ASHES OF THE PHOENIX
written by Victar, e-mail email@example.com
Victar's Archive: http://www.victarfanfics.com
Chapter 16: Mourning
Was it for naught I bled for thee,
Defying omnipotent powers?
The blood was mine; the battle, thine
To smother in bright-blooming flowers
-S. K. Z. Brust,
I weep for the dead.
My tears are the rain. They fall from the sky in a steady
stream, extinguishing fires,
disinfecting wounds, and cleansing Sanctuary.
Ten thousand monsters of evil overran these sacred
lands, and would have made them the tomb of my Chosen Ones, if not for two special mortals
Chosen by the Angel herself. Jun Kazama tapped into the Power of the holy ground to
momentarily become the Angel's avatar, and eradicate the invaders from the realm of the
living. Yet Kazama could not have invoked the Angel's supreme authority without the aid of her
sorcerous reagent, Lei Wulong.
At last I know why I sacrificed my godhood to save
I am Raiden, now but a mortal of Thunder. When I look
down upon the ransacked bastion
of my Chosen Ones, I know that I should be thankful. A catastrophe that could have massacred
thousands of innocent people was reduced to a skirmish that cost the lives of less than a hundred.
For each body that the people of Sanctuary lay to rest, there are over one hundred black smears
staining the torn grass and dirt; such are the only physical remains of the slain army. These, too,
are washed away in the rain of my tears.
*Why do you
The Angel has arrived, without my noticing her approach. I
should not be surprised by that.
She comes unexpected to the vast majority of mortals, and I presume the remainder would as
soon not know when and where they are destined to meet her.
Slowly, carefully, I explain.
"I am in mourning because there
has been suffering and death. And
because I need not divine wisdom to know that more is to come."
*Yes,* she agrees, thoughtfully
gazing down upon her Chosen.
*Isn't it lovely?*
Lei opened his eyes.
There was something very different about waking up.
Awareness came to him as a buoyant
progression, instead of an unpleasant jolt. He felt oddly... refreshed.
There were other things, too. Or rather, a lack of them. He
didn't have the aching headache,
inflamed mouth, and agonizing hypersensitivity of a hangover. He hadn't screamed himself awake
from a violent nightmare, his heart pounding and his skin drenched with sweat.
Lei resolved not to get used to it, just yet.
He didn't recognize the room. It certainly wasn't the
barracks; the quarters were too
spacious, and the bed was too soft. There was even an adjacent shower. Lei was mildly gratified
to find that it worked, and indulged in washing off four days' worth of accumulated grime.
Clean clothes had been set out for him. It was his favorite
type of outfit - an azure,
long-sleeved fighting coat with a wide black sash, dark slacks gathered at the ankles, and simple,
flat-soled black shoes. Had Kung Lao arranged this? Or Jun? It was the same type of garb he'd
worn during his stay in the Temple of Light, and to the Iron Fist Tournament.
He dressed himself at leisure, noting that his textile armor
had also been returned, along with
his shades, kelly-green hair binder, 9mm automatic, and miscellaneous cards, coins, and silk
scarves. As a final touch, he rolled up the white inner lining of his sleeve cuffs to better free his
Lei stepped out the door to the guest bedroom. Nightwolf
was waiting for him on the other
"Sleep well?" the shaman asked.
"Eh, no. Not that I remember."
"Good. And thank you."
"You, and Jun Kazama. The two of you rescued us all from
"I have begun reprogramming the wards. They will act to
stun you and cage you, in the
event that your curse should manifest within Sanctuary. You no longer need to be guarded."
"Uh, okay, that's nice. How's the kid doing?"
"If you refer to Jun, she awoke and departed some time
ago. I believe she did wish to speak
with you, once you were fully rested. You may find her in Officer Fujioka's former quarters."
Nightwolf gave Lei directions.
"For now, I must attend to other matters in Sanctuary, and
my work on the wards. We will speak again, at a later time. You have sought my help in removing
your curse, and I owe you any assistance I can provide."
Lei thanked him and set out from the guest house. On the
way, he passed by the
church-turned-hospital that had become the center of a battlefield.
Newly dug graves surrounded it.
Some two-thirds of the burial plots had feathers, colorful
decorations, or offerings of food
and drink resting on their mounds of upturned earth. The remaining third were marked with
jutting M16 rifles, their bayonets stuck into the ground. Mottled camouflage hats and helmets
were slung over the weapons' stocks.
Following a stray thought, Lei took a detour past the
He came across Takeshi Fujioka's kusari-gama, marking
where the officer had fallen. The
weapon's chain was wrapped around a short pole, embedded in the earth. A moderate breeze
rustled the dangling sickle-blades, causing them to make slight clink sounds.
Lei resumed his course, and soon reached his destination.
The door was open; he knocked
gently on it, and stepped inside.
Jun had crafted a humble memorial.
It consisted of a plain wooden shelf, with a few objects
scattered upon it. Twisting trails of
aromatic smoke wafted from twin sticks of burning incense. A central stone had Takeshi's name
painted down its vertical length in delicate, flowing brush strokes. There was also a small portrait,
in a modest paper frame. Jun kneeled before the memorial, her head bowed and hands clasped in
Lei nervously cleared his throat.
"Eh... I hope I'm not intruding. Nightwolf said I could find
"Ii desu," she quietly answered. Lei wasn't completely sure
what that meant, but it didn't
sound antagonistic. Unsure of what to do next, he eased into a kneeling posture next to her.
Was she crying?
No, not right this moment, but there were dried tear-trails
on her face. Her huddled
shoulders bore a heavy weight of sorrow.
"Um... how are you holding up?"
"Are you okay, ki- eh, I mean, Jun?"
She shook her head.
"Want to talk about it?"
At first she did not respond. Then her head sank lower still,
and her hands fell flat and listless
on the floor.
"I killed ten thousand people," she shuddered, in a plaintive
"Uh, you mean the mutants and Centaurians?"
"Lei, I saw it all. For one tiny instant, I could feel everyone
and everything in Sanctuary -
thoughts, life-force, knowledge. It was like I was a part of it all, or maybe it all was a part of me.
Most of it is gone, now, but I keep a few impressions. I remember what they were like.
"They're from a horribly desolate place. They are born to,
live, and die by violence. The
Shao Kahn has poisoned their world, so that the only way to survive is by killing others for his
entertainment. They suffer for his pleasure. They've never known anything but hatred and death.
It's not their fault."
"It's not yours, either."
"I... I know they would have killed us, and that we have to
stay alive to have any hope of
stopping the Shao Kahn, but..."
"Tell you what. If it makes you feel any better, you can
blame me. Okay?"
"No. Not okay. You already blame yourself for too much.
It hurts you. I felt it."
"Eh, then maybe you'd better not follow my example.
She lifted her face, and looked to Takeshi's picture for a
long time. "You hold yourself
responsible for what happened to him."
"I am responsible."
"Chigaimasu," she denied, with a single shake of her
"He died saving my life, dammit."
"From his point of view, you died to save his. Fujioka-san
never liked to leave his debts
"Um. Did you, eh, know him very well?"
"I'm not sure anymore, but he was a good friend. Why do
"Eh, well, I never really knew him at all. He despised me,
and had plenty of reason to. But
when I was in desperate trouble, he helped me out. I mean, at the time my friends
and I came to the I.C.P.O. for help, we had absolutely no incriminating evidence on Kazuya at all.
Fujioka agreed to help us on his own time; it wasn't even part of his regular job. I never asked him
why. Didn't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, or whatever."
"He probably felt it was his duty, or his specialty. He'd
brought down a corrupt fighting
tournament once before."
"Yes. And he had a very strict personal code; he wouldn't
ever compromise it for anything.
"When he first came to Sanctuary, I didn't get along with
him. Even though we're from the
same country. Lei... you know I'm mixed blood. Part Ainu, part Korean, and part Japanese. His
blood was purely Japanese. Police like him put my fingerprints in a book, treated me like a
criminal, only because of my heritage.
"I got into an argument with him about that. Do you know
what he told me?
"He agreed that it was prejudiced to single out a minority
that way. But he didn't think the
practice should be abandoned. He thought it should be expanded, so that everyone in
Japan was fingerprinted. His belief was so strong that he requested the same be done to him. For
two days and two nights, he stood motionless outside his superior officer's door in silent,
respectful protest. They finally booked him for insubordination, and in the process they recorded
his fingerprints like he wanted.
"I think his former department sent him to the I.C.P.O. not
because he was highly qualified, but also because they didn't know what else to do with him."
Lei was considering this, when a frosty draft of air raised
goose bumps on the back of his
neck. The cop glanced over his shoulder and saw Sub-Zero.
"Aha! There you are, Wulong," the scientist confirmed,
with a satisfied nod. "I've been
looking all over for you."
"Just a minute, all right?" Lowering his voice, Lei said to
Jun, "Guess I'd better step outside
and see what he wants. I'd better, but I'm not going to unless I know you'll be okay. Will
"I know what he wants. I promised him I'd talk you into
doing it. He seemed to think I could
talk you into anything."
"Did he. Did he really."
"If I asked you to jump off a cliff, would you?"
"With or without a bungee cord?" An amiable half-smile
tugged at the corners of his lips.
The faintest trace of amusement sparkled in her ginger
eyes. "Go ahead. There's something I
have to arrange. I'll tell you about it in the hospital, after he lets you go."
Lei departed the room, closed its door, and confronted
Sub-Zero in the hall. "All right,
Rollins. What do you want?"
"You're not my type."
"Very unbelievably funny. You can be reasonable about
this, or I can freeze you in a block
of ice. There is a host of scientific tests I must run on you, preferably while you are still
"Oh. That's the favor you demanded in exchange for
helping us with our trial? I go back to
being your guinea pig?"
"Yes. And I need to gather the primary data before either
of us gets called on a suicide
"What are you blathering about?"
"Jax and Raven have scheduled a war council with the rest
of us Chosen, the Council of
Elders, and that rescued prophet who's supposed to know how we can save the world. I can tell
you right now that their master plan is going to hinge on a suicide mission. Take my word on
"Uh-huh. Well, all right, you can stick me under a
microscope or whatever. I'm not going to
let you set off my curse, though. Some things are too dangerous to mess with."
"As you wish."
"Say, as long as you'll be puttering around in that lab of
yours, there's something I could use
your help on. Do you think you could get me a prescription for Antabuse?"
"It's a drug that makes you throw up if you drink even a
"I know what disulfiram is. I thought you refused to ingest
medication of any kind."
"Well, I'm getting desperate. The last time I went on a
drinking binge, I got beaten up pretty
bad, and I hurt the kid's feelings even worse. It'd be nice to have a sort of safeguard against that
"You do realize, of course, that disulfiram will not reduce
your physiological or
psychological desires to drink. It will only make you violently ill if you do."
"Hm. Your body chemistry is unusual enough that I'd have
to take extra care with the
dosage. I'll want to watch you for side effects. You'll have to wear a medical monitor at all times.
But first, I must run the tests," Sub-Zero resolved, briskly leading the way to his lab. Lei fell into
step by his side. "I'll try not to keep you past the evening. No promises, though. I need to
complete a more involved analysis of your circulatory system, lymphatic system, nervous system,
endocrine system, musculoskeletal system, digestive system, reproductive-"
"Whoa, there. I said you weren't my type and I meant
Kazuya did not know which thing he hated more - the Shao
Kahn's scathing indictment, or
the amused tone that delivered it. Looking into a mirror that doubled as a window to other
realms, the master sorcerer met his ally's contemptuous sneer with a cold glare of raw
"It is not concluded, as well you know," Kazuya hissed. "I
have succeeded where all your
servants have faltered. I have located Sanctuary. We know where the Chosen Ones are."
FAILED ME. SANCTUARY'S
DOOM WAS IN YOUR GRASP; IT SLIPPED BECAUSE YOU NEGLECTED TO SLAY
ONE MORTAL REAGENT WHEN YOU HAD THE
"Wulong has no place in this discussion! We both know
that Kazama cannot rescue the
Chosen a second time, and that they cannot remain huddled within their minuscule haven
indefinitely. It is only a matter of time before I regain entrance. I request another division of your
troops to destroy them."
AGREEMENT SPECIFIED ONLY ONE
DIVISION. YOU MAY NOT HAVE ANY MORE. IF YOU CANNOT ERADICATE THE
CHOSEN ON YOUR OWN, THEN YOU HAVE BREACHED OUR CONTRACT, AND
MUST FORFEIT THE CONSEQUENCES."
"I do not forfeit so long as there is breath in my
"EXCELLENT! THAT WOULD NOT
ENTERTAIN ME NEARLY AS MUCH. KNOW THIS, KAZUYA MISHIMA: YOU NEED
NOT WASTE YOUR RESOURCES CHASING THE CHOSEN. THEY WILL COME TO
YOU. OR MIGHT I SAY, THEY WILL COME AFTER YOU!"
"On what, precisely, do you base this premise?"
The Shao Kahn's only answer was a rumbling chuckle,
which escalated into booming
laughter. His malevolent presence receded deep into the mirror, until the master sorcerer was
alone inside his inner sanctum.
Kazuya paced in circles. He tried to conjure visions of
Sanctuary in his mirrors, but all he
could see were meaningless scrambled blurs, and all he could hear was white noise. Reptile had
fled the Chosen Ones' last bastion, and without his presence as a beacon and willing reagent,
Kazuya could not see through the cloaking wards.
The master sorcerer's lips briefly parted in an ill-tempered
grimace. He regained his stolid
composure with an act of will. A wave of his hand summoned the portal to his carpeted
antechamber. He stepped through.
Reptile and Bruce Irvin were waiting for him.
Reptile kneeled underneath the heavy chains that bound his
legs together, and shackled his
arms behind him. A golden collar engraved with mystic runes encircled his neck; this artifact
disabled his sorcery, including the Power to shape-shift. No such restraints held Bruce, who
kneeled solely out of deference. Ishida and Kimura kept careful watch over them both. Lee stayed
behind and a little to the side of the quartet, letting the dark room's shadows partially conceal the
terror that wracked him in Kazuya's presence.
The master sorcerer's jet black eyes came to rest on
"You have failed me," Kazuya stated.
The saurian's cloudy third eyelids closed part-way over his
slit-pupiled eyes, perhaps
indicating the same as narrowed eyes suggest of a human.
"Nay, I have ssserved thee
well. Every deed thou didssst
wisssh, I have performed. Thou wissshed me to infiltrate Sssanctuary, and it isss done. Thou
wissshed me to ssslay Chief Thunder and affixsss blame to Wulong, and it isss done. Thou
wissshed me to invite thy army within Sssanctuary, and it isss done. I counssseled, nay, begged
thy permisssion to ssslay the demon reagent Wulong; if thou hadssst but
A flick of Kazuya's finger brought immediate violence.
Ishida and Kimura drew long metal rods, and savagely beat
Reptile about the back and neck.
The saurian's eyes bulged from pain and shock. A final blow from Kimura made him sprawl on his
Kazuya performed an elegant chopping motion with one
hand, and the beating ended.
Reptile exhaled a cross between a groan and a hiss.
"I shall accept no excuses," declared the master sorcerer.
"Be grateful that I am willing to
spare your life. You have created netherworldly devices to carry my servants, and to pierce the
Chosen Ones' cloaking sorcery. I require more of these, as many as you can manufacture."
"Wilt thou honor thy
bargain?" the saurian
"To what, precisely, do you refer?"
"The Rassce isss dead.
Thou mussst recall them from the
Grey Kingdom; that isss why I have ssserved thee!"
"At no time have I made you such a promise, even by
implication. The Shao Kahn has
temporarily granted me your services for the purpose of destroying Sanctuary and its Chosen
Ones. That is all. If you expect something in exchange, you must discuss the matter with
"But the Ssshao Kahn
pledged that thou wouldssst
work the deed in hisss name! Thou art hisss ally of equal ssstanding; thou doessst partake of hisss
Power. Thou mussst posssesss the ability! Ressstore mine kindred to Life, I beg thee! I ssshall
create a thousssand thousssand weaponsss for thy war, if the Rassce may live again. If a few of
the Rassce may live. If a sssingle mate may live!
Kazuya folded his arms. His thick eyebrows hovered flat
above his jet black eyes.
Reptile's third eyelids retreated, as the callous truth became
clear. "Canssst not thou do it? Doessst thou not know how? Doessst thou lack the
Power to fuel sssuch necromansscy...?" He bared his needle-sharp teeth.
"The Chosssen Onesss ssspoke truly! Thou and thine hath
"Watch your tongue."
"The sssame to
With that spiteful uttering, Reptile stretched wide his jaws.
His pink tongue shot out like a
frog's, save that bony spikes protruded from its tip. The deadly member stretched toward
Kazuya's throat, but before it could touch his jugular, the master sorcerer reacted with
superhuman speed. He brought his left arm up, elbow bent so that the forearm was at a forty-five
degree angle to the ground, and stepped back in a guard position.
Reptile's tongue wrapped around Kazuya's arm. Its
bone-shards tore the sleeve of his dress
suit, and scored red rivulets in his flesh. Acidic drool sizzled on his skin.
Ishida and Kimura sprang to action, cracking their metal
rods soundly upon the saurian's
skull. At the same time, the master sorcerer twisted his guard hand and summoned electrical
crackles of indigo Ki to his fist. Reptile's vinegar saliva conducted the shock; his mouth and
tongue went rigid, then slack, and he slumped to the floor underneath Ishida's and Kimura's
The deep green scales of Reptile's head turned the color of
dying grass, below the
bodyguards' relentless assault. Reddish-viridescent blood trickled from the corners of his
"W-wait," Lee hesitantly stammered. "What about Alex?
Maybe he'll help us in return for her
Kazuya repeated the chopping motion. Ishida and Kimura
withdrew. Reptile lay where he
was, eyes closed, tongue spilling out. Small droplets of crimson fluid dripped from Kazuya's left
arm, pooling on the patterned carpet.
"'Alex'?" the master sorcerer repeated.
"Sh-she's an oddity the syndicate captured while it was
smuggling Australian wildlife. An
intelligent lizard, kind of like him."
"Why have I not been previously informed of this
"I-I'm sorry, Mishima-sama. Y-you said you didn't want me
to bother you with the details of
"That shall do," seethed the master sorcerer. "Very well.
You may attempt your tactic to
gain this animal's cooperation. Once you have fully exploited the whole of his talents, kill
Kazuya made a dismissive motion with his right hand.
Ishida and Kimura carried the battered
Reptile out of the antechamber.
The master sorcerer transferred his attention to Bruce.
"You have also failed me."
"Yeah, I know," the kickboxer answered. "Whatever you
gotta dish out, I'm here to eat it."
"You seem resigned."
"Well man, you saved my life. It's yours to take back
whenever you gotta."
The master sorcerer's eyebrows arched. "Go. I shall
contemplate what to do with you."
Bruce silently obeyed.
Kazuya said to Lee, "How many employees does the
syndicate currently have?"
"A-about five hundred."
"How many of those know how to fight?"
"That is far from sufficient."
"B-but weren't you going to get more soldiers from the
Lee flinched from his brother's pernicious glare.
Then Kazuya's shoulders fell just a trifle slack, and he
pressed his bleeding forearm tightly
against his abdomen, directly below the ribs. A bare hint of exhaustion showed through his jet
black eyes. For one, fleeting moment in time, he wasn't a master sorcerer, a tyrannical overlord, or
a murderous Devil. He was just weary.
"Shikata ga arimasen," Kazuya sighed, with a rueful shake
of his head. "I had intended to
hold them in reserve, but it seems we have no choice. Reactivate the Jack-2 production line, and
prepare it for combat. Station them around the syndicate's perimeter, with active
search-and-destroy routines. Ready the syndicate's human soldiers, and give Commander Baek
them. Have the commander's cloak-piercing device maintain a continual lookout."
"Are we going to be attacked?"
"You presume correctly. I have it on sound authority that
the Chosen Ones are coming, and
if they do not bring an army with them, then they are even greater fools than they pretend to be.
Report to me tomorrow at this time, for further instructions."
"And send someone to clean the blood off my carpet."
Jun swept the hospital floor, waiting. She had already
visited the injured, using her healing
Talent to speed recovery and alleviate pain. There weren't that many patients; it had been over a
full day since the attack on Sanctuary, and by now most of the wounded were either healed or
buried. She spared a glance at the insulated door to Sub-Zero's icy laboratory. Just as she looked
away, a distant, muffled crash of breaking glass sounded from its direction.
Jun set the broom against the wall and took a hesitant step
toward the door. Touching its
cool surface, she could hear and feel indistinct mumbles, broken by a sharp-voiced shout.
"Kazuya did WHAT to me!?"
"...only a hypothesis; to confirm it, I'd have to compare
these findings with..."
The rapid, staccato beat of ascending footsteps interrupted
Sub-Zero's low-pitched droning.
Jun hastily took up the broom again, and pretended to be sweeping when Lei flung open the door.
At first he winced from the light; then, with shaking hands, he slipped on his shades. His agitation
lessened a little.
Jun noticed a metal band with a small digital screen around
right wrist. She recognized it as a medical monitor.
The scientist's tranquil voice sounded from the rimed
stairway. "Thank you for your
cooperation; if there is ever anything I can do for you-"
Lei shut the door with a violent SLAM and leaned
against it, tucking his folded arms
beneath his ribs. His head fell forward. His sable hair only partly obscured the abhorrence and
revulsion on his face.
"Um..." Jun nervously bit her lip. "Are you all right?"
"Me? Oh, sure. I'm fine. Better than ever, you could say."
An irate twist of sarcasm flavored
"Don't ask. Look, whatever you wanted to talk about, can
it wait? I need to go to the
Temple of Light, beat someone up, and call it 'teaching.'"
"Okay, I'll go with you. You can teach me."
"Huh? No, wait, I didn't mean-"
"When you faced me in the Iron Fist Tournament, you
threw our fight. You owe me a fair
"Eh, but, that is-"
"Don't pretend that your curse is still a threat. Nightwolf
told me about how he improved the
"I'm not letting you out of this, you know."
"Uh... you're not?"
"I might even be able to teach you a few things. For
example, I think you do have enough
Talent to learn a basic light spell. And haven't you mentioned something about traveling the world
to incorporate new techniques into your Phoenix style? Have you ever studied Aiki Ju Jitsu
"All right, all right. As long as I've got a bungee cord."
"Never mind. Let's go."
Major Jackson Briggs surveyed the private room that he
had selected for the war council.
Six other Chosen Ones lounged on one side; Raven and the Council of Elders were on the other.
In the center, Wang Jinrey waited patiently, hands together so that the sleeves of his loose shirt
touched the circumference of one another.
Wait. Only six other Chosen Ones?
Jax performed a quick tally: Liu Kang, healed from his
brush with death; Kung Lao, having
dry-cleaned his hat; Sonya, with skin grafts along the length of her burned right arm; Stryker,
absently flipping his baton; Kabal, restlessly fidgeting with the belt to his respirator; and
Nightwolf, bearing a stern and somber frown on his face.
"Where the hell is Sub-Zero?" Jax demanded.
"I'll get him," Kung Lao offered. He teleported out in a blip
of distorted space, and
reappeared pulling the scientist by his hand.
"But I was just beginning to collate my data," Sub-Zero
protested. A venomous stare from
Sonya quieted him.
"Nightwolf, did you fix Sanctuary's wards?" Jax asked,
folding his bionic arms.
"With Kung Lao's aid as a test subject, I have
reprogrammed them. They will
now identify and monitor shape-shifters, by continually observing the consciousness patterns of all
living beings in Sanctuary and matching them against-"
"Skip the details. Bottom line: can Kazuya spy on us?"
"He almost certainly cannot."
"Once, I was completely certain. My entrenched
perspective brought about the death of my
Chief." The shaman's head drooped. His long black hair spilled freely over the sides of his face,
for he had vowed not to don his feathered headband until Chief Thunder's murder was
avenged. "However, I did speak to Wulong this morning; he reported that his sleep was sound
and without dreams."
"What do his dreams have to do with anything?"
"Kazuya has been sending him nightmares-of-past-memory
for the past six months. In order
to deliver such visions, he must necessarily be able to focus upon their recipient. That he failed to
send a nightmare is evidence, albeit not proof, that he cannot reach us."
"As an additional precaution, I am concealing us with my
own cloaking spell," Liu Kang
interjected. "We cannot incorporate any more people, though, lest I be pushed past my limit."
"That'll have to be good enough," Jax concluded. "Ladies
and gentlemen, I've gathered you
all here so that our guest only has to tell his story once. Mr. Wang, it's time. Spill it. How do we
save the world?"
Wang bowed his head a slight degree.
"As you know, the Shao Kahn's legions dominate the
entire globe, and their combined total outnumbers us countless thousands to one. We can neither
turn back the invaders nor lift the Kahn's curse with brute force. Our one hope is to banish the
Shao Kahn to the Black Abyss from whence his Entropy came, before he solidifies his grasp on
our world. That is, before he can claim a soul of pure and noble intent. Where the Kahn goes, his
legions must follow.
"The only way to banish the Kahn is by rite of combat; a
new Tournament must be held.
Since the Kahn is in control of this world, the burden of extending the challenge lies on our
shoulders. He will be compelled to respond, but first the challenge must be delivered.
"There are two ways to serve a valid challenge. First, a
challenge may be communicated
face-to-face, in the physical flesh. Since the Kahn is in hiding, we cannot reach him that way. That
leaves us one other means: we must break the power of his ally. To defeat the Kahn's ally is to
challenge the Kahn himself, else he and his collaborator would not be defined as 'allies.' The Shao
Kahn has many slaves and servants, but upon this world he has only one ally in equal standing,
and that is Kazuya Mishima."
"That's it?" Sonya eventually asked. "All we have to do is
beat the tar out of Kazuya?
Where'd you learn this, anyway?"
"Yes, yes, and as to your third question, a man of shadows
told me. Major Briggs identified
him as Noob Saibot."
Her neck stiffened, and her nostrils flared. "I remember
Saibot. He's one of the Shao Kahn's
flunkies. How do you know he wasn't lying?"
"He appeared very sincere, and he did help me
"That proves nothing. If anything, it makes the case
stronger against him. This could easily
be a trap."
"Not necessarily," Kung Lao interposed. "The Shao Kahn
suffers from the eternal ennui that
inevitably plagues all immortals. He's been known to grant his enemies a so-called sporting
chance, just so they're motivated to put up an entertaining struggle. That's the main reason why
he's had me resurrected in the past, and you too, Sonya. Noob Saibot could have helped us on the
Kahn's orders, in hope of staging a good spectacle."
"I still say it smells like a trap."
"The Shao Kahn doesn't have to trap us," Jax pointed out.
"All he needs to do is stall us until
he collects every soul in the world, or one soul of pure and noble intent, and that'll be the end.
And it does sound right; the whole purpose behind Shao Kahn's previous Tournaments was to
gain control of our world through 'rite of combat.' I think it's time we made this 'rite of
combat' work for us, unless you have a better idea."
"Hell, no. I wish I did."
"Next question is, how do we 'break' Kazuya's
"That, the Order of Light can tell you," Liu Kang quietly
answered. "Kazuya is a
soul-stealing necromancer. Only two things may break such a necromancer's power: death, or
honorable single combat. Either of these will free the souls he has imprisoned, and which form the
base of his strength."
Wang nodded. "What I have said about the Kahn also
applies to Kazuya: he cannot refuse a
challenge to single combat, but first the challenge must be made in physical person."
"Screw that," Sonya rebuffed. "I say we kill the
"No, you must not!" the old man urged, pushing both
hands palm out in an earnest gesture
of warning. "Murder is not the answer."
"Did Saibot tell you that?"
"No, but it is something that you Chosen Ones, of all
people, should understand."
"Our platoon just buried twenty-seven good soldiers,
including Sal, who once took a bullet
Kano meant for me. The Nation here lost another sixty-eight warriors and innocent citizens. And
all you can say is 'you should understand'? 'Murder is not the answer'? What do you think
THEY'RE doing to US!?"
"If you follow in the footsteps of your enemy, you shall
become him, and I foresee great
doom upon your souls."
"Oh, yeah? I foresee a fucking Apocalypse if we don't take
our enemies down fast and hard!
Wait, that already happened, didn't it? You don't have a moral leg to stand on, you
"Lieutenant," Jax sharply corrected, and Sonya fell
Jax quickly glanced around the room. Stryker and Kabal
were nodding, in agreement with
Sonya. Nightwolf showed no change in expression. Sub-Zero just looked bored. Liu Kang and
Kung Lao shook their heads.
The major turned to Raven and the Council of Elders, who
were deep in pensive
consideration. "You've been pretty quiet, so far. What do you make of this?"
Raven exchanged a brief, low-pitched inquiry with one of
She faced Jax and questioned, "You have risked your life
rescuing this prisoner who can see
into the future, and now you would choose to ignore his prophecy? No. The wise do not turn deaf
ears to those touched by the gods. By all means, let us crush this necromancer in single combat,
capture him alive, and put him on trial for his crimes.
"Then we will kill him," she resolved, cold vengeance
soaking through her voice. "Slowly.
The major thought it over. Personally, he would rather kill
Kazuya and be done with it; that
would leave much less room for error. On the other hand, Jax could ill afford to alienate either the
Nation or the Order of Light.
"How's this sound: one of us will challenge Kazuya to
single combat. If that person fails, the
rest of us will have to settle for killing Kazuya any way we can."
"In that case, I should be the one to challenge him," Liu
Kang declared, "so that there will be
no doubt of the outcome."
"Do not grow overconfident," Wang reprimanded.
"I am grand champion of the Order of Light. I won Shang
Tsung's Tournament. Kung
Lao had to shape-shift into my body to win the Shao Kahn's Tournament. If I cannot best Kazuya,
no one can."
"You should still beware. Kazuya is a shape-changer,
master sorcerer, and well-trained in
Mishima-style karate. He will not be easy to defeat. Simply reaching him to make the challenge
will be a struggle. He is currently entrenched in his syndicate, which has numerous defenses. Even
if you win past those, know that he has a terrible Power.
"I once promised Kazuya's grandfather that I would never
let the house Mishima fall to
dishonor. When I learned of the evil Kazuya had wrought, I confronted him. We battled. In the
midst of our struggle, he bound me in a sorcerous web that strangled my breath. When I awoke in
his prison, he had his underlings pluck out my eyes."
"Jun Kazama has told us of his death-web. It cannot be as
strong as you fear, else he would
have used it to assassinate me by now. Perhaps Kazuya can smother one small mortal, but I am a
were-dragon. Let him try to bind the jaws and coils of my dragon form. Let him try to stifle my
fiery breath. Just let him try."
Nightwolf added, "Kazuya's death-web can target only one
person at a time, and it demands
a massive amount of Power. It could take him days to recover the strength he spent attempting to
bind Jun. He would not be able to cast the death-web at all save for the necromantic grid he has
woven into his syndicate. All who perish there - and many brave people have done so - lose their
souls to his snare. It fuels his speed, strength, endurance, and Power well beyond mortal
"Is there any way we can short out this grid?" Jax
"If we were to take possession of even a piece of his
syndicate, it would reduce his hold over
the enslaved souls - not enough to break his power, but definitely enough to weaken him, and
presumably enough to disable his death-web. He has lost his army of mutants and Centaurians to
his failed invasion; the question is, how soon will he replenish his forces, and with what?"
"The faster we move, the less time he'll have to
"Qué diferencia hace?" Kabal retorted. "All we
need to do is take Jun y su diablo
with us. Ellos pueden destruir al sindicato-" He made a cutting motion across his throat. "-just like
they killed the invaders."
"Brilliant idea," Sonya snorted. "Why don't we drop an
A-bomb while we're at it?"
"Qué es tu problema?"
"You really think it's gonna be that easy?" Stryker snapped.
"And I'm Little Miss Muffet!"
"My turn to answer," said Kung Lao. "Jun used the Power
of Unmaking. It's not a force
mortals are meant to have. Not many have the potential, and fewer still ever dare to do it. The
Power of Unmaking comes at a price, levied sometime in the future, that can be paid only once.
The exact nature of the price varies with the extent of the Power, and maybe other things too. I've
never heard of anyone Unmaking as many as ten thousand living creatures before. Jun has
mortgaged something costly to repay her miracle; whatever it is, she doesn't have the rights to it
anymore. If she tried the Power of Unmaking again, she would fail, and the effort would kill
"Told you it wasn't gonna be that easy," Stryker
"I trust Liu Kang's and Kung Lao's ability to gauge a
person's Talent," Jax continued. "They
tell me that no one else in Sanctuary can duplicate what Kazama did, and that Kazama could not
have saved us without Wulong's help as a deceptively powerful reagent. The good news is that
Wulong can magnify the strength of our other spells."
"Provided that the mage who joins forces with him is
prepared to suffer," Liu Kang returned.
"To fuse one's Talent with Wulong's potential is to feel what it is like not to have a soul. It is
difficult enough to stay sane during such torture, let alone work complex sorcery."
"Probably, for at least a little while. I pray this is a
"Looks like we have enough to make a plan. It starts like
this: we march on Kazuya's
syndicate with every soldier our platoon can muster, and take it away from him. Raven, will the
Nation's warriors march with us?"
"Do you have to ask? Need I remind you that Kazuya
Mishima controlled the assassin who
murdered our Chief Thunder, and the army that ravaged our home? We will join you, we will
break this cowardly warlock, and we will make him pay for his crimes!"
"You have our gratitude. Now, here's the tricky part: while
our forces take over the
syndicate, Liu Kang will sneak inside under the protection of his cloaking magic, find Kazuya, and
challenge him to single combat."
"You forget," Nightwolf rumbled. "Kazuya's syndicate has
a device that sees through
"Regular strength cloaking sorcery, sure. But Liu Kang is
Sanctuary's most powerful mage.
If he combines his Talent with Sanctuary's most powerful reagent-"
"No," Liu Kang interrupted, holding up one index finger in
pointed denial. "Not Wulong.
You cannot mean Wulong. Anyone but Wulong!"
"I knew you'd send him on a suicide mission," Sub-Zero
sighed. "You didn't have to
drag me out of my lab to tell me that."
<Wake up, please. Talk
to me. You must know the True
The words were soft, with the undertone of a subdued
growl, and punctuated with sharp
clicks. Something was unfamiliar about their intonation, making them hard to recognize. Perhaps
it was the urgent thread of concern that permeated them.
Reptile's eyes opened a sliver. His vision wavered; black
streaks partly obscured it. His head
hurt terribly. He could taste his own blood in his mouth.
I?> he croaked. He tried
to sit up. The effort made him giddy and sick. Clawed, scaly fingers gently held him in place. His
forehead felt like someone was driving a nail through it.
<Lie still. You have
been hurt. But please talk to me;
are you? I thought my tribe was the last of our kind, yet you are too old to have hatched after I
was taken prisoner.>
Through the blur and the haze, Reptile saw her.
She was so much like him, and yet not the same. Her snout
was longer and broader,
resembling the proportions of a crocodile more than an iguana. Her forelimbs were smaller and
weaker, and her hind limbs were digitigrade instead of plantigrade, with knife-sized toe claws and
backward-jutting spikes on her upraised heels. He'd never seen anything quite like her mottled
green-and-black coloration. And her slit-pupiled eyes were vivid yellow instead of red.
<I am Rrreeyowwla, of
hunters,> she said. <These ape-mortals
me 'Alex.'> Now he understood why her inflection
was so odd; her tongue was far too short, perhaps no more than quadruple the length of an
ape-mortal's. Her speech had more growling than hissing.
<I am not certain even
you could pronounce my name;
your tongue would have to be at least an armspan longer.> His voice was a
shallow echo of its usual self. Speaking made his jaw sore, and increased the pain in his head, but
he was desperate to share and learn more. <I am called
among those with short tongues.>
<Where are you
<An island so vast, it takes
many moons of hard running
to cross from coast to coast. We
have stories that, a great many lifespans ago, it was part of a far vaster landmass, upon which the
<It can't be. You -
you're from the Lost Continent!>
<Lost no longer, for the
ape-mortals have conquered most of it for their own. My tribe
hides from them; they are so many, and we are so few, that we could never survive a
conflict. Yet when a band of them approached, I could not flee, for I had a clutch of eggs to
protect. I tried to lead them away from my nest. They stung me with a sleeping-venom, and I have
been here ever since. My children must be dead, without a mother to keep them warm. I have
tried and tried to escape, but their explosive sticks are always faster than I
<I am from the Mother
Continent. My tribe made its home in the tropical jungle. An evil
demon murdered them all, and I have served the ape-mortals who imprisoned you in the hope that
they could bring my kindred back from death. I was deceived. But you - you are alive! A whole
tribe of you is alive! Where are they now? Did they survive the
<All I know is that
something horrible has happened to the world. I can feel it. Whether
my tribe was able to hide from it or not, I do not know.>
Reptile's teeth locked in a remorseful clench. <The Shao
Kahn's curse. It has frozen nearly everyone in green fire, and it takes their souls one by one. Only
the Chosen can bring an end to the nightmare, and I have just done my best to destroy them! In
my grief and madness, I have worked great destruction. If only there were some way to undo
what I have done...>
The black spots in front of his eyes were getting larger, and
his head pounded so greatly he
could scarcely think. Disconnected numbness settled upon him, starting with his fingers and toes,
and swiftly worked its way up. <Listen to me! Not all
ape-mortals are evil. A small number of them fight against the darkness that engulfs our world.
You must... you must help them if you can...>
<Are you all right?
Your voice is so faint I can barely hear you.>
Alex whistled anxiously. Reptile's hand was turning stiff. The already pale scales of his face
drained to an even lighter shade of green.
<Talk to me! Aren't you
healing? Don't all wounds heal
in the space of a sleep-cycle since the great evil came?>
Reptile did not answer. His breathing dipped to a shallow,
ragged rasp, and finally ceased.
Alex glared angrily at the silver-haired ape-mortal who had
brought Reptile to her cage. He
studied her with mild curiosity. Two seemingly identical ape-mortals stood at attention behind
Silver-Hair removed a smoldering white stick from his
mouth and exhaled murky grey
clouds. "So, you do understand our language. I wondered."
"No talk! Dying, he is!
Silver-Hair tilted his head, and the lines of short fur above
his eyes moved so close they
almost touched. "Ishida, Kimura, do as she says."
"Is Wulong in my home?" Liu Kang's face settled in a dour
mask as he approached the
Temple of Light. He sounded as if he referred to a brood of cockroaches.
"His medical monitor tracks him here. His heart rate and
breathing are up, as consistent with
vigorous exercise," Sub-Zero confirmed, checking the pocket computer in his hand. "Now
can I go back to my lab?"
Jax gave a terse nod and climbed the temple's steps,
followed by Liu Kang and Wang Jinrey.
Voices drifted from inside.
"All right, all right, I give up! You can let me go now!"
Wang smiled a little, recognizing
Jun's spirited outcry.
"Why should I?"
"Heh. You should be more polite to your elders."
"You're my 'elder' by only four little years!"
"Ah, but I've got the liver of a forty-year-old, you know."
Wang sensed the azure-black
essence of Lei Wulong's life-force pinning down the white flare of Jun Kazama's. The cop's legs
ran crosswise over her neck and waist; he'd trapped her left arm in a bar, with his hands securely
gripping her wrist and locking her elbow between his partially bent knees.
"Hanashite kudasaimasen ka?" Jun resignedly pleaded.
"Well, since you ask so nicely..." Lei released her wrist and
turned a backwards somersault
into a quick rise to his feet.
"How exactly are you doing this?" she asked, rubbing her
sore elbow. "You see me try a
technique once, then you turn around and use it on me like you've practiced it for years."
"Physio-eidetic memory. Sort of. It doesn't always work
like I want, and eight years of heavy
drinking didn't help it any. I have to concentrate a lot. Guess you're pretty easy to concentrate
on." Lei winked at her, playfully.
She smiled back, then turned her head when she noticed
Liu Kang, Jax, and...
"Uncle Wang!" she delightedly exclaimed.
"It has been a long time, my child," the old man replied,
returning her welcoming embrace.
"Hey. How come you get to call her 'kid' and I don't?" Lei
"Age has its privileges."
Jun clasped her hands and began, "Were you the prisoner
whom Nightwolf and Jax set out
Alarm flooded her countenance, as she became aware of
his scarred face and empty
eyesockets. "Masaka! Oji-san no mei ga nai! Who did this to you?"
"Kazuya. It is a long story."
"I'm... I'm so sorry. I wish I could restore your sight."
"Do not feel bad. I am well, and grateful to have my
Liu Kang cleared his throat and addressed Lei. The folds
about the monk's tawny eyes
crinkled with distaste. "I require your assistance to infiltrate the Mishima syndicate."
"Do you. Do you really."
"Unfortunately. If there were any other option, I would
"Nightwolf is the only other mage in Sanctuary with the
Power to conceal," Jax said. "But
we'll need him to cover the rest of us with his projectile ward, especially if the Mishima syndicate
is packing any kind of firepower." The major explained his plan, and what he needed Lei to
"Hang on, I've got a score of my own to settle with
Kazuya," Lei interrupted, looking fixedly
at Liu Kang. "What makes you think I shouldn't be the one to challenge him?"
"You have tried to battle Kazuya before, and failed
"Kazuya's curse transforms you into a mindless demon
when you are struck on the chest.
You have not kept yourself in peak physical condition. You are an alcoholic. You-"
"All right, all right, I get it already!"
"So, will you serve as my reagent? Say that you refuse.
Please say that you refuse."
"Yeah, well, no matter what you tell me, I feel like doing
the opposite. Count me in."
"And me," Jun chimed in.
"Huh? Oh, no. No. No, Jun. No," Lei stressed, shaking his
head. "There is absolutely no
"What if one of you gets hurt? You'll need a healer. What if
you run into a locked door?
You'll need someone to unlock it. And I do know my way around the syndicate. It was my home
for several years."
"Look, this time I have an actual line of reasoning,
Lei loosely flipped his hand,
producing a deck of playing cards in a flash of azure light. He mixed them up in a Hindu shuffle,
removing the lower bulk of the cards with his left hand, letting the remainder drop into his right
palm, slipping the bulk in his right upper fingers, and repeating the process.
"Maybe you don't remember, but I've been told that the
Shao Kahn wants a pure soul. Once
he gets his greedy paws on that, it's all over. The world is doomed." Without hesitating to
look at the cards, he plucked out the Jack of Clubs and showed it to her. "My soul obviously
doesn't fit the bill, since the bad guys already have it." He returned the Jack of Clubs to the deck,
and selected the King of Spades. "Liu Kang's doesn't either, trust me on this."
"I beg your pardon?" said the monk.
"But you, Jun..." Lei momentarily held up the Queen of
Hearts. He returned the card and cut
the deck with one hand, letting it fall into two pieces with one piece slipping atop the other. "Let
me put it this way: when I was your reagent, I saw what you're like on the inside." His right hand
held the deck about its edges, with enough finger pressure to give it a convex curve, and spread
the cards face up in an overlapping line, from the tips of his left fingers to his elbow.
She looked away, uncomfortably. "I'm not as 'pure' as you
"Close enough. I can't bear- I mean, we can't afford to risk
letting you fall into the hands of
the bad guys. We really can't." He raised his left arm with an even lift, gently tossing the cards into
the air. In a smoothly continuous motion, he turned his body to the left, gathering the midair
spread back into a single deck, which vanished in another flare of azure.
"If your mission fails for want of my help, then we're all
"Major, tell her she can't go. It would make me breathe a
Jax appraised Jun thoughtfully, then looked to Wang and
said, "You're the one who can see
the future. What do you predict?"
The old man held himself very still. His head gradually
turned, as if trying to pinpoint a
At last he said, in a reedy voice, "If she is weak, she will
your failure. If she is strong, she will increase your chances of success. Major Briggs, will
you allow me to test her? Withhold your final judgement until you see her performance."
Wang faced Jun and dropped back into a guard stance,
raising his withered hands to shield
his head and torso.
"My child, you have long studied the art of combat. I must
now challenge you to show us
what you have learned. Let the outcome determine the path you travel. Wulong, Kang, Major
Briggs, please stay clear." Lei raised an eyebrow and folded both arms behind his back. Jax and
Liu Kang stepped aside.
"Oji-san, you are blind," Jun objected, shaking her head.
"This is not a fair test."
"Indeed it is not - for you. Have you forgotten who taught
you to sense the essence of a
Wang darted forward with the speed of a hummingbird.
Taken off-guard by his initiative,
Jun reacted with the pose of the stork, turning sideways on her right leg, lifting her left knee at a
low angle, and snapping out her left fist. He dipped low at the waist, evading her strike. Wang
slipped his left arm behind her back and his right arm around her thigh, using both holds to lift and
carry her above his head. He let her fall on his other side. She rolled with the throw, tumbling
head over heels as she hit the ground. After the second somersault, she regained enough control
over her momentum to plant her hands firmly on the Temple's stone floor, and flip to her feet. She
spun back to Wang, who waited for her a few dozen meters away, with his hands hidden
underneath the circumference of his touching sleeves.
"If that is the best you can do, my child, then I am sorely
"Oh, yeah? I'LL SHOW YOU!" Jun shouted, wrath
twisting her face in an angry pout. She
sprinted toward him at her top speed.
The old man gathered his Chi in a blue-white flare about
right hand. He lifted his left arm and leg, priming his focus to strike her just as she ran into range.
With split-second timing, he lunged forward, bowing his head and swinging his charged hand in an
arc, down to up-
-only she had already stopped an instant before he expected
her to, thrusting out her soul
barrier to greet him instead. Flashes of her Ki outlined his impact, as the wall of force sent an
electrical shock through his body.
"Oh-ahh!" he wheezed, staggering back.
"I know you think poorly of overconfidence, Uncle," Jun
said. Her face no longer appeared
furious, merely stoic and reflecting her concentration. "You dislike it so much that even the
illusion of it prompts you to act rashly, in return."
Jax furrowed his brow. "A feint? Who taught Jun to be
Lei shrugged, lifting both eyebrows in the perfect
appearance of innocence.
Wang crossed his wrists in front of himself. A blue-white
star shimmered on his clenched
hands; it burst against Jun's soul barrier, breaking it apart in a rainbow shower of sparks. "Your
magic has become stronger, and that is good, but you must not rely upon it too much. The
Mishima syndicate lies in a barren wasteland, where you cannot draw upon the biosphere to
sustain your power."
"Wakarimasu yo." With her body turned to the side, Jun
stepped closer and kicked low to
Wang's shin. The old man seemed not to block her attack so much as glide in response, using his
left hand to guide her limb off-kilter. His right hand built momentum in a half-circle curve that
culminated with both hands thrust in the pit of her stomach.
"Aah!" She lost her balance, and fell on her back. Wang
moved to kick her while she was
down, spinning on his left leg as he scuffed her hip with the heel of his right. She rolled to the
side, just out of range of his second low kick, then gathered herself in a backward somersault and
stood up. Lingering pain in her abdomen made her lean forward, and her right hip ached, but
Wang did not give her the chance to cast healing magic on herself. He pressed his advantage,
stepping forward into a bent-kneed, sideways stance so that the set of his legs resembled a square.
At the same time, he pushed out with his right fist, and his inner strength erupted from his
clenched fingers in a fountain of blue-white Chi.
Jun anticipated the attack, and moved to deflect it with her
outer forearm, but she was
unprepared for its full strength. It was far too easy to forget that this seemingly frail, supposedly
feeble old man was a master at finding and exploiting weaknesses. She was forced a step back,
then transformed her shifting balance into a full clockwise spin, and whipped her right leg in a
Wang shouted, "Hah!"
-because he'd seen it coming a mile off, of course, she
should have known better than
to try such a slow move at close quarters, but there was no time to berate herself now. He'd
caught her kick in one hand, and used the other to undermine her pivoted leg. With a simple,
straight-armed twist, he whisked both legs in a corkscrew wrench, dumping her back on the
ground. Instead of rolling, she opted for the speed of an in-place kippup, rocking back on her
hands and springing to her feet. Her hip protested the cost, and her stomach was still tender,
constricting her posture. She bet that he would target one of her two weak spots, and she was
The old man squatted and sprang, channeling his vigor into
his bent left arm, but just as his
hand neared her waist, she sidestepped. Now, when he was overextended, was her best chance.
Jun grasped his arm firmly, wrenching it around and back in a clockwise curve. She expected to
either lock his arm or force him to tumble in reaction. Indeed, he did start to pitch forward, but as
he did so he hooked his left leg in a swiping reverse kick that smacked his heel hard against her
right shin. Wang landed heavily on his back, but she had to let go of his arm and drop to one
knee. She hobbled away as he rolled to his feet. Between her smarting hip and her tingling shin,
her right leg was proving less and less useful.
Jun searched for a good tactic to use against him.
The problem was, he had sixty years more
experience than she did, and he knew her style. He had trained with her and taught her much,
back when she lived in the syndicate, and again when she sought his help in preparing herself for
the Iron Fist Tournament. She could slip past his guard on rare occasions, or possibly trade
attacks, but she had never defeated him before. Though Kazuya had blinded him, he could still
"see" her as clearly as ever, because he was receptive to the glow of her life-force. Wang had been
right; this test truly was weighed in her disfavor.
What to do?
Well, if he were anyone else, she'd wait for the right
opportunity to dazzle him with a flash
of light. She'd gotten very good at that spell, especially since coming to Sanctuary. But of course,
that trick wouldn't work on a blind man...
If this test lasted too long, his skill would almost certainly
get the better of her. Perhaps in
another five or ten years of training it would be different, but for now, her best chance was to end
this quickly. Committing herself to the gamble, she huddled in a crouch and summoned her Ki -
but instead of channeling it out in a brilliant burst, she concentrated it within herself, forcing all
the strength she could muster into a supremely intense inner ball.
"Ah!" Wang cried.
She knew her ploy had worked because his stance wavered
uncertainly, and he retreated two
steps. He would recover in another second, but for now she had her edge. She twirled about,
evading his literally blind lunge to where she had been. This time she had all the opportunity she
needed to swing her left leg in a circle, and course her gathered Ki through it as she sharply
dropped her heel against his face. The impact wrenched him in a sideways midair spin; he slapped
the floor face-first, still rolling, but clearly stunned.
She saw blood streaming from his broken nose, and felt
"That's enough," Jax declared. "Jun, what did you do to
"Um, just a moment, okay? Oji-san, I'm so sorry. Please let
me help you." It took only a few
moments for her healing power to undo the damage she had done, as well as the damage he had
done to her.
"No need for apology," Wang reassured, when he had
regained his senses. "I am proud of
you, my child.
"Major, she knew that I relied, perhaps too heavily, on my
sensitivity to her life-force. She
concentrated her inner essence into a shining burst, which affected me much as a bright flash of
external light could affect you. I shall have to be more wary in the future."
"Your skill is admirable, Jinrey," Liu Kang noted. "I would
greatly appreciate it if you could
spare the time to familiarize me with what you know of Kazuya's fighting style, tactics, and
anything else of possible use."
"Before you start that project," Jax said to Liu Kang, "tell
me: would it be a problem if you
had to cloak yourself and two other people, instead of just one?"
"It should make relatively little difference. I have no
particular objections or endorsements to
"Wulong, are you still against the idea?"
Jun brushed aside her sweat-streaked bangs and asked,
"Did I pass the test? I don't
understand. The only way I could beat him was with a couple tricks that won't work twice."
Lei slipped off his shades and thoughtfully assessed her
with his mahogany eyes. "Aw, did
you think you were being tested just for how good you can fight? Sure, that's important, but Kang
here is the one who has to take on Kazuya.
"Our job is infiltration. It's the sort of thing where you have
to think fast on your feet, and
come up with quick solutions to dangerous problems. Don't knock the tricks; they may work only
once, but it's not like we're going to get a second chance. Besides, you're right. It would be handy
to have someone who can heal, unlock deadbolts, and best of all, who knows the syndicate like
the back of her hand."
"Um, six years ago. They may have made some changes by
"We'll worry about that when we get to it. In the meantime,
why don't you start sketching
out some floor plans for us, okay? Also guard schedules, primary and alternate escape routs,
we'll compare all of it with what I remember and what Wang knows later."
"All right. I'll start work on it during your meeting."
"I have a meeting? Who am I supposed to meet?"
"Sanctuary's support group for people who've had
problems with drinking. That's what I
wanted to tell you about. It's okay, I've cleared everything with them. They're expecting
"Oh. Yeah, I guess I did. While I was sober, even."
Lee disliked Doctor Boskonovitch.
Bitter disgust gathered in his mouth and gut whenever he
saw the pale, balding little mole of
a man, eyes peering wide as they could through thick-rimmed coke-bottle glasses. It wasn't a
personal antipathy, nor was it strong enough to make Lee want to hurt the helpless wretch. It was
just that Lee would far sooner deal with someone who hated and wanted to kill him than someone
who lived in terror of him.
Well, not him specifically; Boskonovitch was petrified of
Mishima syndicate and everyone in it, ever since Kazuya had kidnapped and enslaved him. The
syndicate put Boskonovitch's genius in multiple scientific fields to good use, forcing the frightened
doctor to design and produce a private militia of sophisticated androids - the Jack-2 model.
Crap. Why the hell did Kazuya take such pride in making
people fear him, anyway? Fear
could make other people do what you wanted them to, but it couldn't make them want to be with
you. It pushed people away, leaving you more alone than you've ever been, except for a brother
who despised you, a father who ignored you, and a syndicate full of killers and slaves to boss
"Nan da?" Lee mumbled, realizing the doctor had said
"I-I'm sorry, young master. I can't help this creature. It's
whimpered, in that quivering voice with a trace of Russian accent. His beady eyes flicked
nervously from Lee to Alex to Reptile's body.
"What? How!? He looked stable enough a little while ago,
and injuries are supposed to heal
"rrrrrRRRRR..." Alex growled.
"I'd need an autopsy to be certain, but from what I see, he
has undergone severe head
trauma. There are fractures on his skull. I suspect he suffered a stroke. If a clot, broken blood
vessel, or other damage blocked the supply of oxygen to his brain for even a few minutes,
then he could have died before he had the chance to heal. I-I'm very sorry, young master-"
screamed. The doctor backed against the door to her cage, hitching up the collar of his white lab
coat as though he wanted to burrow underneath it. If Lee or his bodyguards had been inside
Alex's cell, she would have attacked them, but the doctor was the only ape-mortal in her reach, so
she lunged at him instead. Her deadly fore talons touched his throat-
"Don't or you'll never see your children again!" Lee
Alex hissed and swiveled her long-jawed head toward the
silver-haired devil. "My childrrren dead. You killed!"
"I don't think so. We did find a nest of giant lizard eggs
close to where we caught you; I just
didn't know they were yours. The syndicate artificially incubated them until they hatched. Your
babies are sleeping with all the others, dreaming of the New Era."
She made a skeptical clicking noise. "You
killed!" she repeated, but this time she indicated Reptile's body with a flick of her
head and tail.
"Actually, they killed him for Kazuya." Lee jerked a thumb
over his shoulder at Ishida and
Kimura. "The guy under your claws had nothing to do with it. He's just a slave. Now let him
Alex squinted at the doctor. He had fainted, his eyes rolling
up as far as they could go. If she
slashed now, she could kill him before Ishida's and Kimura's tranquilizer darts stopped her...
Not all ape-mortals are
She took a step back from her prey, who slumped
unconscious on the floor. The prick of a
sharp needle, followed by inevitable dizziness, were more short steps on her own road to
"I hate... this
parrrt..." she growled,
Lei hesitated before the well-lit doorway to the spacious
meeting hall, until Jun reminded
him to don his shades. The majority of people present were citizens of the Nation, though he
spotted a few who appeared to be from Sonya's platoon.
"I hope it goes well for you," Jun told him with a kind
"Eh? Aren't you staying?"
"That wouldn't be right. It's only for people who've had
problems with a dependency on
alcohol. I've never had any desire to drink since I was sixteen. Besides, I'm sure Hawk will be glad
to show you around, won't you Hawk?"
Her line of sight reached high above Lei's left shoulder. He
warily followed it, craning his
neck all the way back, until he achieved eye contact with the human Colossus.
"It would be an honor," T. Hawk confirmed.
"Uh... it would?" Lei mumbled, adjusting his shades above
the bridge of his nose.
"You enabled the miracle that saved Sanctuary."
"I have done you ill. Nightwolf and the Council of Elders
have convicted me of unjustly
bringing you harm on two occasions. My penance is also twofold. First, I apologize to you. It was
wrong of me to do what I did, and I plead your forgiveness."
"Eh, whatever. What's the second part?"
"What would you?"
"I am to grant you a boon. Name any gift or task within my
power, and it will be done."
"Really? Anything? Anything at all?"
"So long as it is in my power, in accordance with the laws
of Sanctuary, and not unduly
life-threatening. I am obligated to obey your wish, no matter how laborious, humiliating, or-"
"How about showing me your style?"
"When we squared off in the bar, you took on a stance like
this." Lei mimicked what he had
seen, bending his arms at right angles and suspending them at shoulder level, fingers pointed
forward and palms facing the ground. His hands weaved in small circles as he stepped lightly on
the balls of his feet. "I've never seen anything like that before, ever. Is it how Indians
"It is how I wrestle."
"Well, whatever it is, maybe I could incorporate parts of it
into my Phoenix style. At the
very least, I have to know how to defend against it. You literally wiped the floor with me."
"You were drunk at the time."
Lei made a brushing-off motion. "Eh, I wish I could
remember more of your techniques, but
it's kind of fuzzy, seeing as how I was on the receiving end of them. Why don't you get
back to me after this meeting or whatever is over, and we'll compare notes, okay?"
"As you wish."
Lei nodded, clasped his arms behind his back, and noticed
that most of the other people in
the room were seated. The meeting was about to start.
"Uh..." Rubbing the building crick in his neck, he looked
back up at the towering wrestler.
"Please don't take this the wrong way, but I think you'd better go. Jun said this group was
supposed to be only for, well, people like me, who've managed to screw up their lives and
everyone in them going from one drink to the next..."
"...so I'll meet you at the Temple of Light later and- wait a
minute. No." Lei slowly lifted a
quizzical index finger, pointing to the wrestler. "You?"
"No freaking kidding?"
"It is part of why I hated you so much at first sight. You
embodied that which I most despise
in myself. My actions remain inexcusable."
"You were hooked on the stuff? And you've managed to
"Yes to both."
"One day at a time, Wulong. One day at a time."
End of Chapter 16: Mourning
END OF PART III: DESTRUCTION