DISCLAIMER: The Tekken Tournament/ King of Iron Fist and it’s competitors are not ours, they are property of NAMCO. Lyrics quoted in the beginning are from the Elton John song “Birds” off of his album “Songs from the West Coast”.
Tattered Wings - Epilogue
- Two weeks later -
"Hey, don't do that!"
"I've got you now, short stuff!"
"... What did you call me? Ack, don't do that!"
"Come on, I'm killing you!"
"Are you allowed to do that?"
"You gonna stop me?"
There was a loud series of knocks on the wall above the blaring television.
"What was - unfair! Cheap shot... take that!"
"Haha, not bad for a barbie doll, but you're going to have to do better than that!"
Jin stalked into the lounge room just as Xiaoyu lunged for the console controller in Hwoarang's hands. Hwoarang cackled and held it away as she sprawled in his lap, growling while cries of pain and the sickening crunch of bones streamed from the television.
"What are you doing?" Jin snapped, grasping a dark shirt in one hand. He turned to the television where pixel-smooth characters stood poised, ready to strike again although they were both missing a limb or two. Of course, the most that Jin could see was a vague distortion of light that occasionally flared when it met his eyes directly, but the tell-tale music and comic warcries were confirmation enough.
Xiaoyu made another grab for the controller, eliciting a yelp from Hwoarang when she unintentionally dug her elbow into his thigh.
Jin frowned. "Xiaoyu, what are you doing? You both know that we have to be at the airport in three hours, we won't have everything packed in time if you don't give me a hand!"
Xiaoyu climbed to her feet and collected her own controller. She looked at Jin and pursed her lips. "If only you could see Hwoarang play, he's a dirty cheat."
"Don't be sore, Xiao. You didn't actually lose," Hwoarang winked at her as he packed up the game console. He snickered when her eyes narrowed and if not for Jin's hand on her shoulder she looked like she might have taken a dive for him. Hwoarang was pulling out the console's packaging as Jin shuffled Xiaoyu into the bedroom.
"I want a rematch later!" she threw over her shoulder.
Jin raised a thick eyebrow at Hwoarang, who smirked. "I've heard that before," he threw the shirt at Hwoarang who caught it in one hand as he clutched the packed console to his side. "I already packed most of your things, but I've ran out of space and... did you pick up the laundry?"
"Where's the other suitcase?" Xiaoyu called from the bedroom.
"I'm still looking for it," Jin replied. He carefully manoeuvred his way toward the spare closet, muttering under his breath. "I can't find anything in this place. If I had the time I’d have a word with whomever Lee had bring our things here.”
Hwoarang frowned, taping up the console’s box. "Didn't you put the suitcase under the bed?"
Jin stopped. "I never put - " Two beats passed and then he whirled back round to rush for the bedroom, again muttering under his breath. He barely stopped when his knee crashed into the coffee table, hissing what sounded suspiciously like a brew of curses and apologies as he charged into the bedroom. “Xiaoyu, the laundry?”
“Miharu’s taking care of it,” she replied simply.
Hwoarang rolled his eyes and strolled in after him. “Jin, slow down and for Christ’s sake, use your stick!” He found Jin’s so dubbed ‘walking stick’ propped by the door, looking neglected and forgotten. He shoved it into Jin’s hands, but Jin pushed it away as he moved past him.
“I don’t need it.”
Hwoarang sighed and extended the slim, metal pole handle first, tapping it lightly on Jin’s arm. “After all the fuss to get one in the first place, just take it! I could have a lot of fun watching you walk into a doorframe, but I don’t think you want to get on a plane with a concussion.”
For all the mess, they were actually pretty well on track. Most of the knickknacks and random objects lying around were left over from Xiaoyu and Miharu's frequent visits. Strange, considering that their room was just down the hall. Xiaoyu was shuffling around to pick it all up, every second more carpet appeared.
She straightened with her arms full. “Jin, with Hwoarang’s fear of heights he’ll need someone to cling to and if you’re passed out at high altitude, it will have to be someone else.”
Jin scowled and the walking stick was in his hand before they could offer it to him again. He swung it about the floor to satisfy them, but he really didn’t need it. He had counted the steps around the room, three to the door from the foot of the bed, four to the ensuite…. He tossed it on the bed and heard it clatter against the buckles of the suitcase, then fall with a cushioned thump to the mattress.
"Jin, I could have packed my own stuff, you know," Hwoarang looked around at the open closets, the bureau drawers half-drawn and noted that almost all of them were empty. "I was going to come and help you eventually. I just had to hand Xiaoyu her ass first.”
He smirked at her back before she twisted around and threw a balled up sock at his face.
Jin threw open the second suitcase. "Here you can help me now.”
They barely started as the front door flew open and crashed into the adjacent wall with a pronounced bang.
“Tadaima!” Miharu piped, running into the bedroom and dropping several hangers of dry cleaning on the open suitcase. She leaned hands on hips and beamed at them. “O genki?”
“Okaeri.” Xiaoyu came over and also unloaded her bounty on the bed. “Damn, our laundry got mixed up again.” She began sorting through, while Hwoarang regarded Miharu curiously.
Miharu noticed. “What?”
“Not mine!” Xiaoyu declared, throwing a pair of shirts over her shoulder. Jin was wandering again and in the process of kicking several cardboard boxes out of his way. The carpet was quickly disappearing again.
Hwoarang gave Miharu a knowing smile. “You’re not doing anything right now, are you?”
They could have come with us, Lee gave us all the offer with the reminder that he had the company’s private jet at his disposal. In the end, Xiaoyu decided to stay behind with Miharu. Their entrance exams were coming up and I was not going be their excuse for failing. Besides, it felt like a good time for everyone to go their separate ways and I was getting a little impatient to leave Tokyo.
Of course, it was never going to be so easy.
“Xiao, you have to let go now…. “ Miharu coaxed, a hand on her friend’s back. Xiaoyu’s arms were wrapped tightly around my neck and her face was pressed into my shoulder. At first I thought she was shielding herself from the sharp winds of the runway, but she hadn’t moved for at least a minute. This gave me cause for suspicion, but I didn’t actually mind.
I gently rubbed her back and slowly her arms loosened before she let go, seeming reluctant. “We’re not letting you run away, you know,” she informed and I suspect she was pouting. “You’ll have to write this time.”
I felt a smile on my lips and I couldn’t help but think how sweet she was. The last time I left I hadn’t given any warning, but this time I let her help pack. Anyway, it wasn’t as though I was leaving alone.
“You’re still set for a rematch, aren’t you?” I motioned to the man beside me, who, I’d noticed by the hand on my sleeve had kept his back to the plane since we arrived.
Xiaoyu snickered and I heard the loud rustle of her windbreaker as she playfully punched Hwoarang in the chest with her knuckles. “Yup, and I’m going to win next time!”
Hwoarang was unmoved by her mock attack. I could hear the smirk in his voice. “Whatever you say, short stuff. I’m not one for giving out advice, but you’ll be my one exception: give up while you’re ahead.”
“Next time I’ll get you on a game without cheat codes, and then we’ll see how great you are!” She stuck her tongue out at him and they bickered on, but I was tapped on the shoulder. It was one of the landing crew, the bright hue of their uniforms stood out against the general monochrome of the small airport.
“Sir, we’re boarding now.”
I kind of wished that Lee had been able to see us off. After going through all the effort to secure us his company’s private jet and thoroughly reviewing his close staff to secure their loyalties, it just didn’t seem right that he couldn’t be here at the end of his troubles. Of course, Lee insisted that it wasn’t any trouble at all and assured us that he would be visiting soon enough once we were settled in Kyoto.
It didn’t take Hwoarang long to make a decision about where we would relocate to. Initially he claimed that he didn’t care where we went, as long as we could leave the stage that had held our lives since our return to Japan. I’ve never been to the old capital myself, but I’ve heard a lot of beautiful things about it from Miharu who has distant family residing there.
The other person who gave me an account of Kyoto was none other than the reinstated CEO of the Mishima Zaibatsu. When I told my father that Hwoarang and I had decided to move to Kyoto, he sounded surprised. Now that I think of it, he also sounded a bit pleased. Maybe I can ask him about that one day. Kyoto seems to hold memories for a lot of people. I hope that in time we’ll be able to build some of our own within its borders.
From Hwoarang’s descriptions it also sounded as though he had been to Kyoto at least once in the past, but from what I know of his life he would have had to have been very young at the time. Baek-sensei would have been with him by my estimate….
I would have been willing to return with Hwoarang to Korea if that was what he had wanted, but I think he's also made ties here. The curious friendship that I've noticed developing between Hwoarang and Steve was put on hold since Steve returned to England to follow up on some personal matters. He left soon after everyone had been secured in Lee's safehouse and he seemed excited, if also a little nervous to be going home. A few days before he departed I saw him in the company of another blonde none other than the infamous Nina Williams. She had barely aged a day.
I was fortunate to avoid her in the fourth tournament; that is one woman I will steer clear of given our history at the Third Iron Fist. I moved to warn Steve about her illicit profession and he just smiled. He mentioned something that escapes me now about a cop from Hong Kong, a misunderstanding and some extended thanks to Hwoarang for reasons I've also forgotten, but my mind was a bit hazy when I received his call at four in the morning. Steve knows more than he's letting on, but I trust he also knows how to take care of himself.
Xiaoyu has also threatened Steve with unmentionable punishment if he forgets to write and update us on his status. Those two seemed to bond while I wasn’t looking, but then, Xiaoyu is threatening all of us for all sort of reasons these days. She received an email from Julia the other day and the news was good. Xiaoyu tells that the restoration plans, however radical, were approved all the way up the executive ladder and they had even appointed Julia as one of the project leaders. If anyone can see that sort of plan through, it would be Julia Chang. The institution will probably promote her before the project is completed.
I know someone who would have loved to support Julia’s mission. Even though she tried to do the bulk of her work for the WWF from our home in Hokkaido, my mother always found the time for me. Whether it was at the dinner table, over her desk, or on a stroll through the forest, I was never neglected or loved any less when she was stationed behind her desk, sometimes for days at a time.
I never grasped just how busy she was until she was gone and I stumbled upon records of her organisation’s activities in the Zaibatsu’s archives. That was when I realised Kazama Jun was something of a legend within the environmental science network. I had always admired her, but learning what I did after her death made me remember all the more how much I loved her as my mother.
Now I have a new family of friends and admittedly odd relatives, but I can scarcely remember my life before them. Although we’re all going our separate ways now, the distance means little and I have little doubt that we’ll meet again in the future. By then there will be plenty of stories to trade.
I heard a heavy sigh as Hwoarang collapsed in the plush chair next to me. A second later the click of metal told me that he had strapped himself in. The engines hadn’t even begun to warm up yet and he was already growling. “How do you tighten this stupid thing?”
I fastened my own seatbelt. “Pull on the strap.”
He was still muttering to himself and practically snapped at the air hostess when she came around to inform us where we could find the cooled food cabinets and remote access to the jet’s entertainment system. I accepted some orange juice from her, once Hwoarang had finished scrutinising it and was satisfied that it wasn’t poisoned.
“I was never big on flying,” he stated in an apologetic tone that was still rough enough to hide his anxiety. Once the air hostess (who seemed all too amused by Hwoarang’s antics) went back to the cockpit I heard his heavy exhale, and he leaned close as though afraid to be overheard although we were the only two passengers on the private jet.
“Where are the parachutes in these things? I can’t even find where they store the air masks, but there are remote panels for the television and refrigerators everywhere! What the fuck was Lee thinking when he gave us this plane?” He opened and closed several compartments noisily with a frustrated snarl and only sat back when he realised the jet had begun to move.
“I’m sure the air masks are somewhere above us and if they carry parachutes on this jet they wouldn’t be stored with the food, Hwoarang.” I could just imagine him scoping out the jet’s interior for every possible route of escape. I felt a tug at the corner of my lips and handed him my empty bottle of orange juice since I couldn’t see where it should go. Once he had discarded it, I caught his hand and kissed the back. “Stop fidgeting and relax. I’m sure Lee’s taken every precaution, so just enjoy it.”
The grumbling ceased and when he replied, I could hear the sulk in his voice. “I’ve never been on this sort of flight – “
“Me neither.” I grinned to myself as I felt the jet pick up speed, and Hwoarang chattered on over the engine’s roar as though he didn’t notice.
“This chair is way too plush to be practical, I can’t find any of the standard safety equipment and I know you couldn’t see it, but that air hostess was making eyes at me. And there’s a weird, round yellow thing with even bigger eyes and long arms on the television that looks like an outtake from Xiaoyu’s dreams, but on crack. Jin, it's got huge red eyes and it’s staring at me.”
I laughed. “What is it?”
“I dunno, it’s some sort of plushie. Could be G-Corp’s mascot for all I know,” he replied, sounding genuinely suspicious of the object. “It looks way too genki, it’s got to be evil.”
“Hwoarang,” I interrupted, tugging gently on his hand.
His rambling stopped abruptly. “What?”
“Look out the window.”
There was a pause and then I felt the slight pull on our joined hands as he leaned towards the double-layered panes that were the only thing separating us from the cloud-scattered stratosphere. I actually had no idea just how high up we were, but his reaction was interesting. After a while he sat back with a thoughtful sound.
“There’s too many clouds, I can’t see anything.”
“Does it still seem so bad?”
There was clear hesitation in his voice, but it was fading quickly. “… I guess not, but it’s easy to lose perspective from so high up. I’m going to wait for the clouds to clear, then I’m gonna look again. In the meantime I’m going to do something about that red-eyed marshmallow of doom. It’s starting to bug me.”
I let myself smile as he unbuckled himself and his hand slipped from mine. Settling back in my seat, I was ready to catch a nap for the relatively short trip to Kyoto. As I listened to Hwoarang grumble at the offensive plushie, the low rumble of the engines that reminded me of a sleeping beast, I couldn’t help but enjoy the peace that passed over me.
In spite of all our preparations, I don’t know any better than anyone what will happen when we touch down on Kyoto’s runway. A few years ago I was terrified at the prospect of leaving home to stay in the house of a grandfather I didn’t know. Now there was a small thrill that I was starting all over again, but this time I know where I want to go and what I want to do when I get there. Most of all I know that I wouldn’t want to share it with anyone else, but the man arguing with the inanimate stuffed toy a few feet away. Hwoarang rebuilt my confidence and trust in all the things I had come to avoid because it was simpler than fighting another battle. Now I know that I don’t have to fight anymore, and as long as I have him in my family, I’ll welcome any challenge.
The fine grains of sand were like a carpet of powder beneath my bare feet. I stared out at the lake, my eyes lifting from its canvas of the sky to the tall pines that bordered around it. The sound of disturbed water drew my attention to the shores where a young woman in white was strolling in ankle-deep water, kicking up streams of clear, river water. She held her shoes in one hand and with the other, kept the hem of her dress dry.
When she saw me, she transferred her shoes to her other hand and waved. “Jin-kun, come and test the temperature. It’s perfect!”
I strode into the water and went to her side, not caring that my pants got soaked in the process. I could have admired the way the sunlight glanced off the lake’s surface onto her skin, studied the small dimple in her smile, or mused how the only genetic trait in terms of hair that she had passed onto me was the long bangs that nearly reached my chin. Instead, I held her in my arms and breathed her in. Her scent was of soft lilac and pine, she returned the embrace and I can’t begin to describe my complete contentment in simply being able to hold her like that.
Finally, she pulled back and smiled at me. “So, how was your day?”
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