The ancient wood of the shrine's floor let out a quiet, shrill groan as the heavy form of Gouken shifted to scratch an itch just below his ribs, relieving an annoyance that had been pestering him for nearly half of his time spent in calm, still contemplation. His thick fingers dug into the powerful muscles of his back, hunting out the irksome bother through the rough material of his worn, brown gi. The relief dragged his senses fully back to the world around him, his mind fully retreating from the serene nothingness it had courted during his meditation, thoughts turning to his students.
Nearly a world away Ryu may very well be fighting for his life in a battle that, for better or worse, would define his destiny. The thought brought a small smile to Gouken's lips as his hand returned from his back to run over the rough edges of his graying beard. Certainly Ryu was powerful and had honed his fist, but his opponent was called "Emperor" and some even regarded him as the strongest in the world. Gouken knew better. Yet by all measures of flesh, bone, experience and even skill, he was Ryu's superior. His fist was mightier and so Ryu's spirit would have to triumph if he had any hope of victory against the man named Sagat.
Slowly he turned his head, light streaming in from the doorway shining off of his bald pate as the brilliance managed to just sneak past the dark figure that had loomed silently for the entirety of Gouken's morning spent in meditation. The sunlight ringed him, giving the broad man standing there an almost supernatural glow, but the rays only served to make him seem all the darker for it, as if the light was not striking him but was, instead, avoiding him all-together. A vast void in the majesty of the early afternoon sun.
"So...what do you think? Eh? Will he win?" Gouken's question broke the silence of the shrine, the very timbers of the building seeming to gently hum with the bass of his deep voice. The figure gave no immediate response, though, in the darkness of his form, two eyes of a red so deep they were almost black, narrowed slightly, the heavy brow above them furrowing almost impercievably. Gouken noticed it almost immediately. In response he lofted a bushy eyebrow, silently awaiting a response, seemingly perfectly content to just wait.
Finally, the other man answered in what was more a growl than a voice. "If he wins, his path leads to me. If he loses, his path leads nowhere" As the other man spoke, Gouken turned fully, rising to his feet to face and facing doorway. His hands moved to his tattered black belt, so threadbare that it was closer to gray in color, and he loosed the knot securing it before retying it, the motion so practiced his hands performed it without a moment of attention or concious thought on Gouken's part.
"All paths lead to you, is that it?" Gouken replied, the hint of humor and even mocking in his voice left unveiled. The tree bore no fruit. Instead, the other man simply raised an arm corded in muscle, the skin of it bronzed dark by countless hours in the sun. Palm up, his fingers curled together until the knuckles grew pale beneath the rope wrapped about them, joints popping loudly as the fist tightened. Outside the shrine, the quiet breeze of the forest died and the shrine itself reverberated like a bell, quaking beneath the pressure of that fist. "This. All paths lead to this" The reply came out as a snarl towards Gouken, the muscles of the arm tensing with emphasis, several leaves falling from those trees nearest the building.
Gouken's brows lifted, eyes widening as he nodded, his lips forming a circle as he let out an overly dramatic "Oh!" as if he had been granted insight into some enlightened wisdom. "That is the ultimate goal then. You are merely awaiting those that have mastered it. Like you" This time the tree bore much fruit. Anger surged forth from the other man, the light spilling around his shoulders and head wavering as if caught in the heat radiating from a desert stone. "What would you know of mastery? You who threw away Goutetsu's training. The essence of our art" The shrine rocked with the power of the dark man's voice, decades-old dust dislodged from the cieling, drifting down silently through the sunlight separating the two.
"And yet he chose my rejection of the Satsui no Hadou to succeed his teachings..." "Because he was a stupid old man!" The other man barked back, cutting off Gouken, his fist snapping to his side, both arms now coiled, vipers ready to strike out with venomous fangs at any moment as he continued... "He was limited by his own fear. Afraid to embrace the deepest secrets of our art. I have no fear. He died with a smile, knowing I had surpassed him and all others. Since then I have grown as a martial artist in ways Goutetsu could never imagine"
Gouken lowered his head, letting the weight of his brothers words settle down upon him, his mind wandering to years long previous. "Gouki...you have grown..." Gouken lifted his head, his eyes hardened to steel. "...but not as a martial artist" The accusation did not cut as Gouken had intended. Instead, his brothers lips merely pulled back, revealing a mirthless, wicked smile "Those that know of me call me 'Akuma, master of the fist'." As he spoke, the very air around Gouki seemed to come alive, the edges of his black gi rippling and dancing like the bristling fur of a predatory cat. His eyes, formerly dark embers, flared to life, a brilliant red in pools of black. And outside, nature trembled.
Gouken, unflustered, stood calmly, lifting his palms face-up in front of his chest before turning his hands and lowering them once more in the same posture. "You forced me to defeat you before, Gouki..." Gouki's eyes flashed, narrowing into ruby slits "As long as a warrior lives, he is not defeated..." Breaking his arms free of the cobwebs of nostalgia clinging to them, Gouken lifted his hands into a ready stance, palms open and fingers curled only slightly. "Unless he defeats himself" Gouken replied, pausing before adding "As happened to you long ago" "My fist will put the test to that claim!" Gouki roared, the air around him alighting with ki so potent that it become visible in the air as a reddish haze pouring off his shoulders. Drenched in murderous force, Gouki, now Akuma, raised his fists. The force of the two warriors fighting spirits clashed, two oceans tides colliding and, as Akuma launched himself forward, the shrine evaporated, blasted into shards & splinter like straw before a storm.
The young man threw his hand up in front of his face as a wave of flapping wings filled his vision, his ears overwhelmed by squawking and chirping. "Come on!" He called out as if the birds could understand him as they fled the heart of the forest, their egress having put them on the collision course with the casually dressed blonde youth. Ken Masters, newly crowned All-American Martial Arts champion and former full-time student of Gouken, turned, watching the birds retreat towards the horizon. "The hell is their problem?" He asked the wind, shaking his head a bit. He had been walking for some time now from where he had to abandon his car, the rough terrain combined with the large, old trees of the forest making the trek completely unsuitable for anything but feet and he was eager to see his master again to tell him about his victory. A bubbling pot of excitement and impatience, he would have kicked one of those birds out of the air if they'd remained within reach for a moment or two longer.
As he watched them fly off curiosity began to rear its head from beneath the layer of initial consternation Ken had felt. What was their problem? Birds didn't normally fly with such abandon. A sound of distant thunder from the direction of his destination snapped his head back around, Ken's eyes searching the skies for signs of a storm. The rumbling continued at rapid intervals but it was not preceded by any flashes of lightning. In fact, the skies were still clear blue. The young mans eyes widened as his ears grew accustomed to the sound, picking up on the nuances of it. Almost immediately his senses as a fighter took over and he broke into a run, dropping his duffle bag. It wasn't the sound of thunder rolling over the forest. It was the sound of fists.
Rolling through the air, Akuma spun out of the leap, his arm uncoiling, hand chopping through the air with murderous force. It crashed into the crossed wrists of Gouken's hands, the force driving downward, diffusing through the martial artists feet and into the earth below, Gouken's knees bending, sinking him into a horse stance. Hands uncrossing, Gouken directed the energy back and up, recoiling like a spring, throwing Akuma towards the heavens and backwards, head over heels. Gouken's arms wind-milled about, snapping to his waist, reassuming the horse stance as he poured his life-force into his clenched palms, capturing the energy in cages formed by his fingers before casting it forward in one hand after the other. Spheres of roiling energy surged from Gouken, the twin Gohadokens, spheres of blue fire, racing one after another towards Akuma's back.
A flash of violet light announced Akuma's counter-attack, the black-clad warriors hands unleashing their own waves of chi. Hadoken clashed with hadoken, erupting in mid-air, a pane of force shearing up into the heavens and down into the earth from the blast, sending up a wave of dirt and debris between the two martial artists. Landing once more, Akuma reached out with his senses, feeling from whence Gouken's attack would come. A moment too late, he sensed the pressure of his opponents left palm driving towards him, Gouken appearing in front of him through the screen of dust as if projected to the location, the dirt not reacting to him passing through it until a second later, such was the speed of the Senku principle of movement. Yet Akuma's fighting instinct had proven faster, his left forearm tensed against the impact of the blocked palm strike and his right hand cocked back, chambered and ready to deliver his counter-attack; a Goshoryuken uppercut intended to rip Gouken from navel to throat. The Senku principle was rapid indeed, but it levied certain limitations upon attacks made when emerging from it and Akuma was thoroughly familiar with those limitations.
"Go-" Akuma's teeth suddenly clacked shut even as his fist drove forward and up in a lethal arc that went wide, knuckles passing through the bristles of Gouken's beard and up past his cheek, the older man's right palm having collided with Akuma's jaw. 'What?!' was the only thought Akuma had enough time to register as the impact lifted him off his feet, rocketing him through a web of tree branches until pain splashed across his back as he abruptly stopped against a solid trunk, the pain seeming to resonate from directly beneath the crimson "Heaven" kanji sewn into his gi's back. The fearsome, crimson-haired warrior paused, balanced on a thicker tree branch as he turned his head and spat out a mouthful of blood gifted to him by a laceration alongside the inside of his mouth where his own teeth had bit into the meat of his cheek. Gouken had continued to grow stronger. His fist was clearly still developing despite having taken on students. Akuma's lips drew back into a smile that showed lips stained with his blood. This would be a worthy fight afterall.
"Gouki!" Gouken called out up into the trees, his eyes searching for any sign of his brother as a thin line of red ran down into his beard from his cheek, the Goshoryuken having missed but still drawn blood. "Stop this now! There is no point to this battle!" His voice held no hint of pleading, Gouken instead simply stating what he saw as fact. The reply came as the sound of leaves being rapidly displaced, like the flapping a swarm of bats. Akuma appeared before Gouken, large as life, eyes burning with murderous intent as he descended from the trees and moved across the forest floor as if pulled by invisible strings, his feet never seeming to touch firmament. "Battle is it's own point!" Akuma's voice answered amid a wall of fists that descended upon Gouken, crashing into a hastily constructed defense. Right, left, right, left...the strikes rained into Gouken's forearms and palms, bruising them to the bone as he weathered the assault, the ferocity of it pushing him backwards, heels digging furrows in the forest soil beneath his feet.
Too long on the defensive, Gouken caught sight of an opening, his right hand chopping out and down towards Akuma's shoulder where the joint met. The other man turned, angling his shoulders parallel to the swing of Gouken's arm, expertly anticipating and then countering the attack as Akuma's knees bent, sending extra power into the side punch he sunk into Gouken's ribs, just beneath the outstretched arm. Agony flooded Gouken's side, the experienced warrior ignoring it as he caught movement just below his field of vision. Akuma's legs swung up and around, one after the other as he nimbly revolved, the first kick battering down Gouken's blocking hand, the second colliding with his cut cheek, tearing open the wound and spraying blood across the forest floor. Gouken spun to his side from the impact before he felt his feet leave the ground, Akuma's fist lifting him up, a punch having driven up into the exposed side of his body. The force of the blow sent the large man backwards, Gouken righting himself and regaining his bearings in time to roll onto his back, hands slapping the dirt to push himself immediately back to his feet, heels digging in once more to bleed off the remaining energy of his momentum, stopping finally as his left heel touched the root of a tree behind him.
Gouken drew air into his lungs, his ribs announcing the damage done to both sides of them with a flare of dull, bruised pain that sharpened to a red-hot edge when he tried to breathe too deeply. The breath came out as a hiss as Gouken felt the air pressure around him drop, Akuma launching himself forward in a hop before his chi enwrapped him, spinning him like a top. The vortex tore at Gouken's gi as Akuma's leg scythed towards him, the killing power of it faintly visible as a line of violet, ragged chi trailing from the outside edge of his foot. Akuma watched as the front of the tree behind Gouken exploded into a shower of splinters, the middle of it gouged open by the power of his Tatsumaki Zankukyaku as it traveled over the ducking head of Gouken, the larger man's hand shooting up, bunching up the front of Akuma's gi in his hand.
As he spun, the material grabbed at Akuma's shoulder opposite the motion of his kick, his momentum harshly reversed as Gouken stood up and pulled Akuma down over his shoulder, driving him headfirst into the root system of the tree. The topknot of Akuma's red hair crushed against his scalp, his head bending at an awkward angle, pain shooting down his spine all the way to his tailbone as his nerves caught up to the results of Gouken's attack. Gouken, meanwhile, turned with the motion of his throw, throwing an outside thrust kick that drove into the stomach of his momentarily planted opponent. Trapped between foot and tree trunk, Akuma felt himself nearly kicked in half before something finally had to give. In this case, it was the tree. Already shredded from Akuma's hurricane kick, the impact of Gouken's foot caused it to finally burst and Akuma, like a released spring, shot through the busted trunk, shoulder catching a rock jutting out of the forest floor as he bounced against it, spinning and rolling, then again and again, each impact with the ground tearing away more and more of his momentum until he rolled to an unceremonious stop face-down in the dirt.
Momentarily dazed, Akuma looked up at the approaching form of Gouken, half his vision obscured by a sheet of red that poured down from his scalp, torn open by the impact with the tree root. "Your fist...is still soft" Akuma managed to wheeze out as he fought to pull air back into his lungs, his diaphragm spasming from the damage so recently inflicted on it. "We will see" Gouken answered, drawing his hands back and cupping them together as he drew breath into his own lungs, moving energy from his lungs into his blood, shifting power from his blood into his heart. Heart to spirit and spirit to Hadou. Between his palms began to glow a crackling ball of purest white. Akuma, far from beaten, drew back to his feet, propelled shoulder first as if a marionette, his dark chi once more staining the air around him, seeping out into it like blood diffusing in water. "Slow!" He chided Gouken as his own hands flew forward, spheres of turbulent, red-purple power in his palms merging into a surge of destructive power. "MESSATSU GOU HADOU!" Akuma announced the attack as he forced his hands forward, pushing the torso-sized sphere of burning might away from himself, launching it towards Gouken.
On the opposite side of the gulf between them, Gouken's arms flashed with surges of electrical current licking out from his cupped palms. "DENJIN..." The word caused Akuma a split-second of confusion as he lofted a brow quizzically, having expected a 'Shinkuu Hadoken'. "HADOKEN!" Gouken called out as he threw his own fireball to meet Akuma's. As before, they collided with thunderous force that ripped leaves & branches from nearby trees. Unlike last time, however, there was a clear winner as the Denjin Hadoken continued onward, consuming the violet ball of energy. Though diminished, the white, electrical sphere slammed into Akuma as the man crossed his arms in front of himself. Instead of impacting him, however, the ball of chi instead splashed across his muscular frame, bands of lightning hooking around him and sinking into his body, spreading an icy chill down to his bone marrow numbing his limbs.
As smoke wafted off his twitching form, Akuma dropped to his knees, mind reeling from the experience. Another new technique. Something Akuma had been unprepared for. Was defeat a possibility here? Had he underestimated his brother so badly? Akuma's gaze wandered over his hands as he saw them tremble, splayed in the dirt, shaking, not from fear, but from the chi energy that still raced through his body, paralyzing him. His eyes narrowed sharply as he cursed his body, trying to will it to move through shear desire, as if his will to fight alone could overcome the limitations of his flesh. As the shadow of his brother moved over him, Akuma knew defeat was a true possibility. He was helpless...all Gouken had to do was strike. Instead, he spoke.
"It is over, Gouki. Let this be the end" Gouken announced, chin raised as he looked down at his brother upon the ground. Akuma blinked once, disbelief washing over him before he let out a harsh laugh. "You fool. I told you before that only death can defeat me. You cannot win...because you lack the strength to kill!" Gouken took a single step back as a flood of the Satsui No Hadou, the intent to kill, poured through Akuma's limbs, transformed along his chi pathways into pure power. Pure focus. "DIE!" The crimson-haired man exploded from the ground, his fist ripping up and across Gouken, the large man having time just enough to raise a hand to deflect the attack. The fist skidded off of Gouken's palm, driving across his left brow and taking off a chunk of flesh with it as Akuma rose into the air a few inches.
Gouken staggered backwards and prepared to counter-attack just before a flash of pain seized him by the limb, blood erupting in thin fountains from his forearm and hand. Even blocking the Goshoryuken had cost him more dearly than he had thought. Akuma was not yet finished collecting his pound of flesh as he turned in mid-air, twisting his body and cocking his right hand again. "MESSATSU-GOSHORYU!" Almost too fast to see, Akuma drove a second and then a third Goshoryuken into Gouken, lifting him off his feet this time, causing him to climb into the air. In the wake of the first uppercut, a wave of chi buffeted Gouken, slashing his gi and lacerating his body, tearing at him like the talons of a flock of mad birds.
Akuma landed on his feet, the force of his violent attack having ripped the right side of his own uwagi into tatters. Akuma turned his head, watching over his shoulder as Gouken slammed motionless back to the earth. Akuma reached up and tore off the remains of his gi's top, casting it aside, wondering momentarily if his brother would rise again at all or if he was finished. As Gouken stirred, Akuma snapped back into action, leaping into the air, palms burning with power as he cast a pair of fireballs downward towards his prone brother's body.
Gouken heard the air above him sizzle, managing to roll desperately to the side a moment before the Gohadokens crashed to the earth like meteorites, throwing up plumes of dirt. Forcing himself back to his feet, Gouken swayed, narrowly dodging a diving kick as Akuma cut through the air past him, the older man staggering back a few steps to put distance between himself and his foe. Emboldened by the spilled blood and thrill of combat, Akuma landed and turned, pressing his offensive as he launched a series of jabs, peppering them over Gouken's frame. To his credit, the martial arts master blocked a majority of them but still others struck home, thudding against his chest and stomach. Akuma caught the arm of a knife-hand strike aimed in retaliation at his brow and pulled Gouken towards him, planting a foot into his stomach as he threw himself into a backwards roll. Landing on his back, he pumped out his leg, throwing Gouken over himself.
Gouken felt himself go weightless for a moment after being launched by Akuma, grunting as he slammed down into the ground on his hip a second later, the pain reverberating down his leg and up into his side. Giving himself over to his instincts, Gouken popped back to his feet, ignoring his body's protests of pain. Rolling through the air in a leap to cross the distance between them, Akuma drove a palm into Gouken's damaged cheek even as he got his legs back beneath him,snapping his head to the side. A left hook turned Gouken's head back the other way, the motion sending a long, thick arc of blood from his brothers cheek across the bridge of Akuma's nose. The red-haired fighter grinned without realizing it and drove a fierce, bone-jarring standing punch into Gouken's sternum.
Reeling back, Gouken attempted to take back the momentum of the fight, leaping forward into a spinning hurricane kick. His leg swept through the air as he moved forward, held aloft by his own speed and the power of his chi flowing through him as he performed the Tatsumaki Senpukyaku. Akuma, however, lept higher still, tucking himself into a ball and flipping. Upside down in the air over Gouken, he captured his brother by the shoulders and, using the force of his flip, ripped Gouken out of the hurricane kick and swung him about, up and over, sending him crashing down, shoulder-first, onto Akuma's knee as Akuma's own feet touched the ground. With a sickening impact Gouken bounced off of Akuma's knee, hitting the ground on his back and rolling once more, his left arm hanging awkwardly from his body.
"You can't beat me with neutered versions of Goutetsu's techniques" Akuma spat out, anger and mockery in his voice as Gouken got back to his feet, arm still hanging uselessly at his side but right arm raised in a fighting stance. "You were doomed to failure the moment you discarded the desire to win" Akuma continued, his former grin having turned into a deep, disdainful frown. Gouken looked up to him, right hand wiping away a thick, black blob of drying blood on his brow. His shoulders and chest shook a bit before the sound of quiet laughter finally rattled up and out of him, the martial artist shaking his head as the laughter sputtered out into light coughing before he managed to retort "No. You were doomed to failure the moment you stopped being able to see past your own fist. If you were anyone but my brother I would pity you"
The thought of being pitied sent a surge up Akuma's spine, causing his chi to bristle and pour out of him, his hair wavering as if it were made of slowly dancing flame. "You will have time to realize your own failure in Hell!" In his rage, Akuma struck towards Gouken, covering the distance between them in a pair of quick strides. Gouken was ready. Twisting his body at the waist, he sent his dislocated left arm up, his longer reach letting him capture Akuma by the face, fingers digging into his skin and capturing him by the head, redirecting his energy and slamming him to the ground. Cocking back his right arm, Gouken rolled his left shoulder as he held Akuma down, wrenching his arm back into place with an audible POP! before he drove his right fist down towards the trapped man's chest.
Akuma reached up, one hand grasping at Gouken's wrist, the other catching the punch with his palm. Rolling his hips, Akuma drove both his legs up, pistoning his feet into Gouken's side, straight into his injured ribs, following through on the movement to roll back onto his feet as Gouken released him and stepped back, clutching his battered torso. Back on his feet, Akuma turned, bringing his right hand over and down in a chop meant to stave in Gouken's skull. Instead, Gouken caught the chop at the wrist with his left palm over his head . Leaning into the arc of the chop to diffuse it's power, Gouken's right hand struck out with a knife hand into Akuma's throat, cutting off his breath and sending him into a fit of choking. Still holding Akuma's wrist, Gouken stood up straight, twisting it to the side, throwing Akuma off balance, Gouken's right hand striking out again, palm crashing into Akuma's cheek, turning his head.
Akuma felt himself folded over Gouken's knee as he was pulled forward by his wrist, air driven out of his lungs and up into his constricted throat. A moment later, Gouken grasped him by his top-knot, fingers twining in his head of crimson hair. Gouken stepped once, then twice and hoisted Akuma by his hair and wrist, sending him flying through the forest. Akuma tucked his head down, narrowly avoiding smashing his head into a boulder, his shoulders taking the brunt of it instead. Snarling, he rolled back onto his feet, knees shaking for a moment before he steadied himself, one hand on the boulder behind him as he looked up, immediately throwing himself back to the ground as a pair of Gohadoken's struck the boulder. The first bored into it with a horrible cracking sound, the second causing the ancient stone to burst open, showering Akuma with pebbles and pulped stone dust.
"Gouki!" Gouken called out as he emerged from the trees above, rolling in the Hyakkishu aerial maneuver as Akuma had previously. Akuma replied with a growl, rising to his feet with a standing uppercut that Gouken parried in mid-air, rolling the strike off a braced forearm and once more catching Akuma by the wrist. As his right hand struck forward upon landing, Gouken found it caught in Akuma's palm, each brother controlling one arm of their sibling. Gouken's eyes glanced down to their limbs, then back up, startled for a moment as he locked eyes with Akuma. Akuma, his hair pulled loose from its tie to spill over his face, looked back at Gouken with the countenance of a wild animal, but with clear focus in his eyes. And, in that moment, Gouken didn't recognize who he was looking at "I am Akuma. Master of the fist!" Akuma announced, correcting the name Gouken had called him only a moment before. As he did, a surge of chi rippled up over Akuma, the power reaching out to Gouken, causing his wounds to ache.
Their legs clashed now, Akuma driving knees and feet up towards Gouken's own legs, trying to shatter his bones and tear the muscles. Gouken gritted his teeth, forced to take slow steps back as he staved off the assault. As Akuma planted his feet, Gouken braced himself as Akuma straightened back and then drove his head forward. Gouken met Akuma head to head, the two head-butting one another, spattering one another with their blood. Akuma growled, working the muscles of his neck as he ground his brow against Gouken's, trying to slip it downward into his eye socket. Akuma's forehead slipped across Gouken's face, slick with perspiration and blood as it was, and Gouken pulled his head back then drove it forward into the bridge of Akuma's nose. Akuma breathed blood out from his nostrils as stars filled his vision, his nose crunching under his brothers headbutt, mouth filling with the taste of copper as the red ran down over his lips.
The taste of blood filled his senses and, with a sudden roar, Akuma wrenched his hand free of Gouken's grip, grabbing him by his thick neck, his fingers squeezing as if to throttle the life out of him. Gouken's hand, having lost its hold on Akuma's wrist, moved quickly to his face, trying to use his greater height and reach to push the man away. His fingers scrabbled against Akuma's face, pressing back against it, Akuma resisting, straining the muscles of his neck and back to keep his ground even as Gouken's fingers pressed against his eye, forcing Akuma to squint it shut, Gouken's thumb digging deep into his cheek. Akuma felt the fingers press over the ruins of his noses bridge and he snarled, opening his mouth and biting down on the offending digits until they met bone. Reflexively, Gouken pulled his bloodied hand back, curling it into a fist that he drove into the man's cheek. As if immune to the pain at this point, Akuma reached out with both hands, choking Gouken down to his knees before the larger man slapped his hands down on Akuma's wrists, wrestling for control. Akuma braced his feet and took one step back as his body flexed, suddenly lifting Gouken up off his knees and feet and into the air, turning to pitch him over his shoulder and through the forest.
Several long moments later, Gouken pushed himself to his feet, looking up at the path his body had torn through the forest before he took several deep, strained breaths. A cool breeze passed over him as he stood on the rocky outcropping at the edge of the forest. He knew this place. He was on the cliff edge overlooking the river where Ryu & Ken regularly gathered water. Not far beyond was the waterfall they had meditated under so often. He smiled at the memories even as a demon emerged from between the trees. "Good. Enjoy the fight in your last moments" Akuma's voice came out as the growl of a tiger, deep and ragged from exertion and injury. Gouken slowly shook his head "I am enjoying memories. There is no joy in fighting you" Akuma stopped, mere feet from Gouken, and squared his shoulders, body painted in blood that dripped from the prayer beads still hanging around his neck above his bare torso. "Then take your memories to the grave." Slowly Akuma raised his fists, then uncurled them until they resembled claws "Prepare yourself for death..." Gouken only smiled again as he too stood up straight, casting his head up to look at the clouds of the blue sky overhead. "I understand now. I pray that, one day, you will understand too, Gouki" Ignoring him, Akuma answered as his chi flooded outward, surging nearly out of control, bursting out from within his very cells to paint the rocky outcropping in a reddish haze "When you see him, tell Goutetsu of my strength!" And Akuma surged forward, the air around him singing as it vibrated with power, scorched by the passage of a thousand fists striking at Gouken in the space of a single breath.
Below them, on the opposite side of the cliff, Ken burst forth from the forest, eyes searching upward as he felt the impossible level of power pouring out of the battle between his master and...and whoever it was he was fighting. What he saw filled his stomach with ice water, his limbs feeling suddenly hollow as Gouken fell backwards off of the cliff above, plunging into the frigid waters below. He called out "MASTER!" But the sound of his voice could halt neither gravity nor time to save Gouken from impacting the river, the powerful current pulling him under and away towards the waterfall beyond. With his thoughts focused solely on his sensei, Ken ran through the woods, following the river, trying to catch a glimpse of the man that had very nearly raised him through the formative years of his life. Of Gouken, however, there was no sign.
Atop the cliff, Akuma watched the blonde youth race after the river for only a moment before looking down at his own hands. It hadn't been like when he destroyed Goutetsu. Why? What had been different? Why had some of the strikes felt...incomplete. As if there was nothing beneath his knuckles? Was it merely the difference in Goutetsu and Gouken's level of skill? Yet Gouken offered no defense at all? He shook his head and turned, stalking back into the woods. It didn't matter. Now Gouken was just as dead as Goutetsu and there were countless other fighters Akuma had yet to test himself against. His brother had merely been another step on his path...
Elsewhere and nowhere, Gouken felt the conflict in his student. He felt the desire to succeed. To win. To overcome at any cost. He felt him harness it. He knew Gouki would also sense when Ryu touched. Gouken, however, had felt what Gouki would not; Ryu recoiling from the Satsui No Hadou and the results of using it. Gouken knew his son and he knew that, once again, Gouki was about to pursue a path doomed to failure...
Just when I think I'm out, they...
TURN THE BEAT BACK!