Demons of the Past

Chapter V - Contradictions unsettled [Part 1]

By Sapfarah

No sound is louder than the screams of the voices imprisoned within oneself.

The dark streets of Tokyo were not a safe hideout any longer. After a secret alarm given by the most powerful man in the town, the police was combing every narrow road or passageway, in seek of one woman who had been explicitly described but, even the accuser, Heihachi Mishima himself was disinclined to credit her as being indeed Nina Williams, the all famed silent assassin. Yet there was no doubt it had been her, her methods and the way she moved, acted and even fought were unmistakably hers. However, even with all his imagination, he was clueless as to why this famous killer would be sent after Jin's life...

The calling of the tournament kept growing to a more complex issue than he could have even foreseen.

For one thing, Nina Williams was counted for dead, ever after the last Iron Fist tournament, where it was said she had been after Kazuya's life and never returned. A wicked smile carved his nasty lips. It was real irony that so it was supposed to have happened... she came after a life and she lost her own...

Sitting on his desk he lit a cigar and let his mind drift among the light grey ashes, ascending to the ceiling. Nina Williams, the world's most highly prized assassin who never failed once and left no traces... Was she spurred by patriotism, for she started by doing jobs for the IRA, or was it greed that came after seeing how easily blood money could be gained? Was it perhaps her lust for fighting, as she had many times showed? He remembered her from when she had come to his tournament as only a challenging threat with the hidden intend to slain him and how then he had considered her a perfect match for Kazuya. Heiress of a wealthy and esteemed family in Ireland and therefore probably shrewd enough to put him in place, what a better match could there be?

Only a year after had he learned of her intentions, when he had just picked up, creeping step by step back to his position. By then, he was a delinquency and the only person to be ever crossed out of her list whilst alive. He heard how Kazuya had taken his place and remembered how he was even amused to think his son had actually replaced him everywhere, even as Nina's target, but alike, he hoped he would be the one to reach him first... It so happened that they both reached him, only she failed whereas he didn't. Only now, as had the space of time to worry about her, it seemed that, whatever happened, she didn't die. Silently laughing at himself, he wondered whether his son had at least made good use of her, since he was stupid enough to let her go away alive... as he had done for him...

He finished off his cigar and turned it off violently. Even though he had defeated Kazuya and he was long gone by, his memory still frustrated him.

But then... he wasn't entirely wiped off the face of earth, was he? His blood was still wandering in the living world...

Why would Nina Williams be after the life of Jin?

Whatever the reason was, if someone utilised her to kill Jin, he greatly intended to see him dead and Heihachi realised that... he was worried.

Peculiar as it was, however hatred boiled within him for the ignorant even juvenile, when he was with him, he felt nothing but affection. Was he growing senile and even his emotions were unstable? What was it about Jin that he couldn't hate him? Or was he once more worried that Nina would kill him before, as he intended, the Toshin would meet him?

Damn that woman! Why did she always have to be in his feet?

For a while he only rested back in the dark office. It was past two thirty in the night and other than his breath, not a sound interrupted the silence.

He didn't want to see Jin dead.

He truly didn't want Jin to die... at least not murdered in his sleep by a mercenary killer.

He wanted to see him growing to the son he always wished he had, someone who would carry on his shoulders the Mishima heritage with pride and strength. He knew the War God had chosen him to embellish him with his power and he wanted to see him become the leader of this world, one who would honour his name...

Why couldn't he have one dream come true?

Nina wouldn't be the only one discontented by the sudden patrolling of the streets.

The concealment of the night would no longer be adequate for Bryan Fury, who now had to make his routes longer and more complicated to avoid unnecessary attraction. Fortunately, he seemed to have the ability to slip into omission but when a prying eye spotted him, it wouldn't easily be removed from him. In horror they would regard the long scar parting his dehydrated pale skin, lining his face and as far as his neck would show through his shirt, one which ought to be impossible to survive, not to walk around in it. The horror would remain into their eyes when he would confront them and only before his apathy would they remove in fright their looks away.

Yet Bryan was not completely aware of the load of horror his eyes carried as he had no idea he bared the lifeless eyes of a spiritless being. Somehow though, he knew his stare was a strong weapon and as a trained mercenary as he was, he used it. He really hated when others would be looking at him, reason enough to abide in solitude. Crowds annoyed him, in fact they repelled him, perhaps as much as bright light. He saw no point in the prattling streams of rushing people, all mumbling about their own concerns, not really paying attention to one another. He thought how much better things would be if everyone was voiceless, just like him and the thought dragged a sneer on his lips.

The street he found himself in, was empty but the car he expected to see was there with the engine on. He approached it and the back window was lowered to reveal his contact. A man in his late middle ages, one with a knowing harsh face baring an anxious and hurried expression. He knew the man to be called doctor Abel and his face was in his memory from right where he knew it to begin but that was all about it. Why he had arranged for him to enter the tournament in order to keep an eye on the mechanised fighter Yoshimitzu was not of his interest, as neither was the reason he had to update him on the events of each day. Possibly his memory couldn't reach back to when something at all might have interested him but currently, he only got into the car that would take them all to a secret laboratory outside Tokyo city and bring him back again after three hours, ready for one more spectacular showdown.

Despite obstacles, the Iron Fist tournament went on, with more resplendence and even more interest, as one by one the best of the fighters predominated, climbing higher in the ranks.

Within the fighting grounds, Sato Nakaraki was struggling with all he had against a mysterious entry. She hadn't given a name but introduced herself as 'Scarlet Lightning' and like a such she fought. She utilised the deadly art of Aikido with impressive swiftness and precision that her opponent lost sight of her right as he got her glimpse. She stroke fast, mercilessly and with an almost fretting certainty and coquetry. Dressed in a brilliant red gown, matching her nickname and pairing stiletto high heels, she gave an amazing display of fighting, despite the inconvenience of her apparel, her dress having a very low and possibly insecure bust, abundantly filled and the lower part consisting of one piece of trouser whereas her right thigh was completely exposed to view. After three exhausting rounds, Sato Nakaraki had neither will, nor strength to fight on and the Scarlet Lightning aroused her fans as she laughed in thrill for her victory.

Heihachi Mishima from his dais rubbed his thumb on his double chin and took a glimpse at his right side where Jin sat, intent in the fight. The young man having taken heed of his stare turned around and... he smiled. Heihachi was startled and couldn't remove his eyes, even as Jin looked ahead once again.

"It's a shame Sato lost..." he said absently, clearly directed to him but Heihachi didn't wish to answer. He was studying his face.

The nose was his. He was happy to find traces of himself upon the young man, even pleased too. The jaw... that might have been his as well, or maybe his father's. The eyes, when they were calm, belonged to the boy's mother for sure but the rest of him... the forehead, the brows and nearly every other feature in the face or the body structure... including a strange gleam of loftiness that never left the eyes...

He was feeling strange but in this boy's coming he realised that he saw his long lost hopes of...

What was the point of denying? He had always wished for a son. He had dreamt of a son he could be proud of, one baring some of his spirit, some of his knowledge, some of his strength and power and why not, some of his features and heaps of energy to continue the legacy of the Mishima family. Last evening, when he found out Jin was attacked by Nina Williams, he was perhaps just as worried as the boy was, therefore he ordered a headhunt in the city of Tokyo. He knew she was still out there and she would surely come back. Maybe next time, Jin wouldn't be so lucky.

"How's your arm, Jin?" he asked.

Last night's struggle had caused him a swollen elbow and probably a good reason to refrain from the fighting grounds. Still Jin smiled as he bent his hand freely.

"I'm fine," he said and his face beamed. His fight was coming soon afterwards and he was even excited. Heihachi knew he was going through pain but... he had effectively taught him to oversee it and go on...

Jin had become all he had ever wished a son to be. Obedient but proud when he had to. Devoted and faithful, yet daring to try his own powers. Kind and caring, respectful and earnest, a son any parent would be content to have...

How could he but be proud of such a son?

How could he ever bare to see that son being dispersed?

In all the noise of the stadium, the deep consideration, such as Paul rarely experienced, did not go away. He was faring good in the tournament. Heihachi's bear was no problem at all, whatever was the old man's fancy to put him up against his animals? He was free to assume that his next fight would be that youth going about with the old bastard, the one he knew like hell he was the son of Kazuya and that bitch...

Yet, even his yearn to defeat a Mishima in official battle, even if a lesser specimen of the race hardly was the issue.

Why would Nina act like she had?

He couldn't believe she really didn't remember him... How could she forget him?

They went way back... Ever since the first tournament of the Iron Fist he ever competed, when he was younger but just as reckless, only maybe... more energetic and fresher...

They had fought against one another. She had to win badly, he had to make it to Kazuya who ascended side by side with him... He managed to emerge as the winner of their battle, a victory that filled him with pleasure when it happened and later that day, sorrowed him, then again brought him happiness and sorrow again...

Nina was so special... so elegant and beautiful, the deadliest female fighter he ever came across and surely more ferocious than a great deal of men as well... He remembered the rumours following her everywhere, as he recalled the passionate eyes of men dreaming about her and malicious stares of other women...

He had fallen in love with her ever since the first time he saw her walking in her tight violet clothes in the corridors, a vision of strength and grace he would never forget... He was fastening his then brand new belt on his waist when her translucent eyes met his and petrified him. He had been gaping at her and as she passed him by, a meaningful smile blossomed in her sanguine lips. He remembered vividly how his eyes chased her and how she still looked back at him, happy at the verification of her beauty but maybe not entirely unaffected by his own looks that, well, they were a sight back then, weren't they! Law, Marshal Law was next to him with his back turned, tying the strings of his snickers when this happened, yet it was his voice to get him out of the trance and a taunting laughter as he marked awareness of his emotions...

He had been angry at Law at that moment but it was a moment he kept among the treasured memories in his heart, one that even after all this time filled him with great happiness...

He and Nina had come so close to one another... How come she claimed she couldn't remember? Why didn't she trust him anymore? Why was she gone?

His mind deep into his own recollections, he hardly heard the announcement for the beginning of the fight, neither did he join the wild enthusiasm of the crowd as the fighters entered the arena, nor did he notice the seat by his side being taken. Yet, when the man sat next to him, looking ahead with interest, he couldn't but forget whatever he was thinking. He rested on his back, regarding him with a smile, shaking his head a few times.

The face of the lean oriental man by his side was one treated by time but not any less resolute or proud. Proud for what he was, what he had achieved and what he saw ahead of him. His lips below his slim swarthy moustache were sealed firmly his small dark eyes never deviating, even at his direct stare. A smile stung its way onto his lips.

*Forest Law faces Ling Xiaoyu! Ling Xiaoyu faces Forest Law!* the loudspeakers announced, the voice echoing at least twice above the crowd.

There are times when words are needless. This was one of them. Therefore, Paul turned before him, just like the man next to him did, to attend the oncoming fight. In the court, the Flaming Dragon had made his comeback.

Refreshed from the good sleep, Ling Xiaoyu was stretching and warming up, preparing for her fight. She might have been the youngest ever participant in the Iron Fist tournament, but her knowledge of Kung Fu lacked nothing of any senior learned. Ling Xiaoyu knew that and that beamed upon her face.

Rhythm is the base of everything. She knew that as well. Everything follows its own beat, even life itself. As she performed her skilful forms, a silent rhythm guided her. Her moves, very peculiar as they seemed more towards stances of a mystic dance, had in them deadly elegance and complete harmony, as she slipped from one to another with absolute ease. This motion had taken her past her last opponent, Tyger Jackson, a tall, long limbed capoerista. It was indeed a graceful dance, one that couldn't but be admired. Yet, one would be a fool to be around when she danced...

Her opponent was a svelte man who's grey temples made it impossible for one to believe in his young age. He was wearing a purple loose pair of trousers and a clean white shirt, firmly clinging to his lean yet muscular torso; not an inch of it was fat. Xiaoyu looked briefly at him as he knelt on one leg in a peculiar way, his knee not touching the ground, his arms not supporting him and she thought of the Shaolin monks her great grandfather Jinrey was telling her about, those men devoted entirely to martial arts and meditation, what the rest of the world stupidly insisted on believing for 'the Chinese' those being all asian tribes. This one might have been the right sample but if his fighting was anywhere as good as what his external appearance indicated, then he could be considerable...

*Fighters, take your positions!*

The words echoed above the tumult and Forest Law jumped up to his feet. Xiaoyu saw that he wasn't significantly bigger than her and the expression on his face hardly showed any emotions, for certain no quandaries like her previous opponent, the capoerista Tyger Jackson. The moment he saw her, he made a grimace of annoyance. 'What is this, I'm not fighting against a Girl!' he had said. By the end of their fight though, he had been pleasantly silent...

In respect, she bowed before him and was surprised to receive a similar act from his side. When she looked at him again, only for a little she read something that was very close to inspection, as an act expressing admiring wonder perhaps. She couldn't help twining her brows but hurriedly she shook her thoughts away. Once again, a fight had begun.

Lifting one knee before, Ling Xiaoyu balanced in her delicate stance while Forest Law was already annoying her, hopping about as Jeet Kune do instructed. She would have liked to be standing outside the ring and watch him instead, laughing at the site he presented, but she had a fight to concentrate on. Once the signal was given, with the crowd cheering wildly, she slipped low, sitting upon one leg, with the stretched ahead and her hands spreading at either of her sides like the open wings of a bird. The Phoenix.

Her opponent was wise to stay in a safe distance but in tiny movements she kept approaching him. As he was about to circulate around her, she leaped with the greatest ease and smacked a kick right at his face. First blow was greeted with cheers. First blow was hers. She couldn't help a smile...

Neither could she help spitting, as three consecutive kicks stroke her, the moment she was back at her feet. The crowd responded anxiously but she managed to avoid the continuation, staggering a step away, in caution. Angered she saw concern even in her opponent's eyes.

"Are you all right?" he whispered.

One more who considered her as just a weak girl...

Her limber body smoothly slipped to a cartwheel Law was too close to avoid and two feet slapped him. As she got up, a similarly executed movement with her arms spanked him twice, only this once, Law was prepared and grabbed her last arm. As he pulled her closer, she glimpsed in the last moment his elbow closer to her contracting to be blustered into her stomach, the back of the fist hitting her face and throwing her down, rubbing a good distance with her back.

She immediately leaped at her feet and swept her mouth trying to appear tough.

"Let's play!" she said with a malicious grin and she lessened the distance. She was satisfied to see Law regarding her with consideration, worry even.

Cautiously she worked her approach, her feet dancing cutely as she did so. Law's hopping was more cautious. She awaited.

He made the wrong move to attempt an attack. She spun about herself and grabbing his arm, she flipped him over her shoulder...

The crowd laughed.

'Damn, it's not supposed to be funny!' she thought angered. When Law was up again, as he tried to fake kicks to her, in through his fakes she lunged herself in a complete attack ending with a back kick that scooped all the way upon his chest.

Law was reeling, unable to stop her as she leaped with a kick straight to his face. He didn't hear anyone laughing anymore.

She was overwhelmed. She had been a surprise to everyone and each of her opponents had been stunned so far.

She never saw the sweep that knocked her off her feet.

The crowd sounded anxious.

When she stood up, Law's face was messed up but also regretful. Yet, he came forward and straightway forced her with a leaping kick.

She couldn't help the scream through her lips.

When she got up and saw him aiming his kicks at her middle section, she cartwheeled away and threw a palm at his face the moment she stood again at her feet. Again she made for a roundhouse but he ducked it and a backfist slapped her across the face once and then twice.

She felt her cheek swelling and closed her eyes. She never saw the backflip that threw her up in the air.

When she clumsily fell on the floor, her frail body had about enough of it.

*Forest Law, wins!* a doubled, not warm human voice announced and the cheering of the crowd echoed in her ears.

Supportive arms helped her up as the first aid team had come, perhaps too hurriedly to her and at realising her situation, especially convinced that their hurry had been increased because they considered her too young, she used all her strength to stand on her own.

"Let go of me, I'm fine!" she ultimately shouted and broke free of their hands.

She felt tears surging into her eyes and prayed they wouldn't come out, at least not before she could lock herself in some privacy... She was a child afterall... and she knew, however she tried to deny that she wanted her mother's caress more than anything right now... She hurriedly took her way towards the preparation halls, trying to obstruct the shouts of the spectators and in a glimpse she saw how Forest Law had taken a step closer but halted... concerned himself... Had she failed so miserably?

"Miss Xiaoyu... please..."

The corridors she walked were deserted but not completely as it looked. So she stopped and rubbed her eyes, holding her breath in hope to restrain her tears for a little more.

Turning around, she saw the owner of the voice, Forest Law, her last opponent. He looked very anxious and not as tidy anymore and surely less funny now that he wasn't hopping about. He had beautiful cheekbones, she caught herself thinking but the grey tips of his hair...

It was soon though that she realised how he seemed perturbed at her straight eyeing and fidgeting her hardy, short shaped fingers, she inclined her innocent face.

"Hmm?" she said, trying to urge him.

He was so confused... so out of words and somehow, his anxiety touched her...

"I just want to tell you... that..."

Xiaoyu watched him breathing faintly, very uneasy. She thought about laughing but somehow she was too embarrassed to do so...

"I just want to tell you that you are one of the best fighters I have ever met!..." he finally pronounced and gulped once. "Yes. One of the best. The very best!"

Her eyes opened wider facing his even eager perturbation. But then Forest Law, unsuccessful to word the thoughts in his lips, turned his face away before, lost in his perplexity, left for good.

She stood there for a while, undecided herself. Despite her sorrow, she still tried to reason. He didn't make sense. Why had he come to tell her? Was he trying to tell her that perhaps... he didn't see her as a child? He had indeed used forcible techniques against her, but still... His behaviour, although flattering, even scared her, gladdening her at the same time in a way she had never experienced before...

She didn't know why, but it was only natural she was worried. It always comes as a shock to a young woman when she first discovers she has cast her charm on a man...

The crowd was frantic on the stages and so absorbed they were that Yoshimitzu wouldn't have to worry about hiding himself. He was standing behind the last row, watching at the fights like the rest onlookers. Even though he was disqualified from the tournament, he still had lots to take care of.

The War God hadn't showed any signs yet and it was long since there were last words about him. Not one victim was found and although this was neither assuaging nor disheartening, Yoshimitzu was hoping for a signal. Maybe, he could be on time to prevent disaster and help the good doctor as he had promised...

At glancing into the fighting ground he saw the first of the next two combatants coming. He was the man who had defeated him the previous day, the wrestler in the jaguar mask. Yoshimitzu didn't hold any grudge against him but he was confused on whether he was really the King he had met so many years before, back when the tournament was a battlefield of a father and a son and the rest of them were swept along, despite their will even. Yet he kept his attention rapt and waited for the fight.

Hernando Garcia, better known to the world as King, the heavyweight wrestling champion of the past three years, amazing in the ring fighting in a jaguar's mask that retained the secret of his personality, stood with his fists on his waist, the open mouth of his mask leaving the ivory canines in the open view as he scanned the fighting court waiting. It wasn't long until his opponent came, cheered up wildly as he appeared. He was still very young and had only appeared in the battling world but even so, Jin Kazama was established in the highest stakes of the preferences.

The young man against him had a nonchalant stare registered in his otherwise genteel face. This wasn't the expression he remembered from when he had last seen that youth... Almost four years ago, when father Mauricio was still alive and they had travelled to Japan to visit the orphanage of one of his friends, a lean teenager they had found, starved and shivering in the cold, bared the same face but the eyes glowed with wild fear. They had lead this boy to the orphanage of their friend and he had been very silent, almost speechless before disappearing, only a few days after... and then father Mauricio died. Nobody knew how it happened but he knew this was the boy, the one who might have, however irrational as it sounded, even leaded father Mauricio to his death...

A tear almost came through his eyes but his opponent couldn't see them, as he didn't seem to recognise the mask on his head. The stare was even indifferent against him, even though his stature was smaller than his own and Hernando thought of a swift prayer, as he always did before every fight. His mask hid his face with eyes closing as he muttered his petition and then he was ready. The kind young man he was had gone and given his place to a ferocious wrestler.

*Fighters, take your positions!*

Jin Kazama slipped one leg back and brought up two fully matured powerful fists, gloved in red leather guards. Behind a few fringes, the chestnut eyes hardened in a glossy stare, unreadable and unrelenting. Just like he had transformed to King, in the same way the other youth, perhaps no older than twenty either, was now a true warrior.

King hopped his massive body on his heels, following the throb of his blood, stimulated by the excitement of the fight. The signal was given and followed by an enthusiastic uproar, both fighters rushed towards each other to decide where the first strike would go.

Jin's was the first blow as in a circular motion he anticipated his upcoming uppercut and side-stepped to deliver a straight punch to his ribcage. King's hardy body absorbed the blow and the next that followed as he managed to grab one hand coming to his chest and wrenching it with his elbow, he forced his opponent to double and meet his knee. As he followed up with his famous suplexes though, Jin slipped through his grip and a spinning kick landed on his back.

Turning around King came face to face with him. He was deserving of his reputation, he thought for a second, at understanding by the speculation of his moves that he was aware of his advantage in close combat. His hesitation helped him figure his moves better and when a testing kick, coming to chop his middle section came, he grabbed the leg right before him and twisting the knee, forced Jin to face the floor in a groan. The crowd leaped up in agony and he glimpsed in the distance a motion of anxiety from the dais of the tournament's sponsor, Heihachi Mishima himself and he recalled Jin to be the heir to the notorious Japanese family but then, a heel exploded in his face, striking the mask upon his face. Blinded from the unpleasantly warm benumbing, he staggered back and when as regained his vision, he only too late got a glimpse of Jin, leaping in the air and his flexible waist pivoted in a tornado of kicks that mercilessly battered his torso.

When he finally managed to stop his reeling, he discovered that his opponent was stronger than he had estimated. He tried to attempt one more approach, starting with a rushing palm strike. Gracefully Jin slipped out of the path and finding his defences lowered, he thrust a knee into his abdomen, doubling him in two. Next he was forced on his back and his hand pulled, his head connected with a heavy fist.

The crowd enjoyed the fight. It was much like the spectacles he provided in the wrestling ring. Unlike then though, this time he couldn't lose.

His fists clenched. This fight was not about glory or ego. It was for the victory meaning redemption of father Mauricio, it was victory that would help him correct the injustice and give a better future to those children he had vowed to protect. Gonzales was watching him somewhere among the audience and now that he had lost, he held their only hopes.

He looked upon the young boy against him. He was the same one they had sheltered four years before and he didn't want to have to be pitted against him and deliver his blows upon him, but he ought to forget all that. He could explain later but now he only had father Mauricio to think about.

In a growl he jumped into the air, doing a forward flip but instead of landing on his opponent's shoulders, he fell on his back, his heels only slamming upon his chest, as he wasn't fast enough to move very far. He endured the impact with the hard floor but as he pushed himself up, his opponent had stepped to his side and stepping forward, he impelled his strong fist in his body. He staggered away and fell on his hands, jumping straight up. Yet, as he was getting back on his feet, he saw Jin's face as he focused on him and next, an axe kick made for his head.

In that moment, he knew it was all for nothing.

He brought up his hands together and halted the kick in mid air. Moving forward, he ruined his opponent's balance and Jin fell on his back, wincing from the pain. The moment the body fell, his teeth greeted and a growl escaped him. Later... he would apologise later. He clenched his fist and dunked it down...

He only hit the hard floor.

Jin was ready and rolled away. Before he understood that much, a sweep toppled him in the air and threw him on his back.

He had to get up! Leaping on his feet he was up again and so was Jin. But before he had time to even consider, the juvenile in an almost foolish attempt, rushed towards him, slipping low and his strong legs threw all his body behind an uppercut straight into his gut, lifting him breathless off the ground.

Did the crowd shout in mixed worry and excitement at the same time? As he jerked once on the floor to ultimately stay down, he had no breath coming in his lounges anymore.

Was it all over yet? However hard as he sought for strength, he found none within him. The memories were desperately calling at him but he could only admit to his failure... He shook his head, not of despondency but from weariness and because he had no control of it anymore. The thought oppressed upon his chest heavier than a tombstone. He had lost not just the tournament or his fame, not even his streaks in the world wide federation of wrestlers. It wasn't about self esteem either, at least not as much as the cognisance that with his defeat there went his chances to avenge and redeem his mentor and beloved friend, the real King...

He was old for tears but that was the only thing that came to him at that moment and it was the exhaustion that prevented him to start beating himself. That's when he sensed a shade covering him.

Lifting his head, he saw the frame of the young man towering above him and his darkened face, even though undefined to his eyes, was beaming with kindness as he stretched an open palm towards him.

At that moment he didn't think twice before accepting the gesture and he was helped up on his feet. He faced Jin Kazama's calm face looking at him, unconvinced that he greeted him with this act he never thought he would receive instead of performing. Standing before him, a little taller even, he almost felt humbled at the tranquillity of the eyes facing him, the eyes that were those he had seen four years before, only without the fright and the remorse. As the loudspeakers announced his rival's victory, he still stood looking at him, puzzled. The crowd was moved once again when the battle ended in a nearly friendly way and when Jin Kazama walked away, he knew it was time they would talk.

When, later in the afternoon, Hernando Garcia made his way into the Mishima mansion, he had a cold reception. The guard by the door tried to turn him away, shouting and pointing fingers to the way back. Hernando was frustrated and though he would sooner punch the guard unconscious, not wishing to create an incident, he decided to walk away and he would, had it not been that Jin Kazama himself came at the door.

At his sight, he halted and looked at him. The youth walked to the guard demanding to know what happened. It was obvious though that he was aware of what went on and somehow, this whole thing bothered him greatly, even horrified him, one could say, like a fragment of an old nightmare. When the guard respectfully explained the situation, unpleasantness was registered upon his face.

"Someday, someone must teach you of courtesy towards visitors," he said sternly and walked past him, towards where he stood. A smile replaced his frown as he greeted him.

"I'm sorry..." he said. "It seems the protocol requires you start a commotion in order to be admitted... Please, come in."

"I didn't come to stay..." Hernando started swallowing and seeing Jin's questioning eye, he went ahead.

"I need to talk to you," he said and Jin nodded once, stepping outside in the garden.

"Thank you for seeing me," he started, once they were away from the front door. Jin was looking at him.

"Do you know who I am?" he went on to ask.

Jin smiled.

"Of course," he verified but Hernando didn't know if that meant he knew he was his opponent earlier today or if it answered the other, more significant question he had.

"I need to ask you this..." he started. "Why did you help me up in the fighting ground? You didn't have to but you helped me... You showed courtesy towards me... Why did you?" he asked and looked at Jin. The young man smiled gently.

"Because you have done it for me once before."

Amazement succeeded him.

"When? Tell me!" he asked almost too eagerly.

To his demand, Jin smiled calmly. And he told him.

Forest impatiently watched as Paul wiped his chop suei vegetables, that being the only oriental dish he trusted, only because he had tasted it when he was their guest and his mother had cooked. Looking content he rested back and scrubbed his lips with the first knuckle of his fist.

"Haven't touched your dish, partner," he marked and Law glanced once more tiredly at his more scrambled than consumed plate.

"Not hungry..." he said.

Paul stroke a cigarette and took in a deep inhale.

"You wanna keep strong for the tournament, you better feed the engine. Hey. What's that face? You won your match. Cheer up."

Still hesitant, Law looked up at him. He thought he had blushed.

"I don't know, but..."

Paul shook off some ash.


"I've been thinking..."

"Forest," Paul said impatiently, "tell me something I don't know," and to his rashness, the youth tried to hold on.

"Don't you think you owe me some explanations about Nina?"

Paul's features paled and the stiffening appearing upon him turned to anger to make up.

"What is this about owing you? I don't owe you nothing kid, you hear?" he nearly shouted and Forest shook his head almost apologetically.

"I know... but she stole from you... and now they're after her, I hear..." he said and decided not to admit that she had challenged him in battle... and defeated him too.

Paul's face went sombre, as it very rarely did. It was the verification Forest needed that Paul knew that woman and he even felt for her.

"Who is she? Really..." he demanded.

Paul laughed to himself.

"And what do you care? You have a crush on her?"

"No way!" Forest hastened to deny, even though he would as eagerly admit she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. Paul was laughing, perhaps to his obvious chagrin and he tried to compose himself.

"I want to know why she's such a skilled fighter and how she managed to sneak in the stadium unnoticed and how did she slip out past the guards? Her fight had generated commotion, yet how did she manage to slip through? And I want to know if it's true that she has tried to murder someone and who she is to affect you like that." he said, throwing Paul into disarray.

"You're asking too much, Law," he concluded, yet Forest anxiously demanded an answer. He was afraid of that woman and now that she was in the tournament, perhaps even more. What if he had to face her again? He wouldn't make it past her and he couldn't face another defeat to her.

"What's the matter?" Paul asked irritated. Forest was chewing at his words again.

"I just don't know... Why is she doing this? Why to us?"

"Hey, what am I, a mind reader?" Paul gave out infuriated.

"Sorry..." was all Forest managed to say.

"No big," Paul replied. His cigarette was reduced to half its former size.

"I don't care why she does what she does..." he said wearily. "It's suffice to me that old bastard Heihachi must be hating her rots right now," he concluded, smirking in pleasure.

Forest looked upon him.

"She's one hell of a woman... she can practically slip through a proper cobweb..." Paul said, a wisp of nostalgia echoing in his voice, admiration sounding just as clearly.

Forest respired tiredly. He was almost certain he would be the next to fight her. He didn't want that.

Julia found herself among those who wouldn't be going on with the tournament. She had tried her best but Lei Wulong, the man she fought against, was way better than she was. Besides, what better could she have expected? She had come here with very few experience and her skills not perfected. Each and every single contestant was a professional with prehistory in the fighting scenes, even Hwoarang despite his young age and little Xiaoyu too, who had been just as unfortunate... She didn't get the chance to talk to her earlier but she planned to. She planned to do much more and perhaps with the tournament out of her priorities, she would have more time to plan about them...

It had been good while it lasted. Those days had flowed by with excitement such as she knew she might never feel again. She enjoyed emerging victorious from her battles, each time thrilled with her victory, only sad Michelle wasn't there to see her... But she had from early known she wasn't cut out to be among the elite. The very best were beginning to surface as she had barely managed to defeat her penultimate opponent, a female Aikido fighter who had, perhaps foolishly, appeared in a very uncomfortable garment for fighting, a red cocktail gown. She was nonetheless a dreadful opponent but she was also the kind of opponents she enjoyed defeating - women dressed finely to the detail but weak against her unrelenting punches. Michelle had really hardened her after all...

And yet, even as she had lost, she wasn't at the least depressed. Her purpose was to learn about Michelle and there was no reason she wouldn't. She would pick up again tomorrow, with fresh energy. At the present, she wanted to just block everything from her mind and frolic in her delight. She had indeed every reason to be happy...

She was meeting Jin.

A smile persisted on her lips and from the safe distance she awaited for him to show up. She had intended to make a short delay, Michelle insisted that a woman must always be late in her rendezvous, only when she saw Jin coming from afar, she pushed this aside as well and started on to meet him.

They met and as he greeted her, he smiled just as shyly as she did.

"Shall we?" he said after some hesitation and she accepted with a smile.

Together they started walking, side by side saying nothing. And what was there to say? Happiness doesn't need words to be expressed.

"I don't know why I'm telling you... But I feel alone..."

Dusk was beginning to overcome the sky, yet it seemed like time had stopped for them two. They had been strolling down the busy streets most of the time and only later they sought for the quieter area of a beautiful park to isolate into their discussion.

Outside in the streets, the lamps were being turned on and Julia looked at his face, distant to her.

"Don't you have any friends at all?"

"I don't know if I can call them friends..." he replied, absent as ever.

Julia looked intensely at him, wondering what might be the reason he chose to act as though he was a stranger in reality, as if mistakably placed in this world.

"You ought to know if they are your friends..." she said suggestively.

Jin laughed in response, his head bending before him.

"I know..." he admitted.

As Julia didn't talk, he lifted his face and the same faraway expression that worried her but she loved so much alike, returned. She knew he was fighting against great hesitation as he spoke.

"When I had just come here... Please don't ask why... I was put in the best karate training class... then some of them came and started picking on me... don't ask what they said either... but... they angered me and I hit them... I took on the one who was in head of them..."

For a moment he responded to her rapt stare but he withdrew again. She understood what he told her to be one of the things he wasn't taking pride in.

"That boy... I had hit him brutally..." he continued. "Had they not parted us, I might have injured him even more severely...

Ever since, not only did he respect me, but he acted friendly towards me... We became pals in a sense... Talk and joke together... Such are my friends... But do you call that friendship? Does a man have to beat his way even to the rightful respect for his person?"

His voice was regretful and Julia didn't see why... all he had done was to defend himself, then why... Neither could she reply the question on his eyes, or rather... she couldn't tell him she was agreed with the answer he had chosen himself.

"I don't know Jin..." she managed to say.

"For once I wish I knew of someone who would... wouldn't be afraid of me... and just take me for who I am, not whom I seem to be..."

As he took his face away, compassion heated in her heart. She raised her head.

"I'd like to take the challenge..." she said. She was surprised to see his face returning with a smile...

"Then you'll possibly be the prettiest friend I've ever had..." he declared and she couldn't help a smile flashing in her face.

In nervousness Jin laughed right back. He took away his eyes and then, returned with a cavalier look, proposing a supportive elbow. Julia grinned as she got a hold around him and then, she laid close upon him. She closed her eyes, hoping this would never end, especially as she felt how he tried to be strong, just for her...

It was getting darker. They had been walking like that for a while. The sky was lit by a million tiny stars, the sea shone in the dark with the lights of the coast reflected in its calm waters, its faint murmur reached her ears, but the scenery meant nothing to her. She had all she ever wanted right by her side.

"Julia... when you were little... very little... did you by any chance teach a boy to do high five, low five?"

Surprised that he had suddenly talked to her, she looked up at him.

He was almost smiling, trying to bring out something from her head as it looked... and then, in a careful excavation in her memories she found one...

It was one which faded with the pass of time but now it became clearer... She was a little girl and she and Michelle had visited a woman and a child in the forest... Yes, she had played with the boy... and perhaps...

She looked right upon Jin's face... The child in her memory was almost gone but as she looked upon him, her eyes gleamed...

"It was you?" she exclaimed.

Jin flashed a smile.

"Just don't ask me to sing the song..." he said and Julia giggled.

"It's just so funny..." she said. "You were shorter than me then..."

"Yeah, well..." he said and softly laughed.

She was sure his cheeks had flushed.

"You were living with your mother in the woods..." she went on, in her effort to dig out more memories. "I remember... Your mother made the best turnovers ever!"

However, despite her expectations, Jin's face decreased and his lids lowered, covering his eyes.

And then the realisation came to her.

All he had said, the way he acted... shouldn't he be living there instead of...

"What happened to her?" she straightway asked.

As she expected, he lessened his eyes even more.

"She's dead..." he said faintly.

In compassion, she too closed her eyes and clinched his arm.

"I might as well tell you..." he said. "An ancient spirit worshipped as the War God is roaming the Earth... it is after powerful souls... and... my mother was such one."

Julia absorbed his words. After a long time, she begun finding the answers she was looking for...

For some time, they walked saying nothing.

"Jin... I know your pain..." she ultimately attempted.

He only raised his head, looking straight before him.

Finding strength within her, she begun in a sigh.

"My mother, well... she died mysteriously too."

Like she expected, Jin turned a curious face towards her. It was her turn to avoid his eyes.

"I don't know how, I came for answers... Maybe... she too died from Toshin..."

Jin snapped in full attention towards her. His eyes were urging.

Defeating her reluctance, Julia continued.

"Michelle was one great warrior... Before she left she had warned me of a supernatural being that would bring devastation to mankind... Then, she said she would be coming here... There was a pendant of magical powers that..."

She wasn't at a loss of words, only, she realised she didn't trust Jin entirely... If he was a Mishima after all, it wouldn't be safe to admit how Michelle's pendant had been pursued by the notorious family throughout the years and how she and her tribe believed it to have enormous powers in spheres beyond...

"...but never mind." she summed up. "The point is that she's dead and that won't change. I just want to find out if she had a peaceful death or if she has to be avenged..."

Silencing, she rested again in the support of his arm. Having said what she did teemed a heavy load from her heart and empowered her with brand new courage and determination.

"I'm sorry Julia."

Surprised even she turned towards Jin. This time, he was unequivocally looking at her.

"There is no need for you to apologise~" she attempted

"No, I have to. Until now I hadn't realised I acted so selfishly. I only thought of my mother and not for a moment did I realise this wasn't just my own affair... More people have suffered because of Toshin... and all this time, I haven't seriously thought about them..."

Without saying anything more, she just looked at him and in her heart, she knew, whoever he was, whatever his name and origin might have been, he was one of a kind soul and a gentle spirit guided him.

"You have snapped me out of it Julia... and I thank you for it." he concluded.

As he said that, she stopped walking and so did he.

The night had fallen above them and in the openness of the park they were entirely alone.

She stretched on her toes to reach him and kissed upon his cheek. When she was back at her feet with a soft smile, his face was alike calm but even with all that went through his head, he was so beautiful and so deep was his stare upon her, she knew she wouldn't leave it to that. Once again, her hands climbed on his shoulders and he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close to a long gentle kiss.

"I don't know why I'm kissing you either..." he murmured speaking close to her face, his eyes mildly glowing, his voice trailing softly to his confusion as he held her in his embrace.

"Maybe we don't need to know that," she softly replied.

Again, her hands climbed over him and they kissed.

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