Author's Note: Mishima Heihachi and Kuma, plus Jin's wingéd alter ego all make an appearance. The scene with Heihachi takes place prior to theevents of 'In the Skin of a Lion'.

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In the Skin of a Lion

Chapter Six

By Aaronica and Orfik

Not far from Kyoto, a procession of gleaming, black limousines wound through the coastal countryside, edging down the poorly paved route at a discrete, predatory speed. Awakened before the rays of dawn that morning, Jin had been ushered into the foremost of these sleek vehicles without a plausible explanation, because even the premise that "Your grandfather doesn't spend enough time with you," was delivered from Hayase-san's mouth without conviction. Which limousine the Mishima patriarch rode in was unknown, if he was in one of them to begin with. Their destination was a dilapidated seafront beyond the rustic layouts of some poor, rural village, and they collected in a field overlooking three immense ships that were docked about a quarter mile from the harbor. Smaller steamships anchored at the shore.

After halfheartedly inquiring about their destination to his driver and receiving the reply he expected -- silence -- Jin had settled slowly back against the cushions with quiet resignation tinged with baffled curiosity. His confusion was only elevated as they left the city, the landscape growing steadily flatter as they left the flashy metal pinnacles of society behind. It was a refreshing change of pace, but one he nevertheless couldn't fathom.

"What could he want me for?" he asked the window, but the ghostly face he saw within it had no answer. When the vehicle pulled to a stop and his door was opened, Jin rose (after thanking the doorman, of course), pulling down the sleeves of the thin grey sweater he'd donned. The morning breeze rolling in from the ocean was brisk, but Jin loved it.

The band of men who emerged from the other vehicles were of a larger, rougher vein of the Mishima force; still, each one was meticulously groomed, and wore suits tailored to their brutish physiognomy. They moved together towards the docks, where among a great stack of wooden crates an immense grizzly bear loomed. From beside this bear, the hoary and hirsute owner stepped in view of his approaching men, and seemed to smile at his grandson in the near distance. This was alarming in its rarity. The sky swarming with swollen gray, and so followed the trench coat he wore over his suit, made of 100% pure and waterproof baby seal skin. Heihachi beckoned Jin forward with his hand and the bass in his voice, paying little attention to the men as they began lifting the boxes and retreating back to the vehicles with them. On closer inspection, there was actually a thin and orderly line of sailors unloading the ships, adding to those crates.

"You're late, boy! No sleeping in!"

Jin inspected the orderly processions of men with mute wonder. It was difficult to comprehend the sight of his grandfather in this place, as though he was a portrait poorly superimposed on their surroundings.

"I'm sorry, ojiisan," Jin said once he was only several paces before Heihachi. He bowed low in respect and apology, and at the same time pondered the presence of the bear. Once, Jin befriended every animal he came across. Now, even the fish in his grandfather's pond would not risk taking food from his hand. Animals can smell evil as easily as fear. When he straightened his face was habitually composed, polite and calm.

To say that Kuma shared the ruthless disposition of his superior would be denying the longing within him for one block- stripped being. If anything, its presence might have been an attempt to show Jin that Heihachi too shared a bond with natural creatures, even if he'd trained the bear to shred beyond recognition corporeal evidences. Kuma's presence alluded to an approaching horror, but Jin had no reason to suspect this.

"It's about time you learned who you really are," the senior man asserted with vigor, grasping his once-removed progeny's thick shoulder with hardy approbation. Lord knows what that tramp who stole his son away had taught his grandson about his true roots, or what the filthy parasite that killed his son had eaten away in his grandson's soul. Technically Heihachi hadn't killed Kazuya, because Kazuya was already dead, and the boy he beheld now was dying.

"Because one day you're going to be in charge of all this, and I expect nothing but excellence." Beneath bushy, salted brows, Heihachi's shrewd, black eyes bored into Jin's face.

The attention Jin paid to Kuma was almost distracting, but he refocused himself quickly once Heihachi spoke. The hale Mishima watched his similar elder, immune to the sea breeze that occasionally stole in to nip at his bare hands and face. Jin was thoroughly civil.

"I understand, ojiisan. I want to manage things to the best of my ability, although I'm sure the day you speak of is still very far away."

"These veins aren't pumping the same oil they used to. You mustn't WANT anything," he said, and his tone -- which was always something between the boom of thunder and the growl of a lion -- rose as he moved his grandson along the dock with him under the auspices of his thick, coiled arm. " .. you just DO it. I want you to have a look at the dirt."

Reaching the nexus of transport activity, the elder raised at hand at one of his men and nodded to the crate the latter set down at their feet. The man lifted the lid. " .. the foundations of zaibatsu, boy!" Heihachi boomed. Even if this sample of illegal guns stacked in the crate were just a tip of the iceberg, their symbolism was significant.

"Have you ever killed a man, boy?" Heihachi asked.

Too unnerved to trail his fingers over the firearms, Jin did so with his gaze instead. Jin's answer was simple, but nevertheless delayed by thoughtfulness, just short of seeming hesitant.

"No, ojiisan." He lifted his gaze again. "I've never killed anyone."

"Hachi, get us som'more beer. You fucked up, you get the beer."

"Aaw, shit, I didn't know he was only a mail cler -- Come on, Taisho, I went to get it last time! Hwoaaa-kun tellhim-I- wentlastnightandsomeone-else-shouldgo!"

"You did fuck up, Hach-chan."

"Don't call me -- OWW. Shit, KIM! I'LL GO!"

Hwoarang laughed when the only other Korean in the group, and his closest 'associate', punched Hachi in the shoulder. The redhead rattled his fist against the chain link fence he had been leaning on, distracting his troupe. Taisho, Ryo, Hachi and Kim. Add Hwoarang, and they formed the renju called the Yurei, the hustling scourge of Tokyo. Once he had their attention, Hwoarang walked to his motorcycle where Kim stood holding the fist he'd just used on Hachi.

"Naw, wait. We have to decide how we're gonna make cash for beer next week. That dude you chose to bait was a major bust, Hachi."

"Yeah, man, and we gotta eat," snorted Taisho, probably the roughest of the gang with the exception of Keji who was presently in jail.

"How about we -- " Kim started, but he never finished the sentence.

A whistling cut through the air, followed by a loud, visceral clash that shook the cement upon which they stood. Where Hachi once stood was a hulking, black-winged monster with raging red eyes. Before Hwoarang could put a voice to his fear and his recognition, the rage rushed him. He saw a fist smashing Kim's face into metal, a spray of warm red into his face, and then the fleeing, spinning ground beneath him.

With wind whipping at his face and deafening his ears, it took Hwoarang a moment to realize he was being held by one ankle, flying through the air. He struggled against what held him instinctively, and gasped when that grasp lessened and gravity sought to suck him back to the ground.

Just as his eyes squeezed shut on the pavement he was prepared to die against, to splatter and break against, something swooped down, grabbed him again. The Korean was only left with the pain of a hand which had slammed against the ground, the fingers surely broken by the force.

As that shock sliced through him, a voice cut through Hwoarang's spinning thoughts. It was cold.

>> Don't try that again. <<

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