Chapter 10: Nightmares
The clouds parted in the night sky to reveal the full moon, bathing down lunar light on the classical architecture of the school. Ryu found himself alone in the courtyard, with the school turned to his back. The wandering warrior didn’t think that HE of all people would come seek him out, especially at a place like this. It doesn’t matter, he thought as he clenched his fists as felt the evil presence becoming closer and closer to him. I’ve waited a long time for this, and I’m definitely not going to fall here.
With his eyes shooting wide open, Ryu spun around to strike the source of the voice calling out to him. Lifting his leg into the air, Ryu delivered a spinning roundhouse kick to his attacker’s hand, altering his aim and successfully causing his ki to fly off to the side instead of into his face. Hearing the blast of ki explode against the wall of the school, Ryu lifted his fist and attempted a punch?but his opponent vanished in front of his eyes, leaving Ryu to punch through his afterimage.
“No more games, Akuma,” Ryu shouted as he turned back around to find his attacker. Even if his enemy could disappear and reappear at will, he couldn’t hide from Ryu’s ability to sense ki. “Show yourself and face me with honor!” Not that Akuma would know anything about that, Ryu added bitterly as he scanned the area, focusing his thoughts so that he could find his nemesis. He murdered his own brother just for the pursuit of strength. Anyone who does something that horrible doesn’t deserve to be called a warrior.
“You dare accuse me of lacking honor, whelp?” Akuma’s voice boomed, echoing throughout the school and into the inner corridors of Ryu’s soul. “What does that say about you, who refuses to fight with everything they have in battle?” Turning in the direction of the voice, Ryu fired off a Hadoken hoping to strike his attacker. This time, the Hadoken was swatted away like a fly, where it detonated against a tree and forcing it to explode into splinters like it had just been struck with lightning.
Though his dark aura obscured his features, it wasn’t intense enough to keep his red eyes from glowing like the pits of hell, staring a hole into Ryu’s consciousness. “Akuma,” Ryu whispered as he lifted his fists and assumed a fighting stance. “I don’t know why you’ve come here, but I’m going to make you regret it. There are children who go to this school, and I’d rather die than let you ruin it.”
“Then defend it, whelp,” Akuma growled as he bared his fanged teeth for Ryu to see. There was a time when Akuma was an ordinary human, like anyone else, but his pursuit of power via the forbidden art of Ansatsuken, the Satsui no Hadou, turned him into something noticeably different. No ordinary human could do the things that he was now capable of, or radiate the overwhelmingly evil aura that even the most oblivious of martial artists could detect.
Just as the name suggested, he had become a demon.
Lifting his own hands and entering his fighting stance, Akuma’s eyes burned even brighter, almost blinding Ryu. However, it wasn’t enough to keep Ryu from charging forward with his ki swirling around in his right fist. Once he was in striking distance, Ryu crouched down slightly and prepared to take out Akuma with his Shoryuken. Unfortunately for Ryu, Akuma wasn’t interested in receiving the attack and drove his palm into Ryu’s face just as his feet let the ground, sending Ryu sprawling backwards with his nose bloodied.
“Too slow,” Akuma grunted as Ryu landed on his hands and kipped back to his feet, the blood already streaking down his mouth. “If you intend to protect this place, you’ll have to do better than that.” With his aura intensifying so that it appeared that he was being engulfed in blood red flames, the renegade warrior once again dematerialized and disappeared from view. Ryu tried to focus to see where he went, but he was still dazed from the palm he took a moment before, making it almost impossible to sense him.
Almost, but not completely. Hearing the sound of Akuma’s animalistic breathing coming at him from behind, Ryu lifted his leg and spun around into the air, covering all sides of him so that he couldn’t receive a sneak attack. Even as Ryu sailed through the air with his Tatsumaki Senpukyaku, he could still hear Akuma’s rapid footsteps following him. As soon as I hit the ground, I’ll be made vulnerable to attack, he thought as he felt his momentum failing. He’ll be counting on that to strike?so I’ll just have to surprise him.
As soon as Ryu felt his feet touch the ground, the wandering warrior clenched his fist once again and turned around to deliver a devastating straight right into Akuma’s jaw. Being that he had been running full force after Ryu, he didn’t have time to slow down and he received the full brunt of the attack. “Got you,” Ryu shouted as the man-turned-demon was sent flying away, bouncing off the tiled ground like a rock skipping against the water before landing on his feet and skidding to a halt.
“Your fist lacks devotion,” Akuma chastised the warrior as he stood back up. Rather than assuming a fighting stance, the demon merely folded his arms and frowned. “I have given you much time to hone your fist into something worthy of my time, and yet you attack with such a feeble punch. Dispappointing?”
Damn: my attack didn’t even leave a mark, Ryu cursed as he ran towards Akuma, cupping his hands to form another Hadoken. What is it going to take to faze this guy? Even though Ryu was coming at him crackling with power, Akuma refused to unfold his arms, instead patiently waiting for the younger fighter to come at him. Whether it was out of contempt for the wandering warrior or simply because was arrogant enough to think that Ryu was of no threat to him didn’t matter: there were crimes that he had to answer for, and Ryu was going to make sure he paid the price.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, Akuma jumped high into the air just as Ryu pushed his hands forward for a Hadoken. “NO,” Ryu screamed as he realized the Hadoken was going to crash into the school. Lifting his hands upwards just before he launched his ki, Ryu watched his Hadoken veer into the air like a missile being launched from a war boat. Time seemed to stand still for him as he watched the Hadoken go farther into the air, hanging on a prayer that the fireball wouldn’t hit the school. When the Hadoken skeeted past the tiles of the roof and faded away from view into the night, he let out a sigh of relief?
?though his relief was short lived as Akuma came plummeting back down from his aerial roll and grabbed into Ryu’s shoulders. Using the rotational momentum from his Demon Flip, Akuma flung Ryu over his shoulder and to the tiled ground, watching him crash down onto his back. “Your fists lack devotion, because you are not willing to fight with everything you have. What is so wrong about going into battle with all your powers at the ready!”
“Fighting with everything you have isn’t fighting at all,” Ryu retorted as he once again flipped back to his feet and resumed his fighting stance, the blood from his nose now staining his teeth. “If we don’t show restraint when in battle, then we’re nothing more than animals attacking each other!” Wiping the blood from his mouth with his gloved hand, the wandering warrior’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not like you, Akuma: I’m not going to sell my soul to become tough!”
“Then you will suffer a dog’s death, Ryu,” Akuma once again vanished from view, leaving Ryu once again to wonder what direction he was coming from. Less than two seconds later, Ryu found his answer when he heard Akuma let out a fearsome shout directly behind him. Turning around with his leg lifted for a kick, Ryu received Akuma’s Tatsumaki Zankukyaku right to the side of his head, knocking him off of his feet like he had just been hit with an axehandle. Not only was the attack strong, but it was fast, hitting Ryu multiple times to a point where he was still ascending into the air while Akuma landed on his feet.
Akuma let out another roar as he struck the airborne Ryu with his own lethal variation of the Shoryuken: the Go Shoryuken. Not merely content with the power lying within his physical self, Akuma ignited his attacking arm so that it was consumed in his lethal purple ki. As a result, the violet flames added a terrifying burning sensation to the agonizing pain delivered from the Go Shoryuken, causing Ryu to let out a shout of pain as he was struck in mid-air and propelled further upwards.
Ryu crashed down hard onto his back as Akuma landed on his feet, his ki still surrounding his body. “If you were a truly ready to face me in battle, you would use everything at your disposal to achieve victory,” the demon said as Ryu struggled back onto his feet, still feeling the effects of the flurry of forbidden attacks he received. “Our style’s purest form is stained in blood and death. Gouken was a fool for denying Ansatsuken’s true purpose?just as you are a fool for not embracing it!”
“S-shut up, demon,” Ryu spat back as he grit his teeth trying to push himself off the ground. The techniques Akuma used were rooted in assassination: people weren’t supposed to survive being on the receiving end of them. The fact that Ryu could still move, much less breathe, was a testament to how much he had been training to defeat the renegade warrior. “I’ll never accept that: I’d sooner die myself than stain my soul with the lives of others!”
“?we will see how long you hold onto that,” Akuma grumbled as he turned away from Ryu, instead looking at the hole in the wall of the school that his Hadoken had left earlier. “I have noticed that you have neglected your training, whelp: instead of searching for worthy opponents to test your strength against, you have instead made residence at this school, where there are only children instead of warriors?”
Ryu said nothing as Akuma looked out at the wall, pensively staring at it with those crimson eyes. Akuma was many horrible things, but one thing he most certainly was not was a killer of children. Why would he suddenly turn his focus away from Ryu to talk about the school?unless?
“Akuma,” Ryu sputtered out as he felt the demon’s evil ki rise sharply, his body being engulfed in power like he was self-combusting. “Akuma?what are you doing? The people here are of no threat to you! The children-”
“There are no children here in the present,” Akuma interjected before planting his feet into the ground and entering a horse stance, gathering all of his destructive ki into his hands. With his aura blowing Ryu backwards like a thistle in the wind, the renegade warrior bared his fangs and spoke once again. “This school is only made of stone and metal: it can be rebuilt over time. For you, however?the damage will stay with you for eternity!”
Ryu’s protests fell on deaf ears as Akuma unleashed his hellish energy into a surge of power that didn’t just damage the wall, but spread around the wall like an electic current going through a fire. Completely and utterly breathless, Ryu watched in abject horror as the walls of the school were completely engulfed in flames. All of those children’s hopes and dreams for the future, Ryu thought bitterly as the sight of the fire etched itself deep into Ryu’s psyche, they’re burning away, and I couldn’t do a thing about it!
When Akuma lowered his hands to assess the damage, seeing the flowers burn and the statues melt and contort, Ryu thought that the demon had finished his work, and charged forward to attack. “MONSTER,” Ryu screamed as he took to the air and lifted his leg, this time putting his ki into the Tatsumaki Senpukyaku and giving his foot a powerful glow. Due to how powerful the move was on its own, being able to clear forests like a buzzsaw, Gouken forbade Ryu from pouring his ki into the technique. However, Ryu’s grip on reality was quickly slipping, washed beneath a waterfall of anger and sorrow that he felt towards Akuma.
Just before Ryu’s attack would have connected, Akuma once again leapt into the air and evaded the wandering warrior’s attack. “Come down and face me, demon,” Ryu hissed before pouring his rage into his ki, which in turn swirled around his hands and kicked up violent winds around him. Ryu had abandoned the Metsu Hadoken years before due to how difficult it was to perform without seriously hurting an opponent, but right now, what Ryu wanted more than anything was to “seriously hurt” Akuma.
“TENMA,” Akuma roared before unleashing a hailstorm of ki blasts onto the school itself: the same place that Ryu had been staying over the past several days, and where his host Chun-Li had called home. Unable to contain his anger, Ryu let out a fearsome shout before unleashing his Metsu Hadoken onto the airborne Akuma. This time, Akuma did not swat away the attack, as he was too occupied in destroying the school. Akuma paid for his narrow-mindedness by taking the full brunt of Ryu’s attack and having it explode around him in a massive burst of purple energy.
Finally stopping Akuma’s assault, Ryu turned to the school and dropped to his knees in despair as he watched it literally go up in flames. “What was it all for,” he whispered bitterly as he looked down at the tiled ground. Lifting his mighty arm, the wandering warrior pounded his fist against the ground and repeated what he had said, as if he was expecting an answer. “What was it all for, all of my training and hard work? Did I come this far just to fail everyone close to me!”
Ryu cursed himself as he continued pounding his fists against the ground. Had he not been so worried about the damage done to his surroundings, or went all-out right from the start instead of holding back until the last minute, Ryu might have prevented the school from being engulfed in flames. Fighting with everything he had with no restraint was exactly the sort of thing that led down the path to the Satsui no Hadou?but with something precious to stake, would fighting to preserve it be worth the price to be paid?
“?the true warrior enters the arena with all of his power at the ready.”
Ryu shot to attention as he heard Akuma’s voice echo throughout his ears, his body, his mind, and his heart. Even the untamed destructive power of the Metsu Hadoken wasn’t enough to take him out, it seemed. Standing back up and scanning the area for his nemesis, Ryu felt his heart racing even faster than it had been earlier when engaged in combat. The demon had now not only taken away his master’s life, but now he had destroyed Chun-Li and her student’s dreams and hopes for the future by destroying her school. “Show yourself, Akuma,” Ryu shouted once again, both his fists radiating with power. “Show yourself and let me break your face!”
“Now you’re starting to see things my way, warrior,” Akuma’s seemingly disembowled voice called out to Ryu, confusing and angering him further. “We all fight for something, whether it be power, wealth, fame, glory, family, or just the thrill of victory. For many years now you have become stronger and stronger, yet you are no closer to your ultimate goal than you were when you were a mewling puke. That is because you fight just for the sake of fighting: this way of thinking is cyclical and you will forever wander the world seeking answers that you are blind to but have always been in front of you?”
With those words fresh in Ryu’s mind, the smell of perfume filled the warrior’s nostrils as someone appeared in front of him that was decidedly not Akuma. Instead, it was a stunningly beautiful woman wearing a blue qipao with her long brown hair flowing in the wind. “Chun-Li,” Ryu whispered as the woman smiled at him, not saying anything despite how her school was burning behind her. Even in the madness of the moment, however, Ryu felt his rage subside and his heartbeat calm down. No matter how horrible seems things seemed, as long as she were alive, there was hope for the future. This held true not only for her students, but for Ryu, as well.
So enamored was Ryu with Chun-Li’s presense that he didn’t sense Akuma hovering towards him, his entire body engulfed in black energy. “?Ryu,” Chun-Li said softly as she turned her head to see Akuma coming at him. Realizing what was happening, Chun-Li sprang into action and pushed Ryu out of the way, protecting him from the onslaught that was rapidly approaching. “Ryu?watch out!”
Rolling onto his feet, Ryu looked up to Chun-Li in confusion?but when he saw Akuma grab onto Chun-Li’s neck literally dripping dark energy, he knew immediately what was going on. There was a blinding flash of light, coupled with the sound of Chun-Li’s blood-curtling screams and the sounds of fists ripping into flesh. “CHUN-LI,” Ryu screamed as he ran towards where Chun-Li had been standing, the screams telling him where she was even when he couldn’t see her. “AKUMA?STOP IT!”
When light finally faded, Akuma had disappeared?but in his wake, he had left Chun-Li lying on the ground, her dress stained with blood with her eyes glazed over in death. Scooping up the woman in his arms, Ryu shook her vigorously in desperation and sorrow. “Wake up, Chun-Li! Say something!” However, Chun-Li did not move, whether it be a twitch of the finger or even the rising and falling of her chest for breathing. As the awful reality of the situation seeped into Ryu’s mind, the warrior started screaming. “Chun-Li! CHUN-LI!”
“Temper your fist with a purpose and a destination,” Akuma’s voice boomed as Ryu felt his blood boil and his vision turn red with fury. Even as Ryu’s screams became ferocious howls, the voice of the Master of Fists continued. “Otherwise, you will be unable to meet your destiny as the true martial artist?and all you will bring about is suffering to yourself and those you hold dear?”
(continued next post)