ASHES OF THE PHOENIX
written by Victar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Victar's Archive: http://www.victarfanfics.com
Chapter 25: Phoenix Rising
"Two beings did rise from the ashes of the Phoenix. They
were the first two firebirds. All firebirds which are or were are their children. So, love breeds its
own immortality. All things considered, that's the sort of immortality I'd rather
-Tabbe le Fauve, Xanadu:
Far away from the Mishima syndicate, on the other side of
the world, Shang Tsung smiled.
Moments ago, Kazuya's will had reduced the demon
sorcerer's divinations to static, but now
the mystic view focused clearly upon Kazuya's inner sanctum. Mirror-shards covered the
riveted metal floor, adrift in an endless sea of darkness. In the center of it all were the motionless
bodies of Kazuya Mishima and Lei Wulong.
Shang Tsung's smile extended into an unnaturally wide,
"Victory is ours," the demon sorcerer pronounced,
Heihachi Mishima, who had been pacing like a caged tiger,
turned toward the portal
and froze with shock. "No...!"
"I should offer you my condolences on the death of your
son," Shang Tsung suggested, evil
enthusiasm flaring in his empty white eyes. "I should, but unfortunately, I have none to give. Do
allow me to thank you for your charitable hospitality, however. I've so enjoyed my stay!"
Heihachi shook his head in denial. "No. This cannot be.
This is wrong!"
The elder Mishima's powerful hands clenched; sizzling
crackles of indigo Ki curled up and
down his arms. Slowly, he raised his lightning-creased left fist until it was on level with his chin.
"I should have been the one to kill Kazuya. It should have been I!"
"Well, if you wanted to be teleported there, why didn't you
just say so?"
Even as he voiced the wrathful cry, the elder Mishima
struck. His iron fingers locked around
Shang Tsung's neck, squeezed, and lifted the demon high off the ground.
"I thought you didn't want to get involved," Shang Tsung
mused, still grinning, and speaking
without difficulty despite the pressure on his windpipe. "Isn't that why you meekly consented to
sit back and observe, day after day, while the Chosen Ones and their friends did all the work?
You, who can shed tears over the death of an animal, but not for the demise of your own flesh
and blood? Really, now."
"KOROSHITE-YARU!" Heihachi roared, slamming Shang
Tsung against the nearest wall.
Yet the demon sorcerer never flinched, never showed any hint of pain or discomfort.
"No, I don't think so," Shang Tsung sweetly replied. "You
can't hurt me, and you definitely
can't kill me, because I'm not really here."
When he said this, his physical form seemed to dissolve
into smears of darkness, as did the
vision he had conjured. Heihachi lashed out with his right fist, yet the evil thing parted
before it like nighttime fog. Heihachi's knuckles struck and split upon the hard surface beyond; his
Ki radiated from the point of contact, sending destructive fractures throughout the wooden wall.
Sharp splinters dug into his skin, tearing bloody ribbons on his damaged hand.
"Sayonara, Heihachi-kun." Shang Tsung's echoing laughter
filled the remote mountain
shrine, until the elder Mishima's furious scream drowned it out.
A relaxing warmth basked Jun's feet.
As it traveled up to her face, she also felt the gentle touch
of weathered hands on either side
of her head, and the soothing balm of healing Power. Her eyes opened; brilliant luminescence
made her blink and squirm.
"Be at peace, my child," Wang Jinrey reassured, letting go
of her face. "It was not our intent
to startle you. You have, thankfully, suffered no more than a few mild burns and a minor
concussion. How do you feel?"
"I'm... confused," she murmured, shading her eyes. The
radiance in front of them resolved
into a vermillion, salamander-like creature dancing lazy figure-eight patterns in midair. Its eyes
shined like twin searchlights.
"What...? No, wait. I remember you. You helped us in the
sewers," she said to the lissome
Lamp-eft. She held out her hand; it wriggled lightly against her fingertips, and rolled over.
Liu Kang's voice, serene yet with an undertone of
indignation, sounded from her right.
"Jinrey, are you certain you prefer that specific creature's assistance? Could Kung Lao not have
summoned a seeing-eye dog to guide you?"
The blind man smiled. "A trained canine would lack certain
qualities that I find useful."
"The ability to test your patience." The Lamp-eft fixed its
searchlight eyes on the monk, and
its head bobbed. Jun could have sworn it was laughing at him.
"I'm okay now," she said, repressing a broad grin rather
than risk hurting the monk's
feelings. "What happened? Where is everyone? We did win, didn't we?"
The smile disappeared from Wang's face. "Yes, we have
won, but at great cost. Half our
army lies slain, and I know that you count many of the fallen among your friends. I am
"However, we have gained thousands of reinforcements,"
Liu Kang added. "Major Briggs
and Lieutenant Blade are currently holding a dialogue with them. It seems that the overwhelming
majority are willing to join our cause. In fact, Jinrey and I are free to check upon you because
many of our new allies are skilled not only in fighting, but also healing, sorcerous or otherwise.
The last of our wounded have been cured or stabilized; all that remains is to bury our dead."
Something about that somber pronouncement cut to the
core of Jun's heart, as though
she had been touched by a chilling specter of ice.
She sat bolt upright. "Oh, no! I remember - Lee was hurt,
you have to help him, quickly!
He..." She trailed off as Liu Kang slowly shook his head. "What is it?"
"I am truly sorry," Wang apologized, in a sad, hushed
whisper. "More so than I can express
"Why are you talking like this?" Jun glanced first to the
blind man, then to the monk. Liu
Kang's tawny eyes briefly met hers; he looked away, uncomfortably. She followed his line of sight,
and her breath caught in her throat.
"Oh, no," she repeated, hoarsely. "No..."
They had draped a plain white cloth over Lee's body. The
fabric had a wrinkle in its length,
enough to expose his left hand. In a stunned, numb haze, Jun kneeled next to him and touched his
wrist. His skin was cool, and stiff from rigor mortis. There was no pulse.
Deep inside her, something broke.
Lee Chaolan had been her close friend since childhood, her
fiancé for an arranged
marriage, and on one occasion, her lover. Six years ago, when his possessive temperament had
intimidated her so much she could not think straight, she had run away from him in confusion and
fear. When they met again, he had abandoned her to die, and less than a few hours past she had
been strongly tempted to let him perish in turn. Yet he had also saved her life, and in the end,
come to the rescue of the Forces of Light, in full knowledge of what it would cost him.
"He... he knew this would happen," she recalled, stricken
and shaking with grief. Tears
formed in her eyes, trickling down her face and onto the white sheet. "It's why he wouldn't help
us, at first. H-he knew that no matter what the outcome, he'd... he'd..."
She wasn't completely aware of the uncontrollable sobs
that wracked her body; it was all an
incognizant blur of bitter pain and heartache, until she gradually came to her senses. Wang Jinrey
was holding her, as he used to when she was very little. He didn't say anything; he just let her cry
in his arms, until she could cry no more.
Discomfort rattled Liu Kang's composure. He hesitated on
words for a long time, then
swallowed and ventured to say, "Chaolan shall be interred with the highest honors."
"No," she denied, pulling away from Wang and rubbing her
red-rimmed eyes. "Lay him to
rest in one of the mass graves."
"Are you certain?"
She nodded, sniffling. "Lee never cared about status or
ceremony. But he always... he
always hated to be alone." Wang Jinrey inclined his head in agreement.
"As you wish. What would you for Wulong?"
"What do you mean?"
The monk's eyebrows shot up in mild bafflement. "Did you
"Know what? Where is Lei?"
He bit his lower lip, a most un-monastic gesture. "Ah,
Kazama, you have weathered a great
deal. Perhaps you should rest a little more-"
"Where is Lei?" she insisted, her muscles
constricting with tension.
"You may as well explain," Wang advised. "There is
nothing to be gained by stalling."
Liu Kang cleared his throat. "We assume it was Wulong
who challenged Kazuya to single
combat and defeated him. Surely, you must have sensed it when Kazuya struggled to keep hold of
the souls he had enslaved, even after his Power had been broken. The effort killed him. In effect,
he committed suicide."
"I know," Jun confirmed. "I felt what happened. It
triggered Lee's death-link; I tried to save
him, but..." A shudder took her, and she almost succumbed to the inner pain again, yet she
managed to steady herself and blink back the tears. "What does any of this have to do with Lei?
Where is he?"
"Where is he?"
"Sub-Zero and Kung Lao are still trying to open the portal
to Kazuya's inner sanctum."
"Okay, so he's trapped there until we can get him
"No, Kazama. He is also dead."
"What?" Color drained from her face. It was too much, too
many shocks to take in all at
once. "You don't know that! How can you say such a thing?"
"When Kazuya cursed Wulong, he placed a death-link in
Wulong's body, even as he had
done to Chaolan." The monk furrowed his brow. "Did you genuinely not know? Was this not the
true reason why you pleaded with us to spare Kazuya's life?"
"Lei is not dead!" she shouted, springing to her
feet. "You're wrong, you have to be!
"You're WRONG!" she screamed, shoving past him and
sprinting down the syndicate's
corridor, in a frantic race to Kazuya's antechamber. Liu Kang started to move after her, but
Wang's wizened hand restrained him with surprising strength.
"Let her go," the blind man requested, somberly. "She
needs to make the journey alone. We
shall follow, but at a walk." The Lamp-eft hovered above his head; its eyes flickered as if in
recognition of the turmoil around it.
"I do not understand," Liu Kang uncertainly muttered. "If
this was not the reason, then why
did you and she both predict disaster, in the event that we should slay Kazuya?"
Their celebration is quiet and informal. Upon the roof of
skyscraper, the three of them enjoy a toast to their envisioned success.
Shang Tsung, relaxed and refreshed from his extended
vacation, leans back in his ornate
guest chair and sips a crystalline glass of chilled white wine. He seethes with evil and self-serving
deceit, yet he is in the presence of the one being on the Earth that makes his foulness dim by
comparison. For across from him, in a tall throne ornamented with human skulls, sits the Shao
He is the force of Entropy personified, the living
embodiment of the evil that has overrun the
Earth. The very air about him shimmers and warps, breaking down to its lesser components. Time
itself seems brought to a standstill, as if those in his physical presence are adrift in a waking
For reasons beyond my current knowledge, the Kahn's
manifested form resembles that of a
mortal, albeit one of towering, muscular stature. Ten feet tall is he, able to look down upon a fully
grown Centaurian. He wears little save his sparse battle dress: spiked wrist guards and shoulder
pads, an X-shaped chest harness, a belt with a two-flap loincloth of interlocking plates, and
greaves with recurving metal points at knee level. These armaments leave much of the skin on his
chest, arms, and thighs exposed, yet those who have fought him know that his hide is easily as
durable as any metal alloy - or should I say, "knew," for precious few have faced the Kahn in
combat and lived to tell the tale.
Today, the Shao Kahn has chosen to distinguish himself
with an additional garment - a
floor-length, dull maroon cloak with a grey hem. A stray howl of wind makes the cape sway as if
it were a living thing. As for the Shao Kahn's face, that is the one aspect I cannot describe, for it is
always hidden behind his horned mask of cast iron. The mask's front resembles the upper half of a
human skull; a ribbed fringe of armor curves across its back. Only the Kahn's mouth and chin are
visible, unless you count his eyes. They lurk deep beneath the indented eyesockets of his metallic
skull-face, burning like hungry crimson flames yearning to endlessly consume all there is. The
Kahn acknowledges but does not partake of food or drink, for such victuals offer little sustenance
The third member of this gathering is seated between the
other two, with the voracious
manifestation of Entropy to her left and its single most loathsome minion to her right. Like Shang
Tsung, she holds a glass of white wine; unlike him, she does not drink it.
She is a tall mortal, though nowhere approaching the
stature of the Shao Kahn. She
possesses an innate poise that sets her apart from her dining companions, as does the distant,
almost nebulous expression on her face. Upward-slanting black marks sharply accent her silver
eyes, stretching from their outer corners to the base of her forehead. Ebony earrings in the shape
of downward-pointing isosceles triangles adorn either side of her head. Her hair, grey with a thick
streak of jet black distinguishing its center, is so long that it spills over the back of her chair and
touches the floor. She wears a leotard of smooth, satin-like fabric, dyed Tyrian purple. The
leotard has a sharp division from the neckline to nearly the midriff, emphasizing her supple
cleavage. Matching, shin-length stockings and inconspicuous wrist guards complete the ensemble.
Her fingernails are extravagantly long, and painted black. Her lips, also painted black, form a
She is Sindel, the Shao Kahn's evil queen. Once, she ruled
the Outworld by his side; now,
ten thousand years after her untimely death, Shang Tsung's necromancy has caused her to be
reborn upon the Earth. She is not only the Shao Kahn's perfect complement, but also his greatest
prize, and the critical key to his conquest. For in absence of a victory earned through the rite of
challenge, it is only through marriage to her that the Kahn may circumvent the Cosmic Furies, and
tread the Earth at all.
Something about Sindel's presence - no, about her very
existence - is a puzzle to me. It is a
contradiction I cannot isolate, and so I place the amorphous worry at the back of my mind.
Noob Saibot is also there, albeit close to invisible against
the darkness that covers the sky
and drapes the land. The formless shadow-man silently serves food and drink to his masters, at
once both guarding them from harm and attending to their every whim. I have heard rumors that
Saibot's true allegiance may be to another, even more mysterious being, but I have no proof to
offer, especially in light of his unblemished loyalty to the Shao Kahn.
"A toast," Shang Tsung proclaims, lifting his wine glass.
"To our conquest of the Earth."
Sindel rings her goblet lightly against his. The corners of the Shao Kahn's lips turn up in a
"INDEED," the Kahn says,
with a self-satisfied inflection to his booming, echoing voice. "AT FIRST, SORCERER, I HAD DOUBTS ABOUT YOUR PLAN. I EXPECTED IT
TO FAIL ME, AS YOU HAVE FAILED ME TWICE BEFORE. BUT YOUR SUCCESS HAS
CONSIDERABLY LENGTHENED YOUR LIFESPAN, AND INCREASED THE POWER I
GRANT TO YOU."
"My only wish is to serve you, Master."
The Shao Kahn's smile broadens. He knows a lie when he
As do I.
I am Raiden, and though my status may have been reduced
from god of Thunder to a lowly
mortal, my bravery has increased. I know not why. Perhaps it is the writing of this chronicle that
has changed me; for one by one, I have seen the Chosen Ones and their allies risk all, and
sometimes even lose all, for the greater good. Even their mortal enemy, Kazuya Mishima, dared
to gamble his soul in pursuit of what he thought was right. Perhaps being confronted with such
stalwart courage time and again has had an enduring effect upon me.
Or perhaps the loss of my godly wisdom has made me an
No matter. The time for pondering and reflection from
above has ended. At long last, the
hour has come for me to forsake the celestial planes, and walk upon the Mother Realm once
more. So it is that I choose to materialize in front of the evil gathering, disrupting their premature
festivity with a loud thump of my wooden staff against the building roof. An hour ago, the
necromantic wards about their territory would have prevented me from approaching them at all,
but that was before Kazuya's defeat spelled out a challenge to the Kahn's Power.
I do not summon a supernatural rainstorm to embellish my
appearance because my voice is
now a mortal voice, capable of being overwhelmed by wind and water. And perhaps also because,
newfound bravery or no, I am cautious enough to conserve my Power in the presence of beings
such as these.
"Shao Kahn!" I charge,
pointing to him with my staff. "My Chosen Ones and their confederates have broken the Power of Kazuya
Mishima, your ally of equal standing! This act is in and of itself a direct challenge to your
authority. You must now name the time and setting of the rite of combat!"
The Shao Kahn laughs long and hard.
TOO LATE, O PATHETIC
FORMER GODLING," he scoffs. "OUR PLAN HAS BEEN
SUCCESSFUL. I HAVE WHAT I NEED. THE EARTH IS
"No," I calmly counter.
mistaken. I know, for I have deduced the workings of your secret plan.
"All this time, you have craved only one thing to secure
your grip upon this realm: a
pure soul. Specifically, a soul of pure and noble intent. All this time, you have had your eye upon
one such soul, and you have been waiting to gain total control over it.
"Your problem was that the purer a soul is, the more
difficult it is to take. You cannot
simply steal a truly unblemished soul. This is why you did not bother to have your servants
directly attack the healer Jun Kazama; pure though she was, it is doubtful that you could have
extracted what you need from her. No, there is only one, sure way for you to acquire a pure soul,
and that is if its owner freely and willingly relinquishes it to you through contract.
"You were never after Kazama's soul. You wanted the soul
of Kazuya Mishima.
"Evil we may call him, and evil his deeds may have been.
Yet upon knowing the true
purpose of his Plan, none can deny that his intentions were as pure and noble as humanly possible,
even as they paved his road to Hell. This is why you deigned to bargain with him, required him to
exterminate your enemies, and forged a contract that granted you unconditional ownership of his
soul, in the event that he should perish with his task unfinished.
"Then, you settled in to enjoy the show. You thought that
either Kazuya would destroy the
Chosen Ones, thus eliminating the sole threat to your rule, or else he would be destroyed, and you
would gain inalienable title to the pure soul you craved. Hoping for the latter outcome, you sent
your servant Noob Saibot to indirectly aid the Chosen Ones. But no matter how events played
out, you expected to be greatly entertained."
ENTERTAINED I HAVE BEEN. YET
NOW, THE AMUSEMENT IS CONCLUDED. MY RULE ON EARTH IS SUPREME, AND
BEYOND ALL CONTENTION."
"You are wrong, evil one. It was
your expectation that the Chosen
Ones would slay Kazuya, making him a martyr for his cause. That did not happen! No one
murdered Kazuya; he killed himself. And he did so out of no pure aim, for once his Power was
broken, the truly noble response would have been to submit to the Chosen Ones' justice, or even
assist in their crusade against you.
"No, Kazuya committed suicide for one reason only:
revenge. Revenge against Lee Chaolan,
who betrayed him, and Lei Wulong, who defeated him. Kazuya had death-linked their lives to his
own, and he deliberately exacted a blood price for their heroism.
"You may have Kazuya's soul, but it will avail you not, for
it is pure no more. It has been
tainted through an intentional act of supreme selfishness! And now that a challenge has been
given, you must face my Chosen Ones in a new Tournament!"
The Shao Kahn stares at me.
I can feel his malice, contempt, and loathing like a tangible
force. He rises. I almost quail
before him, yet I manage to steel myself.
CHALLENGE OF YOUR CHOSEN
ONES MEANS NOTHING TO ME, NOR DO YOU. AND THERE IS NOTHING THAT
WILL SAVE YOU NOW, WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN SO WITLESS AS TO WANDER
WITHIN MY TERRITORY UNPREPARED!"
With a cold tremor of fear, I realize that a direct
confrontation may not have been the
wisest possible tactic on my part. I try to teleport away and cannot; the Shao Kahn's will
seals me within his domain. My only remaining option is to raise my staff, but I know it will not be
enough. The Shao Kahn alone is a being of immense power, a foe capable of annihilating whole
worlds. With the aid of Shang Tsung, Sindel, Noob Saibot, and as many other servants as he
chooses to summon, he has me at his mercy. I grit my teeth, prepared to go down fighting-
*Stop,* commands a beautiful,
terrible voice from behind me. The Shao Kahn stiffens. Shang Tsung's eyes grow wide. Noob
Saibot abruptly merges with the shadows and vanishes from view.
I need not turn around to know that the Angel is with me. I
do not know whether to be
relieved or more frightened than ever.
Sindel lets go of her wineglass. It shatters into pieces by
"I - I know you," she confesses to the Angel. Her voice
trembles with fear, which is only to
be expected, but also anguish, and a yearning, as if for something dear that has been lost. "You
came for me. You took me away... where? When...?"
Confusion engulfs Sindel. She begins to shake.
Then the Shao Kahn clasps her shoulder in an immovable grip, and her tremors cease. The tumult
in her eyes slowly ebbs away, until they revert to callous silver pools once more. The smile returns
to her black-painted lips, although now, I can see how artificial and rigidly forced it is.
correct,* the Angel tells
the Shao Kahn, her cold
words wrapping all who hear her in a blanket of ice. *The soul
you have gained through contract has become insufficiently pure to award you what you crave.
Furthermore, the challenge has been given. You must answer it in seven days, and in the
meantime, you may not harm the ones who have issued it.*
"AND IF I
REFUSE? I AM NO MORTAL
NECROMANCER, NOR IS MY POWER BOUND BY THEIR TRIFLING
*No, but you are bound
by the same Laws that restrict
me. Though you may stretch them, distort them, and pervert them past all recognition, I shall not
permit you to break them!*
CANNOT THREATEN ME, O ANGEL
OF DEATH, FOR YOU ARE A PART OF ME. YOU ARE MERELY ONE STEP IN THE
MANY PHASES OF DISSOLUTION, OF ENTROPY, AS ALL LIVING BEINGS RETURN
TO THE DUST FROM WHENCE THEY CAME."
*Mayhap so, but I am
the step that kills. Though your
essence may be Immortal, your manifested shell is not!*
I hear a sound like the musical ringing of chimes. Turning,
I see the azure gemstone in the
Angel's brow change color to gold. Mindful of what is to come, I dive out of her way, even as a
brilliant javelin of light leaps from her forehead to strike the Kahn in an explosive electrical storm.
Again, I try to escape via teleportation, and this time I succeed. The Shao Kahn's roar of
frustration follows me, as does the Angel's final pronouncement.
*A new Tournament shall be held for
the fate of
the Mother Realm, in spite of your best attempts to prevent it.*
Now that I had ventured to the Earth's surface, my status
as a mortal prevented me from
returning to the heavens. And so, I transported myself to Kazuya's antechamber, where Sub-Zero
and Kung Lao were still trying to open the portal to the sorcerer's inner sanctum. Jun clasped her
hands together tightly, her eyes closed in silent prayer - I hoped she was not praying to me.
Second Lieutenant Sparky was also there. He awkwardly tried to comfort the healer.
"I came as soon as I heard about Lei," the soldier
explained, tugging nervously on the cuffs
of his uniform. "For what it's worth, I don't wanna believe it either..."
He trailed off upon noticing me. One by one, the others
turned their heads and stared. I
explained why I had come, and delivered my message of hope. They listened in silence, then
continued to stare. Long seconds passed. Still, they stared.
As a mortal, I have known courage and fear, anger and
grief. This was my first taste of
"For what do you wait? A new
Tournament comes in seven days,
and you must prepare for it at once!"
Sub-Zero tapped the keys of his hand-held computer. "So
you're a mortal now, hm? Not
necessarily an ordinary one, though, judging by these readouts. Would you object terribly to a few
routine tests? Nothing too extensive, I'd just like to enact a brief scientific analysis of your new
circulatory system, lymphatic system, nervous system, endocrine system, musculoskeletal-"
"To hell with that," Sparky snorted. "This ex-deity has got
a lot of questions to answer,
starting with what he and his friends were doing when the Shao Kahn conquered the Earth! So
Raiden, you tell me this. What kind of gods are you all supposed to be if you can't even protect
your own damn worshipers!?"
"Calm down, and be polite. God or mortal, we need him on
our side," Kung Lao chided,
frowning at Sparky. "Raiden, on behalf of the Order of Light, could you please help us with this
"There is no time," I
refused, with a shake of my head. "We must-"
"Make time." The command came not from Kung Lao, but
rather his Shaolin brother Liu
Kang, as he entered the antechamber along with Wang Jinrey and the Lamp-eft. "Wulong fought
and perished bravely for our cause. We shall not leave his mortal remains to rot in some nameless
"Not to mention Kazuya," Sub-Zero commented. "I've
never had the opportunity to dissect a
true shape-shifter before. After all this save-the-world mess is over and done with, Kazuya will
make a tremendous contribution to Science. In the meantime, I'd like to preserve his anatomy in
Ice, and the sooner we get to him, the better condition his cadaver will be in."
"What?" Wang demanded, with utter
"Well, it's not like they're going to let me have Wulong,
now is it? We skua gulls have to
make do with whatever we can scavenge."
Jun had been silent so far, but she could hold back her
emotions no longer. In a burst of
agitation, she cried, "Stop talking like that! Lei isn't dead, you're all just assuming he is and you're
"Raiden, please tell them," she implored, turning to me. "If
you've been watching us
all this time, then you know Lei didn't really have a death-link, did he? He's still alive, isn't he?
I gazed upon her face, and saw my own, albescent eyes
reflected in her tears. I had no words
with which to answer her. And so I responded the only way I could - by concentrating my
diminished Power upon prying open the portal to Kazuya's inner sanctum.
The work was difficult, and taxing. It would have been
impossible if Kazuya were still alive
to contest my efforts. Fifteen minutes passed, as a small, crackling blur of indigo light gradually
coalesced into an oval-shaped door between dimensions. Jun did not wait a moment longer than
she had to; as soon as it grew to the width of her slender waist, she dived headfirst within the
She landed on the floor of an alien, self-contained realm.
Darkness surrounded her, until the
Lamp-eft wriggled through the portal and swept the vicinity with its searchlight eyes. Jun slowly
turned about, taking in the cold, lonely place.
Broken mirror-shards and a spattering of blood littered the
riveted metal floor, the borders
of which dropped away to empty darkness. Kazuya's lifeless husk formed the centerpiece to the
grisly mosaic. The sorcerer's features were frozen in a final, twisted grimace of hatred and
Lei Wulong's inert form was nearby. The cop lay curled on
his side. Dull red bloodstains
matted his hair, skin, and torn clothing. His eyes were closed, and his face was peaceful, without
In an eerie, haunting way, the surrounding expanse of
broken glass was strongly reminiscent
of Lei's former "safehouse," in the sewers. Jun remembered something Lei had once said, about
how part of him had been convinced he would die there. She'd thought she had taken him away
from that dank, miserable burrow of despair forever, yet here was its very facsimile. The notion
that he could have survived so much, fought so hard, only to succumb full circle was too horrible
for her to bear.
"Lei?" she ventured, timidly. "Can you hear me? We've
come to rescue you."
She crouched next to him, and called upon her Power to
heal. Though she still felt inwardly
fatigued, her recent rest had replenished enough of her strength to repair his broken bones, and
seal the cuts in his skin.
When she was done, she used her arms to support his
upper body. His
head and neck lolled back, loosely, until she adjusted her hold to compensate. She could feel the
lingering warmth of his skin on her fingertips. She brushed aside the ash-grey lock in his sable
bangs, and the Lamp-eft's searchlight eyes peered down upon his face.
The midnight badge was gone from his forehead. He had
freed his soul from Kazuya's curse.
"You did it, Lei," she whispered. "You won. We won.
You can wake up now. Oki-nasai."
He did not respond.
"No. No, it can't be." Renewed trickles of moisture formed
in her eyes. Refracted light from
the Lamp-eft turned her tears into minute, sparkling gemstones. "Lei, you h-have to wake
By then, the portal had grown wide enough for the others
to slip through. Sub-Zero
approached, and scanned the premises with his microcomputer.
"What are you reading on Lei?" Kung Lao asked the
"This is odd. Wulong's medical monitor isn't reporting any
heartbeat or respiration, but his
body temperature hasn't cooled. Rigor mortis should also have set in by now, not to mention
dependent lividity, as has happened to Kazuya. I don't understand. Clinically speaking, he's
"I'll explain later. Jun? Jun!" The healer didn't seem to hear
him; her head was down, and her
shoulders shook with sobs as she cradled Lei's upper body close to herself. "Listen to me. Don't
try to use artificial resuscitation or cardiac massage, but see if you can revive him with, uh... what
is the opposite of a sleep spell, anyway?"
Liu Kang seized Kung Lao's shoulder in a dragon's-claw
grip and hissed, "You shall be
"She is having a difficult enough time accepting this as it is.
Do not exacerbate her
"-he could be-"
"I said quiet, else I shall hurt you!"
Kung Lao glowered at his Shaolin brother, then turned to
Wang and requested, "Can't you
talk some sense into him?"
The blind man merely held up one hand, indicating
"I love you, Lei," Jun whispered, through the tears.
It was then that the miracle happened.
I suppose I should have known. Lei Wulong's totem is that
of the fiery Phoenix, which
returns to Life from its own ashes. If I had been a god, I would not have been surprised to see him
open his mahogany eyes, and answer the healer with the groggy, yet sincere declaration of
"Wô ài nî."
As a mere mortal, however, I must report that I was so
startled I dropped my staff. Liu
Kang took a step back. Sparky's eyes bulged. A broad smile appeared on Wang's face. Kung Lao
displayed a matching grin. Jun held Lei tight within her arms, and wept fresh tears of joy.
Only Sub-Zero remained as dispassionate as ever. "Excuse
me, Wulong. I don't want to
intrude on your reunion, but would you mind explaining how you survived being clinically dead
for over an hour?"
"Huh?" Lei mumbled, blearily.
"It's an old trick," Kung Lao offered.
Sub-Zero shot him a quizzical look. "'Old trick'? His heart
and lungs were stopped!"
"Not stopped. Just slowed a whole lot. Lei once showed
me how to suspend one's bodily
functions in various stages of hibernation, although I've never been as good at it as he is. My
guess is, Kazuya's death-link was killing him. His only chance was to trick the spell into thinking
he was already dead, and hope that would make it burn itself out. The problem with going into
that deep a trance is, well, it's not always easy to get back out. Right, Lei?"
"Huh?" Lei mumbled, blearily.
"You knew this all along, didn't you?" Sparky charged of
The younger monk pushed the razor-edged brim of his hat
all the way up, fully exposing his
cheerful face. "I did mention it to you once. Is it my fault you've never seen Lei play dead
"...not sure I'm playing," the cop murmured, weakly
clasping the healer's hand, and looking
deep within her ginger eyes. "I love you, Jun. And if this isn't heaven, I don't know what is."
More has happened since then. Much more.
The Tournament was indeed held for the fate of the Earth.
All the Chosen Ones participated,
as did some allies, and many enemies. In the brutal battles and web of events that unfolded, I
learned the answer to one final puzzle - what it was that had troubled me about Queen
Truly evil beings cannot be resurrected or reborn after a
certain amount of time has passed.
Definitely not after ten thousand years, for their souls vanish into the Black Abyss, and are never
again seen upon the known planes of existence. So, how could Shang Tsung resurrect the Shao
Kahn's malevolent queen?
The answer is that Sindel was never innately evil; she was
merely under the Shao Kahn's
control. Once, ten thousand years ago, she had been wife to a king called Jerrod, and the mother
of twin girls, whom she named Kitana and Jade. She ruled a fruitful land called Edenia, until the
black day when the Shao Kahn conquered her realm, murdered her king, and claimed her as his
queen. Under the Kahn's rule, Edenia degenerated into the corrupt wasteland of Outworld. As for
Sindel, she escaped into the embrace of Death - or tried to escape, for Shang Tsung's necromancy
denied her soul its rightful place in the Paradise.
It was in the Tournament that Sindel's true identity came to
light. Her daughter, Princess
Kitana, was one of many to compete; with Kung Lao's aid, Kitana gained a reunion with her
long-lost mother. At first, it seemed as though nothing could override the Shao Kahn's
enslavement of Sindel's mind, but then the Shao Kahn took Kung Lao's life. In tragedy came the
seeds of salvation, for when Sindel saw her daughter's grief over the one person she might have
grown to love, it reawakened the hurtful memory of losing her own husband, ten thousand years
Ironically, it was Sindel - the very being who had enabled
the Shao Kahn to invade the Earth
- who championed the Forces of Light, and ultimately won the Tournament. She turned upon the
Kahn, overthrew him, and banished him to the ends of Time. And where the Kahn went, his
legions of minions were compelled to follow. Even Shang Tsung could not escape. Though
perhaps Noob Saibot may have successfully fled to the shadowy realm of his other master; I can
The Shao Kahn's defeat restored Life to Edenia and the
Earth. Both worlds became green
again. All the souls Shao Kahn had enslaved, including the soul of Kazuya Mishima, were set free
to meet their fates. All the surviving human beings who had been frozen in green fire returned to
their normal lives; among these were the general of an army base Jax and Sonya had once tried to
warn, and the patrons of a seedy Hong Kong bar where Wulong's demonic curse had first
There was, however, a certain amount of consternation
caused by the deaths of nearly a fifth
of the world's population. Scholars, philosophers, and theologians alike noted that most of those
who perished tended to be greedy at best, outright criminals at worst, and selfish in general. Many
conflicting theories were proposed as to why the human race had been so culled.
As for myself, the Angel has reinstated my godhood. So it
is with the insight of a divine
being that I now conclude my tale. Begun as a dismal chronicle of the death of a world, it has
evolved into a tome of eternal hope; for it describes how a handful of mortals made it possible for
the Earth itself to rise anew, resurrected as if from the ashes of the Phoenix.
Epilogue: End of the Beginning
This narrative has come to a close.
And yet, as I look upon its pages,
I see something missing. For all the brave people who rescued the world and survived, life goes
on. I would be remiss in my duty as a recordkeeper if I did not pause to mention what has since
become of them.
After winning their war to save the Earth, Jax and Sonya
formed the Outworld Investigation
Agency, or OIA. Aided by Sparky, Catsclaw, Paco, and many other loyal soldiers too numerous
to name, they used science to breech the interdimensional pathways, and led myriad successful
missions to explore new worlds.
The masked man known as Kabal blended seamlessly into a
stealthy new life upon the city
streets. He was once a criminal servant of the Black Dragons ganglord Kano; now, he fights a
private war to serve justice. It was Kabal who tracked down Kano, took him captive, and turned
him over to the United States police. As of this writing, Kano's trial has lasted six months and
counting, been broadcasted upon innumerable networks, spawned two dozen related books, and
cost American taxpayers at least 1.5 million dollars.
Kurtis Stryker returned to his city of origin. Though the
chaos that had run rampant during
the invasion was gone, and the city's surviving inhabitants had been saved, all his coworkers and
closest friends were dead. He felt like a stranger in his own home. Finally, he petitioned the
OIA to enlist him; Jax and Sonya welcomed his addition.
Sub-Zero held a conference with Doctor Boskonovitch
concerning the revival of
Boskonovitch's daughter, who remained preserved in cryogenic suspension until such a time as a
cure for her sickness could be found. Yet I presume their results were unsuccessful, for the
daughter still sleeps. As for Sub-Zero, he had a great many enemies from his former Lin Kuei clan
to elude, but he did so with the help of a guardian spirit who watched over him, and a cybernetic
friend with a human soul. To this day, Sub-Zero engages in the zealous pursuit of his beloved
Science, and it is his technical genius that supports the OIA in its bold explorations.
In the wake of the loss of Chief Thunder and Raven,
Nightwolf was elected as the new
leader of Sanctuary. He now governs it with a firm and just hand. Even after the Apocalypse
ended, the majority of Sanctuary's citizens chose to stay within their new nation-state, to which
America's President conceded autonomy when he realized that no one could enter it without first
being invited inside. Thunderbolt became Nightwolf's apprentice, both in matters of sorcery and
matters of state.
Other inhabitants of Sanctuary left to seek their destinies
elsewhere. T. Hawk pursued, and
eventually helped to win a crusade against the mad dictator who had stolen his tribe's land. Wolf
dreamed of being called to serve the cause of Good; following his vision, he entangled himself in
the complex weavings of another underground fighting tournament. Michelle Chang's mother,
who had been imprisoned among the sleepers in the Mishima syndicate, retired to her desert
home, where she could grieve in peace for her lost daughter.
Liu Kang also grieved, over the death of his Shaolin
brother Kung Lao. He did not know
what to do, or how to run the Order of Light by himself. Kung Lao had always been the one who
kept Liu Kang's temper in check, who had the wisdom and patience to train new initiates. Liu
Kang was at a loss for ideas, when Seung Mina made a suggestion. Acting upon it, the monk
traveled across the world, until he found Wang Jinrey paying his respects to the grave of his old
friend, Jinpachi Mishima. Liu Kang beseeched the blind man's guidance. Ever since, Wang has
been training Liu Kang to be a teacher, even as Liu Kang trains his students. The Temple of Light
remains within the haven of Sanctuary; Liu Kang has not forgotten the massacre that all but
eradicated the Order of Light, and he knows that Sanctuary is as well-protected against such
attacks as any land can conceivably be.
The saurian Alex returned with her children to her
Australian home, where her tribe
continues its peaceful existence. Curiously enough, though, at least one world the OIA has
explored possesses intelligent saurian inhabitants akin to Alex and the late Reptile. There is even
some evidence that a few saurians survive within Edenia. But neither Queen Sindel, Princess
Kitana, nor Princess Jade have confirmed or denied the rumors floating about their rejuvenated
Heihachi Mishima reclaimed ownership of the Mishima
syndicate, and had it transported
brick by brick back to Japan. He shed never a single tear over the loss of his sons, Kazuya and
Lee. His private corporate empire thrives, and always manages to appear clean and law-abiding on
the surface. Beneath the surface is another matter, but Heihachi has never been successfully
prosecuted for his crimes - yet.
And Lei and Jun?
Six months after the Apocalypse, Lei brought the woman
he loved, and who loved him, to a
special clearing in Sanctuary's wilderness. Here, seemingly a lifetime ago, she had hoped to
introduce him to the creatures of Nature that were her friends. The animals had shied away then,
but now they approached him freely, though he appeared leery of Nightwolf's lupine
spirit-brother, and nonplussed when a squirrel started digging through his hair.
"Um," Lei nervously muttered, realizing that he had no idea
how to broach his intended
subject. "Uh, thanks for coming with me, I wanted to - eh, can you call off your little bushy-tailed
friend here before I go bald?"
She extended her delicate hand. The squirrel scampered up
the length of her arm, and
perched on her shoulder. She looked at Lei with light and love in her ginger eyes, and nodded for
him to continue.
"Uh, where was I? Oh yeah. I, eh, that is, I was going to,
er..." He sucked in his breath, and
renewed his determination to complete a sentence. "Iwantedtodothismonthsago,
it'sjustthatIwasstillgettingusedtobeingsober, is all."
"It's all right," she reassured. "You've been doing fine.
You'll get accustomed to building a
new life without drinking."
"Eh, that's just it," he conceded, willing his jittery vocal
chords to slow down, even if his
heart continued to pound at a breakneck pace. "I needed a little time to prove to myself, and you,
that I can do it. But it's been six months since I had a drink, and the Earth hasn't swallowed me
yet, so I... I want to offer this to you."
His legs shook a little as he eased onto one knee. He pulled
a small velvet box from his
pocket, and opened it with trembling hands. Inside was a polished gold ring, ornamented with a
Jun looked at it for a long time, then at him. Adoration
filled her eyes as she accepted the
velvet box. "Lei, I..."
"Wait," he cautioned, holding up his hand. "Before you
make your decision, there's
something you should know about me."
"Lei, I love you," she answered, and simply hearing those
words helped to alleviate his
anxiety. "I don't care what's in your past."
"I've already told most of it to you anyway. This is
something different." He sighed, and
absently ran one hand through his sable hair. "It, eh, concerns raising a family."
She nodded, waiting for him to continue.
"I think I've heard you mention that you would like to have
children someday, and, well, if
that's going to be with me, you deserve to know that I'm, eh..."
"Are you sterile?" she prompted, when he seemed to have
stalled. Her question held neither
accusation nor disappointment, only gentle concern.
"I used to be. It's kind of embarrassing." Lei shook his
head. "I don't know for certain if I
was born that way, or if the drinking did it. For a good piece of my life, I thought it was great,
because I never had to worry about getting anyone pregnant. The crazy thing is..."
He paused to clear his throat. "Let me put it this way. You
already know that Kazuya altered
my physical body. Gave me night vision, toughened my bones and all that. Even though I broke
his curse and won back my soul, a lot of what he did to me was permanent. Well, there was one
other change that I've never told you before. I didn't know for completely certain myself, until
Sub-Zero got hold of Kazuya's cadaver and confirmed a genetic match."
Lei took a deep breath.
"Kazuya cured my sterility. Don't ask me how; I guess he
used sorcery. Don't ask me why,
either. Maybe because he really did think of me as his brother, I don't know. The short version is
that I can have kids, they just won't be mine - genetically, I mean. They'll be descended from the
"I love you, Jun, and more than anything else in the world,
I want to spend the rest of my life
with you. But if... if you don't want this, if you want to look for someone else to settle down with,
I... I'll understand. I just... just had to tell you..."
Jun raised her delicate index finger to Lei's lips. He fell
"Would you like to have a child?" she asked, solemnly.
He swallowed hard. "Uh, actually, I... I guess I would, at
She slipped the diamond ring on the third finger of her left
hand. The precious stone caught
and reflected sunlight in mesmerizing, rainbow shimmer, yet its elegance was nothing compared to
the smile that graced her beautiful face. And the tender feel of her arms around his neck, the touch
of her lips upon his - these were the most wonderful things in the world.
"I'm keeping my last name," she whispered in his ear.
End of Chapter 25: Phoenix Rising
END OF PART V: SALVATION