written by Victar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Victar's Archive: http://www.victarfanfics.com
Chapter 13: Unlikely Alliances
"Extremists who know when to stop are a rare breed.
These men know how to insert the knife right through the heart of one opponent, and then invite
all the others to dinner."
-Thomas L. Friedman, From
Beirut to Jerusalem
AUDIO TRANSCRIPT: psionic verification session
Re: interview of Anna Williams
Mishima syndicate files H28001-EF
Mishima syndicate phonic records tag 12440-GH
December 6, 2017
KAZAMA: This is Jin Kazama, acting vice-president of the Mishima syndicate speaking. With me
is my grandfather, syndicate President and CEO Heihachi Mishima. Grandfather, would you
please make a statement to-
MISHIMA: Forget the formalities. What is taking them so long? Where is the woman?
K: Ishida and Kimura should arrive with her any... minute now...
K: ...that can't be Anna... or any of our people... who...?
M: Quiet. They are coming.
K: That... that has to be Anna. Grandfather, please-
M: What is it?
K: Just - please be patient with her. She saved my father's life once, and I - I think he hurt her.
Badly. Her outrage and misery are so strong-
M: That will work to your advantage. If she is in turmoil, then she will not be capable of
concealing treacherous thoughts.
ISHIDA & KIMURA: Glory to Mishima-sama!
ANNA WILLIAMS: Let me go, you brutes! Get me out of this thing! Release me, or Allah will
curse you with His divine vengeance! LET ME-
W: In Allah's holy name-!
K: I'm not-
W: You spawn of SATAN!
K: -Kazuya Mishima, I'm his-
W: I'LL SEND YOU BACK TO HELL!
tearing noise, outcries
K: -son Jin Kazama.
I: Hey! That hurt, you oversexed slu-
KIMURA: Hush, cousin.
W: LET ME OUT OF THIS THING!
M: Your restraints are for your protection, Miss Williams. You will remain bound until you
convince me that you are not a danger to yourself or others.
W: Aren't you dead?
M: Do not test my patience.
W: Why shouldn't I?
M: Because you owe me.
W: I do not!
M: On the contrary, Miss Williams. For over twenty years, the Mishima syndicate has expended
considerable resources to preserve you and your half-sister in coldsleep. I could have dismantled
cryogenic unit Alpha at any time, knowing that the shock of an unmoderated thaw would most
likely kill you both. Yet I did not. Instead, I sustained your hibernation, in the hope of one day
obtaining the means to safely awaken you. Now that the two of you are revived, Nina Williams
has repaid me with betrayal. She has slaughtered hundreds of my soldiers, and cost me a fortune
W: H-... hundreds of people? My sister killed...?
K: Not of her own will. The Toshin possessed her-
W: I wasn't asking you!
M: Miss Williams, I can afford a measure of tolerance for your disrespectful tongue, since you are
still recovering from your abrupt resuscitation. However, I cannot so easily absolve you of your
W: So send the bill to my estate.
M: I already have. After the Great Invasion, probate ceded what was left of the Williams estate to
the Mishima syndicate. I have held the remaining property in trust for twenty years.
W: What do you mean, 'remaining property'?
M: Your father had certain creditors, to whom he owed a great deal.
W: Our house alone was worth millions!
M: And it was the only item of value left, once your father's creditors were paid. Its collateral
worth was just sufficient to finance your extended hibernation. Now, because of your half-sister's
criminal rampage, your family owes me. You owe me. Dearly.
W: Where is my sister now? What have you done with her?
M: That is classified.
W: Did you kill her? Did you kill my sister!?
W: Then where is she? You're holding her somewhere, aren't you! Where are you holding
M: That is all classified.
W: WHERE IS MY SISTER, DAMN YOU!
M: Ally with us, Miss Williams. Enter the Iron Fist Tournament once more. It is the only way you
can see your half-sister again.
W: And what happens after I see her?
M: If you win the Iron Fist Tournament, then in addition to forgiving your family's debts, I shall
grant Nina Williams a full pardon for her crimes against the syndicate. If you refuse to participate,
her fate will be sealed.
W: I WANT MY SISTER!
K: Good. We'll need your help to save her.
K: I couldn't save her by myself. If we're going to reach her at all, it has to be through you.
Otherwise, there's nothing any of us can do for her. The Toshin's grip on her soul is too
W: No. Not again. I've heard this line before, and I am not falling for it again!
K: Please, Anna. You're her only chance. You're her sister, and I can feel that you love her-
W: Get out of my head, you DEVIL! I WON'T LET YOU VIOLATE ME!
K: I... I swear I'm not probing your memories-
W: Shut up! You're the whole reason that 'Toshin' thing took her over, you and your damned
family! Because of what YOUR father did to her! She became its slave to get revenge on YOU! I
hate you, you hellspawn! I hate you! I HATE YOU!
M: But will you ally with us?
W: I want my sister back. Damn you. May Allah damn your name!
M: Release her.
I: What the-
KIMURA: At once, Mishima-sama.
M: Sign this.
W: Not so fast.
M: I assure you, there is no trickery written into your employment contract. The only unbreakable
requirement is that you fight in the Iron Fist Tournament.
W: You lie.
K: No, Anna. It's the truth.
W: You shut up!
W: I'm not doing this for you. I'm not doing this because I want to! I only want my sister
M: You are dismissed. Ishida and Kimura will instruct you in your new duties.
K: Thank you, Anna.
W: I told you to shut up! Don't talk to me again. Don't look at me again. You will not live
to propagate your blasphemy! Allah will strike you down with His divine justice, even as He
judged your Devil father!
M: Well. Do you expect her to help us, or turn on us?
K: I don't think she'll try to hurt you, Grandfather. Or me.
K: She's strong-willed and very angry, but she isn't a killer. I think that's probably why the Toshin
couldn't or wouldn't possess her like it possessed Nina.
K: Even though Anna doesn't want to help us, she does want to help her sister, and she should
know that turning on us won't accomplish that. But, Grandfather-
M: Now what?
K: Why can't we tell her how Julia used Heaven's Dagger to banish Nina? It's like torture for
Anna, not knowing what has become of her sister.
M: You will not divulge classified information to anyone.
K: I - I'm sorry, it's only that-
M: Quiet! Consider this: Miss Anna Williams is obviously distraught over the fate of her
half-sister. She may not seem murderous at first glance, but you know full well that even the
souls can succumb to uncontrolled rage, when their loved ones are harmed. Miss Anna Williams
can hardly be described as 'mild.' If she were to learn the whole truth, can you be certain that she
would not take revenge on Miss Julia Chang? Are you willing to stake Miss Chang's life upon
K: I... didn't think of it like that.
M: Of course not. You never do.
EXCERPT: private journal of Heihachi Mishima
December 6, 2017
Invaders and chaos have conspired against me.
My plan to lure the Toshin has had an unexpected
drawback. The Toshin's essence hovers so close to this world that it can possess minions to use
against me, such as Nina Williams, the so-called Silent Assassin. She caused monumental
destruction. Loathe as I am to admit this, only blind fortune removed her before she could level
the syndicate. The press will be the ruin of me yet. Even now, rumors of the Mishima syndicate's
weakness circulate, rumors that must be crushed with a heavy hand.
Determined to prevent another such catastrophe, I required
my grandson's assistance in the interrogation of Nina Williams' half-sister, Anna Williams. Gods
curse me for keeping them both in cryogenic suspension all these years. I thought they might one
day prove useful, if I could only discover how to safely extract them from the coldsleep machine.
If I had known that either one of them would bring such calamity, I would have destroyed them a
long time ago. It is a mistake I shall not repeat.
The Silent Assassin must die.
My knowledge of the Toshin suggests that when it is
summoned into my ambush, she will be its herald. I will deal with her then. The only question is
whether she will suffer the slow death she deserves, or whether necessity will force me to destroy
her quickly. Even if Anna Williams does prove strong enough to win her half-sister the full pardon
I promised - an absurdity that will not happen - it will not commute my enemy's death sentence. I
could, if required to keep my word, find it within myself to pardon what the Silent Assassin has
done under the Toshin's control. I cannot allow such a dangerous foe to live.
It required concentration and focus to conceal my hatred of
Nina Williams from my telepathic grandson. However, my own self-discipline measured well
against Anna Williams' uncontrolled, womanly passions; Jin was far too overcome by her true
feelings to suspect mine.
Once the interrogation was effectively complete, I
dismissed all save my grandson from the premises. After a brief exchange, Jin moved as if he also
intended to depart.
"Where do you think you are going?" I warned, for I had
not given him permission to leave. His unthinking disobedience troubles me more than ever, as of
"I'm, uh, already hours overdue for school."
"Put that out of your head for now. You have greater
transgressions to answer for." I folded my arms and allowed my displeasure to show.
Jin's face flushed with contrition. He bowed his head.
"This morning, I found Doctor Abel sprawled unconscious,
on the floor of his laboratory. Prototype Alpha has disappeared. All files on the Cyborg Army
project have been destroyed, our surveillance systems show evidence of tampering, and the south
exit guards report being recalled on your orders. Worst of all, Abel suffers from amnesia.
Try as he may, he cannot recall a single facet of his Cyborg Army research, or any circumstances
concerning the prototype's disappearance. His highly selective memory loss can be no
"This is all your doing." It was not a question. It
was a bitter statement, so intense that I could barely rein my temper.
"Yes," Jin admitted, without raising his head.
I wanted to strike him. Perhaps even strike to kill.
"Why?" I demanded.
"Because the Cyborg Army project had to be
"That is not your decision to make!"
"It had to be my decision. I'm responsible for what Bryan
"I mean, um, Prototype Alpha."
"And what did it do?"
"It tried to murder Julia. On Abel's orders."
Almost too late, I realized my error. It was a grave risk to
directly confront Jin about this matter, not without many more preparations than I had already
When I sanctioned Abel's attempt to slay Julia Chang, it
was partly out of frustration. I needed her medallion, and the headstrong girl refused to surrender
it. Now, I risked paying the price for my temper. If my grandson had used his Power to learn what
truly happened, my four years of toil could all be undone.
Four years! For four long years, I have guarded my
thoughts, exported the syndicate's darkest activities, and virtually arrested the growth of my
empire, all to keep the naive trust of my telepathic grandson intact. All to maintain my hold over
him, so that I may use him to lure the Toshin and gain Immortality. Now, as I approach the fateful
day of my ascension, this threatens to upset my plans!
Inner strength kept me calm as I softly queried, "Do you
know whether Abel acted alone?"
"I - no, I don't." Jin raised his head, with widening eyes. "I
was only looking through his recent memories, and I broke contact as soon as I confirmed - could
he have had an accomplice?"
I might have suspected that my grandson was only feigning
ignorance, if I did not know him so well. He cannot hide his true feelings to save his life, a
weakness that greatly simplifies the otherwise arduous task of controlling him.
"Should I try another scan of the doctor?" Jin asked.
"No!" I snapped. "You will never engage in the
unsanctioned mind-probe of an employee again, let alone instill a memory block!" Shame returned
to enshroud my grandson. His sincerity was my relief.
"I will assume responsibility for investigating this crime," I
told him. "If Abel had any accomplices, I will deal with them accordingly, as well as the doctor
himself. You are to wash your hands of the entire travesty!"
"Should I - should I remove his memory block?"
"No." That might reveal certain memories which Jin missed
the first time, a risk I cannot afford. My hold over him has to come first. I need him as bait for the
Toshin. I need my Immortality more than a thousand Cyborg Armies. "The Cyborg Army project
is suspended, for now. A team of Tekkenshu are hunting the rogue prototype as we speak."
"Grandfather, no. Please, call them off."
That further incited my ire.
"Are you insane?" I erupted, in sudden
"I - I know how this must sound, but-"
"You have loosed a deadly weapon on the streets of
Tokyo! Do you wish to provoke another massacre!?"
"-something has happened to the prototype-"
"Did you even consider what could happen if someone
were to capture the prototype, and glean my Cyborg Army technology from its
"-it thinks it's your son."
That shocked me into momentary silence.
I had sensed something abnormal about the prototype, the
last time I saw it. There was a vague familiarity about its eyes, and the dim feel of possible hidden
Power in its presence. But I never imagined-
"Kazuya?" I breathed.
"No. Your other son."
It took several seconds to recall the name.
"Lee Chaolan," I muttered.
"Yes. I think Lee's mainframe software contains a hidden
artificial intelligence, complete with a memory cache of information about his personality and
background, which accidentally insinuated itself into the prototype-"
"Quiet." Jin's rambling fantasies were laughably specious;
Lee Chaolan never had the intellect to create such advanced technological designs. However,
Chaolan always did have a possessively vindicative spirit. Like a rabid mongrel, eager to bite the
hand of its master.
Chaolan's weakness betrayed me in the Iron Fist
Tournament. His spite betrayed Kazuya in the Great Invasion. His very name has come to mean
"traitor" for good reason. It takes little imagination to picture his soul extending its revenge
beyond the grave.
If my worst suspicions were true, then a legion of
Tekkenshu might not be enough to destroy the renegade prototype. I should have incinerated the
cursed thing when it turned on me, Abel's objections be damned.
Using the intercom, I contacted the Tekkenshu field
commander and demanded an update of their hunt for the prototype. He reported ill news. The
one unit that had successfully tracked the prototype had suffered a complete rout. By the time
reinforcements could arrive, the prototype had escaped. Even worse, growing trouble with street
traffic and the press complicated the Tekkenshu's prime directive to carry out their hunt in utmost
"Excuse me," Jin softly interjected. "Did the prototype hurt
or kill any of our men, in the struggle?"
No human casualties, the commander's
voice promptly answered.
"Enough," I said, and disconnected the link.
"Now do you see?" my grandson pressed. "If the prototype
really were a menace, it wouldn't have spared the Tekkenshu you sent to destroy it. Please,
Grandfather. Call them off, before any innocent people get caught in the crossfire."
Worry creased Jin's eyes, a warning signal of the erosion in
my hold over him. This would not do. I need his blind trust in me. I need him under my
"You should have shown me more faith," I reprimanded.
"If I had known the whole truth, I would not have assigned the Tekkenshu to this. I will continue
the hunt for the prototype, but not with soldiers. If it crosses paths with you again, you will return
it to me. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Grandfather. Thank you, Grandfather."
"Do not thank me yet. There is still the matter of your
punishment." I shook my head. "You have disobeyed me, and placed the entire syndicate at
"I... I know, Grandfather."
"Your motives do not excuse what you have done. In
particular, they do not excuse your failure to obtain my approval before you took action!
Until you have learned to behave responsibly, I can no longer entrust you with any syndicate
affairs. Your executive privileges are denied. Your access to all syndicate projects is denied. Your
duties as acting vice-president are hereby suspended; you shall retain the title in name only. Do
Jin looked away. His eyes closed, and the muscles of his
jaw tightened, while his neck fell forward from poorly suppressed despair.
It was the perfect choice for a punishment. Not only did it
cause him a greater wound than corporeal blows - a wound that he could not so easily cure with
his sorcery - but it was precisely the excuse I needed to demote him. He has never had deep
involvement in syndicate affairs; his title is primarily to give him the illusion of respectability to the
outside world. But now, it is best to completely curtail his influence, as I make preparations to
"Begone," I instructed. He opened the office door,
"Something is wrong," Jin said, apprehensively.
"There's an intruder in the syndicate. Not far from here.
He's hiding in your private study."
"And why did you fail to mention this before?"
"I didn't know it before. But I was lowering my barriers
just as the session with Anna was about to start, and I thought I sensed something that didn't
belong. It's clearer now that she's left the area."
"I know that silent scream. It's - it's Hwoarang!"
"He must have slipped inside when I recalled the guards.
Why did he feel the need to sneak in? I told him that he could-"
"Answer my question!"
I interrogated him thoroughly. His story seemed fantastic
beyond belief. Yet, if it were true-
"Who else knows about this?" I demanded.
"Uh, Julia does. And Hwoarang himself, of course."
"Is that all?"
"Um, well, I don't remember telling anyone else. Not even
Ishida and Kimura. And Julia couldn't have told anyone in the past several hours, because she's
been asleep. She gave so much of her strength to help me that she probably won't wake up until
"Good. When she does awaken, you will impress upon her
that all information concerning Hwoarang is classified, in addition to everything she knows about
Nina Williams, the Toshin, or Prototype Alpha of the Cyborg Army. Install a block in her
memories if you must."
"Grandfather!" Jin exclaimed, in alarm.
"You would do such a thing to a loyal employee of four
years, yet not to a girl you just met?" I snapped.
Jin looked down in shame.
"Very well, then. Be sure that your words alone
successfully persuade her to silence. Just do not hurt her. I gave her my word that no harm would
come to her within my home."
"I-I would never... Grandfather..." A pained, plaintive look
crept into Jin's eyes. It was truly sickening to behold.
"Enough! Now, tell me: does this Hwoarang intend
violence upon you?"
"I don't know. He did make threats. But I promised him
that if he came here, we'd try to find a cure for him."
"What is his state of mind now?"
Jin raised his eyes. They lost their focus for a moment.
"He's... seething. Watchful. Predatory. I think he's..."
"...hunting," Jin confessed. Tension creased his face, as his
skin became a shade paler. "Grandfather, he's hunting you!"
"No! I won't let him hurt you. I'll confront him and-"
"You will do no such thing."
"Quiet! You will depart the premises, and attend your
school for the remainder of the day. You will not use telepathy or any other means to contact
anyone in the syndicate while you are gone. I will deal with Hwoarang."
That shocked him.
"Grandfather, no! He's too dangerous!" Genuine fear - fear
for my welfare - clouded Jin's eyes.
"I am King of the Iron Fist. This challenger has invaded the
sanctity of my home. There is only one response to be made."
"But he could kill you!"
"You should have contemplated that before you
compromised the syndicate's defenses."
"No, Grandfather - no! You can't-"
"I bid you silence."
Jin fell silent.
"Now, go. Take the remainder of this day to reflect upon
the consequences of your thoughtless deeds."
Jin almost opened his mouth for one last protest, but I
faced him with unyielding will, and he did not say another word. His eyes closed tightly. He
bowed his head and left, his shoulders hunched with dismal remorse.
It is a paradox. A most regrettable one.
Jin's disloyal actions today are only the latest link in a long
chain. For four years I have taught him, and watched his strength grow. Yet I have also seen his
Power grow, and time and again it has wreaked destruction. The incident with his former teacher.
The Ikebukuro disaster. The slum brawl with Hwoarang. And now this. His previous instances of
disobedience were beyond his control, which is bad enough. His latest transgressions have been
through deliberate, conscious choice, which is infinitely worse.
I cannot abide betrayal. Especially not from those closest
to me. The mounting body of evidence points to an inescapable conclusion. One that I have
understood and prepared for all along, even as I have become increasingly loathe to accept it.
My grandson must be destroyed.
For over four years, I have known this to be so; yet I never
expected to feel such regret. When I first laid eyes on Jin Kazama, his resemblance to Kazuya was
so strong that I yearned to slay him on the spot. It was an instinctive hatred that only Time itself
could soften. But with the passage of that Time, I have learned that Jin's love for me is indeed
sincere. He truly would give up his life for mine. In this respect, at least, he is what Kazuya should
I pity him.
He does not understand that his blood is dirty, tainted by
the impurities of his crossbreed mother and Devil father. More than ever now, he is growing to
embody the deadly forces that once possessed Kazuya. It is a cruel fate that has cursed my
grandson, but for the good of humanity, his unholy lineage cannot be permitted to endure. There
is no other way. I must sacrifice him to the Toshin, once it has been summoned, and so bring an
end to the doomed dynasty of the House Mishima.
Jin shall exchange his life for the peace that I, as an
Immortal leader, shall bring to the world. I can only pray that his soul shall also know peace.
INTERVIEW WITH LING XIAOYU, section 3
February 12, 2018
I missed you. This is another weekend you've just up and
disappeared! Where'd you go this time? Was it any fun? Did you bring me back a present?
Oh, goody, thank you thank you!
'Caffeine-free chocolate'? I didn't know they made
Are you gonna walk me to school again? I got more stories
for your big book or record or whatever Jin is paying you to write. You want 'em, you want
And are you still playing by those silly rules? Pretend I
don't know you, pretend I don't remember you - it's so silly! Uncle Wang taught me not to talk to
strangers; if I really didn't know you I wouldn't talk to you at all!
You do wanna talk to me, don't you?
I can tell you all about my first big fight in the Iron Fist
Tournament! Or the day I threw the huge power switch and lit up my whole amusement park nice
and pretty and running! Or-
That? You wanna know about that?
But it's kind of boring. You sure? I can tell you all about
my biiiiig fight with-
Okay, okay. You really wanna know how I made up with
Jin? After I first met him?
Because the first time I ever met him, it went really bad. He
scared me. He was talking in my head once, using his mind to say things instead of his mouth, it
was a funny feeling but it wasn't what made me feel bad. What made me feel bad was what I felt
from him. He was mad at me because - because of what I did to his friend Shiina. I... I didn't mean
to do it, Shiina tried to shoot me, I just wanted to knock him out so he'd drop the gun... I-I'm not
going to go on and on and on, that's all I'll say about it. I didn't mean to. But Shiina was dead and
Jin was mad at me and I could feel how unhappy he was. He just took me by the shoulders and I
could feel in my head how much it hurt him to lose his friend, it reminded me of how much it hurt
me to lose Uncle Wang, and everything scared me so much I ran away crying, I ran all the way
back to the room Heihachi set up for me and locked the door and cried myself to sleep.
I slept through the whole night.
It was late in the morning when I got up, much later than
anybody ever let me sleep at the Temple of Light, I knew 'cause I looked out a window and the
sun was pretty high up. It was a funny window too, tinted so dark like I almost thought it was
night, but I could make out the sun through the dark glass so it had to really be day.
So I got out of bed, and do you know what I like about
living in the syndicate? I like how they have hot showers and baths right next to your room. At
the Temple of Light you had to heat up this basin of water with coal or wood or something.
Sometimes there wasn't any coal or wood, and you'd have to take an ice-cold bath, ick!
There was even fresh clothes set out for me - really funny
clothes. White-on-black top like a sailor, and a really super-short skirt. I've gotten used to it now,
but it's still funny to wear this school outfit thing. The skirt's so short it flips up easy; I have to
wear jogging shorts underneath or it shows off my panties! And it's kinda cold in winter, too.
Whose idea was it to make a girl's outfit like this, do you know? At least the guys can wear pants
and stay warm. It's not fair.
Anyway, when I woke up I felt a lot better than I did last
night. All the crying gotten out and done with, at least for now. It still hurt that Uncle Wang was
gone, and I was still scared of Jin, but I was also bored. And hungry. And curious. Here I was in
this strange new place; Heihachi said I was gonna fight in his Tournament, but I guess my first
match wasn't today or someone would've told me. I wanted breakfast. And I wanted to go
exploring. I'm not sure which one I wanted more. So I decided to go exploring for someplace that
would have breakfast.
The syndicate sure is a big place, isn't it?
It's so easy to get lost even if you know where you're
going, and I didn't. I dunno how long I wandered around alllll the hallways. I didn't see very many
people, just the occasional guy in a black suit or whatever. They always pretended like they didn't
see me. I hate it when they do that.
Then I saw one of 'em was following me.
He was kind of funny. Like he was trying to hide. He didn't
get that if he could see me, I could see him, and it didn't matter how flat he pressed himself
against the wall; did he think he was made of paper or what? I turned around and almost asked
him where I could get some breakfast, but he made this funny squeaking noise - kinda like a baby
bird - and darted around a corner.
Was he playing hide-and-seek?
I hoped so. I was so bored, I liked having someone to play
He was actually pretty fun - so much fun I forgot I was
hungry. He followed me everywhere! I'd run around at top speed and hear him straining to catch
up, I'd jump down from a balcony and dart behind the stairs and watch him fall flat on his face
when he tried to jump down too. Then I'd zip through big, open rooms faster than he could follow
and hide in a storage closet until he blundered past, then go the other way until I'd lost him, then
circle back and pretend not to see him when he spotted me and I'd run away again. It was so
Poor guy wasn't in the best shape, though. He was panting
and wheezing from all that running around, while I was just getting warmed up. I was sliding
down this one stair rail, eager to see if my new playmate would slide down too or fall off, when
who do I find at the bottom of the steps but Jin.
I got scared again.
You know how Jin is. It's not just that he looks scary.
Although y'know, he is sort of a cross between handsome good-looking and sinister evil-looking,
isn't he? But if you don't know him, it's really easy to think he's a bad guy; you get this nasty, ugly
gut feeling like you shouldn't trust him at all. I don't know why that is. I really don't.
Then again, Uncle Wang taught me to always be careful
about judging people based only on how they look.
Jin didn't act like he noticed me. He was kneeling at a short
table - not a meal table, I think it was for greeting guests or something - and he had his elbows on
the table, fingers laced tight together, head down, eyes closed, and a very unhappy look on his
face. He looked like he had something really bad on his mind, something that scared him and
made him feel awful.
Was he still mad at me?
I could have turned around and run away from him again,
but then my stomach growled. I was beginning to get really hungry. If I asked my other playmate
where the food was, I wasn't sure he'd answer me and it would spoil the game anyway.
Maybe Jin knew where the food was?
Of course he did! He lived here, didn't he?
There was something else that helped change my mind.
You see, the whole reason I came here - the whole reason I was gonna fight in the Iron Fist
Tournament - was 'cause I wanted my amusement park. Heihachi was gonna build my amusement
park if I won. But he made me promise something. He made me promise that I'd try to be friends
with his grandson Jin. I didn't like Jin, but I made a promise, and if I didn't keep it then Heihachi
might not build my amusement park. I really, really wanted my amusement park!
I was scared of Jin, but I wanted my amusement park even
Maybe just one more try? If he's mean to me again, I'll beat
him up. Yeah, that's it.
I want my amusement park!
"Hey!" I called from the bottom of the stairs. "Wha'cha so
Jin looked up. He didn't act surprised to see me. Didn't act
mad, either. "What are you doing here?"
"Asking you a question, silly!"
"You should be in school."
"Me? What about you? I don't see you at any stupid
He looked away like he was getting depressed again.
"And, um, where's the food? You do have food in this
place, don't you? I'm starving! I'd give anything for really good food, like steamed buns or shrimp
"Up the stairs, go left, right at the third intersection, pass
three doors on your right and enter the fourth."
"That's the way to the kitchen."
"Oh." He'd rattled off the directions so fast, and I was so
hungry, that the words didn't stay in my head. I can repeat 'em for you now only 'cause I've lived
in the syndicate long enough to know the way for myself. "Um, I don't remember what you said
so good. Can you come and show me?"
Jin didn't answer. He looked awful, like he was so scared
and hurting inside he didn't even hear.
"Hey - hey what's wrong? Are you-?" I swallowed, took a
deep breath, and said it real fast so I'd get it out all at once.
At least that broke his awful mood.
"What?" He blinked and shook his head, like he was
coming out of a big, thick fog.
"I'm - I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to do it."
"No, you-" He stopped and shook his head again. "I'm the
one who should be apologizing. You acted in self-defense. I'm sorry. It wasn't your fault."
"You... you really think so?"
"Then what are you so down about?"
Jin looked at me funny. "You must have slept through the
"What? What did I sleep through?"
"An assassin attacked the syndicate. She murdered a lot of
good people. And..." He sighed, really unhappy. "I'm not sure anymore if I did the right
"What did you do?"
"After the assassin was gone, I... well, I let something out,
and someone else got in. Someone dangerous. Now, I'm worried about Grandfather. He told me
to attend school and let him face the intruder in single combat. I'm afraid Grandfather could get
hurt, or even killed."
"So why don't you help him fight this bad person?"
"Grandfather told me not to. I've disobeyed him too many
times as it is."
"So why don't you go to school like he said?"
"He could get hurt, or even killed."
"You said that already."
Jin's eyes got narrow and nasty for a moment, but then he
looked away like he was ignoring me. I HATE being ignored!
"Look!" I snapped. "If you just stay here, you'll make your
grandpa mad and you won't be helping him, so you make a choice! Help him or go!"
Jin clenched his teeth. "It's not that simple!"
"Yes, it is. Just ask yourself: is your grandpa strong enough
to beat up this meanie you let in or not?"
"He said I should have shown him more faith," Jin slowly
thought out. "I'm trusting him to destroy the Toshin. If I don't leave like he said, he'll think I don't
trust him. I have to trust him." Jin nodded to himself. He still didn't look happy, but at
least he didn't look so miserable either. "Come on, Xiaoyu. Let's go."
"To school. I'll introduce you to the faculty, and you can
take the grade placement tests."
"But I don't wanna go to school!"
"It's either that or get a job working for the syndicate.
Grandfather doesn't approve of freeloading."
Uh-oh. I didn't wanna go to school, but at least if I went,
maybe I could meet other kids my age and make friends. This big old syndicate was pretty lonely,
except for my playmate and maybe Jin. Maybe.
"But I'm hungry!"
"I'll buy you something to eat on the way. You said you
like steamed buns, right?"
"Will you buy my playmate something to eat too?"
"The guy in the black suit who's following me."
"One of our security people? Is he your bodyguard?"
"Um, I don't know. Would he tell me if he was?"
"Hmm." Jin's eyes got funny and out of focus for a minute.
He cringed a little and touched his arm, like it was sore all of a sudden. "I don't recognize the feel
of his surface thoughts. He must be someone new."
"You're scary when you do that."
"Actually, you're the one he's scared of."
"Who, me? Why?"
"Oh." I looked down at the ground. "Can you tell him I
didn't mean to-?"
"First, I want to know why he's stalking you. Wait here for
just a little while, all right?"
I waited. Jin went out of the room, but not up the stairs; he
went out a different way.
I waited, and tapped my foot, and fidgeted with my hair,
and just as I was getting really bored I heard this yelp. It was my playmate, and he shrieked like an
icky spider was crawling up his leg!
A couple minutes later, Jin appeared near the top of the
stairs. He quickly came down and said, "Oh, before I forget - are you carrying your
"Haven't you been issued one? Well, we can take care of
that in less than five minutes. Right this way."
"What did you do to my playmate? I heard him yelp. You
didn't hurt him, did you?"
"Hurt him? Oh, good grief no. He was a little surprised to
meet me, that's all."
"But what did you do to him?"
"I just asked him a few questions. Don't worry. If
everything goes all right, you should be able to 'play' with him some more after you get
"What if everything doesn't go all right?"
"It will. It has to."
"It just has to," Jin said, crossing his fingers and
holding them real close, like he was wishing with all his heart and all his soul.
Not very exciting, is it?
I mean, I could go on and on. I could say how Jin took me
to a funny photo room where a guy took my picture and it was a really bad picture stuck on this
card filled with facts about me, and I carry it everywhere now like everyone in the Mishima
syndicate is supposed to. I could say how I asked Jin some questions about what it's like to be a
telepath, and he asked me some questions about Uncle Wang and Seung Mina and the Temple of
Light - he was really curious 'cause they all used to be best friends with his mom, he told me that.
Or I could say how I started my first half a day at school, and got put in the tenth grade. I made
some friends with the other school kids, got in an argument with my teacher, and one of the other
teachers was really weird, I mean REALLY weird, all the kids would call him crazy and make fun
of him behind his back. But I bet Julia can tell you a lot more about him, she got to know him a
lot better than me.
Still, you get the idea, right? Just an ordinary day. Not
really boring, I guess, but nowhere near as exciting as my first biiiiig fight in the Iron Fist. You
sure you don't wanna hear about it?
Oh, you're right - here we are. Time for class. And there's a
geometry quiz today, too! I hate math. Quick, I forget, how do you figure out the size of a
No, silly! Pi-radius-squared is the size of a circle. And
that's only 2D; a cone is 3D!
I'm gonna go ask my teacher.
EXCERPT: private journal of Heishiro Mitsurugi
December 6, 2017 (continued)
I've only been working here two days, and I already need a
I'd settle for a good meal, though. Anything, as long as it's
food. Real food. ANYTHING that's not a goddamn ration stick, and the IV fluids they've been
dripping into my arm don't count! You know what I really wish I could eat, right now? A
succulent helping of steaming hot sukiyaki
Damn. Taki must've made me smudge the whole page.
That's another one I owe her for.
When she disappeared, I figured she'd left me alone to
recuperate from my aches and pains. Then suddenly, her arm came out of nowhere and snagged
my writing hand.
"Get up," Taki ordered.
"Wh-what?" I stammered. "Y-you said my next lesson
"That is for combat. I have been assured that your injuries
are not serious enough to prohibit lighter training. Get up, or I will make them serious."
What could I do? I got up. Even though my muscles were
so cramped and aching that I winced repeatedly when I stretched out.
Taki's idea of "lighter training" was to let me skip wearing
the heavy armor. Oh, and she didn't beat me into the ground - I mean, she didn't "spar" with me.
Instead, today I was supposed to learn "stealth." She took me to a long hall in the Residential
Wing, and pointed to a girl wandering at the far end.
The girl was a short little thing. She looked pretty young,
but I've never been good at guessing ages, so I don't know. Her hair was in the queerest style -
tied up in springy ponytails, sticking up and out from either side of her head like insect antennae,
and they bounced with every lively step she took. She was wearing a typical sailor-suit high
school uniform. Well, mostly typical. I can't remember the last time I saw a girl in a skirt that
short. Maybe it was in a movie?
"Follow her," Taki instructed. "Do not let her see you, if
you can help it."
"-don't think I can stay hidden," I hurriedly blurted. "There
isn't enough cover-"
"You had better try. Unless you would rather train in single
combat against her."
"Who, me? Beat up a little kid?"
"She is no ordinary child. Her name is Ling Xiaoyu.
Perhaps you remember?"
Oh, no. No, no, no!
A trembling fit gripped me. I knew about this girl - Ishida
and Kimura said she took apart a whole boat full of fighters who got in her way! She'd even
murdered a guard named Shiina!
If she got mad because I followed her, would she murder
I've been almost killed twice since I started this job, but at
least both times were by something formidable. Now, I was in fear for my life from a tiny little
I wasn't just scared of dying. I was scared of dying in a
really embarrassing way.
"Get moving, rookie," Taki said, casually fingering the hilt
of her short sword. I remembered the press of its blade against my chest, a sensation I did not
want to feel again.
This is not what you call a win-win situation.
I can't remember the last time I felt such a mix of
humiliation and terror. I mean, I've been feeling a lot of just plain terror lately, but-
-well, exactly why am I being threatened by so many
women lately? First Taki, then that horrible Ogre-woman, and now this tiny little creature zipping
about like a magical pixie or whatever. A couple times I was almost sure she'd spotted me, and I'd
press against the wall, with my heart pounding like a siege engine. It's ridiculous; I used to babysit
kids about her size, and I was shaking in a thinly contained panic because of her.
Could the gossip about her be wrong?
But Ishida and Kimura had been so sure. Especially
Kimura. He's so calm and stable; I can't imagine him being misled as easily as that. I just
Damn little hyperdoll certainly has enough energy to take
out the crews of a dozen boats, anyway.
My training today wasn't as violent as a typical session with
Taki, but it was almost as exhausting. Gods, that little girl can run! She let me on a crazy chase all
over the syndicate; I was getting lost half the time, and the other half I was tripping over myself in
an effort to keep up. My muscles hurt, and my arm especially stung where splinters had pricked it
the night before. I could hardly stagger in a straight line without wincing, while the girl was so
wound up she'd do flips and somersaults, apparently out of sheer elation. And she was heedless of
what her short skirt failed to cover during her gymnastics.
Her panties are dark blue, I noticed.
I really should have paid more attention to what I was
doing - at the time, I was trying to follow her jump straight down from a tall balcony, and I landed
flat on my face. The impact was so hard that my forehead hurt and my nose bent out of shape, and
when I looked up, I couldn't tell where the girl had gone.
That was the moment.
The moment absolute beauty crossed my eyes.
There was no advance warning, no fanfare whatsoever; she
just strolled right along the balcony I'd fallen from. She was incredible. Unbelievable.
Indescribable. The most gorgeous woman I've ever seen, in real life or out of it. Tall, exotic,
radiating confidence and raw magnetism. I can't even remember what she was wearing, just the -
the - how am I supposed to describe her body? Seeing it was rapture. Curves I could get lost in, a
face I could only bask in the shadow of, lips that I could only long to touch from afar... I don't
have the words, I just don't.
And then the miracle happened.
She looked at me.
I wasn't making any noise - was I? - and I'm sure I wasn't in
her line of sight, but she paused in mid-stride and looked at me like she knew I was worshiping
her. Not a direct look, exactly. More like a flirtatious side glance. Her precious, deep crimson lips
curled in a singularly alluring smile.
If I am struck blind tomorrow, I won't be sorry.
"Why are you stopping?" drifted a harsh voice, but even its
jarring presence could not break the luscious eternity of the moment. "Your office is down the
I knew that voice. I didn't particularly care to look at the
speaker, not when I had such supreme wonder occupying my eyes. However, I did belatedly
notice Ishida's and Kimura's virtually identical, indistinguishably average outlines, flanking my
vision of beauty. I think it was Ishida who had just spoken; the words were way too loud and
irascible to have come from Kimura. I guess the two of them were escorting her, or
"Sorry, boys," the living goddess purred. Her voice was the
music of Paradise.
"If you please, miss." That was Kimura, I think. I mean, it
was practically the same accent and timber as Ishida, but so quiet I could scarcely hear.
The vision of absolute beauty swept herself from my
I almost cried over the loss.
Gods! I thought Ishida and Kimura had been practically in
disgrace. How did they redeem themselves? What did they do to earn the heavenly reward of
attending to a living goddess? It's not like they risked their lives fighting any Ogre-woman! And
how could they stay so calm in such a divine presence? Couldn't they see the superlative
magnitude of her voluptuous female beauty?
Are they gay?
"Kimura's married." Taki's grating, sarcastic voice painfully
dragged me down from the clouds. "As if that's proof one way or the other; hell, he hardly ever
gets to see his wife. As for Ishida, your guess is as good as anyone else's. He hates all sexes
equally. His family has been trying to rope him into an arranged marriage anyway; I expect it'll be
another three months before he caves in. Or maybe he should share Kimura's wife. It's not like she
could tell the difference."
"I d-didn't say anything out loud," I gasped to my teacher.
"I know I didn't!"
"I can read lips. Your mouth works when your brain shuts
off. Which is quite often, I've noticed."
"Is - is that how you know so much about everyone?
Because you sneak around and read their lips?"
A nasty glint sparkled in her eyes. I don't like it when her
eyes get that glint. "If only it were that easy. Not everyone in the syndicate is as brainless as
Calm down, calm down, don't get mad, don't lash out, she
is my teacher and I know she could take me apart without breaking a sweat. Besides, I can
take a few insults if it puts her in a good enough mood to tell me-
"Can you at least let me know who the godde- who that
woman was? The one they were escorting?"
"That would be Anna Williams."
'Anna'? Was that her name?
It had to be. 'Anna' - such a ringing chime of clearest
"Wake up!" Taki sharply snapped her fingers in front of my
face. "Forget her, rookie. She's the half-sister of that possessed bitch who nearly killed you last
"But - but that's not Anna's fault, is it?"
"She's also a veteran of Iron Fist Tournament. She could
break both your arms in the time it takes you to inhale."
Wait a minute...
"What do you mean, 'veteran'? The last Iron Fist
Tournament was before I was born. She's not that old."
"She's been frozen in cryo for twenty years. Word is,
Heihachi wants to her to pay off her debt working for the syndicate, and fighting in the Iron Fist.
He probably made her an offer she could not refuse."
Frozen for the last twenty years?
What must it be like, to go to sleep and wake up in a world
twenty years past the one you knew? Did she have any friends or family left to help her? Anyone
she could turn to?
Anyone at all...?
Taki drew her short sword, and idly studied its blade.
"Question and answer period is over, rookie. Quit daydreaming and get back to work."
"But - but do you know if Anna-"
"Are you going to get back to work, or do I have to cut
I got back to work.
Hunted in circles before I spotted the pixie girl again, and
off she led me on more crazy chases. All the while, I secretly hoped the vision of beauty would
reappear, but no such luck. I was running out of breath when my hyperactive target slid down a
banister, and settled next to this older guy at a table. The guy wasn't that much older, though. He
looked closer to my age.
I ducked behind a wall. The girl was just close enough that
I could still hear her voice if I listened hard, but she wasn't talking all that loudly, so I had trouble
making out what she and other guy were saying. Well, whoever the other guy was, he seemed
pretty brave, just hanging out with a murderer like it was no big deal. Maybe he didn't know?
And why did he look so familiar?
He couldn't have been another security guard; he wasn't
wearing the black suit of the syndicate's dress code. His outfit was kind of dark, but it wasn't
black and it wasn't a suit; it was a pinstriped high school uniform. I felt for sure like I'd seen him
before. No, wait, it was more like I'd seen his picture before. In a book or something. Or maybe
I couldn't help it. I knew I was supposed to focus on the
girl I was tailing, but I got distracted wondering where I'd seen her new friend. Think back...
No, no, no!
I remembered who the guy looked like. He looked like
Kazuya Mishima, the traitor of the Great Invasion! But Kazuya was dead. Which meant this had
to be Kazuya's devil son - Jin Kazama, the "young master," the mind-reader, the engineer of a
project to turn dead people into cyborg zombies, the-!
Fear intensified the soreness in my throbbing muscles to
quivering fire. I tried to force my galloping heart to be still.
Stay calm. Stay calm. Do not cry out. Do not run away.
They can't even see me; I can't see them. If I'm lucky, maybe they'll kill each other? No, no, that's
ridiculous, but they still don't have any reason to notice me. I'll just freeze until the little hyperdoll
murderer runs off, and then I can sneak away from her devil friend. I have nothing to be afraid of.
After all, Kazuya's son doesn't have any particular reason to turn me into one of his zombies, does
he? No, no, he's not going to do that. He's not going to zap me with his lightning Power, or suck
out my soul and eat it, or...
I couldn't move.
I couldn't think.
Something was behind me. Something dreadful. It was just
like when the zombie had ambushed me, only this time I was excruciatingly aware of it, felt its
stiff fingers touching the back of my neck, and I couldn't even blink in response. Frozen with
absolute terror. I saw energy flash before my eyes - jagged indigo streaks of deadly lightning. The
other presence had my life in its unholy grip, and I still couldn't - couldn't even-!
I broke my paralysis with a scream.
Well, not really a scream. More like a terrified yipe.
In full-fledged panic, I sprang away from the monster
behind me, and reached for a wooden sword that wasn't there. I wasn't training with my sword
today. So I put both hands up in a karate guard that would have been much more imposing if my
arms weren't shaking like grass blades in a stiff wind, and I stared, astonished, at the fiend
"Feel better?" he asked.
What? What was he talking about?
"I'm talking about your arm," the devil clarified, amiably.
"And your muscle cramps. Any pain left?"
Actually... no. The soreness in my body had disappeared.
Every last ache.
Did he use his evil Power to heal me? But that didn't make
sense. Evil Power isn't supposed to heal people, is it?
"My Power does what I tell it to. Most of the time. You've
probably heard rumors about me, but I don't suppose you could spare the benefit of the doubt
before you judge?"
I don't want to answer that, I really don't. It would be
impossible anyway; I'm shaking so badly I could never fit a coherent word through my
"Oh, it was a rhetorical question. And if your stammering
persists, then perhaps I can set you up with a speech therapist. Is it a recurring problem?"
-what's going on here? He can't be reading my lips like Taki
was; I'm too petrified to move my lips.
Is he reading my mind?
"At this close range, it's extremely difficult not to. I don't
suppose you could tone down the raw terror just a little? Then I might actually have a chance to
block out your surface thoughts."
His thick, jet black eyebrows flattened over his piercing
Stop that this instant! he demanded, his demonic
command resonating directly in my head.
"Now. Could you please tell me why you were following
Umm... uh, that is, I, I, I-
"I don't have all day. You know, most syndicate employees
prefer to avoid telepathic communication, but if it's the only way you can bring yourself to tell
Nothing like a little incentive to push me into doing the
"T-training," I gasped, in a whimpering rabbit squeak.
"Under whose instruction?"
"Mine," Taki's voice sounded. My boss blinked in surprise
as she stepped into our common line of sight, just like that. I was only a little less startled. Does
she know how to turn invisible or something?
"I wanted to gauge his natural stealth," Taki continued. "It
is roughly on par with that of an elephant."
So now I'm an elephant, am I? Well, you're a mean-spirited
"Taki is one of our best. Don't underestimate what you can
learn from her," my devil boss reprimanded, fixing me with a stern glare.
"I told you to stop that!" he snapped, rubbing his forehead.
"What is your name, anyway?"
I... I know I should answer him, but all I can think about
are ancient legends of demons who use your true name to steal your soul-
"What's his name?" my boss curtly requested of Taki, an
irritated frown crossing his face.
"Heishiro Mitsurugi," she smoothly answered.
"You?" my boss asked, pointing to me as he raised a
questioning eyebrow. "You're the descendant of the legendary Mitsurugi?"
He didn't have to say it like it was so hard to believe.
"Somehow, I thought you would be taller," he mused,
folding his arms. "Say, you're the one who helped test the safety disengagement protocols of
Prototype Alpha, aren't you?"
Oh, gods. The last thing I need is to be reminded of that;
I'm terrified enough as it is!
"I just want you to know that even though we're
suspending the Cyborg Army project, I sincerely appreciate the effort you've made to fill in for
me." A warm smile touched his lips. "If you have the inner strength to face down a cyborg during
your first day on the job, then maybe there's more legend in you than meets the eye."
Did he say the Cyborg Army project was suspended?
He's not turning dead people into horrible zombies
anymore? Really? It almost sounded too good to be true!
"That's nothing," Taki commented. "You should have seen
the rookie take on last night's invader. It's a miracle he's still alive."
"Oh?" My boss raised both his sinister eyebrows. "That is
Wait a minute - was Taki suddenly sticking up for me?
Why? I thought she didn't like me.
"In any case," my boss continued, "about Xiaoyu-"
"I-I d-didn't m-mean to frighten her," I gasped, fighting off
a fresh wave of panic. "F-forgive me, please! I'm so sorry, I'll nn-never bother her again-"
"Relax. It's all right," he reassured. "You're far more scared
of her than she is of you - undeservedly so, might I add. She would never want to hurt you, unless
self-defense left her no other choice."
I'd feel more relieved if I weren't hearing this from a
"In fact - Taki, do you think you could spare your student
for another couple hours this evening? I think Xiaoyu enjoyed 'playing' his little game. She'd
probably appreciate the chance to make better friends with him."
Uh, no, no, I don't think so. I'd need to make a whole lot of
enemies before I'd want a 'friend' like that vicious little-
"As you wish," Taki returned.
-do I get any say in this at all?
"In the meantime, there's something very important that I
must ask you," Jin continued. His voice dropped lower as he looked Taki straight in the eye. "As
soon as I leave the syndicate, Grandfather intends to personally confront a very dangerous enemy
in his private study. I'm sorry, I can't brief you with any more information because it's classified.
But I need you to - well, don't interfere unless you have to, but do keep an eye on him, all right?
Don't let him get killed. I'm counting on you. Do you understand?"
"What about his honor guard?" Taki languidly
"Umm..." my boss bit his lower lip, an oddly human
gesture. "They're out of the picture, sort of, and I don't think he's selected a new honor guard yet.
He plans to face this threat alone. I can't order you to become involved, but if you could find it in
your heart to watch over him, then I'd be very grateful. Will you do it?"
No! No, no, no!
"Of course," Taki agreed with a bow.
"Thank you. I won't forget this." He returned her bow and
left, down the stairs and out the room. That lethal hyperdoll girl went with him.
"B-but-" I finally managed to stammer. "But - but-!"
"Come on, rookie," Taki instructed. She started down the
hall at a brisk run.
"Why did you tell him yes?" I exclaimed, struggling to keep
up with her. "Why!?"
"Would you wish to incite his wrath with a direct refusal?
Knowing what he could do to you if he so desired?"
Umm... well, when she put it that way...
"Perhaps he is right, and you are not a total loss after all."
She said that offhandedly, without even breathing hard, though she was running faster than me at
full tilt. Or maybe it was more like gliding; she made scarcely any noise as she moved. "You have
shown almost tolerable bravery, standing your ground against the devil Jin Kazama. He has
reduced men twice your size to the mental capacity of preschoolers."
You know, every time I think I can almost cope with this
awful, violent, insane job, she says something like that and I'm sweating in terror again.
Or maybe I was just sweating from the run. Because I was
short of breath when we reached a humble door. Taki picked the lock in seconds. I followed her
into a huge, darkened study, filled with crowded wooden shelves of musty old books. There was a
big rectangle of clear space in the center of the carpeted floor, maybe fifty meters wide by seventy
meters long. It seemed like this place didn't receive many visitors, what with the poor lighting and
the dust gathering on the bookshelves, but it wasn't deserted now.
And old man kneeled in the center of the clear space,
resting his hands on his lower thighs. He wore a traditional hakama and wooden clogs; nasty scars
crisscrossed his bare chest in a forbidding X. Two tall, stiff grey bristles of hair pushed over his
ears, marking the sides of his stern, weathered face.
I recognized him from the cover of Time magazine - they
made him Man of the Year in 2012. But I would have known who he was even if I'd never seen
the issue. There was something about the old man, an overwhelming presence even more
profound than what I felt from his devil grandchild. Jin Kazama exuded so much evil sorcery that
it made the hairs on the back of my neck stick straight up, but the feeling I got from his
grandfather was different. Not just raw energy, although there was a definite tingle to the air. Not
merely black magic, or the intimidating anxiety of a malevolent spirit peering into my soul. This
feeling was at least a hundred times stronger, and it was... it was...
That's the best word I have for it. This old man was the
living personification of righteousness, power, experience, wisdom. A soul of strongest steel,
forged in fire and tempered through decades of strife. A natural leader of men. The undisputed
master of the nigh-omnipotent Mishima syndicate.
I couldn't help being scared of him, but my fear was
nothing compared to my awe. Just one look - just one first impression - and I'm beginning to
understand why so many people like Ishida and Kimura would lay down their lives for this man. I
know why they call him "Mishima-sama." In a fight-or-die world, where you survive or suffer
with your boss, this boss was more than just a survivor. He was an absolute ruler. I felt like I
should get on my knees.
Mishima-sama's eyes were closed. Not like he was
sleeping; more like he was concentrating really hard on a tough problem. Well, if I were
responsible for a third of the world, I'd have a lot to think about too.
There were three more people in the room, I slowly
realized. Two of them flanked Mishima-sama, protectively. The third one was leaning close to
Mishima-sama and whispering something in his ear. I didn't recognize any of them; they were all
just more security guards in black suits like me.
The old man dismissed his entourage with a single motion
of his hand. They vanished into the darkness. I guess they left through another exit, not that I saw
I wondered why Mishima-sama had sent his men away.
Then I remembered what Jin had told me: Mishima-sama wanted to face this unknowable danger
by himself, without interference from his guards or his grandson. I'll bet Mishima-sama's
messenger had just said something like, 'The telepath has left the building.'
"You two. Why do you trespass here?" the old man gruffly
requested. His voice was so powerful; it wasn't excessively loud, but it dominated me more
strongly than when I felt a telepath speaking in my head.
"You know why," Taki replied. How could she talk so
casually to such a great man?
Mishima-sama's lip lifted a fraction of a centimeter, as if in
the faintest impression of a snarl. I quailed. Taki didn't blink.
"My grandson sent you," the old man growled.
"He is concerned for your welfare." The funny thing is,
Taki didn't say it like she shared that concern. More like she was secretly amused.
"Do not feel immediately obliged to obey his foolish
requests again. Ever."
"I never said I felt obliged."
Mishima-sama opened his dangerous eyes. His face
tightened in a direct glare at Taki as he said, "Get out of my sight."
Taki bowed and retreated.
I was supposed to follow her, right?
I mean, Mishima-sama hadn't told me to get out too - had
he? I didn't want to offend him by leaving before I was dismissed. But I didn't want to offend him
by overstaying my welcome, either. And I didn't want to offend him with my rabbit-squeak voice,
impertinently asking if he meant for me to go too-
"Why are you still here!?" Mishima-sama harshly
demanded, turning his dark, all-seeing gaze on me.
Well, at least that answered my question. But now I had a
new problem. Talking to Mishima-sama's devil grandson had been hard enough; did I have any
chance at all of forcing out a coherent answer to this global patron? Or maybe I shouldn't answer,
maybe I should just leave. Yes, turn around and leave before he gets any angrier. Turn around and
make myself leave.
I can't turn around.
I can't move.
No, no, got to think positive, I can do this. Damn it, stop
shaking! I can turn around and walk out of here, step by step, just breathe deep and stay calm and
dammit stop shaking-!
I was half-twisted about, and almost one full step closer to
the exit when Mishima-sama roared, "Taki! Who is this trembling coward, and why does he wear
the uniform of my men?"
Oh, no. Oh, gods no.
Taki reappeared on the edge of my unsteady visual field.
"He is Heishiro Mitsurugi."
Um, wasn't she forgetting to add something?
Something about how I was her student? Therefore
implying that I should be given a break, because I've been in training for only three days? Or
something like that?
"THIS frightened weakling?" Mishima-sama boomed,
rising to his full, terrible height and gesturing to me with one hand, fingers flexed like tiger claws.
"THIS is the descendant of the legendary Mitsurugi!?"
...he really didn't have to say it like it was so hard
"Terminate his contract!" Mishima-sama snapped. "I will
not allow such weakness to pollute my syndicate one day longer!"
I should have been happy. After all, this job has been hell
on me, I've almost gotten killed more than once since I came here, but...
...but the Mishima syndicate was still my best chance of
getting into a college. Of realizing my dream of being an editor. Maybe even my only chance. To
think I could just stand before Mishima-sama's noble greatness, in the presence of a man who has
brought so much order and hope to a world filled with chaos and despair, only to be rejected as
And Anna was working here too, wasn't she? If I left now,
I'd probably never see her again. Even if I did, what reason would she have to look twice at a
No, I had to speak up. I had to. If I didn't, I knew I'd regret
it for the rest of my life.
"W-wait!" I squeaked.
Mishima-sama bared his ferocious teeth.
"G-give me a ch-chance to prove myself! Please!" Now I
really did get down on my knees, touching my forehead to the floor. "Th-there's something bad
here threatening you, right? L-let me protect you from it! I'll take on anything!"
I held my breath.
"Hmph," Mishima-sama snorted. "Very well. You may
have your chance."
With incessantly trembling arms, I pushed myself off the
floor, but Mishima-sama was no longer looking at me. Instead, he declared, "You have not lost
the advantage of surprise; it was never yours to begin with. Show yourself. Attack him. If you
crush this whelp, then I shall face you next in single combat: no weapons, no guards, and no
tricks. Is that not what you desire... Hwoarang?"
'Hwoarang'? Was that like a name or something? Just who
was Mishima-sama talking t-
The attack came before I could finish the thought.
Something grabbed my right hand, cold and clammy like a live fish; it wrenched me all the way
around, and this heavy lock like a convict's chain wrapped around my arm, only it wasn't a chain. I
think it was a leg; the knee joint locked with my elbow and I was forced to fold in half. The lock
lifted upward and pulled me off the ground. An awful wrench almost yanked my arm out of its
socket, twisting me in the air like a twirl-toy-
The floor hit my back at the same time as the boot heel dug
into my chest. Sight and sound disconnected, then slowly filtered through the corners of my
perception. Whatever had grabbed me let me go, for the moment. I tried my best to get back
"I remember your sword-freak ancestor," hissed a cruel,
serpentine voice. "Looks like all his strengths have been lost to genetic drift."
Shut up, you! I'll show you how good I am with a sword!
-oh, no. I still don't have my sword.
How am I supposed to fight without a sword?
Maybe it would have helped to look at my enemy before I
attempted an attack, but by the time I located the source of his voice, a fist hit me in the face.
I didn't have a chance to react. No opportunity to summon
any fighting spirit, or whatever it was that let me get a few blows in edgewise against the cyborg
zombie or the Ogre-woman. Just pow, right between the eyes, and with the double head
blow came a profound inability to focus on anything. All I got was bits and pieces, between the
dizziness and the terrible headache; not enough to keep track of my opponent, never enough to
It was a series of kicks, I think; they rushed so fast that I
was reacting to a high one and another hit me low instead. My ankle twisted from the force; a
tendon screamed bloody murder and I couldn't stand, but even as I fell another kick slammed me
against what must have been a bookshelf. Still another strike crushed my gut against my spine,
making me spit dry heaves. A follow-up blow to my ankle forced me to topple, but a particularly
solid heel to my chin lifted me back up before I sprawled. There was a lightning fast flash of red
and black, and glinting spurs like shooting stars. Something sharp grazed my forehead. Drops of
my own blood stung my eyes; the bookshelf behind me split in half, wooden boards crunched to
Hardcover volumes spilled on me.
Ouch. Ouch. Ow!
I just barely covered my head before the avalanche battered
my neck and back, pinning me flat on my stomach. One last book landed on its spine, right in
front of my eyes, and flopped open to a diagram of human pressure points.
"Interesting style of Tae Kwon Do," commented
Mishima-sama's gruff, oddly distant voice, and I knew he wasn't talking about me. "Its ruthless
is reminiscent of Baek Doo San."
"You think?" sneered my attacker. "No more stalling. You
made a bargain."
I could barely see over the open book, let alone lift my
head. My vision was cloudy, and filled with reddish blotches. One of the blotches gradually
resolved into a straight, chin-length layer of watery-red hair. Somehow, through the grinding pain
of my beating, I was able to get my first, wavering look at the destructive powerhouse that had
crushed me without a second thought.
I got the stuffing kicked out of me by a teenager?
He couldn't have been a day older than me, I swear. He
was way too thin and slight; even his punk black leathers made him look more like a petulant
young rebel than a tough guy.
Was this Hwoarang?
Whoever he was, Mishima-sama afforded him the strict
respect due a veteran warrior. Indigo electricity crackled about the old man, framing him in a
thunderstorm nimbus as he stood, arms at his sides. He settled into a defensive stance, legs
moderately wide, left hand held well out in front of his chambered right. The teenager's stance
was much more agitated; he practically bounced on the balls of his feet.
One moment, they were just standing there, opposite each
When they moved, it was so fast I could hardly see.
I think it was Hwoarang who attacked first, a black and
watery-red blur. I didn't see his actual kick, only the freeze-frame instant of its hyperextension, his
upper body tilted low to balance over his pivoted instep, his heel brushing against where the old
man's chin had been an instant before. Mishima-sama had whisked himself away and to the side,
stepping through shadows in darkness and silence, his wrinkled head down, his back to the
shelves of books.
Hwoarang scarcely paused; he shot forward into the
shadows, thrusting his fist like a rapid-fire machine gun. I think the old man tried to sidestep
again, but this time it was less successful; he caught two quick strikes to the face, then stumbled
as Hwoarang's spur cut his ribs, gouging a bright red crease. Mishima-sama's gritted teeth
gleamed deadly white in the darkness; his powerful arms reached, and snagged the arrow that was
Hwoarang's body in mid-motion. Locking his piston of a left upper limb around the teenager's
neck, Mishima-sama forced his enemy's head down, and used his free right hand to grab
Hwoarang's tangled hair. Brilliant streaks of searing indigo energy coursed about the old man's
fists as he held the teenager in his trap. Hwoarang's body convulsed. I smelled a foul, charcoal
odor - like burning rotten meat. Strands of Hwoarang's hair started to catch fire.
"Why," demanded the old man, "do you seek to assassinate
Hwoarang grunted, "Ahhgh-"
"Answer or I break your neck! Did someone hire you, or
are you here to fulfill your own vendetta?"
"Y-you-" Hwoarang gasped through the choke hold,
"-you..." His hands shook with outrage, building to a volcanic peak.
"YOU MORTAL FOOL!" Hwoarang's furious howl
increased his strength five - no, ten, it had to be at least ten times what it was before. He shoved
his right fist up and through Mishima-sama's headlock like it wasn't there, actually landing a solid
blow on the old man's chin. Hwoarang seized the opening, grappling and spinning the old man's
body. He hooked his left front thigh on Mishima-sama's leg, using that intersection like a sliding
pulley to flip the old man and throw him on the ground supine. It was unthinkable to see,
someone as great and prideful as Mishima-sama being cast to the ignoble earth.
Hwoarang tried to stab his boot heel through
Mishima-sama's neck, but the old man rolled lengthwise out of the way just in time; the floor
the crushing impact of the missed stomp. Mishima-sama's roll halted next to another laden
bookshelf, this one vertically narrow. He was breathing heavily as he hustled to his feet, but at the
same time, Hwoarang drew his left leg into a chambered kick, tucking his folded knee close to his
balanced upper body. Perhaps Mishima-sama was moving to evade an oncoming left kick; I don't
know, because it seemed as though the teenager switched strategies in mid-attack, faster than the
speed of thought. He lashed out not with his left leg, but with his right, spinning clockwise and
shifting his pose in a three hundred and sixty degree twirl. His right heel snapped in a horizontal
whip curve, not at the crouching old man, but rather the bookshelf towering nearby, savaging
dusty volumes with a blow so massive, it cracked the shelf's foundation. Ancient woodwork split
in half, and an avalanche of volumes spilled upon Mishima-sama. The old man roared as they fell;
clutter and chaos filled my eyes-
-replaced with an explosion of indigo Power!
Mishima-sama had no time to avoid the threat, only to destroy it. He thrust his arms straight out
almost supernatural counterattack, palms flexed, left palm pointing up while the right pointed
down. As if emanating from a demon maelstrom, the sheer pressure wave of his strike and its
cavalcade of indigo energy smashed aside the brunt of the hardcover avalanche. Yet
Mishima-sama still suffered a double toll - one from the stray volumes that hit and bruised his
and one directly from Hwoarang. The teenager had landed from his shelf-splitting kick in his stork
stance, this time chambering his right leg. He spun in a jumping counterclockwise whirl, again
turning all the way around to scissor his legs and lash out high with his right instep. He got the old
man's face. Mishima-sama buckled with the blow, which hurled him clear of the fallen debris,
deeper into the shelves and shadows.
Hwoarang's breathing was labored, not from fatigue, but
rather the ugly, blotching bruises that laced his neck - or were they burns? The old man's strength
had left its marks, and the teenager remained acutely aware of it; instead of charging headfirst into
the darkness, this time he advanced warily on his prey. He hissed, poisonously, his words dripping
with hate and loathing.
"Despicable, self-centered mortals. You think the only
reason you should die is for money, or revenge?"
An evil, sharp-toothed grin creased Hwoarang's lips. It was
not humor. It was insanity.
"No. It's not your fault, not directly; just your bad luck. It
has to stop. He's my best chance for making it stop, but he won't. Not on his own. I have to force
him. I know who he cares about most; it was in his head. Not the girl. I could have gone after the
girl; I could have. But he barely knows her, while you - you-...!"
Somewhere in the darkness, Mishima-sama faltered. I
could hardly see, but the crackling indigo energy around him broke, just for a moment, betraying
his weakened posture. Mad, shaking anticipation wracked Hwoarang's stance, as if the very sight
of Mishima-sama's blood spurred him into a renewed frenzy.
"YOU'RE THE ONE PERSON HE LOVES!"
Hwoarang threw himself into the bloodlust, unable to hold
back; he charged forward at a dead run-
-into the brunt of Mishima-sama's lethal fist.
I didn't see the actual blow. I saw Hwoarang's run, his
leaping kick, his left leg chambered and starting to extend in a bone-crushing airborne spike; then
there was a flash of indigo strobe lights, and the teenager's body hurtled on a reverse trajectory.
Mishima-sama stood, out of the shadows, his side to the enemy, his legs in a sideways horse
stance with a limited bend at the knees, and his right fist extended straight. Pure strength defined
him in that moment, force and will and greatness that lesser mortals can only aspire to.
Hwoarang slammed into yet another bookshelf, rocking it,
and almost collapsed at its base; but he held his ground. Mishima-sama hurtled at his enemy in a
flying kick. Instead of striking high, as Hwoarang had done with most of his kicks, the old man
hurled himself low to the ground, landing on a pivoted wooden clog as he thrust his left leg at
Hwoarang's shins. The teenager had prepared himself for a chest-level attack. Natural speed and
uncanny desperation were not enough to stop the old man's assault, but Hwoarang had just
enough opportunity to counterattack at the same moment. The old man grunted as Hwoarang's
heel caught his right shoulder, hard, but the teenager had his support cut from underneath him.
The rocking bookshelf behind Hwoarang stopped his freefall, with the unkind impact of hard
wood against skin and bone.
Mishima-sama raised his left elbow overhead, preparing to
finish off his enemy with a savage concussion. At the same time, Hwoarang forced his bruised
body to obey his will, pushing away from the teetering bookshelf to whip his right leg in a full
circle, his final target being the old man's vulnerable neck.
Both blows struck home.
There was an enormous flash of energy, so bright it burned
my eyes. I saw Mishima-sama, strong and deadly, with a furious, hating glower on his face;
Hwoarang's boot lodged in the wedge between his left shoulder and his neck, with a dull red
stream of blood coursing from the deep bite of the metal spur. Yet Mishima-sama had locked
Hwoarang's extended leg in the crook of his weathered left arm, and the old man planted a heavy
wooden clog on Hwoarang's own chest, pushing with triple the Power.
"rrrRAGH!" With a mighty shout, Mishima-sama kicked
Hwoarang away from him and into the bookshelf, toppling it. The falling shelf hit another, which
hit another, setting off the rumbling catastrophe of a massive domino effect. Hwoarang slumped
on his back, still struggling to move, until Mishima-sama bent on one knee and drove his wooden
clog directly into Hwoarang's exposed ribcage.
The sound was horrible.
It was like the crunch of breaking a bushel of wet
twigs. Hwoarang spasmed, violently, and choked. Blood started running from his mouth. He
couldn't get up.
He was dying.
At least, I thought he was. Taki has told me about the
different ways a person can die. She tells me during combat training, talking without breathing
hard while I huff and puff and strain to land a single hit on her. She said once that a hard enough
chest blow can kill, if it crushes the ribs and drives splinters of the very cage that protects the
heart and lungs into these most vital organs. Hwoarang's breath was sputtering, fading; a bluish
tinge started to touch his lips, especially visible against his unnaturally pale skin. He was dying. He
had to be.
I'll never forget how Mishima-sama looked, towering over
the broken wreck of his vanquished foe. The old man had been battered. Severely. Bloody,
streaming cuts ran down his neck and chest; a black ring circled his swollen left eye; ugly, purplish
bruises marred his face and gut. His right arm hung limp and red-streaked. He looked like he
should collapse, but he was standing tall and regal.
Mishima-sama's face showed more than pride, or conquest.
His expression was one of utmost exhilaration. The fierce joy of a born warrior, answering the call
to victory. It was the look an invincible champion - I don't care how many blows Hwoarang dealt
his body; inside, his soul was invulnerable. I'm not worthy to serve such strength. Not yet,
I could only stare in reverence of Mishima-sama's triumph.
I could only feel pity for his dying victim.
But then, Mishima-sama said to his enemy, "You will not
perish by my hand."
That's all he did; he didn't summon a doctor, or perform
first aid, or anything like that. He simply declared his will, insurmountable as the rising sun. And
just like that, Hwoarang's breathing settled into a regular rhythm. The bluish tinge left his skin.
His rotting brown eyes widened.
"No," the teenager whispered. "No-!"
"I do not choose to take your life," the old man continued,
as if speaking an imperial decree - and you know, I think he was. "You will atone for your
assassination attempt by serving me. You will fight in my Iron Fist Tournament. And you will not
harass my grandson again; you will not even communicate with him unless I so approve. Nor will
you talk to Julia Chang."
"He told you about me," Hwoarang gasped. "He told you
everything!" Horror, disgust, and misery gripped the teenager's face.
"Damn you!" Hwoarang's voice turned shrill, tortured, a
thousand times more agonized than when he'd been physically beaten. "Damn you! DAMN
I didn't understand. I still don't. Mishima-sama had spared
his life; he should have been grateful.
Well, it's not like I feel sorry for him anymore. I mean, he
tried to assassinate a world leader, and his only punishment for it was to work for the guy. Am I
really supposed to be sorry for him because he now has a job like mine? No, of course not.
So why does my gut tie itself in knots whenever I think of
Taki's voice sounded, close to my ear. "Heads up, rookie.
I honestly hadn't been aware of her during the entire fight.
It's not like she was involved, or even in my direct line of view. Only then did I realize she'd been
scooping books and boards off me the whole time. Mishima-sama's battle with Hwoarang must
have lasted less than a minute or two; it had only seemed like much more.
"Got any broken bones?" Taki whispered, hoarsely.
I tried to answer that. Talking hurt. Moving hurt more.
Like something big and bear-like was squeezing my chest. I managed to get out a pained,
"Better hope not," she returned, hoisting me off the ground
like a sack of flour.
The squeezing sensation in my chest became a
I think I passed out from the pain.
...and when I woke up, the devil was tending to me.
I almost reacted with another yipe. Caught myself just in
time. He was healing me like before, only this time I was back on that stupid cot, and he was
touching my chest. The devil-
No, wait. I shouldn't call him that, even if it's true. He is
Mishima-sama's grandson, after all. And he's still my boss, next to Mishima-sama himself.
"Ah, you're awake," observed Jin Kazama, the young
master. "How are you feeling?"
Um, well... no more pain, at least.
"Good," he said, removing his hand. "You had three
fractured ribs, a concussion, and a mess of minor cuts and contusions, but you should be fine
Uh, thanks, I guess.
"You're welcome. But how on earth did you get hurt in the
first place? Your training shouldn't be so severe as to endanger your life."
I'm pretty sure I didn't think the answer in words, but the
young master's question prompted a quick, unpleasant flashback of how I got pounded by-
"Hwoarang?" my boss exclaimed, with a shocked
expression on his face. "Why? How?" Turning to Taki, he angrily charged, "I asked you to
watch over Grandfather, not some student with scarcely three days of training to his name!"
Taki only shrugged.
"She didn't force you to fight Hwoarang, did she?" my boss
demanded to know.
Uh, no, not exactly, it's like - I was-
"You're afraid of losing your job?" The young master's
eyebrows shot straight up. "Why? You've done nothing but strive above and beyond the call of
duty since you came here."
I wasn't sure how to explain, or even if I could
"I'm sure you have nothing to worry about," he
But, Mishima-sama said-
"If Grandfather wanted you gone, you wouldn't be in the
syndicate right now. I don't know why you think you've offended him, but even if you have, the
fact that you're still here means he's given you a second chance."
"R-really?" I almost pleaded.
He smiled, as benignly as possible for a monster in human
form. Which was actually rather benign. "Xiaoyu would like to get to know you better after
dinner, if you feel up to it. I hope you don't mind. Take care." He bowed from the neck and
"Is it dinnertime already?" I muttered, woozily. "How long
was I out?"
"Several hours," Taki growled.
It wasn't her normal, bad-temper growl. It was worse.
Much worse. Frustration and rage all mixed up into a vicious, low-pitched croon, like how my
kitty used to warn other cats off her territory. I looked at Taki with bewilderment. Her muscles
were constricting from bottled emotion, and her almond brown eyes flashed, spitefully.
I said, "What's wrong with y-"
I knew she was going to slap me before she moved.
She telegraphed it. Everything about her body looked like
she was only barely holding back, like the mere impact of sonic vibrations would set her off.
Maybe that's why I reacted just as she drew her hand back, and caught her wrist before she could
touch my face. It was the first time I'd successfully blocked a real blow from her. I had to stop her
with both hands, too; her one arm was so strong that two of mine could scarcely keep it
"What is wrong with you?" I repeated, genuinely
wanting to know.
"You IDIOT!" she screeched, wrenching her hand free. "I
tried! I tried to save you! And what do you do? You cast yourself into the Devil's maw! You'll
never be free of the syndicate now, not until you're a corpse!"
She tried to-?
"You set me up," I gasped, my jaw dropping from sudden
Taki only glared.
"That's why you were so eager to 'watch over'
Mishima-sama, when you were asked to. And why you were so quick to drag me along. And why
deliberately trying to psyche me out before I met him. And why you defended me in front of the
young master, but not to Mishima-sama himself! You were hoping I'd make a fool of myself in
front of Mishima-sama and get fired for it, weren't you? Weren't you?"
"He is not 'Mishima-sama'!" she exclaimed. "He's as much
of a Devil as his grandson; the only difference is that he hides it better!"
"Don't play the hypocrite," I returned, coldly. "I've seen
you behave more like a Devil than Mishima-sama. Ever since I first met you. You're the one who
seems to enjoy inflicting pain."
"You have no idea," she spat.
"Well, I'm ready for it," I returned, getting off the cot and
meeting her glare. "I'm ready to learn everything you have to teach me. And then, I'm going to
spar with Xiaoyu, if she'll condescend to show me a few moves."
Taki said, "What?"
"Bring it on."
"How many of those books hit you on the head?" she shot,
like a sniper. "Where is the terrified coward who only wanted to run away?"
"I am not a coward!" I shot back. "Sometimes I get scared,
but I'm not running away! Not from monsters, not from the syndicate, and especially not
"What changed your mind?"
"Mishima-sama did. Now I know who I'm working for, and
why it's an honor to serve him."
"Even an impressionable fool like you wouldn't throw his
life away for 'honor'!"
"I also need this job. Badly."
"Liar," she snarled.
"Don't pretend your half-truths are whole!" Her short
sword was in her hand again. "It's Anna, isn't it? You saw her, and now you want her, and
suddenly nothing else matters. Not even your own survival."
I thought about denying it. Then I decided that I honestly
didn't want to keep making excuses to Taki. It would be the same as trying to appease her, and I
was through doing that.
"I have to be stronger," I explained. "She's a veteran of the
Iron Fist Tournament. There's no reason for her to give me the time of day until I'm her equal. I
have to train harder, learn more, get better, until I'm worthy of her. And I'll face any challenge it
takes to get there."
Taki shook her head. "I should have known it was too late
for you the moment you saw her. Only one Darwinian instinct can override another."
"Don't talk about Anna like that!" I shouted. "You only
wish you could be like her!"
Taki reacted to that.
In a big way.
I thought she was angry before. Now it was like she went
wild. For the second time, I knew she was going to attack me before she did it, and I reacted in
time to block; only I couldn't. She pushed aside my arms like bamboo stalks. I don't know if it was
rage or something deeper that gave her such superhuman strength. In seconds, she had my back
to the wall, in a replay of last night; only this time, her sword hovered near my neck instead of my
"Don't you ever compare me to her," Taki breathed
through grinding teeth. "I may be a monster, but at least I don't pretend that I'm not!"
I'm proud to say I didn't flinch.
"You're trying to intimidate me," I said, "but it's not going
to work. I know you have a sense of honor - enough that you won't kill me when you know I've
saved your life. Maybe not enough to actually treat me like a human being, but that's just too
Taki's eyes narrowed to vicious slits.
"You're right," she said, sheathing her sword. "I'm not
going to kill you. Anna is."
I folded my arms, defiantly.
"You don't understand, you naive, trusting child. You have
no idea; you've never been close to her kind before. She is hate. She is vendetta. She will
manipulate you for her own ends, and then she will leave you. It would be kinder to murder you
"You don't know what kindness is."
"You don't know what Anna is. Your lust is going to be
the death of you."
Taki was deliberately trying to embarrass me, I know. It
shouldn't have worked, but it did. I wanted to retort with a deep, poetic, ominous declaration, like
'It is your unceasing hatred that is going to be the death of you, if you do not learn to control
What I actually said was, "Oh, yeah? Well, you're a
"You want to learn how to be strong from me, remember?"
Taki coolly interrupted, her flaring hatred remolding itself into insidious venom. "If you expect me
to continue teaching you, then you had better be nice."
So I was nice.
I was nice all the rest of the night. And I was also nice to
Xiaoyu, who actually turned out to be pretty friendly, for a puny killer. But I'll say this, just
between these pages and me:
Taki really is a mean-spirited bitch.
I'm through feeling sorry for her, too. She still won't let me
eat real food!
Tomorrow, I'm going to see if I can talk Xiaoyu into
bringing me a steamed pork bun, after her school lets out.
End of Chapter 13: Unlikely Alliances