Chapter XIII: Peculiar Dance
The sun stood in the middle of the sky, it?s radiance too beautiful for human eyes to directly cast their gazes. The clouds were light and playful, dancing through a light blue sky like children in an open field. Below on Earth, another battle was set to take place.
Gouken cracked his knuckles as he let his lips curve into a smirk. Gen was powerful, and Gouken was anxious to begin.
?Alright, ready?? He asked. Gen nodded silently.
?Let?s go!? Gouken shouted as he rocketed forward and cocked his fist behind him.
?WAIT! You should not fight now!.? Master Fei shouted while gesturing in the air.
?What? Why not?? Gouken stared up at the master with a puzzled face, the lower half of his body frozen in mid gallop as his upper body relaxed.
?Gen?s last fight was draining, you?d have an unfair advantage.? Master Fei said matter of factly, with his index finger pointing at an imaginary chalkboard in front of him.
?And you do want to fight Gen at his best correct??
?Yes.? Nodded Gouken. He stood straight now. Gen grunted and kicked a loose pebble near him; sending it flying.
?Then it is settled, tomorrow at noon the fight will resume. Do you think that this is fair?? Master Fei looked over at Goutetsu who wasn?t paying attention, staring up at the clear blue sky. Fei coughed awkwardly in his direction.
?Oh?yeah sure.? Goutetsu nodded rapidly without looking.
Then Gouki stirred, he coughed up a bit of blood and sat up, clutching his side with an expressionless face and closed eyes.
?Gouki, come. Afaik will-? Goutetsu started.
Gouki?s voice was the most serious and stern his master had ever heard it at that moment. He stared at Goutetsu, his eyes burning into him with rage for even suggesting the idea. He slowly closed his eyes and began to return to his feet, stumbling. Gouken stared forward to help him. Gouki turned his back to him and slowly walked away from the battle, limping and not acknowledging anyone?s presence.
?Hmmm?he has a strong sense of personal honor and dignity.? Master Fei noted to his peer.
?You?re confusing it?he?s too headstrong. Dignity doesn?t exclude getting help when you need it. Gouki may not show it, but part of him is arrogant. And he will not look at us?because he is humiliated. Even his best isn?t good enough for him?.that could get him in trouble. Gouki, above all else wants to be strong?stronger than his brother?stronger than me?stronger than anyone. I?m beginning to realize that now?and I fear for him.?
?Hmmmm?maybe but I doubt it.? Replied Master Fei with a sharp smile. Goutetsu did not acknowledge the unnecessary remark, for he felt Fei was in no position to make judgements of his student?s character after only a few hours.
Gouken watched Gouki leave, staring at him as his wounded brother limped away. His black gi dark like a shadow spotted with drips of crimson blood and dust. The wind suddenly picked up slightly, playing with Gouki?s long hair and stirring the cloth on his uniform as Gouken silently watched. Gouki walked onward, and after a minute he was out of sight.
Gouken turned around to face Gen; only Gen wasn?t there. Gouken turned again to find Master Fei and Goutetsu gone also.
?Hmph.? Gouken shrugged as he walked away from the arena, wondering if Afaik had any extra rice cakes left.
The cry of a hungry wolf echoed in the distance, the moon full and the sky a sort of comforting deep violet. There were many fat clouds, great herds of shadows that blended with the night. As a group of clouds drifted in front of the moonlight another howl jolted up from the forest. It was comforting to Gouki at least, who sat on a large ancient boulder overlooking a great cliff that dropped off into a luscious green forest a hundred feet below.
Sleep did not come to Gouki this night, he tossed and turned with the pain from his injures flaring up in pulsing throbs. He found out his body hurt the least if he was on his stomach with his arms at his sides but his neck and shoulders were umcomfortable. After several hours he gave up and walked outside. Gouki?s right arm was in a sling and his entire left forearm bandaged. A wrapping also streaked across his chest. A bandage was over his left cheek. The shirt of his gi flopped unto the rock; he had discarded it to feel the mountain air on his skin.
A flashback of his fight with Gen shot forward in Gouki?s mind, a crane peck that connected in the center of Gouki?s chest. Gouki felt the spot on his flesh where the attack connected; a bruise had been left there.
Gouki grimaced as he thought more about the fight.
?I thought he could keep up, but Gen just proved to be better. I have lost again.? Gouki said aloud to no one in monotone.
What sickened Gouki the most would be the future coming in the daylight. Tomorrow, Gouken would step and fight Gen and beat him effortlessly. It felt like a weight slung around his shoulders, his own inadequacy. Gouki stared at his fist, bandaged and half responsive.
?Gouken will not beat him effortlessly. He will have to fight with all of his strength to win. I must be realistic.? As Gouki looked at the moon again he felt better.
As he inhaled as much as he could he felt two sharp pains in his side and chest but knew eventually he would totally recover. As he held in lungfulls of air he thought of his own mortality, imagining himself old, sick and bedridden. As he exhaled he reconciled with himself, holding on to the idea that he was still very strong. As Gouki hopped off the rock and walked away from the cliff he told himself that he must be diligent. Once Gouki was 20 feet away from the drop into green treetops he stopped and mechanically took stance. His had stopped staring at the moon. He clenched his fists and began to raise his ki.
?HAH!!? Gouki shouted as he shot forward his free arm and fired a watermelon sized ki blast into the midnight wilderness. But the blast only moved a couple of feet before it shattered into white shiny confetti. Gouki?s concentration was broken once he fell to his knees clutching his side in terrible pain.
Blood began to seep through Gouki?s clenched teeth, and fall to the ground in little crimson drops, sweat beaded all over Gouki?s body as he lay doubled over. His injuries would not allow him to train tonight. He refused Afaik?s healing to feel the fire of failure from his injuries. He wanted the reminder to stay there until his body overcame it naturally.
The throbbing pain that racked Gouki?s entire body had returned as an owl sailed high in the sky under the moonglow; it?s piercing eyes locked on a companion in the night.
?Damn them both?? Was the only thought that came to his mind. His fists were clenched and quivering as he noticed he was grinding his teeth. Perhaps he would ask Afaik to heal him. Perhaps he should be more realistic.
- The next day, noon
Gouken bounced in place, excited about his next fight. The battle was set to begin in a little under 20 minutes, and Gouken had been ready since he first jumped out of bed. Gouken tore through breakfast like a wild man and then ran off to go meditate. Once he was resting under a tall tree it took longer than usual for him to clear his mind.
The sky was quiet and calm, the clouds thin and the sun lazy. There was a light breeze that felt refreshing rather than uncomfortable. Gouken was dressed in a tan gi, the sleeves torn off the shirt, and a black thick wool shirt underneath with no sleeves also. His hair was cut no more than 2 inches off his head and it was actually straight for once. A thin goatee lined his handsome face, with eyes that gleamed confidence and a child-like giddiness.
?Man?I?m ready to begin! Where is everyone!?? Gouken exclaimed.
?Right here.? A flat voice uttered from behind. Gouken whirled around to find Gen staring at him, his pit viper eyes locked on a new target.
?Ah there you are. So are you ready to begin? No matter if the masters aren?t here, they?ll catch up.?
?Fine.? Gen said, with a cunningly smirk.
The two fighters stood 40 feet apart from each other. Slowly sliding into stance. Both had confident smiles, and their stances tight and mechanical.
?Ready??? Gouken started, his muscles tense.
They both rocketed forward running at top speed, adrenaline pumping through their bodies like normal blood. They crossed the distance to each other in 2 seconds, and just before they were to collide both fighters sprang 15 feet into the air.
?HAH!? Gouken attempted a couple of jabs that Gen swatted away and he retaliated with a front kick that Gouken muffled with his knee. They exchanged punches and kicks at a lightning fast rate as both of them hung in mid-air beginning to fall back to Earth.
Gen lashed out with a right hook. Gouken caught his fist and kicked him away, knocking him out of the sky. Gen sailed to the ground with a dead thud, kicking up dust but quickly returning to his feet undeterred.
Gouken still was in the air, falling as Gen rushed forward at the place where he would land planning to meet him on the way down. Gouken?s mind jumbled a plot together quickly.
Gouken performed two quick backflips to propel himself a little backward away from Gen?s clutches. Gen shot forward anyhow, right into Gouken?s plan.
As soon as Gouken hit the ground he unleashed a gou hadoken so quickly Gen ran into it more than the ki ball ran into him. Gen was abruptly blown back 10 feet; crashing to the ground and remaining still for half a minute.
Gouken stood, a clever smile on his face as he folded his arms in an almost pout.
?C?mon Gen?that didn?t hurt. Quit playing possum.? He scolded, laughing. Gen quickly sprang to his feet, calmly wiping dust and dirt off of his clothes, his confident smirk still present.
?You are?.stronger than your brother.? Gen spoke slowly while walking with his arms slack at his sides.
?A lot of people say that.?
Gouken and Gen once again snapped back into fighting mode. Their bodies were slowly relaxing and with no traces of exertion in their forms as they stood 5 feet apart from each other. Suddenly, a voice rang out:
?Why you overzealous punks!!? Master Fei shouted indignantly as he half ran, half walked up the fighting grounds showing his small pot belly underneath his robe. He looked flustered. Goutetsu calmly walked to the arena beside Fei in a time-worn gray Chinese uniform. His long thick braid dangling behind him and a slightly annoyed expression was on his face. He was annoyed with Fei.
?How dare you two start before we arrive! Do you not have respect for your superiors!?? Master Fei roared.
?Um?sorry Master Fei. We were just anxious to begin?.? Gouken muttered.
?HUFF Well you could have told someone! I wanted to see this! Now I?ve missed the beginning!? Goutetsu couldn?t help but laugh as Master Fei?s face became a beet red over something so trivial.
?It?s alright Fei, the fight barely began?you didn?t miss much.?
?A thousand apologies masters.? Said Gen, his voice almost sincere.
?Yes well you both should be sorry.? Said Fei with finality.
Gouken suddenly noticed his brother standing away from everyone halfway concealed by bushes watching the match with an unreadable face.
?Feel free to continue at any moment.? Muttered Goutetsu cheerfully.
?Alright!!? Gouken roared with enthusiasm as he suddenly hoped back into stance. Gen snapped back into combat mode himself.
Gen wordlessly blasted into the air with a flying kick which Gouken swatted away with ease. Gen then struck out with 5 jabs from the left hand, a right hook followed by a front kick?all in the space of 2 seconds. Gouken deflected and guarded against all of these attacks, his confidence never waning. The final palm strike to the center of Gouken?s chest did connect.
Gouken then struck back, uppercutting Gen in the chin then punching him on the stomach twice. Gouken finished with a sharp side kick; only Gen recovered too soon and caught his leg with one hand.
Gouken said, with a lighthearted tone and his trademark smile. Gen stared at his opponent with his pit viper eyes. They both knew what was coming next.
The following attack made Gouken fly 8 feet into the air and rotate a full 720o before he smacked the hard tile 12 feet away from Gen.
Gouken rose quickly again without a stumble or a blink, not caring to brush any debris from his garment.
The second Gouken took stance Gen pounced again; with a swift crane peck that Gouken narrowly avoided by taking a step back. Gen countered with a quick palm strike to Gouken?s chest with his other hand, knocking Goutetsu?s student off balance. Gouken recovered in time to swat away another crane peck and attack with a overhead right which Gen blocked with his forearm and he used the same arm to backfist Gouken across the cheek. Gouken then faked a right hook, only to knee Gen in the stomach and perform a hammerfist to the back of his exposed head. They continued to fight like this; countering each other?s moves in a crisp sharp dance. Fighting fast enough to not get bored but slow enough so their audience would be pleased with their usage of learned techniques. This continued for another 5 minutes until Goutetsu interrupted them.
?Haha! What do you take us for?! A bunch of old men with failing eyesight! You know you can fight faster than that Gouken and Gen, stop fooling around and get to the point. You show-offs.? Goutetsu added the last point with a chuckle.
?You hear that pal? They want us to cut to the chase. What do you say Gen? Shall we skip the pleasantries?? Gouken questioned, that fire of competition burning in his eyes. Gen nodded in response.
?Alright. Glad to see that we?re in agreement here.? Gouken said lightly as he tossed off his shirts, exposing his lean and strong chest. Gen tossed aside his white shirt also, the sweat on his skin glistening in the sun.
Gen hoped into stance, only this time it was different. One arm, the arm in front was that of crane while the arm in back was of tiger. Gen?s smirk remained.
?Ah?combined styles eh? I?ve seen this before. Let?s go.? Gouken took stance only he tossed aside the traditional form of his style; bouncing in place with both fists in front and clenched.
?HAH!? Gouken shouted as he rocketed towards his opponent. Kicking up a trail of dust as he ran at top speed, his arms pumping in the air.
Seconds before contact Gouken hopped in the air and performed a dropkick on the surprised Gen. Gen flew back 10 and skidded across the ground another 5. As soon as he returned to his feet Gouken was upon him again, a swift horizontal chop to Gen?s ribs that knocked the Chinese fighter to the ground once again. On the ground Gen fought, deflecting Gouken?s relentless attacks while trying to stand up. He scooted across the ground swatting away punches, chops, and kicks with blazing speed. Finally Gen hoped up and performed a spinning aerial roundhouse kick that floored Gouken in a split second.
Gouken quickly flipped to his feet with a straight back and a body pumping with energy. He took a couple steps back and returned to stance.
?Hmm?.they both love this. I can see it in their eyes?? Said Goutetsu to himself, stroking his beard as the sun stared in awe.