DISCLAIMER: Me don’t own Tekken, k?

Art of Fighting

Chapter 7 - Journey To The Dead

By Prosopopeia

About a week passed I guess since I’ve last spoken to Hwoarang…or Xiaoyu and Julia. Ever since that crazy day I had attempted to hide myself even further despite Xiaoyu’s millions of calls and threats of kicking my ass when she saw me. Hwoarang’s words to me that Carnival night still haunted me. We departed that day with a shake and never spoke again. And since then I’ve been wondering if his words had been a fluke. If they were, Hwoarang was the best actor I had ever met. If they weren’t, then I guess I was just left lost. I curled up in a ball position against my wall and stared around me. The weather seemed to also be in favor of my mood with its cloudy skies and bitter cold front that swept over us during the night. I’m not complaining, though. I just feel sorry for whoever has to travel now. I sighed and leaned my head against my knees. At least those people had a purpose in life…at least they had some job to go to or an awaiting household of family. What did I have now? Well, up to a few days ago, I thought I had a chance to help myself but now…that seems to have been lost as well.

Knock. Knock.

The sound came down on me like a hammer and I jumped up in surprise. Who the hell was at my door now…?

“Kazama! Open this goddamn fucking door!”

“…The curses, Hwoarang…try to refrain!”

I walked up to my door completely stunned. Hwoarang and…Steve at my door?? I blinked in confusion. Xiaoyu must have told them where I lived but… I opened the door widely and saw the two fighters standing in the hallway. Instantly Hwoarang rushed past me and into my apartment while I was left in shock with an ever-apologizing Steve. “Hwoarang! Errm…sorry ‘bout that, mate! Hwoarang’s just a tad bit on the…cold side,” he said with a grin as he walked in. His smile turned to a scowl as he glared at Hwoarang, who was warming himself up by the kitchen stove. I closed the door slowly and stared at it for a while. Hwoarang and Steve were here…in my apartment…for who knows why…

“Heh, nice place, Kazama. Being a chef must not be too bad…” Hwoarang commented as he made his way to the living room, dropping his coat onto the hanger that was barely used. Steve followed in pursuit and I just stared at the two as they made themselves comfortable in my couch. Hwoarang stretched and leaned back, spreading his arms about. “You know, I could get used to this,” he remarked casually as Steve laughed. I just stood by my counter staring at them, torn between amusement and shock. Finally Hwoarang stood up walked over to me.

“So…about that conversation we had oh so long ago,” he began, a smirk on his face yet I could tell he was being sincere. “Well, Steve and I are ready to begin, are you?” he finished, arching an eyebrow. I looked at him strangely.

“Begin what?” I asked numbly, hoping he wouldn’t mock me.

But instead he just grinned, a glint in his eyes. “‘Operation Happiness!’” he exclaimed before cocking his head towards Steve. “He made it up,” he muttered. I looked at Steve and he shrugged casually, obviously not daunted by Hwoarang’s comment.

Suddenly Hwoarang grabbed my arm and dragged me to the couch and forced me into the seat. I looked up at him, still at a loss for words. When had he and Steve all of the sudden become the male versions of Xiaoyu and Julia? The thought was not comforting. “Why are you here?” I found myself asking finally. Steve laughed beside me and patted me on my shoulder.

“Eh, so you do talk! I was beginning to wonder if you had lost your voice!” he said cheerfully. I blinked several times before nodding to his words.

“No, I’m just…a bit overwhelmed by your…appearance,” I stuttered out. God, when did become such a delinquent? But Steve merely laughed again and I actually found myself smiling slightly by its sound. Steve had quite the contagious laugh. Maybe that was why he got along well with Hwoarang…hell, maybe that was why Steve got along well with anyone!

“You said maybe it was time for you to accept some, ahem, assistance. Well, I’d say now is a good time,” Hwoarang suddenly cut in, his tone devoid of any humor or lightness. I stared at him squarely in the eye and saw that he was telling the truth. I leaned back in my seat and stared at the floor thoughtfully. Was I ready? I mean I guess I always was ready for a change but now that it came so willingly to me…it scared me. I had been alone for so long that it was getting to the point where it almost seemed comforting. And that was not a comforting thought.

“Aw, Hwoarang…why’d you have to ruin the mood?” Steve murmured, his voice slightly tinged with sadness.

“Because it needed to be ruined. Kazama’s just humoring us and we need to get to the bottom of this quickly,” Hwoarang answered, his tone hard and cold.

I looked up at Hwoarang and found myself frowning. “Hwoarang, maybe I am ready for some ‘help’ but how in the world are you and Steve supposed to help me? Do you have some kind of license in these sort of things that I never knew about?” I asked, narrowing my eyes. Hwoarang’s gaze remained fixed on me, though I heard Steve chuckle softly next to me.

“In reality, no, we don’t have a license in this sort of thing. But you have to stop changing the subject back to us, Kazama. It’s you we’re here to deal with,” he said slowly and observantly.

I looked away from his eyes, no longer able to bear their intensity. Changing subjects was always something I was good at. Whenever Xiaoyu or Julia asked me if something was wrong, I knew I had to say something quick to get their mind off of it. I didn’t want to be exposed…I guess it was some kind of defense mechanism I developed over the years. Now it came so naturally to me that I didn’t even realize I did it. Hwoarang’s words were like a sting to me. He realized it all rather quickly. In fact he seemed to pretty much be able to pinpoint my exact feelings down to a line.

“You’re not alone, Kazama. There are other people who feel just like you…too many actually. Most of them just give into their emotions and do the most irrational things possible. So tell me, are you ready to give up like them?” Hwoarang said in a strangely calm and sagacious tone. I looked up at him and saw me staring at me with his hawk eyes before slowly realizing what he was saying—he had been one of those people once. He had been like me: lost. Suddenly Hwoarang clapped his hands and I ripped my gaze off of him. “Well, that’s enough of that boring stuff! How about we go to the park?” he suggested, his tone reverting back to its loud, annoying self.

And before I could stop myself, “At this time and in this weather?”

I think bother Hwoarang and Steve were staring at me; I could feel their surprised gazes on me and I only cursed myself for opening my mouth. I usually never complained aloud. It was shocking to myself even.

Then I felt something thrown onto my face and I held it up. It was my jacket. I looked at Steve, who grinned at me. “C’mon, weather’s not that bad. Besides, it’ll be good for you to get some fresh air,” he cajoled. Unlike Hwoarang, however, Steve actually sounded reassuring and not forceful. I put on my jacket without a word and stood up, making sure I had my eyes in my pocket. Hwoarang was already standing out in the hall, tapping his foot against the floor impatiently. I stared at him with some amusement. It seemed like Hwoarang was constantly on some kind of hyper mode or something. He never stayed still.

“It’s going to be great. Sky’s just clearing up and there’s no one in the park,” I heard Hwoarang mutter to himself as he pressed the elevator button. As we all clambered into the small elevator, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of a mess I was getting myself into. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up to see Steve smile at me. I blinked in mild surprise and stared ahead of me as the doors slid closed.

Then again, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all.

“What is your fascination with pictures?”

I eyed Steve critically. “Come on, Steve. You’ve known me for how long? And you ask me that kind of question??” I replied with a smirk.

Steve glared at me before rolling his eyes. “If you must know, I was asking it for Jin’s sake,” he remarked. I felt a grin tug at my lips before I smothered it. I glanced at Kazama and arched an eyebrow.

“Let him ask it,” I stated simply. Kazama just stared at me without saying a word before turning his gaze elsewhere. I frowned and shook my head. This was going to take a looong time.

Then Steve grabbed my camera out of my hands before I could even cuss at him.

He began running away with it and instinctively I ran after him, screaming so many unnecessary things that it would make a nun faint. “Steve…the hell you think you’re going with my fucking camera?!” I shouted as loud as I could. And it was pretty loud.

Steve turned around with his scarf running loose and a goofy grin on his face. “I think I’m gonna toss this thing into the pond. What do you say?” he called back, stopping at the edge of the small partially frozen pond while dangling my beautiful digital camera over the end. I caught up with him and stopped a few feet away from him, crossing my arms.

“You toss, you die,” I said coldly. I think even Steve was surprised by my response before he placed the camera in a safer distance from the pond.

“I was only joking, man!” he exclaimed, looking slightly shaken.

I narrowed my eyes and walked up to him. “I know,” I remarked with a grin before grabbing my camera from his hand. Steve paled before slowly beginning to realize what I did.

“You…you really ought to stop that, Hwoarang! Honestly, I thought you were going to kill me for a second! You really ought to be an actor, you know that??” he exclaimed, smacking my arm.

I grinned at him. “Yes, I should become an actor. Can you imagine it, my friend? ‘The Great Blood Talon Strikes!’ That would be my first movie title, no?” I replied, laughing at Steve’s expression. He looked torn between shock and amusement. Suddenly I whipped around and located Kazama, who was staring at me with equal bewilderment. “Wouldn’t you agree?” I asked him, blinking innocently. This time he actually blinked, a ghost of a smile on his face.

“Sure,” he answered softly. My jaw nearly dropped. I glanced at Steve and winked. Ah, yes the first part is now accomplished. Of course the hardest part would be getting Kaz—Jin, to talk. I really have to stop calling him by his surname. It’s a bad habit I’ve been doing for the last three years. I shook my head and flicked the power button on my camera on. The light beeped green and I lifted it to face Jin. Instantly his face came into the tiny screen and I filtered the lighting to make his face clearer. “Smile, Jin!!” I exclaimed in my best impersonation of Xiaoyu. I saw his face slacken in surprise before the flash went off. Dammit, I was really hoping to catch him with that smile. I glared at Jin. “I said smile, dammit,” I ordered in my best sergeant tone. And considering I was in the army for a while, it was pretty good.

Steve slapped my back and saluted mockingly as Jin just continued staring at me like some kind of freak show. I stared hard at Jin. “You would make a horrible soldier,” I remarked as Steve fought hard not to laugh. I looked at him and then back at Jin for a second before stepping back a few feet, holding up my camera. “Sorry, but I got to capture this strangely funny moment,” I explained as I quickly focused the two in the middle and snapped—Steve’s erect stature with both arms to his side looking straight at me and Jin’s completely oblivious expression. I could have laughed but I held myself in better than Steve.

Once again I placed my camera safely into my pocket and smiled slightly. “So, who’s in a mood to visit the cemetery?” I asked.

Steve grinned and Jin look absolutely mortified. “Cemetery??” he echoed incredulously. I nodded and pushed my hands into my pockets.

“Sure thing. You know we ought to respect the dead,” I remarked as I began walking. Steve grabbed Jin’s arm and dragged him along with us.

“But…but,” he stuttered, looking lost.

I hid my grin and patted his back. “Don’t worry. You don’t have to actually go in. You could wait outside but I’m long overdue for a visit,” I explained quietly. Jin looked at me strangely and I turned around. I hated it when people looked at me that way. Strangely, pitifully… I focused my gaze on the ground as we headed on in silence. How long had it been since I visited Baek Do San? Of course his original grave was in Seoul, but I had made an honorary one here in Japan. I was too preoccupied with the tournaments before to actually pay any respect. Now I was ready.

“I could visit my mother.”

I blinked and turned around in surprise. Jin stared at me sheepishly before looking at the ground as if he hadn’t said anything. I looked around for Steve before realizing something: Steve wasn’t here. I ceased walking and saw Jin look up at me in surprise. I narrowed my eyes as I gazed around us. Now where the hell did that blond get to??

“If you’re looking for Steve, he said he was going to head back home to sleep. He also said something about not wanting to go to a cemetery with a complete freak,” Jin said quietly as I looked at him.

He was staring straight at me and I arched an eyebrow. “Of course he would. He’s a pussy,” I replied. I caught a glimmer of a grin on Jin’s face before I turned around. Yes, that was exactly like Steve. Leave me alone with my former rival. Ha, he even got the crazy idea that we would end up together. Like Jin was even gay or bi for that matter! I managed to punch that idea out of Steve, though…or at least I thought did. Seems like that damned blond had some other ideas in mind as well…fuck him. I let loose a sigh and pulled out my CD player. I forgot how far the park was from the cemetery. It would be at least another twenty minutes before we got there. Placing the earphones on my head, I pushed the play button and placed it back into my pocket.

For a few minutes I was silent as I listened to my music. I unconsciously began humming but that didn’t matter. I didn’t really give a damn if I was totally off key. Before long I realized someone was patting my shoulder and I pulled off my earphones and turned to face Jin curiously. He looked slightly troubled.

“You sure you want to go over there?” he asked, waving to a group of teenagers by the corner we were about to cross. I looked at them for a second before grinning at Jin.

“Are you telling me you’re scared of those teenaged hoodlums, Jinny-boy?” I retorted. I noted with some satisfaction the look of disgust that crossed his face before he hid it. “No, it’s just that I really don’t like confrontations,” he remarked coolly. I nearly laughed as I pulled my earphones back on.

“‘I don’t like confrontations.’ God, must you sound so saintly?” I replied as I walked on.

As we approached the young teenagers, they immediately ganged up on us. One of them, who I assumed was the leader, walked in front and started saying something. I stared at him for a good while before pulling off my earphones. “What??” I called out blatantly. I heard Jin sigh behind me and hid my grin as the leader approached me dangerously.

“I asked you why are you here?” he repeated slowly as if I were some sort of delinquent. I rolled my eyes and shrugged as I put away my CD player.

“Do we have to have a reason?” I replied, staring at him coolly. The guy was a good deal shorter than me, but he seemed older than the rest of his gang and a great deal more mature. I glanced at the rest of them and noted with some dismay that most looked like they weren’t any older than sixteen. The scene brought a sense of forlorn in my heart. I used to be just like them… And still am as a matter fact, though not too the extreme as I formerly was. The leader looked at me and then at Jin.

“You guys are really stupid for coming over here,” he said slowly. I sighed and winked at Jin before turning to face the leader again.

“Kid, what’s your name?” I asked, getting really annoyed by the fact that I couldn’t call him anything else other than “kid” and “guy”.

He looked at me in surprise for a second before answering. “They call me Blaze,” he answered calmly. I glared at him.

“No, your real name,” I said impatiently. Damn, was I this rebellious back then, too?? He looked at me again.

“I don’t have a name,” he replied coldly. I arched an eyebrow. Shit, did this kid remind me of me or what?

I looked at Jin and saw that he was also staring at “Blaze” curiously. “Okay, Blaze, just let me and my friend pass through all right? We really don’t have anything of real value on us and fighting us would kind of be pointless,” I said collectively.

Blaze stared hard at me. “How about that CD player of yours?” he challenged.

I rolled my eyes. “What is it with you young people nowadays??” I muttered to myself. “Look, forget the CD player cause there’s no way I’m giving you that,” I said as patiently as I could muster. Patience is a virtue as Steve always taught me. If I had never met him, I’d probably have beaten up this punk a long time ago. I stared hard at Blaze and began moving past him and his group of followers.

After a few more seconds, came the grab. I turned around and I saw a small black-haired kid holding my arm. I eyed him critically. “Not a bad hold, kid. Work on it a little more, you’d really get somewhere,” I remarked before slipping my arm easily out of his grip. He stared at me dumbfounded and I glanced at Jin. “Let’s say we hurry up. These guys are really beginning to test my patience,” I said to him as he nodded in agreement. We began walking at a quicker pace and soon I heard the rest of the gang following us from behind. I sighed and turned on my CD player again. I needed some kind of distraction. Not to mention not hearing an opponent’s approach really was a good test of your other senses. I did that once where I wore my earphones and had the music on at its highest and my eyes blindfolded when I sparred against Steve. Amazingly enough I beat him, too. It was great training for your other senses.

Soon enough I felt it—the slight whish of air as a kick was thrown from behind me. I quickly dodged it and turned around angrily as I blocked yet another punch and countered with my own attack. “You punks are really annoying me now,” I muttered as I rendered a few more of them unconscious. I did it as gently as I could and pressed on all of their sensitive nerves. I wasn’t inhuman after all. I looked at Jin and saw him doing the same with a look of apprehension on his face. I think he was more perturbed by the situation than I was. Suddenly I noticed that they all ceased attacking and gathered their fallen friends to safety. Blaze came forward with a look of astonishment on his face.

“Who are you? This isn’t normal,” he remarked slowly as he eyes his fallen friends carefully.

I cracked my neck. “What do you mean this isn’t normal? My friend and I are quite normal thank you very much,” I replied quickly as I grabbed Jin’s arm and continued walking. The cemetery was just two blocks away now. I eyed him and noticed he was staring at the ground thoughtfully. This time I didn’t hear the sound of pursuing steps so I spoke. “What are you thinking of, hm?” I asked as I stared ahead. I saw him looked at me in surprise and smiled to myself. “No hiding anything when you’re with me, pal,” I remarked as he blinked slowly at me.

“I…I was just thinking how young those kids were. It’s kind of incredible how they all ganged up on us like that. It makes me wonder also what happened to their families,” he replied slowly. I stared at him in wonder.

“It’s not as amazing to me considering I used to be exactly like them. Most of them are probably orphans or abandoned as babies,” I replied quietly. It was strange how I could completely relate to those kids—it was kind of scary to actually be talking about them from an outsider’s point of view as well.

I turned around and I saw Jin staring at me. For a second I thought I saw a flash of something I couldn’t quite note. But that was all it was—a flash. He quickly put on a serious face and looked away from me. I let loose a sigh and pushed my hands into my pockets as the wind blew up against us. Soon I saw the grey gates of the cemetery looming before us and I walked into it without saying a word to Jin. I headed towards an old tree that sat far from the graves and tied a piece of string that used to be part of my old uniform to one of the branches before stepping back and bowing. I stared at it for a second.

“Hey, Baek. Sorry I haven’t been visiting too much but I’ve been preoccupied,” I started quietly before glancing off in Jin’s direction. I saw him standing before a white grave with his head bowed low and I smiled before continuing. “You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been doing lately…”   





Hey, what do you know? I updated sooner than last time! Hehe…well…umm…yeah. Next installment should be coming soon. I’m trying to update my stories a little more frequently considering I have all the free time in the world now so… Yeah, I’m at a lack of words for some strange reason. Ah…review, please! Thank you.

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