Chapter 2

By The Lizard

The night was humid, not a breath of wind to stir the trees or churn up the dust on the surface of the roads. The district in which Hwoarang lived was far from being the most respectable of neighbourhoods, but it was here that Baek had taught him, and here that he felt most comfortable. He stared upwards from where he lay, flat on his back on a mattress lumpy with broken springs. No luxury for him. Not like that Mishima boy..

But he wasn't a Mishima boy afterall.

It hadn't taken him long to realise why the name Kazama was so familiar. He recalled Baek mentioning a woman named Jun who had participated in the second Iron Fist tournament, and though his master had always been sparing with his praise, he had openly admitted that Jun was quite an impressive fighter. For a woman.

Jin was her son then? How had someone of Jun's calibre become involved with the likes of Kazuya? He scowled without realising it. He could deny it out loud if he wanted, but in his head, he had to admit that Jin was impressive too. He wasn't even sure whether he could have defeated him in the end, and that made his stomach churn. Hwoarang had been undefeated. Until now.

He sat up abruptly, long legs sprawled in front of him, back slightly hunched. It was ridiculous to try and sleep now, his mind was too heavy with thought, and that delicious drowsiness which announced the oncoming of sleep had yet to make itself felt. Peering upwards through limp strands of vibrant hair, he caught sight of his reflection in the mirror on the opposite wall. A distinctly purple bruise was plainly visible, even in the dark, on his jaw. Scowling, be brushed tapering fingers over it, wincing slightly, before muttering a string of obscenities. He'd make Jin pay, but he'd have to wait until the tournament. Rising from the mattress, which lay upon the floor, rather than a bed, he wandered idly over to his punching bag, suspended from a thick chain bolted to the ceiling. Maybe if he wore himself out, he'd feel tired enough to sleep.

Beginning with a few quick jabs, and gradually increasing the tempo, he was soon regaining his normal rhythm, dancing lightly upon the balls of his feet, a grim smile curling at his lips. This, he thought, was the bastard that had taken Baek's life. If his master were alive, he would have received word from him by now, but it had been well over a month since his disappearance, and he held little hope for him. It had to be someone good to have defeated Baek, for his master was no pushover.

With a grunt of effort, he lashed out with one last kick at the punching bag, darting backwards as it swung wildly, threatening to come crashing back into him. He'd have vengeance, and he'd have fun along the way too, defeating Jin, and winning the Iron Fist contest were just a small part of it. Some might say he was petty for wanting to finish the fight with Jin, but the Japanese boy had seemed as eager to end the battle as he had.

Sweat-soaked, and unfortunately even more awake now due to the adrenaline rush of his workout, the Korean staggered towards the bathroom, worming his way out of the loose fitting pants he wore, intent on relaxing himself with a cool shower. No sooner had he set the water running, than the tiny room was full of steam, which didn't make his already laboured breathing any easier at all. Opening the window a crack to let some cooler air in, he stepped into the shower, leaning against the slick tile with a yawn. He smiled faintly, letting his eyes drift closed, his hair clamping to his face and neck. The water was working its magic already.

Just as he was beginning to think he should head back to his mattress, a sharp noise roused him. He was standing alert almost immediately, eyes wide, straining to hear over the sound of running water. Another faint sound from somewhere nearby assured him that he wasn't just hearing things. Leaving the water running, so that the invader would not realise they had been discovered, he began to pad back towards his bedroom, prowling like a big-cat, snatching his pants from the floor where he had abandoned them. The noises were becoming more frequent, almost as if the intruder didn't care whether or not they were found.

Keeping close to the wall, Hwoarang peered warily around the corner, sharp eyes searching the shadows for any sign of movement. He soon found it. Something large was crouching in the far corner, surrounded by strewn clothing, which had been neatly hung in the Korean's half-collapsing wardrobe. Hr restrained a growl, not wishing to lose the element of surprise just yet. This fool would pay for messing with his clothes. Hwoarang prided himself on having a rather unique style.

The figure rose, largely built, definitely larger than Hwoarang, but perhaps not quite as tall. There was something very wrong with it too. There seemed to be something attached to its back, large and misshapen. Before Hwoarang had chance to approach sneakily, as he had intended, it swung around, sniffing the air sharply, and blinking to be sure he was seeing correctly, the red-head realised it's eyes were glowing brightly. Despite being taken aback, he stepped out to face whatever the fuck it was, hands propped arrogantly on his hips.

"You better get your ass ready fool, because it's about to get a real whuppin' " He snarled, proud that he had managed to keep the nervous tremor out of his voice, but somewhat annoyed that he had resorted to such cliched fight talk.

His comment was answered with a low growl, the figure staying more or less where it was, the lumps on its back twitching. Could this be the creature that killed Baek? He began to move forwards, the thin material of his pants soggy and stretched taut, clinging to his legs. Not an ideal condition in which to fight, but this thing was going to pay for breaking in and making his home a mess. Well, more of a mess.

The creature's growling became constantly louder, making no move whatsoever, but as the Korean came to a stop some six feet away, it lunged for him. Hwoarang had no opportunity whatsoever to try and evade the impact. It moved with a speed that seemed impossible, snaking lines of crackling blue energy rippling over powerfully muscled forearms and meaty fists.

Struggling to push the creature away, Hwoarang hissed between his teeth as bruises and injuries from the day's earlier fight were newly aggravated. The thing was too heavy! No matter how much he tried to free himself, he couldn't budge the damn thing, and his panicked thrashing became more pronounced. It didn't help that he had just wasted all his energy on the punching bag either. The animal had him at a distinct disadvantage.

A fist slammed into his temple savagely, and for a moment he thought he would black out, his vision disappearing into an explosion of meaningless flashes, but somehow he managed to retain consciousness, and renewed his struggles with more vigour, as determined as ever. Another blow, this time connecting with his right shoulder, and he couldn't help but give a grunt of pain. Judging by the odd sensation, he guessed it was dislocated.

"Get off me!" He finally yelled, by some miracle, managing to settle the soles of his feet against the creature's abdomen, and toss it up and over his head with a sudden shove of his feet. No sooner was he free of its weight, than he scrambled upright, a heavy thud sounding the creature's fall as he did so. A little disorientated, it took him a moment to spot the bulky shadow upon the floor, but then the luminous eyes settled on him. Automatically he brought his right leg up, almost perpendicular, toes curled backwards before sending his foot rocketing down towards its head in an axe kick with an animalistic snarl.

The blow struck, as he had known it would, but rather than hearing some unnatural sound in response, what he heard was an all-too human groan of pain. It made him hesitate, but the figure before him was too pained from the blow to take advantage of his error. Hwoarang crept backwards, giving himself some distance, and at the same time heading towards the light switch. With a click, and a faint buzzing, the harsh electric light above their heads flooded the room with colour. His eyes unused to the sudden change, Hwoarang cringed, his automatic reaction to close his eyes, but he heard the sound of rushing feet, and forced them open again. The attacker was gone, only a sudden flurry of ebony feathers near the open window indicating which direction he had fled. Hwoarang ran over to peer out, but could see nothing in the dark alley below. He shook his head in disgust. That last kick had certainly given the intruder second thoughts. The bloodstain on the floor was evidence of the damage it had done.

Hideously sore, his arm hanging unnaturally, the Korean glanced at his reflection again, smiling grimly. He'd never been in such bad shape. Walking towards the nearest wall, he angled his body towards it, taking a deep breath and readying himself for what was to come. With characteristic speed, he slammed the injured shoulder into the brickwork, pain lancing down his arm as the bone moved back into place with a satisfying click.

For a moment he stood there silent, teeth embedded in his lower lip, eyes tightly closed, but before long a expelled a slight whimper, hot tears threatening to squeeze there way out before he forced them back. Finally exhausted, he slumped down in a pile on the floor, limbs twisted uncomfortably, and fell asleep.

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