that you sent him to his death, just like you have every other man that meant something to you in your life."

    "S?shut up, Vega," Chun-Li sputtered out as she returned to her feet, Vega's words igniting a rage within her that gave her a second wind. "Don't talk like you know-"

    "It's YOU who knows what horrible thing you have done, my dear," Vega responded as he picked up Ryu's red headband from the ground and held it up for Chun-Li to see. "You were close to your father, and he was killed. You were close to your partner, and he too met a premature end." Dangling the headband in front of him like a toy in front of a cat, Vega pulled his mask down and watched the agony drift away from Chun-Li's face in favor of a shocked expression. "By growing close to Ryu, you have sealed his fate. You are a siren, luring men to their deaths with your song and then finding someone else to play your game with."

    "I said?SHUT UP!"

    Ignoring the pain she was in, Chun-Li charged Vega with such speed and ferocity that even he was intimidated by her rage. "SENRETSU KYAKU!" Lifting her right leg as she slid across the ground, Chun-Li bombarded Vega with an even more rapid flurry of kicks than she had been using to keep the ninja at bay, while at the same time still rushing forward. As strong as Vega was, even he couldn't defend himself from being barged through like the bulls he fought in Spain, being pushed back as Chun-Li continued raining down heavy kicks all across his body.

    With one final kick, Vega was sent crashing into the wall that he had grown so fond of using, the back of his head bouncing off of it as he fell back to the ground. This time, it was Vega who was dazed, being unable to defend himself as Chun-Li once again took to the air and came crashing down on Vega's head with her Hazan Shu, driving him body into the ground with such force that it shattered the ninja's mask.

    "My?my mask," Vega stammered as he slowly stood back up and looked down at what remained of what was covering his face. Feeling something wet on his cheek, Vega slowly ran his finger across his face and looked down to see what the wet sensation was?and then shrieked in horror when he noticed that the liquid was red and sticky. "You have damaged my flawless features, you cow! Just for that, I'll?I'll?oh no?"

    As horrifying as a nicked face was in Vega's book, in paled in comparison to Chun-Li's scornful glare as blue energy most pure and fierce gathered around her hands, which were as far behind her back as they could go in preparation for an attack that Vega had no interest in seeing. "Gokuuu?" Chun-Li growled as Vega scrambled to make an escape, realizing that there wasn't anything he could possibly do to defend or counter what was coming next.

    "?KIKOSHO!"

    The Kikosho was a technique that Chun-Li constantly refined and perfected, trying to discover how she could utilize it in a way that would do great damage if connected but without leaving her drained. The Goku Kikosho, however, was what Chun-Li used when she was pulling out all the stops: there would be no "if" in its effectiveness. When it was used, as it was here against her nemesis Vega, it created a huge globe of bright blue energy that completely engulfed everything around her, like there was a storm going on and she was at the epicenter. Windows shattered, tables were tipped over, and bystanders struggled to keep from getting blown away as Chun-Li poured all of her ki into this breathtakingly powerful attack. I'm not a siren, Chun-Li told herself as she tried to increase the size of the Kikosho. I'm not a siren!

    Finally, after feeling completely exhausted, Chun-Li exhaled and let her attack fade, looking to see if it did the job. I don't see Vega anywhere, she thought as she scanned the area, hoping to find her attacker. Where did he go?

    Feeling something brush against her hair, Chun-Li looked up just in time for the red headband to gently fall across her face. "I clearly underestimated the wrath of a woman's scorn," Vega's taunting voice called out to her, telling Chun-Li that Vega had already ascended to the top of one of the rooftop. "Apparently, not only is a woman in love beautiful, but immensely powerful to boot. Seeing this power is almost worth the blemish on my face?so for amusing me, I shall give you back that headband, as well as some information."

    "Information?" Chun-Li repeated.

    "Go to Suzaku Castle. That is where you will find your lover," Vega shouted back, though he was still outside of Chun-Li's view. "If you think you can save him from the fate of your siren ways, then I suggest you hurry. Goodbye, senorita?I look forward to seeing how powerful you are after you've either saved your love or watched it get run through the dirt with his death?"

    He's retreating, Chun-Li thought as she turned around to check on Xaeraph?only to see that he too was gone, along with his entire table. She couldn't even sense his ki signature. Looks like Vega wasn't the only one: I can only imagine how terrified that young man had to have been to see such a monster.

    Looking at the headband in her hand, Chun-Li stared at it pensively?and then pulled out her other hair bun to let the entirety of her hair go down. With her hair now free, Chun-Li unfurled the headband and tied it around her hair to give herself a ponytail, being held together by the one thing that bound her and Ryu together. Even as her body begged her for rest, being damaged and wounded, her fighting spirit only grew as she pulled out her cell phone and dialed a number. Just as Ryu had someplace he had to be, now she did, as well: his side.

    "Po Lin? It's me," Chun-Li said as she looked into the night sky. "I need you to help me get to Japan as soon as possible?"
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Chapter 14: Meaning

    If Ryu had to choose a place that he would have called "home" during his world tour seeking enlightenment, it would have to have been Suzaku Castle. This majestic structure, the pinnacle of classical Japanese architecture, was where Ryu spent the days of his childhood being raised by his Master Gouken. The man who would become known as the "World Warrior" knew nothing about his birth parents, having been adopted by Master Gouken. As far as Ryu was concerned, Suzaku Castle wasn't just his dojo, but the house in which he grew up in.

    Every few months, Ryu would return to Suzaku Castle to reflect on what he had learned throughout his journey across the world. This was the place where Ryu learned his martial art of modified Ansatsuken, and it was here that he met his best friend Ken, who as far as he was concerned was as close to a brother as one could get without being related by blood. Sometimes, a fellow Street Fighter would track Ryu down to Suzaku Castle and challenge him to a match, and so Ryu would be put in a rare situation where he was on his "home turf." With the spirits of those who trained before him in the castle watching over him, Ryu would fight as hard as he could so as not to disgrace their name.

    Stepping into the entrance of Suzaku Castle for the umpteenth time, Ryu opened its door and took a look around. There were no locks in Suzaku Castle, as Master Gouken believed that anyone was welcome into the dojo and observe, so long as their intentions were pure of heart. While that line of thinking would have made it easy for thieves to come in and take whatever they deemed valuable, there wasn't really anything to steal that was of any monetary value. All Suzaku Castle had were memories of the past, where Ryu and Ken learned from Master Gouken's teachings.

    Besides, very few people even know that people live here, so it's not like thieves would know there's anything to take, Ryu thought as he sat down on the hardwood floor and looked down at the dust. Most people just see this place as an old castle that's long since been abandoned. Ever since Master Gouken was killed, there've been rumors that this place is haunted by his presence, and that keeps most people away. Ryu chuckled as the thought sprang to his mind. If I'm not careful, I might be haunting the place right along with him.

    Ryu didn't come to Suzaku Castle to reflect on past experiences this time. He came here to prepare for the greatest battle of his martial arts career, where he would confront his master's killer in fearsome combat. Even though Ryu and Akuma had fought in the past, there had never been a clear-cut winner. This time, there would be no lingering questions as to who was the more complete martial artist. Either Ryu would defeat Akuma and avenge Gouken's death?or Ryu would fall at Akuma's hands and become just one of his many victims.

    That's not going to happen, Ryu told himself as he close his eyes to begin his meditation. A month ago, I would have accepted the outcome of possibly falling at Akuma's hands, for it would have been a fair death as a martial artist. But now, I have more riding on this fight than my pride as a warrior: there is someone waiting for me to return alive, and I made a promise that I would come back to her.

    As Ryu focused his thoughts in preparation for the daunting task that lie before him, the wandering warrior had difficulty thinking about his past fights, which he needed to focus on as it was those experiences that propelled him this far. Instead, whenever he closed his eyes, all he could think about was the breathtakingly beautiful Chun-Li, whether it was talking with her in her kitchen, comforting her after Master Gen's passing, sparring with her in the park?or passionately kissing her in bed. Chun-Li, the warrior's heartbeat started to pick up speed as the woman he loved plagued his thoughts. I miss you?and I'm worried that I might never get a chance to tell you how I really feel?

    Pounding his fist on the ground, Ryu let out a grunt of frustration and opened his eyes. "Looking like meditating isn't going to help me this time," the wandering warrior said to no one in particular as he stood back up and tucked his fists inward. "Maybe I just need to get my body loosened up a bit. HYAH!" Throwing out his left fist directly in front of him, Ryu just as suddenly tucked it back to his hip and threw his right fist out, alternating with each passing second and letting out a yell each time.

    How many people have I defeated with these punches?, Ryu asked himself as he continued his exercises, already feeling the sweat bead up on his face. How many warriors have been on the receiving end of these fists that have guided me every step of the way? How many more fighters will these fists come in contact with before I can finally say, "I made it. I am now a true martial artist."

    After the one-hundredth punch, Ryu relaxed his stance and looked down at his gloved hands. Punching wasn't the only thing his hands were good for: it was with those same hands that he held Chun-Li in his arms, comforting her when she needed it most. Master Gouken asked him many years ago, "What do you see beyond your fist?," and for the longest time, Ryu only saw another challenger. By spending time in Hong Kong, however, Ryu saw something quite different beyond his fist.

    By opening his fist and forming a hand, he saw a gorgeous woman that was waiting for him to complete his journey so that he could go back to the life that they enjoyed together.

    ?someone's coming.

    Looking up from his hands, Ryu sensed someone approaching. Was it Akuma, showing up earlier than Ryu had anticipated? No?this ki signature is powerful, but it's not quite that powerful, the wandering warrior observed as he stood ready for whoever was coming. Maybe it's another challenger, who's come to seek me out just as I have sought out challenges in other places. As the ki signature became clearer and stronger, the wandering warrior allowed himself a smile as he realized that it was a ki signature that he recognized.

    A few seconds later, the source of the ki signature stepped into the room and made himself known to Ryu. The man was thickly muscled, with the kind of muscle mass that would be found in bodybuilders or pro wrestlers, wearing a black wifebeater shirt and baggy green pants with brown combat boots. His long blonde hair was held back in a ponytail, and a red bandana was wrapped around the forehead of his youthful face. "Well?this must be my lucky day," the big man said with a smile as he outstretched his green-gloved hand and waved hello. "Someone told me that if I wanted to look for you, I should start here?and when I finally find this place, you're right here waiting!"

    "Sometimes fate can work in your favor, Alex," Ryu said as he returned the wave before bowing his head. Where Ryu had failed in winning the third Street Fighter tournament, Alex had succeeded by defeating the mighty Gill and avenging the defeat of his friend Tom. However, while Alex was the reigning champion, he wasn't necessarily the stronger fighter, as Ryu was able to defeat Alex in an un-official contest. If Alex was seeking Ryu out, the wandering warrior had a good feeling that it wasn't because he was making a social visit. "How have you been? Have you been practicing?"

    "Every single day, brother," Alex replied with a smile as he flexed his right bicep, with which was almost as big as Ryu's head. "Ever since you kicked my ass six ways to Sunday a few months ago, I haven't been able to stop thinking about when we'll meet again. It's hard to describe?but?" The big man looked down at his gloved hand and clenched his fist. "When you beat me, I felt the urge to follow in your footsteps, traveling the world so I could hone my skills and make it so that our next fight wouldn't be a repeat. It's weird, because before I was content just hanging around New York and never going any place else?"

    "Sounds like you've contracted 'the sickness,'" Ryu replied with a smile.

    "What the blue hell's 'the sickness?'" Alex asked, having never heard the term before.

    "It's something that every street fighter must come to grips with," Ryu explained as walked over to a world map on the wall of the room they were in. Motioning for Alex to come over, the wandering warrior waited for his guest to get closer until he saw what Ryu was interested in: the lines upon lines drawn on the map indicating where Ryu had been on his travels. "Street fighting is a very powerful addiction: once you get your first taste, all you can think about is getting your next fix, seeking out more powerful opponents to test yourself against."

    "Look at all these lines and scribbles," Alex said as he folded his massive arms and leaned in his tall body to get a closer look, being that he stood a few inches higher than where the map was posted against the wall. "Is all of this chicken scratch supposed to indicate where you've been on your travels, brother?"

    "That's right," Ryu nodded his head as he pointed to a circle drawn on the North American continent. "This circle right here is where I first met you, somewhere in Brooklyn, New York. Being that I was taken out of the third tournament earlier than I would have liked, I was looking forward to seeing who won in my absence. When I learned that it was you, I saw that your fist hadn't yet gained the experience that I had?and after I defeated you, I told myself, 'I can't wait what this guy is going to be like with some more battles under his belt?'"

    "Yeah?you beat the crap out of me back then," Alex replied with a slightly embarrassed smile. "You told me to keep getting stronger and seek out stronger fighters, and that's what I did. And you know what?I've really enjoyed that kind of life! The violence, the adrenaline rush, the unspoken communication that can only be done by beating the tar out of each other?as barbaric as it is, I feel like this is where I belong. It's gotten to a point where some of the people I face tell me that I remind them of you!"

    "?would you care to spar, Alex?" Ryu said after a pause, motioning to the open space of the hardwood floor. "I'm planning on making this my final trip to Suzaku Castle, so what better way to celebrate it then by having one last battle inside with a worthy opponent?"

    "Now you're speaking my language, brother," Alex replied with a smirk as he and Ryu walked to opposite sides of the dojo, doing their respective stretches once they decided they had put enough distance between them. I can already feel the difference between what Alex was back when I first fought him and what he's like now, Ryu thought as Alex gripped his shirt and forcefully shredded it off of him as if it were nothing more than plastic wrap. Maybe this is what I really need in order to clear my head: a friendly bout with a worthy opponent.

    (continued next post)
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    No sooner had Ryu entered his fighting stance, Alex suddenly lunged forward with his left elbow glowing with energy. Surprised by the sudden act of aggressiveness, Ryu barely had time to lift his arms up to block the Slash Elbow. Even though Alex stood at well over six feet tall and weighed in at nearly three hundred pounds, he was capable of considerable acts of agility that Ryu had only seen previously from Sagat. It was a testament to how much potential Alex had as a street fighter: with time and experience, he could become every bit as legendary as the Muay Thai Emperor.

    Unfortunately for Ryu, he forgot that unlike Sagat, who specialized in crushing strikes, Alex's fighting style was rooted in wrestling, and now he was in range to grapple Ryu. Reaching out with his left arm, Alex wrapped his hand around Ryu's head and pulled him closer. The big man from New York then reared back and delivered a stiff headbutt directly to Ryu's forehead, sending the wandering warrior stumbling backwards and rubbing where he had been hit.

    Realizing that he had the early advantage, Alex once again lunged forward with his elbow glowing with his yellow ki. However, Ryu wasn't the type of warrior to fall for the same trick twice, and he countered the Slash Elbow with a powerful Shoryuken that launched both of them upwards into the air, with Alex bouncing off the ceiling of the room and falling down onto the hardwood floor with a thud while Ryu landed gracefully on his feet.

    "Ugh?not bad," Alex said with a groan as he rubbed his chin where he had been struck. "I always get jumpy when I realize I'm winning: guess that's what I get for jumping the gun."

    "Heh?who said that you were winning?" Ryu replied with a smirk as Alex stood back up and entered his own ready stance. "Don't count victories that haven't been won yet, Alex! That's the first step to losing!" Realizing that being on the defensive against someone like Alex was a bad idea, Ryu took off towards the grappler at a full run before leaping into the air and spinning his leg around in a propeller motion as he came down for a falling Tatsumaki Senpukyaku.

    Surprised by the direction of the attack that had confounded him in the past while on the ground, Alex could only throw his arms up in a block in order to protect himself from the considerable power of the Hurricane Kick. As soon as Ryu landed, however, Alex outstretched his arms and attempted to put the wandering warrior in a crushing embrace to set up for one of his more powerful throws. What Alex got instead was a powerful punch to the gut, with Ryu plunging his fist deeper upon impact to add extra damage to the attack.

    As Alex stumbled backwards gripping his stomach, Ryu lifted his leg once again and spun around for another Tatsumaki Senpukyaku, this time rushing towards Alex like a car spiraling out of control. "?sucker," Alex whispered with a smirk before intercepting Ryu with a jumping knee. Keeping his knee lodged into the warrior's stomach, Alex and Ryu soared higher into the air before the two came crashing back down, with Alex's knee firmly entrenched into Ryu's ribcage.

    Alex lifted his body so that he could stand back up?but suddenly Ryu grabbed onto his shoulders and pulled him back down! Surprised by how Ryu could recover so quickly from his Air Knee Smash, Alex could do nothing but go along for the ride as the two of them rolled on the ground like a wild tire before Ryu suddenly launched Alex into the wall of the dojo with a grounded throw. Unable to stand up to Alex's massive weight, the wall splintered upon impact, leaving an unsightly gash in the wall.

    "Hadoken!"

    As Alex stumbled back to his feet, Ryu continued pressing the offense by firing off a blue Hadoken in Alex's direction. Even if Ryu couldn't match Alex for sheer brute strength, he still had a reach advantage thanks his ability to fire ki from his hands. The Hadoken rushed towards Alex like a baseball?but the New Yorker was willing to step up to the plate and hit a home run by charging his yellow ki into his right hand?and then forcefully swatting the Hadoken with a horizontal Flash Chop.

    "Nice try, brother," Alex said before lunging forward again for another Slash Elbow. This time, Ryu jumped over Alex's head as he delivered the elbow, landing behind the big man and grabbing onto the back of his neck. Using all of his mighty strength, Ryu lifted Alex off of his feet and drove him face-first into the ground with a reverse neck throw. Due to how much power Ryu put behind the attack, as well as how heavy Alex was, the attack damaged the dojo even further and Alex's body left a visible mark in the hardwood floor.

    Lifting his fist as Alex pushed himself off the ground, Ryu delivered a hammer-like blow to the top of the wrestler's head?but the wandering warrior underestimated Alex's resiliency, especially when it came to blows to his head. The New Yorker completely no-sold Ryu's punch and instead drove his shoulder into Ryu's jaw as he rose back up, launching the Japanese warrior into the air and leaving him vulnerable to another one of Alex's jumping knees.

    Fortunately for Ryu, he had been in much worse scrapes than the one he was currently in, and he surprised Alex but delivering a sharp kick to his jaw as the big man jumped after him. Both fighters landed on their feet, but Ryu was the first to recover enough to deliver the next attack: a Shakenetsu Hadoken that knocked Alex down like a domino and bringing his back down upon the hard floor with a thud. "How are you feeling, Alex?" Ryu asked as Alex quickly rose back up and resumed his fighting stance.

    "How do I feel?" Alex repeated as a smile came over his face before he jumped into the air and crashed down onto Ryu's body with a flying tackle. "I feel?alive!" Pulling Ryu off the ground as he stood back up, Alex received a swift punch to the face from the wandering warrior that rattled his teeth?and only widened his smile. Altering his hold on Ryu so that had his hands wrapped around his waist, Alex bent over backwards and drove Ryu's neck and shoulders into the ground with a German Suplex.

    When Ryu stood back up almost immediately looking only slightly shaken up, the New Yorker continued speaking even as Ryu delivered a standing kick to the side of his neck. "Before I met you, Ryu, I was just some two-bit thug who was too busy worrying about making a decent living and cleaning up the scum off the streets. I just saw fighting as a way to beat up people that ticked me off," Alex said as he lifted his arm and walloped Ryu with a big haymaker that sent Ryu stumbling backwards. "I couldn't appreciate the fight for what it really was!"

    "And?what do you think that fight is now, Alex?" Ryu asked as he ducked under Alex's high boot and rose up back to deliver a sharp uppercut to the big man's chest before firing off a close-range Hadoken that toppled Alex over onto his buttocks. "All my life, I've searched for the true meaning of the fight?and it wasn't until recently that I finally got a grip on what meant to me. What does it mean to you, Alex?"

    "When you're fighting, nothing else in the world matters..." Alex began as he stood back up and lifted his hand just in time to block a right hook from Ryu. Striking Ryu in the head once again with a big headbutt, the New Yorker watched his Eastern rival stumble backwards before lunging forward and delivering a sharp Slash elbow to Ryu's head. "It's like, no matter where you are or how many people are watching you, the only people that exist in the world are yourself and your opponent! It's the one place where you can get to know someone without having to worry about someone else eavesdropping!"

    "SEI-YAH!"

    Catching Alex in the sternum with his Joudan Sokutou Geri ? the Sword Kick ? Ryu watched Alex ricochet off the splintered wall once again and bounce towards him, allowing Ryu to strike him a second time with his mighty Shoryuken. "So fighting is the best way to talk to get to know someone you're not familiar with," Ryu said as he watched Alex crash back down to the ground only to kick his legs into the air and kip back to his feet, ready for more as Ryu landed gracefully onto the floor. With both fighters resuming their fighting stance, the wandering warrior asked another question. "What do you think your fists are telling me right now?"

    "My fists are telling you that I want to learn more about this world we live in," Alex lunged towards Ryu once again, and Ryu lifted his arms to block the attack accordingly. However, instead of delivering another Slash Elbow, Alex instead grabbed onto Ryu and using his forward momentum to swing around his body before driving his head into the ground with a Spiral DDT. "When you beat me, you left me without hate, anger, or any of the things I used to feel when I fight. You completely changed the way I looked at street fighting!"

    Wrapping his arms around the fallen Ryu, Alex used all of his power to dead lift Ryu off of the ground and power his neck and shoulders into the floor with a German Suplex. Keeping his fingers locked around Ryu's waist, Alex lifted Ryu off of the floor once again only to plant him with yet another Suplex. "I have to know more about what makes street fighting such an amazing thing," Alex shouted as he lifted Ryu up onto his shoulders and jumped high into the air with the warrior still in tow. "I have to know what it really means to be strong fighter!"

    Crashing back down into the ground, Alex powered Ryu down onto his back so hard that the floor gave way and imploded from the impact of the New Yorker's feared Hyper Bomb that won him so many battles in the third tournament. "You're a legend, Ryu," Alex said as he watched Ryu groan in the hole that his body had created. "Everyone I talk to says that you're the greatest street fighter that ever lived. I have to know?what makes you so strong?"

    "?I'm not that strong."

    "Wha-"

    "SHORYUKEN!"

    Launching himself out the crater, Ryu struck the big man with another high-arcing Shoryuken as he leaned over to see if he had won. The suddenness of the attack made it so that Alex had no way to roll with the blow, and as such he received the full power of the Shoryuken was launched into the air once again. "I'm not that tough, Alex," Ryu said as Alex crashed down onto the floor stomach-first. "I'm no tougher than you are?but what separates me from the others is the pursuit of that same question you're asking."

    Alex slowly pushed himself off the ground and lifted his hands to resume his fighting stance?but was just as quickly sent back down onto his face as Ryu's Hurricane Kick collided with his jaw and sent him spiraling away. "What is my opponent fighting for?" Ryu said as he watched Alex groggily return to his feet, clearly a little bit dizzy from so many hits to head (some of which he contributed to with his headbutts). "What makes me any more deserving than my opponent to win this fight? Have you asked yourself these questions when you fight, Alex?"

    Gathering his blue ki into his hands, Ryu reared back for another Hadoken as Alex slapped himself hard in the face to try and get his senses back. "For the longest time, I thought the purpose of fighting was to beat the other guy up," Alex said as he charged his own ki in preparation to swat Ryu's Hadoken away. "My friend Tom told me that fighting is no good unless you win! So why?why is it that when you defeated me, I actually felt better about myself than losing!"

    "Shinku?Hadoken!"

    Rather than unleash a ball of ki, Ryu instead fired off a focused beam of energy almost as wide as his own body. Though Alex attempted to swat it anyway with his Flash Chop, he could do little except take the full brunt of the beam and collide with the wall that had already taken so much punishment during their fight, completely breaking it down and having him crash down into the next room. "To live is to fight?and to fight is to live," Ryu said as Alex tried to push himself off the ground, only to fall back onto his face and feel himself losing consciousness. Before the New Yorker blacked out, however, he heard Ryu say this.

    "You don't have to win to get the most of the fight?you have to make sure you don't lose?"

    "Oyyyy?"

    Alex groaned as he awoken from his knockout slumber. The last thing he remembered was going through the wall of the dojo, and then blacking out when Ryu was telling him something about not worrying about winning, but rather not losing, whatever the hell that meant. With the smell of smoke entering his nostrils, Alex's eyes shot open as he sat up. "There's a fire somewhere," he blurted out as he stood up and realized that he was now outside the dojo. Turning his head towards the familiar hot sensation of a nearby fire, Alex drew his attention to Suzaku Castle, which was now engulfed in flame. "How the hell did THAT happen!"

    "It's a signal fire," the familiar voice of Ryu said, causing Alex to turn around to see that Ryu was holding a lit torch in his hand. "I told you that this would be the last time I'd come to Suzaku Castle, and now I'm making sure of it."

    "But?but isn't that where you trained when you were a kid?" Alex asked, completely confused as to Ryu's actions. "I mean, I know we were making a mess in there, but I could have helped you pay the bill to fix the damage. You didn't have to go and burn the place down!"

    "I'm sending a message," Ryu explained as he walked over to the edge of the nearby river and put the torch out. "I came back to Japan this time because I intend to this to be my final battle as a vagabond." Turning back to Alex and pointing at the bandana around his forehead, Ryu continued. "You told me that other fighters were saying that you reminded them of me?well, I'm burning down Suzaku Castle because I'm sending a message to someone that I've completed my training as a street fighter and am ready to face them for the final time."

    "You mean?you're retiring from street fighting?" Alex asked, to which Ryu nodded his head once. "What made you decide to quit?"

    "It's not so much that I'm quitting," Ryu responded as he pointed to the white dragon shirt he was wearing underneath his gi, to which Alex raised an eyebrow in curiosity having finally noticed something different. "It's just that I've finally discovered something to fight for apart from myself. There's someone waiting for me to return to her?and I promised her that I would come back as soon as I finished this one final challenge."

    "Let me guess," Alex said with a smile. "She gave you that t-shirt, and you gave her your red headband." Seeing Ryu nod his head once again, the New Yorker rubbed the back of his head and smiled. "Well, if it's something natural like that, then I won't call you a quitter, brother. You be sure to treat her right, whoever she is, or I'll give you another Power Bomb! I'm not gonna settle for my rival being a lady beater!" Turning back to the burning castle, Alex's smiled faded as he folded his arms. "So, who's the guy you're sending the message to?"

    No sooner as Alex finished asking that question, the roof of the burning Suzaku Castle was literally blown off like someone had just set off dynamite within. The big man jumped back in surprise, letting out a loud "WHOA" as the debris from the roof came falling down to the ground. However, upon a bit of reflection, as well as how the top story of the castle compressed, both fighters realized that something didn't explode from within, but from the outside: someone or something had crashed down on it hard.

    "When we first met, you told me that you entered the third tournament to face Gill, the man who injured your friend," Ryu finally answered Alex's question as the big man followed Ryu's gaze up to the top of the roof to see that there was a man standing there, though he was too high up and far away to really tell where he was. "Well, that man up there?he's my 'Gill.' He's my master Gouken's killer, and the man that I've been trying to catch up to for years and years."

    "?I can feel it," Alex whispered as a chill ran down his spine. "I'm not into that voodoo power-sensing stuff, but I can actually feel the energy coming off from that guy up there. I can't explain it?but he just makes me want to run away."

    "You should get out of here, Alex," Ryu said as the man on top of the burning castle suddenly disappeared. "Find a safe distance and watch our battle. I think you can appreciate the type of battle I'm about to get involved in, where you're fighting to avenge the pride of someone close to you?"

    "You sure you want to go it alone, brother?" Alex asked, placing a comforting hand on Ryu's shoulder. "Just say the word and I'll fight alongside you anyway I can."

    "I appreciate that, but this is something I have to do alone," Ryu answered without turning his gaze away from the castle. "I'll see you around, Alex?I hope."

    Hearing Alex's rapid footsteps becoming more and more distant, Ryu focused his attention entirely on the man that jumped from the top of Suzaku Castle and landed hard on his feet several meters away from him, kicking up violent winds upon impact. The man that stood back up sported a deep tan and blood-red hair tied up in a topknot, wearing a black karate gi tied together with a piece of rope and wooden sandals covering his feet. Opening his fiery red eyes for Ryu to see, the wandering warrior gulped as the man stomped his foot on the ground and entered a horse stance while his evil ki visibly radiated from his body.

    "I am Akuma, Master of the Fist," the man growled as he turned his attention to Ryu. "Show me your strength, or die trying!"
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Chapter 15: Hand

    Suzaku Castle was burning.

    In the past, these four words would have elicited nothing short of abject horror from Ryu. Suzaku Castle was not only the dojo where he learned martial arts from Master Gouken, but the place that he spent his childhood in alongside his friend Ken. It held so many memories, both good and bad, that had shaped Ryu and defined him as the person that he was today. If this was any other situation, Ryu would have entered a panic and done everything he could to try and quench the fire.

    In this situation, however, it was Ryu who purposefully started the fire that had now engulfed the once-majestic structure. This wasn't an act of petty arson, or because of any type of malice Ryu had towards Suzaku Castle: in fact, it was just the opposite. Ryu had set fire to his home because he needed to send a message to the man that stained Suzaku Castle with the blood of his own brother, as proof that Ryu had completed his training as a street fighter and he was casting aside the one place that he could call safe refuge in his endless search for a worthy opponent.

    Minutes ago, Suzaku Castle saw its last battle between Ryu, the man who currently held the title of "World Warrior," and Alex, the man who could very well claim that title as his own. It was a worthy send-off for the castle that had spawned the question that Ryu had pursued since the days of his childhood: "What does it really mean to be strong?" That battle, combined with the burning of the castle, made sure that Ryu's message to his master's killer rang loud and true that the time for training had ended.

    It was now time to finally put down the Master of the Fists, Akuma, or go down trying.

    "Akuma," Ryu finally said after a long silence between the two Ansatsuken warriors, representing two very different schools of thought on what the purpose of martial arts was about. For Ryu, the martial arts were about self-discipline, self-improvement, and understanding between individuals. The different martial arts around the world were as real of a language as anything that could be spoken with words. For Akuma, the martial arts represented the endless pursuit of strength that all humans sought. The stronger martial artists would prevail over the weaker ones, and their defeat would add to the power of the strong. It was a Darwinian code that had earn Akuma countless enemies, but the respect and fear of everyone who knew his name.

    "?at last," Akuma growled as he assumed his fighting stance, the murderous intent radiating from his body to make it appear as if his own ki was consuming just as the flames were consuming Suzaku. "You have finally decided to stop running away and face me in battle. Now I can see just for myself how much you've embraced our martial art's true nature."

    "Don't get your hopes up, demon," Ryu replied sternly, his eyes narrowed as he assumed his own fighting stance. "I'm not going to sell my soul just so I could defeat a monster like you. All that would do is turn me into you?and I'd rather die than allow that to happen to myself."

    "Hmph," Akuma scoffed before running towards Ryu with his lust for violence making his red eyes burn even deeper. As soon as he was within striking distance, Akuma lifted his leg and delivered a high kick to Ryu's head, which was effortlessly parried by the skill warrior. However, Ryu only parried the first half of the attack, as Akuma spun around for a second kick that struck Ryu on the opposite side, causing him to clench his teeth in pain. "What would be so wrong about becoming like me? Am I not the Master of Fists that have struck down countless enemies?"

    Recovering just in time to see Akuma crouch down, Ryu narrowly hopped over Akuma's attempted foot sweep and struck the renegade warrior in the side of his own head with a spinning hop kick. "There's no honor in those victories because you fight to kill," Ryu said as he lifted his fist and attempted to bring it down on Akuma's head like a hammer going onto a nail. "By taking the lives of those warriors, you deny them the chance to learn from the fight! No one who calls themselves a martial artist should commit a crime as horrible as that!"

    "Our martial art is supposed to be the ultimate in assassination," Akuma retorted as he rose back up with an uppercut that struck Ryu under his chin and ended whatever type of follow-up attack he had planned before it could even begin. "It is an ancient rule that anyone who witnesses our techniques must not be allowed to live! I am merely following the one true code that was set in motion by the old master Goutetsu. When I stained my hands with his blood, he beamed with pride knowing that I had become what he could not: the true master of the fists that conquered any foe that stood before him!"

    Keeping his fist lodged in Ryu's chin, Akuma clenched his opposite hand and ignited it with his fiery purple ki before plunging it into Ryu's gut, delivering the attack with such force that it lifted Ryu off of his feet. With Ryu still stuck on his fist, Akuma jumped into the air and ran his ki-infused fist up Ryu's torso and to his throat, delivering the forbidden "Go Shoryuken" that had belonged to the older, more brutal variation of their martial art. It was this very technique that caused Ryu's master Gouken to forbid use of the Shoryuken, in fear that it would eventually devolve into this violent attack.

    Despite the devastating power of the attack, Ryu landed on his feet and charged Akuma even as he was still floating back down to the ground. Before the renegade warrior could properly resume his fighting stance and defend himself, Ryu thrusted his leg forward for a Sword Kick and struck the demonic Master of Fists in his chest, sending him flying away into the grass. "And what about your brother, Akuma," Ryu shouted back as he resumed his fighting stance and watched Akuma kip back to his feet. "Did he beam with his pride, as well, as his younger brother brutally murdered him?"

    "It was not murder," Akuma spat back before charging his energy and delivering a purple Go Hadoken that sped towards Ryu like a cannonball. "Your master and I were engaged in a battle that would determine which was more powerful: the true nature of Ansatsuken, or the softer, sport-friendly version of Ansatsuken. My Satsui no Hadou emerged victorious, and Gouken paid the price for losing to it. How could you call something as natural and pure as that murder!"

    "SHAKENETSU!"

    Rather than counter the attack with his usual blue Hadoken, Ryu instead sent his red, more powerful Shakenetsu Hadoken to met with Akuma's fireball. Somehow, Ryu's Hadoken completely obliterated Akuma's Go Hadoken as it continued to speed towards the renegade warrior. Seeing that he had surprised his nemesis, Ryu ran after his own attack as Akuma readied himself for the wandering warrior's two-pronged assault. "There is nothing pure about a fight to the death," Ryu shouted as he jumped into the air just as Akuma swatted away his Hadoken and delivered a sharp jumping kick to his head. "Animals kill other animals because they need to survive. Humans have no need to kill other humans! What you're doing is wrong!"

    "Don't you dare preach to me, whelp," Akuma roared as he shook his head from dizziness and countered with a long-reaching palm thrust to Ryu's sternum that sent the younger fighter sprawling. "You have tasted for yourself the power that the Satsui no Hadou grants you: if not for that power, you would have fallen in the first Street Fighter tournament to that behemoth Sagat! If you had continued to embrace that power, you would have emerged victorious in every other tournament you competed in?and yet in the last tournament, you fell at the hands of that senile old fool Oro! Because of your refusal to accept the true nature of our arts, you have become a FAILURE!"

    "NO," Ryu shouted as he landed on his hands and flipped back to his feet to see Akuma take to the air in a forward somersault in preparation for his deceptive Demon Flip. Rather than let Akuma try and confuse him with the myriad of attacks he could do from the position, Ryu instead jumped into the air and knocked him out of the sky with a Shoryuken. Even though Ryu's Shoryuken lacked the killing intent that Akuma's Shoryuken possessed, it was still powerful enough to stun the demon and cause him to fall back to the ground on his back.

    "What you fail to realize, Akuma, is that there is no shame in losing a fight," Ryu said lowly as the fires of Suzaku Castle reached their peak, engulfing the building like it had just been plunged into the burning inferno of Hell. Watching Akuma rise back up and wipe some saliva from his mouth with his gloved hand, Ryu slowly resumed his fighting stance and waited for whatever would come next. "Without tasting defeat, we cannot grow and improve. I wouldn't have gotten to this point if I had won every single battle I've been in."

    "?heh," Akuma smirked, much to Ryu's surprise. As if the renegade's stone-like face wasn't unnerving enough, the smile of the Master of Fists was downright terrifying, as it revealed the canine-like teeth that demonstrated how Akuma had become more of a demon than a man. "It is easy for you to preach about the wonders of losing a fight?but if that is the case, why have you challenged me when you know that doing so is feeding your soul into the jaws of death?"

    "?because you are the only thing that is keeping me from reaching the end of this journey of ours," Ryu replied after a pause, looking down at the shirt that he was wearing underneath his gi. "For years I have searched endlessly for the answer on what it means to be a true martial artist?and I finally have an answer. While we train to strengthen our body and mind, we cannot find true strength unless we cultivate the soul, as well. Until we find something or someone worth fighting for?until we find something that is so precious to us that we'd become stronger to protect it, then we have done nothing to gain true strength."

    "?and you think that fighting to protect someone, your training is somehow more complete than my own," Akuma said with an amused grin as Ryu lifted his leg and spun towards the renegade warrior with his Tatsumaki Senpukyaku. Rather than defend himself, Akuma instead jumped towards the spinning Ryu and fired off an aerial Zanku Hadoken as soon as he was just above Ryu's head. The ki attack hit its mark, and Ryu was forcefully slammed into the ground while Akuma landed a few feet behind him. "What utter nonsense! It's the same kind of drabble that my foolish brother Gouken would spout out."

    "There's nothing foolish about it, Akuma," Ryu growled as he rolled over into his belly and pushed himself off the ground, resuming his fighting stance as the demonic warrior turned around to t face him. "I'm going to prove the value of my words to you, by finally defeating you and avenging my master's murder." Gathering his blue ki into this hands, Ryu's eyes narrowed as Akuma's murderous intent continued to radiate from his body. "Prepare yourself, monster!"

    Before Ryu could fire off once his Hadokens, however, Akuma suddenly spiraled towards him like a cyclone, his foot crackling with dark energy. The original scriptures of the Tatsumaki Senpukyaku described the Hurricane Kick as an attack that could clear forests, cutting down every tree in its path. The ideology of this attack was quite evident with Akuma's Zanku Senpuukyaku, which would have certainly rended Ryu asunder if he didn't figure out a way to defend himself.

    With many other people, confronting a murderous attack like this one would evoke images of the past, likely a result of the "life flashing before the eyes" phenomenon. However, upon seeing Akuma spiral towards him, the unlikely thought of Dan Hibiki using his Koryuken came to mind. If there was ever a chance to see if what Dan did wasn't just a fluke, Ryu thought as he crouched down for his Shoryuken as Akuma continued speeding towards him, it's a do-or-die situation like this!

    "SHORYUKEN!"

    Throwing a prayer into the wind, Ryu went for broke and unleashed his Shoryuken just as Akuma was about to crash into him. To both combatant's astonishment, the Shoryuken connected with Akuma's knee and broke him out of his spiral, causing the warrior to be sent careening backwards while doing somersaults in the air. "?you probably can't hear me right now," Ryu said out loud as he landed of his feet while Akuma landed flat on his stomach, "but I owe you big time, Dan."

    "Impressive," Akuma growled as he once again kicked his legs into the air and flipped back to his feet before wincing on his damaged leg. Flexing it once and realizing was was wrong, Akuma lifted his damaged leg and stomped it on the ground, eliciting a sickening popping sound a shout of pain. "AGH! Whatever your ideology, you have clearly become much stronger than the last time we met. Imagine how much stronger you could be if you just embraced the-"

    "Shove it, Akuma," Ryu snapped back. "I already told you: I have no interest in selling my soul just to become a little bit stronger! If having my fights be a little bit harder is the price I have to pay for doing that?then it's gladly a price I'll settle for!"

    "?then it appears that I have no choice," Akuma growled as he lifted his large prayer beads off of his neck and tossed them to the side. "Out of respect for my brother, I have refrained for killing you and your classmate all of these years. By tossing aside his prayer beads, I am also tossing aside that hesitation!" With his murderous intent now burning off of him like the inferno that was eating away at Suzaku Castle, the feared "Ten" symbol branded itself on Akuma's back as he focused his purple ki into both of his hands. "If ripping you to pieces is what it will take for you to unleash your true power?then so be it!"

    I know this attack, Ryu thought as the demon's eyes and hands shone brighter than stars in preparation for one of his many, many killing techniques that had slain so many before him. This is the Messatsu Gou Hadou, the lethal variation of the Shinku Hadoken. It was this attack that forced me to alter my own Shinku Hadoken into a beam attack, so I could overcome it. Taking a deep breath and putting his hands to his left side, Ryu gathered his blue ki and prepared for the worst. I don't know how well it'll do that that this is the real battle?but I have to try!

    (continued next post)
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    "SHINKU?HADOKEN," Ryu roared as his power reached its zenith and he unleashed it in the form of a thick beam of blue ki that sped towards Akuma like a freight train. The wandering warrior poured every ounce of his energy in the attack, hoping to completely nullify the Messatsu Gou Hadou and barge through Akuma's body like a linebacker?but to his confusion, Ryu felt absolutely no resistance to his attack. It was like he had missed completely and was shooting nothing but air.

    Lowering his hands and cutting off the flow of ki so as not to waste precious energy, Ryu noticed that there was no one standing in front of him. He disappeared, Ryu thought in confusion. Where could he have gone?

    "MESSATSU!"

    Startled by Akuma's roaring voice so close behind him, Ryu darted around with his eyes widening in shock. Somehow, Akuma had teleported directly behind him while still charging for the attack! Unable to counter the attack due to a combination of expending most of his energy in the Shinku Hadoken and just being plain shocked by Akuma teleporting behind him, Ryu could do nothing but throw his arms up in a block and the renegade warrior unleashed a rushing stream of purple ki at him. Originally, the Messatsu Go Hadou was a concentrated bolt of energy that Akuma hurled at the victim, hence Ryu modifying his Shinku Hadoken to form a beam. This time, Akuma fired off a thick beam of energy at Ryu just as the wandering warrior had tried to do to him.

    "AGH," Ryu roared in pain as he was bathed in the untamed energy of Akuma's attack. Though he didn't think it was possible before, Akuma managed to make one of his many killing arts even more lethal than it had been originally. It hurts so much, Ryu thought through the storm of energy as he did his best to keep from screaming out in agony. It's like he's projecting the fires of hell out at me! And this is just the first of his killing techniques!

    To Ryu's own surprise, the wandering warrior managed to take the full brunt of the Messatsu Gou Hadou and still have the strength to continue standing. Lowering his hands and realizing that the attack had taken its toll on Akuma as well, needing a moment to catch his breath. Unwilling to let such an opportunity be squandered, Ryu lifted his fists and began punching Akuma with rapid fists: two jabs, followed by a gut punch, followed by another two jabs and gut punch until the pattern started to become endless. After the fourth repetition, Ryu kept his fist lodged into Akuma's stomach until it flashed with his blue ki...prompting Ryu to complete the Reppu Jinrai Shou with a ki-infused Shoryuken that knocked Akuma into the air.

    Ryu landed on his feet and looked up to see Akuma still airborne?and fully recovered with his hands glowing with ki. "TENMA," Akuma roared as he unleashed another killing technique upon Ryu: a hailstorm of lethal purple ki bolts that he dubbed the "Tenma Gou Zankuu." This was one of the attacks Ryu dreamed about in the nightmare that forced him to leave Chun-Li's side, after imagining the attack completely devastating Chun-Li's school of martial arts.

    The good news: Akuma wasn't using the technique on Chun-Li's school like Ryu had dreamt.

    The bad news: he was using it on Ryu, instead!

    Unable to do much of anything to counter the attack, Ryu swallowed his pride and instead ran for cover as the shower of ki bolts came down, leaving small craters wherever they hit. I just need to keep running until Akuma runs out of energy and has to recharge, Ryu told himself as he used all of his conditioning to run away from the hail storm that was quickly gaining on him. Problem is, I don't know how long I can keep this up: Akuma's energy seems almost limitless. He could probably do this all day if he put his mind to it!

    Fortunately for Ryu, the sounds of explosions subsided before Ryu could tire himself out, and as soon as the hailstorm quieted, Ryu screeched to a halt and turned back around to fire off another Shinku Hadoken at the still-airborne Akuma?only to see that he had once again disappeared from view. Keeping his ki primed, Ryu turned around and expected to see another sneak attack from the renegade warrior?only to notice that he wasn't behind him either. "Stop hiding, Akuma," Ryu shouted as he put up his fists and carefully monitored his surrounding. "Show yourself and face me head-on!"

    "?it's your funeral, boy."

    Turning back around, Ryu blocked Akuma's high punch just in time?but when he felt the heat of Akuma's fiery purple ki near his waist, the wandering warrior realized that he had once again fallen into the Master of Fists' trap. "MESSATSU," Akuma bellowed once again as his burning fist struck Ryu's body with a lethal Shoryuken?followed by another one?and yet another Shoryuken that had both fighters soaring high through the air. The Messatsu Gou Shoryu was an attack that Ryu had seen before, and Ken even modeled his Shoryu-Reppa after it. The big difference was that Ken's Shoryu-Reppa was used to knock people out. Akuma's Messatsu Gou Shoryu was used to make people dead.

    Perhaps the only reason that Ryu survived the attack was because of the intense training that he'd gone through over the years, specifically to withstand attacks such as these. If Akuma had hit me with this attack years ago, there's no way I would still be conscious, Ryu thought as he landed on his feet and gripped where the attacks had struck him. I guess adding all of that muscule like Guile suggested helped more than I thought it would?doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt, though!

    Seeing Akuma rush towards him once again, Ryu focused his gathered ki into his leg for an attack that he created specifically for fighting Akuma. "Boufuuuu?." Ryu growled as Akuma leapt into the air and dived down foot-first towards Ryu with his foot glowing with his ki. "?.TATSUMAKI SENPUKYAKU!"

    As a result of Ryu spinning around at cyclonic speeds with his ki-infused foot spiraling around like the blades of a blender, Akuma was sucked into the man-made tornado and bombarded with rapid kicks. Unlike many of Ryu's attacks, this particular move could do serious and possibly permanent damage to whoever was unfortunate enough to get caught in it, to a point where Ryu completely omitted it from his arsenal when it came to the tournaments.

    For Akuma, however, Ryu was more than willingly to reveal this attack, comparing it to the overwhelming spiraling force of a tornado. Ryu put so much force into the attack that the winds around him were picking up the ashes of Suzaku Castle and swirling around him to a point where it actually DID seem like had formed a tornado. After the devastating 26th revolution, Akuma was sent spiraling away as Ryu landed on his feet and resumed his fighting stance, hoping on hope that he had done some damage.

    It took a moment to realize that when Akuma didn't stop spinning, it wasn't because he was still sailing from Ryu's attack. Rather, it was because Akuma was spinning TOWARDS him, moving faster than a bullet train with just as much lethal rushing force. What in the world is THAT!?, Ryu thought as a cold sweat ran down his forehead, keeping his ground as Akuma continued rushing towards him spinning like a top. I've never seen an attack like that before!

    By the time Ryu realized that it wasn't the type of attack that he could block, it was too late. Rushing through Ryu as easily as a speeding car would brush past a piece of paper, Akuma delivered a crushing spinning kick to Ryu's kick that shredded his white gi like pache mache, with the point of impact shooting off a massive burst of crimson ki that took the shape of the same "ten" symbol that was branded on his back. "TENSHOU KAIREKI JIN," Akuma roared as he gave voice to his attack and screeched to a halt on the ground while Ryu remained motionless.

    After a full ten seconds of nothing happening, Ryu let out a pained whimper as he rolled over onto his stomach and very, very slowly pushed himself off the ground. "?impossible," Akuma growled as Ryu coughed up dark red blood before lifting his fists back up. "That is the latest of my destructive killing techniques: it completely obliterated a war submarine the last time I used it." Walking over to Ryu and easily dodging the very slow punch the wandering warrior tried to fend him off with, Akuma grabbed Ryu by his hair and lifted him off of his feet. "How can your mortal flesh and bone survive it!"

    "?I do it to spite you, Akuma," Ryu said as he weakly put both his hands on Akuma's chest before coughing up more blood. "HCK?I do it IN spite of you?because I'll never let you win!" Focusing his ki into his hands, Ryu allowed himself a smirk as Akuma looked down in surprise. "SHINKU HADOKEN!"

    This time, Ryu definitely felt Akuma's body collide against his beam, forcing Akuma to let go of him as he was sent sailing backwards like he was a bug that had just splat against the windshield of a race car. Finally got him, Ryu thought as Akuma roared in pain, even though Ryu felt like doing the same with how much strain he was putting on his damaged body. This attack probably won't hold him down for long?but at least I've shaken up his faith in his techniques!

    Making the wise decision not to waste precious energy on an attack that he wasn't sure would achieve victory, Ryu lowered his fists and looked into the distance to see that Akuma was now stumbling onto one knee. Normally, Ryu would chase after him and press the attack, but the purpose of the Shinku Hadoken was to give him some much needed breathing time. Akuma had been unleashing killing technique after killing technique on him, and that had to have expended a lot of his energy. Still, being that Ryu's ribcage felt like it had crumbled into a million pieces, the wandering warrior needed the breather much more than Akuma did.

    It's not just my ribcage, Ryu thought as his eyes started to water up from the immense agony he was in. It feels like every part of my body has suffered from some kind of horrible injury. Even I'm surprised that I can still stand. Looking up to see Akuma once again teleport out of sight, Ryu slowly lifted his fists for his fighting stance and clenched his teeth as the pain shot up through his body. But I can't fall down, no matter how much I want to. I made a promise that I would emerge victorious and come back in one piece?

    "It would be child's play to put you out of your misery," the voice of Akuma rumbled, causing Ryu to turn around to see the renegade warrior with his arms folded. "Even if my attacks haven't killed you by now, it wouldn't take much more effort for me to finish this battle and send your soul to the afterlife, joining the legions upon legions of warriors that have fallen to my fist."

    "Don't count victories that haven't been won, Akuma," Ryu retorted as he waited for Akuma to make a move, aware that his body was approaching its limit and that any wasteful movement would prove fatal at this point. "Why don't you attack and see for yourself whether or not I'm child's play."

    "Even in the face of death, you still stand defiant," Akuma stated as he noticed Ryu's body glowing softly with a light blue aura. "It should have not have been possible for you to last this long against me without giving into the Satsui no Hadou. In addition to that, you've made it a point not to use any techniques that would guarantee victory."

    "You mean attacks that would kill," Ryu growled.

    "Indeed," Akuma nodded his head. "By all accounts, you should be dead by now?hmph!" The renegade warrior once again smirked at Ryu's defiant glare. "Very interesting! The last person to hold up this well against my Satsui no Hadou without giving in to the killing intent was my brother Gouken. It's very possible that you have surpassed your master with your resolve."

    What's going on, Ryu thought as Akuma unfolded his arms and assumed a new fighting pose, eliciting memories of the war-like Buddha statues that Ryu would see on his travels across his homeland. Is Akuma?complimenting me?

    "The Shun Goku Satsu is the most powerful killing technique in our martial art," Akuma began as the evil aura around him intensified. "Though seldom have survived it, no one has broken through it! It is the ultimate embodiment of the 'final strike' that all martial artists seek to create." With his glowing eyes narrowing, the renegade warrior continued. "You have just enough energy for one more effective strike before your body gives out and you are no longer a challenge. If you can prove to me the effectiveness of your so-called 'better way' and break through the Shun Goku Satsu?then even the Satsui no Hadou will be naught but a minor art!"

    The Shun Goku Satsu, Ryu repeated in his mind as Akuma continued charging his energy for the most fearsome and fatal of all his attacks. This is the attack that killed Master Gouken, Bison, and so many other powerful warriors. I know it's possible to survive it?but I need to do more than that. I have to endure it all long enough to deliver the finishing blow! How can I do-huh?

    Even in the face of Akuma's overwhelming aura, Ryu could feel someone else approaching him: a ki signature that was quite familiar to him. It can't be, the wandering warrior thought as he turned his head to the direction of the ki signature. All of the pain I'm in must be playing with my head?there's no way she'd come all the way out-

    "Ryu!"

    With that beautiful voice calling out to him, Ryu's eyes widened to see the familiar figure of Chun-Li coming at him at a full run, wearing the blue qipao that she had worn to so many fights. However, was something different about her: her long brown hair, which she normally kept in buns, was now flowing in the wind, tied together with?his headband. Chun-Li, Ryu thought as the pain in his body seemed to wash up. She came for me?all the way out here!

    "HERE I COME," Akuma roared as he levitated towards Ryu, causing the wandering warrior to turn back to the challenge at hand just as Akuma latched onto Ryu's clothes. "WITH ENOUGH POWER TO REND MOUNTAINS AND ENOUGH AGONY TO DISRUPT THE AFTERLIFE ITSELF?DIE ONE THOUSAND DEATHS IN THE SHUN GOKU SATSU!"

    The Shun Goku Satsu was an attack that was nothing short of the stuff of nightmares. Even though it was possible to survive the attack, the likelihood of it happening was astronomical. It went beyond the mere physics of human anatomy, as was more akin to a supernatural curse. It targeted the sin within a victim's soul, then amplified it one-hundred fold in the form of destructive energy. The result was an attack had sent innumerous warriors to an early grave, adding their souls to the legion of howling ghosts that surrounded the Satsui no Hadou.

    But as soon as Akuma delivered the first strike of the barrage, Ryu remembered something that Gen told him while the old master was on his death bed.

    "If you don't want your time to come before you're ready, then you must clear your soul of doubt and embrace what's important to you."

    ?I can see them,
    Ryu thought as he took the old man's advice and focused on the very thing that drove him to finally face Akuma on this early evening. By clearing my soul and focusing only on the woman who makes me feel pure?I can see each of the devastating strikes of the Shun Goku Satsu. It's as if Akuma is moving in slow-motion! As Akuma's attacks continued to tear into him, Ryu didn't break his concentration, still thinking about the woman that had been so kind to him and was now watching his battle with the Master of Fists.

    He could hear Chun-Li calling out his name, obviously quite concerned that Ryu wouldn't get out of the Shun Goku Satsu alive?but the wandering warrior refused to let doubt enter his heart. As long as she was there with him?there was no way he could lose to the Shun Goku Satsu. That's why when it came time for Akuma to deliver the fatal fifteenth blow of the barrage that would have sealed Ryu's fate?

    ?the wandering warrior caught the fist mere inches away from his heart, causing Akuma's eyes to widen in shock. "I?impossible," Akuma stammered as Ryu opened his eyes and glared at Akuma as his focused his ki into his opposite hand. "How?how is this possi-BLAGH!"

    The warrior's astonishment was cut short as Ryu plunged his glowing fist deep into Akuma's stomach, lifting him off of his feet and into the air. "SHIN?" Ryu roared as he focused the very last reserves of his energy into the most powerful of his attacks. With Akuma still suspended into the air, Ryu charged the rest of his energy into his now free hand and drove it straight into Akuma's sternum before both of them rocketed into the air and the shimmering fist was driven into Akuma's chin and launched the Master of Fists into the sky. "?SHORYUKEN!"

    Even as Ryu floated back down to the ground, he could hear the sounds of footsteps rapidly approaching him. Slowly turning around with a smile on his face, the wandering warrior outstretches his arms and embraced the beautiful woman that had come all the way out to see him?and perhaps saved his life in the feared Shun Goku Satsu. "Chun-Li," Ryu managed to say, the overwhelming joy he felt being in her arms again overriding how much pain his body was in. "What are you doing here?"

    "I decided I couldn't wait for you," Chun-Li said with her face buried into Ryu's strong chest. "After all of the horror stories I've heard about Akuma, I just couldn't bear to let you do this alone. I used some of my old Interpol connections to get flown in to Japan from a jet, and then I used some contacts to tell me where Suzaku Castle was. Then I saw the smoke coming from the forest and I ran as fast I could?thank God I came here."

    "?don't worry, Chun-Li," Ryu whispered as he held Chun-Li close. "There's no way I'll ever leave your side again?because I l-"

    *THOOM*

    Hearing Akuma crash down hard against the ground, Ryu turned his head to where the Master of Fists had landed, with his eyes widening in surprise when the renegade warrior somehow stood back up. Gently pushing Chun-Li away, Ryu prepared himself for the worst?but let out a sigh of relief when Akuma tipped over and fell down onto his hands and knees. Somehow, through force of will, Ryu had defeated Akuma and avenged Master Gouken's death.

    "?.gooooo," Akuma groaned as slowly lifted his head to see Ryu walking towards him. "A very long time ago?my brother used that technique against me?and it defeated me that time, as well. It was a testament to his ideology of favoring the fist that achieves victory over the fist that destroys everything. When I killed him, I thought that the two fists were the same?but after tasting your Shin Shoryuken, I can see that I was mistaken?"

    "Akuma?," Ryu said softly as he stood over the defeated demon.

    "Your master Gouken told this to me: 'The fist is only one shape our hand can take. We were given fingers so that we could either smash with a fist?or nurture with an open hand.'" Standing on one knee and very, very slowly standing back up, the renegade warrior lowered his head in shame. "Ryu?you have embraced both sides of the hand, and as such evolved past my fist. You are now the 'true martial artist!'"

    Once he was fully upright, Akuma outstretched his hand, as if to give Ryu a handshake?but as soon as Ryu considered taking the hand, the renegade warrior suddenly slammed it against his chest. "Akuma," Ryu repeated louder as the hand pressed against Akuma's chest glowed with purple energy. "What do you think you're doing! If you do that, you're-"

    "This was a fight to the finish," Akuma interjected as his hand continued to glow. "To those who follow the path of the Satsui no Hadou, every battle is a life or death situation: you either kill your opponent, or be killed trying. Now that my Satsui no Hadou has been surpassed, my purpose in this world is complete!" Taking note of the shock on Ryu's face, Akuma smirked one last time as he prepared to say farewell. "Goodbye, Ryu?the true martial-HURK!"

    Before Akuma could take his own life with one of his own lethal attacks, the glow of his hand suddenly disappeared as face became racked with pain. When Akuma vomited blood and went limp on his feet, the understandably concerned Ryu stepped closer and watched the eerie glow of Akuma's eyes slowly fade into they had closed completely. "?Akuma?"

    BLURCH!

    A glowing purple hand exploded out of Akuma's chest like a jack-in-the-box and wrapped around Ryu's neck. An instant later, Ryu was roaring in pain as purple electricity crackled around his body, threatening to fry him like he had been put in an executioner's chair. "RYU," Chun-Li screamed as she ran over to her lover, who was now convulsing uncontrollably as the hand jutting out of Akuma's chest tightened his death grip.

    Seconds later, the hand let go of Ryu and allowed the warrior to fall back into Chun-Li, breathing heavily as his eyes closed in unconsciousness. Checking Ryu's pulse and letting out a sigh of relief to see that he was still alive, Chun-Li turned to Akuma and watched the hand pull itself free from the demon's body, leaving a bloody hole in its wake while his victim fell flat onto the ground lifeless. With the source of the hand now in plain sight, Chun-Li recognized him as the young fortune-teller who told him to follow Ryu to Japan.

    "Xaeraph?" Chun-Li said as the fortune teller's glowing hand dripped with Akuma's blood. "What are you doing here? Why did you just-"

    "You disappoint me, Miss Li," the fortune teller said with a sick grin as he lifted his head to reveal milky white eyes crackling with purple energy. "We've been through so much together, I thought you'd be able to recognize me even when I'm in a different body." Holding his dripping hand out in front of him, the young man's grin widened to Cheshire levels. "After all?wasn't it you who annihilated my illustrious Shadaloo to satisfy your need for revenge? Isn't it fair that I do the same to those who wronged me?"

    Chun-Li's confusion turned to abject horror as she realized what the young man was talking about. Though his body was different, that cruel, mocking voice and familiar tinge of Psycho Power was enough to make her realize Xaeraph's true identity?no matter how much she didn't want to believe it. "Oh God," she whispered in disbelief as the young man folded his arms. "?it's you?Bison!"
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Chapter 16: Protector

    This can't be happening.

    Chun-Li told herself this over and over as she assessed the situation around her. Deciding that she couldn't wait for Ryu, Chun-Li made the trip over from Hong Kong to Japan in order to be at her lover's side in his darkest hour during the fight with Akuma. As soon as she was within distance of the Suzaku Castle that acted as their battle ground, she ran as fast as she could before something terrible would happen to Ryu and she was lose yet another man close to her heart. Chun-Li wound up arriving just in the nick of time, as Ryu was about to face the terrifying wrath of Akuma's most lethal and fearsome technique: the Shun Goku Satsu.

    Thanks largely to Chun-Li's presence, Ryu was not only about to survive the Shun Goku Satsu, but break through it completely and deliver the final blow with his own ultimate technique, the Shin Shoryuken. It seemed that all of Chun-Li's fears about losing Ryu were alleviated, as she embraced the wandering warrior and took joy in hearing his voice again. It was the type of storybook ending that both of them had strived for in their long careers as street fighters: the killers of their father figures had been defeated, and now there was nothing keeping them from moving on with their lives.

    But no sooner had Chun-Li told herself that everything had turned out OK, things took a turn for the worse, and her dream scenario turned into an ugly nightmare that even she couldn't have imagined.

    When Ryu walked over to Akuma to hear his final words, a human hand suddenly erupted from the defeated warrior's chest and wrapped its fingers around Ryu's neck, electrocuting him with evil ki and knocking him unconscious. Now, Akuma was dead and Ryu was possibly dying, thanks to a combination of his wounds from fighting Akuma and being pumped full of lethal energy?and the culprit responsible was the same young man that told Chun-Li to go to Japan, only now revealing his true identity as the infamous Shadaloo leader Bison.

    This isn't happening, Chun-Li told herself as she put Ryu down onto the ground and stood up to face her mortal enemy, who was supposed to have been dead for years. This is just a bad dream. I'll wake up in a moment, and Ryu will be lying next to me, and everything will turn out OK! There's just no way this is real!

    "I do believe you are wondering how I am still alive," the young man called Bison said with a smirk as he looked at his right hand still stained with the blood of Akuma, the man who had slain him at the conclusion of the second Street Fighter tournament. "You're a very capable detective, so I can only imagine what you must be thinking as you try to deduce how I cheated death once again." The resurrected dictator raised an eyebrow as he noted that Chun-Li was now trembling. "Would you like me to tell you?"

    "You?you might as well, Bison," Chun-Li managed to say as she focused her fear and tried to turn it into rage. After all, this was the same man who murdered her father, killed her partner Charlie in cold blood, brainwashed one of her best friends Cammy into being his personal assassin, and ruined the lives of so many other innocent people around the world. Just now, he delivered a near-fatal shock to Ryu, who had grown so close to her over the past two weeks. Why shouldn't Chun-Li want to drive her foot into his throat and take him down herself? "Let's hear how you came back this time?"

    "You're angry?good," Bison observed as his smile widened and his unfolded his arms. "Let's begin with what happened at the end of the second tournament. You and your friends had just demolished the last of my Shadaloo bases, and I had just been defeated in the second tournament. No sooner had I regained consciousness?," the young man posing as the evil dictator pointed at the dead Akuma and snarled, "?this fool delivered that Shun Goku Satsu technique, and everything went black. Even I believed that I had met my end?but that is why I created a failsafe."

    "A failsafe?" Chun-Li repeated. "How do you create a failsafe for getting your soul shredded?"

    "By creating a backup of myself, of course," Bison exclaimed as he outstretched his arms and showed off his youthful body. "When I met my end the first time, when you destroyed the Psycho Drive, I realized that without that machine, I would no longer be able to resurrect myself at will. That's why, while I inhabited Rose's body, I created a male clone of her in case something happened to me. Every day, I downloaded my memories into this body you see before you, putting more and more of myself into him. Even after my scientists created a new body for me, I made sure to keep this body safe?in case the unthinkable happened, and my true soul was destroyed."

    "But why have you come back now?" Chun-Li demanded to know as she tried to piece together the impossible events that Bison was telling her about. "Why didn't you return as soon as your old body was destroyed? Why did you have to come back now?just when I had finally moved on with my life and accepted that you were gone forever?"

    Bison's smile turned into a frown as he looked at his other hand that wasn't stained with blood. "As I told you, this body wasn't created with my DNA: it was created from my counterpart Rose when I was inhabiting her body. Because of that, I am merely a ghost that has to play guest to my host?who you've already met as Xaeraph. I have struggled long to gain dominance of this body, but that meddlesome woman's spirit is strong. She's worked hard to keep me shut out so that this Xaeraph can live his own life?but they're both fools! I am the mighty Bison and I will not be denied!"

    With that war cry, Bison suddenly vanished in a flash of purple ki, causing Chun-Li to lift her hands and assume her fighting stance. If there was any doubt about this young man saying who he said he was, it was completely erased with the teleportation technique that belonged to those who wielded the dreaded Psycho Power. No matter how insane the past few minutes had been, Chun-Li had to be ready for anything, including facing the angry ghost of her worst enemy.

    Rather than try to go for a sneak attack that would have been so befitting of an honorless fiend of his caliber, Bison instead teleported directly in front of Chun-Li and tapped her in her the same place where Vega had stabbed her two days before in Hong Kong. Even though the attack wasn't very forceful, it was enough for Chun-Li to scream in pain and put her hand around where the wound had been before taking a swipe at Bison with her hand. She didn't expect it to do anything, as Bison teleported away a few steps in front of her, but it at least it put some distance between them.

    "After years of struggling to gain dominance of this body, I used what remained of my power to send a psychic message to Vega to seek me out. When Xaeraph caught a glimpse of our former top assassin, all of the memories I implanted into him came rushing to the forefront, and I was able to finally take control and carry out my revenge on those who had wronged me," Bison explained as his entire body started to shine with evil purple energy, causing Chun-Li to shield her eyes from the glare. When the light faded, Xaeraph was no longer wearing his leather jacket and pants, but a black variation of the Shadaloo uniform that Bison wore during his time of prominence, complete with his trademark cap with the skull-bearing Shadaloo symbol. "Now I have returned, in this young and vigorous body?ready to make you suffer as I have suffered!"

    With his cape buffeting in the winds that were picking around them, Bison suddenly slid towards Chun-Li foot-first he was a base runner sliding to home plate. However, the speed Bison went at was less like a baseball player and more like a race car, moving much faster than Chun-Li could possibly keep up with. As a result, Chun-Li was swept off her feet as Bison bowled past her as easily as a linebacker would demolish a paper wall. "My killer Akuma has already fallen at my hands," Bison said with a smile as Chun-Li stood back up and resumed her fighting stance. "Now I shall begin the next phase of my revenge and strike down the woman who destroyed my organization!"

    "Don't count on it, creep," Chun-Li shouted as she lifted her leg in preparation for one of her many powerful kicks. "I've come way too far just to lose to some ghost! This time I'll send you back to Hell and defeat you just like I should have all those years ago!" Crouching down for a moment, Chun-Li performed a forward flip and executed a mid-air splits for her guillotine leg drop that she had refined and perfected for years. "HAZAN SHU!"

    Chun-Li's thick and powerful legs had earned her worldwide fame and renown since she took up street fighting in her quest for justice against Bison. They had won countless battles for her and contributed largely to her moniker of "the Strongest Woman in the World." With the Hazan Shu, Chun-Li was using all of her physical training to bring down the full power of her toned leg onto someone's head, and it was usually enough to at least stun them.

    But Bison was far from "usual," and instead of being hit by the attack or at least blocking it?the dictator caught Chun-Li's leg as if it were moving in slow-motion. Smiling at the shock in Chun-Li's eyes as she put one foot on the ground and tried to regain her balance, Bison lifted his free hand and charged it with Psycho Power before pressing it against the claw mark on Chun-Li's leg that had been left over from her battle with Vega. The result was Chun-Li screaming in pain as Bison's burning hand pressed into her like a branding iron into a cow. "It looks Vega did quite a number on you in Hong Kong," Bison said as he licked his lips as Chun-Li's screaming. "It's comforting to know that the years haven't softened him like so many other fighters. Wouldn't you say so, Miss Li?"

    Feeling her leg become numb, Chun-Li lifted her other leg off of the ground and spun around to deliver a kick to the side of Bison's head, forcing him to let her go at last. Landing on her hands and flipping back to her feet, Chun-Li assessed the damage done to her leg and frowned. Bison's Psycho Power was rooted in negative emotions such as fear and hatred. With Bison providing the hatred and Chun-L providing the fear, it made for quite an excruciating sensation when he started pumping that power into her wound. It feels like my leg is freezing and on fire at the same time, Chun-Li thought as she resumed her fighting stance and grit her teeth to keep Bison from hearing her scream. What a horrible power!

    "Where do you think you're going, Miss Li?" Bison called out as he lifted his glowing hand, where a crackling purple ball of energy about the size of a basketball materialized. "We haven't spoken in such a long time. You should really come closer so that we can get to know each other better?or maybe you'd like to play CATCH!" Tossing the Psycho Shot at Chun-Li, Bison folded his arms and grinned evilly as he watched the ball speed towards the woman. The Psycho Shot had felled many opponents who were foolish enough to stand up to him, and he was curious to see how Chun-Li would react to the technique that hadn't been used in a long time.

    "KIKOKEN!"

    Gathering as much energy as she could, Chun-Li unleashed a large Kikoken in order to defend herself against the Psycho Shot. Whereas most ki vs. ki battles would result in both attacks dispersing against one another, Bison's Psycho Shot was much more resilient than most other ki attacks. I put a little bit extra into my Kikoken, Chun-Li thought as she prepared herself for the worst while she watched her Kikoken and Bison's Psycho Shot clash against each other violently. Here's hoping that it does the job!

    After a full seven seconds of uncertainty, the Psycho Shot exploded in a burst of electricity, engulfing Chun-Li's Kikoken in its spectacular death and forcing her to cover her eyes. When the light subsided and Chun-Li opened her eyes, she saw that Bison was gone once again. "Did he disappear again?" Chun-Li said out loud as she resumed her fighting stance and focused on finding Bison's ki signature. "Where did you run off to, Bison?"

    "HERE!"

    Looking directly above her, Chun-Li eyes widened as she saw Bison gliding down towards her in a swan dive, with his left hand extended glowing with Psycho Power. However, as fearsome as Bison's Devil Reverse was, Chun-Li did not feel scared at all. Instead, she decided to jump high into the air with her legs spinning around vertically for her Tenshoukyaku. In Bison's endless aggression, he had left himself wide open for Chun-Li to mount some kind of offense.

    To her good fortune, her kicks struck Bison right in his head and propelled him higher into the air while Chun-Li landed on her feet. I definitely felt my kicks collide with his jaw, Chun-Li thought as she looked up and expected Bison to go falling down helpessly to the ground. I know that probably won't be enough to beat him?but at least it gave me something to work with!

    In her eagerness, Chun-Li forgot about the many supernatural powers that Bison possessed?one of them being floating into the air and controlling the skies as easily as he controlled the ground. With his body suspended in the air as if he was being propped up by an invisible pedestal, Bison rubbed his jaw and folded his arms as he looked down at Chun-Li. "Very impressive, Miss Li," Bison said as he hovered over Chun-Li's head until he was directly above her. "Too bad it is useless to resist me!"

    Plummeting back down to the earth with hammer-like force, Bison completely surprised Chun-Li and prevented her from escaping by driving his feet into her head with a devastating stomp. With her face driven forcefully into the dirt, Chun-Li groaned as Bison bounced away from her. The former detective ignored the pain in her head and pushed herself back to the feet, spitting out the soil that had entered her mouth. Gone again, Chun-Li thought as she noticed that Bison had seemingly vanished yet. I can't fall for his mind games. I have to-

    "Surprise."

    With Bison's callous voice calling out behind her, Chun-Li spun around for a kick which was effortlessly blocked by the dictator's cuff. "SPINNING BIRD KICK," Chun-Li screamed as flipped over and spread her legs out, spinning around like the blades of a helicopter. She could feel the blows connecting with Bison's body, so it wasn't like he was evading everything. The problem was that the kicks were doing little but annoying the warlord, as made evident by how Bison wasn't doing much in the way of pained grunts.

    "Damn you," Chun-Li growled as she returned to her feet to see Bison still standing with only a look of mild agitation on his face. "Take this!" Lifting her right leg, Chun-Li bombarded the former leader of Shadaloo with a rapid barrage of kicks. While Bison managed to block at first, Chun-Li could feel the hits rain down upon Bison's chest, stomach, and head. More importantly, she could hear him grunting in pain, telling her that she was having an effect. I'm winning, she thought as she added even more force to her barrage, until her legs seemed like nothing more than obscure blurs. I'm actually winning!

    Reality came back to haunt Chun-Li when Bison, having enough of the woman's insolence, lifted his hand and grabbed her leg even as it was moving at such blinding speeds. "I'm starting to lose patience with you, girl," Bison growled as his lifted his free hand and charged it with Psycho Power. "Perhaps you misunderstand why I have come back from the dead. I did not come here to fight you in a fair battle?I came here to make you suffer!"

    Rather than attack Chun-Li's leg as he did the last time he had trapped it, Bison instead pulled the woman closer to him so that he could plunge his burning hand into her midsection, right where Vega had wounded her. Chun-Li was rendered silent for a moment as the pain surged through her body and she could feel Bison's evil power flow around her body. Just when she felt like she could scream again, Bison lifted his other hand and drove it into her face with a palm thrust that knocked her onto the ground.

    Returning her feet to see Bison rushing towards her with his feet floating off the ground, Chun-Li thrust both her hands in front of her and unleashed a basketball-sized Kikosho to try and fend him off. It was more of a desperate ploy to keep him from pressing the offense than something to hurt him, but Chun-Li was still stunned from Bison's attack. It was as if, by doing nothing more than touching her where it hurt, he forcefully invaded her mind and paralyzed her long enough for him to perform a second attack.

    It was a type of helplessness that filled Chun-Li with a sense of dread and turned her anger towards Bison back into fear. Bison was no longer just an exceptionally powerful human being: he was an angry specter that had returned from the dead for the explicit purpose of carrying out his unholy revenge against those who fought so hard to put an end to his reign of terror. As she lowered his hands once she was sure that Bison wasn't going to fall for her ploy, Chun-Li's eyes widened in shock as the specter's eyes crackled while two shadows of ki emerged from his body?and then fully materialized to create a pair of clones. This was not the type of power any mortal could possess: it was the power that could only exist in nightmares.

    "Scream in pain, insect," Bison roared as all three of his bodies suddenly lunged towards Chun-Li in forward flips. "KNEE PRESS NIGHTMARE!" Chun-Li had seen Bison's Knee Press many times in the past, and she studied the move in hopes of finding a way to counter it. However, with three Knee Presses coming at her at same time, bombarding her body multiple times with each additional flip, she could do nothing but scream in pain as she was completely leveled by the attack like a charging frontline infantry would mow down whatever unfortunately enemy stood in its way.

    After completely trampling Chun-Li, Bison slowly turned his head as his two clones disappeared, expecting to see the woman's lifeless corpse. When Chun-Li slowly stood back up and resumed her fighting stance, the dictator couldn't help but show a bit of surprise as his milky white eyes widened. "You can still stand after that?" he said as he turned back around and charged his Psycho Power once again. "Your toughness is to be commended, Miss Li. I was starting to worry that you'd die on me before I could add to your suffering!"

    Holding out his hand in front of him, Bison summoned yet another ball of energy that crackled in his hands. Unwilling to let the dictator get the upper hand, Chun-Li unleashed another Kikoken to catch the Psycho Shot before it could fully develop?but to Chun-Li's horror, the Kikoken was harmlessly absorbed into the ball, which continued to swell in size like a balloon. This wasn't an ordinary Psycho Shot Bison was preparing for Chun-Li, but something much, much worse.

    "What are you looking at, Miss Li?" An impossibly familiar voice called from behind, causing Chun-Li to turn around to see a second Bison charging up a continuously-inflating Psycho Shot in his palm. "Shouldn't you be more concerned about what horrible fates lies behind you?or is it that no matter where you turn, you always see my face thinking about how much suffering I bring?" Dammit, Chun-Li cursed as she turned her head to see that there were now two Bisons, each with an incredibly high ki signature. I can't tell which one is the real Bison!

    "PSYCHO CANNON!"

    With their orbs of power now as tall as Chun-Li herself and as wide as king-sized bed, the two Bisons hurled the fruits of their labor at the woman as she turned her head from side to side trying to figure out what to do. Realizing that it would be impossible to block both of them, Chun-Li instead crouched down and jumped straight up into the air with an impressive vertical leap. If it had been any other attack, Chun-Li would have successfully evaded?

    ?but Bison only grinned wider as he lifted his hand and guided his Psycho Cannon upward, where it intercepted Chun-Li like a heat-seaking missile and trapped her inside of its bubble-like form. Inside of the globe, Chun-Li could not see, hear, smell, taste, or breathe. Instead, every single sensation that her body possessed told her mind only one thing: pain. Her mind, body, and soul were drowning in an unimaginable agony that only allowed her to do one thing?let out a blood-curtling scream and Bison laughed evilly at his handiwork.

    "HAHAHAHAH! How does it feel, Miss Li!" Bison cackled as the bubble containing Chun-Li was lowered onto the ground, where Bison could walk over and stick his hand into the bubble. Placing his hand around Chun-Li's neck and squeezing, the dictator licked his lips sadistically as he felt Chun-Li's scream become stuck in her throat. "How does it feel to be trapped in Hell as your soul is ripped to shreds, your mind is overwhelmed, and your body is rendered helpless? Do you now see what I had to go through, when Akuma used the Shun Goku Satsu on me!"

    Hearing Chun-Li make unintelligible sounds thanks to Bison's stranglehold, the dictator put his other arm into the Psycho Cannon and pressed his finger against Chun-Li's lips. "There's no need for you to speak, Miss Li," he said with villainous glee as he carefully loosened his grip around her neck?just so he could hear hear scream in agony once again. "All you have to do is verbalize your agony in the form of those lovely screams! The only time I shall allow you to stop screaming?is when you're dead! Hahahah?HAHAHA-hm!"

    (continued next post)
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Bison's maniacal laugh was cut off as he felt something strong bounce off of him. Slowly turning his head around to see what it was, the resurrected dictator grinned from ear to ear as he saw another one of his hated enemies, Ryu, glare at him with his arms outstretched from a freshly-fired Hadoken. "Was that supposed to hurt me, Ryu?" Bison taunted as he snapped his glowing fingers, forcing the bubble of Psycho Power to burst and allow Chun-Li to fall to the ground gasping for air. "Are you upset over what I'm doing to your beloved? Would you like to stop me once and for all, and save your damsel in distress?"

    "You are worse than trash, Bison," Ryu growled as he slowly reared back for another Hadoken. "It's bad enough you've violated the DNA of my good friend Rose, but now you spit on her memory by using her clone to commit acts of murder." Firing off a fiery red Hadoken at Bison, Ryu's growl raised into a loud shout. "But I'd never live with myself if I let you kill Chun-Li!"

    "How amusing," Bison hummed as he swatted away the Hadoken as easily as he would bat away a fly. Bending over and picking Chun-Li up by her head, the dictator waited until her eyes opened and directed her attention to Ryu. "I think I've discovered a new way to make you suffer, Miss Li," the dictator whispered in her air before dropping her back down and vanishing. Reappearing directly in front of Ryu, Bison delivered a punishing knee to the warrior's heavily-damaged midsection and laughed as blood spilled out of his mouth. "You can watch as I torture your hero to death before your eyes!"

    Grabbing onto Ryu's head, Bison lifted him off the ground and poured more lethal energy into his body just as he had earlier, taking great delight in watching him convulse and scream. Ryu had exhausted his energies facing Akuma, and his body was now riddled with energy and the last ounce of his ki reserves drained thanks to saving Chun-Li: if Bison had wished it, he could have easily snapped Ryu's neck and that would have been the end of it.

    But such a mercy was a foreign concept to Bison. Instead of killing Ryu immediately, he instead opted to use his psychic powers to amplify Ryu's suffering while he electrocuted him. Realizing that he still had once hand free, Bison focused his Psycho Power into it until it burned with purple fire?and then forcefully took a vertical swipe down Ryu's torso, ripping off the t-shirt he was wearing and looking at the bloody gash that he created. "I'm sensing some deep emotions emanating from this cheap shirt," Bison said as Ryu continued to cry out in pain. "Being that Chun-Li has your headband, I think it's safe to assume that this is what she gave you as proof of your pathetic compassion."

    Tossing aside the shirt so that he could continue running his burning hand down Ryu's torso, going up and down as if he were painting a fence with blood red as his choice of color, Bison noticed that Ryu's voice was getting hoarse from screaming and laughed. "Hahahha! Don't worry, Ryu: the two of you can join hands in Hell soon enough!"

    As horrible as being trapped in Bison's Psycho Cannon was, Chun-Li somehow felt even worse watching Bison pummel Ryu like a human punching bag. When Chun-Li slept with Ryu, she did so while taking comfort in the belief that Bison could no longer hurt like he did when he took the lives of her father and her partner. Even when Ryu left Hong Kong to face Akuma, she believed that as long as she could get there in time to support Ryu in his battle, things would turn out OK in the end. As long as Bison was dead, there wouldn't be anything keeping her from finding happiness.

    When her legs wouldn't allow her to stand back up, Chun-Li instead crawled towards the man that had come to mean so much to her. She had already allowed two men close to her to die at the hands of this madman, and she would not let it happen to Ryu. "Ry?u," Chun-Li managed to sputter out as Ryu's screams quieted and Bison let him go at last, leaving bloody gashes where Bison had swiped his hand against. "Don't die on me?please?"

    Slowly opening his eyes and turning his head, Ryu saw Chun-Li approaching him on her hands and knees and smiled weakly. "Chun?," he managed to say through pain breaths before clenching his teeth in pain. "I?I'm sorry that I can't?protect you as well as I should?"

    "Don't say anything, Ryu," Chun-Li responded, much clearer now that the agonizing pain that Bison put her through was subsiding. "I'm a police offier, remember? I'm the one who's supposed to be protecting you." Seeing Ryu stretching out his arm towards her, Chun-Li reached out to hold it, if only to tell Ryu that no matter what, she'd be there for him?but she was rudely cut off by the sole of Bison's metal boot stomping on Ryu's hand. "NO!"

    "Hah! You really make this too easy," Bison said with a laugh as he grinded his boot into Ryu's hand, eliciting a pained groan from the warrior. Looking down and turning towards Chun-Li, the dictator gave her another one of his chilling Cheshire grins before lifting his boot and gently placing it on top of Ryu's head. "I told you already, Miss Li, that I wouldn't rest until you had suffered as I had suffered?and I am quite pleased at the look on your face right now."

    "Bison," Chun-Li shouted as she reached out and wrapped her hands around Bison's leg, doing her best to lift it off of Ryu's head. "Leave Ryu out of this! This is between you and me!"

    "Yes, that's JUST the look I've been searching for," Bison smiled as he effortlessly pressed down on Ryu's head even as Chun-Li was trying to save him. "It's that look of desperation as someone dear to you is about to die right in front of your eyes! You try to fight it, then you try to bargain with it so that it doesn't happen?and finally, your hope is crushed right in front of your eyes."

    "Bison," Chun-Li shouted louder as she felt Bison's leg applying more pressure. "STOP IT!"

    "Hmmm," Bison rubbed his chin as he lifted his leg and allowed Chun-Li to cradle Ryu's head. "Should I let you save him?"

    There was a long and dreadful silence as Chun-Li looked up in the eyes of the monster that had murdered so many people and terrified entire nations to satisfy his lust for ultimate power. It was unlike Bison to ponder whether or not to take a life, as he was a horrible sociopath that took delight in the pain and misfortune of others, so much so that his own Psycho Power thrived the most when despair filled the hearts of hose around him. Chun-Li gulped as she waited for something to happen?until Bison reached down and effortlessly tossed her away from Ryu.

    "NO," Bison shouted as he looked down at the fallen Ryu at his feet and lifted his leg, charging it with his ki. "Because you did not show me the proper respect, now he shall die!"

    "BISON," Chun-Li screamed while Bison licked his lips as he prepared to bring his foot down to crush Ryu's head like a watermelon. "STOP!"

    Just as Bison brought down his leg to act as the guillotine?he paused mere inches away from Ryu's ear. "W?what's this!" Bison as he gripped his head in pain, backing away from Ryu in the process. "It's?it's you, isn't it! It-AAAGH!" Letting out a roar of agony, Bison's clothes started to shift phases, rapidly flashing back to the leather jacket and pants he had been wearing earlier before just as quickly shifting back to his black Shadaloo uniform and hat.

    "Sin?jorina?"

    "That voice," Chun-Li said out loud as she slowly stood back up and watched Bison squirm. "Is that?Xaeraph!"

    "Help?me?stop?while?he?"

    "QUIET, FOOL," Bison roared as his body purple Psycho Power surrounded his body to form an aura while his Shadaloo uniform stabilized. "This is my body now! The only reason you exist is because I wished for it. Know your place and let me destroy the fools who?ACK!"

    Bison's losing control of his body, Chun-Li thought as she summoned every last bit of ki she had to offer, the wind swirling around her as she felt Bison's power waning. I remember reading in a Shadaloo file that Bison can only summon all of his Psycho Power when his body is completely consumed with evil. Since he's using Rose's clone as a host, he has to split control of his body with this poor young man. Once she felt her power reach its peak, Chun-Li dashed towards Bison as fast as she could, just as the evil ghost turned around. He's given me a chance to attack?and there's no way I'm squandering it!

    "HOUYOKU SEN!"

    Lifting her left leg as soon as she was within striking distance, Chun-Li bombarded the vulnerable Bison with rapid kicks moving faster than the eye could keep up with. Feeling her kicks connecting full force with Bison's flesh, the woman lowered her leg and lifted her right leg for another rapid flurry with equal success. Bison's roars of pain told her that she was having a noticeable effect on the youthful body that he was quickly losing his grip on. After twenty-hits in less than four seconds, Chun-Li lifted her leg and kicked Bison high into the air with a high boot underneath his chin.

    With Bison launched into the air like a rocket, Chun-Li once again gathered her energies for another one of her surefire victory techniques that she had devised over the years. "TENSEI," Chun-Li looked up to see Bison reach the zenith of his journey, and leapt into the air with her legs extended in opposite directions, spinning around vertically like a buzzsaw with Bison caught in her metaphorical jaws. "?RANKA!" After the sixth revolution, Chun-Li brought her right leg down on Bison's head and drove him forcefully into the ground, creating a powerful shockwave that kicked up a considerable amount of grass and dirt.

    Even as she felt Bison's head dig into the dirt, Chun-Li didn't lose sight of how she couldn't take any chances with him. As she focused her ki into her hands and reared back, she looked down to see that Bison was already stirring. She was no longer just fighting to avenge the deaths of Charlie and her father, or even for the young man whose mind Bison invaded much like he had done when he created Cammy. She was fighting to protect the man who had rescued her when she had needed it most, and was now lying on the ground because of Bison's torture.

    Ryu?

    With that name ringing through her head, reminding her of why she had come all the way to Japan in the first place, Chun-Li waited until Bison had returned to feet before unleashing another one of her ultimate attacks. "KIKOSHO!" Throwing out her hands in front of her, Chun-Li engulfed Bison into a vortex of bright blue energy that rapidly widened like a balloon, trapping the evil ghost within the swirling powers that many considered her ultimate testament to the mastery of her ki. Trapped with the vortex, the rushing ki beating against Bison's body were every bit as solid and as painful as the devastating kicks Chun-Li had been ridding his body with. After the sound of energy pounding against flesh entered Chun-Li's ears for the twenty-fifth time, Bison was sent shooting out of the fading vortex and crashing down hard onto his face while Chun-Li lowered his hands and exhaled.

    Somehow, Bison was not only still conscious, but he stood up seconds later with his entire body burning with Psycho Power: if nothing else, his toughness was to be admired. However, his face curled up into an angered snarl was enough to tell Chun-Li what she needed to know: that she had wiped the cocky smirk off his face and now he was starting to worry that he was going to be defeated yet again.

    "I've come too far...TOO FAR FOR THIS," Bison roared as the Psycho Power surrounding his body reached fever pitch, giving off the impression that his power was eating him alive. Lifting his burning hand and clenching it front of his face until it shone even through the violet inferno, Bison sneered at Chun-Li and reared back in preparation for his ultimate attack. "I cannot fight a battle within and without?so as soon as I kill you, I shall torture your beloved to death so that I can finally have some moment's peace and regain some clarity!"

    Chun-Li knew exactly what move Bison was planning to do next: it was a technique so deadly and terrifying that there were times that she had nightmares about being caught in the attack. Bison was an opponent full of deadly techniques that normal humans could only dream about acquiring, but the technique that Bison was about to use now?the one that he intended to kill Chun-Li with, was by far the deadliest. That's why, instead of making a vain attempt of trying to prevent the attack from happening, she focused every last ounce of her ki into her legs for her own final attack.

    "SCREAM IN PAIN, MISS LI," Bison roared as he launched himself towards Chun-Li, spiraling head first like a drill with his charged hand in front of him while massive amounts of evil ki spewed off of his body like noxious fumes. "PSYCHO CRUSHER!"

    I'm not going to die, Chun-Li told herself as she took a step forward and dashed towards Bison as he approached like a runaway freight train about to collide with an innocent bystanders. No matter how frightening Bison is, I will not back down and I'm not going to die. I have too many people depending on me to return home safely, and too many people who would be saddened if I was killed. As Bison's irresistible force and Chun-Li indomitable will prepared to crash into each other, Chun-Li's thoughts focused to one individual in particular, with his gentle smile fueling her hope. I can't die yet?because I haven't told Ryu how I feel about him!

    We're so close to finding true happiness?I won't let Bison take that away from me again!


    Leaping forward with her shimmering right leg in front of her, Chun-Li erased her fears and plunged into the maelstrom of ki given off by Bison's Psycho Crusher. "What's this!" Bison eyes widened in shock as Chun-Li punched through his evil energy, rocketing towards him like an arrow with her foot as the head. "This is not possible! THIS IS NOT POSSIB-"

    THOOM!

    With her glowing foot colliding with Bison's jaw with such monumental force that the force of impact shook the foundations of the burning Suzaku Castle to its core, Chun-Li landed safely onto her feet as Bison skid across the ground with his body once again fluctuating. Seeing the purple steam erupting from Bison's orifices while his clothes began to shift and pulsate, Chun-Li lifted her leg and spoke. "Shichisei?Senkukyaku!"

    Bison roared in pain as the throes of death once again took hold of him, trying to pull him away from the artificial body that he hijacked. "No?NO," Bison roared as his body became engulfed in his own Psycho Power. "How?HOW COULD A WEAKLING LIKEYOU STRIKE DOWN?a god like?me." With his voice fading along with his evil psycho power, the ghost of Bison disappeared completely, leaving the exhausted body of the young man Xaeraph to collapse onto his knees and fall down onto his face in unconsciousness.

    There was a long silence as the adrenaline rush started to leave Chun-Li's body. I did it, Chun-Li thought to herself as she turned to see Ryu slowly getting back to his feet. As the reality of the situation sank in, a smile crept up on Chun-Li's face as ran towards Ryu, who was already waiting for her with his arms outstretched. "I did it, Ryu," she shouted as she leapt into his arms and held him close. "I saved everyone and finally took down Bison!"

    So engrossed were Ryu and Chun-Li in their victory that they didn't hear the sound of thunder heralding in rain clouds around them. It wasn't until the water coming from the sky reached a downpour that the two lovers noticed that during their battle, clouds had building up as if to celebrate the victory of whoever won the great battles that had taken place. "That?that's just our luck," Chun-Li said with a smile as she buried herself deeper onto Ryu's body, ignoring how her clothes were being stained with water and blood. "We're finally together?and it starts raining."

    "Let the rain come," Ryu said as he watched the rain quench the inferno that had taken Suzaku Castle, revealing its charred remains. "As far as I'm concerned?nothing, not even this rain, is going to keep us apart."
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Chapter 17: Confessions

    "He's waking up!"

    Alerting Ryu and calling her over to her side, Chun-Li watched as the purple-haired young man finally opened his violet eyes and let out a load groan. "Uuuuh?I just woke up, but I've never felt so tired in my life. Every part of my body hurts like I just did an hour's worth of boxing," the youth grumbled as he turned his head to see Chun-Li kneeling next to him. "Oh?sinjorina! What are you doing here?"

    "You don't remember what happened?" Chun-Li asked with a raised eyebrow.

    "I?no," the young man called Xaeraph shook his head after a pause. "I just remember that masked man in Hong Kong approaching us, and then my head started hurting before things went black. When I woke up, I'm somehow here in the rain in what looks like?," Xaeraph turned his head to see the charred exterior of Suzaku Castle. "?when I blacked out, I was in Hong Kong! How did I get to Japan!"

    "?I don't sense any murderous intent emanating from him," Ryu leaned down as whispered in Chun-Li's ear. "He's telling the truth: he doesn't remember a thing."

    Though the young man didn't seem very intimidating now, two hours ago he had been possessed by the murderous ghost of the dreaded Bison, returning from beyond the grave to wreak his unholy vengeance on those that led to his fall from dominance. Having slain his killer Akuma after the renegade warrior had been defeated by Ryu, Bison turned his attentions to Ryu and Chun-Li who contributed greatly to the fall of Shadaloo. Despite Bison's wrath, and his new youthful body, Chun-Li overcame the incredible odds stacked against her and not only returned Bison's soul to hell, but his rescued unwilling host from forever being trapped inside his own mind.

    "Xaeraph," Chun-Li said as she took Xaeraph's arm and helped him back onto his feet. "Why did you come to Hong Kong? What business did you have there?"

    "I was told to come here," Xaeraph explained as he ran his fingers through his hair and realized that he was soaking wet. "About six months ago, my parents revealed to me that they weren't my birth parents, and I became determined to see just who my real parents were. By using the money I've gained from fortune telling, I've been traveling the world since then looking for information about where I'm from. My search led me all over until I got to India, where a yogi monk told me that I should go to Hong Kong, and the answers would be made clear."

    "Dhalsim," Chun-Li said.

    "You know him?"

    "He's a good friend of ours," Ryu added as he stepped forward. "If he told you to Hong Kong, then it was for a purpose." Putting a his hand on Xaeraph's shoulder, Ryu leaned in so that he was next to the young man's ear. "You did us a huge favor by telling Chun-Li to go to Japan and find me. If she wasn't here to support me, I probably wouldn't be standing here. Now it's my turn to do something for you?do you remember anything at all from after you blacked out?"

    "?I remember having a terrible nightmare," Xaeraph said after a pause and a shudder. "This man in a cape kept telling me that I was weak and worthless, and that everything about me belonged to him. Everything after that is a blur: I just kept fighting him with everything I had while he continued to talk about how he owned me." The young man's eyes widened as those words escaped his lips. "Did something happen?"

    "You were possessed by a terrible darkness that everyone must one day come to grips with," Ryu said as he backed away from Xaeraph and spoke loud enough for Chun-Li to hear. "Every living thing possessed the potential for both good and evil, and there comes a time when we must decide on a path to take. When I was a little older than you are now, I had to come to grips with this struggle and decide on whether or not I should choose the light or the darkness." Turning to the woman next to him, Ryu smiled. "Thanks to my friends, I was able to make the right decision. I'm sure that you will make the right choice, as well."

    "?thank you very much for that, sir," Xaeraph said gratefully as he bowed his head. Lifting it back up to look at his surroundings, the young man let out a sigh and once again brushed back his wet hair. "Now, if it isn't too much trouble?is there any chance you could tell me how I could find a way back into civilization? I honestly have no idea how I entered the country, much less found this place."

    "We'll lead you back into town after I finish one last bit of business," Ryu said as he turned around. "I need to pay my respects and-AGH!" The wandering warrior let out a shout of pain as he gripped his midsection and grit his teeth. When Chun-Li went to his side and helped him straighten himself out with a look of concern, however, Ryu smiled weakly and said, "I guess my ribs are still in pretty bad shape?heh."

    "I'll help you over to where you need to be," Chun-Li said as she put Ryu's arm around her shoulder and propped him up so that he wasn't putting all of his weight on his ribcage. Turning her head to see the confused Xaeraph, Chun-Li gave the young man a simple order. "You stay here for a bit: I can only imagine that you're not in very good shape, either."

    Blinking in confusion as Ryu and Chun-Li walked away, Xaeraph folded his arms only to feel a sharp pain run across his body that could only come from bruises. "Agh?it feels like someone attacked me a sledgehammer," he said out loud as he unzipped his jacket to look at the welts across his chest and abdomen. "Whatever that man was talking about with fighting a dark side?I didn't think he meant the fighting being physical!"
    "Why didn't you tell him about Bison possessing him?" Chun-Li said once she and Ryu were well out of earshot from the young man that had nearly killed them. "Wouldn't it have been easier to tell him the truth?"

    "It's something he'll have to discover for himself, when he's ready," Ryu replied as the two approached a freshly-covered grave lying in front of large prayer beads held up by a wooden stake. "Besides, from what Bison's rambling told us, it sounds like his awakening is triggered by the memories he implanted into that young man. I didn't want to risk that monster taking control of that poor kid again, because then we'd all be in serious trouble."

    "Yeah?" Chun-Li nodded her head in agreement as Ryu pulled away from her and knelt down in front of the fresh grave. "It took everything I had just to snap him out of his trance?but at least everything turned out OK in the end. I finally managed to defeat Bison and avenge everyone he's hurt?and you finally avenged the death of your master by defeating Akuma. I just wish I had your kindness of digging a grave for him?I don't think I could bring myself to do the same if it was Bison."

    "If it makes you feel any better, Chun-Li," Ryu said with a grin, "if it were Bison, I wouldn't have dug a grave for him, either." Lifting his head to look at the prayer beads acting as the grave marker of the Master of Fists, the wandering warrior's expression hardened. "I need to say something to Akuma in private, Chun-Li. Could you?um?"

    "I understand, Ryu," Chun-Li folded her arms and watched Ryu close his eyes silently, making sure not to say anything and disrupt the moment between Ryu and his most powerful nemesis, Akuma.

    I'm not sure what I can possibly say to you that hasn't already been said with my fists, but I think the first order of business is to thank you for being such a worthy opponent for all of these years. When I first learned that you had killed Master Gouken, I was filled with rage and anger, and that almost caused me to follow in your footsteps as a murderous fighter using the Satsui no Hadou. I would have done anything at that time to take you down and avenge my master's death.

    As my journey for strength continued, however, I started seeing some of my opponents not as rivals for me to surpass, but as friends that I had to protect. I'm not arrogant enough to think that I'm the strongest fighter out there, even after defeating you, but even back then I knew that I had power that were often times greater than that of my peers. That was when I decided to completely forsake the Satsui no Hadou and become strong enough to defeat you using a fist clean of blood. I was no longer fighting just for myself, but for the ideals and morals that my friends instilled upon me on my travels.

    The years passed by, and my desire for revenge against you dwindled. I don't think it was until I had that nightmare about you killing Chun-Li that I decided that I had waited long enough and that I had to defeat you. During our battle today, I felt the temptation to call upon the Satsui no Hadou to defeat you several times, as you instilled a deep fear in my heart that even my years and years of preparation couldn't overcome. The only thing that kept me from doing so was because of the friends that helped me conquer this evil part of me?and the gorgeous woman behind me that became even more than a friend.

    No one deserves to die before their time: there was no reason that you couldn't have walked away from our fight and become stronger so that we could face each other again. As hard as you might find it to believe, I am sad to see you go: even if our ideals were as different as night and day, you brought out the very best of my abilities and you pushed me to exceed my limits. However, even though I've defeated you, there is still one last obstacle I have to overcome in order to truly consider myself ready to move on with my life.

    Goodbye, Akuma?I can only hope that wherever you are, you've finally found a measure of peace.


    Carefully standing back up and bowing his head in respect, Ryu turned back to the waiting Chun-Li and said what he had been meaning to say ever since that wonderful time in the park where they bore their souls to one another with their fists. "Chun-Li?when I came to Hong Kong to visit my friends, I didn't expect to be invited into your home. I was worried that I was intruding on the life that you had made for yourself as a teacher, and I prepared to leave as soon as I felt like I wasn't welcome anymore."

    "Well, I hope I didn't give off a bad impression," Chun-Li replied with a mischievous smirk.

    "You did the exact opposite," Ryu replied as he reached into his bag that he had left next to the grave while burying Akuma's body and pulled out what remained of the t-shirt that Bison had ripped off of his body. "I had been wondering where the path of the warrior was leading me up to that point, and whether or not it was time for me to put the life of the vagabond aside. When I stayed with you in Hong Kong, however?all of that doubt was put aside. Suddenly, I knew exactly where I had to be, and that was with you. That's why I decided it was time to fight Akuma: because I wanted to stay by your side in Hong Kong and move on from the world that Akuma lived in."

    Steeling his nerves as to get to the point, Ryu took a deep breath and went for broke. "I love you, Chun-Li?and I'm ashamed of myself for not realizing it much sooner. And?and now that I've defeated Akuma, it's time for me to move past the life of a traveler and begin the next phase of my life as a martial artist, which is taking care of those around me and helping the next generation. Chun-Li?I want to you to be a part of that life, so that I will never have to leave your side again."

    "Ryu?," Chun-Li said as she felt her heart racing, though she maintained a façade of calmness. "If I didn't know any better?I'd say you just proposed to me."

    "?yeah," Ryu felt his cheeks go hot as he rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment. "I guess?I guess I did, didn't I?"

    There was a long silence between the two warriors as they looked at each other expectantly. Now both of their cheeks were flushed with their hearts just about ready to burst out of their sockets. The two of them had seen so many battles in their lifetimes, and fought alongside one another countless times. Now, years after their first meeting, Ryu had asked Chun-Li to be his wife?a request that Chun-Li answered accordingly.

    "You'll have to pull your weight around the household, tough guy," she said with a grin, though her cocky exterior did nothing to hide the joy she was feeling. "You might be able to scrape with pennies as a vagabond, but if I'm going to be married to you, you're going to have to find some stable work. There's nothing worse than a useless guy who lets the woman do all the work."

    "Is that?a yes?"

    Slowly wrapping her arms around Ryu and pulling him close, Chun-Li looked into his eyes and smiled. "Of course it's a yes, dummy. I came all the way out here to Japan because I had to see you again: I wouldn't have bothered making the trip if I didn't love you back. Now?" leaning in closer to Ryu's face, Chun-Li's voice went down into a hushed whisper, "?how about you kiss me like you should have done earlier?"

    As Ryu's lips pressed against his now-fiancé's lips and started a long-overdue kiss, he felt the pain in his body melt away in favor of a warm, soothing sensation. You've come and gone from my life so many times over the years, Ryu thought as he embraced Chun-Li as the kiss deepened, and every time I told myself that someday I would see you again. This time, I'm not going to let you leave my life again. Just as you were there for me in my darkest hour, I'll be here for you?forever.

    Hearing the sound of loud footsteps running towards them, the two lovers broke their kiss and turned their head to see the hulking frame of Alex running towards them. "That fight was incredible, brother," Alex said as he stopped in front of the two and turned his head to Chun-Li, "and you even got a total babe at the end of it! Is this that special someone you were telling me about earlier?"

    "That's right," Ryu nodded his head as he parted the embrace and introduced Chun-Li to the blonde-haired fighter. "Chun-Li, this is Alex, the winner of the third Street Fighter tournament."

    "Pleasure to meet you, ma'am," Alex said with a smile before turning around and pointing at a humvee parked several meters away, with Xaeraph already sitting inside. "I ran back into town and rented out that piece of work so I could take you to a hospital where you could get patched up. You took a real nasty beating, and it wouldn't be fair if I let my rival just walk around all banged up, brother!"

    Master, Ryu thought as he followed Alex and Chun-Li to the vehicle that would lead him back into town. I know you're watching over me, and you'll continue to watch over me as I start this next part of life. I just want to tell you?thank you for keeping me on the correct path even when you couldn't be there to guide me along personally. Now I must ask you?continue watching over me as I spend the rest of my days as a married man helping the next generation of street fighters develop into true martial artists just my friends helped me.

    FIN
  • Missing PersonMissing Person Righto. Joined: Posts: 13,793
    Never responded, but I really liked this. Well written.
    XBL: WatCnBrwnDo4U | PSN: LanierIsPlusEV/FORpowerfulGame | CFN: MissingPerson/YddeDdeDe GGPO/FightCade: Missing Person | Steam: [TAS] Missing Person | Battle.net: MissingPersn#1365
    Twitter: JTMMissingPersn | Instagram: jtmmissingperson | Twitch: twitch.tv/missingpersonsrk
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Never responded, but I really liked this. Well written.

    Thanks, dude. There's still quite a few typos I gotta edit out, but I really liked how it came out, too.
  • PsychobluePsychoblue the Conductor of the Hype Train Joined: Posts: 2,394
    Bumping the hell out of this to show you the long-awaited cover to End of a Journey, done by the same artist who drew my trademark SFxT Hype Shirt design I go around tournaments with.

    street_fighter__end_of_a_journey_cover_by_jaredjlee-d68trer.jpg
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