End of a Journey


#1

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?


#2

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)


#3

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.


#4

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)


#5

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?


#6

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)


#7

“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.”


#8

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.* 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!


#9

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?”


#10

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)


#11

Really liking this so far. Keep it up.


#12

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?


#13

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.


#14

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:


#15

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.


#16

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)


#17

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?


#18

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!


#19

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.

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

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:


#20

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)