An Imperfect Circle

Chapter 6

By Orfik and Aaronica

Advancing slightly so Jin no longer interposed so completely between him and the prodigal father, Hwoarang assured in a resilient voice, "And if he doesn't kill you, I will. I'll be a murderer, just like you!"

The wine-red flames of his hair were hardly a match for the erupted conflagration in his glare, the latter fixed with impassioned contempt on the embered lids of Jin's father. He couldn't tell which hand had made his grasp damp, but was indebted to its part in concealing a tremble.

Mishima Kazuya looked on Hwoarang with such an expression of distaste that one might have thought he gazed upon a plague-bloated rat instead of a human. Swiftly he averted his gaze from the Korean and grasped his son's well-developed deltoid, in an effort to steer Jin away from his militant lover.

"Both of us have lost much at the hands of Mishima Heihachi." His voice smoothed over the name in an admirable camouflage of years of hatred, though his eyes, raised now in the direction of Mishima Headquarters, had ignited again with hellish fervor. "We do not need to be opponents, when we have a common enemy so remorseless."

Jin tensed that same shoulder and pulled it away from the hand imposed upon it. His unwavering grip on Hwoarang served as both a sign of defiance to the Mishima and a life line. Jin didn't want to soil Hwoarang's hands with the blood of his own line, but the support that the Korean harbored for him empowered him even further. Jin's eyes tensed, but just before he replied, something opened deep within their inky depths.

Maybe Mishima Kazuya, the man to whom he owed half of his genes and all of his curses, was right. Jin was thoroughly confident in his own capabilities, but Kazuya could prove the perfect distraction. And then, once Mishima Heihachi was dead and the pair undoubtedly turned on each other, he would defeat Kazuya and everything would be done. ... Jin blinked slowly, shuddering at the stark realization that he was thinking like a Mishima. And it infuriated him.

"You don't need to seek my strength; you need to run from it. I'm not just killing Mishima Heihachi. I'm clearing out his blood."

"I'm satisfied one of you bastards learned something from me!" a virile and sagacious voice boomed. It might have issued from the large, brown grizzly bear that traipsed on all fours from the space of alley beside the abandoned cement lot. But Kuma stared at them from a distance of about twenty yards and didn't say much else; nor did the triumvirate of suited men with oily, large guns in their hands.

"My grandson makes me proud this night!" Each hard, advancing footstep was a smack over each tender head of each baby seal whose fur formed the ermine line of the elaborate coat the speaker -- just emerged from his concealment -- wore on his broad, strong shoulders. Crinkled, black eyes twinkled beneath Heihachi's hoary, peppered brow, and his lined mouth smiled in derision at Kazuya. "You surprise me with your empty words. Even if you were wrong back then, you had your integrity, Mishima Kazuya."

And now there were two to contend with. Hwoarang looked from Kazuya to the patriarch of the Mishima Empire with growing apprehension, but he retained enough measure of thought to examine the arrangement of guns and the immense bear, and formulate strategy. The space was open, besides the alley; they would have to fight. He would go after Kazuya as soon as the medley began.

Rage lit on every feature, making Kazuya's scarred mask into a blazing inferno of hatred. Kazuya's hand, left hanging in the space where Jin's shoulder had pulled away from it, clenched into a slow fist. The younger Mishima dared not look at his predecessor; he kept his eyes abstracted, turned from all in the alleyway. The guns did not trouble him in the slightest, but the sight of his father's face - the first glimpse since the old bastard had hurled him into a volcano and filled his blood with boiling, furious magma - might prove too much for him. In the neon light of the streetlamp, a vein began throbbing at the center of Kazuya's darkened brow, bringing with it a faint afterimage of a demonic rune, scrolling black and red across the man's forehead. When at last he did manage to confront the elder Heihachi, however, the traces were gone, sunk deep into the fiery pools of his eyes.

"Heihachi-san," he sneered. "You are still alive. It is amazing what medicine can do these days, is it not?" His own continued existence was proof enough of that.

Jin's mouth pressed into a seething line, his face tipped just enough that the shadow of his hood cast his eyes in darkness. It wasn't going to end like this. So many ties had come undone, but Jin held all of their strings in his hands, and they left him no right to die. His eyes passed from figure to figure, Mishima to bear to faceless men, and Jin turned his face to Hwoarang, trying to find his eyes. Blood would be shed, but it wouldn't be theirs.

"You might hope to live as long if you weren't so stupid, boy." The lack of respect in his son's address chafed him, and as he stood before Kuma, at the apex of his militant collective, he seemed to ignore his wayward grandson. Jin had never been presumed dead. "You'd better realize taking out one expendable factory and commandeering one negligible building on the shit end of Tokyo won't reclaim you any power in the Mishima Zaibatsu."

And now Heihachi grinned, taking in the faggot tandem locked together like a group of plankton. "Maybe you need to fuck a Korean up the ass to give you backbone, Kazuya; I have obviously failed at giving you a spine!"

While years of life in Pusan and Seoul reified the enmity and evil of Mishima Kazuya into something tangible that Hwoarang could taste and smell and hear, and that was bitter and acrid and strident, the grandfather of Kazama Jin had remained an abstract entity with no plausible bearing on the way Hwoarang led his life -- barring the minor scare tactics used on occasion by Mishima cronies to intimidate Jin and himself. Heihachi had never been a target. He was in the mountains with his fucking bear when Hwoarang's mother was raped.

But those words solidified, and the tempestuous and impetuous Korean leapt from his grasp on Jin, his eyes flaring beneath a caved brow, and the smile on the old man's mouth when the butt of a gun pummeled Hwoarang between his shoulderblades and he found himself on his knees, a barrel aligned with his skull, only fomented a seething rage. He was genuflecting in the eye of a storm.

"J--!" The youngest of the line swiped desperately for Hwoarang, but caught only air and scrambled to catch him. He ground to a stop, frozen at the sight of the gun. At his sides, his ungloved hands curled into fists... The black gaze leveled on Mishima Heihachi could have cut diamonds. "Call them off."

Kazuya's lips hardened into a smile as he watched the scraggly Korean fall under the elder Mishima's directive. When he strode forward, it was with an air of supreme confidence, any earlier dissonance he might have felt in the face of his father, his rival, vanished in the new glow of impending triumph. His large, oddly smooth hand rested on Jin's shoulder once more as he placed himself in the line of gunfire, standing unafraid beside his estranged son, facing down the financial despot.

"Yes, Heihachi-san." The title was said with graveled acidity. "Call them off. Or have you too forgotten that a Mishima can stand alone...and still be powerful?" Reddened gaze traversed the faceless men training sights on him and his impromptu comrades, then the massive grizzly, and finally the no-less grizzled head of the Mishima line, one brow arched in an exquisite challenge. His fingers tightened, sealing Jin to stand with him now, for the first time.

"Musuko! I haven't forgotten a thing!" The greying oak thundered, the displeasure that cut across his crinkled countenance seeming to be called forth by any word Kazuya spoke. What a disappointment! What a failure his son was! Weak in his very strength, unfit. " .. you filthy bastard. You tell my grandson to stop crying over his toy."

As he craned his hard stare to the Korean, the insidious grin returned to Heihachi's cracked lips, and he closed the distance between himself and subjugation. He found staring into the mutt's hateful eyes edifying, and growled with despicable, saccharine undertones.

"Everyone knows Mishima Heihachi is in spirit a fair and pacific man," -- and let just one of them dare to challenge this perverted logic -- "You will all have your chance in the Tournament. So you better start training, and stop hanging around in parking lots like a flock of whores!" A deep, bass laugh bellowed forth as he barked the last words, a gesture relieving the Korean of his humiliation. Careful to give Kazuya one last murderous glare, he continued chuckling as he turned to leave them. His impressive cadre fell in vigilant line, behind the leader and his ursine companion.

Hwoarang breathed deep, but it was imperceptible. Just like the military. Just like Pusan. For some reason, however, his bent legs were paralyzed, and so was his gaze.

With an irate jerk of his shoulder Jin freed himself from Kazuya's intrusive hold to swoop down to Hwoarang's side. Comparatively, it was no matter that the object of his years-long duty was paces away, retreating slowly. Jin did not so much as glance at Heihachi's broad, cloaked back as his fingers gathered the Korean's shoulders in order to help him rise. He murmured the redhead's name, and with a toss of his head, threw off the hood. Let Kazuya dare to bother him again.

The chilling sound of bone rubbing on bone could be faintly heard as Heihachi turned. Kazuya stood with one foot planted as though prepared to pursue, leg muscles tensed, and his hands now hanging at his sides were both clenched into fists. He squeezed, nails biting into palms, knuckles popping in unison, a feeble way to release the tension of watching opportunity slip away. He had felt his father's rage, and disappointment, rivaling his own, but Heihachi still had not attacked. And though Kazuya thought himself a match for the guards who trailed after his father like a pack of wolves to their alpha, he feared still his father's strength. When they clashed, it would be at the tourney, when Kazuya could be sure of being at full strength. He turned his head to look at his son and his brow furrowed. But he would wait.

"I want to go." All the abstractions in Hwoarang's dilated stare shed themselves when Jin's hand touched him, and he could look into the Japanese's face. "Let's just go." He wasn't going to say the old man was right, because even if the past two years in South Korean's special forces taught him patience, he was still an obdurate insurrectionist at heart. Appropriating Jin's palm for leverage, he held it tight as he stood with him and sent the roiling father a hollow stare. In a moment it might remember detestation.

Kazuya had been frustrated on every level possible, but he sensed that pushing things any farther would prove detrimental to his cause.

"Remember what has happened here," he said to his son in even tones. "Remember what I have said. We will take it all back." He raised a fist and squeezed it, urging blood from the split flesh of his palm. These frustrations would merely heighten his resolve later on. Turning on a black-clad heel, Kazuya made his way back into the alleyway and the darkness from which he had sprung. He would show Heihachi that the Mishima art had grown now beyond the diaper phase.

Jin's eyes flit over Hwoarang's face, tracing and retracing the features while his lips sat motionlessly, even through the Mishima's parting comments. Finally and quietly, he agreed with Hwoarang's request, securing the hold on his hand while the other offered to the Korean's shoulder at least all of the physical strength that it could afford, but beyond that lay the ever-present love. Jin lifted his chin to see Kazuya's withdrawal, and called to him.

"I'll help you."

Kazuya smiled in the darkness and whispered to himself, "I knew that you would." Then he went to watch...and fume...and plan.

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