Author's Notes: Go, Aves, go.


Epitaph

Chapter 5 - Two Faces of the Same Coin?

By Link621


I looked at Jin from a distance of only a couple inches, trying to ignore the gentle snoring sounds coming from him. Earlier that night, he had been so full of spunk and energy, and it all just swept out of him when he fell asleep. It was amazing to see him so still... so (relative to a jackhammer) quiet. It had to be only four in the morning, but I was awake and ready to fight. Jin... He was still asleep, like the world had stopped around him and nothing could come and harm him while he was vulnerable. As long as I was around, that was very true.

I grabbed my gloves, and slid out from beneath the sleeping bag that was acting as a blanket and left Jin alone in the tent. It had been three days since I had finally confessed my love for Jin, and that was just three less days I would have with him. That day we would reach the temple, if the map was right. Today marked the beginning of the end. I brushed some hair out of my eyes, and pulled on my gloves. I didnít want to think about it then, and it still hurts to talk about it now. I was going to lose Jin. I was going to never see him again. I was in love, real love, and this time, I was the one who would get hurt.

"Fuck," I muttered under my breath. "Fuck, fuck, fuck," I added with even less pleasure. I punched the nearest tree, pleased with the crack I produced, and a little annoyed with the blood welling up on one of my knuckles. I growled something that wasnít a real word in any language by any measure and turned my back to the tree, sliding down it. I felt myself receiving very small nicks from the tree as my bare back slid against rough wood. It felt good to feel pain, though. Pain was real. Pain brought me back to Earth. Love was the illusory sector of my imagination that took me to a place where everything was as it should be and time could stop whenever I damn well wanted it to.

"God fucking damn it, just kill me now!" I shouted, forgetting that it was only four in the morning and that Jin was still asleep in the tent. I think my face must have turned the color of my hair as I slapped a hand over my mouth. Then I did something I normally wouldnít do. I honest-to-god giggled like a school girl. It would be fun to see the look on Jinís face when he came out of that tent just to say: "Honey... WOULD YOU KINDLY SHOVE A SOCK IN IT?! Thank you."

Jin poked his de-spiked head out of the tent door, looking at me wearily, and just looked at me. He didnít look angry, or happy, or really anything else, for that matter, just sorta zoned out. I stood, walking over to the tent, and kneeled down. I showed him my knuckles, where they were bleeding, seeing if that would get a response out of him. He looked at the torn flesh for a moment, just staring at it in confusion, then leaned down and licked it. I jumped back in surprise, accidentally hitting him in the nose, and fell on my ass in the process. Jin now sat looking KOíed. I let my head fall back into the light grassy foliage underfoot.

I sat silently staring at the sky that was midnight blue directly above me, but trailed to light blue as it neared the horizon. A few scattered stars still light the sky, and I saw a single bat fly by. It was probably hurrying to get home and sleep. I let my right wrist rest against my forehead and sighed. It was a nice morning, but it was too early, and I had just been licked. I frowned. Jin sure was weird in the morning.

Suddenly, he was there, over me, laying half on top of me, and looking into my eyes. "Sorry, I wasnít very awake yet. Iíll be good now, I promise." Jin bent and brushed his lips against mine in a tantalizingly short kiss. He then raised one arm to play with the hair by my left ear. I tried to ignore the finger he ran along my jaw bone in the process, and gave him the best serious look I could muster with him playing with a lock of my fire-red hair.

"Jin, now that you are up, we should get moving," I commented a bit dryly. Jin, obviously, hadnít heard a word Iíd said, as he was still playing with my hair, and studying it intently. "Are you listening?" I asked with a very slight hint of anger.

"You wonít cut your hair, will you Hwoarang? I love your hair. It is so soft to the touch, and it certainly looks good on you." Jin looked from my hair to my eyes as he added, "Youíre beautiful." Jinís smile was gentle as his touch. He placed another light kiss on my forehead, almost as if he were afraid to do anything else. It made me feel... almost sheltered.

"That has nothing to do with what Iím asking." I would have thanked him, but I was irritated with his behavior. I guess I should have known that it was only the beginning of how irritated I would grow with our relationship.

"Some people say... that you have to cut your hair short when your heart is broken. I wonder how that started?" Jin looked dreamy for a moment before looking into my eyes - dead serious. "I love you, Hwoarang, and I love your hair." I think the best word for the emotion that swept over me is: "huh"? I looked at him blankly for a long moment, and he sighed. "Yeah, letís eat breakfast and go," he agreed. I just blinked.

Jin pushed off me and went back to the tent. I pushed up on my elbows, giving the tent a long look, and then let myself fall back again. Was it worth it to worry about Jin? Not really, and I think Jin was trying to tell me that. Still... Only a few days left. We would most likely reach the temple that day. We could be back to the hotel by tomorrow after we beat the unknown and radioed for airlift. And... Then he would go to Japan, I would go to Korea, and we would never continue anything romantic. From there on out, we would be rivals. Could I really handle that? Yes, I could. The real question was: could Jin?

I sighed, gently rubbing my temples, closing my eyes as the sun broke the horizon - too bright to my virgin eyes. I would just have to face this challenge one step at a time. If I got too far ahead of myself, it wouldnít be worth it to be there anymore, and I didnít want to efface the value of our relationship. "What the fuck DO you want, then, Hwoarang?" I asked myself. Funny, how I didnít ever respond.


When we broke through the trees, I was still muttering about Jin making me eat oatmeal AGAIN, but even I was silenced by the sight ahead of us. What must have been a grand total of well over two hundred broken and eroded stone stairs lead up to the temple. The temple itself was a lot larger than depicted in the map. I stood, in complete awe, with my jaw hanging wide open in amazement. Jin, too, was stunned. It was both beautiful in itís antiquity, and mysterious in itís ageless power. There was something in there. I could tell, just by looking at the damn thing. Maybe... it was the unknown...?

I glanced at Jin, and I saw he was slightly slouched, holding a hand to his chest, and breathing heavily. "Jin!" I put my hands on his shoulders in attempt to straighten him up. He didnít respond, mumbling something in Japanese that was too fast for me to understand. Damn. I put one hand under his chin and pulled his face up to look at mine. His eyes were those of a demon, and the markings were back on his forehead. "Shit! Jin, snap out of it!" I drew away, carefully putting myself out of Jinís range. The boy watched my every step.

"Hwoarang?" A voice called. Dear god, that had to be Lingís voice. I couldnít let her get involved if devil Jin was going to be fighting. Not to mention, her poor Panda. When the girl bounded through the trees, I had to accept I was too late. She took one look at Jin, and then clasped onto some of Pandaís fur in fear. Jin turned his attention to her, and got a very small smile on his face.

"Shit!" I repeated. I ran to Ling, spreading my arms in front of her, and called to Jin, "If you want to fight her, you are going to have to go through me first!" I wasnít thinking, I realize now, about Ling in the least. I was thinking about Jin, and about how terribly it would hurt Jin to know he had hurt Ling while his demon side possessed him. Plus, I was damn sure I was the only one who could pull him out of this weird trance excluding himself. I wanted to help Jin. I wanted to...

"Hwoarang..." I heard Ling whisper behind me in a breathy voice. It was then that I realized that it was a pretty macho thing to do for a woman - jumping in the way of a raging devil-teenager, that is. I glanced at her quickly, taking note that her eyes were filled with tears, and gave her a nod of reassurance. My attention was drawn away by a sick ripping sound, as if flesh were being torn. When I looked to try and find where the noise came from, I saw Jin, who had somehow managed to creep much closer without me noticing. He had sprouted those beautiful black wings and his fingers now curved into sharper points that ended with claws. I could see in his mouth a set of longer canines. The demon had taken him over fully.

"Damn you, Kazama!" I yelled, moving to intercept him, but I never did. Out of nowhere, a large flying black and white blob tackled Jin to the ground mercilessly from the side. It too a moment to register that Panda had intervened. Jin wasnít effected much by the attack. In fact, he just kicked Panda to get her off, and then punched her a couple times for a quick KO.

"Panda! NO!" Ling held out a hand in despair. She sunk to her knees. "I.... I canít believe..."

"Quit your whininí and get up!" I commanded, noticing my accent was running thicker in my voice. I watched as Ling stood slowly; reaching a full height that must have been at least half a foot shorter than me. I wiped a tear off her cheek with my thumb and told her quietly, "I think we can beat him if we work together. You distract him, and Iíll attack when I get an opening." I tried to make my voice as "convincing" as possible, and drew the reaction I wanted out of Ling. She nodded energetically, and turned to Jin with fire in her eyes. "Iím sorry," I added.

"What for?"

"For this," I replied. I hit the base of her head with my hand, careful to hit just the right spot, and she dropped like a marionette with cut strings to the ground. "Itís for the best," I told her sleeping form. Then, I turned my eyes back to the boy I loved who was still possessed by his demon. "Jin! This is a lame way to try and beat me! You still canít do anything about my power, can you? Iíll always just be the better one. This ainít a rivalry, itís a fucking superiority complex!" I saw his eyebrow twitch. "I am happy about one thing, Jin. Iím glad you turned out more like your mama. Jun died easily at the hands of evil, and so will you!" I was egging him on, and he wasnít catching the bait until the last line. Suddenly, he was facing me, and in stance. "Damn, Iím good," I muttered to myself with a crooked smile.

Jin came at me, throwing punches that were powerful enough to make me lose ground, but all of them were slow, and very block-able. He then switched to kicks, strategically placing a kick in every place he could possibly have thought of, all of which I could block for the same reasons. We went on like that, in a horrible dance, for several minutes before something changed. I moved quickly to offense, taking a punch in the ribs as my punishment. It was worth the pain, though, because I had him by the shoulders now, and I was able to do what I had wanted to in order to pull him out of the trance in the first place. I drew myself against him, using a great deal of force, and pressed our lips together, sliding my tongue between over-grown canines, and running my fingers over soft raven-like feathers.

After a moment, Jin folded his wings around me, gently sealing us together. His long bangs tickled against my nose as he became more and more gentle, no matter how odd that was for a monster. I could feel the claws on his hands gently pressing into my back. It was enough to almost be painful, but I didnít care, I was so wrapped up in the kiss. My whole world revolved around Jin, and what it meant to be his.

The moment was shattered when a pain split through my left shoulder like nothing I had ever experienced. I could feel the muscle and skin simply tear apart as something shot through my shoulder mercilessly damaging the flesh. I cried out in pain as I was flung away from Jin, and to the ground. I could see that a cloud of black feathers were floating to the ground, and that he was dripping blood from his right wing. His face held no shock, but only anger. He turned to face our attacker, and instantly got ready to fight.

I was so lightheaded, I could hardly think, but I could still process what was going on. Jin had turned to face Kazuya Mishma - no, Devil - in a fight between the two evil powers that had hold on the Mishima family. I could vaguely understand that they were arguing, and almost understood a word or two they said, but it was too late to think about that now. I wasnít in pain, so I knew what this feeling was. I was passing out from shock, and I was going to miss the most important fight.


When I opened my eyes again, I was looking at a stone wall and the torches mounted on it. I was propped up against something warm, and my shoulder seemed to be completely healed. I turned to look at what was holding me up, and saw that Jin was sitting against the wall, apparently asleep, and had just wrapped his arms around me and dosed off. I looked back out, toward the temple, and saw a woman standing a few feet toward my right. She was very pretty, probably not much older than I was, and dressed in a cute little black and white outfit. She smiled at me, and mouthed something. I think... "Take care of my son..." Then, she began to fade, as if sheíd never been there to begin with. As she faded, she also changed. She became and angel, with wide white wings and all. She flew away, still in the process of fading, and was soon out of sight. I just watched her go, blinking in confusion.

Jin stirred behind me, gently drawing me against his abdomen tighter. "Hm... are we really healed?" Jin asked quietly. I just nodded. "Good. I think... I think the demon is sleeping... and that it will for a very long time..." Jin rested his chin on my shoulder. "Your arm is better," he noted.

"Whereís Ling?" I asked, being a little cold. I could feel Jin tense, and I knew he felt reproachful. How I knew that, we still donít know. He and I later came to decide it was just because we were linked by his motherís power when we were healed, letting us share thoughts and emotions for a temporary time.

"My father took her back to the compound as part of the price of losing. That wasnít very smart of you, though, Hwoarang. What if I hadnít been able to think as myself anymore, period? The power here is so evil, and so strong, I think that not even my father could help but become Devil. My motherís... Angelís power is really the only thing that can completely destroy the effects of the evil here. I believe this evil is the secret of why my grandfather wants her dead so badly." Jin brushed his lips against my neck in a few places, just lightly kissing along the pale skin. "Mm... you still smell good, Hwoarang. Even after all this traveling." Jin now licked where he had just kissed. I laughed.

"Jin, this isnít the time, we need to look for the Unknown. She has to be in this temple, right? So letís find her!" I motioned with my arms to the area around us. This only gave Jin the chance to settle his arms around me more comfortably. "Lemme guess," I said blandly. "You think that this is a good place to take a breather before we fight the Unknown?"

"Yes," Jin whispered into my ear. Eventually, after a little more teasing, he just let his head rest against my shoulder again, as I rested back against his body. Both of us were still, and quite, reflecting on the event that had passed, and those to come. Jin was the first to say anything. "Iím not going back to school when I get back. Maybe I can go to Korea and stay at your dojo."

"I donít think so, Jin. I donít think we can be together, after this. At least not for a while. Maybe after the next tournament, if our rival business is settled. But, until then... I think we really are going to have to part." I realized that my voice hadnít wavered, and I was very proud. Mostly because my stomach was so knotted that it felt like negative stomach. Like, a black hole that was sucking in the last of my sanity. "Jin... I donít know if Iíll be able to wait for that much time, either..."

"Letís not talk about it," Jin suggested. "I want to spend my only time with you being happy, okay?" Jin squeezed me tighter for a second. I nodded simply. I was too tired to care, really. "Letís go, then. I think we can beat the Unknown..."

"Agreed," I replied dryly. I turned, catching Jinís lips with mine briefly, then stood, breaking gently out of his embrace. I helped him to his feet, pulling him against me again for another kiss. I didnít want to let go... I didnít ever want...

"Hwoarang... are you ready?"

Was I? I looked at Jin. Earnestly, I replied, "I donít know."


~~~~~ TBC ~~~~~~

Link: Ack, I slacked off SO much on this story...

Hwoarang: I donít like where this is going...

Jin: You broke my wing!

Link: I fixed it! Anyway, the next chapter, they fight the Unknown and then have to part ways! MWA HA HA HA HA!!! Oh, and it is the 2nd to last chapter, too!

Hwoarang: Iíll hold, you punch?

Jin: Sounds like a plan...

Link: ... Help?


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