Author's Notes: I know it’s REALLY short, but it’s just basically a prologue so it’s no biggy. Next chapter should be longer… I promise!!!!!
**Disclaimer**: I AM ZE PUPPET MASTER!!!!! I may not own zem, but I CONTROL ZEM!
Windows shattered one by one as the fire and smoke intensified. Neighbors had already evacuated their homes and were standing across the street, watching the house burn. They were unsure as to whether or not the occupant of the house was home or not, for they never saw much of him. He was like a hermit in the city. A recluse. They saw the man so rarely that only a select few of them had caught a glimpse of his face.
Across the street sat a group of rowdy young men on a second floor balcony. They laughed and joked as they downed random sources of alcohol. They seemed amused by the fire destroying someone’s home. A couple of the men started discussing what they could cook on a fire like that, having blown all their grocery money on booze. The remaining three watched in silence, two grinning at the freaked out people below, while the last was expressionless, eyes fixed on a specific place in the crowd.
He knew that face from somewhere, but he couldn’t quite place it. The person in question was shaking one of the neighbors by the collar, demanding something. The closer he looked, the more he recognized the face, and eventually he came to the conclusion that it had to be an acquaintance from the tournament. Whoever it was, they were determined to find somebody who would answer their question.
“Hey!” Hwoarang called out to the familiar person wandering the crowd, “What’s your problem? You better have business here, or there’s going to be heads hitting the floor.”
The man below looked up, his expression going from startled to relieved. “Thank god someone speaks English! Do you know if the guy who lives… Wait a minute…” He peered, examining the Korean closer, “It’s you! Have you seen a bloke in a hoodie come out here?”
“Hoodie? In case you’ve missed it, it’s nearly below freezing. A lot of people are wearing hoodies. Actually… I may be going out on a limb here, but aren’t you wearing a hoodie?”
“No,” The man below rolled his eyes, “This is a bunny hug. There are more important things going on right now. Jin could be in that bloody house, burning or choking on the smoke! He could be a goddamn pile of ashes! Cremated before he even kicked the bucket!”
Hwoarang suddenly perked up, quickly climbing over to the outer edge of the balcony and dropping down. Once landed, he spun around and grabbed the other man by the neck. “What the fuck do you mean by Jin? Jin Kazama? That pansy prick has been living directly across the street from me and I didn’t even know it?” Upon the Englishman’s nod, Hwoarang dragged him to the side of the building and shoved a hose at the man as he twisted on the cold water. “Spray me.”
“What you on about? This isn’t the time for a water fight!”
“Fox,” Hwoarang growled, finally remembering the man’s name, “I can’t go in there dry. Now fucking spray me, before I change my mind about checking up on that bastard. I’ve never done this before but since it takes wet logs longer to catch fire in a bonfire, I figure my clothes and my hair will be relatively safe if I’m wet.”
Steve shrugged and obeyed, directing the flow over the Korean’s head. After a moment, once Hwoarang was satisfied, he shoved the Brit out of his way and pushed his way through the crowd. At that rate, the building would be just a pile of rubble when the fire trucks finally arrived.
When he reached the building, there was no hesitation. He was rushing down the hallway, glancing briefly into open rooms as he passed. His wet jacket was pulled up over his mouth in a hopeless attempt to filter out the smoke, but instead, only succeeded in filtering out any air at all.
From the outside it looked like a reasonably small house, but on the inside, it seemed to go on forever. The hallway had four doors, two leading to bedrooms, one to an office, and the third to a bathroom. At the end, it opened into a main living space with an arched frame. It was hard to believe that someone hiding out would be able to live so richly. The kitchen area was already swallowed in flames, and the rest was polluted with smoke. There was one door off to the side of what was once the counter. The door was open an inch, but the fridge had been tipped over, and was stopping it from opening any further.
It wasn’t much wonder as to where to look next. Hwoarang choked, and swore wildly as he noticed the glow and the thick smoke coming out of the slit in the said door. There was fire in there too. He rushed over, trying to lift the fridge, but it was reasonably more difficult with a lack of oxygen. Once again, an obscene string of curses drifted out of his mouth as he choked back more smoke and opened the fridge, frantically emptying it of its contents. Once finished with that, he was able to drag the large mass away from the door.
As soon as the path was free, the door slowly swung open, and a limp body fell out. A huge even thicker cloud of smoke followed, making it even harder to see. It was definitely the right guy. Even though the hair was down and tussled, and he was covered in fresh blood, that was not a face the Korean could easily forget. All doubt was gone that there had been a struggle. Someone had been deliberately trying to kill Kazama, but that wasn’t exactly much of a surprise.
Hwoarang knelt down, putting his rival over his shoulders, and then straining to get back to his feet, the curses flowing out of his mouth just as natural as breathing. He turned back the way he came, only to find a line of fire, blocking the way out. The line was strange in that it was so obviously man made. It was like there was a line on gasoline and someone just recently put a match to it. The whole thing was all too suspicious, but it was not the time to think about it.
He walked over to the window beside the television, and kicked it out. He tried to carefully climb out without dropping the man he carried, but that only meant a lack of hands to keep him steady, and soon he found himself falling onto the back street. Luckily – if you were to call it luck – he had twisted just in time to protect the Japanese from the initial impact, which meant that he was the one to break his rival’s fall. And yet more obscene curses spilled out, along with most of the air in his lungs.
Once the air returned, he coughed violently, absently wondering if he’d ever be able to get the taste of smoke out of his mouth. Weakened by his little adventure, he was unable to get the unconscious man off of him. It took only a moment of trying before he finally gave up and devoted the rest of his energy on breathing, with a curse or two thrown in every now and then.
“You’re awake! Are you alright?”
Jin slowly drifted into consciousness. He moved his hand to rub his eyes, but realized that there were tubes and wires connecting him to machines. After some more careful consideration, he came to the conclusion that he was in a vehicle, probably an ambulance, but the light was too strong for him to feel comfortable with opening his eyes, so he decided to assume he was in safe hands.
He sighed, relaxing his muscles a little more. It was difficult to remember just what had happened. All he recalled was going into the pantry when he smelled smoke, and the moment he stepped inside, the door slammed closed and something blocked it from opening. After that, everything was just dark. So naturally, he decided to ask, “What happened?”
“You got trapped in your house while it was on fire. Police are already saying it was arson, and they’ve caught the culprit. You’re lucky that friend of yours went in there to get you, though the bastard tried to trap him in there too,” The paramedic explained with disgust, “Bastard better be thrown away for doing something like that. He’s just lucky he’ll only get off on attempted manslaughter. If there were causalities, he would be done for.”
The story sparked the young Japanese man’s interest enough to make him open one eye a little. “Friend? Who got me out of there?”
“Steve Fox,” The paramedic answered with a smile.
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