by !Super Cat
Slowly, cautiously, Hwoarang dropped out of stance and took a long look around himself. Saw nothing out of the ordinary. Just bodies, crates and shadows, accompanied by a distant soundtrack; boats docking, the creak of wood, and maybe a couple of wharvies packing things up outside. No more fight sounds, no more scuffling. The men he had knocked down weren't getting up again. And except for him, them and Jin, the warehouse was empty.
Him, them and Jin.
Jin had taken eight bullets in the chest. Hwoarang wasn't expecting to hear from him any time soon, either.
He didn't like the quiet. He was itching over with a feeling, like it wasn't supposed to be over. Adrenaline was hard to shake after an easy fight. Mishima's thugs were only meant to have been warm-up material for the main event: his chance to face off with Mishima's most precious asset, Jin Mishima, who called himself Jin Kazama because despite his grandfather's vast corporate empire he was still, through and through, a mama's boy.
The itchy feeling turned into a kind of flesh crawling. It didn't make sense. The goons lying strewn around in the wreckage were Mishima's. Hwoarang had seen them gun Jin down, clear as day. But Jin Kazama owned Mishima Private Army, or as good as owned it. He was the heir apparent. No way would Mishima Corporation want him dead. The last time Hwoarang had faced Mishima's foot soldiers, they'd been protecting Jin, trying to keep him clear of major trouble with Hwoarang's street gang in Seoul.
One of the men was sprawled out only a metre or so away. Hwoarang studied him. He looked Japanese, but what did that prove? Anything? Heihatchi Mishima had been born, bred and raised in Tokyo, but would he necessarily hire Japanese muscle here in America?
Yes, Hwoarang thought, after a moment. Mishima Corporation reeked of exactly that kind of exclusive Japanese-only purist attitude. Shit.
Shit, the six of them all looked Japanese. If this was some freaky in house shit, Hwoarang did not want to get caught in the middle of it. He'd talked his way out of some bad situations in the past, but this was a strange city, and he didn't like to take his chances with beatings, incarceration, or retribution from Mishima Corporation.
He needed to get on his bike and get the hell out of here, the motor roaring until he was a couple of hundred miles away, and then he'd--
"Hold it!" called a strange voice. Hwoarang was instantly back in a closed-fist stance, his heart pounding. At the same time, there was an unmistakable groan from Jin's sprawled out form, and a clatter of footsteps from outside the doors. Alive? thought Hwoarang incredulously. Then it hit him that Jin must have been wearing some kind of bullet proof protection. It made sense that the heir to Mishima's fortune would be wrapped up in cotton wool, and just about anything could be concealed under that bulky leather jacket.
Panting with effort, Jin hauled himself up onto his hands and knees, and from there onto his feet.
The first thing he saw was Hwoarang.
"You," he said in a raw voice. His eyes were wide.
"You got that right, freak."
"I--No fight," said Jin, his hand clutched to his stomach.
"Too late," said Hwoarang, his gaze already moving past Jin.
Reinforcements were pouring into the warehouse, a ridiculous number. They looked serious, Mishima muscle in formation, guys who knew how to work as a team. As Hwoarang moved up, looking for an advantage (instinct) and looking to keep the fight away from Jin (instinct, screw it, screw this shit), one of the thugs detached himself from the group and came forward, advancing with a complex series of open hand techniques. Freakin' Mishima karate. Hwoarang only bothered to block once before delivering a single side kick directly into the attack. It smashed through any resistance, and the soldier flew backwards, collapsing from the pain.
Hwoarang felt the grin sliding all over his face.
The goons were hanging back. They might have trained with Heihatchi Mishima, the granddaddy of the Iron Fist Tournament, but Heihatchi was by now an old man, far from his prime. Hwoarang was nineteen years old. He'd never lost a fight. He'd been the best in his discipline for as long as he could remember, and he'd just won the world's most prestigious tournament, the Iron Fist, open to all comers and all styles.
"Aw, c'mon," said Hwoarang, dropping out of stance to slide his hands into his pockets and scuff the heel of his boot in the dirt. "It's embarrassing--you lettin' me have it all my own way."
"We just want Jin Mish--" was as far as a second thug got, before Hwoarang knocked him out for good.
It was sheer numbers that took him down in the end. He had his hands full with goons: the occasional kamikaze attacker and some fucking hero who'd got a hold of a piece of lead pipe. He didn't see the axe-kick that dislocated his shoulder. Just felt the impact. Pain exploded in front of his eyes, a dizzying flash of black and red. Fuck! Bad. Bad enough that his right arm was rendered useless. He slammed out a back kick and dropped the guy who'd hurt him, but by then it was too late. He'd lost it long enough to be swarmed over.
He knew it was over when they got him in a hold, and the soldier with the pipe reared up in his line of view. But he wasn't going to close his eyes and wait for it like a six year old who'd never been hit before. He struggled, glaring defiantly at the soldier advancing on him, ignoring the waves of pain from his damaged shoulder. He saw the pipe swing back--
--and he saw the expression of shock flash over the soldier's face just before he crumpled to the floor. A second later, the pipe smashed into the head of the soldier who'd been holding Hwoarang. Stunned, Hwoarang found himself staring into a pair of dark brown eyes set in an earnest, familiar face, it's handsome lines now rather stern with concentration.
"Tag," said Jin.
Hwoarang nodded, skidding backwards. Jin flowed into his place, a seamless exchange that allowed Hwoarang space to breathe, then find a crate to brace his shoulder against. It was gonna hurt, but if he didn't do it-- He gritted his teeth, then shoved backwards. There was a sickeningly audible crack as his shoulder popped back into place. And the pain--fuck. He gagged. Almost vomited. He stood, taking deep, shaky breaths until it subsided a little.
And that was when, looking up, he saw Jin centre stage, handling the last dozen or so fighters like they were nothing.
Only the best could enter the Iron Fist Tournament. And then a smaller circle was drawn. The best of the best. Anna and Nina Williams, Forest Law and Lei Wulong, Xiaoyu, the schoolgirl from China who fought as prettily as a picture in a karate text book. Paul Phoenix, the guy with the flat top who fought like a biker in a bar brawl.
But of all the martial artists that Hwoarang had ever seen, there was no one who fought like Jin.
It hurt to watch him. The part of Hwoarang that wanted to simply stand back and admire was overwhelmed by resentment, and the absolute, ravening need to prove himself that good, and better. The pain of it was like nothing he'd ever felt--worse than the pain in his shoulder. Worse, that he and Jin were the same age. Worse, that the one time they'd fought, they'd fought to a draw, and Hwoarang had ended up on his knees in the dirt.
Jin finished the last goon with a sledgehammer punch, one that looked like it could have taken a chunk out of a concrete wall. The goon dropped where he stood, and Jin relaxed and looked over. Out of stance, even with those powerful shoulders, even wearing that leather jacket, Jin looked like nothing more than a well-bred, Japanese rich boy. It was hard to believe he could fight at all. Which was why, when Jin had stepped out of his limousine in Seoul, with the same affable looks, wearing a tuxedo and saying in a polite, friendly voice, "It's not fair that you're fighting bodyguards. If you've challenged Mishima's honour, you should fight me," Hwoarang had thought, this is going to be easy.
"My shoulder's out," said Hwoarang warily.
Jin smiled a little. "Since when did you ever use your arms in a fight?"
"I could take you right now," Hwoarang spat back.
But Jin's eyes were on the exit and every harmless sound was like a warning now, the creak of wood, the distant clang of a bell. "They torched the limousine."
"I've got a bike."
Hwoarang set his jaw after he said it, too late. But there was no way he could ride alone, not with his shoulder messed up. He probably couldn't even get the bike turned over. Jin looked at him with some surprise, then nodded, but when Jin moved forward, Hwoarang instinctively stepped back, dust scuffling under his feet. Nervy. He had never been this close to Jin anytime when they weren't fighting. This truce or whatever it was, he hadn't planned it. He'd just stumbled on the scene, one of the best fighters in the world getting gunned down by men who couldn't even dream of beating him in a fair fight, and that had pissed him off so much that he'd stepped up.
"Where?" said Jin, and Hwoarang pointed with his chin.
They made it to the bike--a Harley, big, black, red and beautiful--and Jin said, "I'm not going to even ask where this came from."
Hwoarang, who had bought the bike legally, with a wild amount of money (only the tiniest fraction of his winnings from the Iron Fist Tournament), returned a shit eating grin and said, "Yeah, and you're driving." The plates on the bike, personalized, said TKD 101.
Jin looked back at him with a puzzled question in his eyes, but then his gaze dropped to Hwoarang's shoulder just for a second, and he obviously got it, because he got on the bike. Hwoarang threw his leg over, heard the roar of the engine beneath them, and grabbed hold of Jin around the waist. His arm, inside Jin's jacket, could feel thin t-shirt material over skin and muscle. Something wrong about that, but the dull pain in his shoulder, coupled with unease at being this close to Jin, meant that he didn't pick it. Jin was warm from the fight. He smelled of leather and clean, fresh sweat.
"Where am I going?" Jin called, as they roared off, the wind whipping the words back to him.
My place, Hwoarang almost suggested, but oh, no way. Plus, at least some of the Mishima scum they'd left alive in the warehouse had probably recognized him from the tournament. His place was no longer safe. "Somewhere with a garage to hide the bike."
Jin nodded, and Hwoarang tightened his grip. Leather jacket, thin t-shirt over muscle, he didn't pick it.
No vest. No bullet proof vest.