Demons of the Past

Chapter III - Ever present long gone by

By Sapfarah

Hong Kong, Police headquarters, five months preceding.

It was hardly due to the time of the day, seven fifteen to the exact, even though he had been on his feet four hours now already, without coffee too, but one of the first things, being a cop he had to get used to, were the irregular times of his job. Late, even vampiric hours for one, very early morning wake-ups and sometimes, meagre or none sleep periods for days. There had been times he had just returned home, relaxed on his couch to then be called in the middle of his television watching to immediately present to the police station. Sometimes it was even worse, when the call would come as he had already been in bed, particularly when it would bring him out just as he had managed to teem his mind and seal his lids in the transcendence to the state of sleeping.

However, the crude awakening wasn't the reason. A day shows from the morning, even those cranky small hours he was ordered to the department. At running like mad while chewing a spearmint stimorol pill to freshen his breath and cursed as he strapped his gun on his chest below his jacket, detective Lei Wulong had known this was not one of the good days.

By the time he reached the police department, about six police cars were already set and the boys ready to take off. Along the vehicles was a van of Interpol and the deputy was talking to their leader, a man of athletic build to the point of being imposing but the remarkable thing about him was his extraordinary ornamented head. Hair dyed in an odd shade of blonde, somewhere between the egg's yolk and vomit, cut in a short bouncy army style forming perhaps artificial havens above the temples meeting in a nib in the middle of his forehead. A goatee of the thickness of mildew grew along a prominent chin, sign of an impertinent character and this specimen of eccentricity was based on a thickly muscled neck, were on the unusual, not to mention impractical place of either side of it, figured the twin patterns of two tattoos. Lei cringed at the thought of the needle scratching upon his own sensitive neck skin as he walked in a gait to meet with them and when the oddly dyed head nailed him with a translucent but nevertheless haughty glare from the pallid grey eyes, he knew he wouldn't go along with him.

"Wulong!" the deputy exclaimed right as he got glimpse of him, his voice galloped. "Finally. You come with me, I'll explain in the way. Mr Fury is from Interpol, mr Fury this is detective Lei Wulong, OK Boys, let's MOVE!"

Gaping with his hands hanging, Lei watched the deputy walking away, waving his hand as he stepped into his car. As he was about to follow him, he felt the stare of the other man pulling him. Switching his eyes upon his, he met a contemptuous glare, even threatening perhaps, but didn't take long facing it. He moved away and into the deputy's car.

"So what is this?" Lei inquired from the second driver's seat, among the siren wailing, reinstating his long fine hair in a firmer hold.

The deputy was in no better shape either. His fat cheeks had more than the five o'clock shade and bags weighted his eyes. His flabby stomach seemed more susceptible to gravity than otherwise.

"Well it looks like our boys are wanted all over the world... You were right about bigger organisations behind them, so Interpol had to come along..."

Lei tried to clear his mind swelling with justifiable conceit and migraine, as the convoy made enough noise to chase away any possible drug dealing gang.

However hard he tried, he didn't feel confidence about their raid. He had been tracking down those drug dealers for almost one year and somehow he just didn't expect they would all of a sudden fall into his arms. Each day he was getting closer. Then, he just lost track. He had lost his sleep, especially in the one month of suspense, where he got no indications of their whereabouts. He spent his nights either in his office, pacing up and down, yawning most of the time, his eyeballs aching the more he resisted to the sleep he so much longed for, when he didn't spend himself in frantic searches, where he himself walked through the dark streets with hope being his only guide. It was just when Hsien Fei, although she was a detective herself and really wanted to see him succeed, pestered so awfully that he abandoned his night post and got himself at home and into bed. It was just when he begun to settle in the idea of the futility of his searches and endorsed into some decent comfort that the phonecall came to drag him out of bed and into those streets again. Did he have to know they wouldn't bust them again this time?

The cars stopped nearby and all active police officers got out with guns at hand.

"Don't shoot unless your life is at risk!" the deputy ordered and they parted in teams. The Interpol van came along and the identically uniformed squad rushed out with machine guns at hand. Their leader, the oddly decorated man shouted a few commands to speed them up, tapping at their shoulders as they leaped out.

"I pity those guys..." Lei muttered to himself at seeing what lay at hand for the drug dealers, before joining his group.

A little later, they had spidered the suspected area, their guns at hand but other than them, nobody else was on the port. Not even a sight of a movement attracted attention. Lei rubbed his nose and ruffled his lips at scanning his viewing area. Even if the gang had heard them coming, they couldn't have vanished all like that. Something was wrong and he cursed at what he had known coming.

"Seen anything, Wulong?", the mechanised voice of the deputy reached him through the headphone on his ear. Lei shook his head as he brought the transmitter to his mouth.

"Unless you count cockroaches, not much..."

A chortle answered to him.

"Keep your eyes open, Wulong..."

"Hope they have some of their stuff left or it'll be hard." he smirked.

"Save your humour for them, all right?" said the unchanging voice that resembled that of the deputy and Lei laughed to himself as he crept close to the wall.

"All's clear my way..." told him another familiar voice and once again he shook his head. Moments later, more identical messages reached him through the radio, as they had reached all the rest. Nothing was anywhere to be found.

A little later, they had gathered in the suspected opening and tiredly uttered to themselves rather than to each other, some not even forming words, in a picture not at all glorifying the armed forces. They were exhausted and angered. As Lei walked on to meet with the deputy, to his questioning face he didn't even receive a nod.

"OK guys, we've been duped, let's go home." he called, waving over his head as he always did and everyone, along with his turned towards him.

"Blast it, it can't have been a fake alarm..." he muttered.

"Well the way I see it, there's no junkie unless the cods decided coke is trendy. Let us be gone before the public arrives." he pointed and again begun the gathering of the flock.

Lei stood with his hand holding his gun hanging down.

"Bullshit..." he muttered to himself, as he placed the gun back in its pocket. As he mechanically paced, into his ears for a reason unknown, echoed the last words of the deputy...

...'the cods decided coke is trendy'...

He found himself directing towards the concrete rim of the port. Taking his slow curious steps closer, he bent over, peeking into the sea... was it luck that he would be rewarded?

Into the dark oiled water of the harbour, among ropes of boats, pinched by cods, a small piece of rolled paper hopped. He couldn't reach for it but he knew it was marijuana... he had seen such reminders of those smoked cigarettes only too often to recognise it at glimpse...

Turning away, lost into his thoughts, as he paced to meet the rest, he sensed upon him a threatening scowl. He met the source at instance, right as it stood by the rear door of the Interpol van. But as he met his stare, he immediately retracted and went to step into the driver's cabin as though nothing ever happened.

They reached the police department, being fortunate to be spared the morning traffic by only a quarter of an hour. The police cars were parked silently, like dogs who returned empty handed from the hunt. Lack of sleep slowly took effect and Lei couldn't stifle a yawn. He walked to the building's door with his hand before his mouth and his stomach complaining badly.

Shortly afterwards, he paced among the desks, chewing on a doughnut, totally disoriented. All devoted as he was the past few months, alike was he without a clue in that awakening that brought him back to the reality just when he had hoped he could rest the case and not think over it again. Indeed he didn't like leaving suspended cases but it wouldn't be the first time and he had learned that the best thing to do with cases like that was to completely dismiss them from memory.

"Arise and shine, hotshot! What is that weary look over your face?"

Turning to the voice that had startled him, Lei managed a smile to Meigui. She was pretty, they used to flirt on the side once upon, before he met Hsien Fei. Now they were just good friends and right now he needed a chat to wake him up. Unlike a vast majority of people, he was one to get up in the morning and still be able to crack a smile. His attempts for jokes were not necessarily appreciated but his good will was never shunned.

"I hardly slept Meigui, what do you expect me to?" he said, dragging his steps towards her, sweeping his mouth with a handkerchief, with which he scored a basket afterwards in her trash can.

"Not bad for a half sleeping detective!" she joked and then the hasty steps of the deputy walking heavily down the alley distracted them.

"Lei. In my office. Now." he said as he hastily passed by, beads of sweat trickling on his full face.

Lei followed his panting pace, preparing himself for the worst, for whenever the deputy called him in a hurry it had always been something nasty, only this time he was convinced it would be even worse. After him, in walked the Interpol deputy, the arrogant Bryan Fury and as he passed by, he didn't neglect a narrow stare. Lei removed his eyes. He didn't want to give him the pleasure of facing him.

"OK, this doesn't sound good." he said.

"It doesn't sound good because it isn't. Go there and see what the chief wants from you."

"With 'this'." he insinuated, nodding almost unnoticeably to the door.

"Hey, I happen to like 'this'." Meigui said and cocked up both brows twice.

Lei whizzed out in a winding smile.

"Does he blow his nose and smear his hair to make the pigment?"

"Yeah, but just look at that butt!"

Appearing to give up, he fixed his eyes on her.

"I happen to be straight..."

"Hello, hello? The super cop is jealous?"

Lei returned a smile that didn't hide his slight discomfit much.

"I'll leave you dream on mr cute butt" he said and walked away to the deputy's office.

"You have a cute butt too if it helps!" Meigui called at him as he walked away.

"Louder, they didn't hear you across the street!" he returned without looking back, waving his finger carelessly as he said so.

In the deputy's office, the stillness was foreboding. Closing the door behind him, Lei took the seat before the deputy's desk, avoiding to look right next to him at his supposed to be team-mate. He rested on his back, tying his arms before his stomach. In the other chair, Bryan had crossed his long leg over the other, rocking his knee in a slow annoying manner, that Lei knew was meant to be a taunt. He knew when someone was directing to him. Bryan's muscular arms resting with the elbows on the handles, were exposed as much as his chair allowed, meeting before him in a pointy arch.

The deputy sat before them on the edge of his desk, disappointment written across his face.

"Guys, we have been badly framed." he said solemnly.

None of them did as much as nod. Lei awaited at looking at him, but the deputy didn't meet his eyes or Bryan's either when he spoke.

"The meeting happened."

Lei gnawed his teeth to compel an involuntary yawp. He looked up.

"Not unless they turned invisible." he denoted. The deputy turned at him.

"It happened under our nose Lei, but not the way you said. The alarm was real but looks like their informers are better than ours."

For a while Lei found no words to say and neither did he think of any when the deputy said his next words.

"We have a leak."

"...a leak..." he stated after a pause and he glimpsed the odd head on his right hand turning with a slightly derisive look.

"Yes, a leak. Someone is giving away vital info. There's no other way this could have happened."

The deputy's voice sounded annoyed and Lei chose to keep silent, especially in the presence of the slightly smirking egg dyed head.

"I therefore don't think I need to mark how important secrecy is. It is vital to have a good accordance us three and notify each other for our next moves, which may I add must be announced as late as possible..."

Lei listened at him and had he had the choice he would begin a long whining. Having to start all over at the headache was not the matter but did he really have to go through this side by side with this towering lump of muscles and irony, not to mention the snot on his head?

"OK you two." the deputy ended with his order. "This time, I want arrests. You make sure you give them."

Bryan Fury slightly moved forward, taking a breath before talking.

"We will get arrests if you let my men work their way."

Lei turned to him but he acted as though only the deputy was in the office.

"Mister Fury, I am afraid I cannot grand you unlimited liberty in your actions as I have explained and the plans you are suggesting contradict with our methods and principles. I would suggest you comply to the co-operation suggested~"

"Let me worry about the typical. Don't forget I represent Interpol." Bryan Fury dryly interrupted without a whiff wasted, resting back on the wide spread of his back with excessive authority. The deputy shook his head unimpressed.

"I'm afraid I cannot grand you the request."

Bryan Fury opened his palms to bring them back together, attaching the fingertips respectively. It looked as though he needed time to digest the words flagrantly shot to his face.

"Well. It's not my department. If you want the game by your rules, you'll take what you asked for."

Lei eyed the deputy. He could see he liked the Interpol officer no more than he did.

"That will be all, gentlemen..." he finally said, his stare absent.

Bryan Fury nodded with his almost non-existent brows snaring over his sneaky grey eyes and pressing his lips together, he got up and left the room without as much as looking back.

Lei took a little before standing up. The deputy sighed without a sound and begun taking a few slow steps around his desk.

"You sure told him nicely, chief..." he stated.

'Go get yourself some coffee, will you?" the deputy said.

Lei puffed his tired, cheeky, half lipped smile. If anything, when the deputy and he could still share compassion through hard times, meant the world. Especially in such tricky times.

He went for coffee regardless, before returning to his private and long craved office and study more of his papers. Beside the small, instant coffee making machine, he held the steaming plastic cup, sniffing the essence of caffeine solution in boiled water when, to his discontentment, in walked the tall Interpol officer. It didn't take him long to stretch his intense sarcastic smile, even as Lei pretended not to take notice of him, that perhaps only making him more determined to attract his attention.

"Well, well, mr Wulong... I have heard heaps about you..." he almost murmured.

"Can't say the same..." Lei muttered, bringing the coffee cup to his lips, not that he wished to learn anyway but it seemed his counterpart wasn't agreed to it.

"Oh that can change... Let me give you a short input."

Pressing his lips and sucking his cheeks, he prepared to endure the tirade. The formerly wandering eyes were raised ludicrously upon him, intensely staring down on him.

"I have a brilliant record somewhere among Interpol's files. I have dug out drug dealing organisations that moved like ghosts and slipped like lizards. My methods have been marked as unnecessarily cruel by the envy of some of my fellow cops but they were nonetheless effective. Additionally I hold the first place in the Kickboxing championship of armed forces... I wear the red prajit... if that means anything to you... Does it?"

Lei faced his drab eyes shining proudly, awaiting for his reaction. He took a brief sip.

"Kudos, kid. Your point?" he said, making sure his monotonous voice resonated his lack of interest.

Bryan's bizarre eyes concentrated into his in a manner that might have been threatening but for their colour, too dulled to be light but too adulterated to be dark either, like eyes of dubious intent, no more concerned to conceal their intentions.

"My point... papa... This is my mission. Kay? I bring up new, revolutionary methods... If you can't follow... stay back."

For once Lei fixed his weary eyes upon the grinning face of his counterpart. He was confident this way of living lacked nothing from the training of the seals or the special Interpol forces his arrogant team-mate claimed to have gone through and therefore he wasn't particularly disposed to put up with his arrogance. If he wanted the glory to himself, he'd better prove he had what it took.

"You are forgetting who's country you are in... and in my country you play by my rules."

"Your country could use a little progress... or you want to stick to your age old traditions?" Bryan replied, striking out the age part, once again.

Suddenly the irking was so much he couldn't bring the coffee down his throat. Fighting against his urge to spill all the hot content upon him, he forced a clam face.

"Right where I come from, we address our senior with respect..."

Bryan jeered to his face, inserting a rowdy thumb in the pocket of his patched trousers.

"Where I come from, only the strong survive and it occurs to me that the older are usually weaker than the young..."

Lei quivered from anger and clenched his hold around his cup even more. Bryan's smile was there to stay.

"What? Your senior experience doesn't provide you with an answer to this one?"

Lei inhaled slowly.

"My 'senior' experience directs me to compel my anger because your young muscles might be too 'green' to see my seasoned hits coming." he blocked.

Satisfied, he saw the shade of uncertainty coming over Bryan's face. Then, while still full of himself, he retracted his stare and walked past him, out of the room.

He was a man to secretly believe in destiny and awaited for the turns fate had aside for him. He had never anticipated that one of his wishes was to very soon come true.

When on that raid that was meant to be the crucial one for the breakdown of the gang he was faced with Bryan Fury, it was already hard for him to hold his anger down. The closer the grip was around them, the more did the tension grow between them. And he didn't trust him. So it was but a premonition but how could he help it?

"I like my music loud, I like my drink heavy, I smack my bitch when I feel like and I hate olds. Any objections?" Bryan threatened closely to his face.

In a flashing movement, Lei's revolver was pressing upon Bryan's lips in a way that a slight push would force the canister in his mouth. His hand shook with raving anger, however hard he tried to compel it, as his narrowed eyes nailed his.

"Keep your stinking breath off my face or I'll make you suck hard lead. Understand?"

Holding the gun at the same pressure for a few more, he pulled it back and alike he shot a scornful stare upon Bryan. He knew he hadn't scared him at the very least and that in his next attempt to degrade him he would definitely come tough. Right there, he was almost hoping he would. He had restrained his anger against him for too long and once again, it seemed as though the long hand of the law had holes in its fingers.

They were scattered about in those dark streets, communication going like mad. The blockade was waiting yet it seemed as though a strange repulsion was around them and the thugs slipped like water through them. How come they knew what the next act would be, right before they would transmit it~

Lei halted in a startle.

A leak...

One of his partners was beside him. In a flashing idea, Lei pulled his sleeve and whispered his next move to him, which the man was to forward in person. When he was gone, he only waited and soon, a message reached him. They were coming their way...

Lei's eyes glimmered in a manner almost evil and he grinned in satisfaction. There was a leak among them but the game was lost. He had won.

'Got you this time bastard!...' he thought to himself and immediately pressed the speaking button, to order the beginning of the attack.

"Move all men to starting point!" he managed to command, before ultimately silencing.

His words froze, as though the cold canister that was wedged into his neck, below the jaw iced him. He didn't move, neither did he dare to breathe. He had been faced with death before but never in a situation where he had no way out. His suspicions were verified... only nobody would ever know...

Bryan's hand carefully took the transmitter from his clutch and turned it off, snapping the cord that attached it to his vest and threw it away.

"Slowly on your knees... and no tricks..." ordered the attenuated voice, pungent with sarcasm.

With no second thought, he gradually began to lower while Bryan's free palm pushed down on his nape, the revolver never distancing from his neck. Before he was on his knees, Bryan landed his knee heavily on his back, forcing him on four. Leaving an involuntary grunt, he fell on his open palms, small hard particles scratching on them.

His eyes widened and all of his body quivered in an agonising benumbing fear. His heart beat so fast it ached inside his chest and he could hear the blood throbbing in his ears, in a whizzing deafening.

Bryan's knee pushed heavier between his shoulder plates, as the barrel of his gun was impelled deeper towards his flesh.

"You should have stayed out of my path, papa..." he groaned his jeer as his bolt forced its way against his skin. He couldn't swallow but he knew that soon he wouldn't have the need to. Down his forehead, a droplet of stinging sweat trailed its path into his eye. He heard the canister lock and Bryan's grip forced his neck closer to the barrel...

"I don't think so..."

The grip didn't loosen. The suspense was prolonged and Lei didn't know whether to be relieved at the sound of his returning partner's voice.

"Put the gun down... NOW!" he demanded and Lei felt the grip on his nape tightening, as if Bryan intended to snap his spine.

"Fuck site!" he heard him grunt, almost next to him. His hold upon him slackened...

In startling speed Bryan had completely let go of him and spinning about himself so as to get out of the barrel's way, bending his height, he pivoted a backfist squarely at the partner's jaw. A spontaneous shot went off, whizzing its way in the air to the opposite wall.

It was the chance Lei needed. The moment his neck was released, he jumped upwards and as he heard the grunt, he was already thrusting the foot of his palm right on the tattooed neck.

Bryan turned his attention immediately at him. Just as he was trying to seize his head into a lock, his bigger capable frame grabbed his shoulders and fierce knees stabbed his thorax but he was well-versed with pain. A headbutt right upon his nose gave him his freedom. Bryan hollered as he slipped through his hands and with amazing swiftness he sprung to shower him with a rotation that crushed both heels upon his face.

Blood smeared his face through his torn lips and then he plucked an explosive kick into his stomach. Folded over it, he went off in the air, spittle drops falling through his mouth and Bryan was pouncing upon him before he even met the ground.

His spine crushed on the asphalt and he wasn't fast enough to bring up his feet for a blast that would save him and he had Bryan landing over him. He kneeled on his abdomen and attempted punches on his face that fortunately he blocked on time and struggled to topple him over.

Rolling in a fierce brawl, with his hand over his face, he tried to thrust his fingers in his sockets, while with the other hand he tried to remove the clutching palm attempting to suffocate him. Bryan was much stronger than he was and bigger in build as well as frantic. The hand he didn't take notice off slammed four hard knuckles right under his eye and almost blinded him, if not making his eyeball pop from the socket. Yet he managed to free a leg and grateful for wearing political shoes, he chopped upon the back of Bryan's shin with his heel. It wasn't until he gave one more fiercer stab that the hardened kick-boxer bellowed. His frenzy made him force down his free leg with a knee, giving him the breathing space he needed.

He pushed Bryan over and landed on top, reversing the attempt to hold him down. A gunshot was heard just as he found himself atop and the bullet fractured only a hand's reach from where they fought.

"DAMN DON'T FUCKING SHOOT!" he screamed and Bryan, taking advantage of his split distraction, cut off his breath punching his ribs repeatedly. Lei coughed as he was rolling to the ambiguous balancing again.

"You have the right to remain silent..." he grunted as he was fighting again and another shot echoed nearby.

"GET OUT OF THERE DETECTIVE!" he heard others yelling and distant oaths of the drug dealers. What the hell, were they staring each other at?

Bryan's muscular arm hugged his head in an attempt for a chokehold but Lei knew every slippery escape out of such a grab, that being among the first things every cop learns. Even though Bryan's hold was smothering, he managed to curve his neck inwards, before it might have been too late. He had almost escaped but Bryan clasped a good handful of hair and pulled it.

He was fretted. That block of a man fought dishonourably, in an unconditional battle. Yet he wouldn't admit. If he wanted to play unfair, so would he. Resigning all man to man courtesy, he delivered a two fingered stab into his groin. Although that weakened the resistance in a piercing yelp, the hold on his hair perhaps tightened even.

"Everything you will say... can and Will be used against you..." he went on as, fighting the pain directing him to grab his hand and release his hair, a fatal mistake that would be, he gave two more finger stabs on the joints of the arms to the shoulders instead and that had more effect. He was free and rolled away from him.

Another shot he thought he felt passing right by his ear and nearly deafening him.

Bryan jumped on his feet and blindly attacked him.

He remained on the ground, pretending he was too tired to get up. Although he panted, clutching at his belly, his eyes were vigilant as ever, glimmering with the alertness of a wild animal. Just as Bryan almost landed upon him, he rocketed both feet with all the power of his body right upon him, getting his stomach while in mid air, throwing him with a rough groan upon a tin garbage bin.

Two more shots and then a torrent of them. As they had parted, there were no shooting restrictions.

The minute he was on four again, he crawled as fast as he could back in the safety of his former hideout.

"Goddamn, Lei!" his partner panted, his face bruised from cheekbone to the lips.

"Gimme a gun! Quick!" he shouted and as his partner tossed his second revolver, he ensured it was loaded and was ready.

"Don't shoot, you hear me? Don't fuckin' shoot unless you see them!" he ordered and both stuck close to the walls, ready for anything.

The shoot-out might have lasted forever but for the quick arrival of reinforcement. Overpowered, they had no choice and sooner afterwards, the whole gang was under arrest.

Lei breathed in, to calm down as he watched the drug dealers, one by one entering the police van when he heard someone calling at him.

"Detective!" he shouted and snaring his eyes in question, he walked towards some of the men, gathered around in a tight circle.

He had only reached a few steps closer when he saw what they were bending over. Bryan Fury was lying on his back, a large dark blot had daubed his trousers upon the hips, right where his bullet-proof vest ended but the fatal wound was one that had pierced through his head. It had gone through the soft part of the junction with his neck and telling by the pool of blood he had headlong dived into, it would have exited from the other side too. His hair were tinted in a dark brown patch and nobody dared to pick him up, lest they would have to see what happened to his face.

"He stood up, the bastard and they got him. Let's just hope it's of their bullets." one of them said and Lei couldn't but agree.

'If anything, the colour gets him better...' he thought to himself, when the doctors carried him on the stretcher, covered by the grey cloth.

His partner standing nearby looked almost apologetically at him.

"As far as I know, you were defending yourself..." he said.

In that moment only did Lei turn a strict eye upon him.

"What's that supposed to mean?" he questioned.

His partner trembled a little as he mumbled.

"They might think you had something to do withit..."

That was about as much as Lei could take.

Walking steadily towards his partner, he reached right into his face.

"Look here. I don't miss the bastard a bit but I have nothing to do with him getting shot. I had a barrel down my neck. This asshole had a barrel down my neck, so Don't Mess with Me!" he exploded.

The rest of them around looked questioningly at the commotion and Lei retracted, still shaken, still sensing gunpowder in his nostrils.

"I don't care. I really couldn't care less. It's enough that I won't have to see him again..." he said more in a monologue. Then, he crossed his arms and kept silent.

In the far end of the street, the ambulance was taking a turn and while it vanished from sight, it's siren was still heard for a little more, in what might have been a last reminder.

Tokyo province, time present, a little before dawning.

To say he wasn't feeling anything would have been wrong, in fact it would have been unjust. Sitting on the edge of the forest on the top of a hill overseeing Tokyo, Yoshimitzu, who was an alien but was most certainly having emotions with gratitude being one of them, was clearing and reorienting his mind. If not for gratitude, he wouldn't have brought himself to re-enter the despicable constitution of the Iron Fist. And didn't he know of the villainy that was behind this tournament for so long...

He had taken part in the Iron Fist tournaments, more than he liked to remember. And he recalled. The first time, it was in an attempt to loot the wealth of the Mishima house. He wouldn't have kept it to himself or even distribute it among his clan... Yoshimitzu had no use of money whatsoever but he knew others did. He didn't understand the fondness of the human race towards money, that attraction so much like worship but he knew it was the lack of them that had many people in misery. He hated to see people in misery. When the manjito clan didn't require his leadership, he walked among the streets, unnoticed, for he had very early learned that people weren't ready to accept his extraordinary for them looks. In those secret walks, he saw the misery of the poor and was deeply moved. To them he wanted to give the Mishima wealth that idly rested in their safes. His plan had almost succeeded and the manjito clan were slowly taking it out... Many times their horses rode through the poor streets of Tokyo and opening the caskets, they let those 'beautiful' leaflets fly behind them.

Soon people overlooked his odd to them face... they saw in him a saviour, a hero. But he knew it was their awaiting of the money they worshipped. He didn't mind. As long as he could give them a chance to have a better life, in which they would not be miserable, he was happy. Glory had never been his intention.

Then came the betrayal... Despite what the others thought, he was hurt. One member of the clan went against their principles and his rules. One of them stole for herself and started a riot within the Manji... Had it been anyone else, he would have executed her at once himself... only he couldn't murder Kunimitzu. That's why he ordered her exile... and her chase too. She had to die but at least, he wouldn't have to do it with his very hands...

It wasn't so much her betrayal against the clan that bothered him, even though the clan represented all he believed in, that clan that when they first found him had captured him as an abomination and where he had exempted later to be assigned as the leader. That betrayal hurt him nowhere as much as that question on how she could have plotted in spite of him, further intending to overthrow him, to congest her egotism, particularly after all he had done for her?

He had found her an abandoned toddler in the poor streets of Tokyo, barefoot, starved and wearing only a filthy shirt that reached to her bony knees. She might have been anything between two and four when he found her and she couldn't speak a word, only made incoherent cries.

Perhaps that was the reason he immediately grew inclined towards her, because, just like him, she couldn't achieve communication with the rest of the people and was battered for it. Yoshimitzu might never have known the feeling of parenthood but for that little girl. He named her Kunimitzu, that being the kindest and nicest name the Manji suggested and he had selected this one because its resonance matched the one of his own. He brought her up with extra care, devoting much of his free time on her and she, in return had placed a mask over her face, to be more similar to him, in a gesture that had touched him, for her face was one that shouldn't be hidden.

He had gone further to teach her how to fight, for she would need the ability to defend herself, particularly as a member of the manjito clan. He laboured over her training so much that she soon became as good as he was, just as strong and perhaps even faster, despite she was not able to perform the teleportations his alien nature allowed him. Yet, when she developed to a skilled fighter, she turned against him.

She started influencing others to follow her and she almost succeeded. It wasn't until, with an aching heart he revealed her plot that she was condemned and exiled. He gave her a runaway space, before ordering her pursuing, secretly hoping perhaps that she would escape... like she did. She did and found a way into the Mishima house. She betrayed them and further joined the Mishimas, revealing all about the Manji to them. He alone knew how many lives this had cost them and how this obstructed every way to get the Mishima treasure. But that was not what mattered. From the one he had felt affection and concern, he learned betrayal. And perhaps... vengeance.

Then came the second tournament. He entered with the same hope; to gain the wealth of the Mishima family or loot it... and to avenge the Manjis who had so unequivocally followed him, paying with their lives. Perhaps he had hoped to meet Kunimitzu again and this time, deal with her.

Nothing of what he had intended happened, but it was so destined that during this tournament he would learn of gratitude. He had learned admiration from those who tried to destroy his odd appearance and were stumbled by his fighting skill and even awe from those whom he had helped but never had he ever felt devoted to someone who, without reason would bestow himself to assist him, especially when his position wouldn't be any better.

When he entered as a contestant, he knew he was spotted by the organisers of the tournament. Compared to the army of the Mishima Syndicate, the manjito clan was a gang of toddlers carrying stones. Yet, they were nonetheless an annoyance to the lion ruling the immense conglomerate. The orders concerning him, were his capture, that would bring the Manjis to unconditional submission. At meeting a female Aikido fighter in the field of battle and losing to her superiority, he suffered a damaged arm among other injuries. Immediately after the fight, before he had time to heal himself sufficiently to flee to the safety of his clan, he was taken captive. In his captivity he met doctor Boskonovitch.

The good doctor was too held as captive, but in a different way. For one thing, he had the liberty to move, whereas he was tied on a bench, yet he was forced to work over some strange implements occupying the best of the room he was held into and Yoshimitzu could see that although he worked with the fluency of someone not only qualified but fond of what he did as well, he executed the job he was assigned as though it was an obligation. It was later he found out that's what it was.

The interest he took in him, initially emerged from scientific curiosity. When the cruel ruler of the syndicate didn't send for his orders, he would leave his machinery and adjusting the glasses on his nose, he took a chair and sat by where he was bound... and he spoke to him. He talked to him in a way no other ever spoke to so far; with interest. During these days, he learned more of the human communication and eventually trusted the doctor to study him, as he said. The orders of their captors were that they wouldn't speak to each other... yet the good doctor ignored them and in secrecy he mended his fractured conjunctions, completely restoring him and it was this courageous act that had saved them both.

He had stayed to witness the capture of two women, one of them the Aikido fighter who had damaged his arm and were brought in the laboratory with shouts and protests, to be enclosed in two identical capsules, all under the supervision of the owner of the Mishima wealth himself. In the meanwhile, he was completely healed. The very night before the end of the Iron Fist and the downfall of the Mishima Corporation doctor Boskonovitch and he, managed to slip away and into freedom. They couldn't help the two women held in the capsules and so they run off to at least save their own lives.

Ever after the good doctor lived in seclusion, due to haunting memories or to avoid a similar kidnap, him being perhaps his only visitor. But when he visited him, he learned of his own personal grief. One that surged for more fear than the one he had suspected. Something that needed protection more than his life and to the bleary eyes certainly looked even dearer.

The good doctor had a daughter in comatose state, kept by a thread into life after an accident, as he said, that had taken all of her life but on that nick she and his hopes alike were holding onto. He had created one more machine like those he maintained in his slavery, to preserve her and every day of his life he laboured over it, pulling himself beyond his very limitations. Yoshimitzu understood the pain and sorrow in that old man and wholeheartedly wished for him to succeed.

Then one day, Dr Boskonovitch, while in his tedious researches, was exposed into life threatening danger. He tried to tell him but the terms he employed, hardly made any sense to him... Of all he only understood the petition he found strength to word...

He needed the blood of the War God.

Attentively he had been sitting cross-legged all day, listening to the good doctor's tired trailing speech, his eyes almost wobbling at the weary move of the doctor's face. He had pleaded. Not without shame. He told him about the Iron Fist going on. It wasn't something new to tell him, for he knew about it. He just never thought it was all done for a summoning of a battling spirit ages old, one that needed to be killed...

Yoshimitzu considered. Could he bring himself once again to the ultimate test? Could he risk his life once again, submitting to that foul constitution? He looked at the creased face and the hands spattered with soft brown dots, those hands that had mended his own strong arm. They had implanted machinery that would help him adapt better in terrestrial life. Behind the glasses he could see eyes that had seen into him as a person with entity. That man had saved him in the hour of need, when his state was no better.

Not for a moment did he doubt on what he was to do. Because he had known. More than human beings perhaps, who can speak of their humanly sentiments and emotions.

The good doctor needed the blood of the War God.

He would get it.

Slowly the night overcame the sky over the big city that protested against the darkness with millions of lights turned on. Yet for once, the dark sheet had been compassionate and coated a wounded heart with gentleness.

A smile was upon his kind face, too soft to be a man, very matured to be one of a boy. How long has it been since a ray of light had crept into his heart? How long was it since a beam won over his lips and his eyes blurred in a gentle thrill? The emotion seemed so unknown he just shut off everything else from his perception, only to be able to sink into it. It wasn't that he forgot for a minute how a curse had plagued his life but now, it was as if this was all a dark background around that one single small glow and he focused on the tiny beautiful flower he had found in that haunted forest of his memories, that frail reminder of the joys life still held, the merriment he had long forgotten and denied himself from.

Her face.

A face of correctness, one that bared no shame and nothing but righteousness, not to mention those cute features... especially that lovely small pink nose, pointing out as if in extreme slight... She didn't define perfection but he would be a liar to deny her sprightly face with that vexed expression, especially that even glare above the tiny pink nose didn't appeal to him. He thought of her face and her eyes, how they had been scorching him as she looked upon him with dignity... and her lips... those lips he longed to endeavour and the slender figure he only briefly held with his hands...

Who was she? What did she want? She had called him a Mishima and with bitter despise too... Had it only been this, he would probably be in sour sorrow right now and it wasn't rare that he had faced precisely that despise... Even if he didn't know how far he was part of this family, it always devastated him to be regarded with animosity for belonging to them, especially when he didn't even know what that was. This once again, when she called him a such, it hurt more than ever... Yet she... she had called him a Mishima with that profound hatred... then... she had kissed him...

What was he to keep into his mind? Her loathing towards his family, or...

Her lips had been upon his and he remembered how he had sunk into her kiss...

His first kiss...

Why couldn't she have stayed? She run away immediately afterwards, conflict was set upon her face. What was she doing here in the first place? Why was she spying on the mansion of the Mishima family? He knew something was out of place, but he couldn't suspect her as a private investigator or spy of any sort... She was a fighter and a strong one too, she had showed him at the first moment...

He had met her before, when he had been to the national library... He was himself searching for the facts of the Iron Fist constitution or mostly the last one, before the oncoming. Not that it would change anything, but he just had to know of various things, how his mother did being one of them and alike... if there were any references for... that man...

He needed to learn more about him. Not that it would change anything, but it would explain why baring his name, even if only in heritage brought such indirect glowers of revulsion. There never was mention of him in his very house either and this of all battered him more than anything. Not even a vault, not even a memorial... apart from that picture of his in the forbidden room... but why? What horrendous things had he indeed done that he wasn't esteemed even in his own home?

And was he ready to find out?

When he was younger, his mother spoke very little about him and even when she eventually told him of who he was, she never spoke a foul word about him. Only the last time she had spoken about his misery... that and an evil spirit...

What demons possessed him that had toyed him so badly as to make him the agent of so much malice? His mother kept telling him that he would have loved him if he was with them but then what did he expect a mother to tell her son? However, should nothing else be correct, he wanted to believe that if his mother had ever loved him then he was somebody worth of her affection... someone gentle and loving, someone to whom compassion and justice mattered above everything... or at least, someone who could have loved his mother...

He shut his eyes and respired. How many times did this question torment him? He knew his mother to be sensible but also so unassuming... Women like her are easily seduced by a fervent look... and he... and his mother would wholly object to abortion, but that had nothing to do with giving birth to him... He hated himself every bit for his thoughts but, how could he banish that question? Naturally he knew they hadn't planned him but if they Had that choice, would they... and would they have come together if they knew?

It still made no difference but it wasn't easy to face that he was the illegitimate offspring of some wealthy man of doubted morals, not even an accepted child... His mother had most certainly been an innocent girl who innocently conceded into her unassuming passion and perhaps regretted her rashness too...

Not even a child of love...

Perhaps that's why he chose to search at the national library instead of the one of the Mishima mansion, in the forbidden room. He was sure he wouldn't find so deep information there... He should stick to the tournament facts... constitution, structure, rules, legislation... and the outcomes.

He had been into the library and soon he found what he was looking for. Tomes of bound articles, all in a shelf. He had never thought the Iron fist was such an old constitution, its history originating from dynasties past... The Mishima family must have been really wealthy to own the rights to the tournament... and then he met her.

She was too looking for the same things he was. Then, he had no idea as to why she might have been interested, but he let her take the tomes he had found, he was reluctant to read through them, he didn't want to. He had left the library... and thought back at that girl he wished he could have talked more to...

He had never expected to see her again, not under these circumstances anyway. She was spying his home... but why? What was she hoping to find?

He tried to startle her and she responded with ferocious fighting... Normally he would just let her go... but somehow, he was spurred to go after her... They spoke and she was bitter, she called him a Mishima with profound hatred... He had no idea as to why, but neither did he particularly want to find out... not when her arms were around him and his lips tasted her kiss...

Impossible... but then why not? She had found some way to touch him... and he knew he wanted someone like her at his side...

Easing back he let his eyes drift on the deeply blue sky and the first star that showed up as a sigh flew through his lips. Pity she didn't even leave a name...

A day before the tournament had officially begun, in the seclusion of an open training yard, away from the electrified atmosphere hovering over the town, Forest Law practised his impressive fighting skills. He jumped into the air in amazing backflips, landing with the precision of an acrobat, every strike he executed was flowing perfectly through his limbs. The sleeveless sweatshirt he was wearing was wet and clinched upon his lean firm muscles like a second skin.

They were all wrong and he would show them. He was a true master of Jeetkunedo and beyond a martial artist. He had achieved his balance. He was ready to prove to them that a true battling spirit resided within him.

Yet all this assurance vanished in less than a moment when he spotted Nina watching him from the entrance of the training ground.

The look in her eyes was intensely falling upon him and the pale colour of her pupils only exacerbated her emphasis upon him. For a little he stood there looking towards her until he smiled meekly, not knowing what else to do.

"Oh but please..." she said drowsily. "Don't stop your training for me..."

He laughed weakly, mostly because he couldn't form any words to tell her as he had nothing in his mind. She was beautiful but the reason of his timidity was lest she might think he was only regarding her like a piece of flesh.

"You don't need to be shy... You are an excellent fighter..." she said with a disarming smile as she walked into the room, her alluring steps swaying with calculated precision but Forest couldn't have known that. The smile faded from his lips. He was too baffled to retain it. He swallowed with difficulty nevertheless, the closer she walked to him, her eyes nailing him.

"I was..." he mumbled, "I was practising..." he finally said and when he finished his face was burning hot. Nina was smiling, as she knew perfectly well what he was doing and understood his words to be a sign of nervousness.

"I didn't want to interrupt you..." she said again, standing before him.

Forest flashed that anguished smile again, trying to force a denial through his lips.

"...but can I hope to pick up a fight with you?" Nina caught him before he even utter a vowel.

His shy grin froze for a brief moment, wondering to what extend she meant her words for he didn't see how she could oppose to him.

"I promise I'll go easy on you" she said and a mocking smile flashed on her face. Perhaps that had urged him to agree.

Indeed he was a martial artist confident in his skills but to be challenged like that by someone he didn't consider, stroke that chord that lies deep within most. So he decided to impress her. Just a little bit.

Nina slipped into a loosely formal fighting stance, the smile never leaving her face.

"You go first" he told her grinning and she smiled. It appeared to be a mere smile, only too studious to be innocent.

"Like... this?" she said attentively. A flicker danced through her eyes. Immediately afterwards, she flicked a kick in full speed and full power to his chest. Law didn't even get to alter his face to the astonishment as he was toppled in the air and fell on his face.

Collecting his stomach in his arm, he forced himself on his knees.

"I didn't really hurt you, did I?" Nina said in a mixture of faked concern and taunting. Could it really be true what Paul had told him that she was a former martial artist? He still couldn't consider her capable of hurting him, even if by mistake. But such precision cannot be an error.

As he got on his feet he still didn't realise his mistake was underestimating her. She smiled a perfectly outlined smirk as she asked him if he felt fit to continue. He didn't exactly nod an affirmation, nor did he dare ask her how she did it. Next he found himself having to parry knife blows that were capable to internally damage his bowels. She was fighting for real, not in a friendly spar, not in the manner she would work out with a friend. He had no clue as to why.

It wasn't after he had met the floor twice that he unleashed his attacks. He charged with two kicks and she ducked them. He tried to target her shins, she avoided. When he attempted to backslap her, she grasped his wrist and toppled him over her shoulder.

While he faced the ground, the foot of a heel tapped gently on his back.

"It's ok, Forest... You just need to practice a little more..." she said in a voice polite but clearly echoing scornful. As he pushed himself on his elbows and looked towards the exit, Nina clicked her heels to her paces and he had no will to get up.

'Father... I'm so glad you are not here to see me...'

Apart from him, nobody else was in the park. There was no sun below the tall trees but Eddy always wore his sunglasses in public. He didn't wish to let others look upon him anymore. Not that he would permit them see into his eyes, but for one thing he loathed the fear which emerged in their faces, an unreasonable discomfit that made their voice stumble. Perhaps his life had coalesced just too evidently upon his face and although they didn't know what they were facing, they understood it was something ugly...

Alike he didn't wish to let them look upon his face. Once upon a time, his face beamed with a broad smile of earnestness. The last time he saw his face, he nearly cried. It wasn't bruises or any alteration that had happened in its structure... it was the lack of kindness that used to beam upon it, for which he was loved so much... and the extinguished gleam of his eyes... He didn't bare to see that face again every time others would look upon him.

He rubbed his eyes. He hadn't slept particularly well. It would take him sometime to realise he was once more free... back in the world he had longed for all these years, only somehow... he couldn't find his way back in it. He couldn't digest how his world was gone like the smile left his cheeks, his dreams constrained just like the small braids of his hair, tied behind his head, pierced with cruelty by trinkets like those he had over his eyebrow and in his ear. It wasn't gone. It was there. Massacred and distorted. A world he hated to look upon and he hid it behind his sunglasses.


It used to be his name once upon. Spark, as he was. As a spark appeared his smile, like a spark did his brain work, earning the admiration of his schoolmates and teachers alike. One such spark flashed into his eyes. 'Faisca'...

That's what his father called him. He would mess up his curly hair and laugh along with him. That's when he was proud...

Would he be proud of him now?

How could he be proud of him? Although he had followed his directions just to preserve himself safe and falsely admitted having murdered him, uttering a lie that even to spell was so gross and repugnant, even though it was his last direction and wish, how much was in truth left from that child he used to shower with affection and pride?

He looked at his open palms.


His palms were large and capable, each line in them distinctly marking its stream onto the thick surface of his skin. How wrong were those who said Capoeira was only kicks... How then did his hands scar and harden? How did those muscles build up in those hands that, should he have to, could take away a life? And he was willing to take life...

Any life. It made no difference. Murder was not so repelling any more...

These were not the hands of a child. Those would have been gentle, soft hands with lush skin, like those which had trembled when they held his father's head close to his chest as he was giving away his life and his blood, choking his voice, run down on them as he spoke his last feeble words, hands that looked so disagreeable in the iron handcuffs that were clipped around them when he was dragged with the head bent into the police car, hands that would be weak if they were held up in a futile attempt for protection, shaking in a plea against...

He clenched his fists and shut his eyes alike... but one could only see the compression of his fists, those fists that could snap apart the chain of the handcuffs holding them together and reach into freedom... for what? What was there left to fight for?

Of his old life... nothing. It was all gone, as he took his steps in the police car, under the doubtful eyes of everybody who knew him... Every one. They knew what happened, they had heard what he had done... his father's blood had stained him... but their sad eyes knew, they couldn't believe what they saw, they refused... more than everything these eyes had stabbed him and these eyes he had to convince more than anything... Even if he didn't achieve it that day, as he had not committed the crime he was accused of, now those eyes would look upon him with fear, as though he had truly done it, this and far much more. But he couldn't care any longer. If there was something changed, that was his heart. It didn't have margins for sentiments anymore and this showed upon his face.

He hated it when people would be looking upon his face.

He hated their faces of fear, faces that reminded him or weakness. He hated weakness. He hated anything that reminded him of the child he used to be, that child with the kind hands, made for doing schoolwork alone. Those hands were long discarded and replaced by fists willing to dive into blood. That's why he was there in the first place. The time for waiting was over. The child was long gone by. What took the vacancy was a lethal weapon and one resolved too.

If he would gawk to the sky, over the trees he could clearly see the colossal building of the Mishima Financial Empire, the tallest among it's surrounding skyscrapers, a building so tall it was said to be distinct even before the rest of Tokyo was even at sight and broadcasting stations were buying rights to have their antennas on its roof, to preserve communication. It looked like a long way up... Eddy reasoned.

'And a long way down...' he sarcastically added to himself and a roguish smile parted his lips.

He had come a long way, past such agony as very few endure and fewer surpass, just for the chance to settle his records. It was true that life in prison was hell, especially for a crime he never committed... and yet it was that prison that had prepared him for this day... Apart from learning to deal with suffering and repaying the hardships with the deadly art of Capoeira, he also learned of how the Mishima Financial Empire was networked in the underground alike as it had connection with all humanitarian organisations overseas... While their comforting hands were soothing the tears on starved children, their dark tentacles crept in a spreading of the white death and collecting handfuls of dirty money, strangling every obstacle in their way, pulling the trigger of the gun his father had faced...

He looked up in the sky, to the domineering dark building, where the monster who had been the cause of his misfortune hid... not for long. His hands were not the soft hands of a child anymore. They were the hardened hands of the avenger. They were hardened hands that would fearlessly dive into the hollow of the snake... they would wrench it out and hold it up to his face, to see it twinge as death would be coming in its eyes when he would strangle it.

'Faisca'... The spark was gone. What was left was a furnace of hatred. And it was ready to explode. Any time soon.

Day last.

The Iron Fist tournament was now officially begun. In a grand feast in the largest stadium of Tokyo, the beginning was announced with fireworks on a dark, unclouded sky. Citizens and visitors alike cheered at the magnificent sight and the ceremonial festivities held, a few hours before the opening of the fighting arenas, scheduled for the next day, where the real feast would begin.

It was way past midnight when he, Heihachi Mishima had the chance to slip in a comfortable robe of fine silk after a relaxing bath and walked idly in his house with a large parcel wrapped in surplus paper below his arm. His head still echoed the cheers of the crowd that had gathered in the stadium and knew that now they would all be scattered in waves within the never sleeping city, in search for more excitement. Young people with their lives ahead of them, eager to endeavour all pleasures the future held for them.

Wasn't Jin missing any of this?

He hadn't seen him after the end of the opening feast. They were sitting in the same dais, the one for the organisers and he had been quiet, his stare facing the skies with an almost disturbing stillness. There wasn't a sign of what he felt upon his face and he couldn't even guess... Was he content now that his wish had come true?

Taking his steps among corridors, a little nervous alike for the night wasn't his best companion anymore, he halted before a half opened door, from where a dim light gently beamed. Fearing for the worst, showered in panic, he peeked within the opening only to be relieved. Other than Jin, there was nothing else animated in the room.

The youth knelt with his side facing the door, before a low altar, deep in his meditation as it seemed, with his tight fists resting upon his knees, his eyes faithfully closed.

Silencing a sigh of tiredness, Heihachi slowly lowered the parcel next to the door. Jin was entirely devoted to his praying and there was no telling whether he had noticed him. Even if he did, he didn't turn to him while he approached him and sat cross-legged at his side, respectively facing him and his altar covered with a red silky cloth, where his offerings rested among ritual candles.

Jin was very often praying and though he, at once respected and even appreciated his devotion to his ancestors, on the other hand, he found all these rituals he conscientiously attended to, extremely unnecessary. He understood the feelings of desolation he might feel, he had felt alike when his own father had died, but he didn't mourn over his memory every day of his life for four entire years! He had fought to recover and he did. With such sentimentality, how was Jin ready to face the Iron Fist?

His eyes wandered upon his figure but as he looked at the small table before him, he was, if not irritated, certainly worried. Among the lit candles there were three offerings wrapped in ceremonial stripes. The kanji on the first read that it was for his mother, as he had expected anyway. The other two had no inscribing upon them, only neat symbols and their objective he could only suspect... For sure, he didn't like it.

Jin finished his prayer after some time and eased with his back straight. He didn't turn to him as he sat by his side, even though his lowered lids avoiding him knew he was there. In their silence they said more than they would otherwise. It was Heihachi to be the first to speak.

"Whom is this offering for?" he said pointing to the one that made less sense of the two odd ones.

Jin's eyes didn't meet his yet but bent solemnly before his knees.

"It is for Takashi..." he uttered "...and all of Toshin's victims..."

Nodding almost unnoticed, he studied Jin's picture. He could see he was prepared for his next question and all he did was trying to find a proper answer but it would be an answer redundant. Yet he pointed at the third offering, as though he could pierce his finger through it and stab it.

"And that one?" he asked with a voice almost coarse.

Jin bowed his head, not even daring to open his eyes. His lips hung undecided and he breathed so still, as if trying to diminish himself. And Heihachi knew he sensed his pressing stare upon him.

"...for our ancestors past..." he ultimately said, howbeit infirm, in the answer Heihachi had heard long before it was muttered.

He retained the silence, looking at him. How much of the respect he nurtured, in shame even, was grounded on honourable intent and what part of it, if any, surged from that sentiment he had never felt coming from his offspring and one he considered himself more worthy of receiving from the boy? Did he pay respect urged from chastity or did he actually retain esteem for the recipient of his homage? Alike, should he compliment him on the feelings he kept, or wasn't this yet another warning?

"It's not wrong to revere your father..." he ultimately said, more to see what Jin's reaction would be. He was shattered to see his eyes closing and tears glimmering along his sealed lids.

"I only wish I had met him..." he said, his lips stretched to what would be a smile, to avoid breaking down. Gaping he waited for him to calm again and the words to pour from his lips.

"I don't even know who he is, I don't even know what he is..." he confessed. "But my mother told me her story... I wish he had also told me his..."

Turning towards him, his anguished face found his own no less shaken. His eyes glimmered faintly in the dark, not from the wet film that had covered them and although Heihachi was contented Jin didn't know much about that past he wished he could entirely efface, similarly he couldn't but feel compassion for him, lost in his barren incomplete road that would never be entirely exonerated...

Jin lowered his eyes. He seemed embarrassed to face him.

"I... I don't mean to accuse him..." he softly said. "I respect him... he was my father... but I can never banish that question... whether he... if he had that choice..."

His face burned from shame of the thoughts that found their way to his mind and Heihachi wished to pat upon his head and comfort him. But could he?

"It's not something to talk about, I know... but... did he love my mother? Did they love each other? Or did I just happen, like... just happened..."

The trembling soft lips had found the courage to utter the crude thoughts but his voice was even less confident. Bowing his head, he couldn't help tears trickling on his cheeks, despite his efforts.

Heihachi stretched a hand upon his neck, stroking along the back, small, upwardly growing hair as he wept and then in a swift brushing motion Jin dried his eyes.

"I'm sorry... It was never meant to insult you... or bring up the painful memories..." he apologised. But wasn't there irony in his voice? If not his own, didn't he hear the one of History?

In a weak wisp close to a scoff, Jin raised his head, apparently talking to himself... Hadn't he seen that too before?

"Takashi had said he would too enter the tournament when it would happen... He had promised to..."

Heihachi heard his words through a dream. He was displeased with the youth's attachment towards Takashi Fuyoka and how the latter, in a sincerity similar to his, all the way encouraged his side, supporting him to his choices, like for instance the incident when he had sent Jin along with mr Nakaraki and five more of his selected corps to the United States to look for contestants with the pretext of seeking a college for Jin. However, this idiot got meagre if no results and he had Jin into fights with street swindlers... Although, as he had heard, the outcome didn't humble them any further than the mere acceptance of playing in that silly game, he was at least outraged to find out it had been Jin's wish to take the challenge! What a disgrace, a Mishima doing street fighting... This boy had no appreciation of rank!

Takashi had nearly praised Jin's act... Ever since perhaps very early upon Jin's arrival he had been a friend and supporter of Jin... In every step...

No wonder Jin grew to be as fond of him...

And it was his death that had initiated the tournament... It was his death to relight the flame of vengeance in Jin's heart, the one that was ever lit, like those candles around his offerings...

All three of them.

Jin was grave once again. Whatever bothered his mind, it was hanging there on his lips and Heihachi feared he wouldn't be prepared for it.

"Have you killed before?" he asked, only to prove him right.

Gaping, he regarded Jin's bowing figure. There was an absence in his gaze, a gaze of complete serenity as he had posed his question, but with clear potent and resoluteness. A manner of looking he had once before seen and never thought it would ever turn towards his way, not until it did... His heart shivered. What was Jin talking about?

"Whatever do you mean, Jin-san?" he asked.

The youthful lips parted hesitantly as he inhaled.

"I don't wish to slander you... not at the very least... even if you did... but I know killing is wrong and if I get to defeat Toshin... I know I will kill him... He took all I have ever loved from my hands and the thought of Takashi and my mother burn inside me so strong I can only crave for murder... I won't take a second thought... So I want you to tell me if you know."

Words didn't form into his mind, not when he faced Jin's determination. What answer did he wish to take? Or wasn't this the innocent question it appeared to be? But he couldn't mock for something he didn't know of... Could he?

Would he?

"Jin-san... I cannot direct you to this, my son..." he ultimately said. The tension was the same upon Jin's face. It reverberated around his eyes. He could sense it, like he could sense the electrified atmosphere before a thunderstorm.

"Killing him will make me just as bad as he is, won't it?" he said. It didn't sound like a question. Heihachi knew the answer was formed into his mind. It was fixed and nothing would change it. Jin knew that he was good in his ingenuousness but he no longer cared. Not when he saw how all he loved slipped through his hands... Now on he was willing to sacrifice it all on the cost of vengeance... and nothing would change it...

"There are times when a killing is honourable..." he said trying to hide his uncertainty. "Toshin's case probably is one of those times..."

"I will let nothing stop me." Jin went on to say. "So if you don't find this correct, the time to tell me is now." he said and it was the end of their conversation. There was only one way to go. Only one option was correct. He didn't dare to choose but he knew which would be the one and the choice was long made. The time to tell what to do was long gone by, four years had passed over it when he had stood before him, a strange wounded boy. That boy wasn't there anymore but the spark he had seen that distant time was the same. And his answer, even though he didn't know it then, had been given.

It wasn't a question posed to him but a threat. Yet Heihachi didn't know to what extend Jin was aware of what he had said...

He fixed his eyes upon him. Lost in his memories once again, a prisoner of his own fate he was, born to die... He knew there was no escape from destiny and it was him holding its strings... He wasn't leading it, he was just a tool of what was predestined to be, if not him, there would be someone else... But didn't he wish there was some way he could avoid it? Didn't he wish he wouldn't have to pay such a high toll... once more?

Along with Jin, the Mishima family would die... Wasn't this exactly what he had hoped to avoid?

Where did he do wrong?

Was the answer perhaps lying way past the last four years?

With his scepticism, he stood up. Jin didn't follow him, not even with his eyes as he made it to the door. A parcel, wrapped as a gift was left near there. He picked it up and walked back to the youth.

He handed down the parcel with a prompting expression. Jin eyed him questioningly before taking the parcel in his hands.

Placing it upon his knees, he cautiously unwrapped it. Lifting the top of the box made of fine cardboard, he took out of the chafed wrapping, a fine pair of red fighting gloves, made of designated leather, fabricated to cover the fist up to above the knuckles.

Heihachi watched him, looking at the gear, exploring every inch of it and he was sure excitement glimmered into his eyes. His fingers run smoothly on the red leather and upon the riveted pattern at the back of the fist, before picking them up to his face. Sliding them upon his hands, he tried them on and they fitted him exactly. As he clenched his fingers to finally adjust them, he smiled.

"Happy birthday, Jin-san." he said and as the youth turned his beaming face towards him, his smile stroke upon him harder than a blow, right into him. Didn't the boy at all see how he unwillingly started the tournament and blamed him for it, or how little he wished for his whatever few chances to emerge victorious, or how he dreaded his maturity? Jin stood up and before he had time to realise, he guilelessly embraced him.

"Thank you..." he whispered and Heihachi returned the embrace, pondering in his guilt.

When did his son ever embrace him? When did he ever receive such earnest gratitude? How could he ever sacrifice to the booth of his highest ever hope the only dream he ever had as for once he held it in his hands?

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