PHOENIX REBORN

written by Victar, e-mail vctr113062@aol.com
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Chapter 30: Demons Without


   "At that moment, in the sunset on Watership Down, there was offered to General Woundwort the opportunity to show whether he was really the leader of vision and genius which he believed himself to be, or whether he was no more than a tyrant with the courage and cunning of a pirate."
         -Richard Adams, Watership Down


VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: Mishima Syndicate Tokyo Headquarters
Private Office of President Jin Kazama
February 23, 2018
5:14 p.m.


The field of view shows a tidy office, sparsely furnished except for several intricate works of art. Vice-president Lee Chaolan, dressed in a black formal tuxedo with a red carnation over the heart, sits on a divan without cushions. His hands rest on his knees, and his eyes are closed. Julia Chang, dressed in a cutoff top and tan jeans, sits next to Lee. She nervously frets with her hair. Across from them, the interviewer is trying to mount a small camera on a tripod.

JULIA CHANG: Are you sure you don't need any help with that?

INTERVIEWER: Nah, I got it.

The camera almost falls off the tripod; the interviewer catches it just in time.

C: Right. Look, not that it bothers me, but won't you be recognized if you're in this videotape? I thought you were trying to keep your identity out of this whole public record thing.

I: I'm only going to put a written transcript in the record. I can edit my name out of that.

C: Mm-hm. If all you want is a written transcript, then why go to the trouble of setting up video cameras? Why not just make an audio tape?

The interviewer looks at Julia, while edging around the tripod.

I: Because-

C: Careful!

I: AHH-!

The interviewer trips over the camera's tripod. It falls apart. The interviewer lands face-first on the floor. One leg of the tripod hits the interviewer on the back of the head.

I: Ow.

The vice-president of the Mishima syndicate opens his eyes.

LEE CHAOLAN: Are you all right?

The interviewer groggily sits up.

I: Uh, yeah. But...

The interviewer examines the fallen camera. Its lights are blinking oddly.

I: Damn.

L: One functioning camera should be sufficient.

C: Sufficient for what? Why does this have to be videotaped at all?

JIN KAZAMA: In case I black out. I need a copy that I can refer to.

The President of the Mishima syndicate walks into the field of view. He is dressed in the uniform of his high school.

K: Thank you for coming. All of you. And Lee, thank you especially for taking extra time off work. I know how reluctant you are to do that.

L: There was little work for me to do, in any case. Today is a worldwide holiday.

K: It is?

L: (quietly) Victory Day. It is the anniversary of humankind's triumph over the Great Invasion.

K: Oh. That's right.

Jin looks around, then glances directly into the field of view.

K: Ah, excellent. You've got the camera running already. Can you work it while we talk?

I: Ummm... it's automatic. I was going to set up a second one-

K: No need.

I: Okay.

K: Lee, Julia...

C: Do I FINALLY get to learn what is going on!?

Jin is startled into silence.

C: Uh, sorry.

K: That's all right. It's just...

Jin folds his arms, and looks at the ground. Then he looks back to Lee and Julia.

K: That's my question, really. Or it was. I've figured out part of the answer, but not all of it.

C: Jin...?

K: I know that you've put a memory block in my mind.

Julia is stunned. Lee shows no change.

K: Lee, you're the one who actually blacked out my memories, aren't you? You're the only person I know who has the Power to do such a thing. And Julia, you must have been aware of this for some time. It's why you've been more upset than usual lately, isn't it?

C: H-how...?

Jin turns to the interviewer.

K: You also knew about this, didn't you?

I: Only for the past couple weeks.

K: Did you try to confront me about it?

I: More than once. You kept blacking out.

K: Figures. Who else knows?

L: Bryan is aware. As are Shingo Yabuki, Chizuru Kagura, and Sub-Zero.

C: Lee!

K: 'Sub-Zero' - that ice-mage scientist you've been sending me to?

L: Did he not tell you his name?

K: That's his name? I thought he was describing his body temperature.

I: I should mention that when the finished record is publicly distributed, everyone will know about your memory block. Unless you want me to keep that part out.

K: No. I gave my permission for full disclosure, and I meant it.

C: WHAT IS GOING ON!?

Julia springs to her feet, shaking, and in a panic.

C: Lee, how can - you said - you told me this was impossible! This was IMPOSSIBLE!

L: Not quite. I said that this should be impossible. It would seem that my nephew has redefined the boundaries of what should be possible for him to do.

K: Julia...

C: HOW can you know about the block!? It's supposed to keep you from becoming aware of its presence! It's-!

K: Julia, ssh. It's okay.

C: No...

Julia sinks back on the divan. Lee briefly rests his arm around her shoulders, comfortingly.

L: Take heart. This may not be as bad as it looks.

K: The block is designed to keep me from trying to remove it. What I don't know about, I can't remove. Right, Lee?

L: That is correct.

K: I have decided not to remove it. With that conviction firmly in mind, I can remain aware of the block.

L: Masterful.

K: Not really. I'm not forcing myself to believe in my decision.

L: Oh?

K: I don't want to risk lobotomizing myself by accident. Not if there is any other option.

L: I see.

K: Lee, why did you do this to me? And why did you make Julia go along with it?

Julia hunches partway over, looking at the floor.

C: He didn't 'make' me go along with it. It was my idea. I... begged him...

K: When was this?

Julia sniffles.

K: Was it... was it when I tried to kill myself? And you came to stop me?

C: I tried to stop you. But you were so... so determined. I didn't want to lose you. I couldn't think of any other way.

K: Julia...

C: I'm sorry, Jin. I'm so sorry. I knew it was wrong to tamper with your mind-

K: Julia, you have nothing to apologize for.

C: But...

L: If anyone here has committed a wrong, it is I.

K: No. I'm not here to make accusations. Lee, I won't say that what you did was right, but I can't say that it was wrong, either. Because I... I would have done the same thing, in your place.

C: What?

Jin sits on Julia's other side, and takes her hand.

K: Julia, if our places had been reversed... if the only thing I could do to save your life would be to black out some of your memories... I would do it.

C: Jin...

K: Are you surprised?

C: I... actually, no. I heard about what you once did to Doctor Abel.

K: But even though I have an idea of why you and Lee did this, I'm still missing too many details to completely understand. And these epileptic blackouts - the way the block just triggers sometimes, and wipes out my short-term memory - you both know that I can't live like this. Not forever.

C: It wasn't meant to be forever.

L: However, neither was it meant to end this soon.

K: You don't think I'm ready to face - whatever it is that you blacked out?

L: Jin, it has been less than two months.

K: How do you expect me to deal with my problems if I don't know what they are?

L: Eventually, you will have to confront the Truth. But first, you need the chance to take back your life.

K: What do you mean by that?

L: After the Toshin murdered your mother, your life was not your own. You dedicated yourself wholly to avenging her death. Then, after the Toshin was redeemed...

K: This is where my memories start to go black.

L: You did not have any opportunity to live your own life again. Heihachi Mishima tried to destroy you.

K: I remember that much.

L: Do you also remember what happened to him? And to your stepfather?

K: I... I know they're... but whenever I try to think about the details-

L: Then do not.

K: What?

L: Start with the basics. When the details come, take them one at a time, and do not agonize. Do not give yourself grief for crimes that are not yours. The block suppresses your precise memory of what happened because you were blaming yourself, and your self-recrimination was contributing to your suicidal frame of mind.

K: I...

L: So, begin with a general picture. You remember that your grandfather was about to kill you. Can you think of what happened next? The very next moment?

K: Grandfather... he was going to murder me with Heaven's Dagger. Julia and I were too drained to do anything about it. No one could stop him. No one could even get up...

Julia bites her lower lip.

K: No one, except for...

Jin's eyes widen.

K: Oh, gods...

L: I take it that you remember, now.

K: ...yes...

C: Then you know it wasn't your fault!

K: And then... I confronted Grandfather... interrogated him...

L: Jin. You did not create the demons of his past.

K: Grandfather...

Jin covers his eyes with one hand.

C: None of it was your fault! You must know that, Jin. You know that!

K: But I... I'm still responsible for...

Jin takes his hand away from his eyes, and shudders.

K: For trusting Grandfather. I should have known there was something wrong with him. My father warned me. Julia, you warned me. If I had only listened - if I had only gone to my father...

I: Ummm, pardon me. I feel like I have to point something out.

The interviewer gestures to Jin.

I: If you had successfully run away from the syndicate to be with your stepfather, then, uh... I'd probably be dead.

L: Jin, listen to me. Even if you had deserted your grandfather, he still would have kept Heaven's Dagger, and he most likely would have used other innocent people to summon the Toshin. There is no telling how much slaughter Toshin could have spread, if you and Julia had not been there to wield Heaven's Dagger against it. You might even have been unable to prevent it from destroying the Earth.

K: Do you really think I made the right choice? Any of you?

L: Sometimes there is no right choice.

K: But - Julia, you knew what Grandfather was. You were begging me to run away from him-!

C: Just because I would have chosen differently in your place, it doesn't mean that I would have been right. It doesn't mean that anything would have turned out better.

I: If I may...

Jin, Julia, and Lee turn toward the interviewer.

I: Everyone in this room has, at one point or another, been faced with a crisis. Problems that can't be resolved with just a clever bit of thinking, or brute force. You make your decisions as best you can, and that's really the most anyone can do. Whether they're an angel, a truth-seeker, or a telepathic prodigy.

C: (distractedly) Or a complete klutz.

I: Hey.

C: Oh, dear. Did I say that out loud?

I: Yes.

C: Sorry.

I: Hmph.

L: Do you understand now, Jin?

K: I...

L: Jin?

K: ...I have to pray... at the shrine...

C: Jin!

K: No, I - I don't mean it like that. Julia, I swear I don't.

C: But...

K: I won't seal myself inside the shrine. I'm not going to kill myself. I give you my word.

L: Are you willing to swear this upon the Sword of Truth?

K: Yes. After our conference is over.

C: You mean-?

K: There are still parts missing in my memory.

L: Yes. And you will continue to experience short-term memory blackouts, on occasion.

K: How often?

L: That depends on your environment. Probably less often than before, though.

K: Lee, when are you going to remove the rest of the block?

L: I have decided not to remove it.

K: What?

L: It is designed to naturally dissolve on your twenty-first birthday.

K: That's over a year from now.

L: Yes.

K: You really think I need that long to-?

L: To relearn how to enjoy, value, and cherish your own life?

K: Uhh...

L: Jin, you are my only nephew. I must err on the side of caution. I must.

K: But...

L: I promised your mother, when the two of us were souls inside the Toshin. And I promised your stepfather, when we were readying our forces at Kagura's Temple. I promised both of them that I would take good care of you.

K: Do you really think that I would destroy myself, if a piece of my mind weren't shut down?

C: I was there, Jin. I saw.

L: As did I.

K: But why? I remember... I remember things that I have to make peace with, now, but I - I know my father would never want me to hurt myself. Neither would my mother, nor any of you. For all your sakes, if for no other reason, I wouldn't - I shouldn't have-

There are several seconds of awkward silence.

K: You've blacked out the reason why I tried to kill myself, haven't you? The real reason?

L: Yes.

K: What was it?

L: If I tell you, it will only prompt your memory block to erase what you hear.

K: Was I punishing myself for something?

Lee looks away.

K: 'Do not give yourself grief for crimes that are not yours,' you said. Is there a crime that is mine?

C: No!

I: You helped save the world.

K: Lee?

No response.

K: Lee, you're the one who has to tell me the truth. Tell me now. Have I committed a crime?

L: (still not looking at Jin) Yes.

I: What?

C: NO!

K: What was my crime?

C: Jin, this isn't right - Lee, you can't-!

L: It was a crime for which you could not forgive yourself. It was a crime for which you could not atone. It was, to your mind, a crime that demanded your execution.

K: Lee, what was it? What was my crime?

L: Being alive.





INTERVIEW WITH JIN KAZAMA, section 9
February 23, 2018
8:45 p.m.


         Again, thank you for coming.
         Yes?
         Well, I expect that this will be my last interview, but I insist on having it. Because I have to make peace with this. I have to tell you what happened to Grandfather.
         And I have to tell you what happened to...
         I...
         I'm going to relate as much as I can. Until my memory block resurfaces. Then, you'll have to go back to Julia. She has promised me that she will tell you everything I can't.
         Is that all right?
         Thank you.


         Now. As I was saying before.
         Grandfather was going to murder me. Heaven's Dagger was in his hand, and he raised it high overhead, preparing to stab me.
         Julia and I had given up all our strength to heal the Toshin. We had nothing left with which to fight back, and the rest of the survivors were worse off than we were.
         King the Second was dying from visceral trauma. Gun Jack was out of commission. Jane was burned, and pinned underneath Gun Jack's great weight. Forest Law and Yoshimitsu were bleeding to death. Eddy Gordo had severe head trauma. Xiaoyu was comatose, while Bryan Fury was fading in and out of consciousness. I assume that Lee had his hands full, struggling to purge Bryan's body of the Toshin's venom.
         Grandfather was going to murder me, and I couldn't stop him. No one could stop him.
         No one, except for...
         Except for...
         It was as if he appeared out of nowhere. A bright flash of his azure shirt whisked before my eyes, low to the ground.
         He was shielding me with his own body.
         Bracing heavily on his left hand, he kicked his right leg in a wide sweep, close to the floor. His long black ponytail splayed outward; its feathery trailing ends brushed my face.
         He cried, "HAH!"
         It wasn't until I heard his voice that my stunned, blood-deprived brain identified him. Remembered him.
         Detective Lei Wulong. Hong Kong's internationally famous Super Police. The hero of the Great Invasion.
         My stepfather.
         No. My father.
         He should not have been able to get up. He should not have been able to fight. The Toshin hadn't hurt him badly, but my father was still dying.
         He was dying from his liver cancer.
         My father was so sick that I... I don't think he would have survived long enough to be there, if not for the people at Kagura's Temple. They had shared their life-force with him, prolonging his stay in this world. But the last of their gift was long since squandered.
         My father...
         His gun was in the holster strapped to his side; he had not drawn it to use against Grandfather. He couldn't, because he knew that Grandfather had made me put a death-link inside myself. My father knew that if he were to shoot Grandfather dead, then I would die too.
         What's that?
         I...
         I know my father was an expert marksman. Perhaps even legendary. But he was so weak... I remember seeing his arms tremble, when he braced for that sweeping kick. I think he couldn't trust himself to handle the recoil of his own gun. I think that he couldn't shoot to wound Grandfather, because the risk of the bullet going off-target and being lethal was too high. That's why my father had to fight with his body, instead of with his gun.
         My father...
         My father should not have been able to fight.
         Yet he did.
         His sweeping kick struck Grandfather's foremost ankle. If my father had been at full strength, I'm sure he would have knocked Grandfather down, but he was so sick...
         Grandfather did not collapse. However, he did lose his balance, mostly because my father had taken him by surprise. Grandfather's left leg was kicked out from under him; his shoes skidded on the smooth stone floor. His torso buckled, and his legs spread in a wide split. He had to break his fall with his free hand, and push himself back up to a standing position.
         My father assumed the Art of the Snake.
         He had previously used Arts such as this against me, in a challenge on the grounds of my high school. His skills were so effective that later, when I was training regularly with Xiaoyu, I had her show me all the animal Arts that my father once practiced at the Temple of Light. Just in case I had to fight my father in the Iron Fist Tournament. Not that I would have lost to him, as sick as he was; I simply wanted to avoid humiliating myself, like I had in that previous match.
         So it was that I recognized my father's classic pose, balanced on one leg, his upper limbs aligned in an S-curve. His arms were the coils of the rearing serpent.
         "Is this how the King of the Iron Fist challenges his adversaries?" hissed the Snake. "Ambushing them after they are drained of all strength?"
         Grandfather's reply was a snarl. He lunged to attack.
         But the Snake was faster.
         More than just fast. Insanely fast. Impossibly fast.
         The fastest punches I have ever seen...
         Darting forward, he kept the left side of his body turned toward his opponent. His left knee bent as he took numerous small steps, like the snake crawling on its belly. His left fist - the snake's head - jabbed Grandfather with an unbelievably swift succession of short punches, each blow retracting only a few inches before the Snake lashed out again.
         The Snake battered Grandfather's face.
         Grandfather's upper lip was split. He bowed a little, in reaction to the blows.
         My father coughed, from the cancer that had spread to his lungs. He had to break off after only five or six punches.
         Grandfather wiped the blood from his lip.
         My father resumed the Art of the Snake.
         Grandfather growled, "I wanted you to live long enough to see your 'child' die. But if you insist on preceding him, then so it shall be."
         Grandfather advanced for the kill.
         This was the moment... the drifting, eternal instant in time when...
         When...
         My father assumed the Art of the Dragon.


         I don't know how Lee ever blocked this out in my mind. Because it's... it's...
         It's the single most vivid memory I have my father. Or ever will have.
         Stepping far forward on his right leg, his back leg on the ball of the foot, my father brought his arms in front of his head. His right arm curved up and out, and his left arm curled down and out, with his fists suspended in front of his face. The Dragon's head was the circle of his arms.
         The Dragon's Power was the azure of his soul.
         In that one moment, he was more than my father. He was more than a war hero. He was more than Super Police.
         He was the Thunder Warrior Dragon.
         He was Lei Wulong.


         "I WON'T LET YOU KILL MY SON!" roared the Dragon.
         Grandfather was moving to cut my father's throat, but the Thunder Warrior Dragon ducked underneath the strike, spinning in a clockwise turn.
         The Dragon closed its mighty jaws.
         My father wrapped his arms around Grandfather's neck. He grappled with Grandfather, fueled by raw determination, afire with the Strength of the Dragon. He shook Grandfather in a circular motion, once, twice, three times; I think he made Grandfather dizzy. Then he let go and spun counterclockwise, using his momentum to slam the Dragon's jaws into Grandfather's chest.
         Despite all odds, despite the sickness that debilitated him, the Thunder Warrior Dragon hurled my grandfather half a dozen meters away.
         Grandfather lost his balance. He actually fell.
         But my father... my father started coughing again.
         Worse than before. Much worse. It was so bad that he could scarcely remain standing. He staggered, clutching at his throat with one hand.
         He was the Dragon no longer.
         He was only a man. A middle-aged, dying man.
         Whereas Grandfather had already gotten back up.
         My father could not fight anymore. He was coughing so badly, slipping to one knee...
         I tried harder than ever to get up. To help my father. To do something, anything; I tried to get up, I swear I tried.
         It was impossible. I had no strength left. I couldn't even summon a sorcerous barrier, not that it would have done any good. Heaven's Dagger makes its wielder immune to sorcery.
         My father...
         I was helpless to protect him. As helpless as I had been when the Toshin murdered my mother. I could only watch.
         Julia could only watch.
         We saw...
         We saw Grandfather strike with Heaven's Dagger.
         He plunged Heaven's Dagger into my father's body. Low, beneath and to the right of the heart. Probably just under the lungs. Grandfather buried Heaven's Dagger up to the hilt, and it still wasn't enough to sate his hatred; he...
         He carved with Heaven's Dagger... slicing my father's insides...
         ...cut into the spine...
         ...twisted the weapon...
         ...gods...
         No. No, I'm continuing this. I have to tell you everything I remember.
         I remember...
         My father fell off of the bloody knife. Red spatters stained the brilliant azure of his shirt, leaving trails of dark purple.
         He was wearing the same type of fighting clothes as he had when he battled Kazuya Mishima, twenty years ago. Did you know that?
         While I... I was dressed in the same type of navy blue dress suit that Kazuya wore when he fought my father. The same type of suit that Kazuya had died in. I remembered. Lee had shown me Kazuya's death, in a vision of the past. I had feared Lee's conjuring, as a prophecy of my future.
         It was a prophecy. Just not the way I expected.
         My father...
         He fell backwards. On me.
         Into my arms. I caught him.
         His blood stained my hands... soaked through the folds of my torn dress suit...
         He was badly hurt, but it was all I could do to hold him. I didn't have the strength to summon my Power of Healing, not that it would have helped. What Heaven's Dagger cuts, sorcery can't heal.
         I tried anyway.
         I tried so hard... I tried to heal my father...
         But there was something blocking me. A force of will, so strong that it stopped my efforts before the strain could make me pass out.
         My father's hand was gripping mine. Tightly. His thoughts focused through the link of physical contact.
         "Son..." he breathed. There was no voice to it. There was hardly any air.
         "Father, don't talk," I insisted, on the edge of panic. "I - I'll heal you, I'll-"
         "...I'm proud of you... your mother's proud of you..."
         "Father!" I cried.
         "I can see her..."
         "Father, no! Hang on! I - I can-"
         "Take... our love... with you."
         "FATHERRRR!" I screamed, and my howl became a sob.


         And that... that's how my father died.
         He died in my arms. Just as Kazuya died in his.
         That was the prophecy, in the horrible vision I had seen. I didn't understand until too late, when my father's last thoughts were slipping from my reach.
         My father's last thoughts... I felt them...
         His last thoughts were of his love for me. His love for my mother.
         And one thing more.
         It wasn't in words. I'm pretty sure it wasn't a conscious thought. It was just a deeply internalized feeling. A feeling of balance, of rightness, as if...
         As if a debt had at long last been paid.
         My father... I know he felt guilty for failing to prevent Kazuya's suicide. He felt so ashamed that it became a monstrous secret to him, blood on his hands, ice in his soul. But this...
         Was this the only way he felt he could redeem himself?
         By dying? Dying to save me?
         That's not right.
         My father was a good man. He fought to save the world from the Great Invasion. He championed the innocent as Super Police. He loved my mother, and he loved me as his son, even though he knew I wasn't of his blood. My father was a good man!
         He didn't deserve to suffer. He didn't deserve to die. Not like that.
         It's wrong.
         It's just wrong.
         Such a system of debts and payments... a system that demands the execution of a great and noble man...
         There is nothing that could be more wrong.


         Grandfather was laughing.
         Perhaps he might have murdered me, while I was holding my father in my arms, but he... he didn't. He couldn't.
         He was laughing too hard.
         Savoring my pain. Crippled with his own madness. He was so consumed with hysterics that he didn't notice - didn't even see it when...
         An azure glow flared on my fingertips.
         I didn't summon it there. It wasn't the usual color of my sorcery. It... it was...
         My father's color. Shining on my hands, which were stained with his blood.
         My weakness was gone. Completely gone.
         Power filled me.
         It radiated from me, in a visible aura. I was at full strength again - no, beyond full strength. Distantly beyond. In that one moment, I held so much Power in my hands; perhaps even more Power than when I had bound the Toshin to my will.
         It was my father's last gift. A gift of his love for me, and his pride in me. It was the final offering of his life-force.
         It was Power beyond my ability to imagine.
         Maybe... maybe it's hard for you to imagine, too.
         I mean, it doesn't sound like it should have been much, does it? The last dregs of life-force, from a dying man?
         My father had barely possessed the strength to stand and fight on his own. You'd think that he would have had no strength to give me, wouldn't you? And that probably would have been the case, except...
         Except that Grandfather had murdered him with Heaven's Dagger.
         My grandfather... he...
         He had tried to follow the ritual for summoning the Toshin, as if it were instructions in a cookbook. I don't think he truly understood the Powers that the ritual was meant to unleash. I really don't think he did.
         This was the true Power of blood sacrifice.
         This was the true Power of Love.
         Grandfather's ceremony was meant to tap into both. Using Heaven's Dagger, an artifact that vastly magnified the Power of blood sacrifice. This is why the ritual to summon the Toshin demanded both blood and love from the sacrificed victims. Because blood sacrifice is the most ancient rite there is, and Love is the greatest Power of all.
         Blood sacrifice, and Love. Together, these can call the attention of the gods themselves.
         And when Grandfather murdered my father...
         Grandfather didn't know what he was doing. Didn't have any idea. But my father knew. I have no doubt that he knew. I felt it in his soul, and I heard him tell me with his last breath.
         'Take our love with you.'
         I did.
         Gods forgive me, I did.


         But I... I didn't want this gift.
         I didn't want Power beyond imagining. I didn't want the Power to fight my grandfather, or to save my life. What I wanted was my father back.
         My father...
         He was gone by that time, but I was in denial. I wanted to wake him up. I wanted to save him. More than anything, I wanted to heal my father.
         I wanted to heal him so badly...
         ...that the azure Power flowed outward.
         It spread from me, in an expanding circular radius. Washing over everything in its path, whether it was stone, wreckage, or human beings. Now Grandfather broke off his laughter with a startled grunt, but he couldn't move. No one could move. An azure ocean flooded the Toshin's Temple.
         Everything the ocean touched, it healed.
         It healed Julia, crumpled near my side. It healed Xiaoyu, bringing her out of her coma. It healed King's torn vitals - normal sorcery can't do that, at least not very well, but this Power surpassed the limits of human ability. Yoshimitsu, Jane, Bryan, Eddy, Forest; it spread to them all, and healed them all. It even lifted Gun Jack off of Jane's insensate form, and repaired the robot's melted circuitry. Don't ask me how.
         My father's Power could not resurrect the dead. But it healed all who clung to this world, by the most tenuous of tethers.
         I think... I think that King the Second, in particular, has since made a televised public statement. He has said that I saved his life. But that's not right; it wasn't my Power that healed him. It was my father's gift.
         My father always did like to watch King on TV...
         Father...
         No. For the last time, I am all right. I am going to get through this. I'm going to tell you everything I remember.
         I remember...
         I remember that the azure ocean put most of the people it touched into a deep trance, as it healed them. Apart from Grandfather and myself, there were only three others who stayed awake: Julia, Xiaoyu, and Bryan.
         Well, probably also Lee.
         But because Julia, Xiaoyu, and Bryan resisted the restorative trance, they received only a limited benefit. Though my father's gift healed them, they remained too weak to get up.
         I couldn't get up, either.
         When the glow from my father's gift faded, I was no longer in possession of limitless Power. I was simply returned to normal strength. I couldn't get up, but it was no longer because I was too weak to stand. It was because I was still holding my father.
         I cradled his lifeless remains in my arms. Tears flowed from my eyes, and sobs choked my throat.
         Grandfather watched me grieve. He watched me, and...
         And his contempt was not something I can describe in words.
         "Your weakness sullies the House Mishima," Grandfather growled, to me.
         I looked up at him, and I saw.
         I saw Grandfather as he truly was.
         Scorn.
         Hatred.
         Jealousy.
         Greed.
         Ruthlessness.
         Domination.
         I had never seen before. I had never looked before. He had always kept his true self hidden, behind mental barriers and emotional discipline. I'd never tried to peer beneath his surface, because I had respected his privacy.
         But now, his barriers were cast aside. Now, I was too stricken to think of holding myself back. I looked at him, and I saw.
         I saw the festering darkness that corrupted his soul.
         This was different from the black vortex that had contaminated the Toshin. That was the curse of Entropy, inflicted by an outside source. Whereas this... this evil within Grandfather...
         This was something no sorcery could heal.
         Not even the sorcery of Heaven's Dagger. Not even my father's dying gift, which had washed over Grandfather and left him unchanged.
         There was a sickness within Grandfather. A psychological disease, twisting him on the inside. It ruled him, more terribly than a soul-devouring god, because it was Grandfather's soul. It was his own soul, shaped by his deeds, his fears, and the intentions of his poisoned heart.
         I saw it. I saw what Grandfather was, and I... I still could not believe.
         He was my grandfather. My only surviving blood relative. I loved him. I could not make myself believe...
         But the Truth was right there, before me. Turning the corners of Grandfather's mouth into a rancorous sneer. Saturating his gruff voice with cruelty. Dripping blood from Heaven's Dagger, in his right hand.
         My tears stopped from sheer horror.
         "The Toshin wasn't controlling you," I realized, in astonishment. "The Toshin was never controlling you. You did all of this, on your own. You knew - you planned-!"
         "For twenty years," Grandfather confirmed, bringing up the weapon stained with my father's lifeblood. "Twenty interminable years, before I could have my REVENGE!"
         "Revenge on... on my father?"
         Grandfather smiled like a shark.
         "MY FATHER DIDN'T KILL YOUR SON!" I screamed. "Kazuya Mishima killed himself! I SAW IT! I saw-"
         Grandfather's smile grew even wider, spreading the trace of his narrow mustache.
         "You knew?" I gasped, as the monstrous Truth leaked from his thoughts. "You knew all along that Kazuya had committed suicide? You lied to me?"
         "Murder or suicide, it makes no difference. Wulong caused Kazuya's destruction, when Kazuya was mine to destroy! It should have been my hand that slew my son. It should have been I!"
         "You lied to me," I repeated, in shock. "You made me believe something that wasn't true, so that I... so that I would turn to you... so that I would help you against the Toshin-!"
         Grandfather chuckled. Maliciously.
         "That was a benefit," he acknowledged. "Yet it would have been worthwhile, just to know that your hatred was making Wulong suffer. That he would suffer for every day of his dismal life, until I claimed the right of blood vengeance!"
         My shame threatened to eradicate me, then and there.
         "You had no right," I wept. "The Toshin murdered my mother, but it was possessed by a sickness beyond its control. You had no right to take away my father..."
         "I HAD EVERY RIGHT!" Grandfather stormed, in sudden outrage. "Kazuya was mine to kill, and Wulong took that from me! He took the revenge that was rightfully mine. NO ONE STEALS WHAT IS MINE!
         "No one steals what is mine. Not Lei Wulong, and not you."
         Grandfather brandished Heaven's Dagger.
         "I wanted to send you to Paradise. I wanted you to share eternal bliss with your bride. But you - you dared to steal my most precious treasure! You denied my immortality!
         "I will not send you to Heaven.
         "I WILL SEND YOU TO HELL!"
         Yet still, I could not believe.
         On one level, I knew that Grandfather was a monster. It was revealed before me, as plain as the blood on Heaven's Dagger. But on a deeper level, buried in my innermost self...
         I loved Grandfather. I trusted him. For over four years he had raised me, trained me, and taught me Strength. So that even though I saw his true self, it was not enough. I had to confront him. I had to know.
         Julia had been right, when she claimed that Grandfather intended to murder me.
         Was she right about everything else, too?
         I had to know.
         "Is that what you did to Bernard Chang?" I charged.
         Grandfather had been on the verge of attacking me again; I think he almost did. Yet he hesitated. Perhaps it was something in my voice; the overbearing, riveting urgency of my tone. Perhaps it was my Power, flaring about me in a static storm.
         Grandfather's bushy eyebrows lowered in a grey-white V-shape.
         "Bernard Chang!" I repeated. "Michelle Chang's father! Julia's grandfather! Don't pretend you have forgotten him; not when you hold his legacy in your hand!"
         "That wretch?" Grandfather snorted.
         "YES!" I exclaimed, my emotions momentarily taking control. "Julia was right, wasn't she? You really did murder him, didn't you? You had him beaten to death, because he wouldn't give you Heaven's Dagger!"
         "Heaven's Dagger was MINE!" Grandfather raged. "Chang was my servant. He worked for me. He was to obtain Heaven's Dagger for me, and he BETRAYED ME! He hid Heaven's Dagger from the very savages that held it, and told no one where it was! It was TWENTY YEARS before his half-breed daughter could find it again!
         "Death was more than he deserved.
         "He was not supposed to die. He was to live, recuperating in pain, until I CAME TO BREAK HIM AGAIN! Day after day, week after week, he was to live in fear of what I would do - to him, to his family, to all around him, until HE SURRENDERED WHAT WAS MINE!
         "But the abominable dog refused. He had the gall to die on me.
         "He had the gall to die!"
         I felt sick.
         Nauseous. Chilled. Miserable.
         I still had to press on.
         I had to know.
         "What about Kazumi Mishima?" I demanded.
         That provoked a reaction from Grandfather.
         His fiendish smile faded. He straightened his back. His arms lowered, until they were at his sides.
         "She..." My voice gave out, and I had to break before I could continue. "She didn't really die of 'heart failure,' did she?"
         Grandfather's eyes narrowed with more hatred than ever.
         "My sword through her heart," he growled, darkness and loathing made manifest.
         "SHE WAS YOUR WIFE!" I screamed. "She was the mother of your child!"
         "She tried to steal from me. No one steals what is mine!"
         "So you murdered her," I realized, shuddering from the diabolic Truth. "You murdered Kazuya's mother, when he was only four years old."
         "No one steals what is mine. No one."
         "And how many others have you murdered!? How many victims have died at your hands, or on your orders, because they dared to 'steal' from you? Or stand up to you? Or just because you wanted them dead?"
         Grandfather's lips parted in a snarl.
         "HOW MANY!?" I shrieked, so forcefully as to stir the twin plumes of his grey-white hair.
         "My enemies are legion. No matter how many I destroy, there are more. There are always more. All I can do is savor their torment, for I know their onslaught will never end."
         With the bloodied tip of Heaven's Dagger, Grandfather pointed to my father's dead body. "Even demons from the pits of Hell have risen to plague me!"
         I looked down on the remains of my father.
         I looked at his face.
         His eyes were open. Pupils fixed and dilated. Death was already beginning to leach the color from his skin. But he...
         He was smiling.
         I'm not sure why I didn't notice it before. Because I... I knew this smile. I remembered.
         He used to smile like that, whenever he came home for the weekend.
         When he met Mother at the door.
         My fingers trembled as I closed his eyes, and gently laid him on the ground.
         I shunned and hated him, in the last years of his life. In the last month of his life, I was especially cruel to him. I brutalized him in a fight, when he was already in terminal condition.
         It was only after he died that I could be gentle with him.
         Father...
         "My father wasn't the demon," I denied, letting go of his body. "I - I don't care what Kazuya made him into; my father was not the demon. My father was never the demon.
         "It was you.
         "You were the demon.
         "YOU WERE THE DEMON OF THE HOUSE MISHIMA!"
         I sprang to my feet.
         My Power surged within me.
         Indigo streaks crackled about my hair, my fists, and my bloodstained dress suit. Sorcery lent the air a heavy ozone smell.
         Grandfather only smiled. My Power did not frighten him; he knew that Heaven's Dagger made him immune. So did I.
         I didn't care.
         I'd vanquished the Toshin. I did not need my Power to defeat the demon that was left behind.
         Grandfather attacked.
         His speed was terrible, his Strength ferocious. With Heaven's Dagger pulsing in his hand, he tried to eviscerate me as he had my father.
         But I saw the attack coming. I was ready.
         I caught grandfather's fist in my hands.
         Twisted his wrist in my grip. Seized so tightly, and wrenched so hard, that I forced him to drop Heaven's Dagger. Tried to pull him forward with his own momentum, so that I could push him face-down and lock his arm behind his back.
         Grandfather knew what I was trying to do, though. He had taught me for over four years; he knew my style, and he used that knowledge. So that before I could completely snare him in my trap, he snapped his right knee and kicked me in the chest. It was not as strong a blow as it could have been, for he wasn't braced to channel maximum force. Yet it was hard enough to hurt, and to make me let him go.
         Grandfather took hold of my collar.
         He rocked back with an inhuman growl, raising his left knee, and rammed my forehead with his own. It was an intense, jarring hit, and it made me dizzy.
         But it did not fell me.
         He had the advantage of experience. He had been the King of numerous Iron Fist Tournaments. Yet he was also an old man; his raw physical prowess was fading, whereas mine was close to its lifelong peak. I exploited this for all it was worth. Absorbing the shock of his headbutt, I grabbed his collar even as he had taken mine, and repeated his own attack.
         At twice the strength.
         I was somewhat disoriented from Grandfather's headbutt, but my own headbutt hurled him flat on his back. He groaned as he hit the floor. He tried to get up quickly, but his spine hurt him; I could see the aching on his face as he rolled lengthwise and staggered to his feet.
         Grandfather drew his sword.
         It was the katana from the pair of ceremonial weapons at his hip. It was ornate and finely crafted; a sturdy blade, meant for fighting as surely as display. Beyond that...
         There was something about this sword.
         Not an enchantment. It wasn't a supernatural weapon like Heaven's Dagger, or a soul-touched blade like Mitsurugi's sword Blood Talon. But there was something significant about Grandfather's katana. Something that permeated my sixth sense, when he drew it and held it in open air.
         Grandfather had drawn his sword in front of me only twice before. Once shortly after the Toshin had murdered my mother, and once when we were all fighting the Toshin. Both times, I had been too distracted to sense anything from the weapon, but I felt it now.
         Grandfather brought his katana in an overhead, chopping attack, meant to cleave my skull in half.
         Instead of repelling Grandfather with a barrier spell, I clapped my palms on either side of his whistling blade, halting its descent. Its keen edge nicked my hands and drew a trickle of blood, just as I had planned.
         And for that moment frozen there - that moment with both my hands touching Grandfather's katana, with my eyes meeting his glare of frenzied hatred...
         I knew.
         I knew what my Power was trying to tell me. My suspicion was confirmed.
         "This is the murder weapon," I hissed. "This is the sword that killed my grandmother!"
         "This is the sword that will send you to join her," Grandfather snarled back.
         The Power flared in my heart, my soul, and my blood on Grandfather's katana. Blood that was of Kazumi Mishima's line.
         I recalled the spell that Lee Chaolan had shown me - the potent, terrible spell. A spell far stronger than any physical attack I could have used.
         "By shared blood I call. Kazumi Mishima."
         Grandfather's eyes went wide. Strength dissipated from his arms, lessening the downward pressure of his sword strike.
         "Past departure I call. Kazumi Mishima."
         "What - what are you doing?" Grandfather huffed.
         "The end of breath. Kazumi Mishima."
         Grandfather pulled his sword out of my hands, but my sorcery was already in motion. It crackled on his blade; he stared at the weapon as if it were a cobra.
         "The heart's labor ceased. Kazumi Mishima."
         "Your sorcery cannot stop me! I shall destroy you!" Grandfather raged, rushing me.
         "SHOW US THE DEATH OF KAZUMI MISHIMA!" I screamed, and the spell erupted from where my blood clung to the sword. The sword that had taken my grandmother's life, over forty years in the past.
         The Power engulfed both Grandfather and me, in a cloud that blotted out all sight. Dark. Omnipresent.
         Suffering long since lost to the winds of Time. The echo of past hopelessness. And pain. Such pain.
         Grandfather stiffened. Frozen in mid-movement.
         He was petrified. Helpless. Able only to watch.
         He saw...
         I saw...


         ...a nameless hall of the Mishima syndicate, from forty-four years ago. Works of classical art adorned the walls. A candlelight chandelier sparkled on the ceiling. I don't think that particular hall exists anymore; I think Grandfather later had it demolished, and the works of art destroyed.
         A woman was briskly running down the hall.
         She was on the cusp of a mere thirty years of age. Dressed in a white-and-black kimono, with a white headband tied around her head. Her headband did only a tenuous job of holding back her short, wavy brown tresses. She was breathing heavily, and in a sweat, as if under great stress and greater exhaustion. Yet she retained a natural elegance, as she pushed herself to run.
         She was as beautiful as she was determined. I recognized her at once, from the picture in my family shrine.
         Kazumi Mishima. My grandmother.
         She was not by herself.
         She carried a young boy - closely, protectively. The child huddled against her, wrapping his small arms around her neck. His jet black eyes blinked from confusion.
         And from pain.
         There were bluish-purple marks on his face, and around his tear-streaked eyes. Bruises. A patch of his stiff, jet black hair had been torn out.
         I also recognized the child. Though I'd never seen him before, I had seen the mirror image of his face, in the baby pictures my mother once kept of me.
         Kazuya Mishima.
         My biological father, only four years old.
         A shadow crossed Kazumi's path.
         She tried to dash past it, and could not; its heavy, muscular arm caught her, threw her back. She fell. Kazuya tumbled from her arms.
         "Mama?" young Kazuya whimpered, on the floor.
         "Get behind me," his mother warned, crawling to her knees. Kazuya clutched the hem of her kimono. Now that Kazumi's run had been broken, fatigue locked onto her, stealing the dregs of her strength. Through red-streaked eyes, she glared at the menacing shadow before her.
         The shadow took a step closer, into the candlelight. Not that I needed any illumination to tell who it was. I would have known even if I hadn't seen his profile.
         Heihachi Mishima. My grandfather.
         Much younger, of course. Only thirty years of age himself. His face was smooth, not crisscrossed with wrinkles and frown lines. His tresses were jet black, instead of frayed grey-white. He still had hair on the top of his head. It was thinning, giving way to a growing bald spot, but there was enough to lend him short bangs.
         Uh-huh?
         Well, yes. The hair at the sides of his head was indeed swept up in those stiff twin plumes. I don't know, maybe he had always worn it like that.
         He was dressed much more crudely than I might have expected; maybe he didn't acquire his taste for lavish clothing until late in his life. He just wore a deep blue training gi, with ragged leg cuffs and sleeves torn off at shoulder length. The face of an angry tiger decorated the back of his gi. A black belt with gold trim was tied around his waist, and protective white wrappings bound his knuckles and feet.
         His paired swords were at his hip.
         His jet black eyes blazed with mortal fury.
         "You said you were going to heal my son," he growled, menace pervading the words. "You said that he could not heal himself."
         "It is the truth," Kazumi returned, darkly. "I told you, Kazuya has not matured into his Power of Healing yet. He may not do so for years."
         "You were not lying about that. You were lying about what you PLANNED TO DO!"
         Grandfather pointed to his wife, in hateful accusation.
         "I have uncovered your schemes. All of them. You are planning to leave the syndicate and disappear! You are planning to STEAL MY SON!"
         "Kazuya is a child, not an object!" she shouted back.
         "He is the only heir of the House Mishima! He must grow up to be STRONG!" Grandfather clenched his hand in a wrathful fist. "I will not let your coddling poison him with weakness. I must teach him Strength!"
         "How? By beating him? That is not Strength; that is savagery!"
         "I will hear no more from you."
         "And I will not let you hurt Kazuya again. Ever."
         Despite the strain in her voice, her eyes, and her body, Kazumi Mishima forced herself to rise.
         "I love you. I thought I could change you, but until you're ready to change, I have to protect my son. We are leaving, and we are not coming back until you have purged yourself of your demons! I care not how many servants you send to stop me!"
         "I did not expect them to stop you. They served their purpose by sapping your witchcraft. I shall be the one to stop you."
         "No."


         "No," echoed a voice that was neither Kazumi's nor Kazuya's. It was an old voice, nearing the end of its allotted years.
         Grandfather.
         But not past-Grandfather of the vision, who set his face in a bloodthirsty snarl and attacked. It was present-Grandfather, stunned by the living memory before him, yet unable to look away.
         "Stop this," he croaked, hoarsely. "Stop this unholy magic now!"
         "This is only a shadow of the past," I refused, unyielding. "Dispelling it would not change what has been."


         Kazumi Mishima fought my grandfather, of forty-four years ago.
         But it was a short struggle.
         Though she called her Power to protect herself, she could not sustain her shield for long. Whereas my grandfather was not winded. With a heavy punch, he staggered her to one knee.
         "Mama, dada, NO!" Kazuya wailed, as only a panicked child can. He ran in front of his mother-
         "Out of my way!" Past-Grandfather swatted Kazuya aside with a single kick, much as present-Grandfather had done to Julia scarcely ten minutes ago. Kazuya bawled in pain when he hit the hard marble floor.
         Kazumi's deep brown eyes flashed.
         There is nothing more fierce than a mother defending her young.
         "You MONSTER!" she screamed, lunging for her husband. Power crackled on her hands. One final, desperate rush of Power.
         This time, it was not a shield.
         She laid her hands on Grandfather, and shocked him with electricity. I could almost smell the memory of burning cloth, hair, and skin.
         But Grandfather was strong. Whatever else he may have been, he was a strong man.
         He gritted his teeth as he took the electric charge, and retaliated with a vicious punch to his wife's head. He struck so hard that he broke her spell; though he reeled, she collapsed.
         Grandfather roared.
         I will never forget that roar. Beyond sanity. Beyond human.
         It was a demon's roar.
         It was a demon that drew his katana, and stabbed my grandmother through the heart.
         She clutched at the blade with her hands.
         "M-... mama?" young Kazuya whimpered, vainly pulling on her kimono. "Mama, what... what..."
         Kazumi blinked, and turned her head. Tears spilled from her eyes, as she looked at her beloved son one last time.
         "Mama!" Kazuya cried. "MAMAAAA!"
         "Ka... zu... ya..." she mouthed. "No..."


         "No," repeated Grandfather's gruff, harsh voice in the present, even as the vision faded to black. "No... Kazumi..."
         He staggered a step backwards.
         He nearly tripped over my father's murdered body.
         His sword fell from his fingers.
         "NOOOO!" Grandfather howled, sinking to his knees. "Damn you - damn you to the hellfire that spawned you-!"
         I couldn't tell whether he was talking to me, to the memory of Kazumi Mishima, or to himself. But I could see. With my telepathic Power, I could see.
         I could see the blood.
         Streaming down his hands. Dripping from his fingers. Splashing on the floor in a metaphorical pool, which evaporated with the imagination. It was not physical blood.
         It was remorse.
         It was pain.
         Overwhelming pain. A tidal wave of suffering, so great that I could scarcely stay upright in its wake.
         Grandfather buried his face in his bloodied hands.


         Looking back...
         I don't think Kazumi's murder was premeditated. I think Grandfather only wanted to stop her, at first. He killed her in a crime of passion.
         It wasn't until after her death that he learned how to seal away his conscience.
         He could not let himself feel guilt, or remorse. He twisted his mind to become accountable to its own code, and only its own code.
         I... I think Grandfather created a warped view of reality. His own, personal shadow world. A world where he had the absolute 'right' to destroy anyone who tried to 'steal' from him. He adhered to this distorted viewpoint, because he could not allow any inconsistency between the morality of the present and the evil of his past. He could not let himself think, feel, or grieve with regard to the crime he had committed.
         It... it just hurt too much.
         And Kazuya...
         I don't think that Kazuya Mishima clearly remembered his mother's death. He was scarcely more than a baby, at the time. I also know that he shared his most hurtful memories with my father Wulong, who has not left behind any record that accuses Grandfather of killing his wife.
         No record that I know of, anyway.
         But I think the violence stayed with Kazuya. Embedded deeper in his spirit than he himself knew. Its legacies were his daily beatings at his father's hands, and a sickness within that eventually cost his soul. He let a Devil possess him for Power. Power that he used to take vicious revenge on Grandfather, in an Iron Fist Tournament of the past.
         Kazuya brutalized Grandfather. He beat Grandfather's body into a bloody pulp, and used his telepathy to rend apart Grandfather's psyche. He tortured Grandfather, and threw him into a ravine. Kazuya was so merciless that Grandfather spent the Great Invasion in hiding, rather than face his Devil son in a rematch.
         And yet... as badly as Devil Kazuya had once hurt Grandfather...
         I hurt Grandfather worse.
         I showed him what he was. What he really was. I revealed the Lie of his shadow world, and the Truth of his bloodstained soul.
         I should have known what that would do to him. The full extent of what it would do.
         I should have known.


         But I didn't know. Casting the sorcery had strained me. I shuddered inside, from the cruelty I had just witnessed. Renewed tears brimmed in my eyes.
         Grandfather removed his bloodied hands from his face. His fingers trembled.
         "I had to have Immortality," he whispered. "I had to have it, at any cost. Any price to escape. She has been waiting for me to join her in Hell, all these years. She will torment me to the ends of Time."
         "I don't believe that Grandmother is in Hell," I said, softly. "Or that she would want to hurt you. You shouldn't believe such things, either. You knew her kindness better than anyone.
         "Grandfather...
         "Grandfather, I can't let you murder anyone else. Not for the rest of your life. In the name of my mother and father, in the name of the House Mishima, in the name of everyone who has suffered at your hands, I have to make sure that you never hurt another victim.
         "But I...
         "I love you, Grandfather. It's not too late for you to seek redemption. It's not too late to accept responsibility for what you have done, and change yourself on the inside."
         Grandfather closed his eyes. There was the slightest glint of reflected moonlight, in their corners.
         It was the only time I have ever seen him cry.
         "You know not your own damnation," he stated, ruefully. "Do not pretend to know mine."
         Grandfather barricaded his thoughts from me, behind an impenetrable wall of pain.
         I bowed my head, and wiped away my tears.
         For just one second, I bowed my head.
         Less than a second...


         JIN!
         Julia shouted to me with her voice, but it was her mind that pierced my stupor. I jerked back into awareness, barely in time to see what was happening.
         Grandfather had taken the gun from my father's body.
         Grandfather was pointing the gun at me.
         It happened so fast...
         Grandfather was standing, barely three feet away from me, the barrel of his gun on level with my forehead. By the time I saw it, I also heard it; the staccato rapport of a bullet's explosion.
         It... it happened so fast...
         I didn't react consciously. Didn't realize what I was doing. Realization didn't come until later.
         Until the sorcery to reflect bullets - the defensive spell that my father had taught me - flickered off from between my hands.
         Until the gun fell from Grandfather's fingers.
         Until blood... real blood, no longer a metaphor... gushed from Grandfather's perforated forehead.
         He was dead before he hit the floor.
         Grandfather...


         This is where Lee's memory block starts to obscure things.
         I remember being in complete shock, for a second or two. Stunned with horror, looking down at Grandfather's remains. And then...
         I remember that my death-link activated.
         Crippling pain blossomed throughout my body. I had linked my life to Grandfather's, when I was a bloodslave under his control; so that seconds after his demise, my own sorcery reached out to destroy me.
         I wonder if... if Grandfather planned it that way.
         When I try to remember further, everything gets dark.
         I can recollect certain aspects about that moment, and about the days that followed it, as if they were facts I read in a book. Of course, the death-link didn't kill me - I'm here now, aren't I? If I were dead, I think I'd know.
         So, I survived that fateful night. Afterward...
         I remember that I was overwrought with grief, especially over losing my father and my grandfather. I blamed myself for destroying them. And I remember that I eventually sealed myself in my shrine, determined to end my own life.
         Whenever I try to reconstruct these things, though - when I try to recall sensory impressions, or piece together what I was thinking at the time...
         Nothing. The memory block covers up what I saw and heard. My past words. My past thoughts. The motives I felt in my own heart.
         It bothers me. Some.
         On the other hand, I do understand why Lee felt he had to do this to me. He has promised me that he will not interfere with the memory block's natural dissolution, on my twenty-first birthday. Then, I will know the whole Truth.
         I've been thinking about it, and I've decided that a year without a few of my memories is a sacrifice I'm willing to make. Especially since it is Julia and Lee who are asking me to make that sacrifice.
         Julia... I love her. I owe her. If not for her courage, the Toshin would have taken my soul.
         Lee... he is the only family I have left in this world. And I owe him, too. I owe him dearly. I owe him because he saved Julia from Doctor Abel, and I owe him because he saved me from...
         Well, you should talk to Julia about that.
         Talk to Julia. Please.
         She will explain.





INTERVIEW WITH JULIA CHANG, section 15
February 23, 2018
10:15 p.m.


         It's late. I'm tired.
         Damn you. I'm still up because - because of what happened today, I can't stop thinking about-!
         About...
         Really?
         Did Jin - did Jin really say that he can live with the memory block? Until he's twenty-one?
         That does give us time. Time to find a cure, or a treatment, or - or something, I don't know. It's a reprieve.
         Maybe his partial awareness is for the best. At least now he's beginning to work through his memories of losing his stepfather, and his grandfather. I know I shouldn't rush his grief, shouldn't expect him to quickly feel good again.
         I guess I shouldn't expect myself to quickly feel good again, either.
         What I can do for Jin now is what he most wants me to do. And that's to tell you what happened.
         I can tell you...
         Yes?
         All right, then. Just let me say a few things first, okay?
         I was awake when Jin confronted his grandfather, and I saw when Heihachi tried to murder Jin. I remember it, very clearly. Heihachi was so swift that by the time Jin heard my warning, the old man was already pulling the trigger of the gun he had taken from Detective Lei Wulong. Jin reflected that bullet in automatic self-defense.
         Jin... he has blamed himself for 'murdering' his grandfather, but it was the old man who fired that bullet. Heihachi Mishima died by his own hand, even as Wang Jinrey had prophesied; has Xiaoyu ever told you about that?
         I've thought about Heihachi's death, at times, and there's two different ways that I can see it. I don't know which one is the right way. You'll have to decide for yourself.
         The first way is that... that Heihachi Mishima perished as the mortal personification of the dragon Smaug.
         Greedy, hoarding, and jealous of his treasures. So jealous that, when denied what he most wanted - Immortality - he reacted with dragon rage. He tried to murder his own grandson. For all I know, he might have intended to subsequently murder the rest of the helpless Iron First warriors around him, including me. Leave no witnesses to the crime, as it were.
         Perhaps Heihachi would have destroyed us all, if not for the thrush.
         Because you see, it was a humble thrush that whispered Smaug's weak spot to a man of Dale, telling him about the unarmored patch of the dragon's scaly hide. And it was a humble thrush that taught Jin how to reflect bullets on instinct - though I suppose we should also give Lei Wulong credit for that.
         So perhaps, Heihachi Mishima truly was the dragon Smaug.
         Then again...
         There is another way that I think of this. I think back, and I remember what Heihachi had said to me only hours before his own destruction. Back when he was explaining his scheme to make Jin murder me, and then slay Jin:
         'My grandson loves you, as surely as you love him. Allowing him to live with the crime of your murder would bring him indescribable torment. I know what that would do to him.'
         I don't think Heihachi was speaking in purely hypothetical terms, then and there. He could have been subconsciously thinking of Kazumi Mishima, and what her murder did to his own soul.
         So maybe... maybe it was not so much a desire for revenge that made Heihachi pull the trigger. Maybe he knew that Jin had inherited Kazuya's Power to reflect bullets. Maybe after Jin revealed Heihachi for the monster he was, the old man was so badly stricken with remorse that he wanted to die.
         Of course, if Heihachi truly did want to die, I suppose he could have just shot himself.
         I don't know. In the end, that's all I can say for sure. I really don't know.
         I can only tell you what I saw.


         Jin stared at his grandfather's dead body. For a couple seconds, all he could do was stand there, in a numb torpor.
         "Grandfather...?" Jin whispered, slowly reaching out his hand. An indigo crackle of his Power of Healing flickered on his fingertips, not that it could do any good. Heihachi's brains were leaking out of his shattered skull. All the healing sorcery in the world can't reconstruct a person's physical brain, let alone resurrect the dead.
         The dead...?
         Oh, no-!
         I realized what this meant a split-second before it happened. Not that there was anything I could have done about it.
         Jin's death-link activated.
         Renewed streaks of electricity burst from his chest - electricity that was no longer colored indigo, but rather crimson-white. Lightning charged the air, with the pungent feel of Power. Yet this time, it wasn't his Power to control.
         Jin's own Power was destroying him.
         He couldn't speak, at first. Couldn't move. Couldn't do anything; the lightning made him reel, lashing him with whips of raw energy. His torn dress suit caught fire. An electric noose cut off his scream.
         "JIN!" I screamed, in his place. Tried to get up, just as I had tried several times before; it was all I could do to push my torso fully off the ground. I extended my hand to his tortured form.
         Despite the burning net that crisscrossed his flesh, he summoned the strength to take a step away from me.
         "S-stay back," he gasped, between destructive torrents of his own Power. "Y-you - you can't - aaAAAH!"
         My scream joined his.
         He collapsed to both knees, with one hand over his forehead. His eyes bulged wide. He choked, as if he were being garrotted.
         When Jin's convulsions forced his hand away from his forehead, there was... something forming there.
         Markings.
         A high, short, horizontal black line, with vertical lines and sharp zigzags on either side. Similar to the zigzag black brand on his left shoulder. I don't think anyone else noticed it, but I remember seeing the marks appear on his skin.
         Jin looked down at his shaking hand. His fingernails had turned stark white.
         "What..." he mouthed. "What am I...?"
         "JIIIIN!" I wailed, frantically.
         "Nn-no," he replied, forcing air through his lungs despite the electric coils that constricted his breath. "No, Julia, g-get - get away from here - run!"
         "I'm not leaving you!" I declared, not that I could have if I'd wanted to. I was still too weak to stand.
         Jin made a strangled cry. Discordant. Deeper than usual, and accented with bestial terror.
         He pitched full-forward...
         ...and someone else caught his wrist.
         Grabbed it and held it, heedless of the crimson-white streaks surrounding Jin's body. The streaks that were now spreading to his supporter's arm.
         I could not believe who it was. I honestly could not believe.
         Bryan Fury.
         And yes, I do mean Bryan. Not Lee. His eyes were their natural green, not Lee's auburn color.
         Bryan hadn't recovered enough to stand, any more than I had; I assume that he'd used his hands and elbows to drag himself to Jin's side, while I provided a convenient distraction. Bryan rested on his hip now, half-holding Jin off the floor.
         "Wh-what are you doing-?" Jin croaked.
         "Wulong made a deal with me," Bryan rasped, ignoring the livewire streaks that sizzled on his bullet-scarred skin. "I don't care if he's dead. I want my deal!"
         "L-let go - you'll be killed-!"
         "Shut UP, pretty boy!" With the back of his free hand, Bryan smacked Jin's face. "Lee says this will work!"
         Suddenly, the ex-detective's spine stiffened - from physical pain or psychological shock, I could not say. His neck also jerked; he was no longer looking at Jin.
         "What do you mean, you THINK!?" Bryan shrieked.
         And he changed.
         In a blinding explosion of light and Power, he changed.
         Shining, chin-length silver hair. Heraldic chainmail, white surcoat with the sigil of a rearing unicorn. White fire for eyes. White-feathered wings unfolding from his back.
         Lee Chaolan, the angel possessing his body, had taken control.
         I wonder if I will ever get used to seeing that.
         Lee's free hand took hold of Jin's other wrist. The angel extended his radiant wings; his own Power lifted him off the floor, partly suspending his nephew by both arms.
         I will never forget this. Never.
         I will never forget seeing the angel hold Jin, as streak after streak of crimson-white lightning traveled upward across the bridge of their arms.
         Somewhere in the recesses of my own head, a little piece of me - the clockwork piece, the piece that is always figuring things out - realized what Lee was doing.
         He was absorbing Jin's death-link. Taking its lethal energies upon himself.
         But Lee was already dead. The death-link couldn't kill him; it would have to burn itself out.
         Wouldn't it?
         Logically, I figured that this was probably true. Emotionally, though...
         I saw pain, on the angel's face. I know I did. He never cried out, never said a word; he just remained hovering, until the last current of crimson-white death had left Jin's body.
         Lee let go of Jin's wrists. Jin collapsed, in a semiconscious heap. The markings faded from his forehead. His fingernails returned to their natural color.
         Whereas Lee...
         Crimson-white Power continued to flare on him, brighter and more destructive than ever. He wasn't hovering anymore. He swayed on both feet. Then he convulsed. His wings flailed. He crumpled to his knees.
         Lee clutched at his heart, with both hands.
         His white-fire eyes squeezed shut.
         He spilled on the floor face-first, twitching. The electric threads surrounding him slowly grew less and less frequent, until they vanished.
         Shining white Power bled from his body.
         The angel reverted to Bryan's inert form.


         Lee doesn't like to talk about... about what he went through, that night. Not if it can be helped. I'd appreciate it if you could refrain from questioning him, on that.
         Because when I replay the scene in my head, and I think about it...
         It must be agonizing, to suffer the effects of a death-link. After all, Bryan passed out from the pain. He was unconscious by the time it was over, and I don't think that he has a low threshold for such things. But it must have been even worse, for Lee.
         Twenty-three years ago, Lee Chaolan lived in mortal terror of the death-link that his brother Kazuya had planted inside him.
         Twenty-one years ago, Lee dared to betray Kazuya. The death-link cost Lee his life, just as he knew it would.
         And then, that night in the Toshin's Temple...
         Please. Don't ask Lee to speak of when he had to relive his own death.


         For a time, silence reigned.
         There was nothing I could say. Unconscious people and corpses of the slain surrounded me. The part of my brain that is always categorizing things observed that at least Bryan was still breathing; Lee's plan had worked after all.
         But...
         "Jin? Julia? Wh-what... what's going on...?" As if from far away, there came a high-pitched fairy voice. I recognized Xiaoyu's plaintive squeal.
         I could not answer it. Neither could anyone else. Aside from Xiaoyu and me, Jin was the only person clinging to consciousness. Everyone else was either insensate or dead.
         Jin stirred, a little. His eyelids fluttered; then his eyes happened to align with Heihachi's corpse, and snapped wide open.
         "G-... grandfather..." Jin exhaled, pushing himself to his knees. His arms shook. He stretched out a trembling hand...
         ...and covered his own mouth. His cheeks bulged, as if filling with vomit.
         "Jin?" I called, reaching out with my mind as well as my voice. He did not answer.
         I crawled closer to him. "Jin, it's me. I-"
         Then, I made my final mistake of that night: I rested my hand on his shoulder.
         My skin touched his, through a rip in his dress suit.


         It was so intense.
         More than intense. Overwhelming. All-consuming.
         Pain.
         Raw, unmitigated anguish. Harrowing, wracking, punishing.
         It was more than I could take. More than I could even understand.
         I shrieked when I felt the telepathic backlash, and recoiled as if bitten by a rattlesnake.
         Do you remember what I told you, before?
         About how I'd forced myself to suppress the psychological trauma that I had suffered? About how I acted the part of the courageous heroine, even though I was crumbling inside?
         I could not sustain the pretense any longer.
         It all came crashing down. Every blood-soaked nightmare impressed into my mind, every gut-wrenching realization of my own frailty, every brutal consequence of my hubris.
         I'd thought I was a just and noble champion. I'd come to Tokyo pursuing daydreams of victory over Heihachi Mishima and the Toshin.
         But my dreams were not like this. None of them were like this.
         Not with the Toshin's victims slaughtered before my eyes, and left to stiffen in its wake. Not with the sacred treasure of my tribe used to butcher Lei Wulong, Super Police. Not with Jin Kazama - a good, kind, and caring person - being forced to destroy the grandfather he dearly loved. It wasn't supposed to be like this, it wasn't supposed to happen like this; it was supposed to be my triumph. I was supposed to be the flawless heroine, not...
         ...not a helpless victim...
         ...not a scatterbrained idiot girl, who by all rights should have ended up as Toshin-bait...
         I curled up into a ball, and cried. Don't ask me for how long. Forever, it seemed.
         Maybe five minutes.
         Until at last, a warm pair of arms wrapped around me, held me close, and let me cry on the drab olive folds of a military uniform.
         I knew I should recognize who was holding me. My tears were too thick to focus on him, but his embrace was familiar. He smelled faintly of oil and sweat. He... he was...
         "C-... Catsclaw?" I murmured.
         "Julia," he said, relief flooding his voice. "Thank the Great Spirit you're safe-!"
         Yes. He was Catsclaw.
         My surrogate father, or the closest I've ever had to one. He... you know, I almost dare to hope that he does love me as a daughter, or at least as a niece. He taught me history, and survival skills; my mother's Chinese kempo, and a wealth of sorcerous lore.
         I also adopted my belief in a Great Spirit from him. Have I mentioned that?
         Catsclaw...
         I'd completely forgotten that he was coming. Lee had told me, but in all the havoc it had slipped my mind.
         Through my tears, I could barely see the countless others who had also come - police, soldiers, reporters, paramedics, and who knows what else. They swarmed about Heihachi's replica of the Toshin's Temple, helping survivors, running cameras, asking questions, et cetera.
         I particularly remember one woman, with light brown hair and vibrant green eyes. She shivered from grief and shock, as she looked down on the remains of Lei Wulong.
         "Y-you... you idiot... why didn't you send for me sooner?" she demanded, kneeling next to the murdered Thunder Warrior Dragon. "I'm your partner, damn you! Your partner! Why didn't you ask for my help!?"
         I do have a partner, but she's got a little girl, only two years old. I already lost one partner to a Mishima syndicate assassin, a long time ago. I'm not going to let the same thing happen to that little girl's mother. I'm just not.
         Though I remembered the answer to her question, in Lei Wulong's own words, I couldn't tell her. I couldn't say anything. I cried like I was the two-year-old girl, and clung to Catsclaw for comfort.
         "Ssh," he soothed, lifting me off the ground in both arms - he is a strong man, always has been. "It's okay, Julia. We're going home. You're going home to your grandmother."
         "Hey," called a nameless, authoritative voice, off to one side. "She's a witness; you can't-"
         Catsclaw interrupted with a firm pronouncement. There was a tingle of persuasion sorcery to his words.
         "I said, we are going home."
         "But," I whimpered, as my tears finally started to dry. "But I-"
         "Sleep," Catsclaw told me, and now I directly felt the gentle touch of his sorcery.
         I slept.
         Catsclaw took me home.


         It's... it's late. I'm getting tired. Let's finish this tomorrow, all right?
         Thank you.
         Say. Tomorrow will be your last interview, won't it?         
         Just one more session, and you'll be done gathering information for your recordkeeping project. Nothing left except the editing. Right?
         Wow. That's impressive.
         Jin will be pleased.


End of Chapter 30: Demons Without