Author's Notes: Yes, this storyís title is based off the song "Epitaph". I was wondering how long it would take for someone to catch on to that. And, yes, I agree Jin is OOC, and Ling... Well, you guys will just have to wait and see with her. *lol* Anyway, Enjoy, everyone.

Disclaimer: Tekken is not mine, it is Namcoís. If they offered me Hwoarang, Lee, and Jin (in that order) Iíd take them up on the offer, but it isnít gonna happen.


Epitaph

Chapter 2 - Mornings, and Camping, and Panda, Oh My!

By Link621


I looked at my alarm clock for a solid thirty seconds before I could comprehend that it needed to be turned off. I frowned, trying to find the switch, and finally made that annoying beeping noise stop after listening to it blaring like a fire engine on a cold winter night. I probably had just awakened half of the people in the hotel, at least my floor anyway, and I only made things worse when I got up.

One foot out from under the cover... swing other leg out... shit, Iím caught on the comforter... THUMP. Well, it was something like that, anyway.

So, now finding myself eating hotel carpet, I decided that it was probably going to be a bad day and that I should just go back to bed, assuming that I can make it back up their without falling right back out. With my luck, I would sleepwalk right out the sliding glass door and jump off the balcony and fall twelve stories to my death.

So, I was ready to get up, after all. It would be nice to go for a cup of coffee and maybe a doughnut. Then, I could chat with some of the other fighters like Ling, Eddie, that she-beast, Jin...

Maybe I would just go back to bed. I hated mornings.


Iím going to pass the first international law. It will outlaw giving already chipper high school girls coffee on mornings when half the people around the breakfast table are hung over, another large portion are sleep deprived, and at least one had alarm clock and bed spread issues in the process of getting up. Maybe I should just make it internationally known that Ling plus coffee equals horrible disaster. Yes, that WOULD be easier. It would make it harder for the USA to weasel their way out of the law, too. Like the president would wanna deal with Ling, though.

I was fixated on my bowl of oatmeal with fruit when it dawned on me that I didnít like oatmeal, and that I was crazy to order it. Maybe I didnít order it? I looked up slowly to meet the eyes of a certain Chinese cop who looked pretty hungry. I think Mr. WuLong must have ordered the oatmeal. Good for the figure, I guess. I grumbled an apology and scooted over to look at the menu. I seriously did not do mornings.

A woman sat down across from me, and it took me a second to register her as Nina. She looked perfectly composed, even for the ungodly hour of half past ten, with her hair falling in strait blonde locks around her face, and her make up was completely flawless. She was smiling at me the way one would smile in amusement at a dumb little kid or a puppy.

I was not a dumb puppy. Or whatever I just said.

"What?" I asked incredulously. She laughed boisterously at this. I blinked at her a couple times, my expression otherwise blank and unchanging. "Is there something on my face?" I wondered to myself. Women were so damn weird.

Nina reached out a hand and gently batted my nose with one finger. "Men are so ridiculous. You look like you have been up for five minutes, and you barely made it to the late brunch buffet. Did you sleep in, Hwoarang?" Nina found a lock of my auburn hair and played with it a moment before withdrawing her hand. I blinked. Was she flirting with me? Wait... what? Can I go home now?

"Yeah... I, uh, got up late today. My morning has been cause enough to go back to bed, too." I cocked my head to the side a little, looking at the empty plate in front of me. Why didnít I have a menu? "Wait... Did you say Ďbuffetí?" Nina nodded, laughing more. I sprang up to get food, dodging a couple other Tekken fighters on my way. As I tried to get to the buffet, I nearly collided with at least five people and ultimately DID collide with someone right before I reached the "meats" section.

"Ow, ow, ow," I whined from my place on the floor. At least I ate shit and not carpet this time. I glanced up to see what brick wall Iíd collided with to end up on the floor. The first thing I saw was a black spike of hair. Shit, JIN! No, wait, thatís not Jin at all. What kind of idiot would copy that loserís hairstyle? Well, maybe it was the other way around. After all, this man was older than Jin, maybe old enough even to be his father...

"Are you going to gawk at me, or are you going to apologize?" the man asked me. My blood boiled at the question. Why should I apologize? I was the one on the floor, for godís sake! I narrowed my eyes at the man, and he just continued to look at me like I was the scum that the rest of the scum ate for breakfast.

I stood, pleased to see I was taller than him, and cocked my head to the side arrogantly. "You shouldnít just stand there like a lump on a log, you know. Someone might be so hungry that he will run into you." I brushed past the man violently, taking my plate to the place where the bacon was being kept warm. Mmmm, bacon. Remind me to start drinking coffee.

"Hmpf... you should know your place, Blood Talon," the man said with contempt in his voice. I turned to look at him, and saw a look in his eyes I simply didnít like. Christ, what was up his ass, anyway? What right did he have to be mister high-and-mighty? Well, look whoís talking, but STILL. I was convinced of one thing... I would show him HIS place if he tried to mess with me.

"Know yours, fuck-head," I replied calmly. Ah, how it had paid off to spend so much time with Jin. By gods, though, this man looked like him. Maybe that is why I had the instant reaction to be hostile? Who knows. I shrugged mentally, and turned back to the bacon, ignoring the man once more.

"Youíre nothing but a worthless punk," the man whispered, suddenly close enough to whisper into my ear. I flinched. "You canít do anything with your life but fight. Those fists wonít make a real man out of you, Blood Talon. Youíll never amount to anything. I guess that is to be expected, though, seeing as you learned to fight under Baek Do San."

I donít know how it happened, but a moment later I found myself standing over his fallen body that had just been the other side of my strongest punch. He was wiping a trail of blood off of his lip, and I was pulling on my gloves in the same familiar motion I always had used. He had insulted Baek Do San, and I was going to fucking kill him. "You should watch your mouth. My master was an excellent man, a hell of a whole lot better than you are. Are you jealous or something? Did he kick your boney little ass and you just couldnít take it so you..."

Jin was suddenly in front of me. He was facing toward the man on the ground, and had his arms stretched out as if to protect me. He said quietly, "Father, please, donít harm him for what he has done. He is hot- headed and doesnít think before he talks... or punches. Please, donít hold that against him. He is my problem, Father, as he is my rival. Do not interfere." I was still and stunned behind Jin. His father?

"Kazama... get the fuck outta my way..." I muttered, trying not to think too hard about the whole situation. I put a hand on Jinís shoulder, using it to spin him around, and gave him my best warning glare. It all fell apart as I looked upon his face.

His lips were set in a fine line, as was every other muscle in his face. His dark eyes were soft, like those of a doe, and his wisps of bangs hung lightly, almost angelically, just barely out of his eyes. I just hoped I didnít gape on the outside. "Hwoarang," he said to me in a low voice that was almost too much to bear, "I want to help you. This is the only way I can be sure you wonít get hurt..."

I was definitely gaping now.

Suddenly Jin lurched toward me, falling into my arms. I saw over his shoulder that his father had punched him with some god-awful punch to put the great Jin Kazama out of commission. I snorted, setting Jin down so he could recover, and took stance. "I donít know who the fuck you think you are, but I donít like you. Iím gonna have to beat the crap outta you." I added with a smile for good measure, "Sorry."

I launched into a flurry of kicks, drawing on everything Baek had ever taught me, but everything could be blocked, evidently, and that was starting to get old. I moved to punches, which were also ineffective against the man, no matter what I did. Damnit, I was pissed. I moved back into my left stance, and just looked at him, waiting for a chance to attack. He suddenly punched, and I was able to grab his arm, pulling him off balance to land a kick in the ribs, and then I rested my foot against the side of his head. "Donít make me fucking kill you," I said with an edge in my voice I donít usually have.

"Not bad. You are truly worth my sonís rivalry. But, I canít let you go unpunished." I had to wonder: what the fuck was that psycho talking about? Last I checked, I was the one in the position to kill him, not vice versa. Then, I felt it. It was like my whole body was being pricked with very small needles from head to foot. My skin crawled, and it was vaguely painful. My grip slackened, and he uppercut me, sending me to the ground. Okay, not the ground. I should have hit the floor, but I landed in someoneís arms instead.

Damn you, Jin. Damn you to hell.

Kazuya tossed an envelope on my stomach and smiled wickedly. Here is your invitation to join the hunt. Today, Tekken fighters leave on a quest to hunt down the unknown. You will be in my sonís group. He is your leader, so you best do as he says. Whoever reaches the unknown and kills her first wins the prize money. Oh, and donít be surprised if you find yourself in a fighting situation with people from other groups on the way... after all, you are all after the prize money." Kazuya laughed, but I barely heard it. My ears were ringing in the aftermath of his attack. Damnit, I hated being beaten... and it was rare.

Jin hugged me to him a little. "Hwoarang, do you think you can stand?" I nodded, even though I knew it was a lie, and felt my body suddenly being raised completely off the floor. I realized, my feet were now firmly planted on the ground, but Jin was still holding me to him. Oddly, I didnít mind. Yep, I had Jin tied around my little finger... but would it ever be the other way around? I didnít know. I didnít care. I just wanted breakfast.

"Jin, will you get me a plate of food, please? I donít think I can do it myself," I admitted, though it took some guts to say that to my rival. He didnít mention anything about it. Instead, he just grabbed a plate and put on everything I asked for, all the while still supporting me with one shoulder. Kazuyaís power... did Jin have this power too? If so, why was he always like a kitten with me when he could be a lion? Was he...

"Anything else?"

"Uh, no." I motioned to the table I had been sitting at earlier. "Iím just gonna go sit down. Um... you can join me, if you want."

"Iíll get our gear ready. You just eat and be ready to leave at any moment, okay?" I nodded. Jin kissed two fingers, then lightly pressed those fingers to my cheek. The motion seemed far more affectionate than the kiss heíd given before, and something in me churned. I didnít love Jin Kazama, but there was something there. Maybe, god forbid, friendship? As he started to walk away, it occurred to me.

"You havenít eaten, Jin... Donít you want breakfast?"

"Just shut up and eat, Hwoarang," he growled, making me feel a bit better. I smiled at his retreating form. Ah, life would be hell for the next few days, but it just might be worth it.


I had been placed at the end of the line by our fearless leader. That also meant that I had to deal with Ling and her damn panda for the entire time we had been trekking through the jungle. When we reached a clearing, I was thrilled simply because it freed me of having to deal with Ling. Not to mention, Nina kept giving me looks I simply didnít understand and Lei WuLong was still pissed about his oatmeal. I said I was sorry, for once.

When I got to the clearing Jin was so proud of discovering, I realized he meant for us to stay the night there and that we would have to chose tent partners. Now, I shit you not when I say this, but everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, rushed to make sure they were not the one staying with Jin or myself. Now, I canít speak for Jin, but I am pretty damn hot, if I do say so myself, and I am rather appalled that they would all run off so fast. Not to mention, that left me tenting with Jin. Top ten reasons to kill myself number ten... okay, maybe more like two or three. Either way, it sucked ass.

Jin put a hand gently on my arm. "You ready to set up the tent?" No way was he pulling this cute shit on me now that I felt better. I wanted nothing more than to get the hell away from Jin as fast as my legs would take me.

"Iím going for a walk, Kazama. Set the damn tent up yourself." I put my backpack down, taking out everything but a bag of dried fruits and my white gi. I made sure I had my gloves one last time, and tipped an imaginary hat to Jin before walking off into the jungle. Jin didnít protest, but he hadnít looked too pleased with me either. Well, fuck you, too, Kazama. Okay, maybe not. Whatever.

I found myself swimming through a sea of bugs and foliage within moments of entering the trees. I sorta wished Jin were with me just so he could be attacked by the dog-sized mosquitoes and the evil man-eating ferns from hell. Shit if I wanted to put up with it.

I was just about to give up on the expedition entirely when I broke through. The air held a faint scent of salty water mixed with the smell of wet sand and rocks. I made my way down the beach toward the water. How I loved the island just for this beach. Looking to the east, I could see I was in a small cove that was nearly sealed in by two large cliffs that were practically touching. Between the two cliffs, the newly risen moon hung, framed perfectly by towers walls of rock. It felt like I could see every star in the midnight blue sky, including the misty haze of the Milky Way. Moon and starlight reflected in the crystal water creating a mirror set of stars by my feet. Maybe, in this place, I could find peace.

I sat down on the sand and took off my boots. Barefoot, I let my feet rest so they were ankle-deep in the water. The coldness of the water was pleasant, but almost too cold when mixed with the cool night air. I ignored this, and pulled out my bag of dried fruits to snack while I thought. I put one in my mouth, chewing mindlessly. Mmm, cranberry.

What was with Jin, anyway?

Heíd never struck me as the confrontational type, and definitely not the flirtatious type. Not to mention, he wasnít being half the pansy he usually was, and he hadnít retaliated to my remarks by bringing up his fists. For the record, what the hell?

Maybe off the record, I kinda liked this change in Jin.

I shook my head, sealing up the bag of fruits again and replacing them in my backpack. I quickly stripped off my clothing, being far from meticulous about where the clothing landed after I got it off, and waded into the ocean water naked as the day I was born. The water was so cold I just about had to jump right back out, but it felt so good just to be wet that I relaxed and sat down in the extremely fine sand. There was a lack of vegetation, animal life, or even rocks in the water, probably because it was such a secluded cove, but it was nicer that way. This way I could sit and think without worrying about getting nipped at, or whatever.

Jin... my thought kept returning to him every time I got a second to actually think logically. The way he looked at me recently... it was just so personal, and so caring... I wasnít sure what to think. It wasnít what I wanted to think, but I wouldnít put it past Jin to actually have fallen in love with me. Of course, youíd have to be fucking insane to pull a stunt like falling for me, but I wouldnít put it past Jin. That would also explain a whole lot about the way heíd been acting, and furthermore how Iíd been responding. As it is with most people, it is hard not to notice someone in the least if they are in love with you, because they suddenly turn up the charm, or lack there of, to the max, and become extremely cute. Yes, I Hwoarang, the Blood Talon, just said "cute". Deal.

I stood up again, deciding I wasnít doing myself any good by sitting there thinking and probably getting hypothermia. I put on my boxers again and my gi, a little annoyed for bringing the white one that was now translucent where it got wet. I didnít bother with the shirt of the gi, realizing it would just make things worse. I pulled on my gloves and began my standard warm-up. I felt at peace going through the practiced motions I had done every day for so many years. Something about the whole thing felt like home.

I froze when I heard it. There was a noise from the far end of the beach where it met up with the cliff and jungle. A girl emerged from the trees, and it took me a moment to recognize it as Ling. She wore a black sports bra and a pair of matching bike shorts, and looked like she was going after something. When she saw me, she stormed over like I was the brunt end of all her anger. "Ling," I said, "what is it?"

"Iíve been so worried!" She exclaimed, looking pissed beyond belief. "Do you have any idea how upset Jin was when you left! Not only that, you went alone into a jungle where there are probably wild animals that will eat you alive and you just waltzed off like it was nothing!" Ling threw herself into my arms, and I blinked a couple times, not comprehending. "Hwoarang... I just wanted to make sure you were okay, so I came after you... Please, donít be upset with me?"

I frowned, saying nothing. After some deliberation, I responded, "Ling, I am not angry with you. Letís just go back, and Iíll talk to Jin about this." I stroked Lingís back absently. "Iím sorry I worried you." I had to wonder if what that she-beast said was true. Did Ling really have strong feelings for me? It seemed like a possibility. I just hugged her to me tighter, regardless, happy to be holding someone in the place of being held and waited for her to move. It was twenty silent minutes later that we headed back to camp.


When we got back, Ling went to her tent, and I was about to walk over to mine when I was suddenly put in a headlock from behind. Wheezing, I managed to flip the person over my back, but they didnít thud to the ground. Instead, they landed on their feet quite nicely. I looked up, anger draining away when I saw who it was. "Jin... Why arenít you asleep, already?"

"Idiot," he hissed. "I couldnít go to sleep! I had no idea where you were or if you intended on coming back. How was I supposed to sleep?" Jin took a step closer to me, speaking only in harsh whispers. "I put up the damn tent for you, you know? I even went to the trouble to lay out your sleeping pad and bag for you! Jesus, Hwoarang, why do I put up with your shit?"

"Because you love me," I replied frankly. By the way he reacted, I could tell I had thought right. Jin Kazama, in front of my eyes, turned an unhealthy shade of alabaster and took a baby step back. I quickly tried to change the subject to prevent myself from blushing. "Anyway, youíre one to talk about putting up with shit. Kazama, you can really dish it out sometimes. I mean, your stoic..."

Jin clasped my shoulders with his hands, distracting me from continuing to talk. He stepped closer, putting us chest-to-chest and tilted his head up slightly to press his lips to mine. This kiss, unlike our first, was polite, almost shy, and very sweet. I slowly moved my arms around his waist as he clasped his hand behind my neck. Jin was frail in my arms, as Ling had been, only he didnít feel like he would shatter if I held him tight. He felt secure, strong, like someone I could lean on in times of need.

And I loved him for it.

Wait... did I?

... Does it matter?

... I donít know...

TBC

Link: *clear throat* Anyway, next chapter is when the real action will start.

Jin: *writhing on ground* How could you leave off there?! Damnit, Iím curious! What happens next?

Link: Jin, chill already, okay?

Jin: *big teary eyes*

Link: ... right... Iíll see you guys next chapter.


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