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Chishio No Me

Chapter Text

For as long as time existed, wars waged, legends emerged, and armies battled for what they desired; peace, dominance... power. At times, peace would remain, but then a new wave of enemies would emerge in the hopes of being on top of the food chain. It is a never ending cycle that forces even the most noble of warriors to turn to greed in order to protect all that they've known and loved.

I myself fell into that notion our of desperation one day, more than four-hundred years ago, when I stumbled upon an underground lair. There, I discovered a legend so old that it's true origin is unknown to this day – Chishio No Me. One would not think that the simple gold medallion – one with a red tear dripping from the etched eye on the artifact (hence the rough translation of the medallion's name; The Bloody Eye) – would hold all the power in the universe. That was according to the small scroll that accompanied the artifact.

I didn't believe it at first – it seemed too good to be true – until the moment I held the artifact in my hand. The red tear glow and its power surged within me and through my veins. In that moment, I believed in the legend... and knew that with its help, my clan and I would fight for what we always believed in.

And for twenty years, Chishio No Me served me well. I was able to protect my two lands – my home and the one I've adopted – from the tyranny of those who wished harm upon the innocents, as I've always upheld since becoming the clan's leader.

But as they say, such power came with a high price.

In the middle of a bloody battle, Chishio No Me chose that moment to take its hold on me. I still remember the blinding light surrounding me. It was only by luck that I was able to look down to see what was happening to me. My right arm, the one where I strapped the medallion to as a form of good luck, began to twist and blackened into something sinister. I saw it climbing up my arm and it would only be a matter of moments before I was completely in its thralls. I had no choice but to chop my arm off with my won sword to free myself. I was not about to let myself find out what it would had done to my clan – or the innocent – had it completely taken over me.

We had barely won our battle that day and it was only then that I realized my error. Although the medallion had granted many victories over the years, it only revealed its true nature to me in that very moment. I had been a fool and my foolishness nearly cost me the lives of my clan.

The medallion's final gift, however, was to grant me and a select few in my clan an extended lifetime. It's now only a wonder of when my time will eventually come. For now however, my clan and I will continue to protect the realms from falling into the clutches of the wicked.

For four-hundred years, I believe Chishio No Me to be lost forever. That was, until I heard that the artifact had fallen into the hands of evil. Worse, they were royalty from the realm of Outworld, a world which, not even a few years ago, tried to claim and merge all the realms for themselves. I can only imagine the power the artifact would give them – it would be nothing short of chaos.

I must find a way to stop them before either they succeed or the medallion's power corrupts them. The realms depend on it.

~The Words of Yoshimitsu

Chapter Text

Outworld

The harsh winds blew in fast speed, bringing the sand up from the ground. Nothing was seen for miles except one… a figure lying flat face first in the ground

After what seemed like a while, the figure looked up as though he was just recovering from a long, deep sleep. He rubbed his eyes and brushed the sand off his extremely pale face. He then opened his eyes revealing a set of yellow iris' with a tint of red around the pupils. He squinted them trying to keep the blowing sand out of them.

This man was known as Quan Chi, an evil, demonic sorcerer. Just a few moments ago, he had just barely escaped from the fifth plane of the Netherrealm after years of being tortured by the ninja spectre, Scorpion. Quan Chi managed to find a tablet which would open a portal to anywhere he wished.

He had just managed to get the portal to open when suddenly, Scorpion showed up ready to attack. Quan Chi was not about to fight, not this time. He immediately jumped into the portal. Scorpion followed, but luckily for Quan Chi, he was brought to a different area far from the spectre.

Quan Chi shook the thought out of his head. Now was not the time to think about the past. He had to move forward.

Then, Quan Chi looked down and noticed a round, golden item on the ground. There were small Japanese writings around the item. In the middle was an eye with a red tear coming out of it, which slightly glowed in it's crimson color. Next to it was a small scroll.

"…Is this what I think it is?" Quan Chi asked a loud. He picked up the scroll and unrolled it. Although the very short passage was written in kanji, Quan Chi read it a loud in English.

"Chishio No Me… it is a medallion that gives one and their allies all the power in the universe. Use it wisely."

Quan Chi looked back down at the medallion, the tear still glowing. He slowly picked it up. As soon as he gloved hand had a hold of it, he felt a sudden, powerful force surge within him.

A sadistic grin came over Quan Chi's face. "I had a thought this was a legend, but this is the real thing… The Bloody Eye."

With all the power in the universe, Quan Chi thought of endless opportunities with this medallion. Then, another idea came to him, an idea which would satisfy some Outworld natives. He made the decision to inform his plans to the Emperor of Outworld - Shao Kahn.

~~~

Emperor's Fortress, Outworld

"My lord," a servant said. He kneeled in front of a man who sat in a throne of a very large room filled with different statues and treasures. The man was the Emperor Shao Kahn himself in his attire consisting of a red cape connected to spiked shoulder pads, a skull belt with a sash going down his mid-thigh, and gray knee-high boots with spikes around the knees. He also wore a skull helmet with small horns on top. The only parts of his face that showed was his chin and jaw line.

Shao Kahn looked at his servant. "Yes?"

The servant replied. "There is someone here who wants to visit you."

Shao Kahn growled. He knew that if he servant did not state the person's name, the visitor was indeed a stranger.

"You should know by now that I do not allow strangers visiting!" Shao Kahn said, his booming voice echoing throughout the throne room. "Tell them to leave at once!"

"But my lord," the servant protested. "He holds a medallion in his hand, it has an eye with a glowing red tear on it."

Before Shao Kahn spoke again, the servant's statement of the medallion came to him. Is it true? Has someone actually found the Bloody Eye?

For many years, Shao Kahn had been searching for The Bloody Eye in hopes to gaining more power to rule all realms like h has done many years ago. Many times has he attempted to take over the realms. He did, however, managed to take over a couple of realms, but only for a short time when he was defeated by their strong leaders.

I will rise again…and I will eliminate all who oppose me.

After some thought, Shao spoke. "Bring him in!"

"Yes my lord." The servant got to his feet and made his way out of the throne room.

Shao Kahn leaned back into his throne as more thoughts came to him. He began to wonder what kind of possibilities he could do with the medallion… besides taking over every realm in the universe, there was no doubt about that. Even now, he tried to take over the worlds again after his last thwarted attempt, but so far, with no prevail.

Soon enough, he noticed an extremely pale man walking towards his throne. The man wore black pants with black boots and short black fighting gloves. He had a pair of broad swords, one behind his back in his black scabbard, and another in its own scabbard on his left side connected at his belt. On his arms and bald head were red tattoos of kanji writing of different spells. In his hand was the medallion itself.

After a quick examination, Shao Kahn suddenly recognized the figure. "Quan Chi! You have escaped the Netherrealm."

"Indeed I have," Quan Chi replied taking a bow in respect for the Emperor. "As you might know, I possess something I believe you may desire."

"This better be not a waste of my time!" Shao Kahn replied harshly. "The servant informed me of The Bloody Eye you've found recently."

Quan Chi held up the medallion. "Yes. I found it in the deserts of Outworld and traveled many days to bring this to you."

"And what is this that you plan to do with the medallion?" Shao Kahn knew Quan Chi wasn't just going to give him the medallion, but he was interested in knowing Quan Chi's plans for the treasure.

Quan Chi smirked. "You are the Emperor of Outworld with the desire to merge all realms with yours. Your troops have been searching for the medallion for many years. Everyone who knows about the medallion and it's power knows that. You are fortunate that someone like me ended up finding this and not some goody-two-shoe out to destroy it."

For a moment, Shao Kahn stared at the medallion. The tear continued to glow it's crimson color. But even so, in the back of Shao Kahn's mind, this could all be nothing but a trick. "You better not be planning a trick on me. Since you seem to know so much, I believe you would know better than to defy me."

"Not at all," Quan Chi answered. He extended his arm out towards the Emperor holding out the medallion. "See for yourself."

Shao Kahn stared at the medallion for a brief moment. He better be holding the true medallion, he thought. Shao Kahn reached for it and took the medallion in his hand. As soon as he brought his hand back, he felt electrifying powers within him. After that moment, Shao Kahn grinned under his mask. It was indeed the real thing.

"With this power," Quan Chi began to suggest. "I feel that we should hold a tournament for all the fighters in every realm. That way, we can easily defeat those who can oppose any of our plans. Those who make it through the tournament will fall to our feet one way or another."

Shao Kahn stared at the medallion for another moment. He could feel so much evil within the object…immense evil that he couldn't explain. He grinned, enjoying the feeling within his hands.

Quickly, he snapped his fingers twice. In an instance, two of his servants appeared. "My servants!" Shao Kahn called out. "Retrieve Mileena, Baraka, Shang Tsung, Tanya, Sheeva, Reptile, and Ermac at once!"

The servants nodded and left to pursue their assignments.

Shao Kahn turned his attention back to Quan Chi. "As a gift for your continued loyalty even after all these years, I shall appoint you back as my general."

Quan Chi nodded accepting the Emperor's offer.

"The other generals will be arriving any moment. We will all meet back here soon enough. In the meantime, I will appoint one of my servants to bring you to the dining room. I am sure your stomach is begging for a meal. Don't get used to this offer though, I rarely do this."

Quan Chi accepted the rare opportunity and followed the servants to the dining quarters. Even with Shao Kahn no longer watching, Quan Chi resisted the urge to smirk.

The fool... he fell for it... now the wheels may begin to turn.

~~~

Once everything was settled, Shao Kahn and his generals gathered at the throne room. The generals stood straight up, line side by side next to one another. There was the enigma Ermac, the Shokan Sheeva, the sorcerer and shape shifter Shang Tsung, the Tarkatan Baraka, the Edenians Mileena and Tanya, and the lizard Reptile.

The plans began to unfold. The people of Earthrealm, Outworld, Keisei, Edenia, and various other places would soon hear about The Blood Tournament. The best warriors of all the realms will have the opportunity to participate and will be receiving invitations in due time. Once all the warriors were gathered, it will all begin.

It wouldn't be long before everything went according to plan. Soon, all realms would become one and be ruled by Shao Kahn. Nothing, and no one, will stop them.

Chapter Text

Interpol Headquarters, Hong Kong, China

Inside a small room of the large Interpol Headquarters building, there were three people sitting around a small table. A chubby man in a gray business suit and black tie placed down two pieces of paper on the table. The other two, one male and the other female, looked at the papers from their spots. They read what the papers said;

You have been invited to attend the very first Blood Tournament. You have been chosen for the event because the tournament organizers recognize you as one of the best fighters in all the realms. The location of the tournament is confidential and you will be informed once you get there. You must report to your transportation wherever is closest on time. Your attendance will be an honor.

At the bottom gives out the various locations of the transportation with only two of them on Earthrealm; one right here in Hong Kong, and another off the coast of San Francisco, California.

"I thank you for reporting this to me right away," the chubby man said. "The two of you received this invitation today to the tournament with it's location confidential."

The young female there nodded. "Yes Chief, Detective Lei Wulong and I got this in our office mailboxes this morning."

The Chief looked over at the male, Lei Wulong, who sat in his chair. He was a man in his mid-40's and well fit for his age having been with Interpol for many years. His long raven hair was tied back in a single ponytail leaving a few strands of hair over his forehead showing his face better, it's skin a tanned color.

Then, the Chief looked over again at the female agent, Chun Li. She sat in the same way as Lei in the chair next to him. She wore a white button blouse with a knee-length black shirt and matching high-heels. Her dark brown hair was done in two buns on each side of her head leaving a few strands of hair over her fair-skinned face.

Chun Li looked down at the paper. "It does seem like a real tournament invitation…"

"But it's the way it was written," said Lei. "It seems suspicious, especially with the confidential location. It could be a real invitation, but you never know."

Then, a knock came at the door. "Chief, I have a message for you," a voice said through the closed door. “It pertains to the current meeting.”

The Chief looked at the door and saw his female secretary through the small window on the door. "Come in."

The young woman came in and gave the note to the Chief. The Chief looked over at the note then looked up at the secretary. "Thank you, you are dismissed."

The secretary bowed to him before leaving. Then, the Chief looked at the two agents in front of him. "It seems that both the Los Angeles Air Force and the US Special Forces received the same invitation."

"You're kidding?" asked Lei.

The Chief shook his head. "Colonel William Guile of the Air Force received the invitation along with Captain Sonya Blade of Special Forces. Colonel Guile had made the call and was planning to meet with Special Forces. He had the feeling Interpol received the same invitation and if so to give a call."

"If there is a thought of meeting with both groups then I'm in," said Chun Li.

"You're right," the Chief replied. "Colonel Guile would like to meet with you at the tournament to investigate, notes the letter. Lei, will you be willing to investigate as well?"

Lei nodded with confidence. "I'm ready for anything, sir."

"Good. Then let's get everything arranged."

The three of them got up and began making their way out of the room.

Later that day, both Lei and Chun Li both got off of work at the same time. They walked out together still wearing their business suits. The bright sun was beginning to set down for the day as rush hour began to pick up. The both of them stood by the bus stop waiting for their buses to arrive to take them home.

They both sat on the wooden bench in silence. Other people began gathering around. Some were in business suits as well, a couple of them reading newspapers that they didn't get the chance to read that morning. Some were in regular clothes with a couple of them listening to their mp3 players.

Lei watched the people on the streets for a bit as he waited for the bus. Then, he turned his head to the woman next to him. "So," he said in a whisper so that no one else could hear them. "What do you think the tournament's about?"

Chun Li had been people watching as well and was a bit startled when she head Lei's voice. She shook her head a little and turned to him. "I'm not too sure, but I have the feeling we'll get the same results as the Shadaloo case."

"A madman holding a tournament to recruit people into his work," Lei said remembering the Shadaloo case. It wasn't a case he was involved in, but it was the biggest one just a year ago within Interpol. Chun Li ran most of it, though everyone in the station knew that she had a personal agenda against them. They had killed her father Dorai, once a famous detective of all of Hong Kong. The story of what truly happened to Shadaloo and their leader Bison, who was reported dead, was still shaky and unclear.

"It could be more than that though," Chun Li continued. "I guess we'll have to see when we get there."

Then a bus pulled up. It's indicator on the front showed that the bus was heading downtown. It wasn't Lei's bus, but it was Chun-Li's. She began getting up as other people piled into the large vehicle.

"See you tomorrow Lei," the young Chinese woman said as she got up, purse in hand.

"Zaijian," Lei said in Mandarin. The male detective watched as Chun Li was the last one to get on the bus. One she paid for the fare, the door closed and the bus pulled away. Lei watched the bus leave until it turned a corner and disappeared.

I wonder if… Lei began to think, but then he decided to push the thought away.

~~~

US Special Forces Base, Los Angeles, California

Coming out of the parking lot of the Special Forces Base were two men dressed in dark blue formal Air Force uniforms. Both men seem to look a lot a like if you looked quick enough, but there were also obvious differences.

One stood at six foot two inches and was extremely well-built. His blond hair was in a Mohawk-like style and had dark blue eyes, which were a bit hard to notice because of the large bone structure on his eyebrow area, which didn't really have actual eyebrows. By his complexion, he looked to be in his early 40's.

The other was quite young, about the age of 21. Standing at five foot ten inches, he wasn't even nearly as built as the other man, but by looking at him, he was working on it, having been scrawny his whole life. He too had blond hair, cut much shorter and spiked up a bit, and his midnight blue eyes were more noticeable.

The both of them made their way towards the office on the base. They were silent for a bit until the younger soldier spoke. "Guile, have you heard from Chun Li yet?"

Guile nodded to him. "She called me early this morning, Wagner. Her and Detective Lei Wulong will meet us at the tournament location."

The young soldier nodded. It wasn't too ago that Colonel William Guile received an invitation in his office to The Blood Tournament. After reading it, he reported it to the government to let them know his suspicions. They also discovered that Special Forces also received an exact invitation. Captain Sonya Blade was asked to handpick a team to come with her to the tournament. She had requested that two members of the Air Force, including the one who received the invitation, joined her team. It would be the three of them along with another, who's name was not revealed since the person was only a free agent and not an official member of Special Forces.

Soon, the two Air Force militants reached the main office. Only a single woman sat at an oak wood desk doing work on her computer. Guile and Wagner approached the desk.

"Excuse me," the Colonel said. "We have an appointment with Captain Sonya Blade."

The woman looked up. At first she had an annoyed look on her face, but once she saw that they were in uniform, her expression quickly changed to a more cheery look. "Ah, yes sir. Let me see if she's ready to see you." The woman quickly got up and went to the back.

Wagner chuckled a bit. "She sure enjoys her job."

Guile began to move towards the chairs against the opposite wall. "Let's go sit down."

The pair sat down in soft green chairs. Guile sat straight up in his chair while Wagner sat slumped back with his feet stretched out. The young militant yawned a bit wondering how long the wait will be. He looked around the room which only had the desk, other unoccupied chairs, a couple of lush green plants in the corners, and some framed photos of past military combat hanging on the white walls.

At least they should make this room a bit more exciting for long waits, he thought, though he wasn't sure exactly what that could be.

Guile looked over at Wagner and sighed as he saw his sitting position. "I swear, you're still that 16-year-old kid I adopted back in the day."

"Ha ha," Wagner replied almost sarcastically before sighing to himself. He was thankful for Guile for taking him in back then. Before he met Guile, he was nothing but a juvenile delinquent, having been orphaned at the young age of eleven when his family was brutally murdered by Shadaloo's leader Bison.

At least Wagner thought all of them died. It was only a few months ago when he discovered that only his parents died that day and his older sister Lisa lived, kidnapped by Shadaloo and turned into one of their 'dolls' despite watching her die in front of his eyes. When Bison and Shadaloo were mysteriously destroyed, all of the remaining dolls were taken into custody except 'Viper,' now Lisa's nickname. It was rumored that a former Shadaloo soldier kept her for himself and took her into hiding.

Since then, it has been Wagner's personal mission to search for his sister, but it hasn't been easy. Never did he get any leads. On the are occasion that he did get crucial information, it came to him too late... each time they investigated, it always came up empty.

Guile knew what he was going through; years ago he nearly experienced the same thing when his best friend and trainer, Charlie Nash, went missing during a Shadaloo operation in South America. He did manage to find him, but he was being used as a pawn of the organization. When Charlie regained himself, he saved Guile and Interpol agent Chun Li, who he partnered with back then, by tackling the leader down over a cliff, losing his own life in the process.

Their thoughts were soon interrupted when the back door opened. The same woman who was at her desk just moments ago appeared from behind it. "Captain Blade will see you now."

Wagner sighed of relief as the two stood up and followed the woman down a long hall. It wasn't long until they reached a door. The woman they followed opened it for them and they stepped in.

Immediately, the two people in the room stood up as the men entered the room. One was female wearing Special Forces' tanned military uniform showing off her full figure and a green beret on her head. Her long blond hair was tied back into a low ponytail bringing out her bright blue eyes.

The other was a male, not in military uniform indicating that he was a free agent. He wore a black T-shirt, blue jeans and black combat boots. He had dark hair which was spiked on the top and slightly sleeked on each side, and he wore black sunglasses over his eyes.

The four saluted to one another before the woman proceeded. "Welcome Colonel and Sergeant, I'm Captain Sonya Blade and this is Special Agent Kenshi."

"Nice to meet you," Guile replied shaking hands with the woman. Wagner shook her hand after, then proceeded to shake hands with the male agent in the room as well.

"Cool shades," Wagner said. "They look pretty expensive."

"Um, thanks," Kenshi replied, sounding unsure for some reason. Wagner decided to ignore it, figuring that the agent didn't expect to hear the compliment.

"All right, let's start the meeting," Sonya said. The four sat down in large leather chairs. Wagner discovered that they had the ability to spin and slowly began pushing side to side with his body.

Sonya took out a copy of the Blood Tournament invitation she received and placed it down on the table. "According to intelligence, there has been a rumor going around that there are small terrorist groups who will be in the tournament. This may include The Black Dragon."

"I thought all the members of the Black Dragon were destroyed," asked Guile.

"Apparently, a former member revived the group," answered Kenshi.

"Plus," Sonya continued. "There's a possibility that former members of Shadaloo may be involved as well."

At that second, Wagner stopped moving in his seat. Lisa… he thought. With the rumors he had head about his missing sister, he began to hope that there was a possibility that the soldier holding his sister would be there and bring her along with him.

"So, what's the plan?" Wagner asked.

"Well," the captain replied. "The boat leaving from San Francisco will be departing in a couple days. We'll all meet there then and devise more plans."

"If you don't mind, Captain," mentioned Guile. "I know two detectives of the Interpol Hong Kong Division who will be meeting us at the tournament location. They are Chun Li and Lei Wulong."

"I've seen their names in newspapers and heard they are the best in Asia."

"Indeed they are."

The meeting continued on for a few more hours. As that was going on, in another building nearby, Lieutenant Alex Walker waited impatiently in the lounge room of the base. No one else was in the room but her, something she was thankful for at the moment. Since the meeting began, she had been trying to kill some time, but the last hour had been killing her.

Maybe it was better if I hadn't asked Kenshi to meet me here after the meeting is over, the woman ended up thinking.

She looked up a bit, her blue eyes staring off into space a bit. The woman then smoothed out her dark hair a bit before leaning back into the couch she was sitting on. In a way, she was also hoping that she would be called out for another short mission, but of course that never happened.

Just before the young woman fell asleep, she heard the door open prompting her to sit up more and turned to see who just came in. Finally, she thought as she spotted Kenshi coming into the room.

He acknowledged her with a simple nod before sitting down next to her.

"Hey,” Alex greeted. “How was the meeting?"

"Quite interesting to say the least. We'll be leaving for the tournament on Saturday. And Sonya wanted to know if you can do her one favor?"

"And that is?"

"…If you could drive us to the dock the day before? Sonya thought it would be a good idea to see the country between here and San Francisco and she figured that you might enjoy the scenery since I clearly won't.”

Alex sighed a bit. "Okay, I can do that… but I don't get why myself and the others aren't going either. Well, okay, Jax isn't going because Sonya encouraged him to take that vacation he's been planning for weeks, but with the four of us, along with Cyrax and Hsu Hao, we're all the main team... seems strange that we all won't be going to this thing together as usual."

"Unfortunately, the higher-ups want a small team, and with the Air Force involved…"

"I know… I guess I'm just being a grump about it. Speaking of the Air Force, how were those recruits?"

"The Colonel's respectable, and clearly he's had experience with this type of mission... not sure what I think about the Sergeant yet. He's practically a kid."

Alex stared at his sunglasses. "And how do you know that?"

"Trust me, I just know."

Alex got herself up and stretched. "It's going to be boring without you guys. Since Jax is on vacation for a month, and Cyrax and Hsu Hao will be heading to that mission in Italy in a few days, I'll be by myself."

"Hopefully the mission doesn't last too long," Kenshi answered getting up as well.

Alex sighed. "Yeah… but you got to do what you got to do. Maybe if I can get some time off, I'll go back to my home state of Florida and stay with my aunt for a few weeks."

Kenshi seemed to agree with the idea with a nod. “You should do that.”

The two fell silent for a bit then, both not sure what to do next. Alex then realized how hungry she was and had an idea. “Do you want to get dinner at the cafeteria?”

“I was going to do some training for a bit,” Kenshi answered. “I'm not feeling hungry right now.”

“Okay... in that case, I'll see you around.”

"Later."

They both walked out of the room and went their separate ways. Alex sighed to herself, wishing that she was going to the tournament with the team.

~~~

London, England

In a small office of the Delta Red Base, a slim young woman sat in front of a desk occupied by a well-built older man. It was seven in the morning and the young woman was feeling quite tired from getting up so early.

"Good morning Cammy," the man said.

"Good morning Colonel Wolfman," Cammy replied. She took a hand and pushed back one of her two long blond braids back behind her, then adjusted the red beret on her head. She also wore a full green business suit with brown stockings and green high-heel shoes.

"I called you here this morning because we have an assignment," Colonel Wolfman mentioned to her. He too wore a matching beret with long blond hair falling behind him. He also wore a gray tank top showing off his well-built muscles, blue jeans, and black boots. A long scar ran down his face over his left eye.

Cammy looked at him seriously. "Do the others know?"

"Yes, I've already informed Lita, McCoy, and Ginzu. I would have had the meeting together, but all of you are on separate schedules. This assignment came to me fast and,frankly, we don't have a lot time."

Colonel Wolfman took out a folded paper from his suitcase and handed it to Cammy. Cammy unfolded the paper and read the information that was in it. "The Blood Tournament…sounds interesting."

"Yes, it is interesting. The General asked us to investigate the tournament. Heavy rumors are going around that former Shadaloo members will be there."

Cammy nodded. She thought about her 'family' back in the states…Air Force's Colonel William Guile and Sergeant Scott K. Wagner. They had taken her in and made her part of the family after years of being a Shadaloo doll herself. There were things she could not remember and probably never will. Guile was like a father to her while Wagner was like a brother to her. She left them for Delta Red, a military branch located in her birth home of England.

She wondered if they knew about the tournament too. If anything, she promised Wagner that if she found anything about his long-lost sister Lisa that she would pursue her. The young British woman knew how much that mission meant to her surrogate brother.

Cammy had the urge to tell Wolfman about it, but held it back. She knew Wolfman didn't want to hear anything involving personal agendas.

Once she let it all sink in, Wolfman continued. "As you see in the invitation, there are only two locations in the entire world which will take us to the tournament. The closest to us is San Francisco. A flight will be ready for us in 1300 hour."

"Yes, sir," Cammy replied.

Later…

Cammy let out a gasp as someone touched her shoulder. She had been asleep and was surprised by the sudden touch. She looked up and saw a blond woman standing over her.

"Cammy girl!" the woman called. "It's noon! The plane leaves in an hour!"

Cammy quickly looked over at her clock. "Oh blimey! I meant to take a small nap! Sorry Lita."

"You're just lucky I was around." Lita smiled at her. "I'm looking forward to this tournament. Maybe we'll get a chance to fight some cocky good-looking blokes."

Cammy chuckled a bit. "Maybe. Meet me outside, I'll get ready."

"All right," Lita replied before leaving.

The young woman sighed to herself. She turned to a framed picture she had on her desk. It was a picture of her along with Wagner, Guile, and Guile's wife and daughter Jane and Amy. She missed them very much and sometimes wished that she was back in the states with them, but she loved the family she was with now. They've been good to her since she arriving at Delta Red.

Cammy shook the thought out of her head a bit. I have to concentrate, she thought.

She got dressed in her Delta Red uniform, placed the red beret on her head, and headed out the door. As mysterious as the tournament was, she couldn't help but look forward to it.

Chapter Text

Forests of Yakushima Island, Japan

He felt it once again…the burning sensation coursing throughout his body. He tried his best to ignore it, but to no avail. He clutched on to his muscular chest with one hand as he tried to suppress the awful, sinister feeling growing within.

Not again! he thought with agony.

He let out a gasp as a pair of feathered black wings made their way out from his back and spread themselves out. Even with all the strength he had left, he couldn't control the transformation.

He closed his eyes tightly as a set of horns began to grow on his head. It made it's shape outward and slightly curled. He opened his mouth showing razor sharp teeth beofre let out a blood curdling scream. His eyes snapped open, his amber-colored eyes now replaced by a glowing, icy white color. He suddenly stretched himself out, releasing an invisible energy which caused destruction in it's path. The figure wasn't sure how far the force went, but what was left of his conscious mind thought of one thing… there was a big possibility that he eliminated many lives, all because of what he now was.

After some time, he felt the energy leaving him completely, and he collapsed into the dirt on his knees. He looked up and his eyes widen when he saw a ghostly figure a few feet in front of him. She was beautiful, her shoulder length raven hair slightly pulled back by a single white headband. It matched the long flowing dress which fell to her bare feet. The woman smiled weakly with sadness in her eyes.

"Jin," she whispered softly but still loud enough for him to hear her. She the proceeded in Japanese. "Kiken'na no wa betsu no sekai de omachishiteimasu."

The demon in front of her glared, the icy look in his eyes growing much colder, but it was the lack of the conscious mind inside of him that spoke a single word to her.

"Okasan…"

Then, everything went black.

In cold sweat, Jin Kazama sprang upward from his futon bed with a small gasp. His eyes quickly adjusted from suddenly opening up and found itself back in the darkness of his secluded home. For sometime, Jin stayed sat up while trying to catch his breath. Once he did, he whipped the beads of sweat off his face and let out a sigh.

"It's getting worse by the minute," he thought to himself. "Eventually, the devil inside me will reveal it's true self and use me as it's host."

For weeks now, he has been having these nightmares of him changing into the demon he was cursed to carry inside of him, one he had known ever since he learned about the Mishima family, which included his paternal grandfather Heihachi, the owner of the world famous Mishima Zaibatsu Corporation. It was Jin's father, Kazuya, though now deceased from what he's heard, who released the rage of the Mishima curse. Years ago, Kazuya sold his soul to the devil in order to get back at Heihachi for throwing him off a cliff as a child. It's believed that, through this deal, the devil gene had awakened. That gene was passed down to his only son.

Jin's hand balled up into a tight fist as he thought about the Mishimas. He would forever blame them for his curse... he had never asked for this.

He then thought more back on the nightmare, and remembered something that happened.

"Mother…"

His mother, Jun Kazama, appeared in the dream, which was the first time since the nightmares began. Why did she choose appear in my dreams now?

Then he remembered her words to him. 'Kiken'na no wa betsu no sekai de omachishiteimasu,' she had said to him. "Danger awaits in another world?" Jin repeated. "What did she mean by that?"

Jin thought about it for another minute. It was only just a dream, right?

The young Japanese man looked over at the clock next to him. It was only two in the morning and he had gone to bed not that long ago. He ran his fingers through his spiky black hair before lying back down. He sighed a bit before closing his light brown eyes.

Not a minute even went by when Jin heard a rustle right in his room. He sprang up again opening his eyes. "What the…" he muttered out loud. He looked around the room, but saw nothing. The room was still and completely silent.

He slightly shrugged, now believing that it was most likely the wind. He lied back down on his bed again and turned to his side. Before he closed his eyes, he saw a folded paper next to an envelope… which was not there a moment ago when he looked at his clock.

For the third time, Jin sprang up from his bed. Someone was in here…

The young man had a strong keen sense and would know if a presence of a living person was nearby. He tried to sense if anyone was around, but to no avail. He turned his back to the two items on his small stand. Jin slowly reached over for the folded paper and opened it up. He read the words slowly;

Jin Kazama,

The item in the envelope will help lead you to a journey to break the curse of the devil gene. Come to the tournament and you will have answers. PS- You've done well in the King of Iron Fist Tournament… I wish you the best in this event.

It was all it said and it wasn't signed by anyone. Jin then shifted his eyes to the envelope. He took it into his hands and opened it. After reading the contents, he looked up a bit.

"The Blood Tournament… taking place in an unknown location," he said out loud. He saw the list of the ship locations and noticed that it expanded beyond Earthrealm. He then thought of his mother's words once again. Is this all just a coincidence?

He knew deep down that he shouldn't attend the tournament. In the last tournament he was in, he was able to feel the power of the devil gene increase with each battle he fought in. Even in the tournament before that one, it was especially a very close call when he fought Ogre, the demon soul stealer responsible for his mother's death. He at least had the chance to defeated the monster without changing.

But the very thought of not only his dream, but the fact that he would be fighting the best in the universe consumed him. He always looked forward to a good fight, but was also curious to know if the dream he had was a message from his mother from beyond the grave.

The tournament was within a few days, with Hong Kong being his closest location. Without even thinking about, he got up, got dressed in black civilian clothes, packed his gear, and headed off. It wouldn't be until he got there that he would even think about what he was doing…

~~~

San Francisco, California

"Daddy!" a young toddler called out. He ran as fast as his little legs could take him as he passed a large garden area. He found his father practicing his martial arts training. The blond father heard his son call to him. He stopped what he was doing and turned his head, a warm smile appearing on his face.

"Hey Mel," the father said picking up his son as soon as the toddler reached him. "What are you doing here?"

"It is time for dinner," Mel said with delight. "Mommy is waiting for you."

The older man smiled and scuffed Mel's hair, which was blond as well. "All right kiddo, let's go eat."

The two headed inside the large estate they lived in. They walked into the large dining room which food was already set by the servants. At the table, a young blond haired woman looked up with a warm smile.

"It's good for you to join us, Mr. Ken Masters," the woman said with a small laugh.

"I wouldn't miss a great meal like this, Ms. Eliza Masters," Ken replied giving a kiss on his wife's cheek. Ken set Mel on a chair with a seat booster, fastened him in, then sat down opposite of his wife. They put the food on the plate before consuming it.

"I was thinking," Eliza said beginning the daily dinner conversation. "Wouldn't it be nice to go on a cruise this summer? It's been quite some time, and I think it would be great for Mel."

Ken swallowed his food, then smiled. "That would be great. We can book as soon as we're done eating."

Eliza laughed a little. "Shouldn't we try to decided where the cruise would take place?"

"Hmmm… I don't think we've been to the Caribbean Islands yet, have we?"

"Actually we haven't. I was thinking we should take the cruise to Hawaii again, but it would be nice to go somewhere new."

Ken raised his cup filled with red wine. "Then the Caribbean Islands it is!"

It was at that moment that their butler walked in with a stack of mail in his hands. "Sir Masters, your mail just came in. Where would you like me to place them?"

"Right here is good," the millionaire suggested patting an empty spot on the table.

"As you wish, sir," the butler replied. He placed the mail on the table and then walked out of the dining room.

Ken looked through the mail. Most of them were just bills and junk mail. When he got down to the last one, he blinked a couple of times in confusion. It was addressed to him by name, but the mansion's address wasn't even placed on the envelope, there was no return address, and no stamp.

"What's this?" he muttered to himself. He slowly opened the envelope, then took out the folded paper.

Eliza had the feeling of what the mysterious mail was about. "It's not another tournament, is it?"

Ken was silent for a moment before saying, "…Yes."

"Don't even think about it!" Eliza demanded. "Ken, we've talked about this so many times! There's no reason for you to risk yourself at a silly tournament."

"But Eliza," her husband began to protest. "Just the sound of it all makes it seem like it's no ordinary tournament. We're leaving by a boat, then taken to another part of the universe-"

"Oh, great, now this tournament is not even on the same planet." She grabbed the invitation from his hands and read it herself. "And it's even more assuring to know that it's known as 'The Blood Tournament.'"

"Eliza, we've also been over the fact that I'll be doing things like this.”

"But unlike your friend Ryu, you have family now. I don't need someone coming into my house and tell me that my husband was killed and now I have to raise my son on my own."

For a moment, Ken thought about his best friend Ryu, a wander Japanese warrior would went around the world searching for the greatest challenges. It has been a year since Ken had last seen him, but he had a good feeling that Ryu will be going to this tournament as well.

"Eliza," Ken said putting a hand on his shoulder. "With Shadaloo gone, there's not much to worry about. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not only will I be fighting the greatest on Earth, but I'll also be fighting the greatest from worlds like Edenia and Keisei."

"I just don't want anything to happen to you anymore," Eliza said calmly.

"Everything will be fine," Ken tried to assure her. "Listen… once I'm done with this tournament, I won't attend another one for a long time. And I'll be home just in time for that cruise we just talked about."

Eliza looked into her husband's light brown eyes and saw that he was telling the truth. "You mean that?"

"Of course. I never keep a promise I never meant to keep."

His young wife embraced him in her arms and he returned the hug. "Come back home in one piece," she begged.

"You know I will."

"Eww!" Mel randomly cried out as he watched his parents hug. "Cooties!"

Ken and Eliza laughed a little at their son's comment. "Let's go eat and then we'll plan that summer cruise," Ken suggested.

~~~

Somewhere in Japan

In the deepest part of a very large forest area, a young man wearing a white karate gi and a red headband wrapped around his head sat under a large tree in a lotus position. His eyes were closed and he seemed as though he was in full concentration.

For sometime, he could only see darkness behind his closed eyes and only a few gust of wind was heard. He was in deep concentration and not even a nuclear war could bring him out of his meditation right now.

The young man wasn't sure how much time has passed since he sat down, but as he continued his meditation process, moments of his past suddenly flashed before him…

Two young boys practiced their martial arts, sparring with one another. One wore a white gi with a matching headband around his head, his short dark brown hair slightly moving as he delivered a punch. The other was in a red gi, his long blond hair flying back and forth as he delivered a kick, a small smirk appearing on his face.

They continued their sparring, which looked as though it would end up with a draw. It was then that their heard their master call out of them.

"Ryu, Ken, you have done well in your morning session. Come inside now, I have much more to teach you."

Ken sighed a bit, disappointed that his sparring session with his best friend Ryu was over already. He followed Ryu into their small dojo, where their master sat down crossed-legged on the floor. Two candles were lit on either side of him, signaling them that their master was going to either have a meditating session or teach them of life's journey.

Ryu and Ken sat in the two remaining mats. "What shall we be doing today Master Gouken?" asked Ryu with curiosity.

Gouken smirked a bit. "You two have done very well these past years. Ryu, you have grown up well since I adopted you when you were just a babe. Ken, when you arrived here, you were arrogant, but with each training, you have grown much wiser and humble. What I'm here to tell you is that…there will be a time when I will leave this world-"

Both boys were shocked that their master was mentioning this. "You're not dying, are you master?" Ken asked worriedly.

Gouken shifted his eyes over to the young blond boy keeping his smirk. "No Ken, I am quite healthy, but I am old, and I know that I don't have much more time on this planet. A master begins a student's training, but once the master is out of the student's life, it is that student's responsibility to continue his training, or it will all be in vain. Do not give up on your training for it will help you continue on your life's journey. And never give in to the darker side, no matter how tempting it may be…"

The final sentence echoed in Ryu's head. It has been so long since this conversation took place, back when he was just a mere boy.

He continued to meditate, but the next flash in his mind jumped to years later when his master's life came to a grueling end…

Ryu approached the dojo area and saw it in ruins. The building itself was still standing, but the yard was scattered with broken wood. He had just finished his training just a couple of miles away. When he left, everything was property put away and his master was…

"Master…" he muttered realizing that he had left Gouken there. He began sprinting towards the dojo, not realizing the few drops of blood that he passed by. He pushed the swinging door back and only walked two feet into the building when he saw a horrifying sight. His brown eyes widened in shock.

"MASTER!" he screamed out. Ryu saw the body of Gouken slumped over against the wall long dead. Above his body on the wall was the Japanese sign of 'ten' written in his master's blood.

Another flash hit him, and Ryu thought he saw the face of the devil, his red eyes glaring at him and the fury hair matching the eyes was being blown by the wind he couldn't feel. "Ryu…" the demon said.

Ryu managed to get out of his meditation process with a gasp, suddenly feeling a bead of sweat falling down the side of his face. He caught his breath, then leaned back into the tree he sat in front of. He knew the demon's face without mistake. It was his master's murderer, his own brother; Akuma.

Since Gouken's death, Ryu has been traveling around the world to not only live up to his promise to keep the Ansatsuken arts in recognition, but to also find Akuma to get revenge. The dark arts that his master mentioned… Ryu felt it within him that his body wanted to submit to the evil, especially when he felt angry. Ryu has been able to suppress it, but he wondered how long he can continue to do so.

After sometime, Ryu finally moved, reaching into his pocket and taking out a white envelope with only his name written on it. A mysterious figure only dressed in a dark purple robe had given this to him yesterday… an invitation to The Blood Tournament. He knew he would be fighting the best of the best. He was sure that it would be no surprise to anyone who knew him that he had decided to attend this tournament. But he wondered one other thing…

Will he be there? My master's murderer?

Ryu wasn't too sure, but he had the feeling that Akuma will indeed be there. Akuma's only purpose in his life was to fight the strongest, only to kill them in cold blood in sadistic pleasure. There was no doubt in his mind that somehow, during the time at the tournament, Akuma will show up.

I must stop him before he causes more chaos.

With that, Ryu picked himself up, threw his large duffel bag over his shoulder, and began making his journey to Hong Kong. He had only a few days of traveling before the ships would leave the docks.

~~~

Osaka, Japan

The First Annual Osaka Women's Tournament

It had been an exciting week. Female fighters of different ages from all over Japan competed in a brand new tournament for the prize money. The tournament wasn't as endorsed like the King of Iron Fist Tournament, but it brought enough of a crowd for the competition to become an eventful one.

After a week of many fights, it finally came down to two fighters, and only one of them who will go home with the prize money. One was an older teenager by the name of Asuka Kazama. She was determined to win the money to rebuild her father's dojo, which was heavily damaged in an attack just weeks ago. Asuka brushed her chin length brown hair back a bit, which was cut in layers. Her fighting outfit consisted of a glazed bluish-silver color with matching shorts. Underneath her jacket was a blue mid-drift tank top and also wore knee-high blue, black, and gray boots. Determination seemed to be glued on to her face.

Her opponent happened to be one of the three new friends she met at the tournament, the wrestler Rainbow Mika Nanakawa. Determination was also on her face as well. Her long blond hair was done in two wild pigtails and she wore a blue banded mask over her face, leaving holes for her blue eyes to poke through. She wore a blue swimsuit-like outfit with white trims at each end. The outfit was also cut, revealing her shoulders, elbows, and her waist. Underneath, she wore a small white tube top with a pair of blue hearts on the front. Around her legs were blue bands and she wore knee-high white wrestling boots on her feet.

Watching the two of them were two other friends who had participated in the tournament as well. There was the ninja Ibuki, who were an all black and brown ninja outfit, but revealed her face. Her mouth was normally covered with a brown cloth to give her more of a ninja look. Her long black hair was down in thin dreadlocks and their were pulled back high in a single ponytail.

The other was the young schoolgirl known as Sakura Kasugano. She wore a blue and white sailor senshi outfit along with her white headband, red shoes, and red fighting gloves. Her brown hair was also done in lairs, but it was about two inches shorter than Asuka's.

Ibuki looked over at Sakura as Mika and Asuka prepared to fight. "This is so exciting, our two new friends fighting each other in the last round."

Sakura smiled at the young ninja girl. "I know! I think I got better since my last meeting with Ryu!"

Sakura began thinking the white-clad man. He was an idol to her and trained herself in the martial arts. She had hoped to be trained by him one day, but that day hasn't come yet.

Sakura's thought were quickly interrupted when a man in pink jumped in between them and put one arm around each girl. "I know this is so great!" he cried out with happy tears forming in his eyes.

Both girls growled a bit. "Could you go away Dan?" asked Ibuki who was on the verge of knocking out the annoying man.

"But we are good friends and stick with one another until the end!" Dan exclaimed, clearly missing what Ibuki had requested.

Sakura sighed, feeling a bit sorry for him. "How about you go get us some punch, Hibiki-san… and try not to spill it this time."

"Okay!" the pink-clad man said before running off.

Ibuki growled. "He's been annoying ever since the competition began… and remind me again what he's doing here."

“Trying to recruit potential students for his Saikyo dojo,” Sakura replied.

Before Ibuki said anything else, the announcer spoke into the microphone. "Ladies! You may begin when you are ready!"

"It's starting!" cried Sakura.

In the ring, Mika and Asuka started at each other, determination still on their faces. After sometime of this, Mika smirked at the young girl.

"Good luck," she said.

Asuka smirked back as well. "Same to you. And don't think I won't hold back."

"Same here."

After another few seconds, both girls charged at each other, beginning the fight. Mika threw a punch while Asuka threw a kick, both of them colliding before pulling back again. The two girls exchanged punches and kicks, both of blocking each other for quite sometime before Mika jumped back.

Mika quickly turned herself around, bended a bit before launching herself backwards in fast speed. Asuka was surprised by the amount of speed Mika put into that maneuver. She tried to get away, but the young wrestler managed to knock her down. Mika landed back on her feet. She turned around just in time to see Asuka running towards her.

Once again, the girls exchanged moves. Despite their new friendship, they fought each other as though they were enemies.

As they continued, Mika ended up missing a block and received a blow to the face by Asuka's fist. Asuka then took the opportunity to spin herself around a few times. An energy wave entered her and during her final turn, she landed a hard kick to Mika's side. Mika went flying across the mat and landed just at the edge's corner. Asuka charged after her then. Mika quickly got up and once again, the girls exchanged more punches and kicks.

Then, to Asuka's surprise, Mika managed to trip her. Before Asuka could get the chance to get up, Mika grabbed a hold of her leg and twisted herself around, her back facing the young girl… taking her leg with her.

The twisting of her leg caused Asuka to scream out loud. The referee on the mat bended down to her, waiting to see if the teenager will tap on the mat, which would officially end the match. Mika continued to twist, but Asuka wasn't about to submit just yet.

After sometime, Asuka shook herself from Mika's hold, then delivered a kick to Mika's face. Mika stumbled to the floor. Then, Asuka jumped up and landed her elbow into Mika's stomach causing the wind to knock out of the wrestler. Asuka got herself up to give Mika room to breathe as she coughed a bit to catch her breath.

Mika wasn't even ready, but she quickly turned around and tackled Asuka to the floor. The girls struggled against each other for some time. Everyone in the audience anticipated who was going to emerge the victor.

Finally, Mika got Asuka in a choke hold, using all of her strength to hold the teen down. Asuka used everything she got to try to get out of Mika's hold, but to no avail. After a few minutes, the teen realized that it was no use.

"You… win…" Asuka managed to say. Immediately after, Mika let go of her causing Asuka to fall forward in relief.

The announcer talked into the microphone again. "Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the First Annual Osaka Women's Tournament is… Rainbow Mika!"

Everyone cheer for Mika as she jumped up and down with excitement. As she did, the sponsors of the tournament came to her with a trophy and the prize money, which was packed in a black business suitcase. They opened it up to her showing her the money inside before closing it again.

After reveling in the excitement, Mika began to walk over to Asuka, who was just sitting up after her defeat. She looked up at the winner of the tournament, who put a hand out towards her. "I hope this doesn't change anything about our friendship."

Asuka was a bit hesitant at first. She was a bit angry that she didn't win the prize money to fix her father's dojo, but what was meant to be was meant to be. She forced a small smile at Mika.

"Nothing has changed," Asuka replied taking Mika's hand. Mika helped her up.

"You know," Mika began. "I came to this tournament because I wanted to be the best. You came here for your father's sake. I believe half of my winnings belongs to you."

Asuka softly gasped at the offer. "Mika… I couldn't… you won that fair and square."

"I know, but it doesn't hurt to give my winnings to a friend in need."

Tears formed in Asuka's eyes and she hugged Mika. "Thank you so much. My father would appreciate this so much!"

It was then that Sakura and Ibuki joined the two girls. They formed a group hug in excitement. "That was a great fight!" exclaimed Sakura. "I'm so glad one of us won."

"Congratulations Mika," Ibuki said. "And you did great Asuka."

"Thanks," the two girls replied.

When Mika looked up, she saw that everyone had stopped in their places. A confused look appeared on her face. Has time suddenly stopped? she thought nervously.

The three other girls noticed Mika's expression as well. They looked around and saw that everyone had stopped in their places. Sakura almost laughed when she saw Dan carrying the drinks, but now was beginning to trip thanks to a mischievous young boy.

"This is weird," Ibuki said. "What's going on here?"

Suddenly, someone moved within the crowd, causing the girls to jump a little. A floating figure in a purple robe glided towards them. The girls became nervous, not sure whether to run, or just be as frozen as the people around them. That was until they all noticed four envelopes in the figure's hands.

"Looks like he has some sort of message for us," said Mika.

Soon, the figure was at arm's length from the four of them. The robed-figure quietly passed the envelopes to the girls, each one of them having their names on it. Then, the figure faded away. As soon as it did, time continued once again and everyone moved about as though nothing happened.

"AAHHH!" Dan cried out as he landed on the ground, spilling the punches on the floor.

The girls didn't even hear him. They all stared at the envelopes until they began opening them. They read what was inside, then looked up at each other.

"Another tournament," said Mika. "What do you think?"

A smile came over Asuka's face. "I think we should go. This sounds quite different from all the other tournaments. It sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

"I wonder if Ryu will be there?" asked a curious Sakura.

"You sure love talking about this Ryu," replied Asuka.

"I think it would be great," Mika replied. "And we'll get to see which one of us will last the longest in the tournament."

"I wonder what the prize is?" Ibuki asked.

"I'm sure we'll know when we get there," Asuka answered.

The girls began heading off out of the ring. As they did, one of the girls' invitations fell out of the envelope and landed on the floor. It wasn't until a moment later that Dan noticed the piece of paper on the floor. Letting curiosity get the best of him, Dan walked over to it, picked it up, and read it to himself. Afterwards, an excited look appeared on his face.

"This shall be a big moment for me!" Dan cried out. "With this tournament, not only will I be showing off my Saikyo style to all of Earth, but I'll be showing them to all of the universe! I better get to Hong Kong, and soon!"

Lifting his head high, Dan marched out of the arena with the invitation in his hand.

Chapter Text

Unknown Area

In an area somewhere in the mountains, a group of men in black trench coats surround a single man in a circle. The man looked around from underneath his dark sunglasses. His face was expressionless, just like the figures surrounding him.

The man looked at each figure before turning to the largest of the group. "Kanaye… hand over the government data," he asked as politely as possible. The figure knew, however, that the leader Kanaye wasn't just going to just hand over the disk filled with secret government data. The data, as far as his superiors told him, contained the kind of information that, if any terrorist managed to get their hands on it, the world would be doomed in a nuclear war. Kanaye and his gang were a group of terrorists working for a secret organization. The figure too worked for a secret organization, but for a better cause… to maintain the safety of Earthrealm and it's people.

Kanaye let out a maniacal laugh. "You think I would hand over the data that easily, stranger… think again!"

The figure slightly brushed his bleach blond hair, then scratched his face, which was part of his dark complexion indicating that he was of African descendent. Going across the middle of his face was a large scar in a shape of an X. "Then I have no choice but to use force."

Still keeping a neutral expression, the dark figure reached behind his back for his large kunais, which rested in their scabbards. Kanaye and his gang saw the agent reach for them. As though on cue, they also reached out for their own weapons.

The wind around them blew a bit, the black scarf the agent briefly carried by the wind and flapped a bit behind him. For a moment, nothing or no one else was moving aside from the scarf.

After some time, one of Kanaye's men dived right after the stranger and attempted to slaughter him with his knives. The lone man was too fast for him and he managed to take him down with a single blow to the head. The other men followed and all attempted to try to kill him. Kanaye watched in delight as his men ambushed him.

To all of their dismay, however, the stranger was what you would imagine as a true ninja, one without all the garments which would have completely covered him. He fought in his ninjitsu fighting style and quickly took down all of the minions in lightning speed. Kanaye's delight suddenly turned into shock as all of his men crumble to the ground in defeat.

The dark man immediately gazed at the leader afterwards. "And you call yourselves a terrorist organization. A dozen of your men couldn't even take one man down."

Kanaye's rage fumed within his blood and he quickly took out his straight sword. "Curse you, you son of a-" Before he could even finish his statement, he quickly ran towards the stranger and swung his sword at him. The dark man blocked it with his kunais followed by steel after steel colliding with one another.

They fought like this for five minutes before the lone stranger kicked Kanaye on the side. Seconds after, he head something that sounded like both plastic and metallic hitting the ground. It quickly occurred to him that Kanaye lost his grip on the stolen data. The stranger had no reason to keep fighting the leader anymore. With a quick swift of his knives, he opened Kanaye's throat deeply, blood immediately pouring out from the fatal wound. Kanaye looked at him in utter shock before collapsing into the ground, his now-lifeless body still.

The stranger took no time to reflect the fight he just won. Instead, he walked over to the floppy disk that laid before him, quickly picked it up, and placed it safely in his pouch. Then, he reached his right finger to his ear where a small headset was placed. He slightly pressed the ear piece inward until he head a light beep noise.

"This is Raven," he stated. "The government data has been retrieved. Mission complete."

A voice came in right after. "Good job, return to HQ immediately."

Raven nodded and took his hand away with a sigh of relief. No doubt, he loved this job and was completely dedicated to it, but lately during these past few months, he has been easily taking down criminals without putting up a good fight.

They have been making me fight amateurs lately, he thought. This has been becoming boring for some time now…

He wondered though. He was considered one of the most skilled and ruthless agents in the world and the only one who has never failed a mission, even when the job was against all odds. Raven wondered thought, is this all just a coincidence that he's been given the boring assignments, or are the people he worked for giving unskilled agents the harder missions?

Raven shook the thought out of his head and scold himself for drifting off into his thoughts. He can't lose it now. He trained himself to not show emotion or think of the past as part of his job and drifting off into another part of his mind was a very rare occasion.

I should head back, he thought. Before he could move however, he heard the beep noise from his head set.

"Agent Raven, come in Raven," a voice said.

Raven quietly sighed and pressed down slightly on the ear piece. "Raven here."

"We have another assignment for you and this one cannot wait."

Raven became confused by that. "What about the government data?"

"One of our men will meet you in San Francisco, give him the data there."

"What's the mission?"

The commander paused for a moment before continuing. "It appears that there will be a tournament coming up, but this seems to be no ordinary event. It's called The Blood Tournament. A ship will be leaving from both Hong Kong and San Francisco in a few days to take the best warriors to the tournament. San Francisco is the closet location from where you are now, so head over there."

Raven nodded a bit and spoke into the headset again. "How does it seem like it's not an ordinary tournament?"

"…it's not taking place here."

The agent became a bit confused. "What you mean it's not taking place here?"

"It's taking place in another realm other than Earth. Unfortunately, the exact location information is currently confidential and no one can figure out where, but intelligence has a feeling it will be in Outworld."

Raven recalled the realm of Outworld, though it's been years since he last heard about it. "Outworld? What makes them think that?"

"Rumor has it that the host of the tournament goes by the name of Shang Tsung, a resident of that realm. According to intelligence files on him, he is a sorcerer bent on stealing souls for himself to maintain his youth. We believe that he will do the same at this tournament. That's why we need you to go out there and investigate."

A side smirk appeared on Raven's face, a very rare thing to happen. Just as he thought his missions were becoming boring, they give them this… a mission to another world to a tournament hosted by a soul-feasting being. 'This may be interesting after all,' he thought.

The voice came back again after a moment of silence. "You're our best agent Raven…we are aware that this will be your first mission outside of Earth and who better than it be you? Your mission is to find out the sorcerer's motives and report to HQ immediately after. We are counting on you. Good luck."

"Raven signing off and heading to achieve mission."

The lone agent cracked his hand a bit. 'Time for a real mission,' he thought. He walked a few feet forward before leaping up into the air in high speed.

~~~

Somewhere in rural Japan

A light fog covered a natural forest with only the sounds of chirping birds being heard. The sun was rising up to help the day begin, but it was unfortunately hidden by gray clouds which was threatening to rain. The air was fresh otherwise with it's natural forest smell.

In the middle of this forest laid a medium-sized dojo, a trail leading up to it. Right as one would enter, a lone person in an orange ninja suit would have been seen near the back sitting on his knees with his hands placed on his lap. A candle was lit on either side of him as his eyes were closed, fully concentrated in his meditation.

A handsome figure, he was of medium build, wearing a net shirt under his sleeveless garment. On the left side of his chest, there were two kanji writings on them written in white. Around his slim waist was a yellow band-like sash, the color matching his fighting gloves. On his feet were orange and white tennis shoes. Also on his head was short but wild dark brown hair, the front of it in bangs just ending above his eyes.

This figure was known as the Bushin ninja Guy Hinato. The dojo he was surrounded by was home of those training in the Bushin arts. He had been training here for years along with his younger siblings since the death of their parents at a young age back in the United States, where he was born. Though he did leave the dojo for sometime a few years back to live in the USA metropolitan called Metro City, he still called this place his home.

Usually during his meditations, Guy was in full concentration, not even the loudest sound in the world would get him out of it. But this time, the sound of someone entering the room disturbed him from his relaxation.

A small grunt escaped the Japanese man's throat. "Haru, I told you not to disturb me when I'm meditating," he slightly barked, knowing that this particular student had the tendencies to pull pranks on unexpecting people.

Feeling a bit annoyed as he heard more footsteps, Guy quickly opened his dark eyes with a blank expression on his face. At the entrance of the door, a tall muscular figure stood there, leaning again the frame of the door with a small smirk on his face, his arms folded in front of his white t-shirt. He also wore blue jeans and had a blond version of Guy's hair, only a little shorter.

"Nice to see that you're still the same, Guy," the figure said now smiling more.

The blank expression turned into a bit of a surprised one, followed by a smirk. "It's been a long time, Cody Travers."

Cody smile turned back into a smirk. He put his arms down and began walking over to his friend. Guy noticed that his old friend had bruises around both of his wrist. He knew that Cody had been in jail for sometime... it was the last that he heard of him a few years back.

Guy stood up. "Last I heard, you were in jail for assault."

Cody sighed a bit, the smirk disappearing. "Yeah, I just got released a few months ago. I wasn't really sure what to do with myself… still don't know, really."

"What brings you here then?" Guy asked with curiosity.

"Jessica Haggar of all people."

Guy was surprised to hear that. "Your ex?"

The blond nodded. "I know, surprising. I haven't seen her in years, ever since she moved out of Metro City with her newly-wedded husband. They just divorced last month though. It's too bad it had to end the way it did, our relationship."

"I'm still curious to know," the orange-clad ninja asked. "What did she do that made you decide to come here?"

Cody took a hand and rubbed the back of his own neck. "It's a long story, but in a nutshell, she made me realize that I should atone for my sins. I think I've been a drifter for far too long. She made me remember how much I loved her and what I fought for back in the day, back when you and I, along with Haggar, fought the Mad Gear gang to save her. I guess a part of me still cares for her, but there's nothing I can do about it now. What we had then, it's long gone.”

Cody shook his head a bit. "Anyway, what has been up with you lately?"

Guy was silent for a minute before reaching into the pocket of his outfit and pulled out a white envelope. "This came to my attention last night. I spent all night meditating, trying to figure out what it could mean."

Cody took the envelope out of his old friend's hand and took out the invitation that was inside. Cody half expected it to be for a tournament and it was, but even to him, it felt different.

"Does any of your fellow companions here know about it?" Cody asked.

Guy shook his head. "I preferred they didn't. Only sensei knows about this. I don't want the others to get too excited, even Maki. I don't think she's ready for something like this."

"That's too bad. Speaking of Maki, how are you and Rena?"

The Bushin ninja sighed. It definitely has been way too long since he last saw Cody. "Leukemia, four years ago."

Cody was in a bit of a shock over the horrible news. "I'm sorry to hear that. That also had to have been hard on Maki, losing her older sister... how is she now?"

"She's doing all right, getting better everyday."

The two fell silent for a moment before Cody placed the invitation back in the envelope and handed it back to his friend. "Are you going?"

"Yes," Guy answered. "I feel that I should go to this." Then he looked at Cody seriously. "Since you know about this, would you accompany me? Without getting into trouble of course."

Cody laughed a bit and lightly slapped his friend on the back. "Of course I will. And don't worry, I'm not as crazy as I used to be."

"I object otherwise." Guy lightly laughed after the comment.

"I should let Jessica know though," Cody said.

"Why?"

"Cause she's waiting at the hotel we're staying at."

Guy sighed. "You definitely failed to mention that. Since the tournament is in a few days with Hong Kong being our closest departing location, we should get going immediately. I'll have one of my students inform her."

"Yeah, it's best," Cody said. "She might ring my neck if I ever mentioned anything that involves fighting."

They both lightly laughed before Guy spoke. "Welcome back old friend."

"Yeah, it's good to be here again."

While they talked, a female figure was listening in on them since Cody walked in. This was the girl Guy mentioned, Maki. A bit of disappointment appeared on her face as she looked at them.

Why would Guy not tell me about this? she thought a bit frustrated. Am I not good enough to fight in this tournament?

She knew Guy was quite stubborn, especially after the death of her sister Rena, who was engaged to him at the time. In the later years, Maki had hoped that somehow, another woman would come to his life to change him back to who he once was, but that hasn't happened yet.

Maki tossed her thick blond hair away from her shoulder as she watched the men continue to talk. After some time and after talking to a few students, they left the dojo and began heading their way.

Not realizing that she's nearly just as stubborn, she got herself geared up, her baton packed away, and began following the boys to the tournament.

I'll prove to them that I'm good enough to fight in this tournament!

~~~

Hong Kong, China

In the streets of Hong Kong, a large crowd of pedestrians and drivers crowded the area as rush hour began. People tried to go about as quickly as possible to their destination knowing that it would take a long time to get there.

One of many people's pet peeves were that they always had to move out of the way for those 'punk' kids who were always riding on their bikes, roller blades, etc. For those in downtown Hong Kong however, today wasn't their lucky day.

A pair of brothers skated their way down through the crowd in high speed. One was on a skateboard, his black and blue cap covering the upper portion of his face. His braided brown hair was tossed around as he rode forward. On him was a white Chinese garment and black baggy pants along with black and yellow sneakers.

The other was on roller blades. His dark hair, matching his brother's, was spiked outward in front of his face only moving every once in a while thanks to the large amount of gel he used to keep it up. He wore a similar Chinese garment, but in red, and he also wore black baggy pants and black and yellow sneakers.

The crowd growled or cursed out at them as they passed by. Neither one of them cared however because they were racing each other home after a full day at work.

The younger of the two looked over and smiled. "You can't beat me Yang!" He saw a garbage can coming and jumped over it with ease.

Yang only smirked at the comment. "Don't be too confident Yun." He saw a large crack in the curve and jumped over that as well.

For some time, they raced each other, avoiding collision at any cost. At one point, Yang did bump into an old lady. Feeling guilty and having respect for the elderly, he took the time to help her up and made sure that she was all right before continuing the race. With the lost amount of time, Yun was way ahead of him.

Soon, Yun reached the building they lived in first. He waited by the front door until his brother caught up with him.

"I win," Yun said with a grin.

Yang glared at him. "Whatever. Come on, let's go see how Grandfather is doing."

Yun's grin disappeared then and his expression became just as serious as his brother's. They entered the building and through what was once the Genhanton restaurant their grandfather Gen had owned. Six months ago, the restaurant was forced to close down after the business went bankrupt.

At the same time, their grandfather was diagnosed with a rare disease and only had a year to live, so the doctors declared. Since then, the Lee brothers had been working odd jobs to raise money to pay off loans.

They quietly went upstairs and reached an opened door leading to their grandfather's room. Yang opened the door more and went in, followed by Yun. Gen looked up at his grandsons and a faint smile appeared on his face.

"Good evening my grandsons," he said, his voice a bit rash. "Come in closer, I have something for you."

The boys figured that Gen was going to give them another life lesson. It was boring, but they try to listen anyways, for his sake.

But instead of another life lesson, Gen reached for an enveloped that laid on his nightstand. He grabbed it and gave it to Yang with his shaky hands. "I want you boys to have this."

"What is it?" Yun asked with curiosity.

"Open it."

The brothers were hesitant at first until Yang opened up the envelope. After they read what was in it, they were very surprised by this.

"A tournament?" Yun asked surprised.

Gen nodded and coughed a bit. "Yes. This was given to me a couple of days ago. The inviter must have not realized my current condition. So that is why I am giving this to theboth of you. You may chose to go or not. Do not worry about me, the caretakers will care for me."

"Are you sure grandfather?" asked Yun.

"It's all right with me grandson. You both love the fight and I allow you to do this. You have much to offer than I can."

Yun nodded decided to go to the tournament. However, Yang shook his head. "I think at least one of us should stay. I can't leave you like this, grandfather."

Gen forced a smirk. "It's all right Yang, I allow you to go. If anything, escort Yun to the dock on the day of departure. If you don't return, I'll understand. Good luck then."

Yang felt a bit grim. Even if he did decide to go, he would feel guilty leaving his sick grandfather behind. Even in this condition, he wondered why his grandfather was insisting on making them go.

The truth was the only thing Gen knew, something that he wanted to pursue while the boys were away. Something that the brothers, forever, would never know about…

Chapter Text

Phoenix, Arizona

"Another year gone," said a young woman. "…and no success."

The woman, known as Julia Chang, sighed to herself as she leaned back into her chair and stared at the computer, which contained data for her project to rejuvenate the forests. She had just finished her second year at college and since she started, she has been working on this project. Last year, the project failed because of the unexpected heat wave in Arizona. This year, they attempted to rejuvenate in the Northern area, but nothing has changed as of now.

While leaning back into her chair, Julia slightly turned her head over to the television, which was turned on. It was the middle of the night and it was playing a repeat of the First Annual Women's Tournament, which premiered yesterday in the states. On it was one of the fighters known as Rainbow Mika, the winner of the tournament. The television showed her excitement over her win and receiving the prize money.

That was an interesting tournament, Julia thought to herself while adjusting her red-rimmed glasses.

Julia leaned forward again and stared at her computer. She studied more of the forest data, hoping to somehow discover a theory she hadn't thought about, but it was to no avail. Before she knew it, however, Julia had fallen asleep right there in front of her computer…

She found herself walking through a forest area. Despite all the leaves, the bright sun managed to shine down on to the ground. The moths and butterflies flew around happily and the sounds of chirping birds were heard.

Julia looked through the environment cheerfully. She was wearing a brown leather sleeveless top over a green tank-top showing off her slim abdomen, matching leather gloves, short blue jeans shirt held up by a brown belt buckle, brown leather boots over long white socks, and her long dark hair was down in two braids in the back held by different colored ties. Around her head was a purple and red headband with a pair of white and black feathers indicating her Indian background.

Everything seemed as though they should be and the young woman was enjoying every minute of it. Then, she turned her head and saw a figure standing by a large tree. She was dressed in similar clothes, but her hair was tied back in one short braid. The figure was of both Indian and Asian descendant. Even with the happiness around them, the lone person showed sadness on her face.

Julia's heart broke at that moment. Not only did it shock her to see the sadness in such a happy place, but she also recognized the person.

Before she could call out to her, however, darkness filled Julia's world…

Julia woke up with a small gasp and threw herself back a bit into the chair she was sitting on. Her red glasses were crooked on her face and she immediately adjusted them once she was aware that she was back in the computer room.

"It was just a dream…" she said to herself. She shifted her eyes a bit and saw two envelopes stapled together next to the keyboard, both with her name on it. Julia picked it up in confusion. "That wasn't there before…" She looked around the room, knowing that someone had entered the house, but even it was just a minute ago, the mysterious person was long gone.

The young woman looked at the time and was a bit surprised that it was 3 in the morning. She had fallen asleep three hours ago, but it didn't seem that long to her. She shook the thought out of her head then and opened up the letter. It was only a short letter, which wasn't signed;

Julia-

If you want to find out the fate of your mother, come to The Blood Tournament.

Mother… she thought, remembering the figure that appeared in her dream. Though she wasn't her real mother, Michelle Chang had adopted her when Julia's own tribe abandoned her in a temple when she was just an infant. For what reason, she would never know. Just two years ago, Michele had left the states to go to Japan, but never stated a reason.

She never returned.

Julia had been on a mission to search for Michelle while in school, but lately there hasn't been any leads, at least until now. The young woman placed the letter down and opened up the other envelope, which was the invitation to The Blood Tournament.

If she is there, Julia thought. This may be my chance to find her. It's my only lead right now…

She took the rest of the night off to rest. When she awoke the next morning, Julia packed her bags and began her destination to the nearest departing location, San Francisco…

~~~

Japan, Unknown Area

An army of cyborgs marched their way through what looked like a lab. It would have been a normal march had it not been for their quickened pace. Even so, they remained in perfect sync

In a dark corner, a lone green female cyborg hid where she wouldn't be seen. She began to wonder how long this was going to last and whether or not the other cyborgs would find her.

With the technologies, why not? she thought to herself.

The female cyborg had no name, but she did have a codename: Matrik, the first female cyborg of the Tekunin clan. The clan's main motives was to take over Earth starting with Japan. Strong warriors were captured and recruited as cyborgs, forced to join the side of their leader, the only one who willingly accepted his fate years ago; Sektor.

An accidental override helped Matrik develop a sense of self and knowing what was right and wrong. This happened during a download remission to strengthen her powers, by Sektor's orders. As though on instinct, Matrik attacked those in the lab and narrowly made her way out. Though she escaped, she still had a long way to go. There was still the actual hideout itself to get out of.

Matrik tried to think of herself in the meantime. She knew that she was a strong warrior who too was captured against her own will, but that was all. As much as she tried, she couldn't remember anything else; her family, where she lived, her childhood… even her own name…

Each cyborg had their own unique ability whether it was a possession of a weapon, a power over an element, or an inhuman ability like invisibility. Matrik had weapons, and they had proved to be quite useful in any situation.

It was at that moment that a cyborg with an ability to locate their targets easily, spotted her. "Target located," the cyborg called out in it's robotic tone.

To silence it, Matrik lifted her foot up to the machine's neck and gave a kick. It looked as though she had missed, but to the machine's dismay, it's neck detached from it's body, electric shocks coming out of the loose wires. Matrik kept her foot up for a moment, the saw at the bottom of her foot still running.

Because of the enemy's call, the other cyborgs heard the commotion and began going after Matrik. She prepared herself and fought all of the cyborgs who approached her with various punches and kicks. Once she took them all down, a lone red cyborg stood in front of her, clapping his hands in a slow rhythmic beat.

Sektor… Matrik thought bitterly.

"Very good," Sektor said in his deep, robotic tone. Up until Matrik freed herself, Sektor was the only cyborg who did not talk like a computer despite the tone itself. "I knew that I made you one of the best. Unfortunately, it's such a waste considering your betrayal to the clan. You are now targeted for death."

Matrik wasted no time. She quickly put her right hand out as a small compartment opened up on her palm. Quickly, about five small golden balls flew after Sektor as though they were attached to him. Sektor knew exactly what they were and quickly made a run for it until they exploded in the air.

Sektor quickly turned around, a compartment opening up on his chest. Two rows of six missiles were shown and he began shooting them at Matrik without hesitation. Matrik also made a run for it until she heard the sixth missile explode.

After sometime, the debris cleared. Matrik and Sektor only stood there, looking at each other, waiting for the other to make a move.

Then, to Matrik's surprise, Sektor spoke. "This can wait, I have no time for this. If you still want to kill me, however, meet me in Outworld where the Blood Tournament will take place." With that, he teleported out of the room and disappeared.

Damn it! Matrik thought pissed. The fight didn't even start and he ups and leaves.

Matrik knew though that Sektor received an invitation to a tournament in Outworld, a world she had heard of many times. A boat was to leave from Hong Kong in a few days, that she only knew.

Perhaps he wants another battle there…unless it's some sort of trap…

Either way, Matrik was willing to risk it in order to freedom. And perhaps, if anything, Sektor would know something about who she really was before her capture. If it means regaining her memory, then she had no choice but to follow Sektor to the world unknown to her…

~~~

New York City, USA

The streets began to crowd with car and pedestrians as rush hour began to approach. People were busy minding their businesses and trying to rush their way back to their destinations. Though it was barely on anyone's minds, it was the perfect time for any criminal to pickpocket.

A man in a dark brown trench coat walked down the street near Times Square, a black brief case in one hand and an emotionless look on his face. Those who were careful about pick pocket criminals stayed back from him as far as they could manage.

The man continued walking, ignoring those around him. He then turned his head when he noticed construction going about. It looked as though the workers were covering yet another of the many potholes left behind by the harsh storms of last winter.

He wasn't watching where he was going at that moment because he then bumped into something who was attempting to walk past him. A frustrated look appeared on his face as he turned his head to take a look at who was responsible. Once he got a look, he felt his breath taken away by the red-haired beauty who stood before him.

Her hazel eyes seemed to gleam in delight and her hair, tied in two ponytails with two more strands hanging on either side of her light-toned face, swayed in the light wind that began to pick up. She wore a black strapless leather corset, a zipper going up the middle and a short open vest with black trims. A black belt held up her red pants, two openings with three black straps shown going down to her knees on either leg. She also wore black boots with two metal rims going around them, which the man found a bit odd, but gave no other thought to it.

The man took a few more moments to look at her before smiling. "Sorry miss," he said.

The red-haired woman only smirked. "Don't worry about it, just watch where you're going next time." She gave him a wink before passing him to continue walking. The man eyed her, feeling a bit attracted to her before he too continued down the street.

When the man was completely gone, the woman lifted a hand which held a black leather wallet. She fished through it and found many hundred dollar bills and two credit cards. She took it all and tossed them aside making it look like as though the man ended up dropping his wallet. Jackpot! she thought. This guy was loaded.

Later, she reached the lower side of the city. The area seemed deserted, though many would think that. The red haired woman entered a abandoned warehouse. All of the rooms were in open space with only one single fan running on the ceiling. The place was quite warm despite the cool weather, but it was something the woman had adjusted to long ago.

She walked about ten feet before seeing a blur passing in front of her. The figure stopped in front of her, revealing himself. A full oxygen mask covered his face with only his long black hair falling out and his deformed cheeks partly revealed. Behind his back was an oxygen tank held by a pair of straps over his shoulders with a single tube coming out of it and into his throat. He also wore a black sleeveless trench coat, a green vest, short black gloves over his bandaged hands going up to mid-forearm, brown pants, and black combat boots. Other than his cheeks, the only other part of his body that were shown were his arms, which were covered with various burn scars.

The figure breathed similar to Darth Vadar in Star Wars, but it wasn't as deep nor as loud. He looked at the woman through the small holes of his mask. "Where have you been Kira?" he asked with curiosity.

Kira smirked at him and showed him the cash and cards. "Getting paid." She handed the money to him.

"Good," Kabal replied. "And you came back just in time. Our 'master' informed me this morning that we have a special mission. He said it should bring the name of The Black Dragon to everyone's fear."

Kira nodded. "So am I actually going to meet the 'master' for once?"

Kabal nodded in confirmation.

The young woman bent down a bit and reached for her boot. Held by the two metal rings on it was one of the two Dragon Teeth daggers she possessed. "Will we be recruiting? Killing?"

"Both actually, but that's all he said-"

It was at that moment that a portal opened up before them. They watched as a male figure appeared before them. The two of them bowed in respect, but then the male called out. "Rise! There is no need to bow to me."

"I apologize Havik," Kabal replied standing up along with Kira. "I forget that you are from the realm of Chaos."

Havik took a couple of steps forward. Kira wasn't sure whether or not he was grinning because the fact was that from the nose to his chin, Havik's face was rotted off, showing off a part of his skull. Other than that, the upper portion of his face was normal showing black bushy eyebrows and cold transparent eyes that were almost blue. He wore his black hair up in a high ponytail. His clothing consisted of an open helmet with his realm's symbol on it, black and red garments going over his shoulders revealing most of his torso (surprisingly not rotting off) with only one sleeve on his left arm, and black finger cut short gloves. He also wore another symbol of Chaos over his chest, a red scarf hanging over his back, black pants, a long red sash, and silver boots.

"Your mission is in Outworld," Havik began his statement. Despite being from a realm filled with Chaos, he spoke in a well-mannered, soft spoken voice. "There will be a tournament taking place called The Blood Tournament. Rumor has it that Chishio No Me, the Bloody Eye medallion, has been found after many years of disappearance."

Kabal looked up with interest. "The item rumored to be most powerful artifact in the universe…"

"Exactly," Havik replied. "Whatever Outworld will do with the artifact is none of our concern. Our only concern for this mission is to take the medallion for ourselves. We will rule the universe bring chaos and the name of The Black Dragon clan to everyone's knees. Just imagine what we can do with it… having all that unlimited power."

"We will get more recruits for sure if we succeed," said Kira. "They would want this power. The Black Dragon will no longer be a joke, a band of pirates. We will be better than before."

"Indeed." Havik looked at the both of them. "In the meantime, the closest we can get to the medallion is allying ourselves with Shao Kahn himself. He is the key to our victory. Come now, we must leave. May Chaos break the rules that bind."

Kabal and Kira nodded. Using magic, Havik opened up a portal to Outworld and immediately went in. Without further hesitation, Kabal and Kira followed him…

~~~

Italy

In a small city area, a woman stood on the balcony leading to her apartment. Anyone who would have spotted her would immediately notice the large, old-fashioned pink and white laced dress she was wearing. She also wore various gold jewelry, her wild purple hair swaying in the wind. Her violet eyes gazed out into the night sky.

The woman was named Rose, a psychic with the power of Soul. She leaned her small framed body to the railing of her balcony, gazing up at the stars.

Each one of us have our own destiny, she thought to herself. Each star in the sky represents a single person living in this universe. Even if we don't know, we all have one thing in common…we all live in the same universe, together. When one passes on, the star dies as well…

Rose then saw one star disappear out of sight. Another soul had just passed on.

The temperature had dropped then and Rose decided to retire for the night. As she did, she thought about the recent events of the fall of Shadaloo and Bison's apparent death. Even as a psychic, she could not foresee who was responsible for the madman's demise, but she had the feeling that another evil being had done the deed.

Who could have done that? she thought.

In another vision from years ago, there was a possibility that Rose was somehow related to Bison, perhaps a half brother, but it was a mystery even she herself may never solve.

Rose shook the thoughts out of her head then and got herself into a white laced nightgown in her sleeping quarters. She undid the purple velvet sheets of her queen-sized bed and tucked herself in. She shut the light off on her lamp and settled herself in, letting sleep take over her…

Hours later, even as Rose shot up from her bed in cold sweat, she was still dreaming, her eyes rolled into the back of her head. In her mind, everything in the entire universe was destroyed, corpses were lying everywhere, the entire lands and skies were discolored into a dark red, fire burned in every direction. Those still living screamed in terror believing that their own deaths were approaching.

Rose let out a gasp as her eyes rolled back to their normal place. She took the time to catch her breath and wiped the sweat off her face. The 'dream' still playing in the distant part of her mind, she immediately went into another room to the side covered in velvet curtains. A single chair and a crystal ball on a small table waited.

The female psychic sat down, the ball immediately glowing. Rose placed her delicate hands over the ball, not touching it, and whispered incantations. After what seemed like a long time, the vision of her 'dream' came back to her.

"The entire universe will be doomed," she thought. "But by what?"

A tarot card appeared in her hand. She opened her eyes and looked at it. It was of an eye. "An artifact?"

It immediately came to her then. The eye…the sign of the artifact… a particular one came to her. "The Bloody Eye medallion… can it be? It's been found?" She looked into the crystal ball. "Show me the medallion of all power!"

It took a while, but soon the ball showed her a light picture of the medallion, it's tear glowing in it's real color. Rose closed her eyes, trying to pinpoint the location, but instead, a man in a skull mask appeared before her. Rose quickly opened her eyes, her own heart jumping to her throat.

Shao Kahn! Perhaps he has the artifact.

She closed her eyes and continued to try to get more information, but to no avail. Luckily, however, she did have some knowledge of the evil Emperor, knowing that he ruled the realm of Outworld. Even so, however, there could be a possibility that he may be somewhere else… or maybe he will have the artifact in the future, she wasn't sure.

It was then that a gust of wind was heard. Rose opened her eyes again and was surprised to see an envelope with her name on it. She slowly took it into her hands and yet another flash appeared in her mind, this time, the land of Outworld.

Upon that, she immediately opened the envelope. Just what I nearly expected, she thought. It was an invitation to The Blood Tournament in an unknown location, but Rose already got the idea that the tournament would take place in Outworld.

Perhaps I will find more answers there. If anything, I must secure the realms… with help from others.

The closest location from where she was located now was San Francisco, and she decided to seek out those taking the ship from there. As she got herself dressed, Rose came to the conclusion that she was unsure of whether or not the fate of the realms will end in either salvation or doom despite the horrifying vision. As the sun rose up into the sky, Rose headed out, confident that she will find more information…

~~~

The Heavens

The God of Thunder Raiden saw it all happen before his eyes. Quan Chi finding the amulet and giving it to Shao Kahn… the planning of The Blood Tournament… fighters from all over the universe receiving invitations to the tournament.

The Bloody Eye is a dangerous artifact, Raiden thought. It must be taken away from the hands of evil before doomsday approaches.

The thunder God's platinum hair swayed in the wind under his brown cone hat, his transparent eyes glowing. With The Bloody Eye in the hands of the most powerful Emperor, the entire universe was in danger.

Many times has Raiden helped those on Earthrealm defend themselves from being taken over by Outworld and succeeded. If he could inform the other Elder Gods of the situation, perhaps they will help once again.

After some time, Raiden walked away from what he called a 'mirror,' part of a magic he used to see the events happening in the universe. He went inside of a temple-like structure, where four of the Elder Gods waited.

The four Gods sat in large thrones, all Gods for the four main elements… The God of Wind Fujin, the God of Water Mizu, The God of Fire Hinote, and the God of Earth Daichi.

"Lord Raiden," spoke Daichi. "What has brought you to us?"

Raiden bowed to the four of them. "I came to inform you of an urgent situation. It seems that Quan-Chi has managed to get his hands on Chishio No Me."

The four Elder Gods' faces expressed their horror. They had hoped that no one, let alone someone of evil, would ever find the artifact. It had been years since it was last used by a General from the realm of Keisei who was nearly met with an unfortunate fate.

"Raiden," said Mizu, her blue eyes glowing. "I know what you are planning. You want to defend Earth and get help from warriors of that realm."

"Yess Mizu," Raiden replied. "That is what I wish to do."

"We cannot allow you to interfere," said Hinote.

Raiden looked up at them in shock. "What do you mean?"

Daichi sighed to himself and looked at Raiden seriously. "We let it go the last few times you have done this, but this time we cannot interfere. Yes, it is our job to protect the universe, but it's not our job to interfere in matters like these, only if we feel that there is real danger to the nature of life."

Anger appeared on the Thunder God's face and he clenched his fists. "This is absurd! Many of the warriors entering this tournament have no idea what may be truly going on! This is real peril and I cannot allow to stand idly by! If Chishio No Me is not secured from the hands of evil, then the entire universe will be doomed."

Raiden looked at the four of them hoping that they would change their minds. With the except of Fujin, the Gods kept the same expression. Raiden knew that no matter what he said, they won't change their minds.

"Even if it means relinquishing my status, then so be it!" With that Raiden turned on his heel and stormed out of the room. The three Gods were horrified by Raiden's decision while Fujin watched in pity as his friend left.

Later, Raiden was getting ready to head down to Earth. It was only a couple of days before the ships from the realms would head to Outworld. Raiden stared at his prized possession, his staff, a weapon he used every time he went down to help defend Earth. But this time, however, Raiden wasn't just defending Earth. This time, he would be defending all of mankind.

Raiden didn't even notice when Fujin entered the room, at least until he spoke. "I wish you luck my friend."

The wielder of Thunder turned around facing the God of Wind. A smile appeared on Raiden's face. "Thank you my friend. I knew that you would have understood."

"I wish I could go," Fujin replied. "But my duty for now is to stay here. If the other Elder Gods believe that the realms will be in true danger, I will be there."

Raiden nodded and placed his staff in his scabbard behind his back. "The realms must stay secure. If no one can do it, who will?"

Fujin nodded in agreement. "I have a few suggestions to make, ones that I discovered after the brief meeting."

Raiden looked at him waiting for the information.

"While all the other realms have one ship leaving a dock, Earth has two due to it's large population. Go to the one in Hong Kong. Another with the same enthusiasm as you will be heading to the one in San Francisco. I recommending joining with her and those helping her and devise a plan to defend the universe. Her name is Rose, a psychic with soul power. Seek her out and you have more of a chance against your adversaries."

Raiden nodded. "Once again my friend, thank you. I will take your advice and meet this Rose in Outworld. With this, I believe she will be a worthy ally. Farewell."

With that, Raiden opened up a portal to Earth. Fujin watched until he disappeared. Then, he began heading back to the temple, a bothering thought lingering in his mind…

It's possible… this may be the end of mankind…

Chapter Text

Near Mt. Fuji, Japan

In the outskirts, the moon shined brightly along with the billions of stars around it. A lone corporate warehouse stood in the middle of nowhere. Within the walls, one would be amazed to find that there was a hotel-like pool area. A large pool covered most of the ground, which was made out of gray bricks. Countless lawn chairs surrounded the edges with little tables in between each one. Fake palm trees were placed in various area and nearby were a few Jacuzzis ready to be used.

On one of the lawn chairs, an older man laid there, enjoying the peace and quiet that surrounded the area. He wore a single black speedo and was well built for a man his age. His hair was a light gray, nearly white, which was styled in an odd way. He was bald on top, and what was left of his hair was gelled sideways giving it almost a devil look.

The older man was in deep thought, almost forgetting where he was. My son is dead, he thought blankly. But Kazuya was always worthless.

This man was known as Heihachi Mishima, the current leader of the financial group, The Mishima Zaibatsu. He was a type of man who thirsted for power, and most people who knew his reputation were afraid of him. Very few have stood up against him, but they were all met by the same fate. That included his only son Kazuya Mishima, whom he had killed a while back during a tournament they both attended. Kazuya was out to take over the organization for himself. Heihachi had merely defended the Zaibatsu by killing his own son... one less nuisance in the world.

Most parents would grieve in the aftermath… but for many years, it was known that Heihachi had no heart for anyone but himself, unless you were a pet bear named Kuma.

Heihachi's mind then drifted to his own grandson… Jin Kazama. Like Kazuya, Jin possessed what was known as 'the devil gene' a power to be reckoned with. Heihachi saw it in the last tournament they attended. If I got my hands on him, the older man thought. The power he possesses will be good use to the Mishima Zaibatsu. The world will fear us.

He only had one problem… he had no idea where Jin was at the moment. Jin disappeared right after the tournament. Heihachi had sent his personal intelligence to search for him, even if they died doing it. For now, all the leader could do was wait for word on the location of his grandson.

Just as he finished that thought, Heihachi heard footsteps coming towards him. He didn't bother to turn around when he said, "What is it?"

The figured stopped in his tracks. Heihachi could sense a little fear in him, but the man regained his composure. "My lord, intelligence has located Jin Kazama."

If it was physically possible, Heihachi's ears would be perking upwards excitedly. Of course, he kept his seriousness within his face to show his minions that he meant business. Heihachi finally turned his head to face one of his guards who was dressed in a brown security uniform. "Go on, " the leader encouraged him.

The guard quietly sighed of relief. "Intelligence discovered that Jin is heading to Hong Kong. We didn't know why he was interested in the city until we looked into it."

Heihachi stood up then. He grabbed a dark cherry silk robe and wrapped it around himself. "Do not stop speaking unless that's all the information you are going to give me… but you know what will happen if that was the case."

The guard swallowed. "Of course my lord, my apologies. In Hong Kong, they are setting up ships for this coming Saturday. The ships will be heading to another realm in which we later discovered that it was Outworld. There, The Blood Tournament will be taking place there. All the best fighters in the universe will be there."

With that statement, a sadistic grin appeared on Heihachi's face. "A tournament with the best fighters in the world. If my grandson is participating in this tournament, then it is true of what they said. Is that all?"

"Yes my lord."

Heihachi placed his feet into his black slippers. "Good. Set up the Mishima Portal for me. I'm highly interested in what this tournament holds. If it's in another world, then the prize is more than just money. You are dismissed."

The guard bowed to him before leaving. Heihachi then picked up a glass of strawberry margarita in which he only half finished and took a sip from it. "The Blood Tournament," he thought out loud. "Taking place in Outworld where the best fighters in the realm will participate…this will indeed be quite interesting. And there, I will possess the power Jin holds."

It was then at that moment that the same guard came back into the pool area. A bit of rage filled the older man. "What is it?" he demanded.

The guard looked at him nervously now. "Um, my lord, I came to tell you that your latest issue of Mishima Magazine: Bikini Edition just came in."

"Good," Heihachi replied with a laugh. "Very good."

~~~

Himalayan Mountains, China

"All right everyone, that's enough for today," said a middle-aged man as he bowed to a small group of people. "We will be going over more of this lesson in the morning."

The small group grumbled a bit as they dispersed into their own separate ways. The leader sat down on a small bench and wiped a small sweat off his face.

"You're never usually get that warm, Sifu Sub-Zero," said a voice coming from a young female.

Sub-Zero looked up and saw the small-framed, blue haired figure standing before him. "It's actually cold sweat, Frost," he replied.

Frost rolled her eyes a bit. "Yeah right, whatever you say."

Sub-Zero shook his head a bit. Not that long ago, he managed to earn the title of Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei. A year ago, they were a group of assassins and were considered a threat to society, especially after their attempt at the cyborg initiative, turning their clan members into emotionless cyborgs. Now, Sub-Zero hoped to turn the clan for the better, isolated themselves in a colder region of China in a old temple. He recruited new students who believed in his cause, including the only female in the clan, Frost.

Sub-Zero smirked at his young student a little. "Sometimes, I think you turned my hair gray overnight."

Frost cocked up an eyebrow. "Uh huh."

The Grandmaster stood up then, and scratched the right side of his face, which contained a very large purplish scar that went down from his forehead to his chin, running right through one half of his ice blue eyes. He was a tall man with a well-built body for someone who was aging quite quicker than normal speed.

"Come on," Sub-Zero said. "You still need to learn to make weapons with your kori powers."

The young woman sighed a bit. "Didn't you just try to teach me that?"

"Yes," Sub-Zero replied. "But you still lack control." He then thought to himself, If only I could teach this girl humility.

It was then that another member of the Lin Kuei came up to the Grandmaster with a piece of paper in his hand. "Sifu, a message has come for you… it's from the Tekunin leader himself…"

Sektor, Sub-Zero thought. He immediately grabbed the paper, opened it up, and read the letter quickly;

Sub-Zero-

Enclosed is an invitation to the Blood Tournament which will be taking place in Outworld. There, I will be challenging you there for the future of the Lin Kuei Clan. Go there alone.

-Sektor.

A grim look appeared on the Grandmaster's face. When he fought for the right to be the leader of the clan, Sektor tried to fight for the same title. In the aftermath, Sektor ran off and no one had heard about him since other than the fact that he formed the Tekunin clan… at least until now.

Sub-Zero then proceeded to look at the invitation to the tournament that came with it. He had just finished reading when Frost spoke. "Sifu, what's going on?"

The older man shook his head. "It's Sektor. He invited me to a tournament in Outworld so that he can challenge me for the right to be Grandmaster."

"But I thought that was over with."

"I thought so as well… but with his own growing clan, who knows what he will do. Something also tells me that this may all be a trick since this is him sending me all of this."

The messenger looked at Sub-Zero. "What will you be doing from this point?" he asked.

Sub-Zero slightly shook his head again. "I'm going to have to take a chance. Sektor poses a threat to our clan we worked hard to turn for the better. Be on guard for anything while I am away."

The two nodded.

From there, the Grandmaster proceeded with his plans. He appointed a long time member of the clan to take over until his return. He then pack his gear and then began his journey to Hong Kong. Frost was the only one who bid him farewell. Unknown to him, as soon as he turned his back, a sadistic look appeared in her eyes…

~~~

San Francisco, California, USA

"I'M THE BEST IN THE UNIVERSE!" yelled out a gruff voice that was much louder than the music being played, which was currently on max volume.

Both the voice and the music came from a small broken down martial arts school, which stood out amongst many of the more beautiful buildings in San Francisco. People nearby cringed at the male voice and the hardcore metal music that was being played extremely loud.

Inside the small building, a blond-haired man dressed in a worn out red karate gi kicked and punched at a large gray punching bag in the middle of the one-room building. The large amount of dust on the ground was picked up by his movements and flew around the room aimlessly.

This man was Paul Phoenix, a Judo practitioner with an ego as big as his strive to be 'the number one fighter in the universe.' He had just returned from a tournament in Japan after being beaten… by a bear. Since his return, Paul, who was currently not employed, spent his waking hours training for the next tournament…

The Blood Tournament.

Paul heard about this from a conversation that took place in a local Chinese restaurant. The best fighters received invitations to the tournament and will be departing in a couple of days on ships that will be leaving from the docks right here in San Francisco. Paul was enraged that he didn't get an invitation and felt insulted because of it.

"I'll show them!" Paul screamed out. "I'm not only going to be the best in the world…I'm going to be the best in the universe!"

"Shut up!" cried a pedestrian who was passing the building.

Paul stopped what he was doing and turned towards the single, brown-stained window. Sweat from his workout covered his body. "How about you shut up loser!" He quickly took a rock and threw it out the window, only piercing a hole in it. The pedestrian saw this just in time and ran away in fear.

The older man grunted a bit after, then gave a hard kick to the punching bag sending it off it's hinge and flying across the room. It hit the ground causing it to rip. From there, the sand immediately poured out of the large pouch.

That finally managed to calm Paul down. He took a moment to catch his breath before turning off the music and sitting down on the wooden bench. He reached into his backpack, took out a bottled water, opened it, and chugged half of it down.

Paul leaned back and brushed up his blonde hair, which was gelled up in a standing position about a foot high from his head. He then brought his hand to his chin, which was covered with an ingrown beard along with the rest of his face.

"The Blood Tournament," Paul said much quieter than a few minutes ago. "If the best are going to be there… then I'm sure to win. I'll show the leaders that they nearly missed out on a great fighter like me."

Suddenly, after that statement, the bench broke off from the wall and fell sideways sending Paul sliding down the bench and onto the floor. He let out an 'oof!' as more dust was disturbed and began flying into the air.

Paul coughed. "I should really get this place fixed up…"

~~~

Edenia

"This was a fabulous brunch your highness," said a young dark-skinned woman dressed in green garments as she took a bite from her food.

An older woman dressed in purple smiled at her. "Thank you Jade. It's rare when I cook, but since my daughter Kitana mentioned that she will be making an announcement, I just couldn't resist."

"You're a very good cook my Queen."

"Please, I've told you for years, call me Sindel. Royalty doesn't matter when one has been an ally of us for such a long time."

"My apologies, it's an old habit," Jade said as she pushed back her black hair, which was done in two braided pigtails. "What do you suppose the Princess will be announcing?"

Sindel also pushed back her hair, which was all white aside from the large black streak which went down through the middle of her hair. "I'm not quite sure, but I look forward to knowing. A part of me wants to believe that she finally found a soul mate, but who knows."

Jade shook her head. "Me either. After receiving the news about Liu Kang's death from Lord Raiden, she hasn't been the same."

"It's sad indeed," the Queen sighed.

The two fell silent then with thoughts of their own. Liu Kang was an Earthrealm fighter who met Kitana at a tournament in Outworld years ago. Edenia then was merged with Outworld for ten thousand years and, along with other allies, they managed to finally free it. Not long ago, Liu Kang was mysteriously murdered at his home, causing grief for Kitana. Sindel knew how she felt for that she had lost her husband, King Jerrod, just after Kitana's birth. That was a story to be saved for later for that Sindel could not bear to think about it even after all these years.

The thoughts of the two women were interrupted when a servant came in. "Your highness… Princess Kitana."

Sindel nodded and the servant immediately left. A woman the same age as Jade entered with an envelope in her hand. Her long brown hair was done in a low ponytail and she wore a blue and black swimsuit-like garments and matching knee-high boots, a common fashion amongst the women of Edenia.

"Mother, Jade," Kitana began. "This morning, I received an invitation to a tournament in another realm."

Sindel stared at her. "You mean to tell me that your announcement was another tournament?"

"Well," Kitana continued. "Take a look." She handed her mother the invitation.

Sindel immediately opened it and read the contents before looking up. "This does sound strange indeed."

"I had the feeling that it would take place in Outworld. There may be a possibility that Shao Kahn is planning something."

"Maybe," Sindel replied. "Whether or not that is true, we have to take a chance if it means defending our world." She looked at Jade. "Would you mind accompanying my daughter to the tournament?"

"Of course," Jade replied.

"I will come along as well," Sindel announced.

The two younger woman looked at her with a bit of shock. "Mother, are you sure?"

"I'm sure. I'll leave our leading knight in charge of things until our return."

The younger woman slowly nodded.

Sindel looked at her daughter. "Pancakes?"

"Of course mother."

The three continued with brunch…

~~~

The Netherrealm

It was a place of pain and suffering… it was a place where tainted souls spent eternity of torture and despair. Many in other realms knew this place as Hell. Those living in this realm know it as The Netherrealm.

Some souls who pass on into this particular world embrace it. Many fell to their knees. But there were some who originally fell to their knees who forced themselves to rise against the agony. Only very few have made it through.

In an empty region, three figures were seen with two of them facing each other and one down on his knees surrounded by blue electricity. The figure on his knees was a dark gray cyborg by the name of Smoke. He felt himself weakening with each passing moment and could no longer keep himself upright. As evil as he was now, there was still some good left inside of him despite his programing. He was once a member of the Lin Kuei clan… but he now served a well-known wraith of the region…

That figure was Noob Saibot. Noob was an all-black demon, even his skin was a dark charcoal color. The only real color on him was the glowing white covering every part of his eyes. He was one of the few who embraced the nature of the Netherrealm.

In front of him was a young female demon in human form clad in all white with some gold trims. She wore a mushroom-like hat with a gold strap on her chin, the hat itself containing various designs and kanji writing on the front. In her right hand was a Kriss sword.

"Ashrah," Noob said, looking at the woman before him. "You are a disgrace to the Brotherhood of Shadows and must be eliminated."

Ashrah narrowed her eyes at him. "No…it is you who must be eliminated! I will no longer be bound to this region of suffering! I will be free from this place!"

Noob let out a sadistic laugh as he pulled out his own sword. "The kriss sword you possess… it has been purifying your tainted soul… I see now. You believe that if you eliminate me that you will be free from this place. If that is what you want, so be it, but I must warn you that you will not win."

The female demon only narrowed her hazel eyes a bit and got into a fighting stance. Her sword glowed a bit in a white aura reflecting it's ability of purification. Ashrah had slain many strong demons to purify her soul. She longed to be free from this place in order to receive a second chance. Her past life meant nothing to her anymore, even though she only vaguely remembered it. Noob himself was one of the strongest wraiths there was and if she could defeat him in battle, she had a bigger chance of leaving this place.

Noob looked down at his only minion Smoke, who was beginning to malfunction. Damn! he thought. He had to do that now. I guess I'm on my own with taking down this vile woman. After that thought, Noob got into a fighting stance as well.

The two of them stared down at each other for a moment. Noob's patience quickly wore out and he immediately attacked Ashrah. However, Ashrah was prepared for Noob's onslaught. She brought her sword upwards and managed to block the incoming blow from Noob's own sword.

The battle lasted for sometime, their swords colliding loudly with one another. Despite the fact that he was currently malfunctioning, Smoke looked on at the battle. He looked on towards his master and felt the malfunctioning processing beginning to decrease a bit. He thought of nothing as this was going on.

The two seemed to be even as their swords continued to collide with one another. The amount of heat in the region didn't finch either of them.

Then, Noob lost his grip on his sword when Ashrah managed to kick it away. This caused a quick hesitation in the wraith. Ashrah took that opportunity and managed to stab Noob right through the stomach. Noob was caught by surprise by the way his eyes widened in that moment.

Then, just as fast, a yellow light beamed down on Ashrah and she was immediately taken into the air with a quick shriek. Because of how fast that happened, Ashrah lost her grip on her sword which glowed brighter than before. Ashrah came to realize that she had achieved her goal. Wherever she was heading, she didn't care as long as it wasn't in the Netherrealm. Noob and Smoke watched as Ashrah disappeared into the swirling black hole above them. The second she entered it, it closed. Afterwards, all became silent.

Noob reached his hand and wrapped it around the hilt of the kriss. "You may have earned your freedom by wounding me, but you have made one grave mistake." He took out the sword from his stomach, black blood oozing from it. Then, bug-like organisms quickly covered the hole in Noob's stomach healing him right away. "I am a wraith."

Elsewhere, Ashrah arrived in another realm. When the winds died down, she took a moment to look around. The entire land was purple, which matched the sky. Where am I? she thought as she stood up. The area was quiet, much to her relief for that she wanted to take the time to explore this new world.

Perhaps this is where I will start my new life. Then, she began to walk forward.

Little did Ashrah realize was that she had just arrived in Outworld, where a tournament will soon be taking place…

Chapter Text

The realm of Keisei…it is a world in the distant galaxy, a place with many similarities of Earth. However, both worlds have historical differences and landmarks…

Komakai Village, Ming Dynasty

The morning sun rose into the sky bringing light to the day ahead. In a small village, more and more people went about their daily business while enjoying the cloudless weather.

By the docks, a ship had just landed and was now letting off their passengers. Amongst the passengers were a trio, two men and a woman, all quite young. The woman stood only five feet and wore a blue sleeveless garment with various designs on them along with purplish-blue carpi pants and slippers. Behind her was a thin sword inside it's scabbard. Her short, dark brown hair was held by a gold and pink headband and her matching colored eyes shined in the sunlight.

The younger of the two men, about eight inches taller than the woman, looked around the village with an emotionless look, his wildly-cut brown hair swaying in the wind and nearly covering the check-shaped scar on his left cheek. He wore a black and blue strap around his bare medium-built torso with a single brown shoulder pad holding it up. On his arms and wrist were gold bands with the wrists also containing black on them. He also had a gold belt and a blue scarf with red pants, and white and blue boots. Around his neck was a roped necklace containing a small, green gem that glittered in the sunlight. In his hand was a six foot staff he was currently using as a walking stick.

The last man, the tallest and the oldest of the three, showed off a nearly unnoticable cocky smirk. He had short black hair which had a few strands hanging over the front of his face. His attire contained of a sleeveless white jacket with various colored designs. The jacket was unzipped, showing off his well-built torso. He also wore matching pants with a purple and orange scarf around his waist, and black and white boots. Also on his waist were a pair of nunchakus.

The trio continued walking into the village. The young woman stretched her arms out. "We're finally home," she said. "How long were we traveling?"

"Quite a while Xianghua," the older man replied. He turned his head over to the younger man. "You've been pretty quiet since we got here, Kilik."

"Huh," Kilik muttered hearing his friend's voice. He mentally shook his head and turned to him. "Um, yeah Maxi, I have been, haven't I?"

"Is something wrong?" Xianghua asked with a bit of curiosity.

"Everything's fine," Kilik assured her with a smirk. Then, just as quickly, the smirk disappeared returning to the previous look on his face. "However, I have the feeling that we won't be home very long."

Maxi let out a loud laugh and lightly slapped his friend on the back. "Don't be ridiculous, we're going to be here for quite some time. What makes you think our plans will change?"

At the moment, the three heard a scream coming from an elder female not too far from them. They looked up just in time to see a robed man with a cloth around his face running off with a small brown bag. Just a few feet away, a frightened elder lady fell on her knees. "Help me! He just stole my money!"

Both Maxi and Kilik quickly looked at each other as though they were saying, 'Let's go.' They took out their weapons and began sprinting forward.

Xianghua was about to follow them as well, but she didn't take a single step when Maxi cried out, "Xianghua, stay with the lady!" She quickly looked up at them as they ran off.

At first, Xianghua didn't register what they asked as she looked on, her two allies running after the criminal. She felt her heart pound a bit, which caused her to snap out of it. Xianghua mentally shook her head, now realizing what they just asked her to do.

I have to focus! she yelled at herself. She went over to the old lady to see if she was all right. "Don't worry," she said. "My friends will take care of everything. I'll stay with you until they get back."

"Th, thank you young lady," the elderly woman said.

Once again, Xianghua thought about her two male friends, feeling her heart pounding again. It's so hard to choose between those two…

Meanwhile, Maxi and Kilik continued pursuit the crook. "Get back here!" Kilik cried out. At that moment, the crook took a turn into the alley area. The boys followed them there, but stopped when they saw the ally split into two, the crook no longer in sight.

"Damn!" Maxi cried out. "I'll go right, you go left."

"Right," Kilik nodded and the two began sprinting again into their assigned alley-ways.

For about five minutes, Kilik ran through the alley, keeping his dark eyes sharp and focused. Afterwards, he began to slow his pace and soon nearly ran into a tall wooden wall. At this point, he realized that either the crook escaped or went the way Maxi went.

Hopefully Maxi managed to catch him, the younger man thought. He decided to go back to the main street where he and Maxi began their pursuit. He turned around and suddenly became frozen, his eyes widened a bit. In front of him, a figure in a dark purple robe stood before him with only it's hands showing.

"Who are you?" Kilik demanded. He lifted his staff and got himself ready for a fight. Then, he noticed in one of the figure's hands, it held a clean, white envelope.

Kilik blinked a couple of times before loosening his stance a bit. "You have a message for me, don't you?" he asked.

The figure replied by gliding itself towards the young man. Kilik was a bit weary by the approach, but he kept his composure and was prepared for anything that could happen. Once the figure was close enough, it extended it's hand, holding the envelope, forward. Kilik slowly took the paper into his own hand, then back away a couple of feet, making sure to keep his eyes on the person in front of him.

It stood there for another moment before gliding quickly backwards, then disappearing around the corner…

"That was strange," Kilik muttered. He looked at the envelope, which had his name on it. He cocked one eyebrow as he opened the letter, then quickly read the contents.

"A tournament," he muttered again. He has been to many tournaments before, but never any that were, well, outside his world. It was going to be interesting indeed.

Then, Kilik remembered what he was originally doing and quickly shook his head. I have to get back to town before they wonder where I am. Kilik began sprinting.

When he returned, Maxi and Xianghua were waiting for him. "There you are my friend," Maxi said with a smirk.

"Did you find him?" Kilik asked.

"I didn't get him, but he did leave a little present behind. Basically, we got the money back for the lady."

"That's good to know."

"Hey," Xianghua exclaimed. "What's that in your hand?"

"Huh… oh yeah." Kilik handed the envelope to Xianghua. "You would't believe me if I told you the whole story, but just looking at that may sum it up."

Xianghua read the contents with Maxi looking over her shoulder. They both finished at the same time and looked up at Kilik. "How come I wasn't invited?" Maxi asked.

Kilik shrugged. "Well… maybe they will let us invite others. It does sound like a very big tournament. The ship from here will be leaving in a few days in the city of Chili-san. Are you two willing to come with me?"

"You bet I will!" cried Xianghua.

Maxi smirked. "I'll enjoying kicking your ass there, that's for sure." The two men lightly laughed. "I guess you were right about us not staying here for too long."

"Well, let's enjoy it while we can," Xianghua suggested. The men nodded and the trio began heading deeper into town.

~~~

Valentine Mansion, Outskirts of Britannian Empire

The sounds of slashing, clicking, and a few yells were the only sounds disturbing the quiet around the fairly large mansion. Near the front of the mansion was a large balcony looking over the main entrance room. All the walls and floors were of the colors rose and gold with the wood-colored floor being made out of marble covered with a large, circled red carpet. The balcony consist of a large chandelier hanging on the ceiling, two stoned busts of different men, a few lit candles on the wall, and three very large oil-painted pictures with another small, rounder one.

The oil paintings consisted of the main family of the mansion, the Valentine family. One painting consisted of the late Earl Valentine and his lady. In the same painting was a young girl in a red dress, her short white hair down. Across the room were three more paintings, one of two more of Count Valentine, the small circular one being of him at a younger age and the large one being an older him. To the left of it was the young girl, now older and wearing a large, silver dress.

In the middle of the room, a lone female figure held a large sword in her hand. Though it was barely seen in the dark, a determined look appeared on her face. Her short, off-white hair swayed with her movements as she practiced the discipline she learned throughout her years.

She stopped and looked up at the young girl in the family portrait for a moment. It was herself… Ivy Valentine. She continued her practices with her sword then, ignoring the rest of her surroundings.

It was only a few years ago that Ivy became the only person in this mansion with the except of a few servants. Her father, who had adopted her at a young age, thirsted for power and was in search of a artifact known he believed to be the key to eternal youth. His pursuit not only drove him mad, but it nearly put the family in financial ruins. His pursuit would eventually drive him to his demise. His death broke her mother's heart and she died not long after.

Ivy would discover his pursuit of the 'key to eternal youth,' which turned out to be an artifact called Soul Edge. In her father's honor, not only did she attempt to find the artifact, but she also taught herself alchemy. With the assistance of an azure knight called Nightmare, he breathed life into the sword she now held in her hands.

During the investigation, Ivy would uncover more than she bargained for; not only was the sword evil that feasted upon souls, but her true father had possessed Soul Edge just before her own birth, thus the evil essence was a part of her. She better understood why the earl was driven mad all those years ago. Nightmare also manipulated her into thinking that she was fighting for a good cause... instead, he used her so that he continue to provide souls for the sword.

That was four years ago. Since then, Ivy sought for Soul Edge to destroy it in order to avenge her father's death. Her main goal was one that was difficult… to find the main source. Recently, she heard of another artifact known as Chishio No Me, or the Bloody Eye. It was known to be one of the most powerful artifact in the universe, one that granted limitless powers. Ivy knew that if she herself could get her hands on it, she would be able to find Soul Edge much quicker and finally fulfill her purpose.

Ivy continued her training, slashing her sword in the air, her heels clicking against the marbled floor with each step, and letting out a few yells once in a while. Then, she whipped her sword in the air, the blade breaking into eight pieces with a thick string running through them. She slashed them more in the air quickly, then finished it with herself twirling around, the blade surrounding her in a spinning motion. When she stopped she made a jolt with her hand, and the sword was put back together into one solid piece.

She stood there for a moment when she heard footsteps coming towards her. Ivy turned herself around to face the person. It was one of her servants dressed in a black and white formal attire.

"Sorry to disturb you madam, but I have come here with some news."

Ivy placed her sword in it's scabbard connected to a belt on her waist, keeping her blue eyes on the servant. "Go on."

The servant walked over to her, an envelope in his right hand. "A letter came for you today. I believe it may be of interest for you."

Ivy stared at the envelope for a moment before taking it from the servant. "Thank you. You are dismissed."

The servant bowed to her before departing, leaving her alone at the balcony. Ivy immediately opened the envelope then and read the contents that were in it;

Ms. Valentine-

We know of your pursuit for the artifact Soul Edge and wish to offer assistance. There will be a tournament that will be held in the realm of Outworld with ships leaving from the port close to the academic city close to your home. It is rumored that not only will the tournament be run by the realm's Emperor Shao Kahn, but that he now has possession of the Chishio No Me relic, which is known to be powerful enough to grant its wielder anything they want.

This artifact may help in your journey to destroy the evil sword.

It wasn't signed by anyone and it left her suspicious... however, thinking it over, the anonymous letter gave her the first real chance to finally destroy Soul Edge for the first time in a while... and it was chance that she was willing to take.

She didn't say anything and thought of nothing as she reached into one of the pouches on her. She took out a small chip of a red rock out and stared at it as it slightly glowed in the palm of her hand.

"Soul Edge," she whispered. It was one piece of it indeed, and many more like them were spread out all throughout the realms. She made a decision then... she would journey to Outworld and join the side of Emperor Shao Kahn. It would be her way of getting closer to the Chishio No Me artifact.

Her quest in destroying the essence of Soul Edge may finally see to its end soon.

"Could this be… my destiny?"

~~~

Mikros Village, Ottoman Empire

In the second warmest season of the year, most of Mikros Village was still covered in light snow, the ground barely seen. Despite the cold climate, villagers continued with their routines.

Wearing a dark navy cloak, a young girl made her way to a small cottage. A gust of wind came by and pushed back the hood, revealing shoulder length golden blonde hair held back a bit by a white headband. She lightly gasped in surprised, her green eyes widened briefly as she brought her fair-skinned hands towards the hood and brought it back over her head to keep it warm.

She reached the stone steps of the cottage and knocked on the wooden door a couple of times. She only had to wait briefly before the door was opened. A tall young man stood at the door wearing a white shirt and black pants held up by suspenders.

The man smiled at the girl. "You made it Cassandra. Sophitia has been looking forward to seeing you." He stepped aside to give her room to come in.

"Good afternoon Rothion," Cassandra greeted as she entered the living. There, two young children, a boy and a girl, played with their toys. They looked up to see who had just entered the room. Immediately, bright smiles appeared on their faces as they stood up and ran towards Cassandra to hug her.

"Hi Aunt Cassie!" they cried out.

Cassandra smiled as she hugged her niece Pyrrha and nephew Patroklos. "It's good to see you two again." After the children laughed and resumed back to they playtime.

"She's resting in the bedroom," Rothion said. "She is still quite weary from her travels."

"I can only imagine," Cassandra said as she headed towards the room. "After all, my older sister did come back from a big fight from what she wrote in her letter."

Rothion nodded. "If it wasn't for that mysterious woman, however, she would be…" he could get himself to finish the sentence.

Cassandra nodded not wanting to finish as well. "But at least she's all right now. I must ask though… she had only requested to see me, why is this?"

Rothion only replied with a small shake of the head. Cassandra said no more and headed into the bedroom. The door to the room was closed and Cassandra knocked on it. A soft 'come in' was heard and Cassandra entered.

Laying in a bed was a young woman just only a few years older than Cassandra. They had the same fair skin and blond hair, though Sophitia's eyes were blue and she had a smaller frame than her little sister, which was covered by a heavy gray blanket.

Sophitia smiled as Cassandra approached the bed. "Sister, I'm glad you are here."

"So am I," Cassandra replied. "You indeed look tired."

Sophitia nodded. "I'll be okay. It'll take some time before I go out into the world again. For now, I need rest."

The younger sister sat on the bed. "Is there anything I can do?"

Sophitia smirked then. "Well, there is a reason I asked you here." She reached over at the wooden box next to the bed and took a envelope into her hand.

Cassandra looked at it with curiosity, seeing Sophitia's name neatly scripted on it. "What is this?"

"Originally, I was invited to a tournament in another realm. It doesn't say which realm it is though. As much as I want to go, I can't. Besides, I'm sure I wouldn't hear the end of it from Roth." Sophitia let out a light laugh before looking at her sister with a bit of seriousness. "Watching you grow up and learning the ways of the Athenian style, I know that you have become a great warrior as I have. I believe that one way of learning more of everything is to travel. That is why I am giving this to you my dear sister." With that, Sophitia handed the invitation over to Cassandra.

Cassandra was shocked by this. She never really considered herself what her sister just described and felt honored by it. She opened the letter and read the information given. "Are you sure about this?" she asked looking up.

Sophitia nodded. "Within my heart, I know you can do this. I know the whole thing may sound frightening, but do not lose your confidence. Trust yourself within your heart and soul and remember that the Gods will always be with you."

Cassandra smiled then. "Thank you sister."

"One other thing," the older sister continued. "I offer you my sword and shield for good luck."

The younger sister gasped and looked over at the short sword and small shield which laid against the wall recently fixed up by Rothion. "Sophitia," was all she could say.

"You will do great and I wish you the best of luck in your journey," Sophitia concluded.

Cassandra looked down at the invitation. Sure, the tournament sounded a little strange, but what wasn't strange now a days? Even before Sophitia spoke, Cassandra desired to go for the competition, but she was reminded of her biggest value; family. Now, her other reason of going was in honor of her sister, who journeyed all of Keisei and fought many odds throughout the way.

"Thank you," the young girl said. "I won't fail."

~~~

Unknown Region of Keisei

While riding on horseback, Yoshimitsu looked down at his right hand. He remembered it like it was only yesterday… back when he had his own hand. He imagined it gripping on the Bloody Eye medallion as he fought many armies in order to obtain peace. After all, it was his clan, the Manji clan's, purpose for as long as it existed. His hand has since been replaced with a prosthetic after being forced to chop it off in order to free himself from the medallion's hold on him. It was currently covered by his black glove. He had originally had the missing arm replaced with a wooden prosthetic, but in recent years, he would have a mechanical one placed in thanks to an elderly doctor on Earth he had known for years.

After discovering the medallion's true nature and what it had done to past wielders, Yoshimitsu realized back then that he nearly paid a large price for being so greedy. The power the medallion gave him had almost let him forget his and his clan's true purpose. Since then, he had been out to destroy it so that it never clutched onto another again. He has searched all of Outworld through the years, but has never found it.

He continued riding on his horse, the fast winds picking up the sand below and letting it fly around aimlessly. Yoshimitsu's armor and gear protected him from the harsh weather. He had many outfits that he has worn over the years. Currently, he was wearing a large gray helmet with a demon's face, matching colored breastplate, shoulder pads, gauntlets, and shin guards, black baggy pants with gold designs along the knee area, a red and black belt, and gray sandals with black tabi socks. Strapped to his belt was a scabbard containing his beloved sword, an important relic amongst the Manji Clan which signified his leadership. Even with his gear, his six foot five frame alone made him quite intimidating.

Although the Manji Clan originally formed on Earth, they have since spread themselves amongst the realms thanks to his sword, which had the ability to form a temporary portal to take them anywhere they wished. Their main base of operation were in both Earth and the realm of Keisei, where he was currently located. The clan had mainly existed to help the meek and rob from the well-privileged. It has earned the clan the reputation of being heroes of the poor and the bane of existence of the rich and powerful.

He guessed the only good thing about his time holding the medallion was that he was granted immortality, a wish he had placed upon himself when he first wielded it. He was never really close to anyone, not even the members of his clan, and it didn't matter much to him because he liked solitude when given. Thing was, he could die if he received a fatal wound in any place of his body, having been stabbed at one time and nearly felt death approach him before someone saved him. Other than that, he had lived for hundreds of years and never came down with any sickness.

After much thinking, Yoshmitsu soon arrived at a base secluded from anywhere else. Members of his clans waited for him outside.

"Welcome back Yoshimitsu," said one member.

Yoshimitsu nodded and patted the five foot pouch on the side of the horse. "The food has arrived and we will not starve." His voice was deep and nearly echoed with each word he said thanks to a trick he learned years ago to conceal his true voice pitch. This did not scare the members for that they have grown used to it.

At that moment, a few men approached him wearing an all-black attire. Yoshimitsu recognized them as his spies in Outworld in his pursuit to destroy the medallion. His eyes scanned them curiously. "What news do you bring me?"

The leader of the spies bowed before speaking. "Master, we have found the medallion."

Shock came over the Manji leader, never expecting them to announce that. "Do you have it with you?"

The spy shook his head. "Another has it in possession, the Emperor of Outworld. We also learned that a tournament will be held there as well, hosted by the sorcerer Shang Tsung. The prize wasn't announced, but whatever they are up to, they are using the medallion as their key."

Yoshimitsu got off his horse then. Another member of the clan took the horse into the stables nearby. The leader took out his katana, which glowed in a green color.

"I will take care this." Without another word, Yoshmitsu opened a portal to Outworld and went in, much to the clan's shock and dismay.

The clan was silent for a moment before one spoke. "Why did he do that?"

The spy looked at him. "Perhaps he wants to deal with this on his own…"

And indeed Yoshimistu wanted that. He knew exactly who Shao Kahn and Shang Tsung were and realized that with the medallion in their possession, all the realms were now in peril…

Chapter Text

Chili-san, Lee Dynasty, Keisei

The morning sun rose into the sky bringing light into the day with the blue sky cloudless. On the edge of a small city called Chili-san, hundreds of people stood on the docks where three large old-fashioned ships awaited their passengers. All around, some with duffle bags entered the ships without much concern. Some took the time to say goodbye to their loved ones before departing. Others were not passengers or loved ones, but rather they were those who loved watching the scene to pass the time.

That was the way it normally went when the ships were docked, except something was a bit different this time around. Chili-san may be a small city, but it was nearly infested by the Coast Guards. This was mainly because of the riches that were within the land, as well as their enemies from the nearly Ryukyu Kingdom, and must be protected. Usually on the docks, there were a handful of the guards to keep everything running smoothly. This time, however, it seemed as though the entire army was there, running around the area, specifically checking on those wearing clothes over their faces.

It was obvious that they were looking for someone. Perhaps they committed a crime, most people would think, trying to escape on to the ships for freedom. However, that wasn't nearly the case.

Nearby, a small group of the guards were in a circle. All were wearing the same uniform consisting of light gray pants, black and blue shoes, and teal sleeveless shirts. Behind them in their scabbards are various swords. Each one also wore a black cherry headband around their foreheads and short dark brown gloves.

One slightly stood out from the group with an additional black band around his upper left leg, bandages going up his right arm, and his top half of his uniform was torn at the bottom slightly revealing his well-toned abs. His brown hair stood up from his head and his brown eyes narrowed as he looked at the person speaking before him and his comrades.

"She has to be around here somewhere," the leader said. "Keep a sharp lookout for her."

The men left, but the noticeable guard was stopped by the leader. He turned his head to look at him. "Hwang, do you know why Mi-na ran away again?"

Hwang blinked for a brief moment. He let himself think about the girl they were looking for, who happened to be a good friend of his; Seong Mi-na. She was the daughter of a martial arts master and swordsman, who also happened to be Hwang's master. Although, she was loved, there were still restrictions she received due to Lee Dynasty's narrow views on women. They were given limits and were not allowed to do certain things men were allowed to do, like joining the Coast Guard.

Most women there accepted that fact, believing it to be a moral value. However, Hwang knew that Mi-na believed in equal rights as do some other woman in the country. Most countries in Keisei had equal rights now a days.

The thing was, however, Hwang knew that couldn't be the reason Mi-na ran away. It was not like her to run away from a problem she and other woman could fight against like other countries. He had the feeling there was more behind it, but he couldn't figure it out, at least not yet.

Hwang knew the leader of the Coast Guard was waiting for his answer. "I have no idea," he replied. "I may be close friends with her, but I do not know all the answers."

The leader stared at him for another moment before letting his arm go. "If you happen to be the one to find her, please convince her to tell you. You know her father would want to know."

Hwang nodded as the leader left. The young guard sighed a bit. Why would she run away? he thought to himself. I just don't understand it.

Nearby, a figure in a heavy dark brown cloak walked down the docks. Only their feet, covered with a set of heavy brown boots, and set of brown eyes were peaking out from the cloak along with a noticeable hunchback. The figure scanned their eyes, feeling chills going up the spine each time a member of the Coast Guard passed by.

The figure looked up at the ships before them. It wondered if will be able to sneak on to the ship with out any problems. The figure scanned the ship, which was heavily guarded with the Coast Guard.

Looks like I'm going with the last resort.

In the figure's gloved hand were a handful of small marbles. The person stood there for a moment. They did not have any intentions to hurt anyone, not even the Coast Guard.

After about a minute, the person decided to throw them in the water, knowing that would also make an impact. They quickly threw them when they believed no one was looking. Some of the marbles made it into the water. Some only landed on the edge of the boardwalk. Either way, all of them exploded on impact.

Immediately, chaos came all around. People screamed and began running for cover. The explosion, as expected, caught every member of the Coast Guard's attention. All of them began running from their post, including the ships, to check out the situation.

Good, the figure thought with delight. The people's attention was drawn away from the ships and when all the Coast Guard left their posts, the figure managed to get on the closest ship without a problem.

Because of the situation, only Hwang noticed the cloaked figure getting on the ship. The figure went up on the stairs and on to the ship as fast as lightning.

Mi-na! he thought to himself turning around. He stared up at the ship, then turned to his busy comrades. He thought about his honor and loyalty to the guard, but he also thought about his long-time friendship with Mi-na. Perhaps there was a reason she ran away, something he didn't know about.

Hwang then realized that he was faced with two choices… let her go and betray his comrades and martial arts master, or capture her and betray her trust. As he wondered what to decided, he came up with a plan. Perhaps he could follow her wherever this ship was going. Once he found her, he can try to ask what was going on. Depending on the nature of the story, he would make his decision from there.

Quietly, while no one watched, he managed to get on the ship the cloaked figure sneaked on to.

In the meantime, the figure managed to make it into one of the cabins in the ship. With their revealed eyes, they watched the situation outside. Things started to slowly calm down then.

Feeling safe, they took off the hood of the cloak revealing a young female with long brown hair tied in a low ponytail and wore a read headband around her forehead. This was indeed Seong Mi-na.

Mi-na sighed to herself. Freedom at last, she thought to herself. Never will I ever have to further deal with all of this…

Much to her relief, she took off the rest of her cloak, sick of the heat she was dealing with. Mi-na wore a small sleeveless red and brown top revealing her abdomen, a brown band around her waist which held two long sashes, one in front and one behind her, design in red, green, and yellow. Behind her was a large duffle bag and a five foot Zanbatou. She had named the weapon Scarlet Thunder not only because her favorite color was red, but also because of the meaning behind the color; determination.

Later on, the ships began to depart. Mi-na began to wonder where the ship was going and what the place was going to offer to her. Wherever it was, she knew that it was going to be better than this place…

But little did she realize that these ships were heading for a tournament in another world…

~~~

San Francisco, California, USA

Along the boardwalk of the bay, five ships awaited departure. Those attending The Blood Tournament made their way to the old-fashioned ships. The weather was quite fair with only a few clouds in the sky with just a little breeze blowing around.

Raven looked up at the ships, his eyes scanning from behind his sunglasses while holding a duffle bag in his left hand. He had just arrived in San Francisco a few hours ago just before the morning sun rose.

The agent reached his hand to his ear and pressed on the button of his headset. "This is Raven reporting. I have arrived in San Francisco and will be departing for the tournament shortly."

After a brief moment, another voice came within the headset. "Good. Now, there should be a gentleman in a navy blue business suit standing by the café. Hand the government data to him, then be on your way."

"Roger."

"And Raven," the voice continued. "There is one other thing. Although we are not positive if this will happen, there may be a possibility that you will lose contact with us once you get to Outworld. Our communication technology was just meant for worldwide, but we are not sure if it will go beyond Earth."

Raven sighed a little. "Understood. I will return to HQ when I return."

With that in mind, Raven was pretty confident that he would lose contact with his agency. He shut his communicator off and took off the headset from his ear, no longer needing it until his return. His next objective was to go over to the café and hand over the data to a gentleman waiting for him there. He figured he could get a cup of coffee in the meantime before boarding the ship. It was only eight in the morning and the ships weren't leaving for another three hours.

Raven walked around the area until he spotted the café. Right near the entrance, he noticed an older man in a navy blue suit standing there. The agent walked to him, data ready in his hand.

The man soon spotted Raven and began to walk towards him. As soon as they were within reach, Raven walked by the man and slipped the data into the man's pocket as planned, then walked into the café.

Some of the people already in the café looked at Raven curiously. He wore his usually dark clothing in which he usually wore during his missions, something that was rather unusual to those in the building he assumed. However, Raven walked towards the counter as though he was a normal civilian. With that, the people continued with their own business.

A young blonde woman wearing the blue and white-stripped uniform of the café looked at him. "Welcome sir, what will it be this morning?"

Raven briefly looked at the menu above them, then back at the woman. "I'll have an Espresso to go."

With that, the woman began making the coffee. While that was going on, Ken Masters, wearing a red collared shirt, blue jeans, and white sneakers, entered the café, also in the mood for some coffee before leaving. He still felt half asleep, but that was mainly due to the fact that he was up most of the night making love to Eliza.

Unfortunately, Eliza decided not to come with Ken to the docks for that she felt it would put more strain on herself emotionally. Ken had promised her that this would be the last tournament he would attend for a while and that they would go on their cruise when they got back. His limo driver took him to the docks and he had arrived just a few moments ago.

Ken looked up at the menu trying to decide what he wanted, but then decided to go for a simple black coffee. As he approached the counter, he noticed Raven receiving his coffee and paying for it before turning around to leave.

Just by Raven's clothes alone, Ken realized that he was most likely a participant in the tournament. The millionaire decided to make a compliment then. "That's a cool gear you got there."

Raven was a bit surprised that someone spoke to him, let alone make a compliment of his wear. He slightly nodded and let out a small "Thanks."

"No problem," Ken continued. "I assume that you will be attending the tournament as well. I'm Ken Masters by the way."

As nice as Ken was, Raven wasn't in the mood for a friendly conversation. He gestured a friendly nod and walked away. Ken was a bit taken aback by it, but decided to ignore it then and ordered his coffee.

Once Ken got his coffee, he sat down at an empty table next to the window. Then, before he could sip the fresh coffee, a young dark-haired woman sat at the chair in front of him with a Cappuccino in both of her brown gloved hands. Ken thought she was cute with most of her hair pulled back into two ponytails and her red-rimmed glasses clinging on to her face. Her outfit consisted of jeans with a matching jacket, a white shirt, and white cowboy boots.

"So your entering the tournament too," she asked with a small smile on her face.

Ken smiled as well. "Yes I am."

The woman thought about the conversation Ken tried to have with Raven before, having watched the whole scene from her table. "I guess with the mystery around the tournament, the guy you just talked to must've been an agent."

"I figured as much," Ken replied.

"I'm Julia Chang by the way."

"Ken Masters. Of course, you probably already heard me say that already."

They both laughed a little bit before Julia continued. "So what do you think this tournament is all about?"

Ken shrugged. "We'll have to see and find out, but I'm sure, since the best fighters from all over the universe are supposed to be there, it's going to be a pretty interesting tournament. I have a good feeling my friend Ryu will be there, since he's one of the best as well."

Julia only nodded. "That's interesting. So, let's finish up our coffees and head to the ships."

"Good idea."

They finished their coffees before leaving the café. As they made their way outside, Julia ended up tripping and falling face first into the ground. "Oof!" she cried out.

Ken bent down to help her up. "You all right?"

Julia laughed a little. "Yeah, it's nothing. I didn't even trip on anything either."

Ken laughed as well. He helped her up and the two began their way to the ships.

On one of the ships, a lone bald man, towering over most of the people around him, looked down at the people on the boardwalk with his single eye. The other eye was covered with a black eye patch. He wore a navy jacket covering his well-built muscles and the large scar on his chest, blue shorts with yellow trims, and white bandages wrapped around his hands, wrists, feet, and ankles.

This man was known as Sagat, the former Muay Thai champion and former henchman of Shadaloo. When he lost his title to a fighter named Ryu, Sagat lost his sense of pride and honor. He went as far as joining Shadaloo to earn his revenge against Ryu, the one who left a scar on his chest. Though Sagat realized that revenge was not the answer, he still continued to serve Shadaloo. That was until the downfall of their leader Bison.

Even Sagat and the rest of the henchmen had no idea what had happened to their leader. Afterwards, Sagat along with two others, Vega and Balrog, left the base for good. Sagat returned to Thailand. He wasn't sure what happened to Balrog, but he knew Vega had gone back in his homeland in Spain.

In Shadaloo, there were a group of young female assassins known as the Dolls. They were young girls, now women, who were kidnapped from around the world who were brainwashed into becoming assassins, their memories wiped cleaned. Once Bison was gone, all the girls were freed except one; Lisa Wagner, codename: Viper.

Vega had actually taken Viper back to Spain with him afterwards. Sagat kind of had an idea why Vega had taken her with him, but it was something he wasn't going to let himself think about.

Then, Sagat's thoughts were interrupted when he felt a presence nearby. As he turned his head, the figure spoke. "Well, if it isn't master Sagat. What brings you here?"

Sagat growled in his mind then realizing who had just spoken. His one eye saw the young male, a foot shorter than him, before him. It happened to be one of his Muay Thai students by the name of Adon.

Adon normally bared a cocky grin whenever Sagat saw him, but since it had been years since he last saw him, Adon wasn't smiling this time, much to the former champion's surprise. Other than age, Adon hadn't changed much, still sporting his red hair flattened at the top, his blue short with gold trims (thought slightly designed different than Sagat's), his feet and hands bandaged up, and still wore a yellow mong kon around his head.

Sagat narrowed his single eye at him. "So you came all the way to the US rather than taking the ships from Hong Kong?"

The young former apprentice snorted. "I happened to have been in Manhattan when I got the invitation." Adon waved the invitation at Sagat before continuing. "Anywho, you haven't answered my question yet, but I'll ask you another one in the meantime. Still working for that idiotic Shadaloo company?"

The former championed cringed a little, nearly forgetting about the high-pitched voice Adon bared. "I see that your attitude hasn't changed a bit since I left. First off, it's none of your business. Second, assuming that you haven't heard the news, Shadaloo no longer exist."

Once again, Adon snorted. "Whatever, all that doesn't really matter much to me anyways."

"Then why did you ask me then?"

Adon was silent for a moment, then continued ignoring the question. "Any who, I think we all know who's going to win this tournament… the Muay Thai God himself. I see it now… winning whatever the grand prize awaits for me, the crowd cheering for me, chanting my name…"

Sagat mentally shook his head. "Your ego is still inflated as it was when I last saw you. You shouldn't be overconfident, but I guess my words don't affect you much now a days."

"The hell it doesn't!" Adon cried out. "Besides, I shouldn't be taking advice from a former Muay Thai Champion when I KNOW I'm going to win this thing. You will see!"

With that, Adon walked away, much to Sagat's slight relief. He sighed to himself, turned his head, and looked on once again at the people on the boardwalk.

Where the hell are you Vega? he thought. We have new business to take care of…

As the people on the boardwalk went about their business, they were suddenly interrupted when two people, a man and a woman, began running quickly down the walkway, pushing anyone who stood in their way. Another woman followed them not too far with a large gun in her hand.

The two running from the armed woman both bore long blond hair, with the male's tied back in a lose braid. He torso was bare revealing a purple snake tattoo wrapping around it. He wore a red sash around his waist, purple and yellow tight pants, white socks, and brown shoes. Three long claws bared his right hand and he wore a off-white mask on his face.

Just behind him, the woman followed closely, an emotionless expression on her face. Her long hair flew behind her. She wore an all-green attire aside from her black combat boots with baggy pants, a short mid-drift shirt, and black gloves that ended at mid-forearm.

The armed woman following them was also blond, which was tied back in a single ponytail with a few strands around her face. She wore a skin tight purple and black bodysuit. Despite the fact that she was wearing purple high heeled boots, she ran as though she was running in sneakers.

She was the assassin Nina Williams. Being followed by her was her main target Vega Fabio De Cerna and his 'minion' Viper.

A few days ago, Nina was assigned to assassinate Vega for the crimes he had committed over the years. Knowing that Viper was with him, Nina was asked to leave the girl unharmed since she was currently brainwashed, which bugged the assassin. This was because Viper would most of the time attack her before she got to Vega.

Things were worse this time because now they were surrounded by people. The last thing Nina's client wanted her to do was kill innocent people.

Why didn't he just pick a better place to run off to? she thought to herself sarcastically.

Vega and Viper continued running from Nina. As they did, Vega saw Sagat waiting for him on one of the boats.

"It's not too far now my dear," Vega said. "Why don't you keep the girl at bay for a few minutes. Have some fun."

"Yes sir," Viper replied. Vega continued running towards the boat as she turned around to face Nina.

Nina stopped as she saw Viper standing before her. "Damn it!" Nina cried out. "Get out of the way already!"

Viper only narrowed her blue eyes before running over to Nina to attack her. Nina quickly put her gun away before defending herself from Viper's attacks. Most of the people around them stopped to watch the fight.

Throughout the entire fight, Viper was on offense while Nina was on defense. As Nina looked for an opened, she suddenly noticed a brown-haired figure in a red dress watching the fight. Nina recognized that dress anywhere.

"You!" she cried out, but the short distraction gave Viper the advantage. She managed to give a hard kick under Nina's chin sending her flying a few feet into the air. With the large crowd surrounding them, Viper took the opportunity to escape, believing that she had given enough time for Vega and herself to escape Nina. As Nina landed on the ground, the last Shadaloo doll was gone.

When the crowd realized the fight was over, they dispersed. As Nina recovered from her blow, the red figure walked over to her. Arrogantly, she offered a hand to Nina, but the young assassin only slapped the hand away hard and got herself up.

"Why are you here Anna?" Nina demanded.

Anna let out a laugh. "Well, I was here to enter a tournament, but who knew we would meet up again. Fancy work you just did there by the way."

Nina only glared at the woman who happened to be her younger sister. For years they despised each other and numerous times have they tried to kill each other.

Anna thought about their rivalry for a moment before an idea came to her head. "Say, you don't know about this tournament do you?"

"Like you expect me to care?" Nina growled.

"But you should. You see, the best in the universe are going to be there. If you think you are the best, you should attend as well. No invitation required. Perhaps there, we can settle our little score."

Nina said nothing as she stared at her sister. Then, from the corner of her eye, she noticed a green figure entering one of the boats. Nina slightly turned her head and noticed Viper getting on one of the ships.

She growled to herself, realizing that Anna was about to get her wish. "I'll see you then." After that, Nina walked away without another word.

Anna watched her sister leave, a smirk appearing on her face. "That fool. The bitch has no idea what she's getting herself into…"

~~~

Hong Kong, China

Seven boats were present at the bay, all ready to bring the fighters going to the tournament to their destiny. The weather was mostly cloudy, but it seemed as though there were no threats of rain as of now.

Chun Li looked up at the skyline of Hong Kong just as she got on the ship. She had the feeling that it was going to be a while before her return to the city, and she felt the need to take in the view one last time before her departure.

"Chun Li!" cried out the voice of her partner, Lei Wulong. Her thoughts were interrupted and she immediately looked at Lei who was following her… and carrying his own luggage along with five of Chun Li's.

The female agent smiled. "I appreciate you carrying my bags, Lei."

Lei gave out a loud sigh. Sure, he offered to carrying her bags, but the thing was he didn't expect them to not only be so heavy, but also to be carrying all of them.

"Have you ever heard of the term, 'travel light?'" Lei asked her as he struggled to go up the walkway to the old ship.

"Yes, I have," Chun Li replied. "But you know how I am with my work materials... and I couldn't decide which of my fighting outfits to wear, so I took all of them."

At that moment, the weight of the bags brought Lei down and he began tumbling back down to the boardwalk below. People behind him quickly got out of the way as Lei and the bags slid down.

Most people giggled once they found out he was okay. Chun Li felt bad then and she made her way down to the walkway and helped Lei up.

"I'm sorry about that," Chun Li said sympathetically as she picked up three of her bags.

Lei sighed but managed to smirk anyways as he got up and picked up two of Chun Li's other bags and his own. "It's all right Chun. But just know for next time… I'm pretty sure wherever we are going, they will offer us whatever we need."

"I know," the female agent answered. "But I can't help my packing habit. Now, let's get on the ship before all the good cabins get taken."

"Right," the male agent agreed. The two walked up the walkway to the ship.

On the boardwalk, Jin Kazama looked down at his invitation. Only a few days ago did he receive the piece of paper with his name on it. As a jet above flew over the city, he looked up at the ships. He found it quite odd that they were old-fashioned, each one with a small dragon head at the bow. They seemed as though they came from the 17th century.

This may end up being an interesting ride, the young man thought to himself.

It was then that a Japanese man in a white gi and red headband passed by. Jin felt a strong energy within the man and looked at him. Then, as if at the same time, the man looked at him as well, also sensing Jin's energy.

Both of them sensed they auras within, an aura in which were mixed of purity and impurity. The men had blank expressions on their faces, unsure of how to react.

Finally, Jin decided to end the deal and start a conversation. "So, by looking at your gi, you will be going to the tournament as well?"

The stranger nodded. "And you the same?"

Jin nodded as well. "I have a good feeling the both of us will be putting up very good fights throughout the tournament. My name is Jin by the way."

"The name's Ryu. You are from Japan, aren't you?"

"And you the same?"

Ryu gave a rare smirk. "Seems that we have a few things in common already."

Jin laughed a little as he looked at his watch. "The ships leave in two hours. We should hurry if we want to get the best cabin."

The Ansatsuken warrior nodded in agreement before the two went on their way.

Nearby, the ice ninja Sub-Zero looked up at the ships as they came into view. He had himself a few days of weary traveling and was relieved to finally see his transportation. He was looking forward to a nice rest, not caring whether or not he was going to get a descent cabin.

Sub-Zero looked at his surroundings to see his possible competitions. He was quite surprised by the many diverse fighters who were going to be attending the tournament. Each one had a reason to accept the invitation, he was sure. The Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei clan had his reason… to take down Sektor and the Tekunin clan once and for all.

He reached a ship and got on. Right after he showed the guard his invitation, the ninja could have sworn he saw a shimmer not too far from the corner of his eye. He turned his head and spotted a cloaked figure. He saw the shimmer again from under the hood of the figure's cloak.

The ninja decided to get a better look. He walked up to the figure and was about to say something when the figure suddenly jumped at him.

Sub-Zero was surprised by this and tried to struggle out from the person's hold. The person managed to pin him down and tighten their grip on them.

"What the-" he managed to say. "Get off me!"

"Please listen to me," the figure said. Sub-Zero realized then that the body leaning against him was not human, but rather a cyborg-

Cyborg! He realized it then… a member of the Tekunin clan was right on top of him! He slightly turned his head and saw a green head with some black on it and a long strand of dreadlocks. He also realized by the tone of the machine, though robotic, it was female.

"What do you want?" Sub-Zero demanded.

The cyborg continued then. "I know you are thinking that I am working for Sektor. I'm coming forward now rather than hide from you to tell you that I'm no longer under his control."

"You haven't answered my question yet."

"I'm after Sektor as well," the female cyborg said. "My name is Matrik, and I was the first female of the clan… that's all I really know about myself. If anything, though I don't think you will accept, we can team up and take him and his clan down."

Sub-Zero was kind of surprised by what he was hearing. He believed her in a way because she wasn't talking in a stoic, robotic fashion like the rest of the Tekunin, aside from Sektor. But then again, the ninja had been deceived most of his life, even by members of his own clan.

Matrik let him go then and stood up. Sub-Zero stood himself up and looked at the cyborg, a tall one for her gender, about five foot ten inches he guessed.

"If you had placed any action against my clan in the past," the Grandmaster stated. "Then I'll forgive you… for now. I'll team up with you, but understand that I'm not going to fully trust you just yet. I've been deceived many times in the past and don't trust too easily. If you want to earn my trust, you will keep your loyalty and continue that at the tournament."

Matrik nodded in agreement without saying another word.

Sub-Zero wasn't sure what else to say from there. He turned around and began walking away. As he did, he spoke out to her. "I'll see you around."

The female cyborg only watched as the ninja left, hoping that he would keep his word to help her.

In an area out of sight of those on the boardwalk and ships, a lone man in a yellow and black ninja suit watched the sight with his pale eyes. Nothing was on his mind but one…revenge.

This was the ninja spetre Scorpion of the Netherrealm. A while ago, while chasing down his enemy Quan Chi, both went through a portal that took them out of the dreaded realm. Scorpion ended up here on Earth, but unfortunately, Quan Chi wasn't there. The spectre realized that the portal had taken the sorcerer to another realm.

Quan Chi had been responsible for the murder of Scorpion's wife and son, along with every member of his clan, the Shirai Ryu. Not only that, but the sorcerer manipulated Scorpion into thinking that it was Sub-Zero who had done the deed. It was rather the older brother of the Sub-Zero currently on the ships who was his own murderer. Scorpion already received vengeance for his own murder, killing the older Sub-Zero in cold blood years ago.

Just a few days ago, Scorpion had heard about the Blood Tournament, in which he knew it was taking place in Outworld. Funny how not long before that, Quan Chi escaped from the Netherrealm.

He'll be there, Scorpion thought to himself. He may be able to run, but he can't hide from me for long.

It was at that moment that from the corner of the spectre's eye, a figure emitting a dark aura stood near him. Scorpion turned around, prepared to fight. He then saw the stranger in full view.

Unknown to him, it was the Akuma, the raging demon, who stood there. A dark red aura surrounded his muscular body wearing a black karate gi. His fiery red hair, which was tied in a high ponytail, swayed in the breeze, and his red eyes stared at the spectre.

"And you call yourself a demon," Akuma said. "Pathetic. You should not care about vengeance. You should care about nothing."

Scorpion immediately took him as an adversary. At the same time, both of them ran towards each other in a fiery rage. Then, just before one could have watched a fight, a ball of flames surrounded the two beings and when it disappeared, so did they.

Chapter Text

San Francisco, California, USA

"We are finally here mates!" cried out Lita as she and the rest of the Delta Red team arrived at the docks.

"At the next bloody transportation," sighed Major Matt McCoy while adjusting his red beret. "First we had to take the plane to New York, then another one to San Francisco, then a taxi to here, and now a crummy boat to wherever we are going… are we there yet?"

"Be patient McCoy," replied Colonel Keith Wolfman. "I have a feeling that we're halfway there."

Next to the Colonel, George Ginzu, with his little green goo friend following him, was hacking into a program in one of his handheld games. "According to what I looked up during our flight, wherever we are going will be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean."

Lita looked at the young boy oddly. "Are you sure about that?"

Throughout the travel, Cammy was quiet most of the time, thinking about the former Shadaloo soldiers who may be there. Could it be just regular soldiers who never got much credit in their duty? Could it be Bison's three henchman? Or will the last Shadaloo doll be there?

"Well I'm beat and hungry," McCoy said patting his gut. "Hope they serve good food on this thing."

Wolfman turned to Cammy then, realizing that she had been quiet the whole time. "You all right?" he asked.

Cammy got out of her daze after hearing the Colonel's voice. "Yes sir, I'm-"

"CAMMY!" yelled out a voice suddenly. The rest of the Delta Red team looked around the area in confusion, but the voice that called out to Cammy was a recognizable one. She turned her head and spotted a blonde-haired man sporting his old brown jacket, despite the warm weather, with K. Wagner inscribed on the left.

"Wagner!" Cammy called out. She ran over to Wagner and the two shared a brief hug. "What are you doing here?" the Delta Red member asked as she pulled away. "When I called you, you didn't say anything about coming here."

Wagner showed off a cocky grin. "Well, Guile and I wanted to surprise you."

"That's great! It's good to see family again before leaving."

The Air Force pilot chuckled. "Oh yeah, we forgot to tell you, we're going too."

Cammy let her expression fall in a false attempt to look a little disappointed. "Also good to know that you two still like to follow me around."

"Actually, not really this time," said a voice from behind Wagner. Cammy looked past him and noticed Guile coming up to the two of them. The young woman smiled and walked up to him.

Guile smiled as well and the two shared a brief hug. "It's good to see you again Guile."

"Same here Cammy."

When they pulled back, the rest of the Delta Red team came up to the three. Wolfman and Guile, having to have met a few times before, shook hands. "Welcome back," Guile greeted. "I assume you guys will be on a mission."

"Yes," Wolfman answered. "And you the same?"

Guile nodded. "As a matter of fact, Scott and I are going to be meeting up with two members of the Special Forces. They should be here any minute. We'll also be meeting with two members of Interpol, Chun Li included, once we get there."

Wagner cringed a little as Guile addressed him by his first name. He looked over at Cammy. "Hey, let's go to that Deli place over there and get something to eat before we leave."

"Sounds good" Cammy said.

"That's a great idea, I'm starving," said McCoy.

"You always are," sighed Lita.

"You guys be back soon," Guile suggested as the four, along with Ginzu, left.

Wolfman looked back at the Air Force Colonal. "I know that these things are confidential, but is Shadaloo part of your mission?"

"Partially. There are other reasons that I'm sure everyone else is going after in this tournament."

"I wish you the best of luck then," Wolfman said. "As a matter of fact, even though we are on separate teams, we should help each other out."

"That would be great. Unfortunately, I'm not the leader of the team this time, so it would be up to her."

"That's a bummer. A lady leading the team? She must be a strong woman."

"She is," Guile answered. "Have you heard of Sonya Blade?"

"I have," Wolfman remembered. "She's one of the members of the Outerworld Investigation Agency in Special Forces, those who investigate not just on Earth, but all the realms they have access to. They are a very impressive team and she's one of the best."

Then, a female voice was heard from behind them. "Glad to hear compliments about me."

The two turned around and faced the woman who they were just talking about. Along with her were two other agents, a male and a female. The five saluted before Guile proceeded. "Captain Blade, this is Colonel Keith Wolfman of the MI-6 Delta Red Team, London. Colonel, this is Captain Sonya Blade of Special Forces, Los Angeles."

The two shook hands. "Nice to meet you," Wolfman said.

"Same here," Sonya said. "And these two are Special Agent Kenshi and Lieutenant Alex Walker."

The three nodded. "So Lieutenant, will you be joining us?" asked Guile.

"Actually, I'm just here to drop Kenshi and Sonya off," Alex answered with a small smile. "But I wish you all the best of luck in your missions."

Just then, Wagner, Cammy, Lita, McCoy, and Ginzu came up to them with Cammy holding a large bag of their breakfast and all of them holding their own drinks. "We're back with breakfast," announced Lita.

"This is my team," Wolfman mentioned aware that they had already met Wagner.

"Nice to meet you all," Sonya said.

"Captain," Guile began to state. "Delta Red are also on a mission for some of the same cause as us. Perhaps if we, along with Interpol, join forces, we can easily crack down on the investigations."

"It's a good idea," Sonya said as she pondered over this. "However, my General had made it clear to us that we are to keep the team no more than six members. With this, perhaps we can work separately and meet up to discuss what we discover and such."

"That's fine with me," Wolfman agreed. "It's best to keep our teams separate in this case."

As this conversation went on, Wagner began to notice both Sonya and Alex. Damn, he thought. If I had known the Special Forces women were hot, I would've joined them!

"Great," Guile agreed. "The ships leave in two hours. We should get going."

The others agreed then and began heading towards the boat except for Sonya, Kenshi, and Alex. Sonya turned to the younger woman. "Thanks for taking us here, we appreciate it."

"It's not a problem," Alex replied. "You two should get going before the good cabins go."

“Take care of yourself,” Sonya proceeded. “And drive safe when you head back down to Los Angeles.”

"We'll be back as soon as this is over," said the usually-silent Kenshi.

Alex nodded. “Good luck... both of you.”

With that, Sonya and Kenshi began following the rest of the group. Alex sighed to herself as she watched her two allies leave, deciding to stand where she was until they were on the ships. The young woman especially watched Kenshi leave. Although she considered him a ally, having worked with him numerous times since he joined Special Forces over a year ago, her admiration for his skills and abilities despite being blind had since turned into a small crush. However, she was very sure that nothing would become of it.

At that thought, Alex shook her head quickly. I can't think like that, she thought with a small sigh. I should head back home... even though the scenery between here and LA was dull. Then I can start ordering those tickets to Florida once my three-week leave is approved.

She continued to stand there until the group entered the ship. When the last person went on, Alex was about to turn around when she suddenly noticed a suspicious shadowed figure quickly getting on the ship through one of the windows. The Lieutenant cocked an eyebrow, realizing that perhaps an intruder had entered the ship.

Alex looked at the area and saw that no one nearby seemed concerned. Most likely, no one had seen it get into the ship but her. If that was the case, then she was the only person who could take care of the problem. With that, she place her hand on the hilt of her glock model 40 hand gun from under her leather jacket, and then proceeded to the ship.

She was sure that she would capture the intruder before the ships left port...

~~~

Hong Kong, China

About an hour before departure, Yun and Yang arrived at the docks along with their younger sister Yin. She hadn't been at their restaurant when they received the invitation from their grandfather and they showed her the paper when she got home. Since she wanted to honor her grandfather and prove to the universe that she, as a woman, could fight as well as any man, Yin decided to attend the tournament.

"We finally made it," Yin said while brushing out her short dark hand with her fingers. "It's a good thing that Yang and I are morning people or else you would've never got up and make us even more late for the departure."

"I said I was sorry!" whined Yun.

"Well," said Yang. "You two have fun and try to be home soon."

Yun and Yin looked at Yang with slight concern. "Are you sure you don't want to go bro?" Yun asked.

Yang shrugged a little. "I'm pretty sure. Besides, someone has to stay home and take care of grandfather."

"But you know," mentioned Yin. "He did say that you can go, even if you decide once you dropped us off."

At that moment, Yang noticed a blonde figure about twenty feet away from them. From previous tournaments, he instantly recognized her.

Maki! he thought with a bit of excitement. He admitted to himself that he developed a crush on her since their first tournament together. Yang was quite surprised to see her here and quickly realized that she too was going to attend the tournament. What other reason could she be here?

"Eh, you know what," Yang began. "Grandfather's right, I should attend this tournament."

Yun and Yin looked at their older brother in confusion. "Why the sudden change of mind?" they both said at the same time.

Yang shrugged again. "Um, I guess because I came to realize that this may be a better tournament than all the others we have been to. Come on, let's go." He began walking towards the boats then.

"Great!" cried Yun. "Because I actually packed your clothes in my other suitcase!"

"Clever," sighed Yin.

Soon the hour came and the workers were just beginning to unwrap the ropes from the docks when they suddenly hear a voice cry out, "WAAAAAIIIIIT!"

Cody and Guy were running towards the boats while trying to keep their heavy bags in hand. "DON'T LEAVE WITHOUT US!" Cody cried out as he followed Guy close behind.

They ran up the walkway, which was about a few inches off the ship itself. Guy stopped himself to show the invitation to the crew member waiting, but then Cody smashed into them and they both fell forward. Luckily, there were only a few inches in between the walkway and the boat and not a few feet or else everyone would've got a good show of them falling into the water.

Another good thing was that Guy still had his grip on the invitation and held it up for the shipman. "Here you go," he said.

"Good thing you chose this boat," the man said. "We only got one cabin left. Good luck at the tournament."

The two friends got themselves up. "Thanks," Guy said as they walked on to the ship.

With that, the ships began to finally depart. Those on the docks waved goodbye to those heading to the tournament with the attendants doing the same from the ships. This lasted until the view of Hong Kong could no longer be seen clearly.

Guy sighed to himself as he and Cody dispersed from the crowd. "Nice going Cody. Because you set your alarm for 8pm instead of 8am, we were almost late."

"But at least we made it, right?" Cody asked nervously.

The Bushin ninja sighed again. "I guess. But this 'last' cabin is probably the worst one. Let's just get this over with."

"Great… because I need more sleep."

"...Yeah."

Just then, Guy noticed a tall figure a few feet from them. His back was turned to them, but the ninja recognized the blue and orange clothes on him, especially the mask and the double sais on his belt.

"Crap," Guy muttered as he grabbed Cody and ran to the lower levels of the ship where the cabins were.

"Hey!" the former street brawler cried out. "What was that for?"

"Cody… do you remember Sodom?"

"Of course I do, he was one of the members of the Mad Gear gang. Why do you asked?"

Guy shook his head a bit. "He's here. We may have not seen him in ages, but who knows what he's up to."

"I know," Cody agreed. "After he practically stalked you all over Japan, I wouldn't be surprised. Why did he do it again?"

"Because he had a grudge against me after I took him down in Metro City. It's been a while though. Let's forget about it. I'm sure he's forgotten all about it."

"You never know buddy."

With that, the two headed to their cabin.

Meanwhile, back outside, Asuka, Mika, Sakura, and Ibuki looked ahead at the ocean line before them. "It's beautiful," said Ibuki. "Nothing but ocean for miles."

"I know," agreed Mika. "And out there is the tournament."

"I can't wait!" cried Sakura. "With so many fighters, it's all going to be unpredictable."

Asuka smoothed out her hair a little from her face. "But at the same time, it's going to be fun. I hope it's a nice area we are going to."

Suddenly, Asuka and Ibuki each felt an arm wrap around them. They looked over their shoulder only to see the familiar pink-clad man with a huge smile on his face.

"I'm so excited as well!" Dan cried out. "I'm going to show the world what Saikyo is really all about!"

Asuka and Ibuki cringed. "DAN!" they cried out.

"Did you follow us here, Hibiki-san?" Sakura asked.

Dan unwrapped his arms from Asuka and Ibuki and looked at her in shock. "No I didn't! I found an invitation on the floor of the gymnasium of the Women's Tournament." He took out the paper, which had Sakura's name on it.

"So that's where it went," Sakura sighed.

"Dan," said Ibuki. "If you are going to be going to this tournament, at least don't follow us this whole time."

It was then that the boat was hit by a large wave causing the boat to sway. The girls, and Dan, held on to the edge of the boat. Then, someone knocked into Mika and the two fell back into the floor.

"Oof!" cried Mika. She looked down and saw a male figure on top of her. "Hey!" she cried out and pushed him off of her.

The man looked up as he adjusted his red headband. He blushed a little from the awkward position he was just in. "Um, sorry…"

Mika looked at him then, realizing how cute he was. "Um, that's okay," she replied innocently. The stranger helped her up to her feet. "I'm Mika by the way."

"Ryu," the stranger simply said before walking away. Mika looked on as he did.

Sakura turned around then once she got her balance back. "Wait a minute… did he say Ryu?"

Mika looked at her a bit surprised. "Um, yeah. Why?"

"COME BACK RYU!" Sakura cried out as she began running after the Ansatsuken warrior.

~~~

The ship from San Francisco.

After many hours, the sun finally set for the night bringing out the bright stars and half moon above. Most of the travelers hit the hay by that time, which finally gave Alex the advantage to look for the intruder who came on the ship.

Alex had been in hiding most of the time from the other passengers for the shadowed figure. Hours ago, with the amount of movement and focus she made while hunting down the intruder, she hadn't noticed the ship she was on moving until about five miles out. By then, she could hardly make out San Francisco amongst the city smog.

Son of a bitch, was her first thought once she realized how far the docks were. Wherever they're going, looks like I'm going to be a part of it too.

Getting out of hiding, she held her gun close and proceeded to the outer parts of the ship. Not a single soul was in sight, but that was because she was at the stern portion of the ship, where rarely anyone was around at night.

Damn, she began to think once again. What if this was all in my imagination? Then I'd really feel like an idiot.

Little did she realize was that the shadowed figure she was looking for was now sneaking up from behind her, dagger in hand. The figure slowly came up to her, and raised the dagger.

Before it could strike down, a arrow that looked like green energy came flying towards the figure. The figure saw it in time and managed to dodge out of the way as the arrow flew and hit a wall.

Alex heard the commotion then and quickly turned around, aiming her gun at whoever was behind her. She was surprised to see the shadowed figure, a male, with only the color blue glowing in his eyes. She slightly turned her head, wondering who had shot the arrow.

Another male figure stood there, one that obviously showed that he was Native American. A blue headband with a single feather on the side of her stern face wrapped around his head, which consisted of long black hair with a couple strands of gray. He wore a red vest, a brown belt, blue jeans, and brown boots. Two tomahawks were placed safely on the side of his belt, and he held a bow and arrow, aiming at the shadow. Alex noticed the green energy that came from the weapon he held.

"Leave here at once, demon," he commanded.

The shadow only laughed. "We shall see." With that, he ran over to the edge of the ship and jumped overboard. Alex and the stranger ran over to where he jumped and when they looked down, no one was in sight.

"Damn," Alex muttered. Then, the bow and arrow the stranger was holding dispersed in the air. Alex watched in amazement as it did.

When it did, the stranger looked at her. "He almost got you back there. He looked like a demon from the Netherrealm."

The young woman nodded, having heard about the Netherrealm before from Sonya. "Yes, he did. I should be more careful next time. Thanks for covering my back."

The man nodded and put his hand out for a handshake in greeting. "I am Nightwolf."

Alex took his hand and they shook them. "And I'm-"

"WALKER!" another female voice yelled out, nearly scaring Alex out of her skin.

Shit... The young agent turned her head to where the voice was heard. A small crowd consisting of Sonya, Kenshi, Guile, Wagner, Cammy, the Delta Red team, Julia, and Ken began to surround the area, having heard the commotion from wherever they were. Alex then noticed an angry looking Sonya coming up to her, then stopping a few inches near her. Because of their height difference, Alex felt like Sonya was towering over her.

"What are you doing here?" Sonya asked firmly. "You were ordered to remain in the states."

Alex felt the need to stand up for herself then even with the risk of insubordination. "You'll have to excuse me, but I noticed an intruder coming onto the ship and came to investigate."

“I can vouch for her if needed,” spoke up Nightwolf.

Sonya acknowledged him with a nod before turning her attention back to Alex. "But you know we would've taken care of it ourselves."

"As far as I was concerned, no else had noticed at the time."

"Well, either way, you shouldn't have come here."

"Just to save your life I would!"

"Cat fight!" Wagner called out suddenly. Everyone else stared at him, but Sonya and Alex hadn't even heard him. Unknown to them, Nina Williams had heard the commotion as well. In the shadows, she watched the events in front of her.

"You are aware that you had violated orders, Agent Walker," Sonya continued.

"Well," Alex protested. "I didn't realize saving an ally's life was a violation!"

"You know what I mean!"

"That's enough you two," Kenshi finally cut in, walking up to them as he realized that, since both of them worked with him, he would be the only one to diffuse the situation. He stood just a foot in between the both of them. "Sonya, although what Alex did was a violation against order, shouldn't she get the credit for going out of her way to try to save us? Besides, I sensed something the moment we got on this ship and whatever it was, she saw it."

Sonya sighed to herself, deciding not to say anything as she realized that Kenshi was right, though she was a little annoyed that the swordsman hadn't said anything about it in the first place. However, as a free agent, he had the right not to report minor situations to her unless it effected the main mission as a whole.

"Hmmm," said Wagner realizing something different about Kenshi. "What's with the blin-"

Suddenly, a purple energy formed in front of the group, startling the group.

"What the hell?!" called out Ken.

The energy then formed into a purple-haired woman, wearing a pink off-shoulder button down dress with a black and gold belt, a purple sleeveless top under the dress, purple stockings, pink high heels, and a yellow scarf wrapped around her shoulders. Everyone looked at her and feel silent, unsure of what to say.

"Greetings," the woman said. "I'm glad all of you are finally assembled here. I am Rose, and the realms are in trouble."

Well this I didn't see coming, Sonya thought almost sarcastically after her off-planet experiences in the past.

McCoy was the first to speak. "Well, hello there."

"What's going on?" asked Julia.

"Unfortunately, we cannot explain it here," Rose replied. "Come with me. You have been chosen… even you, Nina Williams." Everyone turned around and saw Nina standing in the shadows. She sighed to herself and stepped into the light.

"Why me?" she asked in a monotone voice, clearly uninterested in getting pulled into this.

"Let's just say that it involves your sister."

Nina looked up, interested then. Whatever was to happen, the assassin was going to keep her distance from the rest of the group, only being concerned with her assignment and Anna.

"Now, come," Rose said and began walking. Everyone was hesitant at first until Cammy followed her. Then, the others did the same.

~~~

The ship from Hong Kong

Raiden kept his place amongst the white sails, unseen by any mortal. During the day, he searched for those with pure heart and soul, despite their pasts and despite what they had done in life. It was their sense of good and justice was what mattered.

The Thunder God only found seventeen mortals on the ship who possessed that; the Interpol agents Chun Li and Lei, the warriors Ryu and Jin, the Metro City heroes Guy, Cody, and Maki, the Womens' Tournament fighters Mika, Asuka, Sakura, and Ibuki, the ice ninja Sub-Zero, the Triple Dragons Yun, Yang, and Yin, the former Tekunin member Matrik, and even the Saikyo fighter Dan.

When night fell, Raiden placed himself in the deepest part of the ship and with a streack of lightning, all seventeen fighters were transported. Everyone appeared in sheer confusion.

"What's going on?" asked Yang out loud.

"I don't know, but this is weird," replied Maki.

"Maki?" Guy suddenly called out. "What are you doing here?"

Maki tried to find the words to say at that moment. "I, um-"

"AAAHH!" Ibuki suddenly screamed.

Everyone turned out, which turned out to be the last thing Ibuki needed. She had been getting ready for bed when she was transported, only leaving her in her bra and panties.

"Ibuki!" cried Mika, Sakura, and Asuka. All three huddled around Ibuki to hide her embarrassment.

Asuka eyed at all the guys in the room. "Don't you be thinking about anything, you perverts!"

All the guys looked at her nervously, raising their hands up as though they had just been caught stealing.

Chun Li looked around the room then. "Why were we all transported here?"

"Greetings mortals," a booming voice called out. Everyone turned around and noticed Raiden sitting on one of the wooden boxes, electricity surrounding him.

"Holy shit!" cried out Cody who nearly fell over in surprise. Guy only shook his head over his friend's reaction in dismay.

"Who are you?" asked Jin.

"This is the Thunder God Raiden," mentioned Sub-Zero.

"Thank you for the introduction, old friend," Raiden answered. He stood up then and looked at everyone. "You are wondering why I brought you down here. That is because you all have been chosen to defend your world, and all the other worlds in the universe."

"Why is that?" asked Yin.

Raiden began to explain then. "There is a medallion called Chishio No Me, also known as The Bloody Eye. You may have heard of the legend, maybe not. Still, it possesses all the power in the world and grants it to those who have their hand on it. The Emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn, now has it in his possession."

"So that's where we're going!" exclaimed Dan.

“Exactly," Raiden continued. "But, for those of you who don't know, Shao Kahn lusts for power and will do anything to get it. He once had the power to merge all realms into one, but that is no longer possible since he has been weakened by those who had fought against him. With the medallion, he can do anything with it. This must be stopped before it's too late."

"But what does it have to do with the tournament?" asked Ryu.

"That is something you will know the moment you are introduced to the sorcerer, Shang Tsung."

"Who?" questioned Lei arching an eyebrow.

"He is a sorcerer who had lived for many years. He is able to maintain his youth by devouring the souls of fallen warriors. He will be hosting this tournament and I believe you will see him quite often throughout the tournament. In previous tournaments, he would possess the souls of those who lose, but under unknown circumstances, that will no longer be happening. Be careful, however, if you are ever near him. There are others, but I will be explaining them throughout your journey in Outworld."

"This is going to be one interesting vacation," said Yun.

"Indeed," Raiden answered. "There is one other thing. Once we get there, we will be meeting up with the psychic Rose, who I believe is gathering other warriors as well. I also have a place we will be staying at, away from the prying eyes of those who may join Shao Kahn's side. So, prepare yourselves, and good luck at the tournament."

With a streak of lightning, Raiden disappeared, leaving everyone slightly confused.

~~~

The ship from San Francisco

Everyone Rose had chosen gathered in the deepest part of the ship, away from those who could hear them. Rose explained to them of the medallion, the story behind it, and what they'll be facing in Outworld. Everyone listened without a single word until she was finished.

"I have one question," said Ken. "Why us? Why have we, amongst thousands in the universe, been chosen to defend it?"

Rose smirked a little. "Because each of you possess a good heart, despite your pasts and things that you've done. But that is also the point… all of you are still not over your past. Perhaps, your time in Outworld will help you get through."

"But I feel fine," said McCoy. "I haven't done anything wrong."

"Maybe," Rose replied. "But you, Matthew, can be careless when it comes to it. You should not let your carelessness get to you."

McCoy only looked at her strangely.

"That does sound like you mate," replied Lita.

Rose looked at her then. "You, Lita Luwanda, can sometimes be careless as well. You like to jump into a situation without thinking through it. You need to be more careful." Lita stayed quiet then.

The psychic talked to each person then. "Keith Wolfman, you are a leader, but that can sometimes come over your head. Don't let that happen for it can lead to destruction. George Ginzu, a young boy, but growing up arrogantly due to your hacking abilities. Arrogance can lead to bad things. The four of you are the back bone for young Cammy, a once possessed Shadaloo doll who had lost her past because of it. You may not know everything, but live for today."

Cammy, like the rest of her team, stayed silent. Rose continued with the others. "Julia, don't not let the search of your adopted mother change who you are. Ken, you are another arrogant one, although you've become more humble since your younger days. Follow what I've said before to Ginzu, for that you have much to live for. Sonya, you have seen so much throughout your career, but don't let personal problems blind you. Nina, just because you are an assassin, doesn't mean you should not open up to those around you. Loneliness is not the good way of life. Nightwolf, you may be the purist of the group, but demons still haunt you at night. Do not let them take over. Guile, remember that vengeance is not everything and you should not have to put your family behind it. Wagner, the past was hard for you after the death of your parents, and now you have your sister to search for. Do not hide your pain behind wisecracks. Alex, your lack of willingness to share your problems will consume you if you let it. Don't try to bottle them up."

Damn it, I feel like I'm really pulling stuff out of my ass this time, the psychic thought.

Despite that, Rose then continued on to the last person in the group. "Kenshi… you have become much more humble since you lost your sight, but some of your arrogance from your earlier days still remains. It's also hard for you to open up to others. You may prefer to be alone, but do not close yourself off completely from the universe."

It was then that they felt the ship shake a bit forcing everyone out of their thoughts.

"What the hell is that?" asked Ken.

Rose looked out the ships circled window. The sky was swirling in a dark purple and Rose could have sworn some of them were shaped into skulls. She then realized what was going on…

"We are going through the portal to Outworld," she announced.

Chapter Text

Each ship from all the realms reached the rendezvous point where they would be transported through a portal to Outworld. Passengers who have never been to the realm looked on nervously as they were surrounded by a swirl of dark purple energy appearing in the sky. Some of the energy were shaped like human skulls, which would float around before dispersing.

Soon, a bright purple light hit them and when it disappeared, they found themselves in Outworld, sailing on the surprisingly clear water and along with hundreds of other ships from countless realms. Just a few miles ahead was what looked liked a large island waiting for them. The land was purple with some green from the forests there, the flat land being surrounded by high mountains in the distance. The sky above was a light purple, almost close to blue, with the sun shining above.

Outworld may look pretty, but many of the fighters knew that there was more behind it than it looked. Waiting on that land was The Blood Tournament. Beyond it was Outworld's Emperor Shao Kahn and many evil things that could occur there.

It was another half hour before the ships reached a group small boats waiting to sail the fighters to the land. They got off the ships by roped ladders and filled up the small ships before sailing closer to their destination. Another half hour passed before they finally reached the land.

Raiden got off the boat and placed his feet on the white sand, as did others. He walked a few feet onto the land before he began to look around for the woman he was to meet up with, the soul psychic Rose. Luckily, it didn't take that long because he soon spotted a woman with wild purple hair. He walked up to her then.

"Greetings Rose," he stated.

Rose turned around to face the Thunder God. She stood there for a moment without a word before proceeding. "Hello. How may I help you?"

"I'm the God of Thunder, Lord Raiden. I'm sure you've heard about me, have you?"

"I have," Rose replied. "Then you would know the real story of Chishio No Me."

"Which is why I've come to you. The Elder Gods have suggested to me that I'd meet with you, the wielder of the power of soul. With the possible peril that will come out of this tournament, we can combine our strength to combat our adversaries. Will you join me?"

"Of course," Rose answered without hesitating. "With our alliance, we have a better chance to beat this." At that moment, their groups gathered by them. Rose smirked a little. "Seems that we do have the same idea."

Raiden nodded in agreement. "Indeed. Now, it seems that we'll be heading to the dining quarters for dinner before we head to our settlements. I have a suggested place, away from those who could join Shao Kahn."

"That's good to know," Rose agreed. "In that case, let us head out."

The large group began walking. At that moment, Ryu and Ken noticed each other from their own groups.

"There you are!" called out Ken as he walked up to his long-time friend. They tapped their fists together, their traditional greeting, as they walked along with the two groups.

"What brings you here old friend?" Ryu asked with a rare smirk.

"The competition of course," Ken replied. "And I'm sure you are here to be the best?"

Ryu nodded. “Of course.”

"Well, this is a new place we'll be fighting in, along with the best in not only Earth, but all the realms," Ken continued. "It's going to be one hell of a competition."

"And I look forward to it," Ryu said.

Nearby, Queen Sindel and Princess Kitana followed Jade down the pathway marked with red and gold sashimono flags, which would lead them to the dining quarters. Sindel looked around the area, having it been years since she was last in this realm.

Kitana looked at her mother then, noticing the worried expression on her face. "Mother, are you all right?"

Sindel shook the thoughts out of her head upon hearing her daughter's voice and looked at her with her colorless eyes. "I'll be fine dear. It's just that I've almost forgotten what this place was like."

"It'll be all right my Queen," replied Jade. "At least we are here for good reasons."

The Queen nodded in agreement, but she still had the worried expression on her face.

Meanwhile from near where the fighters of Keisei were, Cassandra looked around the area that was called Outworld. As much as she wanted to do this for her sister, the young fighter realized, during their entry into the realm, that she wasn't so sure about this tournament. She had thought that they would be someplace on a small island in Keisei, or possibly Earth, but never this realm.

I hope I can get through this, Cassandra thought.

Nearby, Kilik, Xianghua, and Maxi got off the boat and onto land. All three looked up at the high mountains before them. Mountains existed in Keisei, of course, but the height had been beyond their imaginations.

"Interesting realm," said Maxi.

"Yeah," replied Xianghua, half daydreaming as she admired the view.

Kilik looked straight ahead then and scanned the area. Although there were a few strange characters who lived in Keisei, there were even more of them, obviously from different realms. They were different colors, shapes, and forms, some with multiple joints or body parts, some with countless horns, things that Kilik never would've thought of beyond his imagination.

"Shall we continue forward?" asked Maxi as he too noticed the strange characters.

Xianghua and Kilik nodded slowly and the trio began their walk.

Seong Mi-na was on one of the last boats that landed in Outworld. Not much thought came to her mind, but she realized that wherever she was, it was something completely new to her.

What was surprising, however, were the ships that were here when they went through the portal. Mi-na realized that something was going on. She looked at the armored-clad man next to him.

"Excuse me," she said. "Where are we?"

The man only looked at her, then turned around, ignoring her completely. Mina sighed to herself. 'Some help I just got.'

She stayed silent until the boat landed. Mi-na grabbed her belongings before getting off and following the people around her. She was only half paying attention because then she bumped into someone. Mi-na knew that the person was only standing.

"Watch where you're going you-" the young woman began to say, but when she looked up, a familiar figure was looking at her, his arms folded and didn't look quite happy.

It was Hwang, Mi-na's childhood friend. At first, she was almost happy that he was here... at least she wouldn't be alone in a strange place. However, because of the fact that he had followed her here only because of his duty as a Coast Guard, anger filled her up just as quickly.

"Hwang!" she yelled out. "Why did you follow me here?"

"Do you know how much trouble we went through just to find you?" Hwang replied trying to keep his voice from going loud. "And now look what you did! You and I are trapped here and we're going to be here for quite a while!"

Despite their height differences, Mi-na practically went right up to his face. "Well it's not my fault you got yourself into this mess! If it makes you happy, I don't even know where we are!"

"We're in Outworld," Hwang replied. "And there will be a tournament going on here! There's no way we can leave until it's over, and who knows when that will be!"

Deep inside, excitement came upon the young woman. A tournament, eh? This may be interesting after all.

Despite that, Mi-na was still angry with Hwang. "I know that you have a duty, but for you to go out of your way to follow me here… do you realize how betrayed I feel? We've known each other since we were kids. You were the only boy who treated me for who I really am, not because of my gender. Maybe I was wrong about you after all."

Mi-na began to walk past Hwang, but he grabbed her arm then, stopping her in her tracks. "Please Mi-na," he said. "Don't be angry with me. And besides, since we both don't know anyone else here, we might as well stick together. So, we're going to have to put our current situation behind us until we get out of here."

As angry as she was, Mi-na realized that her childhood friend was right. She pulled her arm away from him and turned to face him. "Where do we go from here then?" she asked calmly.

Hwang looked around then. "I guess we follow everyone else."

Mi-na nodded and they began to follow.

All of the fighters soon arrived in a large palace-like place and into the large dining quarters on the first floor. Aside from the low cherry wood polished tables, the red floored cushioned chairs, and the green plants, everything around was in gold.

On the tables, only bread and glasses of water were being served for now. The fighters gathered around the tables and sat down low to the floor on the provided cushions. That's with the exception of Raiden, who did not want to be noticed right away. He left his group in Rose's attendance and hid behind the walls, looking through a small window far from the main entrance.

Chun Li sat down and looked around the area. "I wonder what kind of food they will be serving."

"Something I hope is eatable by sight alone," answered Lei. “Or already dead.”

"You're telling me," said Wagner taking a bit of the roll he hand in his hand.

Guile sighed a bit and looked at Chun Li. "I'm glad we were able to meet up here."

"Same here," said Chun Li. "It's good to work with you again."

Across from them, Guy, Cody, and Maki ate their bread. As they did, Guy looked at Maki. "Why did you come?" he asked.

Maki sighed to herself. "Well, first off, I thought it was unfair that you left without saying goodbye, plus Cody showed up for the first time in ages and you didn't bother to mention him either. Second, I think I'm capable of fighting just as well as you two. Everyone else in the dojo I understand since half of them are novices, but I've been with the Bushin clan for years, I mean, since childhood for crying out loud!”

Cody sighed a bit. "She does make a good point, Guy."

Guy closed his eyes for a moment before looking at Maki again. "You just be careful. Who knows what this tournament is about."

Just then, drums began to play as servants began to serve the food. Those not used to it were in shock by the quality and quantity of the various different foods, especially the very large chickens, which were served to each table. Once everything was placed down, the fighters began digging in.

Those near Ryu looked at him in shock as he placed large quantity of food on his plate before he began to chow down. After a few bites, he looked up and noticed the shocked looks on everyone's faces. "What?" he asked. Then, everyone quickly resumed to their dinner.

Mika, who was sitting next to Ryu, looked over at him. She decided to try to start up a conversation then. "So, um, you got yourself a bit appetite there, that's cool."

Ryu finished chewing on his mashed potatoes before looked at the pro wrestler. "I travel a lot and I don't really get to eat all this good stuff. I consider it a blessing."

Mika chuckled a little. "I'm the same, especially since I wrestle."

Ryu nodded as he continued eating.

Sonya took a few bites from her carrots before turning to Alex, who was sitting next to her eating her own food. "Alex, I'm sorry about before back on the ship."

The younger agent looked at Sonya with surprise as she swallowed. "Why do you have to be sorry? It should be me, I violated orders."

"I know," the blonde Lieutenant said. "I guess I overreacted, even when Nightwolf vouched for you... not that I didn't believe you or anything. You're a good soldier, and I shouldn't have left you out of this mission."

Alex nodded. "Apology accepted."

“I'm just not sure what the General will think about you going missing, but whatever happens, I'll talk to him about it when we get back to Earth.”

“I appreciate it, Captain.”

The drums became louder then. Robed figures entered the dining quarters, all gliding rather than walking.

"Wait a second!" cried out Asuka. "One of them must've gave us the invitation!"

"I think they all did," replied Ryu.

Ken looked at him in horror. "You're telling me that one of them put the envelope in my mailbox?"

The figures assembled themselves on a platform in front of the tables. Just then, a figure entered the room and walked over to the throne on the platform. He wore a similar robe as the floating figures, but it was black and he walked normally. When he was in front of his throne, the drums stopped making the room silent as everyone there awaited what he was about to say.

Next to Alex, she heard a grunt to her right. Turning her head, she didn't miss the fact that Kenshi's fists had clenched on top of the table. Gazing up at his face, she noticed his grim expression even with the crimson blindfold covering his eyes.

“What's wrong?” she asked him.

Kenshi took a deep breath before answering, not bothering to turn his head to her. “It's nothing... don't worry about it.”

Realizing that he didn't want to talk about it, Alex remained silent as she turned her head to the stranger who just entered the room.

"Greetings," the stranger called out once the beating drums ceased. "And welcome to The Blood Tournament here in Outworld. My name is Shang Tsung, and these are my Shadow Priests. I am the host of the tournament."

Many of those who knew the name glared at him. Those who were assigned after him made mental notes to themselves. Those with vengeance tried to control their rage. It also confirmed the rumor of him being the tournament's host after all.

Shang Tsung looked around the room before he continued. "I am honored that you all could be here. You are all great warriors and deserve to be here for this tournament. Each and every one of you are the best of the best. You've come from every realm that exist to compete. Many challenges await, but only one of you will be the champion of The Blood Tournament. With that, comes the prize."

The sorcerer went through the pocket of his robe before pulling out a golden object and held it up for everyone to see just as the red tear began within began to glow. Many gasps and whispers could be heard throughout the room. Shang Tsung smirked in delight by the reactions.

"Many of you may know this artifact," he continued. "But for those who don't know, this is called Chishio No Me, or The Bloody Eye. It is a medallion with all the power in the world. It has the ability to grant whatever you desire, no matter what it is. If you are the champion of this tournament… it will be all yours."

Everyone stared at the medallion, unsure of what to think. Many thoughts played in each fighter's mind, whether it was of greed, fear, vengeance, or the many things they could do with the power they could receive.

"The tournament begins in two days. Those without invitations or those who were given invitations by allies, go to the left. Those who were meant to be here, go to your right."

The fighters followed. Princess Kitana got herself up and as she did, she noticed a blond man in armor walking past her. Everything seemed to be going in slow motion as she realized how handsome he was. The figure noticed her as well and briefly looked at her before continuing forward. Unknown to Kitana, Sindel was also looking at him, intrigued by his looks.

It was the first time that Kitana felt something, but by the time she realized it, the stranger disappeared within the crowd.

~~~

Deep Underground of Outworld later that night.

Sitting on a large throne in a darken room (despite the many lit candles along the walls), Shao Kahn looked at his minions, Shadow Priests, guards, servants, and army, who waited for him to speak. The Emperor stared at each of them through his skull mask.

"The time has come," the Emperor announced. "The fighters are here to compete in my tournament. You are all here to make sure our plans go smoothly. With that, I want to introduce you to two new allies of ours, ones who I believe will make great benefits to our cause."

Shao Kahn walked over to a large figure nearby. He was partially covered in black garments, some parts consisting of spikes. His skin was of a light brown with pale eyes, the lower part of his face covered with a mask. What was most disturbing was the face that his heart was outside his body and beating rhythmically, the noise being heard all around the room. The other large figure was a green figure, wearing gold garments and a matching helmet, his red eyes glowing from underneath.

"This are the golem Astaroth," the Emperor announced. "He will be used for any emergencies that come along."

"My lord," said Quan Chi. "You had mentioned that there were two of them. Where is the second one?"

Shao Kahn only let out a hardly-heard chuckle. Suddenly, a loud growl could be heard around the room, making everyone in the room nervous. The large door to the room opened where two servants pulled out a large wheeled cage. In the cage, a large zombie-like creature shook on the bars in a rage that no one in that room could ever imagine and he let out an ear-piercing roar. Tension rose in the room then.

"This is Berserk," the Emperor mentioned. "As you can tell, he will make a great addition to our army."

Shao Kahn walked over to the cage just as Berserk ripped the bars off and threw them across the room. Everyone got out of the way and backed away in fear. The monster jumped out of his cage and grabbed a hold of one of the servants who screamed for mercy. In an instant with no effort, he ripped the servant into two pieces, then threw him over where he had thrown the cage with blood spray practically everywhere.

Right after, Shao Kahn took out the medallion, and placed it in front of Berserk. The red tear glowed and at that moment, Berserk calmed down and stared at the Emperor.

"Very good," said Shao Kahn having complete control over the deranged monster. "You will serve me and only me. You will call me master."

"M, master…" Berserk muttered.

Shao Kahn then looked over at everyone else. "Berserk's pleasure is to torture until you are dead. If any of you defy me, you will be thrown in the same cage that he will be in."

Everyone kept even more silent then, scared out of their wits. Shao Khan took the delight in knowing that his was in full control of everything.

In the shadows unknown to anyone, Ivy Valentine watched the situation unfold. She mainly stared at the medallion the Emperor held in his hand.

So it's true, the swordswoman thought. The medallion has been found.

She would make her appearance known to the Emperor soon.

Chapter Text

Not long after dinner was over and the registrations were made, Raiden, Rose, and the rest of Earth's chosen warriors departed from the dining quarters as a group. Many of the other warriors who will be heading to their assigned rooms within the palace. However, the Thunder God had other plans in mind…

"...A cave?" Cammy grumbled out as soon as they saw where they were staying.

Raiden sighed, having the feeling previously that everyone was going to react like that. "As much as you all would've enjoyed the luxuries of the palace, this is best for all of you since you are the chosen ones for this tournament. That way, Shao Kahn and his allies will not be able to easily detect any plans we will be discussing in the future."

It seemed to make sense for the chosen ones now. However, the fact that they will be staying in a cave wasn't exactly what most of the fighters had in mind.

"So," said Guile. "What will be provided for us in this… cave?"

"Well," Raiden replied. "Before you all met me, I had already prepared the cave for your arrival. The walls are lit with oil candles, which need to be changed every few days. Each of you will also have your own room, all covered by heavy velvet curtains for privacy. In the back of the cave is sort of what you would call a lounge room. I have also already prepared food and water supply and it should last us a few days."

"Good to know," said Yun. "But please tell me this cave has a plumbing system."

Raiden paused for a brief moment before answering. "Actually, your 'toilets' are out here."

"You're telling us that we have to go to the bathroom outside?" asked a not-so-happy Lita. "And I assume we'll be taking baths in lava?"

"Actually, there are hot springs about a half a mile from here in the forest. The palace also have indoor bath houses, but I recommend the ones in the forest since less people will be going there."

"Um, great," said Lei without much enthusiasm.

The whole time, Rose stood there and stared at Raiden. Although they had united to stop evil from emerging, she was getting the feeling that Raiden was starting to take over the show rather than the both of them working together to make this all work, especially when he didn't bother to ask for her input during the meeting. She planned on talking to him once things were settled in the cave.

Later, the warriors were either sleeping, training, or just hanging out. Wagner, Guile, and Sonya were walking along the shorelines of a small beach, grateful that it was clear water rolling over their feet rather than lava. They were only about a five minute walk from the cave, which was surrounded by many trees. Only a few of their new allies were training there, but other than that, the area seemed pretty quiet.

"This place is not so bad once you get used to it," mentioned Wagner.

"That's true," Sonya replied. "It could've been worse I suppose... we could've been staying in the caves of the Netherrealm instead."

"Too bad we're sleeping on military cots, but that's nothing new to us," said Guile.

There was a pause between the three of them before Sonya spoke up. "So, when will we be discussing plans?"

"As soon as we get the word from Raiden. Speaking of which, I should go back inside and review the files we received before our departure. I'll catch up with the two of you later."

With that, the Air Force Colonel began his walk back to the cave leaving Wagner and Sonya alone. It wasn't long after that Sonya began another conversation. "So, how long have you and Guile known each other?"

"Since I was fifteen," Wagner answered after a brief pause. "I was just a delinquent then and building up my own kind of 'record,' but I was lucky he came along. I wasn't sure where I was going with my life, but he showed me things that I had missed since the day I became an orphan. Pretty much, he's been like a father to me."

A faint frown appeared on the blonde woman's face. She was never an orphan herself, but she had seen these cases plenty of times during her years in Special Forces.

From there, Sonya decided to change the subject. "I'm assuming this is your first time in Outworld."

"Yeah. It's a pretty strange place, but I might as well get used to it since we'll be here for a while. It does give me time to think through my agendas."

"What kind of agendas?" Sonya asked curiously.

Wagner sighed quietly. He realized was going to be around this woman for a while and she would eventually learn of his current agenda whether through him or Guile. He motioned her to sit next to him on the white sand before proceeding.

"It's a pretty long story actually, but I'll try to make it short. For a decade, I had thought that my family was dead, murdered by Shadaloo's leader. It was only after a rescue mission this past winter, ironically on the ten year anniversary of my family's murder, that I discovered that my older sister, Lisa, was alive. However, she wasn't the Lisa I knew when I was a kid…she became a Shadaloo doll. I was too injured to rescue her then, but ever since I've been on a mission to save her, even if it cost me my life. Since then, I call my mission Operation: Lisa.

"I did help to accomplish the rescue of another Shadaloo doll along with Cammy, Guile, and Chun Li not too long ago. All I know about her was that her name was Juni and the German government had her on their missing list for years. I helped return her there and, last I heard, she was training for the German military.

"Since the destruction of Shadaloo, all the dolls had been freed with the exception of one. It was rumored that this particular doll was taken by a former Shadaloo recruit and now they are in hiding. I believe Lisa's the one since there have been no reports of finding her."

Sonya sighed sadly. "I'm sorry to hear that Wagner. I really don't know what to say…"

"There's nothing to say," Wagner replied. "But there is something I should mention. When Guile and I first met you and Kenshi, you had mentioned that there were former Shadaloo recruits who could be at this tournament. I have a feeling that Lisa may be here with the one who took her. If anything, please look out for a young blonde woman who could be near a former Shadaloo recruit."

The Captain nodded. "I can do that."

Not too far from them, Mika, Asuka, Ibuki, and Sakura sat on the edge of the woods looking over at the clear water and white sand in front of them. The four of them had just finished sparring and decided to relax for a while.

Mika took off her boots and partially dug her feet into the sand. "Wow, if I had known that there was a beach near us, I would've brought my bikini."

"Me too," said Sakura. "Speaking of bringing something, I brought over my portable karaoke machine with me."

Asuka looked at the young school girl oddly. "So was that why your one bag was heavy?"

"Exactly."

"That'd be fun!" exclaimed Ibuki. "At least it's something more we can do while we're here."

That's when they noticed Maki walking along the shoreline. The female bushin ninja had a blank expression on her face as she looked out towards the large body of water, clearly unsure of what to do with herself since arriving here.

"Hi there!" called out Asuka. Maki blinked, shook out of her daze, and then looked over at the four girls, all of them with smiles on their faces.

"Um, hi," Maki replied feeling a bit surprised.

"Aren't you in the cave with us?" questioned Ibuki.

"Yes, I am."

"Cool," said Mika. "Since we're all going to be here for a while, why don't you join us."

A small smile appeared on Maki's face. "Sure," she said as she sat down with the small group. They all introduced themselves to one another. "Did you girls see Shang Tsung at dinner tonight?" the ninja suddenly asked. "Putting it lightly, he was quite hideous."

All four girls stuck their tongues out in disgust. "Ew, I so agree," answered Mika.

"Say," Ibuki said. "Rather than talking about not-so-good-looking guys, why don't we talk about some of the good-looking guys here."

"You know I have my eyes on Ryu!" cried out Sakura.

"He is pretty cute," said Mika half day-dreaming.

"Speaking of Ryu," Sakura said standing up. "I was watching him practice today and I learned a new move. Wanna see?"

"Sure," said Asuka.

With that, Sakura got into her fighting stance. She stood there for a brief moment before she quickly performed the move. She had jumped when she did, but when the school girl landed back, she ended up stumbling backwards. A male figure had been passing by behind her and the two ended up crashing into each other and stumbled into the sand. All the girls giggled until the figure stood up. They recognized him as Jin Kazama and with the exception of Asuka, all the girls' jaws dropped at the sight of him.

Sakura had the same look on her face when she met Jin's face. Jin put a hand out to help her up. Sakura took his hand and pulled herself up. "Sorry about that," she said blushing.

A small smirk appeared on Jin's face. "That's all right. Just be careful next time." And with that, Jin began heading back towards the cave. Sakura looked on until he was no longer in sight.

Asuka huffed a bit. "He's all right, but I'm pretty sure he's not that special. Besides Sakura, what happened to Ryu?"

Sakura slowly looked over at her friend. "Huh?"

In the cave, Rose realized that the chosen ones were off doing their own things. When she saw that Raiden was setting up the 'living room' of the cave, she decided that it was the best time to approach him. The psychic began making her way towards the thunder God as he placed a low table in the middle of the room.

"Good evening Rose," Raiden suddenly said. Rose was almost surprised that he knew that she was in the room. Then she remembered the fact that he was a God and mentally slapped herself.

"Good evening," the purple-haired woman replied. "Do you have a moment?"

A pause came between them before Raiden stood up. "Sure. What can I do for you?"

Rose sighed a little. "Well, I'm going to be honest with you. Now, I understand that secluding ourselves from outsiders was necessary, especially if we were near someone who was working with Shao Kahn. The thing is, could've we have picked something else other than a cave?"

Raiden stared at her then. "I understand your concern, but unfortunately, this was the only option we had. I had taken the time to set up the rooms before meeting with the mortals."

"So there was no way we could've got a secluded area with the palace area?"

"It's too risky. I am aware that not everyone is going to agree with staying there, but what they must understand is that we must give up a few things in order to accomplish what must be done."

"I'm still not into the idea," Rose replied.

At that point, Raiden began to feel a bit frustrated. A small amount of lightning appeared in his pale eyes, but it didn't seem to emotionally affect Rose. "I assume you did not do your homework on Outworld."

"Of course I did. I'm psychic remember?"

"Yeah and I'm a God." Then Raiden chuckled. "Oh wait, I already am."

A bit of anger filled Rose right there. "Is this all a joke to you?"

"Of course not! Excuse me if I have a sense of humor! As the mortals say, it's a coping mechanism!"

"You and I are both the leaders of the group! The least you can do is try to act like an adult!"

"Since when did I start acting like a child?"

That's when Yun entered the room. "Excuse me guys-"

"GET OUT!" the thunder God and the psychic cried out at once. The volume of their voice nearly scared the life out of Yun and he ran straight back to his room.

Yin had just reached his room seeing the fear on her brother's face. "Yun, what did you do this time?"

"Nothing!" cried Yun. "I was only trying to ask Raiden and Rose if they had change for a dollar!"

Yin cocked an eyebrow. "What do you need change for?"

"Well, I figured that they had vending machines in the palace-"

"THERE ARE NO VENDING MACHINES IN OUTWORLD!" Raiden cried out from where he was, scaring Yun again.

"This is going to be an interesting tournament I bet," Yun sighed tipping his blue and yellow cap over his face.

Outside of the cave, Xianghua, Kilik, and Maxi decided to take a walk around the area to get a glimpse of the area they will be staying at for a while. They had not checked into their rooms in the palace yet so they were still carrying their bags along the way.

Xianghua looked up into the sky. "You know, once you get used to it, it's not so bad. It's a pretty unique place with the purple sky, the purple ground, the white sand, and the trees-"

"Well, I can understand the sky and ground," replied Maxi. "But you do realize that Keisei also has green trees and white sand."

"Of course I do!" the young woman exclaimed.

"But it makes me wonder," Maxi continued. "Is this planet in the same galaxy as Keisei, or are we in a totally different galaxy that we never knew of?"

"I guess we could ask an Outworld native, if we ever meet one," said Kilik.

"Hey, look over there," Maxi suddenly said.

Kilik and Xianghua looked at where Maxi was pointing. They saw a group of people ahead of them. Some were meditating, some were sparring, and others were relaxing.

"Well this is interesting," said Xianghua. "I would've more expected two or three people here, but not more than ten."

"Maybe it's something special," Maxi mentioned. "Let's ask one of them." He began to walk forward before his friends could say anything else. With that, they followed him.

The older of the trio immediately noticed a young woman sitting under one of the trees reading a novel. He walked up to her then. "What are you reading there?"

The young woman looked up at him through her red-rimmed glasses. "It's just a book with a large collection of poetry. Do you like poetry?"

Maxi sighed a bit. "To be honest, not really... not that I don't appreciate the art form or anything, but it's just not for me. Anyway, my name is Maxi." He put his hand out then for a handshake.

"Julia Chang," the woman replied shaking his hand.

Suddenly, Xianghua jumped forward and put her hand out. As she did, she ended up bumping into Maxi making him fall sideways. "Hi there, I'm Xianghua. My friend wasn't trying to hit on you, was he?" With that, she shifted her eyes and gave a quick glare at Maxi, who was obviously very confused by his female friend's sudden reaction.

Julia only laughed at what Xianghua said as they shook hands. "It's all right, he was being a gentleman." She then looked up at Kilik then. "Hi there."

Kilik smirked and introduced himself then, shaking her hand. "Actually, we noticed the group behind you and we were curious to know what was going on."

"Ah, I see." Julia stood up then. "Well, to be honest, it's kind of a secret, but let's just say we've all been chosen for this mission."

"A mission eh?" Maxi said interested. "What kind of mission?"

"Maxi!" exclaimed Xianghua. “She said it was a secret!”

Julia laughed a little. "Well, if you like, why don't you follow me and I can introduce you to our leaders. They may decide to recruit you if possible."

"Sure," said Kilik. Maxi and Xianghua nodded with agreement. With that, the three followed Julia into the cave.

"Raiden! Rose!" Julia called out. "Where are you guys?"

That's when the four of them could hear two people arguing not too far. They ran over to the back of the cave and saw Raiden and Rose arguing to the point where no one could make out what they were saying.

Kilik could've sworn he felt a bead of sweat drip down his forehead. "Are those the leaders?"

Julia sighed. "Yeah…"

Meanwhile, Alex decided to take a walk around a rocky area after completing some paper work Sonya threw at her after their settlement in the cave. After some walking, she decided to sit on one of the large boulders on the ground and sat down.

The young agent didn't mind the fact that they were staying in the cave. It was something she has done before, including sleeping on military cots in complete darkness. But the fact that her only garments were the ones on her back, she wasn't exactly thrilled about it. Other than her gun, extra bullets, and her car keys, she had nothing else with her. Luckily, Sonya offered her shirts and Rose would take the time to find other garments for her in the meantime.

It wasn't her fault though. She was only out to protect her comrades. They would have know they were being followed eventually, she thought. Silly of me to think otherwise, I suppose...

She was signed up as a late challenger, but she was ready to go. Aside from military martial arts, Alex also knew kajukenbo, a style made for street fighting, and something she was glad that she learned on the side.

As she continued her thoughts, the agent suddenly felt a presence nearby. She turned herself around, but no one was there. Alex always trusted her instinct and decided to investigate. She got herself up and slowly walked around scanning the area.

Suddenly, as Alex passed a big tree, a young woman wearing purple suddenly jumped in front of her. "Hello!" she cried out.

Surprised by the sudden greeting, Alex let out a small yelp and fell back. After that, she looked up and saw a woman a few years younger than her smile down at her. "Uh, sorry to scare you,” she said.

"Um, hi here," the agent managed to reply as she got herself up.

“You don't look like you're from around here. I'm Li Mei.”

Alex was almost hesitant, but then decided to answer. "I'm Alex. I'm from Earthrealm."

“Earthrealm? I've heard of it before, wow I'm glad I ran into you then, what are you doing here?”

It took a moment for Alex to catch up with what Li Mei was saying considering her run-on sentences. She also caught the fact that the young woman seemed nervous for some reason, so she talked as calmly as possible. “I'm here to attend the upcoming Blood Tournament.”

"Oh yes, I heard about that, I wonder if there's a way I can join up. You see, even though I live here in Outworld, I hate Shao Kahn and his Outworld Forces, his minions enslaved my village and I'm out to save my people from enslavement."

Alex felt a bit of sorrow then and she began to realize why the Outworld native seemed nervous... after all, somehow, she had managed to escape her enslaved village. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"It's all right, I know everything will be all right, I just have to keep a positive attitude, that's what my grandfather keeps telling me.”

"If you still want to join up in the tournament, I can see if I can help you with that,” Alex suggested.

Li Mei quickly nodded, her green eyes widening a bit. “That sounds good, then I can keep my promise to my people, I really do hope I can help them, it's really been a long few weeks and-”

With the run-on sentences, Alex gave up on listening to Li Mei but still let her continue talking. Instead, she let Li Mei follow her while staying quiet.

Nearby the cave, Ryu and Ken had just finished their sparring session and were just standing around drinking their own bottle of water. "So, wasn't that travel freaky or what?" asked Ken. "Especially when we went through that supposed portal?"

"Yeah, it was," replied Ryu. "But for some strange reason, I was kind of expecting that."

"I do wonder," Ken continued. "Did it happen where every single ship from every realm suddenly went through that portal at the same time?"

Ryu shrugged a little. "It seemed like it, but I guess only those from Outworld know the truth."

"Yeah, this is a strange place."

With that, the Japanese warrior decided to change the subject. "How did Eliza take it?"

Ken sighed. "Well, it was obvious that she wasn't too happy about it. I promised her that this would be the last time I would attend a tournament for a while, then we would go on our cruise afterwards."

Ryu cocked an eyebrow. "Were you serious about not going to any more tournaments after this one for a while?"

"I don't know," Ken shrugged. "However, I do know that there will eventually be a day when I retire from fighting. Then again, I'm only thirty years old. I don't really see retirement coming up just yet."

"Hey guys!" called out a female voice nearby. Ryu and Ken turned around and noticed the familiar Interpol agent coming on to them.

"Hey Chun Li!" Ken called out smiling. "Ryu didn't mention you were here."

"Well, at least I know you're here. How is everything?" Chun Li asked.

"Pretty good. How about you?" the millionaire replied.

Chun Li shrugged. "Well, as you know, Shadaloo's pretty much history, aside from the few minions who got away."

"I heard about that," Ken answered. "Do you have any idea who took care of Bison?"

"We're not sure. Our files are really sketchy at the moment." Chun Li then looked at Ryu. "How are you doing Ryu?"

"Pretty decent, everything's still the same with me. I haven't seen you since the last Street Fighter tournament."

"Didn't seem that long ago," said Ken.

"I know," Chun Li agreed. "Unfortunately, the tournament was forfeited under unknown circumstances. I still wish I faced you Ryu so then we all could've confronted Bison."

Ken cleared his throat. "Honestly, if anyone could beat Ryu, it would be me."

"I could beat him just as well as you could," chuckled Chun Li.

Suddenly, they heard a scream and objects being thrown inside the cave. The three looked at each other before running into the cave. When they reached near the end, they met with Julia along with Xianghua, Kilik, and Maxi.

"What's going on?" asked Chun Li.

Her answer was given suddenly when a coffee mug got thrown at them. All seven mortals ducked to avoid getting hit and the mug instead crashed on to the ground. They then looked up to watch the continuing 'argument' between their 'leaders.'

"And what is with that stupid hat anyways!" cried out Rose.

"It's called a rice harvester for your information!" Raiden yelled. "And why do you have a camel's toe?"

The seven mortals' jaws dropped in shock over that statement as Rose's face turned beet red, obviously very pissed by Raiden's joke. "YOU MAKE ME SO ANGRY! What was I thinking when I teamed up with YOU?!"

Suddenly, Raiden let a bolt of lighting out not at Rose, but at the feet of their witnesses.

"RUN!" Maxi screamed out as the seven of them made a dash for it.

~~~

"You want to join me?" the Outworld Emperor asked. "Why?"

Shao Kahn looked down at the female figure before him. He was already impressed by the fact that the platinum-haired woman was kneeling on the ground before him, her head bowed down.

Ivy Valentine had her plans made up in her mind. She already knew what she was going to say to the Emperor, but whatever was to come, she would realize whether she would be telling the truth or a lie to him then.

"I believe in your cause," she said. "You are a powerful Emperor, a great leader to look up to. I have confidence that whatever you plan in the aftermath of the tournament will prevail. If you let me, I pledge my services to you and promise to not fail you."

For a moment, Shao Kahn stared down at Ivy. Many times has he gotten people pledging their services to him. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they end up as their servants.

But he felt something different about this woman. He could sense her strong fighting spirit and the darkness that plagued inside of her. After some more mental analysis, he felt that she was indeed worthy of her services not as a servant, but as one of his main minions alongside fighters like Baraka and even Shang Tsung.

"Rise!" Shao Kahn commanded. Immediately, Ivy stood up. As she did, he noticed the sword behind her, one he had never seen before. "You are a swordswoman, are you not?"

"I am," Ivy replied. "My name is Ivy Valentine, the adopted descendent of the Valentine family of the Britannian Empire in the realm of Keisei."

"The adopted daughter of Earl Valentine?" the Emperor questioned with interested. "This is indeed interesting. However, I do have one test, a test to prove that you will be loyal to me."

With that, the Emperor snapped his fingers. A single servant immediately entered the small light and bowed to Shao Kahn.

Shao Kahn then nodded at Ivy. "Kill him quickly."

Horror suddenly came over the servant, but before he could react, Ivy had already taken her sword into her hand. She raised it above her before swinging it forward. The Emperor had expected her to easily decapitate the servant. Instead, the sword split into eight small pieces attached but a single one-inch thick string.

Shao Kahn was surprised to see it and became much more interested by what was going to happen next. Ivy quickly wrapped the sword around the servant's neck. She kicked him then, sending him on all fours. This gave Ivy the opportunity to place her foot on her victim's back, slightly digging her heel into it. She then pulled him back towards her with her sword, tightening the hold on him.

The servant tried to scream, but his oxygen was cut off at this point. Then, with a quickly jolt, Ivy managed to snap his neck, killing him instantly. She stood there for another moment before releasing her hold on him, letting his body fall like a rag doll. She then quickly threw her sword upward, returning her sword into one piece.

Shao Kahn smiled under his skull mask. "Very impressive. You are indeed worthy of joining me."

The scene flooded in Ivy's mind a little as she was given the tour of Shao Kahn's fortress. It was a very rare thing, but Shao Kahn himself was giving her the tour. It was only an hour ago that she pledged her services to him. Ivy knew her time here would take a while, at least until she got her hands on the medallion.

"This is the sleeping quarters," Shao Kahn said as they passed through a long hall. "We have an extra room for you just at the end of the hall. I am quite sure it will be to your likings."

Ivy nodded as she scanned the area. It was then that a yellow-clad woman walked out of her room, closing the door behind her. She turned and immediately saw Shao Kahn before her. In an instant, she got down on her knees and bowed to him.

"Rise Tanya," the Emperor commanded.

"Yes my Emperor," Tanya replied as she stood up.

"We have a newcomer joining us. This is Ivy."

Ivy and Tanya only glared at each other, a normal thing to happen around the lair. Tanya never took kindly to new people, especially if they were the same gender as she was. It was already bad enough that she had Mileena and Sheeva to deal with, but at least until now, she was the only 'normal' woman in the lair.

"I must return to continuing with our plans," Shao Kahn continued. "I will leave you two so you can take the time to be… acquainted." With that, the Emperor made his departure.

When he was out of sight, Tanya snorted. "So, suddenly, you think you're so special just because you're the new girl. None of us here take kindly to people like you, so don't expect much."

Suddenly, Tanya quickly found herself wrapped in Ivy's snake sword. The yellow-clad woman let out a yelp as she was pulled towards Ivy, an evil glare staring down at her. With her icy blue eyes, Ivy indeed looked deadly and it was the first time Tanya even felt tense by her presence.

"Every bitch who double crosses me ends up dead," Ivy whispered. "But since we are on the same side however, I'll let you be my lap dog until this is all over. Don't even think that I won't kill you if you object otherwise."

Throughout her long-life, being an Edenian native, Tanya always made the right choices, choices that would keep her alive. If she had to be at the mercy of another just to stay alive, she would. Tanya nodded then, letting Ivy know that she understood.

With that, Ivy let her go, dropping her to the ground. She smirked then. "Very good. I will meet with you in the morning." And with that, she left for her new quarters.

~~~

The night came. Everyone from the cave sat around a campfire that was lit to warm them up. The hall in the cave was too narrow for them to sit around so being outside was best for them. And with the previous heat between Raiden and Rose, Sub-Zero made an ice wall to separate the two.

Rose chose not to speak, since she actually agreed with what Raiden was going to announce that night.

"Mortals," he began. "First, I'd like to welcome four new mortals from Keisei and Outworld who will help us with our cause. They are Li Mei, Kilik, Xianghua, and Maxi. Secondly, The Blood Tournament is ready to go. Eight rounds have been constructed, so there will be many eliminations. Each round will expand a few days until every fight has been constructed.

"In the morning, you will receive notices which I will be delivering to you. You will see them pinned on your curtains. They will state your name, the place of your fight, and the time. They will not, however, state the fighter you will be fighting against until the time of your match.

"There are four locations where the tournaments will be… the Outdoor Arena, the Indoor Arena, the Courtyard, and the Underground Lair.

"The rules are quite simple. Firearms are not allowed in the tournament and you cannot kill your opponents, even if you have a vendetta against them. There are only two ways to lose the match. You must either be knocked out by your opponent, or thrown out of the ring. If both of your feet are out of the ring as you fight, you are automatically disqualified and your opponent wins the match. In an event where both fighters are out of the ring, whoever was out first or the furthest out will receive the disqualification. In an event where a fighter doesn't show up at the fight, the other fighter will be able to move on to the next round, unless another no-show occurs from another match.

"I hope that this information has helped you with what you can expect in the tournament. Once the tournament is officially over, depending on the circumstances of the aftermath, we will automatically have the access to return to our own worlds. I wish you the best of luck in the tournament, and may the best win."

With that, the fire in front of the mortals shot up three feet into the air. Everyone quickly got the signal from the fire… whatever was to come, it was all about to begin from there…

Chapter Text

After what seemed like a long night, the morning finally came. The fighters in the tournament received their notices of when, where, and what time they were fighting. The only two mysteries to each of them were who they were going to fight that day, and whether or not they were going to make it to round two.

In the cave, the fighters there also got their notices. Earlier, Raiden and Rose, silently working together to avoid any more conflict, collected the mortals' cards and pinned one on each room's curtains for them to see when they woke up. Only three of the fighters in the cave were scheduled for a match today.

"Woo hoo!" cried out Cody holding up his card. "My match is this afternoon!"

"That's nice," replied Guy looking at his card. "I don't fight for another two days."

"That's too bad," said Maki holding her card. "Because I fight today as well. The best part is, the courtyard is near the beach area."

"Big deal, a beach is too generic... too bad that's where I'll be too," Cody mentioned. "But one thing is for sure, I bet we'll kick major butt today."

"I wonder who else is going to fight today?" Maki wondered.

Meanwhile in his room, Wagner was putting on his green tank top. His card indicated that he was going to be fighting in the indoor arena in about two hours. He had hoped that he would have another day or two before his time came, but his wish did not prevail. At least, however, he can get it over with for a while before the next round, if he won today.

Just as Wagner stood up and was about to grab his jeans to put over his boxers, a female voice was heard from behind the heavy velvet curtain. "Wagner, you there?"

He recognized it as Sonya's voice and since they already knew each other, he decided not to bother with putting his jeans on. "Come in!"

Sonya pulled the curtain sideways and stepped in. "Good morning. Did you get your card?"

"I did," Wagner answered. "I'm fighting in a couple of hours."

"Awesome. I won't be fighting today, so I'll be cheering you on at the sidelines."

"Cool."

"Oh by the way," Sonya continued. "I believe that we'll be having a little group meeting tomorrow between your team, my team, Interpol, and the Delta Red team. I had the feeling that Delta Red would be joining us, but it's not anything official."

"That's all right, but I believe that the more help we get for this mission, the better," Wagner said.

"True. Anyway, good luck in your match today"

"Thanks."

Both of them started to turn around, but when Wagner did, he suddenly lost his footing and fell forward. As with any other person's normal instinct, he threw his hands out and when he did, he grabbed on to the side hems of Sonya's thin pajama pants. With the force of his fall, he ended up ripping the legs of the pants and completely shredding them into three pieces.

Sonya gasped as she heard the rip. "MY PANTS!" she cried out. She then saw Wagner's jeans laying on his cot. She kicked off her pants, grabbed them, and put them on before Wagner could even get up.

When he did, Wagner saw that Sonya was now wearing his best fighting jeans. "Hey, those are my-"

"Well, there's no way I was going to go out showing off my undergarments!" Sonya exclaimed. Then, briefly, she looked down at them, then a mischievous grin came upon her face. "You know, I like these, I think I'll wear them today." With that, she quickly left the room.

"Wait!" Wagner cried out, but then realized it was no use. Besides, she seemed like the type who would be dominate in a fight with a guy like him.

Then a thought came to him. Damn, I really hope I don't have to fight anyone like her!

With that, Wagner sighed and walked over to his suitcase to look for another pair of jeans. He pushed some of his clothes over to begin his search. After about a minute, he started to take his clothes out of his suitcase quickly.

I could've sworn I brought way more than that! he thought to himself.

Soon, he got to the bottom of the suitcase and only saw one piece of clothing left… a pair of blue sweatpants. Wagner took them out and instantly recognized them. He hadn't wore them since before he joined the Air Force. It was guaranteed that they weren't going to fit him, but other than the jeans that Sonya just took from him, what else could he wear?

I KNOW I brought my other jeans with me! Then a thought came to Wagner, thinking of a well-known friend on the base, a practical jokester to put it that way. I'm so going to kill Randy when I get back!

~~~

Two Hours Later, Indoor Arena

The indoor arena in the palace grounds was filled with a large ground along with four Shadow Priests in each corner of the ring. The entire room, including the ground, seats, even the ropes around the fifty yard round ring, were all made of gold. A few plants surrounded a throne-like chair, the chair that everyone knew belonged to Shang Tsung or whoever else was going to host the matches. Everyone else would be sitting on forty feet stadium seats which surrounded the ring. Those who were fighting that day in this particular arena were given the privilege to get a front view, if they like to, while everyone else sat further back.

People talked amongst themselves. Unfortunately for Wagner, he was trying to hide the fact that he was wearing his uncomfortable pants. The pants were indeed tight, but not tight enough that they were guaranteed to rip… yet. The ankles parts, unfortunately, were above his ankles, but he had the feeling that it would be the least of his worries. With him were Guile, Sonya (still wearing his jeans just to tease him), Cammy and her team. He recognized some of the other contenders from his cave, but none who he knew very well as of now.

Soon, drums were being played. Everyone expected Shang Tsung to arrive, but instead, a figure in a black robe glided to the throne and stood in front of it. It would seem that Shang Tsung had not chosen to host the indoor arena's tournament for the day, but rather a Shadow Priest.

The Shadow Priest looked at everyone at the tournament. "Greetings. The Blood Tournament begins and will last until sunset tonight." It let silence ring through the air for a moment before continuing. "There are only two ways to defeat your opponent. They must either fall into unconsciousness or pushed completely out of the ring. If firearms are found, or you leave the ring with your own will, you will be automatically disqualified from the match as well as the tournament. If you kill your opponent, the match will be considered undetermined and you can no longer participate for the remainder of the tournament."

Another pause came by for a few moments. Finally, the moment the fighters have been waiting for came as the Priest called out the first fighter's name.

"Kira!" it called out.

Kira was surprised that she was going to fight the first of the series of matches that were going to take place, but that surprise soon passed just as quickly. She got herself up and walked to the middle of the ring with out much more thought. She knew that this part of the tournament was going to be the easy part because it was the first of many matches to come.

Soon, the Priest called her opponent's name. "Pandora!"

A tanned woman with long blue hair about her age stepped into the ring. She had her hair tied up in a high ponytail and wore a long sleeve white shirt that showed off her toned stomach. She also wore a white mini skirt with black stockings and white boots. In her hands were two silver batons with blue jewels on each end.

Kira smirked a little, realizing that Pandora was asking for a weapon combat. With that, the red-haired woman took out her two dragon teeth knives from her boots.

On the sidelines, Kabal and Havik, who wore a large hood over his head to conceal his face, watched as their ally got ready for her fight. Havik slightly peaked over at Kabal. "Are you sure she can do this? You had mentioned that she hasn't been with the Black Dragon very long."

Kabal nodded with confidence. "Do not worry yourself. Kira has proven herself worthy to be in the clan. I would not have brought her here with us if I had not believed in her."

"Good. We must continue with our plan for eternal chaos."

The Black Dragon leader nodded to his mentor in agreement.

As soon as the two women got into position, they both waited for the co-host's call. It seemed like forever before the Priest called out, "BEGIN!"

Both women raised their weapons up to their faces, then slowly circled around each other. Neither one of them took their eyes off of one another.

Finally, it was Pandora who made the first move. With only the sounds of her footsteps following, she ran towards Kira, then quickly brought her batons forward in hopes of hitting her opponent. However, Kira was quicker than she thought and the red-haired woman managed to block the incoming attack, the sounds of steal colliding with steal was heard around the room.

Back and forth this went on. It would seem that both women were quite even in their combat skills. Neither one of them weren't able to dominate the other just yet as their weapons continued to collide with one another.

Then, Pandora stepped back a couple of feet. Kira couldn't understand what that was all about. Never the less, she wasn't about to lose right now. But just before she could maneuver towards her, Pandora suddenly threw her left hand down towards the ground. At the last second, Kira noticed the small marble that came out of her opponent's hand, but before the female member of the Black Dragon could react, an explosion was heard, nearly startling those watching the battle.

Smoke immediately surrounded Kira, forcing her into a coughing frenzy. She tried to see through the smoke, but to no avail. The smoke was getting into her eyes forcing her to close them.

Damn it! she thought angrily.

Suddenly, Kira felt a hard kick to her back sending her flying out of the ring of smoke. She let out a small gasp in shock as she landed face first into the ground and losing her grip on her knives. The Black Dragon member quickly rolled onto her back just in time to see Pandora nearly flying out of the now disappearing smoke. When she was just above her, Kira immediately put both of her feet out at the last second and managed to land a blow just under Pandora's chin.

The pain shot through Pandora as though she was just hit by a truck. She yelped in pain as she lost her grip on her batons and fell back. Kira quickly got herself up then. She walked a few feet over to Pandora, then, with as much force as she can manage, brought her foot down to her stomach. Pandora screamed out in pain and quickly rolled away. Kira walked over to her once again and was about to land another blow with her foot, but then Pandora rolled out of the way again causing Kira to step on the ground instead.

With all the strength she had left, Pandora managed to quickly get herself up just as Kira was about to kick her. She blocked the incoming attack and soon the two exchanged various moves, with each woman blocking the other following up with an attack of their own, and so forth.

Finally, after about a minute, Kira managed to get the upper hand and landed a punch into Pandora's face. The small shock coming from her gave Kira the opportunity to be in control of the battle. She landed blow after blow into Pandora with each punch and kick she delivered. At one point, Kira noticed that her opponent was starting to bleed through her nose, but that only made the red-haired woman work in that area to send more pain into Pandora.

It was then that Kira noticed that the two of them were close to the edge of the ring. She remembered that one of the two ways to win the battle was to knock your opponent out of the ring. With that thought, Kira mentally smirked.

With a quick kick to the stomach, Pandora let out a small yelp and flew a few feet back and out of the ring before landing on to the ground. After a quick recovery, Pandora looked at Kira in anger while the red-haired woman smirked at her.

The Shadow Priest stood up then. "Winner: Kira!" It called out.

Those who watched clapped after the winner was announced. Pandora looked down on the ground in shame as Kira made her way out of the ring and back towards her allies Kabal and Havik.

"Well done Kira," Havik whispered so that no one around was to hear him. "I now see why Kabal views you as the greatest of the Black Dragon clan."

Kira kept her smirk as a reply to her leader's advisor.

Meanwhile, nearby, Wagner stretched his arms out. "Can't wait to see who fights next."

"It may be you, kid," replied Guile.

"Nah. I have the feeling that I won't be fighting for a while, knowing how impatient I can get."

After being silent for sometime, the Shadow Priest called out the next fighter. "Myra!" it called out.

A young human woman with long brown hair tied back into a braid stepped into the ring. She wore a red spaghetti-stringed tank top (which nearly didn't cover much), really short jeans, and sneakers. The fact that she was showing off caused most of the men in the audience to whistle at her. However, Myra was enjoying the attention and she replied by smiling and waving at everyone.

"She looks easy to beat," said Cammy. "Too bad I'm not fighting until tomorrow."

"Yeah," said Wagner who thought he was nearly drooling by the site of Myra. "However, seeing that so many men like her, I'm going to feel sorry for the one male to has to fight her…"

"Wagner!" the Shadow Priest suddenly called out.

Wagner paused for a moment before saying, "Oh good, I'm the lucky one." He got himself up and walked into the ring.

"You can do it!" Cammy called out as his allies cheered on for him.

The young Sergeant kept his eyes on Myra, as did she the same with him. He heard the small chuckles coming from the female audience and knew that it had to do with the bottom half of his attire. However, he ignored it. Once he was a few feet away from her, he got into a fighting stance.

Myra let out a small chuckle. "This will be easier than I thought," she said with a Hispanic accent as she got into a fighting stance.

"Don't expect it to be that easy," replied Wagner. "Now, normally I don't like to fight girls, I personally think it's disrespectful. However, if a girl, like yourself, really wants to fight, then let's go."

Once again, Myra chuckled. "I'm glad that I'll be fighting a respectful man then." She then slightly looked down. "My, aren't you a big boy."

Wagner was confused for a second by what she just said. That was until he noticed where she was eyeing him. Stupid pants, he growled to himself.

However, Myra wasn't about to wait for the Shadow Priest to call out the start of the match. She quickly covered the few feet that was in between then and attempted to deliver a kick to Wagner's head. However, the military soldier managed to counter it just before he was hit.

The first minute of the fight consist of Myra on offense and Wagner on defense. During that time, Wagner noticed his opponent's dance-type moves and was mostly using her legs to deliver her move-sets. Soon, Wagner was able to grab her arm, turn her around, and got her in an arm lock, her back leaning onto his chest.

"Ah!" Myra cried out as she tried to get out of the lock. Wagner applied more pressure on the hold, but then Myra managed to kick back into his right shin. The pain that shot through him caused him to lose his grip on her arm.

The Sergeant held on to his leg, but still kept his eye on his opponent. He noticed the determination on Myra's face, then her stance. With her right arm and leg, she quickly bend her arm forward and brought her right leg across her left. Then, she spread them apart and repeated with her left arm and leg.

Capoeira, Wagner thought as he recognized the stance. Indeed he heard about the fighting style, but he never fought an opponent who used that style before.

While keeping her rhythm, Myra went straight back to Wagner. She attempted another kick to his shin, but he managed to block that as well. He then managed to grab her leg with both hands, but then Myra used her free leg, jumped off the ground with it, and landed a hard kick to his face. She landed back hands first as Wagner let out an 'oof!' and landed hard on his side.

Quickly, Myra managed to get herself on top of her opponent and pin his arms down. "You know," she whispered to him so that no one else could hear her. "Every time I look at you, I think you're getting bigger."

Oy, Wagner thought to himself while rolling his eyes. He knew that Myra was trying to distract him so that she was able to get the upper hand in the fight. He wasn't about to let that happen though.

With the widest grin he could muster, Wagner decided to play along and replied, "I really appreciate you admiring my good looks, beautiful."

The only response he got was a punch to the face, forcing his head to snap sideways. After a couple of more quickly punches, Wagner got back into his senses. He lifted his left foot up, placed it on Myra's stomach, and managed to push her off of him and sent her flying over and on to the ground over his head.

As the Sergeant got up, he realized that he almost fell for his opponent's mind games and felt anger with himself. With the anger coming in, yellow electric sparks began to cover his right hand.

Myra shook off the pain and sat up. She noticed Wagner's right hand and immediately got up.

"Keiyou Handou!" Myra cried out. She lifted her leg and performed a roundhouse kick in the air. As she did, green energy surrounded her leg, and with that, a boomerang-shaped projectile came out from her shin and quickly headed towards Wagner.

Wagner saw the incoming projectile and dodged out of the way, as did the audience behind him. The green energy passed through the corner between the main throne and one set of the stadium seats. Luckily, the projectile missed everyone and everything and disappeared just before it could hit the wall.

Damn it! Myra cried out in her head, but before she could recover from that, Wagner managed to punch her. She felt the shocks from his arm going through her and she felt paralyzed. All she could do is prepare for Wagner's next move.

"Rising Kick!" he called out. He jumped and performed two somersaults bringing himself and Myra about ten feet into the air.

Soon, Wagner landed safely back on the ground and Myra landed hard and falling into unconsciousness. After a brief moment, the Shadow Priest noticed that Myra wasn't getting up, so it got up itself from the throne.

"Winner: Wagner!" it called out. The audience clapped as it dawned on the Sergeant that he won the battle. He sighed to himself in relief and walked back to where his allies were.

"Great job, soldier!" Sonya cried out. Wagner only nodded as he sat back down.

"Hey," Cammy said with a smile. "I think she liked you."

"Uh huh," Wagner replied spitting his tongue out. It was then that he looked past her shoulder. For a brief moment, he noticed a female figure with shoulder-length blonde hair and wore a green attire. He couldn't make out the exact outfit because he was sitting down and everyone was blocking his view. He stood up, but by that time, she suddenly disappeared into the audience.

Cammy noticed the puzzled looked on her surrogate brother's face. "Is anything wrong?" she asked with concern.

Wagner heard her then. He quickly shook his head and sat back down. "I thought I saw someone… but it was just in my imagination…"

~~~

Outdoor Courtyard

Shang Tsung stood up from his throne as a fighter was quickly throne out of the ring. "Winner: Cody Travers!"

"Yeah!" Cody cried out in victory as the people around him clapped. However, the truth was that Cody was kind of disappointed by the results of his fight.

His opponent went by the name of Taint, who was a dhampir… half human, half vampire. Just by that status alone, Cody had thought that he was going to have a very worthy challenge. However, Taint only proved to Cody that he was nothing more than an amateur fighter.

It had to be under two minutes since the match began when Cody managed to throw him out of the ring with a Criminal Uppercut (which created a small tornado that lifted Taint up and out of the ring). He had the feeling that those clapping were the ones who were very relieved that the boring fight was quickly over.

Cody sighed to himself and returned to where Guy was. Along with him was Maki who had Sakura, Asuka, Mika, and Ibuki with her.

"Yay Cody!" cried out Asuka.

"Um, thanks," Cody replied as he stood next to his best friend. He then whispered so only Guy could hear. "Did Maki have to bring her new friends with her."

Guy shrugged to that. "You know what, she needs some female friends during our time here anyway. I'm sure she gets sick of us after a while."

"Maybe," Cody replied with a shrug just as Shang Tsung began to speak again.

"The next battle shall begin," the sorcerer announced. He then stayed silent for a moment in order to build up suspense for the watchers.

"Maki!" he called out then. Maki smiled, relieved that she was finally next to fight. She took out her batons and walked into the ring.

"Go Maki!" her new friends cried out. As she walked towards the middle, Maki then noticed the Lee siblings, Yun, Yin, and Yang, about a few feet back amongst the audience. In her head, she frowned to herself, realizing that she has not said hello to them since they arrived in Outworld. She decided to take the opportunity then, so she smiled and waved to them.

All three of them noticed the gesture and waved back. She waved to me! Yang cried out in his mind. He then realized what he thought and regained himself, but was thankful that he didn't end up saying that out loud.

It was then that Yin noticed something. "Um, Yang, why are you blushing?"

"Huh," Yang muttered as he turned his head to face his brother and sister. He felt his face turning hot then and cursed himself. "I, eh, it's really hot out, isn't it?"

"What are you talking about?" asked a surprised Yun. "It's practically freezing. I wish I bought a jacket with me."

"Yeah, the weather is perfect despite the purple sky," Yin replied. Then a thought came to her and she angrily asked, "You weren't thinking about Maki being nude, were you?"

"What?" Yang called out in shock.

He was then saved by the sorcerer when he called out the next opponent. "Master Christopher!"

After the announcement, a tall young man stepped into the ring. He wore nothing by a black speedo with black boots, elbow pads, and knee pads. His muscles were extremely well developed and Yin thought that she was going to faint in a second. That was until he showed off his cocky grin and began flexing his muscles to everyone. Some of the girls in the audience screamed for him in response.

Show off, Yin thought with a roll of her eyes. Then, she heard Yun cough loudly and could've swore that she heard him say, 'steroids' during the second cough.

Despite his muscles and baby face, Maki wasn't fazed at all by him. She had the impression that he was too cocky for his own good by the way he showed himself off to the audience. However, fighting him may be a different story. She would know soon enough.

The two of them exchanged glances and Maki had the feeling that something wasn't right. She quickly shook the thought out of her head and the two of them got into a fighting stance.

"Begin!" Shang Tsung called out after a brief moment.

Not wanting to wait any longer, Maki immediately jumped towards her opponent and aimed her batons at him. With a smirk, Master Christopher grabbed onto one of her batons and with all of his strength, he managed to throw her across the ring.

"Aahhh!" Maki cried out before landing in the sand. She quickly recovered, still holding on to her second baton, and got herself up. She noticed Master Christopher running towards her with her other baton. Immediately, Maki performed a high kick and managed to knock the weapon out of his hand.

"Nice kick, kitten," Maki heard him say before attempting a punch to her face. Maki immediately blocked that move, but then Master Christopher grabbed her arm and quickly turned her back towards him. He managed to wrap his arms around her abdomen and got her in a tight bear hug.

Despite the sheering pain of her opponent's grip, Maki tried her best to get out of it, despite the fact that he was a foot taller than her.

"That's right," Master Christopher sneered. "Struggle for me. I love it when women struggle."

"You sick bastard!" Maki growled. She lifted her free hand and managed to pinch him under his arm as hard as she could. Maki was relieved that the plan worked as Master Christopher growled in pain and let her out of the grip. Maki quickly jumped a few feet back from him to recover.

"Go Maki!" she heard her friends cry out. Just to hear that gave Maki more confidence that she would win this fight, despite the height and weight difference between her and her opponent.

I can do this, she thought with confidence.

It was then that Master Christopher managed to recovery from the pain in his arm and let out a roar before running towards Maki. He attempted various punches and kicks, but Maki was more prepared this time and managed to block them.

This went on for a minute until Master Christopher managed to duck down from one of Maki's punches and performed a sweep kick knocking his female opponent down. The sudden fall forced Maki to lose her grip on her other baton.

With his foot, Master Christopher forced Maki to roll over onto her stomach. Then, he laid on top of her, wrapped his arms underneath her own, then placed his hands behind her neck. Finding herself in another lock, Maki tried her best to get out of it.

"Is this all you can do is grapple on to people?" Maki growled.

Master Christopher smirked. "But you know you like to be grappled," he whispered close into her ear. Then, he grinded his body against her a little. The sleeze balls closest to view noticed this and began whistling.

In the audience, the Lee siblings watched in disgust. "I'd like to know how that jerk got into the tournament," said Yin.

"Who knows," replied Yun. "Probably some stupid friend of his invited him along or something."

Yang decided not to get involved in the conversation. A bit of anger filled within him. He had the urge to jump into the ring and beat the living daylights out of of Maki's opponent himself, but he had the feeling that he would be disqualified. Also, he felt that maybe Maki didn't want him to risk that either.

Surprisingly, Shang Tsung stood up and called out, "Enough of these games!"

Master Christopher looked up in surprise, not even realizing that he had let go of Maki. "I'm not playing any games, you old fool!" he cried out angrily.

Before the sorcerer could do anything about the mortal fool, Maki had grabbed her baton and bashed Master Christopher as hard as she could in the back of the head, immediately blacking him out. His unconscious body fell forward into the sand face first and he soon laid motionless.

Shang Tsung smirked a little. Maki took care of business for him for now. However, he was going to take care of Master Christopher later on tonight. "Winner: Maki!"

Some clapped, others whistled. Feeling humiliated, Maki grabbed her other baton and ran back towards her friends.

"Maki!" her female friends cried out noticing the tears that were developing in her eyes. Cody and Guy both walked up to either side of her to give her comfort.

"That jerk!" Maki cried out. "Why would he do that during a match?"

"Don't worry about him," said Guy. "He may be strong, but he'll never know honor."

"He's right," said Ibuki. "Honor is one that truly matters when you're a warrior."

Maki sighed a little. "Yeah... you're right."

That was when Yun, Yang, and Yin arrived. Maki smiled a little realizing the support she was getting.

"Are you all right, Maki?" asked a very concerned Yang.

It was then that Maki felt tears swelling in her eyes. "I am now, thank you."

"Let's get out of here," suggested Cody. Everyone agreed as the next battle began.

~~~

Underground Lair

"My, you're an interesting man," a woman in black ninja clothing spoke as she stepped into the ring. "You're indeed going to be a worthy challenge."

Her opponent, Vega Fabio De Cerna, turned to face her, revealing that he was wearing his infamous white mask in which he used to protect his face from damage. The woman before him was one that was beautiful, but knew by looks alone that she was a deadly warrior. Her dark eyes were filled with determination as she raised her kunais to get herself into a fighting stance. Vega raised his claw and got into his own stance.

Watching from his throne on a balcony, away from prying eyes, was Shao Kahn himself. He looked at both Vega and the girl who went by the name of Jackala (which he assumed was a female form of 'Jackal'). He sensed strong potentials in both fighters, though the truth was that only one of them will win this battle… and that one would be worthy to join his growing forces.

The battles in the underground lair were designed for fighters who Shao Kahn believed would be truly worthy of becoming his generals of his Outworld Forces. The fighters were randomly chosen and were called to the lair near sunset. A few worthy battles have already been displayed in front of him and the small audience.

However, Shao Kahn had the feeling that this next battle was going to be no ordinary one. Both fighters displayed the same drive… and even the same outlook, as the Emperor could sense. Whoever was going to win this battle was going to have the privilege to be a future General, whether they had the choice or not.

After that thought, Shang Tsung (long finished with the battles in the Courtyard) stood up from his own throne and called out, "Begin!"

Without wasting any more time, both Vega and Jackala jumped after each other in what seemed like unimaginable speed. Once they were less a foot away, Vega bounced off the ground and flew high into the air and towards the only wall covering the four corners of the ring. Jackala was a bit confused after that, looking around to see where her opponent jumped off to.

Vega bounced off the wall and headed back down towards the unsuspecting Jackala, claws aimed and ready to taste blood. Jackala turned to face him just in the neck of time. She quickly moved over that he would only pass her. In the process, she slashed a kunai in the air, manage to cut Vega a little in the arm.

However, the pain that came from the cut didn't faze Vega much… only as long as she didn't aim at his 'beautiful' face.

"Not bad," the female ninja said. "You're much quicker than I thought."

Vega let out a small, high-pitched laugh. "And you are much more beautiful than I thought." He then lifted his claw in the air once again. "However, that will not stop me from slicing you into pieces."

At that, they charged towards each other again. They slashed their weapons at one another only having the other either dodging it or blocking the weapon from contacting their skin.

As the two continued back and forth, Shao Kahn nearly smirked underneath his helmet. He officially declared in his mind that out of all the battles he had seen so far, this took the cake. He even thought that the future battles afterwards may not live up to this one.

But whatever was to happen, he would have the winner as his General… one way or the other.

The sound of metal hitting metal along with some grunts from the fighters were continued to be heard in the room. Another minute went by before Jackala made a mistake. As she aimed her kunai at her male opponent's torso, Vega lifted his claw in the opposite direction and managed to deep cut Jackala's cheek, blood immediately staining on both her face and his claw.

In shock, the ninja shrieked as the pain shot into her. She quickly backed away in order to recover for a moment. She expected Vega to come and attack her, but instead, she heard him chuckle from the other side of the ring. She looked up in time to see him take off his mask, his face now containing a sadistic grin.

"It was about time I got the chance to taste your sweet blood." And with that the matador lifted his claw to his face, then lick some of the blood off the left blade. Jackala stared in disgust as he tasted her own blood.

After that, Vega stared at Jackala and licked his lips. "Sweet, just as I thought."

For a moment, Jackala breathed in short breaths before letting out an angry shriek and charged towards Vega once again. Because of her sudden rage, her focus on the battle decreased, giving Vega a big advantage.

She swung her kunais violently, but Vega dodged them like a fly and a handful of times, he managed to cut her up in her arms, legs, torso, and back. He was careful not to puncture her, knowing that he may end up killing, which was, unfortunately for him, against the rules of The Blood Tournament.

After a while more of fighting, Jackala felt herself getting weaker by the second from the loss of blood. She tried to focus, but the more she did so, the blurrier her vision got.

Vega figured that the end was near. He quickly rolled forward on the ground and jabbed his claw forward leaving another wound in Jackala's left shoulder. The force pushed her back a few feet and she landed on the back into the ground.

The matador stood up as the ninja struggled to do the same. After nearly a minute, Jackala finally fell into unconsciousness with her blood starting to cover the ground.

Once he was sure, Shang Tsung stood up. "Winner: Vega!"

The small audience clapped for the winner. Now Shao Kahn felt the smirk creeping up to his lips as he eyed his winner.

"Excellent," he whispered out loud to himself. "He's indeed worthy to join me."

Even so, he decided not to approach Vega right away. He first wanted to see if there were any others as worthy as Vega was…

Chapter Text

Dungeons of Shao Kahn's Fortress

The sharp sound of a whip hitting against skin was heard, following by a long, agonizing scream. Shang Tsung took pride in listening to those sounds, knowing for a fact that the tortured soul of this being will soon be his own.

As the sorcerer walked down the dark, narrow hall through the dungeon, he looked down at his hands. He could barely see them in the dark, but he was able to tell that his hands were getting frail by aging.

Damn it! he growled in his mind. Even with the amount of souls I collected in one day, it still doesn't effect anything. Perhaps these new souls are more fragile than I thought. We'll see about that!

He soon reached a large cell in the dungeon and placed a hand in his pocket. The monster Berserk was in the cell. Shang Tsung and the other warriors and servants of Shao Kahn were told to leave Berserk in the cell 'until his time came.' More than likely, the Emperor wanted Berserk to 'enjoy his time' before he was placed in the tournament.

The monster held a whip in his hand and brought it down to the male human who was being hung by his wrists in mid-air, feeling the wrath of Berserk's insanity. Shang Tsung wasn't sure of the other things that he had done to the human, but it was better that it was left unspoken, especially once he noticed how both legs were snapped in half. The femurs had pierced through the skin and blood dripped from the wounds.

After the next whip, the person's face was shown in a small light, revealing one of the losing opponents from yesterday's tournament… Master Christopher.

Shang Tsung's own servants managed to capture the cocky fighter in the early hours of the night and was immediately sent to this cell, where Berserk began his pleasure of torture. The mortal had called the sorcerer an old fool and was now going to pay for it.

Shang Tsung then took his hand out of his pocket, holding the Bloody Eye medallion in his hand. "That's enough Berserk."

Berserk stopped and looked over at the sorcerer. The red blood tear glowed a little and it was as though the monster was in a trance as he looked at the artifact. Then, he backed away into a dark corner, trapped under the sorcerer's command.

Master Christopher looked up and saw Shang Tsung on the other side of the bars. The cocky fighter glared at him. "When I get out of here, everyone in this tournament will know the truth."

Shang Tsung let out a menacing laugh. "And to think you called me an 'old fool.' Well, my friend… it turns out that you are the fool. No one insults me and gets away with it! And as for you 'getting out of here'… I 'm sorry to disappoint you."

With that, the sorcerer brought his free hand out. Fear fell over Master Christopher's eyes, not knowing what was to come. Then, he felt like he was pulled forward and he watched as his very soul was pulled out of him. His whole body immediately turned blue as his soul screamed for mercy until it was sucked through the sorcerer's outstretched hand, trapping him for all eternity.

Shang Tsung looked down at his hand. They were no longer frail as they were a moment ago. "Much better."

He turned around and headed back out, releasing the magic hold on Berserk at the same time. Shang Tsung smirked as he heard a loud roar from within the cell, followed by the sound of tearing flesh, muscle, and bone…

~~~

The Main Palace

After some training, Guy, Cody, and Maki decided to get lunch. As the trio walked over to the buffet table, they noticed many of the fighters there either getting lunch themselves or have already sat down to enjoy the meal.

"I wonder if any of these guys won yet," said Cody low enough so that only Guy and Maki were to hear.

"We'll know by round two," replied Guy.

Maki chuckled slightly. "Hey, look two tables down. That guy over there made his goatee into a rat's tail."

Both Guy and Cody looked over at where Maki had pointed out. Indeed, the unknown fighter had his goatee tied into a thin, long braid that ended at mid-chest. However, aside from that, he looked menacing by his well-developed muscles and very tall height, even when he was sitting down.

"Don't let the tail fool you," Guy mentioned. "You have to worry about guys like him."

He pointed about four tables away. Cody and Maki turned towards there and noticed a blond man with a stern look. He was just as tall as the guy with the rat tail. Despite wearing a loose white shirt and blue hakama pants, one was able to tell that he had well-developed muscles.

"Remember my friend," Cody said. "Even guys like him can be easy to beat. Even guys like… that guy… can fool you."

Cody pointed to the next table over. Guy and Maki took a look and saw a man in a cowboy hat wearing a business suit. Sitting across from him was a midget also wearing a business suit.

"Hey boss," they heard the midget say. He had a high pitched raspy voice that could be heard all around the large room. "When do you go in the tournament again?"

The man in the cowboy hat looked up at his assistant looking a bit annoyed. "Soon, Jones," he answered with a heavy Southern accent. "Very soon."

After the small conversation, Guy looked at Cody. "Well, you may be right. Anyone can fool you."

Cody grinned then. "So boss, when do you have your match?"

Guy looked at his best friend a bit oddly. "Two days Cody… two days."

"Oh goodie," said Maki with a smile. Then she sniffed a little. "Mmm, the food smells good. I can't-"

It was then that a large person bumped into Guy nearly knocking him down. The Bushin ninja growled in his mind as he managed to straighten himself up. He then looked at who bumped into him and became surprised. He instantly recognized him by the blue helmet alone…

Sodom.

Cody and Maki recognized him too and managed to back away a couple of feet believing that a fight may go down. Instead, the two had a stare down, though it was more of a stare up for Guy due to his height. People around them stopped to see if the same would go on as well.

After some time, Sodom finally spoke. "Sugu ni, wareware wa tatakau." And with that, the large man went around Guy and left. Guy was a bit surprised that his long-time enemy did not try to fight with him at that moment. Every time they usually met at the very second, they would start that battle.

Not knowing Japanese too well, Cody looked at Maki. "What did he say?"

Maki sighed. "Soon, we will battle," she translated.

~~~

The Forest

After watching a few matches in the courtyard, Ashrah made the decision to excuse herself from watching the rest of the tournament and decided to take a walk through the forests of Outworld.

She was thankful that once her match began, she would be able to hold her own with her Ba Gua and Chou Jaio fighting styles. However, she still had a bit of a longing for her kriss weapon.

It's back in the Netherrealm, she thought. But I refuse to go back to that evil place, even to get it back…

She had decided to go on without her weapon and had hoped to find a new weapon while she was in Outworld. Speaking of Outworld, Ashrah briefly remembered how she got into The Blood Tournament to begin with;

After she was brought to this world, Ashrah had noticed a large group of people walking into a golden palace. Still unaware of her current location, the former demon had hoped that she would find answers inside.

There, Ashrah got more than she bargained for. Not only did she find out that she was in the realm of Outworld, but there was also the discovery of The Blood Tournament while eating her meal. She wasn't sure what to think of the tournament until she found out that the winner would be the owner of the most powerful artifact in all the realms.

Ashrah decided to sign up for the tournament then. As a newly purified person, she wished to test herself to see how strong she was in this new world. Plus, she believed that having the medallion in her hands could help her in the future. How? She wasn't sure of it yet.

As the former demon's thoughts lingered, they were suddenly interrupted when she heard a softly heard crunch coming from what sounded like a person stepping on leaves. Her dark eyebrows raised quickly and she turned around to see who was behind her. However, there was no one there.

Ashrah began to get suspicious. She knew that someone was nearby. Even if they were invisible, they weren't about to get away that easily.

"I know you're out there!" she called out. "How about revealing yourself and getting this over with!"

The only reply was silence… too silent to her comfort. She turned to face forward and walked in a slower pace, prepared for anything, or anyone, who was near.

Unknown to her, a black mist suddenly appeared about five feet behind her. It lingered for a moment before it quickly formed into a human shape. The figure's glowing white eyes glared at Ashrah and silently went after her.

Despite the stealth, Ashrah was able to sense it's presence. She quickly turned around and landed a kick on the side of the figure's abdomen. It didn't fall, but it was definitely caught off guard. Ashrah stepped back a couple of feet to get a better look at her attacker… and immediately, she recognized who it was…

"Noob Saibot!" she cried out in surprise. The last time she had seen him… she killed him!

Noob looked up at the purified woman and laughed sadistically. "Did you really expect to kill me that easily back in the Netherrealm? You seemed to have forgotten that I am-"

"A wraith?" Ashrah finished as she got into a fighting stance. "Yeah, like I haven't heard that from you before."

Noob snorted a bit at Ashrah's lame comment. "And you should know by now that only a fool would repeat their actions, even after they learned the truth."

"But that won't stop me from destroying you again."

"I don't think that'll be happening again." With that, Noob reached behind his back towards the handle of the sword which was placed in it's scabbard. He then quickly drew the sword out and placed in front of him. "Do you remember this?"

Ashrah almost gasped loudly as her very own kriss was held in front of her. She remembered now… she had lost her grip on the sword, which was still impaled in Noob at the time of her descent to Outworld. She felt a bit heartbroken that the sword that purified her was now in the hands of evil.

"I have no need for that sword anymore," she partially lied.

It was then that Noob quickly took a step forward and swung the sword at Ashrah. She managed to step back before it cut her. But then, she noticed a black energy floating out of the sword. Not wanting to know what it would do to her, she got out of it's way as it disappeared in mid-air.

Noob chuckled. "I'm sure you have noticed a slight… 'difference' in your precious sword. You see, I had cast a spell upon it especially for you. Whenever I use it against you, what it did for you in the Netherrealm will do the opposite here in Outworld."

Anger filled Ashrah as she heard this. "No! I will not return to that evil place!"

Noob attempted to swing the sword at her again, but with quickly thinking, Ashrah threw her hands forward, placing the edge of her palms together in front of her. A ball of light grew quickly in her hands and was shot out, leaving a trail of glowing white glitter behind it. Because of the small range between them, Noob didn't have time to react to the attack and once again was hit, this time being knocked a few feet back and landed hard against a tree.

The distraction gave Ashrah just enough time to escape. She wanted to continue her battle with Noob, to destroy him once again and hoped to put him away for good. However, this was not only the second time she would do this… but Noob held her sword, which was now tainted with evil. The only thing she could do right now is to devise a plan and better prepare herself.

Noob watched as the woman ran off. He narrowed his eyes as she disappeared behind the trees. You're time will come, the wraith thought. You cannot escape from me.

~~~

Indoor Arena

"Winner: Adon!" the Shadow Priest cried out. The people in the audience, which was a bit smaller than yesterday, clapped for the winner of the last match, the Muay Thai fighter Adon.

Adon looked down at his opponent, who was knocked out unconscious, thanks to a Jaguar kick. He was a large, dark-skinned man and was thought to be a promising fighter. However, he only proved to be nothing more than a jobber, easily beaten in less than a minute. The usually cocky grin that appeared on Adon's face during the match was now replaced by a disappointing frown with the inner edge of his eyebrows pointing down.

"This is supposed to be a tournament with the best in the universe?" Adon asked out loud. "Pathetic! No one will ever beat the Muay Thai God!"

With that, the Thailand native walked out of the ring. As he did, he noticed his former master towering over the rest of the viewers. With his single eye, Sagat stared down at him blankly. Adon stopped for a moment to give him the same blank expression.

Although he had known Sagat for years, Adon could never shake the disgusted chill that went down his spine every time he saw that single eye. He only made him want to puke.

Without a word, Adon ended the stare and began walking off, pretending that his former master was no longer standing there. He had better things to do anyways.

As he watched his ex-pupil leave, Sagat laughed in his mind. Adon will never learn…

To the former Muay Thai champion, the current and future losers were nothing more than that… losers. He also had the feeling that Adon would not be able to handle Round two.

~~~

Cave Area

Night had fallen with day two of Round One of the tournament over for the day. Everyone in the cave were doing various things. This included Asuka, Sakura, Mika, Maki, and Ibuki hanging out in Asuka's 'room.' Despite the cool air outside, the inside of the cave nearly felt as if they were being roasted. Since they believed that no one would peak, the five girls either had they bottom or top garments off with only either their bra or panties showing.

"So, how do you think today's tournament went?" asked Mika.

"I know it felt good," replied Asuka. "Because I won today."

"Yeah, you really kicked butt," mentioned Sakura. "I can't wait until I'm up in a couple of days."

"You know what's even greater?" asked Maki lying back on her blanket on the floor. "I've come to notice the good looking guys of the competition, especially since you all kept pointing them out to me."

"It's funny," said Asuka. "My father always taught me to not get distracted when it came to these things. I just can't help it sometimes."

"Speaking of your father," said Mika. "How is the reconstruction of your dojo?"

Asuka smiled. "They began rebuilding as soon as I gave father the money you lent me. He believed that it would be done by the time I come back from this tournament. Seriously Mika, I don't know how to repay you."

"There's no need," Mika answered. "You needed it more than I did."

"Hey!" Maki suddenly exclaimed. "Going back to 'good looking boys,' I noticed, Asuka, how you've been all starry-eye every time you see my friends Cody and Guy."

Asuka placed a hand on her left cheek and blushed. "Sorry, I can't help it."

"Trust me, they're not interested in dating right now."

A big grin appeared on Asuka's face. "Oh, you mean they're g-"

"NO!" Maki cried out as the other girls chuckled. "I mean, they're still trying to get over… past lovers."

"Oh I see now."

A grin also appeared on Ibuki's face as she looked at Maki. "Hey Maki, after you fought that jerk yesterday, I think Yang's concern for you came off as more than just a friend."

Maki gave the school ninja an odd look. "Why do you say so?"

Ibuki shrugged. "Just the way he said it and the way he looked at you."

"That doesn't mean anything," Maki answered. "He was just concerned, that's all."

"So, any other cute guys?" asked Asuka.

"Too many to just name one," replied Mika.

"Same here," said Sakura.

"Hey, what happened with your 'bump in' with Jin?" asked Ibuki.

"He's cute," Sakura replied. "But I haven't really seen him since then. Last time I saw him was last night at dinner, but he left as soon as we got there."

"That's too bad," said Asuka. "But it doesn't matter, he's not my type anyways."

It was then that silence fell between the five girls, unsure of what else to talk about now.

Meanwhile outside, Kilik, Xianghua, and Maxi had just finished off sparring together in the beach area just near the cave. Placing their weapons back in their respective places, they sat on a large fallen log to rest before their walked back to the cave.

"That was fun," Xianghua announced as she sat between both men.

"You say that every time," replied Maxi. He then took out one of his nunchakus and swung one end of it around a little.

"But it's true. I always have fun sparring with you two."

It was then that they spotted both Chun Li and Lei Wulong coming over to the area. They each wore their fighting attires and obviously came here to train.

"Hey you two," greeted Kilik.

"Hey," replied Lei. "You don't mind if we spar here, do you?"

"Not at all," answered Maxi. "As a matter of fact, you don't mind if we watch, do you?"

"That's fine," Chun Li said with a small smile. "I like having a small audience around, especially when I know that I'll beat my opponent."

"Now don't jump ahead of yourself yet," Lei cautioned her.

Chun Li quickly shot her tongue out at her Interpol partner, then got into a fighting stance. "Let's get the show on the road."

"You got it." Then, Lei got into his own fighting stance.

The stare down between the two lasted no more than a second. Lei let out a quick yell before charging after Chun Li. He lift his leg upward in hopes of landing a kick, but the female detective defended herself against the move.

"Too slow!" Chun Li called out as she quickly backed away. Lei tried going after her with more kicks, but Chun Li blocked every one of them.

As the two Interpol agents continued their sparring session, Xianghua's attention on the training were drawn away and were now concentrating on the two men who sat on either side of her. She had almost forgot about her crush on them due to the excitement of the tournament. They were sitting too close for an average person's comfort, but Xianghua didn't care. The thought of kissing them alone made her grow a bit hot and she felt her face flush.

The thoughts continued and Xianghua grew hotter by the minute and she moved forward to adjust herself. However, when she did, she ended up falling face forward into the ground with a loud 'oof!'

Lei ended up seeing Xianghua fall forward. "Are you all right?" he called out but then he was met by a kick to the face, causing him to fall back.

Chun Li was confused by why Lei suddenly stopped fighting, but then when she saw Kilik and Maxi getting up to check on a fallen Xianghua, she understood why.

"Eh, sorry Lei," Chun Li said as she helped her friend up. Then, they walked over to their three new friends to see what was going on.

"Xianghua?" Kilik asked. "Are you all right?"

Xianghua managed to get on her knees, a big grin on her face causing everyone confusion. "Um, yeah, I'll be fine, Kilik."

Less than a mile away, Cammy had decided that it was the best time to take a bath at the hot springs. She had just won the very last fight of the night and was quite proud of herself. However, winning had a bit of a price of her. She felt sore all over her body from the long fight against her strong opponent. The one thing the Delta Red member was looking forward to now was a nice hot bath.

She, along with everyone else, had only been in Outworld for three whole days now, including today. Things seemed to be a bit slow for the tournament at the moment, but she figured that was because the best of the best have yet to be revealed.

Soon, she reached the pathway to the hot springs. However, two signs leading to two paths both say 'Hot Springs' on them.

Great, the former Shadaloo doll thought sighing. She had almost forgotten that there were going to be two hot springs. Why, she wasn't sure. Perhaps, with so many people at the tournament, they were going to be more than one hot springs. She truly wished that Rose and Raiden were able to explain themselves better.

But wouldn't they have the men and women separated? she thought.

Either way, no one was really going to be at the hot springs at this hour. She decided to take the path to the right and headed up the hill.

The trot up the hill only took a minute before she reached an area surrounded by a tall wooden fence. The door to the circular area was slightly open. Cammy pushed the door more and entered.

When she stepped in, Cammy was able to feel the heat coming from the springs. It felt relaxing to her and she was looking even more forward to stepping into the water.

In the spot she entered was planked with more wood, but this time, there were large wooden cubby holes, obviously for storing personal belongings. Cammy picked the closest one to her and one that was convenient for her height. She took off her shoes and clothing, then wrapped a large towel around her before undoing her double braids leaving her blonde hair down.

Cammy was then ready to enter the springs. As she went through another door, she heard someone just coming out of the water. She was a bit surprised by the noise because the area had been so quiet. The woman must've been the only one there before Cammy's arrival and was probably now finishing up.

It was then that she spotted the person who just came out of the water. However, the person wasn't a woman as Cammy expected…

Cammy gasped in a bit of both surprise and embarrassment as she immediately recognized one of the people staying at the cave with her. His name was Jin and there he was, standing there in all of his glory.

Unfortunately for Cammy, Jin had heard her gasp and quickly turned to see who was there. He was a caught by surprise himself and stood still, not knowing what to do.

Oh blimey! Cammy cried out in her mind as she looked at Jin. She felt her face burn hot with embarrassment. I have the feeling that I may have entered the men's hot springs by mistake!

Great, Jin thought himself as his face also turned red. She's seeing me in all my glory…

"I, I'm so sorry!" was all Cammy could muster before running off from Jin's sight. That was so embarrassing! I hope he doesn't look at me weird after that…

Jin sighed after Cammy disappeared, not sure what to think about it. He quickly wrapped a towel around his waist and, after a brief moment, walked off to get his belongings.

Back in the cave area, Guile stood in front of Sonya, Alex, Kenshi, and Wagner while a fire were on behind him outside. He had already talked to Chun Li, Lei, and Delta Red about the mission and now he was going to give the same lecture to his main team.

"All right," the Colonel said. "You all know what you are here for. To crack down on any unusual activities that may go on at the tournament."

Wagner sighed a little. "To me, it seems like a normal tournament."

"Not really," replied Sonya. "I assume you don't know the history of Outworld."

"Only that it's another realm."

"More than that," Alex said while brushing a strand of hair from her face. “Even I didn't believe it for a while, but the more stories I heard, the more I believed it.”

"Outworld has been known in the past for it's thirst for the domination of all realms," Sonya mentioned. "Their main purpose is destruction and slavery. However, Earth happened to be one of the last remaining realms free from their control. When they tried to take over our realm, we fought back. A handful of fighters, myself included, managed to defend Earth and free many of the other captured realms. Shang Tsung himself had been serving Shao Kahn, the Emperor at the time. We still believe Kahn is alive and still the Emperor and is most likely in hiding."

"Perhaps he may show up after the tournament," Wagner suggested.

"That's a possibility," Guile agreed. "During this tournament, we should take every precaution possible, even the ones that seem out of place. With everyone's knowledge, including Rose and Raiden's, we'll be able to discover the real purpose behind the tournament."

"But what if there never was a purpose?" the young Sergeant asked.

"But then why would they offer what is rumored to be the most powerful artifact in existence?" Alex asked.

A thought came to the Colonel then. "Now that you mentioned the medallion, that does seem suspicious. Why would they just want to give away such an artifact to the winner of the tournament? Wouldn't they have kept it for themselves or do they really have plans for the winner of the tournament? All we know about it that it's powerful and could cause chaos if it ended up in the wrong hands, but even that's the only thing Raiden and Rose know about."

"Just that alone tells me that something is indeed up," the blonde Captain suggested. "By the later rounds we'll have to warn the winners at the time. That way they know that anything could happen. And even if they don't believe us, at least they'll keep it in mind, I hope."

"Surely by then, we'll know more information," Alex added.

Kenshi, who was silent for most of the meeting, cleared his throat. "I suggest that the best way to crack down on all of this is to study up on the artifact itself. For all we know, there could be more to it than even what's commonly known. It may not be as powerful as everyone says it is."

"Kenshi's right," Guile agreed. "Getting to know the artifact is the best possible way to get around the truth. The only thing is that we need to find someone who knows the artifact… someone who is on our side."

"I have the feeling that only the holders know," Alex sighed.

"And you're not making me join them just to find out!" Wagner exclaimed.

Sonya laughed. "Don't worry Wagner, no one has to do that."

"All right," Guile began to conclude. "So at least we began the first step in this investigation. And remember, if you find any suspicious information on the medallion, Shadaloo, the Black Dragon, or the tournament, report to Sonya, Wolfman, or I immediately."

"Great," Wagner said, relieved that the meeting was over. He then looked at Kenshi and remembered a question he was going to ask him during their first night in Outworld. "Hey Kenshi, I've been meaning to ask… what's with the blindfold? Unless it's see through, how can you see through that thing?"

Guile, Sonya, and Alex looked at the young soldier oddly. "You mean you haven't figured it out yet?" Alex exclaimed in surprise.

"And clearly you weren't paying attention to Rose's speech on the ship back on Earth," added Sonya.

Kenshi quietly sighed and lifted up his blindfold, revealing his eyes. There were no indications of iris or pupils, just white with a tint of blue where the irises should have been. And that was enough for Wagner to let out a quick yell and jump back a bit.

"Oh one other thing," Guile said suddenly. "Wagner, I assume that you forgot that you packed the rest of your jeans in my bag, since you mentioned that you didn't have room in your suitcase. Come pick them up when we get back inside."

Wagner glared at his mentor as Sonya stiffened a chuckle next to him. So that's where they went… He then looked over at Kenshi. "Sorry man. I didn't even give it a thought… the fact that you're... well..."

The swordsman simply nodded before shifting his blindfold back over his eyes.

Not too far from them, Ken and Julia had just finished sparring and decided to go inside for the night. However, before they did that, Julia had wanted to make some decaffeinated tea that she brought with her to the realm. She took with her three cups (in case someone came by and wanted some), a kettle that Rose provided, and a portable gas stove that Yin Lee provided.

Ken looked at the equipment oddly. "Camping is not the same anymore. I understand Yin with a portable gas stove because her brothers tell me that she loves cooking… but a kettle? Rose must've known what we all like to eat and drink."

Julia laughed a little as she placed the kettle filled with water over the small fire on the stove. "I know, it's funny. I brought my own tea bags over thinking that I would just put hot water from the sink straight into my cup. This is more neat anyways."

They talked for a few moments before the kettle started whistling. Julia then shut the stove off, removed the kettle and poured herself and Ken some tea into their cups.

Ken took a small sip from the cup. "Wow, this is good. Did you add your own honey or was it part of the tea."

"Part of the tea," Julia replied before sipping her own tea.

It was then that Ken turned his head slightly. About twenty feet away, he noticed his best friend Ryu meditating quietly under a large tree. A thought came to him and he tried his best to stop the mischievous grin that attempted to creep upon his face.

"Hey Julia," he said. "Pour some tea into that third cup. I want to introduce you to someone."

"Um, okay," Julia said picking up the kettle. As she poured the extra tea, Ken got himself up and walked over to Ryu.

Ryu was well known to meditate through anything and will not even flinch even if there was an earthquake. However, there was only one way to get Ryu out of his meditation. Ken lifted his foot and went to go kick him in the shoulder. Immediately, Ryu lifted his arm and quickly blocked the kick.

"Time to wake up," Ken said. Ryu smirked as he heard his childhood friend's voice. He then opened his eyes, revealing a set of dark brown irises, and looked up at Ken.

"Must you always do that?" Ryu asked.

"You know I like to bug you when you're serious," Ken laughed. "Besides, I want you to meet someone."

It was then that he noticed a young woman holding two cups in each hand coming up to them. Her long dark hair was pulled back in a single ponytail and she wore khaki pants, brown flip flops, and a blue shirt.

When she was a foot away, Ken looked over at her. "It's funny. We're all staying in the same cave, but I never officially introduced the two of you to each other. Julia, I'd like to introduce you to my best friend Ryu. Ryu, this is Julia, the first person I met during this tournament."

Julia smiled at Ryu. "Ken mentioned you to me a few times. It's nice to finally meet you."

"Nice to meet you too," Ryu answered.

The young woman began bending down while keeping her torso straight. "Would you like some-"

Suddenly, Julia lost her balance and fell sideways. Her own tea fell to the side as well, but unfortunately, the other cup fell towards Ryu, it's contents spilled onto the top part of his gi. Ryu was caught by surprise and immediately rolled over, then stood up.

Ken wasn't sure whether to laugh or stare in horror. He then got his senses back and helped Julia onto her feet. "You all right?"

Julia sighed. "I'm fine." She then quickly looked over at Ryu. "Are you all right? That stuff didn't burn you did it? I'm so sorry, I'm so clumsy!"

Ryu waved a hand. "It's all right. Actually, I should thank you. This gi needed to be washed anyways." With that, he undid the black belt that was around his waist, then slipped the gi off his shoulders. Julia immediately felt her face flush a bit as she stared at his well-developed torso.

Ken laughed. "Tell me about it. I don't think you've washed that thing since we last saw each other."

Ryu chose to ignore him as he turned his head to Julia. "Well, I should go rest for the night. I'll see you around. Nice to meet you." He then turned around and began walking back to the cave.

Julia sighed to herself. What a way to make a first impression…

Back inside the cave, Raiden has been relaxing in the 'lounge' area with a drink in his hand while sitting on a couch. Things have been quiet most of the day with no strange activities going on. As a matter of fact, that was the very thing frustrating him. Although some of his chosen mortals are working to help investigate unusual activities, he was beginning to grow impatient because the search for answers about the powerful medallion and it's holders were going slower than normal.

I really hope I didn't relinquish my God status for nothing, he thought while sipping his drink.

It was then that the former Thunder God heard footsteps entering the lounge. Raiden sighed, realizing who just came in. "Good evening, Rose."

Rose folded her arms in front of her. "Enjoying your liquor?"

Raiden smirked, looking down at the Outworld liquor he took from the palace a few hours ago. "You know, even the chosen ones will be doing this as well."

Rose grunted. "But you are the one leading them! Don't you think you can be a little more responsible than that?"

"Oh jeez, you're telling me that I can't kick back while everything is calm at the moment? Besides, I'm a God, I can't get drunk no matter how much I drink!"

The soul psychic sighed, then glared at Raiden. "Well, I'm not here to argue with you right now. As a matter of fact, I'm here because Yun lost his hat today and was wondering where it went. I believe I found it."

Raiden sighed and took Yun's hat off from his own head. "That's what the boy deserved for believing that there were vending machines in Outworld. Shame, it's a nice hat too. You can give it back to him now."

With that, Rose grabbed the hat and began turning around. An idea quickly came to Raiden and he smiled mischievously, knowing that Rose was the type who would be easy to rile up. He quickly grabbed his staff, turned himself around, and managed to poke Rose's back with it.

Rose gasped in surprised, then quickly turned to Raiden in anger. "You bastard!" she cried out. She suddenly grabbed an empty mug and threw it at him.

"Hehe," Raiden chuckled. He then surrounded himself with electricity and disappeared just before the mug hit him, which instead crashed into the floor.

That idiot! Rose cried out in her mind. She then noticed a half empty bottle of wine on the coffee table. She glanced around to make sure that no one was around. After a moment, she grabbed the bottle, hid it under her coat, and quietly left the room.

~~~

Palace Sleeping Quarters

The medallion must be destroyed, even at the cost of my life…

Yoshimitsu thought of the Bloody Eye medallion as he quietly meditated in his room. Aside from those holding the artifact, he realized that he was the only participant of the tournament who knew the truth. He was able to see how fooled the fighters were, even the ones with psychic powers.

The Manji clan leader had decided to choose not to reveal the truth to anyone just yet. He knew that if he did, chaos would ensue and the fighters would most likely only destroy themselves. At the same time, he knew he had to reveal everything before the final round was over. He had the feeling that the current wielders were devising some sort of plan. What it was, he wasn't sure of.

Everyone here has been deceived. They only know the powers the medallion has to offer. They do not know what the wielders will do with it, nor do they know that it will eventually do what it has done to me…

It was then that he heard his window open. Yoshimitsu stayed still, realizing that an intruder came in. The intruder managed to slowly get through the window, obviously unaware that Yoshimitsu was in the room.

The intruder ended up dropping an empty bag and when he went to go pick it up, a green glowing katana was suddenly placed an inch from his neck. Fear fell over him at he stared at the katana's owner.

"Why do you enter?" he demanded.

"I, I'm sorry!" the intruder cried out. "I, I thought no one was in the room-"

"I don't believe you. You have come to kill me, have you?"

"Y... yes…" the intruder admitted.

With a quick swift of the sword, the intruder's neck was cut open and he fell forward to the ground dead. Yoshimitsu snorted as he put his bloody katana back in his scabbard. He then sat back down in his meditating position. "With my speculations of this tournament, I have the feeling that I granted you more mercy than you thought."

It was then that the sound of a distant cry was heard. Yoshimitsu quickly turned around, but no one was there. However, when he looked down at his dead foe, he was surprised to see that his skin had suddenly turned blue…

Chapter Text

Day two of round one of The Blood Tournament came. Warriors who were fighting today trained themselves, prepared for their matches, and hoped to win. But it would only be half of those whose wishes of winning today's match that would be granted.

People gathered around the courtyard, waiting for the first match to begin. They knew since two days ago that the first would start once the host of the tournament, whether it be Shang Tsung or a Shadow Priest, settled themselves on the throne and called out the first two fighters to face each other.

One of the people fighting today was Seong Mi-na. She stood amongst the watchers slightly leaning against her naginata, bored out of her mind. It was unfortunate, but due to a slight stomach virus (most likely from the fish served last night in the dining quarters), Hwang was unable to watch her battle. She felt disappointed, but at the same time, she didn't have to worry about getting a lecture if she did something wrong (whether she lost or not).

Mi-na sighed to herself as she daydreamed. She and Hwang shared a room in the palace and slept in separate beds (which she sure he was happy about considering her bad sleeping habits like rolling around a lot to get comfortable and drooling on her pillows in her sleep). Aside from that, it hasn't been a bad stay and they had enjoyed two days' worth of watching the tournament. And now she was up next today. Hwang, however, wasn't up until tomorrow.

Hopefully he doesn't throw up on his opponent tomorrow, Mi-na thought feeling a bit amused by the imagination.

It was then that Shang Tsung showed up, causing the watchers and fighters to fall silent. The sorcerer immediately sat down in his throne with two masked guards standing on either side of him.

Mi-na stared up at Shang Tsung. She had heard rumors about him in the palace, some positive, but it was mostly negative. She remembered the voices of two strangers who spoke about Shang Tsung;

"He is a man of great power. He is capable of great things."

"Don't believe such things. I heard that he secretly takes the souls of great warriors and tortures them for eternity, as long as he remains alive."

"I don't believe that. He has much honor and no one would do such a thing."

"Don't believe everything you hear."

Mi-na wasn't sure which side to believe. Sure, Shang Tsung seemed like someone with honor, but even those with honor could lack compassion. Mi-na decided to stay neutral on the subject until she heard the truth from someone who really knew who he was.

"Welcome to Day Three of Round One of The Blood Tournament!" the sorcerer announced. "The first match shall begin." He stayed silent for a moment until he announced the first of the two fighters of the first match. "Midnight!"

A man dressed in full black ninja suit jumped into the ring, a six-foot staff in hand. To Mi-na, he was nothing more than a generic ninja, standing only a few inches taller than herself. He scanned the audience with his dark brown eyes, wondering who his opponent would be.

Soon, Shang Tsung announced the next fighter. "Seong Mi-na!"

Mi-na was surprised to hear her named called out so soon. However, she was more prepared for the fight. She looked at Midnight and smirked. He'll be easy to take down.

The two looked at each other and Midnight bowed to her in respect. Mi-na followed with a bow as well to show her respect, never taking her eyes off of him.

"You may begin!" Shang Tsung called out. Mi-na and Midnight stared at each other for a moment before slowly getting into their stances. They had nearly the same stance with only their feet placed in different positions. They then placed their weapons in front of themselves. Ironically, their weapons crisscrossed into an X and were only less than an inch apart.

Soon, Midnight pulled back and attempted his first strike with his staff. Mi-na caught this in time and blocked the incoming attack. For a moment, Midnight was on offense, forcing Mi-na on her guard and backing up a bit.

Then, Midnight made a last strike, which once again hit Mi-na's weapon, and he began pushing forward, forcing the young woman to back up a bit. Soon, she began pushing back, hoping not to end up on the ground and letting her opponent have more control over the fight than he already had.

"You're a pretty one," Midnight whispered so that only Mi-na would hear. "But that doesn't mean that it'll earn you a win."

Mi-na laughed a little in amusement. "Yeah, but I'm sure you're still distracted by my beauty nevertheless."

She knew he was surprised by the statement with the way he widened his eyes. This gave Mi-na the moment she needed to take control of the match. She lifted up one foot and managed to kick Midnight's left shin. He let out a small yelp and pulled back a couple of feet to recover. Mi-na then brought up the back part of her naginata and, with all of her strength, hit Midnight on the side of the face, knocking him to the floor. After that move, Mi-na was able to hear a few "Oooh!" as though they themselves were in pain.

Mi-na then attempted to smack Midnight again with her weapon, but the ninja suddenly grabbed hold of it, much to her surprise. They struggled for a moment until Midnight pulled forward and managed to make Mi-na fly forward, forcing her to somersault as well before landing on her back.

As she recovered, Midnight quickly recovered and threw the naginata out of the ring, much to the Keisei native's dismay. Mi-na felt lucky at that moment because she knew a little bit of hand-to-hand combat, but she wondered how long it would take before Midnight would be in control of the match once again.

When Midnight began walking back towards her, Mi-na then noticed that his own staff was a bit further to the left and still in the ring. She took a mental note and hoped to be able to get to it before her opponent did.

Midnight jumped up with one foot out in front of him. Mi-na quickly rolled out of the way. Midnight saw this and managed to catch himself and land gracefully. Mi-na was able to get herself up then when she noticed her opponent now coming after her with both fists ready for action.

Mi-na dodged a few punches, but then Midnight managed to land one in the abdomen, forcing the air in her lungs out of her. She keeled over a bit, holding on to her stomach, and backed up for a second to recover. Midnight then lifted his foot up and kicked Mi-na in the face, forcing her body to snap upwards and she stumbled back a bit. Then, Midnight grabbed her from behind and performed a German Supplex.

Pain shot up and down Mi-na's body from the damage she took. Great, I won't make it through this round! she thought. It was then that she looked to the right and noticed Midnight's staff laying right next to her.

When Midnight was close, Mi-na quickly grabbed the staff and jabbed it forward into his leg. The leg wasn't punctured, but it was enough for Midnight to keel over in pain. Mi-na quickly got up and let Midnight recover from the blow.

Then, the ninja looked up at her, anger quickly filling in his eyes. Determination appeared in Mi-na's face and she got into a stance, ready for anything.

With a loud animal-like shriek, Midnight ran after her. Mi-na took a step back and suddenly felt the rope that separated the ring from the audience. A small smirk came over her as she developed a plan.

Less than a foot was soon in between them and Mi-na quickly stepped aside. Midnight was able to catch himself before he ran out of the ring. However, Mi-na noticed this and quickly kicked him in the back and sending him flying past the ropes.

“That's what you get for not paying attention,” Mi-na stated with a smirk.

As her named was announced as the winner, Mi-na placed the staff back down on the ground as Midnight struggled to get up. With a bit of struggle herself due to the pain still in her, she stepped out of the ring, picked up the naginata she named Scarlet Thunder, and began her walk back to her room in the palace.

~~~

Indoor Arena

Guile thought he saw stars as an uppercut was delivered into his chin forcing him to stumble back. Damn it! he thought, mad that he didn't see the punch in time.

When the stars in his eyes finally disappeared, he looked over at his opponent, a female mutant who went by the name Muscana. The Colonel guess that she was a half human half lizard, having brown, scaly skin, a long tail that would flick back and forth, and arms and feet like a reptile. She stared at Guile with her maroon-colored eyes and her black, forked tongue would sometimes slither out of her mouth and roll before going back in.

Guile tried not to show disgust by her appearance, especially with her tongue. He admitted earlier that he wondered why fragile-like fighters would fight against brute fighters or why humans fought other creatures rather than call it even.

But now he understood… the fighters of each match were picked at random and it didn't matter who it was against. You had to do your best and hope to win. Besides, The Blood Tournament contained 'the best of the best' and you had to be up for anything.

When Guile first laid eyes on Muscana, he knew that the fight would be quite challenge, especially now since she revealed her fast speed in the ring. That was about two minutes ago when the match started. He was strong, but now this fight was going to prove which was best… strength or speed?

"You're an interesting opponent," Muscana spoke as though she was hissing. "I'm glad to be able to fight someone like you… knowing that I will indeed win."

Guile narrowed his eyes at her. "Don't get too confident, it might cost you."

That angered Muscana a bit and with a loud hiss, she jumped in quick speed towards the older man. Guile attempted to dodge out the way, but Muscana managed to grab him and they rolled back a couple of feet before stopping. When they did, Muscana was on top of Guile, a sadistic grin on her face revealing a row of sharp white teeth.

"It's been a while since I fought a human," Muscana hissed as her tongue rolled again. "I'm going to enjoy crushing you." With that, she slightly licked the side of Guile's face, which made him quickly shove her off of him. She rolled over to the side and the Colonel immediately stood up.

"Enough games!" Guile demanded. "Let's get this match over with!"

Muscana hissed a little. "Fine, if that is your wish!" She then darted after the soldier in her speed. This time, Guile was prepared for her attacks. The moment she was close enough, Guile dodged out of the way. Muscana managed to catch herself before falling out of the ring. She turned back around and darted after him again.

The mutant then threw various punches and kicks, most of which Guile blocked. A couple of times he was kicked in the stomach or punched in the face, but he did his best to regain his composure.

But then a kick to the shin was all Muscana need to make the Colonel fall to the floor in pain. She lifted her foot up to stomp on him, but he rolled his body a few feet to the side to avoid the attack. He then rolled himself back up to his feet, still holding on to his leg in which the pain was beginning to decrease.

Muscana let out a hiss. "I'll finish this!" she announced. She then jumped in the air and flew towards Guile. A small smirk appeared on the older man's face at that moment.

The Air Force Colonel jumped up off his good leg once Muscana was in the right spot in the air. He then extended his good leg out and performed a backwards somersault, hitting Muscana under the chin in the process. "Somersault shell!" he called out.

Muscana would've let a scream out had it not been for her jaw to slam up on the top row of her teeth. While Guile landed on the ground with ease, Muscana landed hard on her side, losing consciousness in the process. When she didn't get up for a while, the Shadow Priest stood up.

"Winner: Guile!"

"YEAH!" Guile heard Wagner cry out nearby as the audience began to clap for him. The Colonel turned around and saw his team, Interpol, and Delta Red clapping for him. This felt good for Guile, not getting an ovation this good in any tournament. In reply, he smirked, brought his right hand up (with only his index and middle finger extended) and saluted to them.

Once Guile returned into the audience and everything was settled down, the Shadow Priest spoke. "The next match shall begin." He paused for a moment before announcing the first fighter. "Dan Hibiki!"

"YAHOO!" Dan cried out as he attempted to jump over the ropes. When he did, he ended up getting his foot caught and he fell forward. In the process, he brought the remaining ropes that made a circle fall forward like a domino effect but in two different directions.

This caused everyone in the arena to laugh at Dan's clumsiness. However, this didn't seem to affect the Saikyo fighter as he rolled himself a few feet into the ring, stood himself up, and flexed his left arm.

"Not even that rope is going to take me down!" Dan cried out again. "OYAJI!"

It was another minute before everyone was able to compose themselves from their chuckles. This finally gave the Shadow Priest the chance to announce Dan's opponent. "Brent Archer!"

Immediately, a young man walked into the ring. He was a mix of African American and Hispanic with a black cap worn backwards, an orange t-shirt, black baggy sweats, and basketball sneakers.

Brent laughed once he faced Dan in the middle of the ring and laughed. "This is gonna be easier than I thought. I'm gonna make it to round two after all. What male person dresses in pink any ways?"

"Don't be too cocky Brent," Dan replied while wagging a finger. "And besides, who wears Halloween colors in the summertime?"

Brent brought his hands up to his chest and cracked his knuckles. "Let's go, Pinky."

"Begin!" the Shadow Priest called out. However, Brent had already began running towards Dan, ready to take him down.

However, Dan was prepared for his attacks. Brent began throwing punches and kicks at him, but Dan managed to block them. Dan attempted to kick the side of his opponent, but Brent managed to grab a hold of his leg.

"Uh oh," Dan muttered just before he was brought up in the air. Brent let go then and the Saikyo fighter landed hard on his back. Before he could attempt to recover, Brent brought his foot up and began stomping on Dan rapidly.

"OWE!" Dan cried out, repeating each time he was hit. He then made an attempt to grab Brent's own leg and succeeded. He pulled forward and forced Brent on his back. Dan then got up and performed an ankle lock he learned from watching television.

"AH! DAMN IT!" Brent yelled out as the pain from his ankle shot through him. He struggled to get out of the lock for a moment. Then, he rolled on to his back and pulled his locked leg forward, bringing a surprised Dan along. The pink-clad fighter flew over his opponent and landed a few feet away. He shook his head from the minor pains and got up just in time to see Brent run after him again.

"Gadouken!" Dan cried out swinging his right arm in front of him. An energy the size of a basketball came out of his hand. The move shocked Brent and he had thought he was screwed… but the energy only made it halfway before it popped like a bubble.

Brent began laughing then. "You've gotta be kidding me? This fight is such a joke, it's not even all that-"

"Dankuu-kyaku!" Dan suddenly cried out. Brent looked in front of him, only to be met with Dan's feet right in his face. Once he was hit, he went flying back a few feet, having to lost consciousness during that time, and landed on his back. The arena was silent then, surprised by the result of the match.

"Winner: Dan Hibiki!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Dan gave out a thumb's up. "Remember everyone, think pink!"

"You still suck!" someone in the audience cried out.

~~~

Beach Arena

The tournament was currently underway between two fighters who looked like wrestlers. Ryu, having won his own match a few hours ago, decided to watch a few matches before retreating back to the cave.

Half the time when a fighter won, Ryu had the urge to jump right into the ring and challenge the opponent, as he normally would during his travels. However, the matches were already fixed up and any interference would result in a disqualification. So, all he could do was watch.

He had been concentrating on the fight when he felt a light punch on his left arm. Ryu turned his head in that direction and noticed Ken standing there with a grin on his face. Behind him was Julia who held a bag of crackers in her hand.

"Hey buddy, what's up?" Ken asked putting his fist out.

Ryu put his own fist out and the two tapped them together, their traditional greeting. "Not much, I won my match."

"Gee, what a surprise," Ken answered sarcastically. "I won my tournament too, so did Julia."

"Congratulations," said Ryu. "Seems that we're all going to be in round two."

"Indeed," spoke Julia. "I don't think anyone in the cave lost the tournament yet as far as I know."

"That's how good we are," Ken said. "I mean, we are the ch-"

"SSHHH!" Julia exclaimed with one finger over her lips. "Not here."

"Oops, that was close. Any who, I unfortunately can't say… I have, eh, things to do. I'll see you two later!"

Before Julia and Ryu could speak, Ken was already making his way out of the group of audience. When he did, a mischievous grin came over him. Ryu, it's about time that you got a girlfriend and Julia's the perfect candidate.

Back in the audience, Julia stood next to Ryu, not sure of what to say. It would seem that, to her relief, Ryu had forgotten yesterday's tea incident. She looked over at the Japanese warrior and found herself admiring the well crafted muscles on his arms. Ryu was wearing a white t-shirt which cling on to his torso, blue jeans, and sneakers. In addition, he also wore his red headband around his forehead.

Julia realized then that, since it was now her and Ryu, that she should start a conversation. She looked over at the match that was going on in front of them. "How's this match going?" she asked.

Ryu didn't answer immediately. He looked down at the young woman next to him, a bit surprised that she spoke to him… even after the tea incident. Ken once told him that girls were sensitive about embarrassing moments, but it seemed that Julia had gotten over the situation quite quickly.

"It's a bit slow, I've seen better," Ryu replied then.

"I'm sure it'll get more interesting in the later rounds," Julia mentioned. "That's when we'll see some truly great matches."

"That's true."

The two fell silent then. Julia fiddled around in her mind wondering how to keep the conversation going. That was when she heard a loud grumble next to her. She turned her head to Ryu, who then slightly looked down and patted his stomach.

He's obviously hungry, Julia thought. She lifted up the bag of crackers she originally had in case she went hungry herself.

"Crackers?" she offered.

Ryu looked over at the bag and took it in his hand. "Yes, arigatou."

"Dō itashimashite," Julia replied with a nod.

Ryu began munching on the crackers. “You're Japanese is good,” he mentioned.

Julia shrugged. “I admit, I only know a little bit of it, just enough to get by if I ever visit Japan.”

“I see.”

They fell silent again and continued to watch the match in front of them.

~~~

Forest, Somewhere near the Main Palace

Noob Saibot sat silent on the ground as thoughts danced through his head. Normally he would be meditating, but that form requested that he was free of any thoughts. However, right now, that wasn't the case.

Originally, the wraith had come to Outworld to devise his plans of creating his own army of cyborgs, a plan he came up with ever since he found Smoke in a catacomb among this very realm. He had been the leader of the Brotherhood of Shadows ever since Quan-Chi's fall under unknown circumstances. Since then, he strived to rule the Netherrealm as he saw fit.

Outworld became sort of Noob's base of operations, especially considering that his lackey was limited in his stay in the Netherrealm. He knew the forms of the technology that made Smoke who he was now (originally, he was a human), but getting the equipment wasn't going to be as easy. He wasn't sure where to take it from this time, but he was confident that it will all come in due time.

Other thoughts came to him, like Ashrah. He was aware of her escape from the clan before becoming leader. She was suspected of treason after she questioned Quan-Chi about a mission she was assigned for. The sorcerer had sent his other female assassins to execute her. However, Ashrah escaped death, a mystery of how it happened, until she went after Noob in order to free herself from the realm.

Her kriss, the weapon that purified her, helped her escape from her death. She slewed countless demons purifying her more each time. Noob was the ultimate breakthrough. However, he was a wraith and couldn't be killed that easily.

She was foolish, Noob thought. He took the kriss out of his scabbard behind him and looked at it, black energy glowing around it. Before leaving for Outworld, he went to Earthrealm and slaughtered anyone who saw him. With that, he used a spell to collect their sins, making the kriss more of an evil sword.

While there, he had heard about the ships that were leaving for Outworld. Noob wasn't sure if there was a portal to Outworld on Earth and it was already a pain traveling back to the Netherrealm and getting to their portals. So, he took the opportunity to take the shortcut and got on a ship without anyone seeing him.

At least he thought no one saw him. During the daytime, while hiding, he noticed a young woman searching around and realized she was searching for him. Whatever the reason, he wasn't sure, though his guess was that she saw him sneak onto the ship. It didn't matter, because he was going to collect her sins later that night.

He was close too, holding the knife in his hand just behind her. Then, a Native American man interfered, shooting a glowing green arrow at him. The woman noticed him then, looking surprised. He escaped then, jumping into the waters, then managed to blend himself into the darkness. A failed attempt, but it didn't matter... he got his chance to collect the sins of other after that event.

It was then that his thoughts were interrupted as he heard heavy footsteps approaching from behind. As Noob expected, Smoke showed up.

"Good, you are here," Noob said. "I would like to discuss some plans I had thought of."

Smoke nodded and the two headed back into the palace. They had reached their floor when they noticed another cyborg, a red version of Smoke coming by. The three stopped then and the red cyborg stared at Smoke.

"Where have you been this whole time?" the red cyborg asked.

Noob realized who this was then. "Sektor?"

Sektor turned his head to the wraith. "And what business do you have with me, B-?"

Noob stared at the red cyborg. "Do not call me that. That is no longer my name. Beside, I had just thought of something."

"This better not be a waste of time," Sektor said.

Noob began to talk. "Your clan consists of cyborgs as well, captured ones too. I would assume that you have knowledge on cyborg creations."

Sektor nodded. "Straight from the old Lin Kuei clan. Speaking of the Lin Kuei, how long has it been since you were called-"

"Do not worry about that right now," Noob suggested. "Do you have anyone in your clan with you now?"

The thought of Matrik, the escaped cyborg and the first female of the clan, came to the Tekunin leader. "You could say that, but it's only one person."

"I see," Noob continued. "If you and I unite, like old times, we may be able to dominate our realms with your technology and my power, especially once I get Chishio No Me in my hands. We can consider this a temporary alliance until we both reach our goals. That is all."

Sektor thought about this for a moment. He wasn't one to form alliances with anyone, even if he had known the person for years. At least he didn't have to be tied down to this alliance after he reached his goals.

"Agreed," Sektor finally said. "Starting tomorrow, we will discuss our plans."

"Good," Noob finally said before Sektor departed. Noob himself began walking forward with Smoke following.

Perhaps I can take over the Tekunin clan as well, the wraith thought sadistically.

~~~

Shang Tsung's Palace

Quan Chi looked up at the palace before him. It was well hidden within the mountains and the large trees that surrounded it. Anyone new to the realm would have had a hard time finding the place.

When he walked onto the porch, he noticed a few half-dressed women sitting around or doing activities in complete silence. Quan Chi noticed that they all wore the same black choker with a large emerald jewel hanging off of them. He walked inside and saw more of these women in the same state.

The sorcerer realized then that these women were part of Shang Tsung's harem. They were captured women whose lovers or brothers were slain by the sorcerer and were mostly kept in secrecy, never leaving the palace.

The chokers on their necks were meant for two things. One was to keep them in Shang Tsung's control after his first woman escaped him. The second was to keep their youth as they were when they were captured. Some of the women were just as old as Shang Tsung was. And it was only him who could take the choker off.

Quan Chi soon reached the throne room and saw Shang Tsung there with two women sitting on the arms of the throne serving him wine and an exquisite meal. Quan Chi was almost jealous of Shang Tsung's 'success,' but it was only because Quan Chi himself never had the chance indulge in such a thing in a long while, not since his days as leader of the Brotherhood of Shadow in the Netherrealm.

"Glad you made it, Quan Chi," Shang Tsung said. He looked at all the women in the room. "LEAVE US!" he demanded. Immediately and literally in sync, the women got up from their places and left the room. When they were gone, Shang Tsung turned back to Quan Chi, waiting for him to speak.

"You and I both know that even the ones who worship Shao Kahn want a hand in that medallion," Quan Chi said. "I'm surprised you haven't made a break for it once he entrusted you with the artifact."

Shang Tsung smirked then. "Well, it's back with the Emperor right now. I use it more for my own pleasure and to control Berserk when the opportunity arises."

Quan Chi almost felt a small shudder go up his spine remembering what happened when he first saw the undead monster, but then shook the thought from his head. "I believe I'm more worthy of that medallion. I'm the one who found it to begin with and actually let him take advantage."

"Which was moronic of you," Shang Tsung mentioned. "Any fool would've kept the artifact for themselves. I thought you were smarter than that, Quan Chi."

"My reason was that it would give him the opportunity to grant him more power over the realms. This tournament never would've happened if it wasn't for me."

Shang Tsung shrugged a little. "That is true. However, when this is over, the artifact will belong to me."

Quan Chi eyed the sorcerer. "Don't jump ahead of yourself. As a matter of fact, the reason I came to you was because I wanted to form an alliance. The both of us are sorcerers with great power. Imagine our powers combined? We can take Shao Kahn down ourselves and take the medallion for ourselves. We'll take over the realms and turn them into anything we see fit."

Shang Tsung thought of this for a moment. He had known Quan Chi for quite sometime and even he knew that the sorcerer wasn't exactly trustworthy. Shang Tsung already knew that he was much smarter than Quan Chi and already smelled a betrayal from miles ahead. However, the opportunity to combine powers in order to rule Outworld himself was one that couldn't be refused. He'll have to remember to watch Quan Chi carefully during this time.

The sorcerer stood up and placed his hand out. Quan Chi took his hand and they shook them. "Fine," Shang Tsung said. "But do not try anything funny."

"Same to you," Quan Chi replied. "We will discuss plans tomorrow night." With that, the pale sorcerer walked out of the palace.

Once he was gone, Shang Tsung smirked. "Now to give attention to my ladies." He got up, took off his cape, set it down on the chair, and walked out of the throne room.

Chapter Text

The next night…

Just outside the cave, Ken had started up a fire. Wanting to warm up, Cody, McCoy, Lei, Wagner, and Yang all came over to Ken and sat around the fire.

"Say, how are you all doing with the tournament?" McCoy asked.

"I won my tournament quickly unfortunately," mentioned Cody. "I was hoping that I got a good, lengthy fight. Maybe in the next round."

"I'm up in a couple of days," said Yang.

"Me too," said Lei.

"I already won my tournament," mentioned Wagner.

McCoy snickered. "Yeah, after you were practically molested by your opponent." Wagner only glared at him in response.

"I won yesterday," Ken answered. "It's too bad you, Wolfman, and Ginzu decided not to participate in the tournament."

McCoy sighed a little. "I guess maybe next time. Colonel Wolfman didn't want too many of us involved. Cammy was the one who received the invitation and Lita volunteered to participate before I had the chance. Unfortunately, Lita lost yesterday's tournament and she's not very happy about it to say the least."

"That's a shame," said Cody.

"Oh yeah, I got something, but you can't tell anyone about it, it'll be between all of us," McCoy said. He went through his bag and took out a large bottle. Everyone looked at it with curiosity. It was obviously liquor, but it was written in a different language.

"What kind of stuff is that?" asked Lei.

"Outworld liquor from what I was told," McCoy replied. "It's supposed to be the best stuff here." He then took out some cups and passed them to everyone. "Everything seems calm with this tournament at the moment so I'm sure having a few won't be too bad."

"What about your job?" asked Yang.

"We're all technically off duty right now," said Wagner.

McCoy looked at him then. "How old are you? I know the drinking age in the states is 21."

"I'll be 22 in August. You need ID?"

McCoy laughed and poured him a drink. "Nah, I believe ya mate." He then looked at Yang. "Be honest, what's the drinking age where you're from?"

"I'm 20 years old and there is no minimum drinking age in China," Yang replied.

"He's right," vouched Lei.

"Lucky," Wagner said. "I think the US has the oldest legal drinking age."

"I think Egypt is 21 as well," mentioned Cody. “Don't ask me how I know this.”

"All right, so technically we're all legal," McCoy said as he poured himself a drink before putting it aside. "Now, let's not drink too much because we might get in trouble."

"You said it," answered Lei.

Twenty minutes later…

"Whoaaaa!" said Cody. "I see coloooooors…"

"I feel GREAT!" cried out Wagner. He looked at his empty cup. "I loooove hard liquor!"

"Me TOO!" yelled Yang.

"I can't feel feelings," slurred Ken. "I woooonder if that's a goooood thing."

"I've been wooooorking ooooon the raiiiilroaaaad," sang McCoy.

Lei got up then and attempted to dance the Marcarena, but was unsuccessful as he fell backwards and into the sand. "Heeelp, I'm drowniiing!"

Cody picked up the half empty bottle of liquor and looked at it. "I wanna play football!" He then tossed the bottle in the air. However, the bottle ended up landing in the campfire causing a suddenly explosion shocking the guys and nearly sobering them up.

"KABOOM!" cried out Ken randomly as he fell on his side.

"Is it the Fourth of July already?" asked Cody as the ball of fire above them dissipated.

Unfortunately for them, everyone in the cave area had heard the explosion and began running over to see what had just happened. They noticed Ken, McCoy, Cody, Wagner, Lei, and Yang buzzed out of their minds and pretty much figured out how the explosion from the campfire happened.

Wagner looked at everyone and noticed a very angry Guile. He began laughing then, "Uh oh, we're in trooouuble."

Rose and Raiden happened to show up as well. Rose looked at the guys in disappointment and folded her arms. "What kind of influences will you be to your future children? You are the defenders of the realms for crying out loud!"

Raiden folded his arms as well. "Yeah, and how dare you don't invite the Thunder God to drink with you!"

He then Rose groan before she stomped off. Raiden turned in her direction. "What was that for?"

Yin walked over to Yang then. "Come on, you're going to bed."

After she helped him up, Yang wrapped his arms tightly around her. "I loooove you sis!"

"Ew, your breath stinks!" Yin cried out.

~~~

The next morning…

"Owe, my head," Wagner said as he woke up. He rubbed the front of his forehead as a headache immediately came to him. "What did I drink last night?"

He slowly got himself up, half expecting to puke right then, but his stomach felt fine, surprisingly. He continued to rub his head as he got to his feet. Near his suitcase, the young Air Force pilot saw a small shopping bag and slowly went through it until he found a bottle of aspirin.

Now I just need water, he thought. Wagner knew that he didn't have any drinks in his room. After slowly putting on some jeans over his boxers (also already wearing a white tank top), he made his way barefoot out of his room and began heading over to the lounge area.

Wagner took his time to get to the area as he felt his head spin. But then he ended up stumbling a bit and accidentally stumbled into one of the private rooms.

"AAHHH!" he heard a female voice cry out nearly scaring the life out of him. Wagner looked over and saw Alex. She had on her jeans but she had been in the middle of hooking the hooks of her bra when he stumbled in.

"AAAHH!" they both suddenly cried out.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Wagner cried out. "I didn't mean to-"

"GET OUT!" Alex yelled. She then grabbed one of her pillows and threw it at Wagner. He saw it in time and ran out of the room. He stood there for a moment trying to recover from the incident.

Damn, after all that screaming from the both of us, I have more of a headache. Wagner sighed to himself and continued his way to the lounge room.

Meanwhile, Chun Li went in Lei's room to see how he was doing after seeing him drunk last night. He was already sitting up in his cot rubbing his head. Luckily, Chun Li had already brought a bottle of aspirin and a cup of water knowing that her Interpol partner was going to feel like this.

Lei heard his curtains move and looked up to see Chun Li walking over to him. "Can't you believe it," he said. "I have probably the biggest hangover I ever had in my life…and I only had two cups of liquor…"

Chun Li laughed a little as she sat on the bed and handed him the items she brought. "It's from this realm so it's obviously very strong stuff. Have you learned your lesson from yesterday?"

Lei nodded. "I learned a big lesson… never drink liquor from another realm." He then popped a pill in his mouth and swallowed it down with water. He repeated with another pull and finished up the cup of water before setting it aside.

"Well, Guile and Wolfman weren't too happy about Wagner and McCoy, but after Raiden's comment, which I hope was a joke, they actually calmed down. I guess because our supposed mission is slow right now, we might as well relax and enjoy ourselves, as long as no one gets hurt."

Lei nodded. "Yeah, true…"

"However, you still have to make it up to me."

Lei looked up at the female detective awkwardly. "What are you talking about?"

Chun Li grinned a little. "For getting drunk and nearly scaring all of us when Cody threw that bottle in the campfire, you have to make it up to me. When we get back to Earth, you are going to buy me a dinner and a movie."

Lei laughed then. At that moment then, he began to notice something different about Chun Li. They had known each other for quite a while, ever since she joined Interpol a decade ago. He was then surprised to notice then that she was not wearing her double buns, something that he had been very used to. Instead, her long, pin straight, dark brown hair was left free and had fallen down to the middle of her back.

"Sure," Lei finally answered. "Just remind me when we get back."

"Don't think I'll forget," Chun Li said.

~~~

Indoor Arena

"Bring it on, ya alien!" Paul Phoenix cried out. He was down on one knee after receiving a kick to the abdomen and looked up at his opponent, who literally looked like your usually green, big-headed alien with big black eyes. The unnamed alien (even if did have a name, Paul didn't care) stared down at his opponent.

Paul managed to get himself on both of his feet. Their fight had been going on for about five minutes. Beads of sweat covered his face and he was still trying to catch his breath. He brought his left hand out, palm facing up, and moved all four of his fingers back and forth, motioning his opponent to keep fighting him.

The alien replied then and began running up towards him. When he was close enough, Paul stepped aside and placed his arm out in front of him. Due to his speed, the alien smacked right into his opponent's arm and his own legs literally gave out in front of him. He did a backward somersault before landing on his head, immediately knocked out.

The Shadow Priest hosting the indoor arena tournaments stood up then. "Winner: Paul Phoenix!"

Everyone clapped after the announcement. Paul brushed himself off as he stared down at his unconscious opponent. "Nothing like a good workout! I knew I was fit enough to be in this tournament!"

He made his way out of the ring and out of the arena, not interesting in watching the next few tournaments. As he did, he noticed Ivy Valentine (who had won her own match just before Paul's) standing behind everyone else.

Paul decided to start a conversation then. "Did you see that? I'm SO the best in the universe!"

It was then that the American fighter noticed Ivy placing her hand on the hilt of her sword, still keeping her cold eyes at him. Although Paul wanted to fight her then, he decided that now wasn't the best time…

"Well, eh, maybe next time," he said, surprised that his voice was a bit shaky. He left then, still feeling Ivy's cold glare on him until he completely passed him.

Ivy smirked to herself then, feeling a bit amused. I have the feeling that the arrogant fool will get his in due time…

~~~

Forest

"Sophitia would be proud of me," Cassandra mumbled to herself as she slowly walked through the forest. The young Keisei native had just won her tournament in the Outdoor arena and was quite proud of herself. She didn't think that she would actually make it to the next round, but she did.

Even with her victory, she sighed to herself. She had been quite bored in the realm ever since her arrival. All she had done was train herself, walk around the area, eat, and read the books that she brought with her. However, she had finished with all the books. She met a few people in the tournament, but none that she had much in common with. She was getting bored of her activities, even going to the dining quarters twice a day was getting to her.

Cassandra then thought of her home world. She and her older sister Sophitia helped bakery shop in their small village, which was owned by their father. She smiled to herself as she imagined the smell of pastries and assorted chocolate cooking over the fire tickling at her nose. They both make enough money to put food on the table at least, but none the less they were happy.

She soon began to miss her home. Cassandra was already aware that even if she lost the whole tournament, she had no choice but to stay in the realm until the winner of the entire tournament was announced.

I really hope this whole thing goes fast, the young blonde thought. If I don't find anyone to socialize with soon, I'm going to lose my mind!

It was then that Cassandra noticed a twelve foot wooden fence covering a large piece of land. It dawned on her then… it was the outdoor hot springs that she had heard about. She had already been in the palace's hot springs, which was all right but not to her taste. She wondered if the outdoor ones were any different.

Cassandra decided to check it out again later tonight after dinner. She started to make her way past the long rows of wood that made up the large fence. Halfway there, she noticed five girls about her age standing on boxes that were piled on top of another looking over the fence.

The young walked over with curiosity. Then, one of them looked over at her. Cassandra began to open her other to speak, but then the girl let out a hush, then gave her a gesture to come up. Cassandra shrugged and made her way to the top to join the girls.

"Hi I'm Maki," the girl who called her over said. "What's your name?"

"Cassandra."

"Hi, I'm Asuka," another girl whispered. She began pointing at the other girls with her. "And this is Sakura, Ibuki, and Mika."

"Why are you all up here?" Cassandra asked.

Ibuki took a finger and silently pointed to the other side of the fence. Cassandra looked over and almost fell over by what she saw. A group of mostly good-looking men were bathing in the in-ground tub. Her eyes were wide and she felt a small smile creep up to her face.

Finally, something good is coming out of his trip! she thought.

Meanwhile, in the men's hot springs, Wagner sighed to himself. "Thank God my headache is gone."

Guile sighed to himself as well. "I had hoped you learned your lesson after that little party you threw when you were seventeen."

"I figured you were a trouble maker as a teenager," laughed Yun.

Yang looked at his brother. "As if you weren't."

"Well, my advice is to never drink more than a pint of Outworld liquor," said Ken.

Kilik looked around the area then. "Do you guys get the feeling that we're being watched?"

Maxi laughed and slapped his friend's back lightly. "Relax, Kilik, you are always so paranoid."

Back on the other side of the fence, the girls continued to watch the boys, not caring about the conversation they were having. They stayed silent and hoped that the guys didn't see their heads peaking over the fence.

Then, Sakura looked at Cassandra. "So, are you staying at the palace?"

Cassandra turned to the school girl. "Yeah, it's really boring isn't it?"

"Actually, we're staying in the cave. It's not the best, but it's better than nothing."

"A cave? Sounds interesting."

Little did the girls know was that Xianghua had happened to pass the area as well, wanting to take a walk to get to know the area a bit more. She stopped in her placed and looked up at the girls.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

The girls had not expected to have someone come up from behind them. They all leaned into the fence in surprise as they let out a perfectly in sync gasp. Unfortunately, their combined weight on the fence forced the wood to suddenly snap and they began falling forward. They all shrieked, which immediately grabbed the attention of the guys sitting in the tub. Just as they all looked up, all of them landed in the water.

"What the…" Maxi said in a bit of surprise.

Kilik laughed. "I told you we were being watched!"

The girls emerged from the water then. When they all noticed the guys staring at them, they all shrieked again. They then quickly jumped out of the water, went through the broken fence, and made a run for it. Once they disappeared, the guys noticed a very shocked Xianghua standing there as though she wasn't sure what to do. She became even more in horror when she noticed that her two friends, Kilik and Maxi, were amongst the group in the tub.

Maxi laughed and decided to tease his friend. "Hi Xianghua! Wanna join us?"

Immediately, Xianghua's face turned red before making a dash for it. Maxi laughed a little. "I'll take that as a no."

The guys were silent for a moment until Wagner said, "Great, who is going to fix that fence? And it's not going to be me!"

Meanwhile, by the river off the beach area, Raiden looked over at the group consisting of Cody, Guy, Dan, Ryu, Wolfman, McCoy, Ginzu, Jin, Sub-Zero, Lei, Kenshi, and Nightwolf. "All right, Rose suggested that we all went out to collect some food, something I agree on for once. What we are going to do is go fishing."

"Yahoo!" cried out Dan. "I love fishing!"

"Um," said Lei. "Is there really fish in that water?"

"Of course," Raiden replied. "There are fish in every realm. However, I must warn you that the fishes in Outworld are a bit… different. So when you see them, try not to be shocked. I want you all to catch at least five fishes by the end of the day."

"Wait a minute," said Cody. "Where are the other guys? You should try to bring them here too."

"How I should I know?" Raiden answered. "I'm a God, not a magician. Does everyone have their fishing poles?" He looked at everyone. "Good." He began leaving then.

"Hey, where are you going?" asked McCoy.

Raiden looked back at the group. "I have, eh, things to do. Besides, I want to leave you all to get to know each other a bit more. Ciao!" With that, electricity surrounded him and he teleported away.

Sub-Zero sighed then. "Let's get going…"

The group sat next to the water, cast out their fishing poles, then did the only thing they could do… wait. All became silent with the exception of Dan humming random songs to himself.

"I should've brought my laptop," said Ginzu.

"It's best that you didn't," Wolfman answered. "Just in case someone bumps into you and you drop it in the water."

"True," Ginzu sighed.

"So what do you think the girls are doing?" asked Guy. "I know Rose was going to send them out to get food as well."

"Hopefully they are not killing each other," replied Cody.

"They'll be fine," said Nightwolf.

Cody looked over at the Native American. "You know, I don't see you around much. What's your story?"

Nightwolf looked over at Cody. "My occupation is a historian and shaman. I am also a leader of a small tribe and my job is to protect our sacred land. I have contact with Raiden through visions and he was the one who suggested I enter the tournament."

"So you didn't receive an actual invitation from a Shadow Priest like the rest of us?" asked Ryu.

"Actually, I did receive an invitation," the tribe leader replied. "After I did, I had received visions of something I cannot explain much."

Jin looked over at Nightwolf then, finding interest in the conversation. "Can you describe the visions to us?"

Nightwolf was silent for a moment before continuing. "There were of chaos and destruction. Evil spirits loomed around destroyed cities. The sky was a blood red and it nearly rained small fireballs. I can't pinpoint why I get these visions, but I have the feeling that it may have something to do with this tournament."

Everyone fell silent then, not sure of what to make of the story. Lei swallowed then and said, "Well… your visions don't always come true, do they?"

"Not always. However, this one is quite strong so I am being cautious. I have already talked to Raiden and Rose about this and they have taken my word for it."

"We'll take your word for it as well," said Wolfman. "Thank you for providing us with his information."

Kenshi sighed. "Something tells me that something bad is going to happen after this tournament."

"We'll see once we get full-on evidence," said Wolfman.

It was then that Dan suddenly jumped up. "Hey! I think I got something!"

Everyone turned their heads towards Dan. His fishing pole was being pulled further into the water. The Saikyo fighter grabbed the pole and tried to wheel it in, but then found himself having trouble.

"It looks like it's going to be a big one!" cried McCoy. They all went behind Dan and helped each other pull the fish in. Even with their strength combined, they still struggled a bit to pull back.

Finally, they managed to get the fish out of the water and were quite shocked by what they saw. The fish was seven feet in length, was a mixed color of orange and red, and had multiple fins and eyes.

"I see why the girls didn't go fishing with us," said Guy.

They pulled the fish further out of the water. Once they were done, Sub-Zero used his kori powers to freeze the fish so it stayed fresh.

"Wow, that fish is big enough to feed the entire cave for a year," said Ginzu. "Does that mean we're done?"

"Unfortunately no," answered Wolfman. "Raiden had said that we have to catch at least five fishes and now we have four to go. I assume they may all be the same size."

Everyone grumbled as they returned to sit down and became bored once again.

Meanwhile, Rose had sent out another group, consisting of Chun Li, Cammy, Lita, Yin, Julia, Sonya, Alex, and Li Mei, to go into the forest and pick out berries. Raiden has assured then that none of the berries in the forests of Outworld were poisonous, which was a bit of a surprise to all of them.

Li Mei began talking then. "This is fun, I like berries, do you all like berries, I especially like the red and green ones…"

She continued talking in run-on sentences and the other women decided to chose to ignore her and let her talk.

"I'm glad Rose is letting us to do this," said Julia. "I always do things like this in Arizona during the summer."

"I really am looking forward to trying new recipes with these berries," mentioned Yin.

"You should try the berries in Florida," answered Alex. "They have always been the best to me."

"I wonder what the berries are like here," said Lita. She sighed to herself then. "I still can't believe I lost the tournament."

"Don't stress about it," replied Chun Li. "What matters most is that you did your best."

The group fell silent then, unsure of what to say next. Soon, they all reached in area full of bushes. Those who have never been to Outworld were quite surprised by the size of the berries.

"Wow," said Cammy. "They're more like plums to me."

"I practically lived off of these the last time I was here," said Sonya. "Let's start picking."

The group began picking as many berries as they can fit in their bags (which Rose provided to them).

"I wonder what these taste like," wondered Yin.

"Well, we can't eat them right now," replied Cammy. "We'll have to wait until we-"

Suddenly, they heard a snorting noise just behind them. Everyone turned around just in time to see what looked like a wart hog the size of a lion. Aside from it's size, it looked like a normal wart hog, except that it had four eyes instead of the usual two.

"Uh oh," mumbled Sonya.

Unfortunately, Lita had heard her say that. "What do you mean, 'uh oh?'" the Delta Red soldier asked a bit weary.

Sonya let out a small sigh. "Outworld wart hogs aren't exactly… friendly."

The wart hog grunted then and angrily dug it's left front hoof into the ground as though it was getting ready to charge at the group.

"Get ready to run…" Cammy said, slightly trailing off. All the girls became frighten and were just getting ready to run.

Suddenly, one of the trees closest to the wart hog began moving. The girls' eyes widened in shock as three holes, looking like a set of eyes and mouth, began to develop. The wart hog had noticed the movements then and turned around to face it. Before the creature would react, however, the tree brought down it's branches, pushed it towards it, and shoved it into it's mouth. A small squeal came to the girls' ears before a crunch was heard.

"RUN!" Sonya screamed out. The girls shrieked then and began running out of the forest in fear.

A little while later, Rose looked over at Sakura, Ibuki, Mika, Asuka, Maki, and Cassandra with a bit of disappointment on her face. "You girls are quite the peeping toms, aren't you?"

All six girls fell more silent than usual and had their heads hung down. Since the incident, they had dried up and changed clothes (except Cassandra who's own clothes were still drenched). Rose continued then. "Have you girls learned a lesson from this?"

"Yes Rose," the girls said in sync.

Rose then looked at Cassandra. "And you even brought this poor girl into the situation as well."

That was when the rest of the girls of the cave came running into the cave. Rose looked over at them. "How was the berry picking?"

"We were almost killed!" cried Cammy.

"And we weren't even aware of crazy wart hogs and eating trees!" yelled Lita.

“I did, but I thought you knew about them already or else I would've said something earlier,” said Li Mei.

Sonya sighed. "It was my fault, I should've informed you all about the living trees in certain parts of the forest."

"Actually I wish I never knew," answered Alex.

That was when the guys came back into the cave dragging four seven foot fishes. Raiden came in and looked at the fishes. "Where's the fifth fish?"

Guy sighed. "We almost had him, but he almost ate our faces off so we had to let him go."

"I see." Then Raiden turned to Rose. " I hope you don't mind that I eavesdropped on your conversation… Rose, you really don't know much about Outworld, do you?"

Rose folded her arms more mad than before. "Well excuse me if you don't provide me with much of the information! My psychic powers seems to have gone dormant ever since we arrived here."

"Will you two PLEASE stop arguing?" cried out Asuka. "You both have been arguing with each other ever since we got here!"

Raiden sighed. "I suppose we have."

"Yes," Rose said. "We should stop arguing Raiden." And with that, Rose left with Raiden spitting his tongue out behind her back. "Do that again and I'll rip it right out of your mouth!" Rose spat. Raiden kept silent then.

Cassandra stood up then. "I guess I should get going."

Raiden turned to her. "Actually, you should stay with us, Cassandra. Get your stuff and come back here immediately, you are now part of the chosen ones. I sense a pure heart and soul within and you would be a great addition to our cause. I will explain everything once you get back."

Cassandra was a bit shocked to hear this, especially when he said her name. "Um, okay… then I'll be back." She then headed out of the cave. Anything to get out of that boring palace!

~~~

Main Palace

Sindel, Kitana, and Jade were heading back to their rooms after their meal at the dining quarters. It was the later evening and it was nice to be able to sit around in the quieter time to be in the quarters. Even for a late dinner, the food tasted as fresh as it was when it came out of the oven.

"I am quite proud of the three of us," said Sindel. "Within the last two days, we have all been able to make it to round two."

"It is nice," Jade replied. "It makes me wonder though. What would happen if one of us won the entire tournament? What would we do with that medallion?"

"Perhaps we could use it to our advantage to bring peace to Edenia," Kitana suggested. "And if we don't win, let us hope that it doesn't fall into the wrong hands."

The Princess turned her head then. Coming up towards them, she recognized the man coming up to them. He was the blonde, handsome man in armor she had noticed at the dining quarters when they first arrived in Outworld. Kitana had secretly daydreamed about this man, but she didn't think that she would see him again.

It was then that the man noticed her and he stopped. Both gazed at each other before he bent down to his knees and bowed his head. "Forgive me your majesties for not bowing to you soon enough."

Sindel smiled at the gesture. "Rise, you do not need to bow to us as with everyone else in this tournament. How do you know of us anyway? I assume by your clothing that you are not from Edenia."

The man nodded. "No, I'm from Keisei, but I have heard of you. You all the royal family of Edenia. My name is Siegfried Schtauffen of the realm of Keisei."

"It's... a pleasure to meet you," Kitana replied as she found herself gazing into his blue eyes. She was happy to now know a bit more about this man. Siegfried… she liked the name. To her, it suited him well.

The small smirk that was on Siegfried's face faded then. He looked down at his right hand, which was covered with a black leather glove. Kitana noticed that the hand was slightly shaking and was just about to ask if he was all right.

"I must go, excuse me," Siegfried suddenly said. He quickly past his way around the Edenian royals, cursing himself for being rude to them at that moment.

All three of them watched him until he turned a corner and disappeared. Kitana felt her heart sink a little bit. Something wasn't right then, but she couldn't figure out what it could possibly be.

Jade interrupted her thoughts then. "He must've been in a rush for something. No matter, let us return to our room."

"Yes," Sindel said. Kitana sighed then and began to follow her mother and her best friend. They walked a little more down the hallway before reaching their room. They entered and closed the door behind them.

Throughout the incident, a guard had been watching nearby. He had eavesdropped on the conversation and acted as emotionless as possible. Once the Edenian royals returned to their rooms, he quickly went down the hall and made his way back downstairs and into a dark area where no one usually walked through.

The guard turned his head to scan the area as though he was making sure no one was around. Then, a green glow surrounded his body and his body structure and physical features quickly changed.

The person was now Shang Tsung himself. He was proud to have the ability to shape shift into any of the souls he had devoured for himself and to copy those he had been in contact with. This advantage gave him the confirmation that the royals of Edenia were indeed participating in the tournament, as reported earlier by one of his Shadow Priests after all three of them won the tournament.

Shang Tsung walked a little further until he was face to face with a young, dark haired woman. She wore a pink and black attire which left little to the imagination and she wore a matching colored veil that covered the bottom half of her face and neck.

The sorcerer smirked at the woman. "It has been confirmed, Mileena. The Edenian royals are indeed participating in the tournament. I will let you… take care of them in two days in the living forest. I will personally send them out there for you."

Mileena's eyes, which were a mix of yellow and red, seemed to gleam in pleasure. "Yes master," she hissed.

Chapter Text

The next day, everyone gather into all the arenas on the island to watch more matches take place once again. After today, only three more days would follow before the end of the first of eight rounds in the tournament.

In the indoor arena, Xianghua stood where she was within the audience as she watched match after match for what seemed like a while. Today, she was scheduled for her match. Kilik and Maxi were going to fight today as well, but as of now, they were off at the courtyard where their matches would take place. She had hoped that they would show up to see her match, but as more time passed, she began to have the feeling that it wasn't going to happen. She felt disappointed, but she wasn't going to let that bother her. She had to focus on winning today.

Soon, the match that was currently going ended. I hope I'm up next, the Keisei native thought with a sigh.

Once the arena was completely cleared out, the Shadow Priest stood up and announced the next fighter. "Alora!"

A young, blond haired woman stepped into the arena. She had a sword in her right hand and wore a laced blue battle dress. Xianghua admired the attire Alora wore, wondering why she would wear such a beautiful dress to a match.

Soon, Alora's opponent was announced. "Xianghua!"

Xianghua smiled a little bit as she stepped into the ring. At least she would make sure not to get the dress ruined.

Alora looked at Xianghua as she approached the middle of the ring. "That's such a nice outfit you're wearing. Where did you get it from?"

Xianghua was a bit surprised to hear that from Alora. After all, she was only wearing a simple outfit containing red slippers, maroon colored shorts, a matching qipao shirt with gold trims at the biceps as well as white flowers on the stomach area, and her only accessories were a pair of blue and red bracelets, one on each arm. However, she decided to answer back. "My home in Keisei. I love the dress that you're wearing."

Alora smiled a bit as she got into a fighting stance. "It's from my home in Lagol. Now, let's try not to ruin our clothes, shall we?"

Xianghua nodded and got into her own fighting stance.

"Begin!" the Shadow Priest called out. Both Xianghua and Alora stood there, the both of them wondering who was going to start up the match first.

After another brief moment, Xianghua decided to get moving. She ran over to her opponent and swung her sword at her. Immediately, Alora blocked with her own sword. The two then exchanged moves, both of them switching their offense and defense.

As they fought, Xianghua noticed that Alora barely moved her feet and slightly wondered why her opponent was doing such a thing. The young Keisei native stepped back a bit then, wondering if Alora would step forward to continue her attacks.

Suddenly, a lightning bolt struck down just next to Xianghua. "AAH!" she cried out while jumping back. Immediately after, she looked over at Alora. Her sword had been raised in the air and small electric sparks surrounded the blade.

Xianghua's brown eyes widened a bit. "What the…" she started to say.

Alora grinned a bit. "Oh, you were wondering where that came from, right? Well, I guess I forgot to mention that my sword is also a magic wand."

"Oh really?" Xianghua said getting back into her fighting stance.

"Yes," Alora answered with a cheeky grin. "Being a sorceress has it's benefits."

Looks like I'll have to be prepared for anything, Xianghua thought with a quiet sigh. After the thought, the young woman ran towards her opponent again. She jabbed her sword at her, but Alora immediately blocked. Once again, the two exchanged moves, the sound of steel hitting against steal heard all around the arena.

As the fight continued on, Xianghua was able to hear a soft, feminine voice within her mind. Cut your path through an uncertain future…

Mother… Xianghua thought. She didn't know why the quote came to her now as she continued to fight. However, she was well aware that these were the last words her mother said to her before she passed away from illness ten years ago. Perhaps it was a sign that her mother was with her now and whether she lost today or not, she was proud of her daughter.

However, Xianghua wasn't about to lose, even if Alora was a powerful sorceress. Her only plan for now is to avoid her magical attacks and use all of her momentum until she was able to tire Alora out. As a matter of fact, the Keisei native began to wondered how long it actually would take before she was able to tire Alora out.

Alora took a step back then. She managed to push Xianghua's sword to the side with her own. Immediately, a light blue energy formed around the weapon. Alora quickly pointed the weapon down and a layer of ice formed under Xianghua's feet.

Xianghua was surprised to suddenly find her feet sliding from underneath her. Using the muscles in her legs, the young woman managed to stop herself from slipping any further. Then she wondered how she was going to get out of that situation when she noticed Alora beginning to thrust her sword towards her, aiming for her left shoulder.

Not wanting her own blood drawn from her body right now, Xianghua took a small step forward and let herself slip on the ice below her and she fell back into the ground. She used her elbows to keep the back of her head from smacking against the ground. Once Xianghua landed, pain quickly shot up and down through her small framed body.

"Owe!" she cried out. Xianghua looked up then just in time to see Alora bringing her sword down towards her. "Yipe!" she cried out quickly rolling out of the way. Alora ended up stabbing into the ice causing it to shatter into countless, sharp pieces.

Xianghua got herself on her feet, ignoring the increasing pain in her elbows. The light blue energy that surrounded Alora's sword quickly changed into a fiery red with a tint of orange. A smirk appeared on the sorceress' face.

Oh great, the Keisei woman thought not looking forward to what was now in store for her.

"It's has gotten a bit chilly in here," Alora said. "How about I warm the ring up, shall we?"

Alora thrust her sword in the air and small fireballs emerged out of the tip of the blade. They each flew towards the end of the ring and surrounded Alora and Xianghua one by once until it completed a circle of fire. The audience watching seemed quite impressed and they clapped in union after the task was completed.

It has suddenly grown hot and Xianghua felt a few beads of sweat on her forehead. She began to realize that the heat will get her tired sooner than she hoped. She quickly shook her head and prepared for Alora's next attack.

The fiery red aura continued to float around Alora's sword. She then brought it back a little bit, then shot it forward. A small ball of flames came out of the sword and began speeding it's way towards Xianghua. Xianghua thought all was good as she took a few steps to the side. However, as soon as she did that, the flames slightly turned and began heading back towards her again.

Uh oh, Xianghua thought. She realized that this was a trailing fire, one that won't stop following it's target until it makes contact. Xianghua began running and dodging around from the fire.

At one point, she was about a foot away from Alora, though she didn't realize it at that point. She faced the fire and when it was less than a foot away, Xianghua dodged away from it's path again. As the element attempted to turn, it ended up hitting Alora. Xianghua watched as Alora went flying a few feet across the ring as the flames dispersed.

Alora let out a shriek until she landed hard on the ground. Xianghua stood up, expecting her opponent to stand up once she recovered. Instead, Alora let out a few soft, painful moans before slipping into unconsciousness.

"Winner: Xianghua!" the Shadow Priest called out. People clapped in union again for her victory.

However, Xianghua was very disappointed with the match. To her, Alora had the match and it was inevitable that she was going to be the winner of the two. Instead, luck was behind the Keisei native, but Xianghua just couldn't help the feeling that weighed on her. She even noticed that parts of Alora's once-beautiful dressed not had burn marks on them. It made her a bit more sad, knowing the feeling of having your favorite outfit ruined.

As she quietly stepped out of the ring, she looked around at the audience. She sighed to herself, realizing that neither Kilik or Maxi managed to show up on time…

~~~

Beach Arena

"Sonya Blade!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Sonya immediately tightened her short, black fighting gloves and looked over at her friends. "Looks like I'm up," she said.

"Good luck Lieutenant," said Guile.

"Kick whoever's butt you're going to kick!" said Ginzu with a grin.

Sonya nodded and began walking to the middle of the ring. The ground was all nothing but sand, which was a bit of a relief considering that the ground of the other arenas were a bit harder depending on the materials. As she walked through the sand, some of the particles were picked up by her black combat boots, slightly flying in the air before quickly falling back down to the ground.

She reached the middle and looked over at the Shadow Priest who stood in front of the large throne that was used for it's comfort during the matches that lasted through the day. It then called out her opponent. "LBJ!"'

What kind of name is that? Sonya thought raising an eyebrow. She then spotted a tall man in black tight pants and a black cowboy hat just taking off his jacket. Next to him, a midget man in a business suit took his jacket for him. "Go get 'em boss!" he said, his raspy, high-pitched voice ringing in Sonya's ears.

Only nodding, LBJ also gave the midget his hat, then stepped into the ring. He slightly looked up and down at his blonde opponent. "Hello little lady. Don't be thinking that just because you're a woman that I won't take it easy on you."

Sonya immediately got into her fighting stance, choosing to use her Tae Kwan Do fighting style. "Don't worry about it. I can handle much more than you think."

LBJ laughed at the comment and got into his fighting stance. "Good because I like a girl who can handle a lot." He winked at her then.

Sonya rolled her eyes in response. Great, I'm going to be fighting a pervert.

"Begin!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Neither combatants wasted no time after the call. They both sprinted towards each other and immediately delivered punches at each other. However, their forearms ended up connecting instead. Then, LBJ immediately used his other arm to throw another punch at Sonya, but she ended up blocking the move.

This continued like this with Sonya on defense and LBJ on offense. Sonya admitted to herself that her large opponent was pretty strong. Whenever he threw a punch, her own blocks were pushed back, always just a few millimeters away from her face. However, she had the feeling that he was rather all muscle and no brains, at least she hoped. She was going to have to use her own wits to win this match if she wanted to get into round two of the tournament.

Just behind LBJ, Sonya was able to hear the screeching sound of the midget cheering for his boss. By the blank look on his face, she figured that he must've grown used to the annoying voice at his point.

Suddenly, Sonya felt a kick to her stomach, the wind quickly knocked out of her. She cursed herself then because she had expected her opponent to throw only punches at her since that was what he had been doing since the round began. He then brought his elbow down and hit Sonya on the small of her back. She let out a short scream as she collapsed on her stomach and into the sand.

LBJ grinned sadistically then, having the satisfaction that he now had his opponent under this thumb. He began to believe then that he was indeed going to win this match. He began to lift his foot up, but then Sonya rolled a few feet away from him, realizing that she was vulnerable of his attacks. Once she was out of the way, she sat herself up.

The large man walked over to her them. He was about to kick her again when suddenly, Sonya performed an on-ground somersault. She then brought her hands out, placed then on the ground, and pushed the rest of her body up. The blond Lieutenant then used her long legs to wrap them around LBJ's neck. Finally, with all of her strength, she brought him forward and managed to flip him behind her, sending him flying a few feet.

As Sonya got back on her two feet, LBJ landed hard on his back letting out a small 'oof.' Once he realized that he didn't fall into unconsciousness, he growled to himself, then got himself back up. He turned around to see his female opponent staring back at him with her blue eyes, waiting for him to recover.

"Why you little-" he started to say. LBJ ended up not finishing his sentence and began running back towards Sonya with a small battle cry. Once he was close enough, Sonya stepped aside and let him pass. LBJ was a bit confused at first, but before he could turn around, Sonya kicked him in the back. LBJ stumbled a few feet forward, but managed to regain his balance without falling into the ground once again.

"Don't let her fool you boss!" the midget cried out from the sidelines.

LBJ growled a bit. "Could you shut up for once, Jones?!" he yelled out. And for the first time since the match began, Jones kept his mouth shut. LBJ then turned his attention back to Sonya. "You're going to pay for your foolishness!"

Sonya rolled her eyes again. "Oh please, you're the real fool in his fight."

That angered LBJ and he immediately ran over to his opponent. Sonya smirked and quickly put both of her hands out. Her hands glowed in a pink aura at first. Unfortunately for her opponent, he hadn't noticed right away, at least until a large, pink, ring-like energy projected out of her hands. Four more followed the first ring and they all shot out and hit their target.

Once again, LBJ was flown back from the force. This time, out of the ring. Sonya was a bit surprised at this, not realizing that they were that close to the edge of the ring. No matter, it meant that she won this match.

"Winner: Sonya!" the Shadow Priest called out. Everyone clapped as Sonya stepped out of the ring. As she did, she noticed Jones running over to LBJ, then began fanning him with the cowboy had as LBJ laid on the ground in a daze.

"You're gonna be all right, boss," Jones said.

"Just shut up," LBJ mumbled.

Sonya sighed, glad that it was over, and approached Guile. "Well, I won."

"Congratulations," Ginzu said with a thumb's up.

Guile patted Sonya's shoulder. "It was fun, but Ginzu and I should be getting back to the cave. There's some things that we needed to catch up on."

"All right," Sonya answered. "If you don't mind, I'm going to watch a match or two, then I'll catch up with you all."

"We'll see you then," Guile said. Then he and Ginzu made their way out of the ground. Once they were out of sight, Sonya faced the empty ring, prepared to watch the next match.

The Shadow Priest finally spoke then. "Li Mei!"

Sonya saw Li Mei step into the ring, obviously excited that she was finally called up. She sort of knew her as the girl who constantly talked in run-on sentences. She was also the girl who happened to bump into Alex and became a 'chosen one' in the tournament. Sonya became curious then, wondering what kind of fighting skills Li Mei possessed.

Li Mei's opponent was called out then. "Toxik!"

Immediately, a young woman stepped into the ring. Her hair was dyed pinkish-red, her lips covered with black lipstick. Her outfit consisted of a black tank top, a small hot pink vest, black short shorts, mid-thigh black boots, and a black golfer's hat with the rim pulled forward.

Toxik walked over to Li Mei. She managed to cover space between them and gave her a stare down, expecting Li Mei to do the same thing. Instead, Li Mei smiled. "Hi there, I really like your eyes," she said looked at her opponent's green eyes.

A small smirk crept up on Toxik's face and she slightly licked her lips. "I'm so going to have fun beating you up, little girl."

Then, just as the Shadow Priest called for the match to begin, Toxik managed to quickly turn Li Mei around and got her in a headlock. Li Mei was a bit surprised by this and struggled to get out of the hold. However, Toxik had a strong grip and getting out of it was going to be hard.

"Having fun now?" Toxik asked sadistically as Li Mei continued to struggle. "Because I know I am."

After a few more moments, Toxik finally released Li Mei from her grip, forcing the young woman to stumble a bit. Toxik then decided to give Li Mei some humiliation by giving her a quick spank. Whistling could be heard from the men watching the match.

Shock came over Li Mei before she turned to face her opponent. She then let out a growl. “That wasn't nice!” From there, Li Mei attempted to throw a punch.

However, Toxik suddenly moved sideways before she kicked the back of Li Mei's shin, sending the poor girl flying back with a small cry of surprise. Toxik then grabbed one of Li Mei's legs and got it in an ankle lock.

Shocking pain suddenly hit Li Mei and she began screaming for mercy as she struggled to get out of yet another submission lock. A sadistic grin came over Toxik as she received the satisfaction of inflicting her opponent with as much pain as possible.

"Give it up!" Toxik called out to her. "I'm going to win this!"

Li Mei stopped screaming then, suddenly filled with determination. "I don't think so!" she called back. She put one of her hands out in front of her. To Toxik's surprise, a ball of purple sparkling energy burst out of her hand. A trail of small lights fell from behind it, disappearing before it would hit the ground.

Toxik didn't have time to react and was hit by the projectile. With a surprise-like cry, Toxik flew a few feet back before landing in the sand. Once she did, the pink-haired woman rolled a few more feet before coming to a stop. By then, Li Mei was back up on her two feet, much more prepared to fight her opponent this time. Toxik too got back on her feet after a few moments of recovering.

"So," Toxik said with another grin. She reached to her side to a leather pouch that was on her hip. She grabbed a hit and pulled out a black paddle. "You want to play rough now?"

Not caring what was going to happen next, Li Mei sprinted over to her opponent. Once she was close enough, Toxik swung the paddle in hopes of hitting her opponent. To her surprise, Li Mei managed to dodge the attacks.

"I'll show you who's tough!" the young woman called out. She then jumped forward and managed to tackle Toxik to the ground. The both of them threw punches at one another and pulled at each other's hair a few times. In the meantime, they rolled around in hopes of dominating the other.

Then, to their surprise, they found themselves rolling out of the ring. "CRAP!" they cried out. When they landed, Toxik was on her back and Li Mei was on top of her with a single foot still in the ring.

Immediately, the Shadow Priest stood up. "The winner of this match is Li Mei. Both feet must be out of the ring for a ring-out to occur."

"WHAT?!" Toxik screamed out, a hint of rage shown in her voice. Li Mei quickly pulled herself off of her opponent and stood up.

"You heard him, I won," Li Mei said.

"I will not accept defeat, not by someone like you!" Toxik attempted to jump back into the ring to attack Li Mei. Luckily, the people near her saw this coming and immediately grabbed Toxik and pulled her back.

"LET ME GO!" the pink-haired woman demanded. However, no one listened. She was in too much anger and had to stay far from Li Mei.

Once everything was calm, Sonya stepped into the ring and jogged over to Li Mei. "You all right?"

To her surprise, Li Mei smiled. "Yeah, I had a good time, especially since I won."

"That's good to hear," Sonya continued with a sigh of relief. "Come on, let's go back to the cave, I'll make us some of Julia's tea."

"Great!" Li Mei cried out as the two of them made their way out of the beach arena. "Hey, aren't you from Earth because I've always wanted to visit and everything-"

Sonya had to shake her head in amusement as Li Mei continued her run-on sentences.

~~~

Courtyard

"Damn it!" Ashrah cried out. After receiving a kick to the back, the former demon of the Netherrealm fell forward, cursing under her breath more for letting herself be open for an attack.

Ashrah looked over at her opponent who went by the name Zena. She was an android from the realm of Lagol as far as the former huntress figured. The metal on her was of black and green including what was supposed to be eyes. The only other thing that distinguished her from the other androids was her long blonde hair, which was pulled back in a high ponytail.

"Come on…" Ashrah mumbled as she managed to get back on her feet. She stood in her fighting stance, ready for more. It had only been two minutes since the fight began, but Ashrah had the feeling that this one was going to last a while. Zena wasn't exactly the fastest opponent, but she was definitely a strong one.

The two had a bit of a stare down from where they were, waiting for the other to make the next move. Finally, Ashrah decided to be the first to make a move and ran towards her. Once she reached her, the two exchanged a few punches and kicks until Ashrah managed to kick her in the abdomen, forcing the android to stumble back a bit. Because parts of her were made of metal, Ashrah's foot immediately began to throb, but she ignored it, not wanting it to take her attention away from the fight.

Once Zena was able to regain her balance, she immediately put an arm out, her hand sinking into a dark hole that formed at the wrist. Ashrah didn't know what to expect until a loud BOOM! was heard. The former demon narrowly dodge the missile that was fired at her. It flew out of the ring (forcing some of the audience to duck out of the way), and then exploded against a wall.

Ashrah ran over to Zena during that time. However, Zena was ready and attacked her with more rounds of punches and kicks with her opponent on defense.

The exchange went on for some time before Ashrah pulled back, her right hand covered in a glowing white light. She quickly pointed upward and a ball of light shot out into the air with glitter trailing behind it. The light flew up until it was directly above Zena, then quickly shot back down. However, Zena managed to see the attack and quickly dodged out of the way.

Ashrah figured that would happened and she had another light projectile ready to go. While Zena was still distracted, Ashrah shot the projectile straight at her and by the time Zena saw it coming, she was already hit. The light burst, causing everyone watching to briefly be temporary blind.

When the light cleared, Ashrah was a bit surprised to see that Zena was malfunctioning, electric sparks surrounding the rapidly shaking android. This last for a few moments until the shaking and electric sparks finally halt. The lights that were previously on Zena were now off and smoke fizzled from different places. Ashrah wondered if this counted as a death in the match, knowing full well that she would be disqualified from the tournament if that was the case.

The Shadow Priest running the matches in the courtyard stood up then. "As an android, Zena is capable of being fixed after malfunctions and does not count as a death in the match. Therefore, Ashrah gets the win."

Everyone clapped as Ashrah sighed of relief. Without any more acknowledgment, the former demon start to depart from the courtyard and out of the area.

~~~

Late that night, Underground Lair

The matches in all the other locations were long finished and only those in the Underground Lair were left for the night. Shao Kahn continued to watch these battles from his balcony in hopes of finding more recruits for his army. In the meantime, it was also the place to test the fighting skills of his current warriors.

The Emperor was now watching a match between his new recruit Quan Chi and a Earth druid by the name of Gar. He wore a red traditional male Japanese kimono, black slippers and bore short white hair and a full beard. He may have been an elder, but Shao Kahn was able to sense great power within the druid.

Quan Chi and Gar fought hand-to-hand for some time after Shang Tsung called the fight to begin. As it continued on, Shao Kahn was starting to grow a bit bored. It was starting to become another generic fight and the Emperor admitted to himself that he was ready to cut his throat out. However, it would soon turn out that the two combatants were merely saving their true potentials for later.

Gar pulled back from his opponent and lifted both of his arms up into the air. From mid-air, two swords appeared in his hands and once they were fully developed, Gar immediately attacked. However, Quan Chi was prepared and he quickly drew out his double broadswords. The two quickly exchanged moves before pulling back and getting into stances. Once then, the audience clapped in unison, impressed by their actions in the ring.

After a moment, they continued to exchange sword moves, the sounds of them hitting each other heard around the room. Then, to Quan Chi's surprise, Gar managed to put full force on his swords and managed to knock the sorcerer's weapons right out of his hands.

You fool, Quan Chi thought, narrowing his eyes at his opponent. While Gar pulled back from his last move, Quan Chi jumped up and performed a double kick to Gar's torso, forcing him to drop his weapons as well. Once they were released, both swords dispersed into thin air. They once again exchanged more hand-to-hand fighting, this time in a much faster pace.

After a while of this, Gar jumped back once again. He his hands in front of him and began spinning them over the other in a fast rhythm. He was able to collect energy from the environment around him with small, bright red lights appearing and drawing to his hands. A ball of red energy grew bigger and bigger around his hands and once he was ready, he shot the energy at his opponent.

Because of the time it took for the energy ball to develop, Quan Chi was able to find the time to dodge out of the way of the speeding projectile. As he did, green energy formed in his hands and once he was fully out of the way of Gar's projectile, Quan Chi shot out his own projectile.

Gar became horrified by the green projectile that was coming after him. It was in the shape of a grinning skull, it's black beady eyes glaring at him in such a sadistic way that it sent chills up the druid's spine.

Before he was able to get out of the way after the short daze, Gar was hit by the skull and the force pushed him back to the edge of the ring. The skull projectile had stung into Gar's body and tremendously weakened him. Normally, one would only lay there and take the pain, but because Gar was an elder, he fell into unconsciousness, much to Quan Chi's pleasure.

"Winner: Quan Chi!" Shang Tsung announced. The audience immediately applauded the sorcerer as he left the ring.

He's not as bad as I thought, Shao Kahn thought as Quan Chi disappeared into the crowd. The sorcerer wielded useful and unique powers, at least that's what it seemed during the match. It indeed was a good idea to recruit him into my army.

Soon the next two fighters were announced. First was an Edenian by the name of Mars. He dressed in a green gi, walked barefooted, and his short, auburn hair was sleeked back neatly. Once he was in the ring, he threw a couple of punches and kicks in the air to warm up.

The next fighter was then announced. Shao Kahn mentally nodded in approval as one of his Generals of his army stepped into the ring. It was the very loyal General by the name of Reptile. He wore a traditional Chinese ninja outfit. It was mostly black with dark green and gold trimmings around his chest and mask area, the mask being in a bit of shreds Green scaly skin appeared in open parts of the mask revealing why he was called Reptile. His yellow eyes also glared at Mars.

Mars stared back at him as well. He felt a bit awkward by the fact that he would be fighting this creature. Then again, he has seen uglier fighters than him since the tournament began. Without keeping their eyes off of each other, the two got into their battle stances.

"Begin!" Shang Tsung called out.

Immediately, Reptile and Mars went after each other and exchanged punches and kicks at one another. For a while, they were quite even, but slowly, Reptile started to get the upper hand and soon he was in control of the fight.

Then, the Emperor's General stepped back, crouched to the ground, and quickly rolled over. Mars was caught in surprise and he fell forward. Once he was on the ground, Reptile was able to get up with quick speed. He walked over to his opponent and then rapidly stepped on his opponent with his foot. Mars growled in pain, trying to grab a hold of Reptile's leg, but it was no use. The only thing Mars could do was roll out of the way, which was what he did.

Mars laid on the ground for a moment before getting back up on his feet. He then turned around to face his opponent. Instead, he was met with something unexpected… a glob of green acid sprayed in the Edenian's face. Though he didn't see it, Reptile had taken his mask off, revealing more of his face, and spit acid from his mouth.

Mars screamed in agony as the acid burned his skin. He was also blinded by the acid and he wondered if he'll be permanently be like this for the rest of his life. Because of it, he decided to forfeit the fight, knowing that he couldn't fight any longer in this condition.

However, Reptile decided that for him. With a quick kick, Reptile managed to kick Mars, forcing him to stumble out of the ring. Immediately his allies rushed over to him, helped him up, and quickly got out of the lair with Mars still screaming from the burns.

Shang Tsung smirked with amusement as he stood up. "Winner: Reptile!"

Reptile placed his mask back over his head, giving him the human-like look once again. The audience wasn't sure whether to applaud or not after the incident with Mars. Soon, they all started to slowly clap in union.

Shao Kahn smirked to himself as his General left the ring with satisfaction. Good. It would seem as though everything is going well so far in this tournament…

Chapter Text

Underground Arena

Match after match went out throughout the evening. Some were quick and some lasted much longer than anticipated. Shang Tsung watched over the matches much more carefully than normal. Emperor Shao Kahn was not able to attend tonight's tournament under unknown circumstances, and he had asked the sorcerer to pick candidates for people with enough ability to be in their army.

Shang Tsung would sigh in disappointment quietly after each match. All of the fighters, winners or not, were lacking the ability that would qualify them for the position. The sorcerer wanted to at least find one qualified person in order to satisfy the Emperor and give a better reason for Shang Tsung to stick around longer, just in case anything went wrong that would cause him his life.

After some time, three competitions in a row finally caught Shang Tsung's interest. The first was one between someone named Duck Ward, a stupid name in the sorcerer's opinion. Then there was his opponent known simply by the name of Sodom.

Sodom bore two types of weapons on him… a pair of long katanas and a pair of jittes. The sorcerer had seen many fighters wielding various weapons, but he had never seen one who possessed two different weapons that came in pairs.

Duck Ward only held a broadsword on him. Despite Sodom having multiple weapons, Duck Ward showed no desire to hold back. The fight was going to be quite interesting…

"Begin!" the sorcerer called out. And immediately, the two fighters went after one another.

Steel clashed with steel throughout the entire fight. At first, Duck Ward seemed to have the advantage, taking most of the offense with his opponent being on defense. In the beginning, Sodom used his jittes, weapons that were smaller than his opponent's broadsword.

Eventually, Sodom was forced to use his double katanas. In a blink of an eye, he placed his jittes back in his belt, then took out the swords and blocked an incoming move from Duck Ward. The watchers of the match were impressed by Sodom's speed and applauded once the two fighters were back in their stances.

After a moment of that, the two continued their match. This time, Sodom was on offense, his two blades beginning to overpower Duck Ward's single blade. Duck Ward was soon backed towards the edge of the ring and within a minute, Sodom took advantage of it. The blue-masked fighter lifted a leg and kicked Duck Ward hard in the abdomen and flew a few feet back out of the ring. The viewers who were behind Duck Ward quickly moved out of the way before they were able to be knocked to the ground.

Shang Tsung realized that the fight was officially over and he immediately stood up. "Winner: Sodom!"

As how it always was at the end of the match, the viewers applauded in unison. Silently as he has been the whole time, Sodom placed his katanas back in his belt, then left the ring. He blended into the crowd then, so it was not known if he was going to stay to watch the next few matches or if he had left the lair for the night.

It was no matter to the sorcerer. "We shall begin the next match!" He paused for a moment before announcing the first fighter of the match. "Jubei!"

A Japanese man in black and red samurai armor stepped into the ring. Once he was in the ring, he immediately took out his katana, prepared for whoever he was going to face.

It was only Shang Tsung who knew. "Kabal!"

The Black Dragon clan leader stepped into the ring, with one double hooksword in each hand. A bit of surprise came upon Jubei's face. He wasn't sure whether to be shock by his appearance or his unusual weapons. Either way, he was determined to win this fight and move on to the next round. After a stare down from their places, both fighters stood in their fighting stances.

Shang Tsung knew then that they were ready for battle. "Begin!" he called out once again before sitting down.

Once the match was called, Kabal and Jubei slowly circled each other in the ring, watching for the other to make the first move. Eventually, Jubei grew impatient and decided to make the first move. He charged after Kabal and swung his sword, in which Kabal blocked with his hooksword.

Once again, steel against steel was heard around the room. Both Kabal and Jubei seemed to play both offense and defense, neither one of them being able to overpower the other just yet.

Soon, Kabal was able to find an opening and aimed one of his free blades at Jubei's arm. Jubei managed to see the strike in time and leaned back, only having a bit of his sleeve opened up, just missing his skin by a millimeter.

More of this continued, and for a moment, Shang Tsung thought neither of these fighters were worthy to be in the growing army. That was… until Kabal began to have the upper hand.

With unimagined speed, Kabal quickly ran passed Jubei, causing him to spin in rapid speed, fast enough to the point where Jubei ended up in a form of a tornado. Once Kabal was able to recover from his run, he quickly turned around and caught Jubei in mid-spin. Jubei now had his back turned to his opponent as he felt his head spin, the rooming looking more like a jigsaw puzzle to him now.

Kabal then kneed Jubei in the back, causing sheer pain in the samurai's body. He let out a painful groan as he suddenly found himself being thrown over Kabal's should backwards and landing hard on the ground, causing more pain to shoot through his body.

Without mercy, Kabal stomped on Jubei for a moment, before taking his hooksword out and began jabbing it towards his opponent. For a split second, Jubei had thought Kabal was going to kill him and was about to roll over. As he started to do so, Kabal used the hook portion of the weapon and managed to pierce it through the part of his shirt that was exposed around the armor. He then lifted Jubei up and got him back on his feet.

Before Jubei was able to get away from the weapon's grib, Kabal spoke. "Face defeat," he whispered. And with that, he pulled his head back a bit and shot out a purple, plasma-like energy into Jubei's face. The force of the energy pushed Jubei back and when he landed, he had hit his head hard enough on the ground to be knocked into unconsciousness.

Once the sorcerer Shang Tsung noticed this, he stood up from his throne. "Winner: Kabal!" he announced. And once again, the viewers clapped in union as Kabal left the ring with no remorse towards Jubei, who was immediately dragged out of the ring by his allies who were watching him in the tournament.

Shang Tsung looked down at the list that was in front of him to see who were the next two fighters to be in the ring. He smirked for two reasons upon seeing the names…one was that he came to realize that this was going to be the last match of the night. The second was that he recognized one of the names of the two fighters who was going to fight…

"We will now begin the final match of the night!" Shang Tsung called out. He waited a moment before announcing the first fighter. "Azam!"

A 7-foot muscular person stepped into the ring. He wore black boots and pants revealing his torso, which were covered with countless black tattoos. He possessed long black hair, which was tied back, a pair of black horns that came from his forehead, and a set of red eyes which scanned the viewers in search of who was going to face him in this match. Because he had a bit of a menacing appearance, the viewers grew silent and were beginning to feel sorry for the poor guy who was going to face him.

However, Shang Tsung knew Azam wasn't going to face an average person. He soon called out his name. "Noob Saibot!"

The average-sized wraith stepped into the ring. He seemed much more darker than before, almost like a shadow, with the exception of the pair of white lights in his eyes, which seemed to glare at Azam.

Although Shang Tsung didn't know Noob personally, he had heard much about the Netherealm native, a member of the Brotherhood of Shadow, which Quan-Chi once lead. Noob had taken over the Brotherhood since, but from what the sorcerer had heard, he had proven to be a worthy leader.

Perhaps we could use him for our cause, the sorcerer thought. However, let's see how worthy he really is first.

"Begin!" Shang Tsung called out.

The fight itself didn't last very long, but in that short time, Noob unknowingly proved himself to the man watching from his throne. The wraith had incredibly speed, confusing his larger opponent completely. He then disappeared in a cloud of black mist. Azam looked around in confusion, unsure of where his opponent went, but once he was punched in the face, he realized that Noob had the power of invisibility. He swung his arms around, hoping to hit Noob, but it was no use, as the wraith was able to stay out of the way.

Noob then reappeared from behind Azam, who was unaware of it. He took out one of his dark gray throwing stars and threw it at Azam. The weapon impaled him in the shoulder, which had managed to go through his thick muscles, and he screamed in pain. With that, Noob took the opportunity to grab Azam by the shoulders, flipped himself up over his head, then use his strength to throw him over his head and face first into the ground just a few feet away. The force of the move caused cracks to appear on the ground and the impact made Azam lose consciousness.

The match was over. Shang Tsung stood up and announced Noob the winner and the viewers clapped in unison for the last time, at least for the night. Noob had folded his arms and stared down at his unconscious opponent, obviously disappointed in the match. After a brief moment of this, he turned around and walked away.

As the rest of the crowd dispersed, Shang Tsung walked off with two Shadow Priests on either side of him. Sodom, Kabal, and Noob… those were the three names to keep in mind, because to the sorcerer, they were all worthy of being in Shao Kahn's developing army…

~~~

In A Dark Area Near The Underground Lair

As instructed, Kabal met with his two allies, Kira and Havik, after the night's tournament was over to discuss more plans, since they haven't been able to do much of it since their arrival in Outworld. Havik had suggested a darkened area he had noticed on their way to the tournament and believed that this was the best place to have their discussion before returning to the main palace for the night.

Kabal stepped into the darkness. Although he was not able to see them, he could sense the presence of both Kira and Havik. All three were completely sealed from all eyes and the only way they knew they would be noticed was if someone had a sixth sense of sorts.

"Good, now we can finally get this over with," whispered Kira.

Havik snorted in amusement… he was feeling the same way the red-head was at the moment. "It would seem that we are closer to the medallion than I thought," he stated. "There have been rumors going around the palace that the host of the tournament, Shang Tsung, has connections to those who are currently holding the medallion. There is also another small rumor that I heard as well… there may be a chance that those fighting in the underground, and qualified for it, will be recruited into a new Outworld Forces in development."

"If I am recruited," Kabal cut in. "I will ask that you two join as well. I am sure you are able to prove yourselves to the higher ranks. That way, we will have more of a chance to retrieve the medallion."

Kira spoke up then. "We should wait until the end of the tournament and the winner is declared. It would be much easier to take the artifact for ourselves then."

Havik sighed then. "Well, it wouldn't be as fun as taking it from those who have it now, but if it will make your Earthlings happy, then so be it. Once we have the medallion, we will be able to take everyone under our control… get them to speak backwards and make the sky green and the grass blue in every realm, just like home."

That alone made Kira raise an eyebrow. She understood that Havik tended to think oddly considering where he came from, but this was just a bit too much for her. Kabal himself was silent and she hoped that he hadn't succumbed to the adviser's insanity.

The leader of the Black Dragon spoke then. "And do not forget, we will be able to control everyone under our will and we will have the power to have the best join our clan."

"Excellent," Havik said. "Well, that is all for now." Footsteps were heard then, indicating his departure.

Kabal began following then with Kira just behind him. The red-haired woman had her arms folded in front of her as they walked and when they were in the light again, she narrowed her eyes at Havik a bit. The discussion was much shorter than she had thought and they haven't discussed any real specific details about their plans, only the real basics. It was pretty much the similar conversation that they had last.

As they exited the lair, Kira began to wonder if Havik was truly worthy of being the clan's adviser…

~~~

Forest Area

"Wow, I'm really full," said Mi-na as she patted her stomach. "That dinner in the palace was great tonight."

Her childhood friend Hwang nodded in agreement. "It was a nice meal, at least it wasn't fish this time."

They continued walking forward. The two had decided to take a walk around the area before returning to the palace for the night. Three days ago, Mi-na won her match. Two days ago, Hwang won his match after being sick for a couple of days. Since they both were able to move on to round two, they decided to take the time to relax before the new round of the tournament began, the last day being in two days by morning.

"So what do you want to do when we get back to the palace?" asked Mi-na.

Hwang smirked to himself, knowing that the young woman wasn't going to like the answer he was going to give him. "We're going to bed… because we're going to train tomorrow morning."

Mi-na sighed a bit. "I don't mind training, but why in the morning?"

"Because if you train in the morning, it will boost your energy up better."

"Well, all right, if it will-"

It was then that they both heard a crunch not too far from them as though someone stepped on fresh leaves. Hwang and Mi-na stopped in their tracks, both realizing that someone was not too far from them. They quickly turned their heads, expecting someone to be behind them, but there was no one there. After a moment, the two looked at each other in a bit of confusion.

"Um," Mi-na whispered, only loud enough so that only Hwang could hear her. "It was probably a rat or something."

Hwang shifted his dark brown eyes a bit. "Maybe. However, I have this uneasy feeling suddenly." They began walking forward again, but more slowly this time.

Mi-na couldn't help but chuckle a bit. "You're not getting sick again, are you?"

Hwang stared at the young woman. "No, what I meant was-"

Before he was able to finish, he suddenly found Mi-na jump quickly towards him, noticing the horrified look on her face. Hwang was about to react, but then felt himself being pushed forward quickly by his ally and fell straight into the ground. As he recovered from the fall, he suddenly heard the sound of crashing steel just a few feet from him. He turned he head and noticed Mi-na with Scarlet Thunder out in front of her. Hwang was about to protest, about to ask her why in the hell she pushed him the way she did… then, he saw why.

A woman dressed in a black and pink attire stood in front of Mi-na, a pair of sais blocked by Mina's own weapon. Although the mysterious woman wore a veil over her lower face, he could tell by her cold eyes that she was smiling in amusement.

"Aren't you a strong one?" the woman hissed as she stared at Mi-na. "And a pretty one too. Originally, I was out after another, but while I wait, I'll play with you. Mileena wants to have fun."

"You picked the wrong person to fight," Mi-na said with determination. She then slightly pulled her weapon back and swung the blade end towards her opponent. Mileena immediately blocked the blade with one of her sais. Because of the size of the weapons, Mi-na had hoped that the weapons would knocked from Mileena's hand easily, but by the pressure, it would seem that the pink-clad woman had a very good grip on them.

The two women continue to exchange moves. As this was going on, Hwang managed to stand on his feet and immediately drew out his sword he had named Blue Thunder, a gift from the general of the coast guard back in Keisei.

Mi-na had quickly shifted her eyes towards Hwang once she was able to distract Mileena and saw that he was standing. "I'll take care of this myself!" she called out, then continued to fight.

Hwang sighed to himself. Must she be stubborn at a time like this?! he thought with a bit of frustration. He decided to ignore her and ran forward to take down Mileena. However, before he lifted his sword above him, Mileena brought out two hands in front of her, one in front of each of the two. Then, two pink energy in shape of her weapons shot out towards each of them.

Though Hwang wasn't prepared for it, he was able to dodge his head out of the way and the energy barely missed him as he felt a small piece of the fabric on his shoulder being cut off. However, Mi-na wasn't able to dodge in time and was hit by the energy, sending her flying back and crashing into a tree.

"AAHHH!" Mi-na screamed out as she suddenly felt sharp pain in her right ankle. Despite the pain, she tried to get back on her feet, not willing to give up just yet. However, the moment she was on both feet, her right ankle gave out and she found herself on the ground holding her ankle in pain. "Dammit!" she cried out.

"Don't move, you're hurt!" Hwang cried out as he dodged a swinging sai from Mileena.

"Oh like I didn't know that!" Mi-na called out sarcastically.

Mileena stopped where she was and laughed a bit. "Too bad your little girlfriend went down so fast. But at least I can have fun with you."

She then quickly threw one of her sais at him, the weapon going just as fast as the energy she shot out a moment ago. Not having enough time to dodge physically again, Hwang quickly lifted his sword up and blocked the flying weapon, causing it to go off course. However, the weapon headed towards Mi-na, who had seen it coming and rolled slightly. The weapon plunged into the ground, barely missing the female warrior.

Knowing that his defense almost killed her, Hwang realized that they had to escape since she was hurt. With Mi-na just lying not too far from him and his opponent, she was at risk of being killed, realizing how sadistic Mileena truly was.

The thought briefly distracted him and it gave Mileena the chance to kick Hwang back a couple of feet. He landed on his back, a bit of pain shooting through him, but at least he still had his sword in his hand. With his free hand, Hwang felt a handful of dirt in his palm as Mileena approached him.

"Now you will both die!" Mileena cried out raising her remaining sai.

Unknown to her, Mi-na had managed to pick up the second sai, the one that had almost stabbed her. With all she had, she threw the weapon at Mileena, who saw it coming and dodged out of the way. However, this gave Hwang the advantage. He took the dirt in his hand and threw it in Mileena's eyes. Immediately, the stinging sensation caused Mileena to back away and she let out a small scream, frustrated that she had been distracted longer.

"Let's go!" Hwang announced. He quickly placed his sword back in his scabbard, scooped Mi-na in his arms, and ran with all he had out of the area.

Once Mileena was able to clear her eyes, the two young fighters were long gone. She growled inhumanly with frustration. "Those two will pay with their lives the next time I see them!"

~~~

The Main Palace

On the main staircase, people would pass in either directions, focused on their agendas for the night. The matches of the day were over and people moved about with no rush. At the bottom of the wide staircase, some had noticed a dark man in deep thought next to the long banister, but soon their minds became focused on other things.

Raven wasn't bothered by the quick stares, only because, as many guessed, he was in deep thought. The agent was in a bit of frustration for the first time since he could remember. Although most of the missions he had been one required time and patience, he would normally find leads to his main objective. However, this was the first time that he wasn't able to find one solid lead on figuring out the sorcerer Shang Tsung's true motives. Raven had tried to follow the sorcerer a few times throughout the tournament, but he would then find him gone without a trace.

During the last few days, he would quietly ask a few people of any information. There were a few rumors that were mentioned to him, including recruitment to the Emperor's forces in which the sorcerer was involved with. Other than that, there was nothing that would bring him closer to his objective.

He was also used to having his contacts back at headquarters through his earpiece, but as they had mentioned before his departure, they were unable to stay in contact while Raven was in another realm because the device was never meant for inter-realm travels. Normally, they would help find information as he worked, but obviously, not this time around.

The mission was indeed a challenge. Raven sighed a bit, realizing that he was letting his frustration cloud his mind. It wasn't normal for him to do so and he couldn't imagine what everyone back at headquarters would think.

However, he wasn't willing to give up. He was well known for never failing a mission. If he failed this now, especially one that was in another realm, it would completely blow his reputation. As he thought of this, he realized for the first time since becoming an agent how much pressure was on him.

Raven sighed to himself, realizing this fact. He then looked at his watch and decided to get some sleep for the night before continuing his mission. He got on his feet and began heading upstairs.

As he did, Raven noticed a peculiar person heading his way. He was dressed in a black karate gi with a red belt wrapped around his waist. He was a much older person with grayish-white hair, which was designed in a devil-like style. Raven didn't think anything of the man until he found him staring at him. Raven kept his eyes away until the man completely passed him. He reached the top of the stairs, then turned his head just in time to see the older man disappear around the corner.

Raven raised an eyebrow. A weird feeling fell over him, as though something wasn't right with the man. And it was also as though he had known him from somewhere before, but couldn't quite put a finger on it.

Feeling tired, the agent decided to forget about it and headed down the hall to his room. He had other things to concentrate on anyway…

~~~

Far Off From the Palace

"I never knew you could be capable of being such a cheap fighter," Mi-na said while glaring at Hwang. They had just exited the forest area, much to both of their relief, though at this point, they realized that they were far off from the palace.

Hwang sighed to himself. He felt a bit guilty himself by using a cheap tactic of throwing dirt at his opponent's eyes. "I know," he said. "But it wasn't like it was the actual tournament."

"That's true," Mi-na agreed. She then winced a bit, feeling another shot of pain in her ankle. "I really hope that I didn't break anything."

"I never got a good look at it," Hwang said. "When we get back to the palace, I'll look at it."

Mi-na looked at Hwang again. "Do you even know where we are?"

The guardsman stopped in his tracks and scanned the area. He was unable to recognize the area and came to the realization that they were lost. 'Great,' he thought. He then turned to his right and noticed a wall of boulders. Along the boulders, a large hole was presented.

"A cave…" Hwang muttered. He looked down at Mi-na then. "Since it's very late, we're going to have to settle at that cave over there for the night."

Mi-na sighed a bit, not happy about the resting place for the night. "I really hope Outworld doesn't have any weird species of bats in there."

Hwang wasn't an easy person to amuse, but for some reason, Mi-na was able to get a small chuckle out of him this time around. She smirked to herself a bit, feeling sort of proud of herself for finally being able to start breaking the seriousness her friend always possessed since they were kids.

The guardsman carried Mi-na to the cave and they stepped a few feet in before finally placing her on the ground, then sat next to her. Mi-na looked around the area. She found it interesting that there were lit candles against the wall, but didn't think any more of it.

Hwang looked over at Mi-na then as she stared up at the candles. A thought came to him then. He didn't know why it left him in the first place and mentally slapped himself for it. They were originally here in Outworld because she had run away from home and boarded on to the ship. He and the Coast Guard were assigned to bring her home at any cost and he was the only one who had seen her escape on to the ship. Hwang was determined to do so… however, before he did, he had to find the truth behind Mi-na's reason of running away to begin with… and now seemed like the right time to ask.

However, before he was able to open his mouth, a loud humming noise was heard just a couple of feet away. Mi-na and Hwang turned their heads and saw a white light in shape of a person right in front of them. Then, just as quickly, the light faded, revealing a tall, male person in black, blue, and white clothing and wore a rice harvester hat on his head.

"Greetings," the man said.

Mi-na was unable to say anything, shocked to see that someone was in the cave. However, Hwang managed to speak for the two of them. "Um, I'm sorry we came here, we didn't know someone was here…"

They were both surprised to hear the man chuckle. "Do not worry yourselves. I had sensed that you two would come here since this morning." The two Keisei natives raised an eyebrow, a bit freaked out by the last sentence. The man decided to try to reassure them then. "My name is Raiden. Come with me to the back, I will explain everything. I just ask that you keep it quiet, the others are sleeping."

There was no time to think about who the 'others' were. Hwang helped Mi-na up again and the two followed Raiden to the back…

~~~

Upper Floors, Main Palace

After spending the evening watching the tournaments in the underground lair, Sagat and Vega decided to retire for the night. Viper followed them just a few feet behind in silence.

"Those were the worst matches I've seen since we arrived here," said Vega. "I could've taken them all on without breaking a sweat."

Sagat silently snorted a bit. "Do not let your ignorance cloud your mind."

"Speak for yourself, former Muay Thai Champion."

At the moment, Sagat wanted to throw Vega down the stairs they were just passing by. However, he regained his composure as he was currently not in the mood to fight. "Forget about it. I have a tournament to attend to tomorrow morning and now is not the time for me to be distracted from the past."

The three soon reached the doors to their rooms, which were next to each other. "Since you will mentally prepare for tomorrow," Vega stated. "I have my own 'plans' to attend to tonight." With that, he looked at Viper, who only looked up at him with no emotion in her face.

A bit of disgust washed over Sagat. "What is your interest in this girl anyway?"

As the Spanish matador unlocked the door to his room, he placed his free hand around Viper's shoulders. "Let's just say that she is a strong one."

Sagat shook his head a little. "You sadistic bastard. You're lucky Bison is no longer alive. He would've ripped your throat with his bare hands for this." The Thailand native soon managed to unlock the door to his room. "I'll see you tomorrow." He then went into his room and shut the door behind him.

Silently, Vega and Viper walked into their room and the matador locked the door behind them. The room itself was large, nearly all of the items in the room were of golden color, aside from the few plants that were placed around the room. In the back of the room contained two windows and a doorway which lead to an outdoor balcony, looking over Outworld. The room also contained a king-sized bed in which Vega shared with Viper.

Viper had already approached the bed and began to sit down on the mattress. Vega himself removed the cloak around his body revealing his bare torso which contained a purple snake tattoo that wrapped around him. He also wore a red scarf around his waist, purple and yellow pants, the end stopping just below the knee, long white socks, and brown shoes.

Once he placed his cloak on a chair, Vega took off his claw and placed it on the desk. He then took off his white porcelain mask and placed it next to the claw. Because he wore the mask so much, most people perceived him as some sort of ugly monster. However, that wasn't the case as Vega possessed a very flawless face and, at the age of twenty-six, he looked a bit younger than he really was.

Vega then approached the bed, not taking his dark blue eyes off of Viper, who stayed in her place. The Spanish matador stopped just a foot from her, then placed a hand just under her chin and tilted her head up so that her eyes were on him.

"Now my beauty," Vega whispered so only she was able to hear. "Let us begin."

And with that, he took a hold of the golden drapes and pulled it over so that all view of the bed was covered…

~~~

Back At the Cave

A bandage had been wrapped around Mi-na's ankle. It turned out that she had only sprained it and had to stay off of it in order to let it recover. As her ankle was taken care of, she looked over at the woman with wild purple hair who had introduced herself as Rose.

Once they had arrived in the back, Hwang had asked Raiden who the 'others' were. To his surprise, the 'others' were thirty-two other people, plus Raiden and Rose, staying in the cave. Hwang and Mi-na couldn't understand why these people were secluded from the rest of the participants of the tournaments, but neither one of them dared to ask.

Then, Raiden spoke. "I sense a pure heart and soul in both of you. If that wasn't the case, I would've kicked you both out of here."

Rose glared at Raiden. "Well the poor girl did hurt her ankle, the best we could do is help them."

Raiden sighed, decided not to argue with her then. However, confusion still clouded the strangers. "I don't get it," said Mi-na. "How is it that Hwang and I have 'pure hearts and souls?'"

"Okay so no one is ever completely innocent," Raiden admitted. "What I meant by that is that the two of your have a sense of knowing what is truly right, no matter what you have done in the past. Which brings me to a question out of curiosity… do you two have any idea what you got yourselves into here?"

"I can answer that," Mi-na answered. "I was chased down by the Coast Guard back in Keisei and escaped on a ship. I didn't know I was going to whole different place there where a tournament was going to be." She then pointed a finger at Hwang. "And for added information, he's a member of the Coast Guard."

Hwang sighed to himself, realizing that even when they agreed to place their current situation aside, Mi-na still held a bit of a grudge towards him. He wanted to argue with her then, to blame her for making him chase her here and becoming trapped until the end of the tournament, but now didn't seem to be the right time for that.

Raiden chuckled a little. "As I said, no one is completely innocent. However, I should tell you that all the realms, including Keisei, are in danger."

"What do you mean?" Hwang asked, now curious.

"Well," Raiden replied. "I am the God of Thunder and Rose is a psycho-I mean psychic." Rose immediately glared at him. Raiden noticed, but he continued on. "Along with the other individuals here, we are here to defend the realms… you two have been chosen to do the same."

Rose decided to continue for the Thunder God. "The Chishio No Me medallion is in the wrong hands, considering the Outworld Emperor's history. Many rumors and suspicions have been going around since before anyone's arrival here for the tournament. Some of us, myself included, had visions of the destruction of mankind, and we fear that may be the result of the tournament."

"For now," Raiden cut in. "Our job is to make sure that the medallion falls into the right hands. We are also doing investigations on the current wielders, however we haven't been very successful at this point. We hope that we will have more answers near the end of the tournament."

"Tell me about the Outworld Emperor," asked Hwang.

Raiden nodded. "His name is Shao Kahn…" and with that, he explained the Emperor's history, the history of the medallion, and how it was discovered recently and given to Shao Kahn.

When Raiden finished the story, Hwang and Mi-na were in a bit of shock. Sure, the two of then stuck around for the tournament to see how far they would go, but they had no idea what they truly got themselves into. They wondered what could've happened had they not have received this information after the tournament was over. Then again, what could happen may not even happen…

"Mi-na and I will help anyway we can," Hwang said. "Especially if it's for the sake of the entire universe."

Raiden nodded in approval. "Excellent! In that case, welcome aboard. You'll be staying in the cave for the remainder of the tournament."

Rose stood up then. "Follow me, I will show you to your rooms."

Hwang stood up then and helped Mi-na up as well. Then, they followed the older woman out of the lounge area and towards one of the few empty rooms of the cave. As they left, Rose glared at Raiden again. "And when I get back, I'd like to talk to you about the whole 'psycho' thing." Then she left.

Women, Raiden thought with amusement. Then almost immediately after, his mind became serious. Why do I have the feeling that we still may not have enough for our cause…

Chapter Text

Indoor Arena

"Sakura Kasugano!" the Shadow Priest called out.

The moment finally came for the young Japanese girl. For days, she had waited for the moment when her name would be called to do battle in the ring. Now the time came and she was ready for it.

As Sakura stepped into the ring and made her way towards the middle, she began to wonder who her opponent was going to be. Watching the past matches, she has seen some very tough opponents. Even those who didn't make it to the next round showed great strength and charisma.

Sakura was able to hear the cheers coming from her friends Ibuki, Asuka, Maki, Mika, and newcomer Cassandra. She smiled to herself, feeling a bit more confident. Even if she did lose… no… losing wasn't an option…she had to win!

Once she was in the middle of the ring, her opponent's name was announced. "Linkara!"

Sakura turned her head a bit in search for her opponent and once she laid her eyes on her, she could've sworn that she felt a sweat drop just above her brow. Throughout the tournament, she had seen many fighters in different shapes and forms and Linkara, if she remembered correctly, was a Shokan… half human half dragon with copper skin, thinning long black hair that almost created a Mohawk style, ripped muscles, red eyes, and four arms. From the looks of her smaller height and size compared to the much larger of her kind, Linkara looked to be an older teenager.

Linkara walked over to the middle of the ring and stopped a few feet from Sakura. The young Shokan laughed a little. "So, I'm fighting a human? This will be easier than I thought."

Sakura immediately put her clenched fists up and got into a fighting stance. As she moved, the tail of her white headband behind her slightly swayed. "Don't underestimate me just yet."

Immediately after the statement, the Shadow Priest called for the match to begin and quickly after, Sakura and Linkara wasted no time. The two charged at each other, ready for battle.

Linkara lifted her lower arms up, which were clasped together, and brought them down in quick speed. Sakura saw this in time and ducked down sideways. Immediately she found an opening and landed a fist in Linkara's abdomen. Linkara wasn't prepared for the move and she backed up a bit in slight pain. However, because she had well-developed muscles in her abdomen, it wasn't enough to distract the Shokan.

Sakura brought up a leg and attempted to perform a high kick. However, Linkara was able to block the move, and then grab her leg with both of her left hands. Before Sakura could react, Linkara managed to throw Sakura over her head causing her to fly a couple of feet back and land hard on her side.

"Owe…" Sakura mumbled under her breath hoping that Linkara didn't hear her. Then, she noticed Linkara lifting one of her feet up. Sakura's dark eyes immediately widened, realizing what was about to happen. She quickly rolled out of the way and Linkara only managed to stomp on the ground.

With that, Sakura got back on her feet just in time to see Linkara lift up her other leg to kick her. Sakura blocked the move and tried to follow it up with a punch of her own. Instead she found Linkara blocking the move with one of her lower arms.

The two exchanged moves like this for a bit with both girls playing offense and defense. Soon, Linkara was able to overpower Sakura and managed to push her back before kicking her in the abdomen. The force of the kick nearly knocked the wind out of Sakura and she found herself coughing a bit.

The young Japanese girl looked up at Linkara's face as she tried to quickly recover from the blow. Normally when she was watching from the sidelines, Sakura would see determination in the fighters' faces. With Linkara however, she didn't see it at all. Instead, a smirk was stuck on her face and her eyes seemed to take pride in the situation that she was in.

If I'm correct, she's being overconfident, Sakura thought. I hope I'm right. At least she had hoped she was right because it was a good advantage for her to take.

It was then that Linkara spoke. "Are you finally cowering in fear? I can almost see it in those pretty eyes of yours."

Sakura realized that her eyes were definitely a bit wide, showing an emotion that currently didn't exist within her heart in that moment. She slightly shook her head and narrowed them then, showing how she was really feeling…

Determined.

"Don't jump to conclusions just yet!" Sakura barked out. She then bent her knees, clenched her fist, and jumped up. "Sho-Ru-Ken!" she called out. Linkara felt a hard punch under her chin and flew a couple of feet in the air before hitting the ground on her side. She managed to sit up, ignoring the pain, just as Sakura made a 360 degree spin in the air, then landed back on her feet.

Sakura stood there, deciding to give Linkara a chance to get back on her feet. They stood about six feet away from each other at this point. Linkara only stood there as Sakura had her fists drawn, ready for more.

"Let's see if you can handle this!" Linkara called out as she lifted all four of her arms in the air. Immediately, a green energy was drawn into her hands forming four small circles. Although Sakura was still on her guard, she found herself slightly lowering her clenched fists a bit, unsure of what to really expect next.

Then it came to her… Linkara was collecting energy in order to shoot out a projectile at Sakura. As Linkara concentrated on collecting her energy, Sakura began to do the same as well, thankful that even though it wasn't the perfect projectile, it was still useful in situations like this one.

Soon, Linkara was able to form all four energy balls into one big ball. Once they were formed, she immediately shot them out towards Sakura. Even while preparing for her own projectile, Sakura was able to get out of the way of the projectile quickly. The audience in the path of the projectile were long out of the way from it as it flew over their heads and crashed into a wall. Since day one, the audience had grown used to dodging out of the way of flying projectiles coming from the fighters in the ring.

Then, as Linkara turned to face Sakura, she was suddenly met with a blue energy that hit her hard in the face. The last thing Linkara heard before being rendered unconscious was "Hadouken!" She then flew back a few feet and landed on her side in a heap.

After a moment, the Shadow Priest stood up. "Winner: Sakura!"

Suddenly, the applaud coming from the audience didn't matter to Sakura. Her allies' cheers and screams of excitement took over the applauding making the young Japanese girl smile.

"YEAH! I did it!" Sakura cried out. She then cried out a "Woo hoo!" as she punched and kicked in the air for a bit before skipping over to the ringside to meet with her friends.

"That was great!" cried out Maki.

"You did awesome!" called Ibuki.

"Thank you," Sakura said smiling.

"Just do us a favor next time," Asuka said smirking. She then lifted up a hand which contained a white and red shoe. "The next time you get excited, try not to lose your shoe and nearly giving someone a concussion."

Sakura looked down then and noticed that her left shoe was missing. Immediately she blushed, almost forgetting her long-time habit. "Um... oops," was all she could mutter.

~~~

Beach Arena

"Winner: Yang!" the Shadow Priest called out. The audience clapped as Yang walked out of the ring after knocking his opponent out unconscious by using his finishing move in which he called the Raishin Mahhaken. He had performed the move in such speed that no one was able to figure exactly what he did. Whatever it was, it didn't matter anymore because the one half of the Twin Dragons walked away the winner of the match.

Yang was able to hear cheering coming from Yun and Yin, who stood on the sidelines to support their brother. "That was awesome!" cried out Yun. "For a moment there, I thought he had you!"

Looking back at his opponent, Yang realized how menacing his opponent was even when rendered unconscious and being placed on a cart to be lured out of the area. Obviously from another realm, the opponent was male with red skin and black tattoo designs on his body. He was lean and cut and though he had great strength, Yang's speed was the one that prevailed in the match.

"Um, yeah, I guess," Yang said rubbing the back of his neck.

Yin smiled excitedly. "This is great! Yang and I are both going to be moving on to round two. Now let's hope Yun does the same tomorrow."

Yun stretched his arms out. "I'm pretty sure I will, no questions about it."

Nearby, Lei and Chun Li were watching the tournament as well, mainly because Lei would be fighting today. "Yang did a pretty good job despite the odds," Lei mentioned.

Chun Li smirked to herself. Although things had been quite busy for her, she was thankful to be able to have some chat time here in Outworld with the Lee siblings, who were trained under their grandfather Gen, who happened to be Chun Li's master from childhood. She had been already aware that Gen was the one who received the invitation to the tournament. However, due to his illness, he was unable to attend and he passed down the card to his young grandchildren. Although, she was saddened about Gen not coming, she figured it may be for the best. Besides, it would seem that Gen felt they were ready to take on battles as these ones in the tournament and Yang just recently proved that. Gen would had been just as proud as she was.

"He definitely did a great job," Chun Li said replying to Lei's comment.

Lei looked at Chun-Li then. "And you did a great job as well last night. Congratulations on getting in to round two."

Chun-Li laughed a little. "I appreciate that, but that's the fifth time you've said that."

Lei let out a small nervous laugh then. "Um, guess I did. Well, I guess I'm just anxious for my match to begin. I've been sitting here since breakfast ended and now it's past lunch time."

"Just be patient, that's all you can really do."

It was then that the fighter for the next match was announced. "Titan!"

The audience fell silent when a opponent similar to Yang's opponent stepped in. However he was a bit bigger and bit more menacing than the last guy. His sadistic grin showed off two rows of sharp yellow teeth and he had a set of red eyes which made one seem like they were looking into the deep depths of Hell.

Lei let out a small whistle. "This guy looks tough. I feel really sorry for the poor bastard who has to face him."

"Lei Wulong!" the Shadow Priest called out.

"Oh look Lei!" Chun Li cried out. She purposely made herself sound excited, realizing the irony of Lei's last comment. "Your wait is finally over! Good luck!"

I'm going to really need it, Lei thought sighing. He then forced himself to walk over the ropes and walk into the ring. He stopped about seven feet from his opponent, not feeling too right about this match.

Titan looked down at Lei, being about a foot taller than the Interpol detective. "Don't expect to win," Titan said. "And don't expect me to take it easy on you."

Lei forced himself to narrow his eyes at his opponent. Then, he got himself into his fighting stance. "We'll see how it turns out," he said as Titan got into his own stance.

"Begin!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Lei had hoped that he would have a stare down with Titan so he could take the time to relax himself a bit before beginning the fight. Unfortunately for the super cop, Titan wasn't thinking the same thing and once the start of the fight was called, he immediately charged after Lei, ready to take him on.

Titan threw a punch once he was close enough, but Lei immediately ducked under it. From there, the Interpol detective tried to jab an open palm at his opponent's stomach, but Titan saw it and caught his hand. He then twisted Lei's arm and Lei suddenly found himself in a mid-air choke hold.

"Got you now, wimp!" Titan said as he tightened the hold. Lei began struggle against the hold, trying to find a way to get out of it.

"Come on Lei!" Chun Li called out from the sidelines.

After another few seconds, Lei managed to lift one of his legs up and kicked back at Titan's abdomen as hard as he could. However, because of Lei's opponent's well-built muscles, the blow did little to effect him. Then, to the cop's luck, Titan decided to let him go by throwing him across the ring. Sand flew around as Lei rolled a few feet back before coming to a stop. Ignoring the pain, he quickly sat up.

Then to Lei's surprise, one of Titan's hands was surrounded by an orange energy, which formed quite quickly. Titan then threw his hand and a large ball of reddish-orange fire came out of it and headed towards his opponent. Lei saw it coming and rolled out of the way. The ball of fire landed at the previous spot he was in and on impact the fire exploded and disintegrated.

Lei got to his feet and began running towards Titan. "Let's see you handle this!" Once he was close enough to Titan, Lei performed varies and punches and kicks from his five fighting styles. For a moment, Titan was blocking the moves, but soon Lei found himself overpowering his opponent and managed to get a few hits on him, stunning him a couple of times.

Titan pulled back then and glared at Lei. "Is that all you got?" he demanded. He then threw another fireball at Lei, who got out of the way immediately after. Once again, the fire exploded upon impact with the ground.

Lei smirked then. "I may not have my own special powers, but at least I don't need to always rely on them."

This immediately angered Titan and he quickly began charging at Lei, roaring in anger in the process. "I'll kill you!" he yelled out.

Not knowing what to expect, Lei immediately stepped a few feet out of the way before Titan could get his hands on him. However, Lei never knew how close he was to the edge of the ring. Once Titan noticed, it was too late to stop himself and the large man found himself stumbling completely out of the ring.

"Winner: Lei Wulong!" the Shadow Priest immediately called out.

Lei nervously rubbed the back of his head. "Eh, sorry buddy, I really didn't know I was that close to the edge."

Once Titan got back on his feet, he glared at Lei and pointed at him. "Now I'm really going to kill you!"

Within a split second, Lei was out of the ring on the other side. He took a moment to grab Chun Li's hand and then he made a run for it.

"Lei!" Chun Li called out.

"Sorry Chun!" Lei called out. "But I really don't want to know what he's like outside the ring!"

Chun Li managed to let out a heavy sigh. What a day… she thought.

~~~

Underground Lair

Once again, night fell and the only matches taking place were the ones in the underground lair. Sagat was amongst those watching the matches there. However, the main reason he was there was because he had a match that night.

For a while, Sagat waited for his name to be called out. Because that hadn't happened yet, the former Muay Thai champion had to endure match after match and many of them couldn't even be considered real fights.

Most of those who make it to round two tonight will not have the honor to make it to round three, Sagat thought.

Then finally, two matches caught his attention. He wondered if the two winners had anything to do with the army that was being formed. Their own skills seemed to be unmatched with any of the fighters he had seen all night.

The first was of a cyborg by the name of Smoke. Smoke had faced a female cyborg as well, though she looked more human than he did. The two of them had a fierce fight and Smoke himself pulled off moves that Sagat couldn't describe. At one point, Smoke had fumed, well, smoke out of him causing his opponent to become temporary blind. Then, he took her by the head and smashed her face into his knee. Although it didn't affect Smoke's opponent that much, Sagat could only imagine the damage the move could do on a normal human…

Then, Smoke made himself invisible and whatever he did, he caused his opponent to malfunction. She shook a bit before falling forward. Then, Smoke reappeared a few feet from her. Some would think that this would count as a death in the tournament and that Smoke would be disqualified. However, since his opponent was a cyborg, she was fixable and because of that, it didn't count as a fatality.

"Winner: Smoke!" the host Shang Tsung called out. Immediately, an older human, who Sagat assumed was her master, picked her up and carried her away.

Sagat snorted a bit as Smoke went back into the audience. Thinking back on it now, it wasn't a good match as he previously thought. The winner pretty much cheated just to get his way. Then again, there weren't really that many rules in the tournament.

However, he couldn't deny the skills of the fighter who won the following match. Shang Tsung had announced this fighter as Mileena. Her opponent was named Trixie, a blonde haired girl with roller blades and small boxing gloves.

Ridiculous, Sagat thought as he stared at Trixie. How is it that people like her get into the tournament?

As he expected, Mileena had the full advantage throughout the match. During it, there were unforgettable moments. For instance, at one point, Mileena literally sank through the floor, then reappeared from the air and kicked Trixie in the head from above. The audience clapped at the impressive move. Sagat found himself rubbing his chin with interest then.

The match continued from there as Mileena continued to have more of an advantage. At one point, she performed a rolling thunder knocking Trixie to the ground. Later, she shot out two pink projectiles that were shaped like sais throwing her opponent off once again.

After a few more minutes, Trixie was finally about to get past Mileena's blocking and tried to punch her in the face. However, when Mileena pulled back, her pink and black veil got caught on Trixie's gloves and when she pulled her arm back, the veil went with her.

Mileena's face was now fully revealed. Sagat figured the sight under her veil was going to be unpleasant. Besides, the woman wore revealing clothes, a way to make people draw their attention away from her face.

However, many of the watchers didn't seem to get the idea in the first place as they gasped in horror. Half of them were now trying not to look at Mileena. Her nose was that of an ugly witch, though that really wasn't what was truly ugly… it was her mouth… no skin covered it. Instead, long sharp teeth replaced them and they looked sharp enough to bite through one's bones.

"You bitch!" Mileena snarled. She let out an animal-like growl and charged at Trixie, who she grabbed once she was close enough. As expected, Trixie was full of fear, not sure of what was going to happen next.

"Now to rip off that pretty head of yours!" Mileena called out. She opened her mouth, loving the sound of Trixie's agonizing screams.

Even with the screaming, Mileena was still able to hear Shang Tsung, much to her dismay. "Mileena!" he called out. "If you continue, you will be disqualified!"

Mileena let out a small growl, realizing that her rage nearly took her over. In disappointment, she dropped Trixie to the ground. Immediately, the young opponent quickly crawled over to ringside.

"I never wanted to be in this tournament!" Trixie cried out. "You win!" And with that, she stepped out of the ring.

Shang Tsung sighed and stood up. "Winner: Mileena!"

Sagat shook his head a little. Although the actual match itself was lame, he did admire Mileena's skills. And if it was true that she was in the developing army, he looked forward to working with her, despite her… flaw.

Once everything was calm, Shang Tsung was finally able to begin the next match. "Sagat!"

Finally, the Thailand native was finally going to fight. Sagat stepped into the ring, his enormous height already intimidating some of the fighters who had been waiting to fight. Sagat then began to have the feeling that his upcoming match wasn't going to last very long.

Then, his opponent's name was announced. "Dim!"

A werewolf-like creature stepped into the ring. He let out a small growl and his yellow eyes glared at his opponent. Sagat smirked. He may be one of the few who will have a good match tonight after all.

Once Dim was set, Shang Tsung called for the match to begin.

Although Dim was bit challenging with his animal-like instinct, Sagat was able to take him down within two minutes, knocking him out with his Tiger Genocide move. The crowd was silent as Shang Tsung announced him the winner.

Feeling angry, Sagat quickly left the arena, pushing anyone out of his way. Before announcing the next match, Shang Tsung watched him until he could no longer be seen. The sorcerer found himself admiring a fighting spirit that Sagat was thirsting for. As a matter of fact, Sagat left a meaningful impression on the sorcerer.

Shang Tsung found himself smirking then. Perhaps he may be worthy of joining our developing army…

There was only one more day left before round one was over… and the sorcerer wondered what round two was going to bring to the tournament…

Chapter Text

The final day of round one of The Blood Tournament had arrived. That morning at the indoor arena, Rose watched the remaining 'chosen ones,' Yun and Ibuki, fight in their matches. Thankfully, their separate matches took place just before lunch and the both of them were able to receive victory and the chance to move on to round two of eight of the tournament.

Aside from Lita, thought Rose as Yun, the last of the two, won his match. Everyone in the cave is moving on to round two... for not knowing much behind the tournament, things seem to be going well so far…

~~~

Main Palace

"Today is the final day of round one," said Queen Sindel.

"And we were all able to make it to the next round, which starts in two days," mentioned Jade as she sipped a cup of tea into her mouth.

The weather in Outworld seemed quite bright today rather than it's usual gloomy weather the realm would normally have. On a balcony that was connected to the Queen's room, she, Jade, and Princess Kitana decided to join together for some Edenian tea just after having lunch at the palace's dining quarters. From above, they were able to watch the participants of the tournament going towards, away, and around the palace grounds.

"You know," Sindel continued after a moment of silence. "We've had our bad times here in Outworld and for a while since we arrived here, I couldn't think of one good thing that came out of this place since we left. However, now that I think about it, when we return to Edenia, we may finally leave this place with at least one good memory."

"That may not be so bad," replied Jade. "Even if you have awful memories in one place, you may end up developing at least one good memory later on in life no matter how much your resent it."

They fell silent then, deciding to enjoy the rarely good environment that Outworld was currently displaying. During Sindel and Jade's conversation, Kitana had paid no attention to what they were talking about. Instead, she daydreamed.

Many years ago, Kitana remembered a time when she was an assassin for the Emperor Shao Kahn. For all those years, he had manipulated her into thinking he was her real father and that the clone Mileena was really her twin sister. The two of them, along with Jade, were Shao Kahn's three most loyal assassins, taking on their assignments like it was nothing.

However, Kitana would later find out that she was really the Princess of Edenia and that her real father, King Jerrod, was murdered at the hands of Shao Kahn and took her mother Sindel as his bride. Driven to insanity, and her essence the only means of protecting Earthrealm from the same fate as Edenia, Sindel committed suicide. However, she would later be resurrected on Earthrealm by Shao Kahn. Kitana also found out that Mileena was created so that when the Princess herself was rid of, the clone would take her place.

Later, the Princess would find out that her own mother was resurrected and was being controlled. Kitana would eventually free her mother and free her world of Edenia from Outworld's grasps with Jade's help. Since those days, Edenia had been in peace and Kitana rarely heard from Mileena since, though she would occasionally hear of Shao Kahn, all of them involving him trying to control Edenia once again.

When the invitation to the tournament came to her hands, Kitana knew that Shao Kahn was going to be involved somehow. She had not seen him as of yet, though she had already seen some of his minions including Shang Tsung. True or not, Kitana figured that Shao Kahn had to know her, Jade, and her mother's presence by now.

However, she was surprised that no one has made a move on them yet. So why is Shao Kahn waiting to attack?

Kitana then decided to push those thoughts out of her head. Then, the thought of the Keisei knight Siegfried came to her. It had been three days since they had introduced each other, though it seemed like a longer time since.

Unfortunately, Kitana had not seen Siegfried since that fateful meeting in the halls of the palace. The last time she saw him, his right hand was shaking and he had quickly excused himself and ran off. It worried the Princess a bit since she wasn't sure why that happened. She had hoped to be able to meet up with him again in hopes of finding out what was going on, but so far it has been to no avail.

Then, Jade's voice broke Kitana off from her daydream. "Wow, I didn't realize how much tea we had! The kettle is completely empty."

Kitana shook her head a little and looked down at her teacup, which was only half empty. Her mother must've seen the blank expression on her face and spoke then. "My daughter, is everything all right?"

Kitana looked up at Sindel, who had a concerned look on her face. She forced a smirk and nodded. "Yes mother, I'm all right. I must be tired."

"Well then you go rest," Sindel suggested. "Jade and I are going to go to the indoor arena to watch the final matches of this round. Be safe dear."

"Yes mother."

With that, Sindel and Jade left the balcony. Kitana watched over the balcony and down at the ground before, watching a bit of the activities of the participants. After a while, she decided to rest for a while. Kitana got up from the chair and went inside.

~~~

Near The Cave Area

Sitting under a tall tree, Nina Williams watched the small beach area about ten yards from her. The water was crystal clear and small fishes could be seen swimming under the water and small waves crawled up to the shore before pulling back again.

Since arriving in Outworld, Nina did all she could to distance herself from everyone staying in the cave with her since she had no interest in getting to know them. Normally, she was approached by Raiden and Rose for any reason, mainly about the tournament, but it was always very brief. A few days ago, she easily won the match she participated in and was going to move on to the next round. However, she admitted to herself that there were a few things bugging her.

What's the point of me being the chosen one? she thought. That Thunder God mentioned that we all had pure hearts and souls. What does that have anything to do with me?

Then again, she had lost her memories of the past, about two years ago after awakening from being in suspended animation for nineteen years as a result of failing a mission. Perhaps she had a pure heart and soul then?

She also remembered what Rose said to her on the ship. Nina, just because you are an assassin, doesn't mean you should not open up to those around you. Loneliness is not the good way of life.

That was another thing Nina couldn't understand. It was a type of life she had lived for as long as she could remember and she hadn't felt any emotions about it. Besides, who did Rose think she was telling her about her feelings and lifestyle? It was none of her business anyway.

Since arriving in Outworld, Nina never forgot her main objective and how she ended up here to begin with. She was assigned to assassinate the Spanish ninja Vega and to return the young woman Viper unharmed. Nina had followed the two on to the ships, but she had not seen either of them since.

Where could either of them be? she thought with a small sigh.

She looked down a little and noticed the dark green baby tee she was wearing. Because she came here unexpected, Rose had provided her with extra clothing. The blonde assassin was displeased about not being given any dark purple clothing, which has always been her preferred color. She was thankful, however, to able to choose black pants, which she was wearing now, from the collection.

More thoughts came to Nina, mainly about Vega and Viper and how she was going to try to find them. Unknown to her, someone noticed her and approached Nina from behind. However, the unknown person ended up stepping on a twig, quickly alerting Nina. She took out a small gun from her pocket and aimed it behind her.

The stranger laughed then. "I'm so glad I finally found you… sister!"

"Hmph," Nina said without turning around. She felt the left side of her lips curl up a bit in amusement. "You took your sweet time finding me. I haven't seen you since we were still on Earth."

Nina stood up then and turned around to face her younger sister, Anna. A sadistic smirk was on the brunette's face as the bottom end of her red qipao dressed swayed in the light wind revealing her red high-heeled shoes and brown stockings that contained black flower designs on them.

"I do admit," said Anna. "You were quite hard to find." She then took out a small pistol that was hidden on a belt under her dress. "Now we can finally settle our score. Honestly, I tried to make amends with you, trying to put our old past aside. However, it seems that you don't want to do just that… so I have no choice but to kill you!"

Nina said nothing as she and Anna glared at each other with the same ice cold blue eyes they possessed. Both of them waited for the other to pull trigger with each of them ready to duck out of the way. With that, they knew that a gun war between them was about to take place.

However, just before either of them pulled the trigger, a sound of thunder was heard. Both of them turned their heads, distracted from the noise. They saw a white light in shape of a human. Soon, the light was gone and Nina was able to recognize Raiden. However, Anna had no clue who he was.

"Who the hell are you?" she demanded, now pointing the gun at Raiden.

Suddenly, both Nina and Anna's guns were taken from their hands by an unknown force and thrown far into the sea. Both of them became confused by what just happened.

"Enough!" Raiden demanded. "This is not the time for personal vendettas! Both of you must wait until the end of the tournament!"

Nina glared at the Thunder God, staying silent. However, Anna let out a fake yawn. "So the bitch is currently seeking guidance from some guy with weird electric powers? How boring!" She looked at Nina then. "When you're done kissing up to him, we'll settle our score." She then left and soon disappeared behind the trees.

Raiden looked over at Nina then. "Do not let personal matters get to you until the tournament is completed."

Nina became angry then. "It's none of your damn business about my personal matters! And besides, what's with me having a 'pure heart and soul?' Wouldn't she have the same thing since I'm sure we've led similar lives?"

Raiden let out a small sigh then. "No actually. Your sister's heart has been long tainted with bitter hatred and greed. However, for you, your only true hate is the one towards her and that is why you are here, since it does not matter what you have done in the past. Do not let your only hatred get in the way."

Nina decided enough was enough. She was sick of Raiden (and Rose) getting into her personal life and she was already pissed at him for taking her gun from her hand. Without another word, she left to return to her room in the cave.

Raiden sighed to himself again as he watched Nina leave. The girl has yet to realize her true potential. Maybe once she gets her memories back, she will…

Meanwhile, Anna walked through the forest area, feeling extremely bitter. Her hatred for Nina seemed to grow with every second that passed. For many years, she had watched her receive attention from those around her, always leaving Anna in the dark corner. Growing up, it was always about Nina. And besides, what up about that lightning man anyway?

The bitch doesn't realize how good she has it! she thought.

It was then that someone passed by a couple of trees. Although the person moved fast, Anna was able to make out the dark green shirt and the lock of blonde hair flowing behind the person.

A smirk came upon Anna's face as she took out another gun she hid under her dress. "Hmph," she muttered under her breath. "I guess she decided to ignore her 'mentor.'" And with that, she began to following the figure.

~~~

Courtyard

"Begin!" Shang Tsung called out. Immediately, the two fighters fought each other. Today was the last day of round one, much to the sorcerer's relief. He had seen many talented warriors of all kinds. However, he had looked forward to getting rid of those who were never truly worthy of being in this tournament.

The true warriors will be facing each other in just two days, he thought.

Suddenly, in a section of the audience, people began screaming. Some ran off, some were thrown around the area. Shang Tsung found himself standing up, wondering what was going on.

"Who dares interrupt my tournament?!” Shang Tsung demanded.

The front of the audience was quickly cleared out and the assailant was now visible in Shang Tsung's view. The two fighters in the ring immediately stopped what they were doing to see what was going on.

The person had the look of a true demon, with his facial bone structure like a caveman. He wore a dark gray karate gi with a black belt and dark brown sandals. He also wore a traditional Japanese necklace that consisted of large black beads and his fiery red eyes matched his hair which was tied up in a high ponytail.

A red aura surrounded the demon as he approached the two fighters. Immediately, the two tried to gang up on him. The demon took out of them by the head and threw him far out of the ring and disappeared behind the audience. He then threw a blue projectile at the other fighter knocking him out cold.

A handful of guards came out then and threatened the demon with their weapons. The demon looked on as if they were only annoyances. He jumped up, put one leg out, and spun himself around, hitting and knocking all but one of the guards who managed to get out of the way.

Once the demon was back on his feet, the lone guard attempted to take him on himself. When the guard was close enough to the demon, a white light suddenly hit everyone's eyes and only punches and kicks could be heard for a moment. Then, the light disappeared and the guard was left on the ground surrounded by a pool of blood. The demon himself stood with his back towards Shang Tsung, with the Japanese kanji 'Ten' glowing red on his back. He then uttered his name…

"Akuma."

The audience was silent, not knowing what to think of it. However, Akuma's skills left a small smirk on Shang Tsung's face. The sorcerer then spoke out loud to himself…

"It seems that we have a late entry."

~~~

Forest Area

Anna continued to follow the figure she believed to be Nina through the forest area. While she followed, Anna became frustrated, wondering why Nina wasn't stopping. Had she suddenly become a coward? Does it have anything to do with her 'mentor?' Whatever it was, Anna hoped that her sister would stop in her tracks soon and stop making her go on a wild goose chase.

After another minute, Anna found herself out of the forest and was now in view of the main palace, where she was staying. All that for this? Anna thought frustrated.

Suddenly, she felt something sharp and cold pressing at her neck. Anna kept still in her place. She had been in worse situations like this so she was able to show no fear. She did, however, manage to shift her eyes to see who was behind the weapon that threatened her life. Her eyes were met with another set of blue eyes. She could see that the person was a tall male with long blonde hair and a white porcelain mask over the rest of his face.

"Why do you follow my dear Viper?" the man demanded calmly.

Anna looked over then and noticed the true person she was following who she now knows as Viper. She had the long blonde hair and green shirt like Nina, but the woman's hair was down while Nina always had her hair up and she had green pants instead of black. Anna admitted to herself that she felt a bit foolish that she thought she was following her sister.

Being in a presence of a man then, Anna decided to use her charm. A warm smile came upon her face. "Forgive me," she purred. "I had thought she was my sister, who I want to kill so badly." She then pursed her ruby red lips a bit. "She and your little friend look so much a like. I mean your friend no harm."

The man let out an amused chuckle and he released Anna from under his three claws. He then slowly took off his mask revealing his flawless complexion. "Forgive me then my dear. My name is Vega and from this point on, I will let no one harm you." Then from his large, loose pocket, Vega took out a fully bloomed red rose and handed it to Anna. "This is for you, just for being beautiful."

Anna smiled more then as she took the rose in her hands. "It's been a long time since someone has given me a gift out of kindness. My name is Anna."

A smirk came on Vega's face. "Anna means gracious, characterized by charm and beauty… indeed a lovely name for a lovely woman."

Anna let out a chuckle feeling quite flattered by Vega's description of her. "And you are very handsome yourself. Why the mask? Why hide your beauty?"

"It's to keep my face in perfection," Vega replied. "With this mask, no harm will ever come upon it."

Their fun suddenly ended then when they heard someone clearing their throat. Vega and Anna turned their heads to the noise and noticed Sagat approaching them. Once he was close enough, he briefly looked over at Anna, then at Vega before speaking.

"This is the anonymous note that was sent to me morning," Sagat said. As he spoke, Viper brought herself closer to the small group silently.

"What does it say?" Vega asked as he placed the mask back over his face.

Sagat opened the letter and read it. "You are to head North into the forest where you will meet a person two miles in next to a broken statue. Be there, or else." Sagat looked up then. "The letter seems suspicious to me. It could be a trap."

"Relax," Vega said. "Trap or not, we'll be prepared to cut them up like ribbons."

"Fine," Sagat replied with a sigh. "But if is a trap, I'll have your head." He then began heading into the forest with Viper following him.

Vega looked over at Anna. "Why don't you come along with us my dear? I'm sure you'll have fun."

Anna smiled. "I'm sure I will."

With that, the two began following Sagat and Viper into the forest.

~~~

Unknown Area

Quan Chi opened a door that lead to one of the torture chambers in the dungeon area. A long day indeed, he thought. Especially for the victims of this chamber.

He decided that he had enough being down in the chambers for the night since he spent nearly the entire day there. Before shutting the door behind him, he looked back at the spiked sarcophagus near the back of the small room. There was a little window on the top, which viewed the wide eyes of it's latest victim… a female participant of the tournament who questioned Shang Tsung's motives the night before. Quan Chi was unaware of what torture she endured before she was handed over to him. The only command he was given was to kill her in this room and that was what he did.

Then, one of Shao Kahn's minions, Baraka, came by. Normally, Baraka didn't stop for anything, only went about his business. However, since he was a tarkatan, he was able to smell the blood of the dead woman in the sarcophagus. He stopped for a moment and took in the scent that Quan Chi assumed was paradise to him.

"I love the smell of her blood," Baraka said to Quan Chi.

The sorcerer smirked. "It's a shame that she had to be killed, really. She was a very beautiful woman." Then, a sadistic thought came to his head. He looked over at the tarkatan who continued to smell the aroma of the dead woman's blood. "You've done a good job today Baraka. My reward to you is her body. I imagine that you will have quite a feast tonight."

Baraka nodded and bowed to the sorcerer as thanks. Quan Chi chose that moment to take his leave.

Later, Quan Chi returned to his quarters for the night. It was a large room, mostly green and black with a fireplace with a dark cherry wood border, which he took a moment to light up, along with various furniture and bookshelves with a large window on the wall opposite the entry. After spending countless years in the Netherrealm, sleep was non-existent to the sorcerer. He pondered on what to do now since his daily routine was completed until sunrise.

Then, he remembered the scroll that was hidden in his desk. He sat down at the desk, which stood a few feet in front of the fireplace, the back of the chair turned to it. He then opened the drawer, and took the scroll out. He didn't bother to open it. Instead, he stared at the rolled up scroll. Sure, he told Shao Kahn about the medallion and even offered it to him. However, Quan-Chi kept the scroll to himself, revealing the existence of the artifact to no one.

Some would wonder why Quan Chi gave the medallion to Shao Kahn and didn't keep it for himself. This was because it was a way for Quan Chi to get rid of Shao Kahn and rule the realms himself. What no one knew about the medallion was that the it would slowly consume the current wielder and destroy them. Quan Chi had heard this from someone who knew the last person who wielded the medallion. So while the Emperor was slowly being destroyed, Quan Chi himself would look for the source that made the medallion. Even if the medallion is the most powerful artifact ever known, even that artifact had to have a source. Once the sorcerer found that source, he would have all means in controlling the medallion so that it didn't destroy him.

So that no one suspected him in the meantime, Quan Chi personally allied himself with Shang Tsung, who was the only person other than Shao Kahn allowed to be in control of the medallion. He knew that the shape shifter wasn't easily fooled, so Quan Chi had to be careful around him. He already tricked Shang Tsung by thinking that he was granting Shao Kahn over the realms by giving him the medallion. He showed his false alliance by making it seem like, to the Emperor, that he worshipped him. With Shang Tsung as his 'ally,' the shape shifter wouldn't suspect Quan Chi's true intentions.

Since their declared alliance, they hadn't really talked much about it. Besides, it seemed too early for any good plans at the moment.

As Quan Chi continued to ponder over his thoughts, he suddenly heard a loud burst from behind him. Quan Chi quickly turned around and noticed that the flames in the fireplace had grown rapidly. Quan Chi only found this unusual at first, but that thought quickly changed when he noticed that the embers of the flames were shaped into skulls.

Before the sorcerer could even react to the skull-shaped embers, the dark brown door was suddenly kicked down with such force that it broke off the hinges and flew a few yards back. Quan Chi jumped from his desk as the door crashed into it, then slipped on to the ground. The sorcerer looked at where the door once was and became shocked by the person who welcomed himself in.

"You!" Quan Chi cried out.

At the door was the sorcerer's nemesis… the ninja spectre Scorpion!

~~~

Shao Kahn's Palace, Unknown Area

Thanks to a native of Outworld, Havik, Kabal, and Kira were able to find the palace Shao Kahn resided in. The walk was long, but once they were able to view the palace area where they stood, the long walk seemed worth it. Originally, they had waited for anyone involving the rumored developing army to approach them and offer their place in the army. However, the three grew impatient and decided to approach the Emperor themselves.

Silently, they approached the entrance. Standing by the doors were two Outworld soldiers guarding the entrance from intruders. They quietly went around the statues to avoid being seen and once they were close enough, Kabal and Kira went up to each guard and, almost in unison, wrapped their arms around their necks and snapped them with ease.

"Excellent," Havik said as he walked towards the door. He opened the heavy door and soon, the three of them made their way into the palace, which was only lit with candles mounted against the wall, however it didn't bring enough light. Kabal found a lit torch amongst the wall and decided to use it. He took it off from the base and continued his way through the long hall with the others.

They went up the stairway and went up to the top floor, which was actually the third level up in the palace. Immediately upon entrance, countless guards immediately surrounded the trio. Fortunately, Havik, Kabal, and Kira were prepared and they quickly drew their weapons out.

Even with the Black Dragon outnumbered, the three still managed to take down the guards with ease, taking each guard down with a few quick maneuvers. When the last guard was taken down, they looked around to see if any other guard was around. After a moment, they let their guard down.

"For a powerful Emperor, he sure hired the worst guards," said Kira.

"They were only meant as test subjects," a booming voice called out from not too far. Havik, Kabal, and Kira immediately looked around, wondering where the voice came from. Then, a large figure stepped out of the shadows.

"Shao Kahn?" Havik asked, feeling uncertain.

Shao Kahn nodded. "I have been watching you three since the tournament began. I had planned to recruit you to my army… but it would seem that there is no need to test you. You all possess the skills you need to be in my army."

Havik and Kabal immediately got on their knees and bowed to the Emperor. Kira was a bit reluctant at first, but then she decided to go along and joined her allies in bowing to Shao Kahn.

"What a coincidence," said Havik as he looked up at the Emperor. "That is exactly what Kabal, Kira, and I came for in the first place. We have always believed in your desires wish to assist you."

Shao Kahn stood there for a moment. He had already recognized Kabal from the days of his invasion of Earth years ago, having been attacked by one his Shokans at that time. He had thought that Kabal would join the side of good, but that no longer seemed the case. Besides, the Emperor was able to sense pure darkness in all of their hearts, another qualification for the developing army.

However, there was something about Havik that made him hesitate. "You are the cleric of Chaos… Havik is your name, isn't it?"

Havik nodded. "Yes, I am Havik."

Shao Kahn stared at the Chaosrealm native suspiciously. "Why would a cleric of Chaos believe in my cause?"

Havik slightly straightened himself up. "You have Chaos within you, something I most admire. Chaosrealm strives for the same causes you do. I feel that if you and I join together, we can accomplish our goals much more easily."

Shao Kahn stared at the three for a moment, wondering if he really should let them in. He then notice Kira and a thought came to him. He had a secret plan for himself, one that he just wasn't about to reveal just yet. Upon that thought, he made his decision;

"…There are a few more tests you must pass before I recruit you. If you would follow me, I will show you to the testing room. Once you all passed the tests, I will tell you of my plans."

All three nodded as they got to their feet and followed the Emperor further into the hall. Kabal stared at the Emperor as they continued on.

When the time comes, the Black Dragon leader thought. The medallion will be ours.

~~~

Forest Area

Although it was a two mile walk, it didn't seem long before Sagat, Vega, Viper, and Anna found the broken statue where they were supposed to meet an unknown person, most likely the one who had sent them the anonymous letter. The four of them were silent, prepared for anything that could happen.

Then, after five minutes, Sagat broke the silence. "I swear, if this is a trick-"

"This is no trick my friend." a voice called out from behind. The four of them turned around and were quite surprised to see Shang Tsung standing there before them. "You are here just in time, I had just finished the final match of this round."

"Hmph," mutter Vega. He then spoke louder. "I assume you were the one who wrote the letter?"

"It was actually the Emperor himself," the sorcerer mentioned. "However, he was not able to personally meet you since he has other matters to take care of so I came in his place." Shang Tsung stepped forward a few times towards the four. "Shao Kahn is quite pleased with your performances. You possess great skills and we wish to have you in our army."

Sagat stared at the sorcerer suspiciously. "I'm not the one to trust so easily-"

Even before the former Muay Thai Champion could finish his statement, Shang Tsung knew what he meant. "I guarantee you that you will have free will." He briefly looked at Viper, knowing that wasn't exactly the truth in her case. "No one will suspect that you were recruited. You will be tested further based on your combat skills. If you pass, you will have plenty of accesses within the tournament. If you prove worthy and become our Generals, you may even have access to Chishio No Me."

Immediately, Vega jumped in. "This sounds promising. When can we get started?"

Sagat cut in then. "This all sounds too easy. No one would just offer access to the medallion. Even if you didn't offer it to me, I have no interest in the artifact anyway."

Shang Tsung smirked then. Sagat was clearly the smartest fighter he had seen in a while. Already, the sorcerer was impressed. "Let me ask you this… if you won this tournament, what would you do with the medallion, considering that you have no interest in owning the artifact?"

Sagat was silent, not really sure how to answer the question. However, Shang Tsung answered for him. "Perhaps it could a means to regain your lost honor."

After a moment, Sagat sighed. Maybe I do have use for the medallion after all… "Where do we begin?" he asked without much enthusiasm.

"Later tonight," the sorcerer replied. He then looked at Anna, almost immediately intrigued by her beauty. "Why don't you come along for the ride my dear? This could be a way for you to settle your score with your sister."

Anna almost became shock at the mention of Nina. This guy already knew what she wanted and she only met him no more than five minutes ago. This indeed impressed her. He was definitely going to give her what she wanted.

The young woman smiled. "Surely Mr. Tsung. I'm sure the ride will be quite fun."

"Good," the sorcerer said. "Meet me here at ten o'clock tonight. Do not be late."

And with that, they separated, all looking forward to tonight's meeting.

~~~

Quan Chi's Quarters

The sorcerer Quan Chi couldn't believe what he was seeing as he stared into the pale eyes of his greatest nemesis, Scorpion. During his stay in the Netherrealm, the ninja spectre had done nothing but torture him, which would've last for eternity had it not been for his escape. The worse of it was that the longer the sorcerer stayed in the Netherealm, the weaker he became.

It was true that Quan Chi was responsible for deceiving him, having killed his family and clan, the Shirai Ryu, and made the spectre think that the brother of the current Sub-Zero was responsible for the terrible deed. And even if it killed him again and again, Scorpion would not rest until he was completely satisfied with his revenge.

"YOU!" Quan Chi cried out. "How did you get here?"

Scorpion didn't answer him. Instead, he disappeared in a ball of flame, then reappeared behind and above the sorcerer. Quan Chi had fought Scorpion so many times that he practically memorized the spectre's tactics in combat. Immediately, Quan Chi was able to duck down before Scorpion could kick him in the back of the head and instead flew over him and landed back on the ground.

Quan Chi straightened himself up as Scorpion turned himself around, immediately launching a spear from his hand. Quan Chi intentionally ran towards the weapon and before it could hit him, the sorcerer ducked back, then skied across to Scorpion's feet. He attempted to lift a food to push the spectre up, but Scorpion saw it coming and he quickly stepped out of the way.

Once the two straightened themselves up, Scorpion shot out a fireball as Quan Chi shot out a green, skull-shaped projectile. The two projectiles immediately collided causing an explosion and setting some parts of the room on fire.

As though on instinct, the two enemies ran towards each other and immediately threw punches and kicks at each other, both playing offense and defense, in hopes of overpowering the other.

Then suddenly, a handful of guards ran into the room, having heard the commotion not too far from them. A couple of the men pulled Quan Chi back in order to protect him, but this made the sorcerer furious. He grabbed both of them by the neck and threw them across the room in order to get them out of his way. However, by the time he was finished with them, the other guards have completely surrounded Scorpion.

The ninja spectre looked at each of the guards. Even if he killed all of them, he knew that it would buy time for Quan Chi to escape. He immediately eyed the sorcerer.

"You win this time sorcerer," Scorpion called out. "But this is not over!" Then, with a flash of fire, Scorpion vanished.

Quan Chi used his powers to extinguish the blaze in the room. He then looked at his guards angrily. "I don't need any of you to protect me! Leave here at once before I kill you all!" None of the guards thought twice on Quan Chi's command as they all scrambled out of the room.

As everything finally calmed down, a thought suddenly came to Quan Chi. As he smirked to himself, he picked up the medallion's scroll, which survived the attack. "I was able to defend myself against the maggot with ease…" He smirk then turned into a sadistic grin.

"I am no longer bound in the Netherrealm," he said to himself. "My powers have regained themselves since my arrival in Outworld. With the medallion, I may become even more powerful than the spectre himself. If he thinks he's suffering now, then he has no idea what's going to come for him."

With his powers combined with strength from the medallion, he would finally be rid of Scorpion for good.

Chapter Text

Nearly 11 Years Ago; Brockport, California

Eleven-year-old Scott K. Wagner was eating dinner with his parents and fourteen-year-old sister Lisa in the small dining room. The smell of roast turkey and gravy filled the air in the house. His father was talking about his job, but it seemed like he was talking in riddles. His mother, who always worried about her husband, looked at him with concern. Normally, she didn't have the concerned look on her face, but this time, her lips frowned and her light brows arched up a bit.

Scott just finished eating dinner. He placed the fork and knife on the plate filled with crumbs from the food he had just eaten. "I'm done," he announced.

His mother managed to smile at him. "Okay Scott," she said. "Just put your dishes in the sink and do your homework."

Scott nodded and placed his dishes in the sink. He looked at his family, who ate the rest of their dinners in silence. Scott sighed and left the kitchen. He began to go upstairs when he suddenly heard his mother shriek in terror, her frantic voice echoing throughout the house. He ran back downstairs and towards the dining room, but then he suddenly stopped in his tracks. There was a big man floating from the ground in the room. Yellow electric shocks floated around his body along with a rainbow colored aura. He wore a red army uniform, steel boots and gloves, a long gray cape, and a hat with a low visor in the front of his face. Scott would never forget the glowing white eyes.

"Mr. Wagner," the man said. "It's good to see you together with your wife and daughter."

Scott raised an eyebrow when the man didn't mention about him. 'He must not know that I'm here,' he thought. He backed up a little more then.

Mr. Wagner stood up. "You leave my family out of this you demon! What do you want?!"

The man smirked sadistically. The yellow shocks got bigger then. "You've failed the mission I've given you. For failing, you will watch your family die."

"You can't do this!" Mr. Wagner cried, but before he did anything, the man teleported behind Mrs. Wagner, took her by the neck and crack! He wrenched Mrs. Wagner's neck with his massive hand. Her eyes glazed over after she drew her final breath.

Scott's heart stopped suddenly at the site of his dead mother. The man dropped the older woman with a thud. The young boy wanted to scream, but he knew that his father would want him to stay quiet.

"Oh my God!" Mr. Wagner cried. Turning to his daughter, he shouted, "Lisa, get out of here!"

Lisa, with tears flowing freely from her eyes, got up and began to run, but the man teleported in front of her. He grabbed her and lifted her up in the air. Lisa shrieked for life, but her scream was quickly cut off as the man snapped her neck with only one hand. Within seconds, her eyes rolled back and her limbs went limp.

NO! Scott cried out in his head. What is he doing to my family?!

"You bastard!" Mr. Wagner cried as tears began to form in his eyes.

The man only smirked. "And now Mr. Wagner... your death." He teleported in front of him and grabbed him by the neck. He pinned Mr. Wagner against the wall and lifted him up. The man tightened his grip around his neck cutting off his air supply.

Between the loud shocks, no one was able to hear Scott cry out, "DAD! NO!"

Scott only stayed long enough to watch his father's body went limp. Scott then began to sprint out of the house without a thought. Just as he was in the front yard, the house suddenly exploded. Scott dove into the street, went behind his father's car and covered his head. What he didn't realize was that yellow shocks spread through the backyard and the front yard and over Scott, who's eyes were shut. The yellow energy caused Scott's body to jolt for a quick second.

Scott stood back up on his feet slowly and looked at his body. He gasped as he saw yellow electric shocks surrounding his body.

What's happening to me! he thought to himself with fear. Before he knew it, he fell forward with a thud and blackness washed over his consciousness...

8 Months Ago; Thailand.

Only a few days ago this woman, who called herself Viper, had taken him to the main Shadaloo base and now she was standing in front of him, ready to fight him despite his weak state. And when he looked deep into her midnight blue eyes, it all hit him like a ton of bricks. He felt like a complete idiot for not seeing it before when he first saw her.

For the last ten years, he had thought that his only sibling, his sister Lisa, was killed when Bison invaded his home and killed her and his parents. Now, she stood in front of him, alive and well… except she was no longer Lisa… she was Viper.

"Lisa…" Wagner said as he tried to hold back tears.

"That is not my name," Viper said. She sprinted towards him and went to attack him, but before so, everything went black…

~~~

Present Day; Outworld

Wagner sprang upward as he sat up in his bed and gasped for air. He sat there for a moment, trying to recollect oxygen in his lungs. He could also feel the cold sweat on his forehead.

"I haven't had that dream in a while…" Wagner muttered to himself as he wiped the sweat off with his hand. Then, as he managed to catch his breath, thoughts of the dream came back to him and his heart nearly broke at the thought of his sister…

"Lisa…" he muttered once again. "Where are you?"

That day in Thailand was a day he would never forget… the day he found out that Lisa was alive, but under the grasps of Shadaloo. He wasn't able to save her that day, having been kidnapped once again by Bison, his parents' killer. Not only that, but he had also lost one of his comrades the very same night; his roommate Jake Katzman, killed by Bison's own hands. Wagner had moved on from the loss for the most part, considering Bison was now eradicated, but he wasn't completely at peace yet. He still had to save his only surviving family member, someone who shared his bloodline.

Back on Earth, he was part of a unit that performed Operation: Lisa, named after his sister, to rescue girls kidnapped by Shadaloo. There were sixteen girls, all who were considered 'dolls.' Fifteen of the 'dolls' have been freed, but Lisa was the only one who was never rescued. Bison was eradicated and almost all traces of Shadaloo were gone… and Lisa went missing.

Since then, it has been Wagner's mission to find Lisa. He didn't care if it cost his life… he at least wanted to die knowing that his sister was going to be all right.

After all, there was one high point in the operation… he had the honor to help rescue one of the girls alongside Cammy, Chun Li, and Guile on a secret missing in Asia. The girl was named Juni, who had been reported missing five years from her homeland of Germany. She has since returned there and was currently training with a private military branch, something she had chosen to do.

Wagner rubbed his head a bit after all that thinking then. He laid himself back down and tried to go back to sleep. However, after nearly an hour, he realized that there was no use in trying. Not letting himself think about anything else, he got himself up, put on a pair of jeans, and walked out of his room.

Well, at least we have another day before the second round of the tournament, he thought feeling groggy then.

Soon he found himself outside. It was still dark, but Wagner was able to tell by the small line of light in the distance that it was beginning to become dawn. Then, a chill ran through his body.

"Gee," he said to himself. "I know it's normally cold in the morning, but this is just ridiculous."

"Who's there?" a deep voice called out. Wagner turned his head a couple of time before he spotted a man wearing a black and blue attire sitting under a tree. He sat with his legs crossed in a lotus position and Wagner immediately assumed he was meditating.

The young man then recognized them. The man was called Sub-Zero, one of those staying in the cave. Wagner felt a bit surprised to see him because he almost never saw him.

"Um, I'm sorry if I disturbed you," Wagner said and began to walk off.

However, Sub-Zero also recognized him. The ice ninja waved his hand then. "You seem tense… perhaps you should meditate."

Wagner was surprised by the friendly gesture. He didn't think Sub-Zero was the type to invite someone as young as he was, or even socialized with anyone for that matter, but it turned out he had guessed wrong. The young man then decided to sit where he stood. He then crossed his legs the same way as the ice warrior's and closed his eyes.

He tried to clear his mind, but the visions of his dreams came back to him. He sighed a few times, which caught Sub-Zero's attention after a while.

"You shouldn't let thoughts bother you," the Lin Kuei grandmaster said. "You are kind of like my student Frost… she tries hard, but she lets the small things bother her."

Wagner opened his eyes then and stared at the older man. "So I remind you of a girl?"

A small chuckle came out of Sub-Zero, amused by the comment.

Then, the airman stood up. "Thanks for trying… unfortunately this isn't working for me."

"You are welcome to join me again when you need to," Sub-Zero said.

Wagner nodded. "Thanks." The young man then headed back into the cave as Sub-Zero continued with his own meditation.

~~~

Unknown Area

Daybreak shined as the sun began to appear from behind the distanced mountains of Outworld. However, it was something Shao Kahn didn't care for as he approached the dungeon area. He walked through the halls, intimidating prisoners and guards alike with his presence.

His destination was the largest cell in the dungeon, the one that inhabited the monster Berserk. Shao Kahn had been very pleased with Berserk's assignments with torturing soon-to-be-dead victims that he decided to reward him. The reward was what Berserk definitely deserved for his loyalty towards the Emperor.

Just as the Emperor was beginning to approach the cell, a loud scream was heard, which was quickly cut off as a slice was heard, followed by a thump. Shao Kahn approached the door and saw the cut up body of Berserk's latest victim, a man. The man's arms and legs were mutilated and was now decapitated. Shao Kahn took out the medallion then and used it to control Berserk's rage before entering the cell.

Berserk looked over at the Emperor with his transparent eyes. "M… master…" the monster muttered.

Shao Kahn smirked with satisfaction of hearing that word. "Good Berserk… I have come here to congratulate you. You have been very loyal to me and have been very cooperative. I want to reward you for that. I know you love the thrill of the fight… so as part of round two of the tournament, I would like for you to fight in a match… Shang Tsung will be picking the fighter and you'll be facing them on the last day of round two."

Berserk slightly nodded then as he slightly bowed his head to his master. "Y... yes... H…honored…"

"Good… now be patient. I'm sure another victim will be on their way so you can have more fun while you wait."

Shao Kahn then closed the cell door and went down the hall. Once he was at the end of the hall, the medallion's influence on Berserk was released, which was followed by a loud roar.

The Emperor exited the dungeon when he heard a pair of footsteps coming his way. Shao Kahn turned his head and recognized two of his Generals of his army… Tanya and Ermac. The two immediately got on their knees and bowed to him.

A thought came to Shao Kahn then, something that was a part of his secret plan. "You two have been very loyal since the tournament began. I will reward you… but first I want you to take up a minor task."

Tanya looked up then. "What assignment do you have for us, master?"

Shao Kahn looked at the female General. "I'm glad you asked Tanya… I want you and Ermac to go out and find me a person for the torture of the dungeons. I don't care who it is, but preferably someone who is alone when you find them."

Tanya and Ermac bowed to him again. "It shall be done master," Ermac said, his voice echoing.

The two loyal Generals got up and left the area. Once they did, they ended up separating.

~~~

Outdoor Hot Springs

"Ah, that felt good," said Lita as she put on a pair of sandals on her feet. "It's always nice to take a bath in the springs in the morning."

"Tell me about it," said Cammy as she placed her wet towel in her duffle bag. "I'm surprised no one was really here this morning."

"Me either," her Delta Red ally replied.

The two woman soon made their way out of the dressing area of the hot springs and began walking down the hilly path which would lead them back to the cave area. Strange noises were heard from deep in the forest area, but Cammy and Lita assumed that they were from species of animals that lived in Outworld… at least they hoped.

"It's too bad we haven't really found anything other than Nightwolf's visions," said Lita. "Let's see now… first, Interpol is investigating on the suspicions of the invitation they received and joined with us once they found out we were hunting small terrorist groups… then both Special Forces and the US Air Force are hunting down the terrorist groups such as The Black Dragon and former Shadaloo members… and us… we're doing the same thing of course, only with just Shadaloo… but we've been here for how long? Nine bloody days! And we still haven't found anything!"

"It is quite early when you think about it," answered Cammy. "We've only been through the first round of the tournament and we only have seven to go. My hunch is that we won't really find anything until near the end of the tournament."

Lita let out a small sigh then. "With me losing the tournament, it's going to feel much, much longer. And besides… we also found nothing on that medallion other than being it supposedly being the most 'powerful' artifact in the universe, and that the Emperor is holding it for the winner of the tournament."

"Guile hopes we'll make our move before or around round seven," Cammy mentioned. "That way it'll give us a chance to warn potential winners to be careful with it and get more information… just in case anything happened."

Once again, Lita let out a small sigh. "In the meantime, I hope I find something that'll kill my time…"

They then reached the bottom of the hill where the women and men's hot springs path separate. Cammy found herself looking straight ahead then and suddenly saw Jin Kazama. She immediately remembered their first 'encounter' right here in the springs and the young blonde's cheeks immediately turned red.

Jin ended up noticing her as well and the two of them stared at each other for a bit as he also remembered the last time they saw each other. Meanwhile, Lita was looking at both of them in confusion, wondering what was going on.

After a moment of this, Jin slightly bowed his head to Cammy. "Konnichiwa," he uttered. He then straightened his head and headed towards the men's springs. Cammy continued to keep her eyes on him, quite surprised that he said hello to her in Japanese.

Once Jin was far enough, Cammy suddenly felt a nudge on her right arm. She looked over in that direction and noticed Lita staring at her with a sadistic smirk on her face. Cammy then knew exactly what her friend was thinking.

"Don't even start," Cammy warned her as she began walking away. Since she walked in a quick pace, Lita had to run a few feet to catch up to her.

"Now now," Lita said, her smirk now a grin. "Now why didn't you tell me you met a good-looking bloke? Come on Cammy, tell me all about him!"

Cammy found herself growling a bit. "I hardly know him Lita."

"Sure you don't! I bet you've already seen him naked!"

Cammy's face turned completely red then. So then Lita didn't see it, she starting running off.

Lita looked at Cammy a bit surprised. "Hey! I was just joking!" She then started running after her.

~~~

Forest Area

Sitting on a large rock, Alex looked on at the trees that surrounded her. The breeze was the only noise that she head as they hit the leaves on the tall trees causing them to sway with the light wind.

This was definitely what I needed, the Special Forces agent thought.

This morning had been quite noisy to say the least. She ended up joining with Li Mei for breakfast, who was wide awake and talking in her usual run-on sentences. At least Li Mei understood when Alex announced that she was going to go for a walk for a while and wanted to be alone.

Once she decided to sit on the rock while walking, Alex soon felt her mind clear up as she let herself enjoy the nature around her, despite the fact that she was in Outworld.

Despite only have a few items and the clothes on her back (since she boarded the ship at the last second), Alex admitted that she was enjoying herself… being surrounded by good people and managing to make it to round two of the tournament.

However, there was one thing that bothered her a bit. Back on the ship, she remembered Rose's words to her… Alex, your lack of willingness to share your problems will consume you if you let it. Don't try to bottle them up.

As far as she could tell, Alex didn't have a lot of problems to share with anyone at the moment. Sure, life was definitely not perfect, but who wants to hear about her little first world problems and worries?

The things I've seen in my own career is proof that I could definitely have much worse problems, she concluded in her mind.

Alex soon found herself standing on her feet. She had decided to walk a little more before returning to the cave area. If her timing was right, Yin was going to be cooking lunch by the time she returned. Alex never tried her food, but she had heard from a lot of people in the cave that she was the best cook out of everyone. If that was true, then Alex didn't want to miss the opportunity.

It was then that she heard footsteps not too far from her. Alex looked around a bit wondering who was around. The agent stood there and continued to listen to the footsteps. After a while, she realized that the footsteps were coming towards her.

"Sonya?" Alex called out.

Suddenly, a sadistic laugh coming from a female was heard. "I'm not that ugly!" the voice called out. Suddenly, Alex heard a whistle-like noise. She quickly turned around just in time to see a large boomerang coming towards her. Alex attempted to dodge out of the way, but it was only enough that the flying weapon scratched her face and cause her to slightly bleed. Alex clenched her teeth from the small impact as she ignored the stinging pain.

She then watched as the boomerang came back and was caught by a hand. Alex saw the woman in full view then. She had a dark tan and wore a yellow and black swimsuit-like attire with matching boots. Her long black hair consisted of thick bangs and she had a set of pale eyes which had black paint surrounded it.

"The name's Tanya by the way," the woman said as she place her boomerang back on her belt. "And I am ordered to take you back to the Emperor."

Alex narrowed her eyes. “What the hell for? That is if you're even inclined to answer.”

“He just wanted the first person we see who's alone. Didn't anyone tell you it's not safe to walk through the woods alone, let alone Outworld's woods? Now you'll face the consequences.”

Alex got into her fighting stance then. "You seem quite confident since you announced your intentions. Quite a mistake if you ask me. Well, unfortunately for you, you're not taking me anywhere without a fight."

Tanya smirked then. "I'm not surprised. Very well then. Don't be surprised if you lose so quickly."

And with that, the two women charged towards each other.

~~~

Near The Cave Area

After some time with meditation, Ryu decided to head back to the cave, hoping that lunch would be ready soon. He nearly swore that, besides being attacked by someone, that his stomach was the only other thing that would distract him from his meditation.

Ryu's mind was clear, not think about much. That was until he heard someone running around nearby. More noises followed, including a moving object brushing against the ground and light panting. Curiosity got the best of Ryu so he decided to go look and see what was going on.

He only had to walk about ten yards when he saw a figure passing by a tree. Ryu got a better look at the person and immediately recognized Mika. She was running back and forth with a rope wrapped around her waist. Ryu wondered why she had a rope around her waist when he then noticed the large tire that was dragged behind her.

Interesting, the Ansatsuken fighter thought.

Ryu was then about to leave when he suddenly heard his name being called out. He turned around in reply to his name and noticed that Mika had stopped running and was now looking at him with a small smile on her face.

"Um, hi," Ryu managed to say. He looked at the tire again. "Say, where did you get that thing? Do they even exist in this world?"

Mika looked back at the tire she was training with. "It's funny, I found it in the lounge room in the cave. Honestly, I'm not sure where it's from or if it's even from Outworld at all."

Ryu shrugged his shoulders. Then, Mika undid the knot of the rope around her waist. An idea came to her then as she looked at Ryu. "So, what are you up to?"

"Not much," Ryu answered. "I'm just returning from my meditation. Do you know if lunch is ready yet?"

"Yin was going to spread the word once it was done," Mika mentioned. "In the meantime, I was hoping to do some more training and with someone this time. Would you like to be my sparing partner?"

Ryu didn't even take a second to think about it. "Sure. I'm always in for training with another person."

"Great!" Mika replied happily. Ryu stepped a couple of feet forward when he suddenly found himself being tackled to the ground by Mika. "Gotcha!" she cried out.

"Hey!" Ryu cried out as he struggled to get out of Mika's strong grip. "I wasn't even ready!" Then he managed to get out of the grip and began his sparring session with her.

During the spar, it was a mix of the Ansatsuken arts and wrestling. Both of them watched the other in hopes of getting an opening. Mika admitted that Ryu was very strong and much more focused than any fighter she's ever fought. Ryu himself was impressed with Mika's skills. He had fought other wrestlers before, but not ones quite like she. She definitely had a unique style.

As they continued to spar, Julia Chang happened to pass by them after her own self training. She had been near the edge of the forest area knowing that she would have some time alone to herself without disturbance. As she was returning to the cave area, she noticed Ryu and Mika sparring.

Julia found herself hidden behind a tree as she looked on at the two. She was impressed with the skills they both possessed and she would love to have the opportunity to spar with both of them someday.

She then noticed Ryu a bit more as he got a bit of the upper hand. His face had an emotionless expression as he concentrated on the fight. A small smirk appeared on Julia's face. She admired his dedication to fighting and how he was opened to sparring with everyone he came in contact with.

After another moment, she decided to leave the area and walked away. She ended up missing the moment when Mika grabbed the back of Ryu's pants and yanked it upward.

"OWE!" Ryu cried out. "Are you even allowed to do that?"

Mika giggled a bit. "Sorry, it's sparring tradition."

~~~

Just A Few Feet Outside The Cave

"Hey Yin!" Yun called out as he stepped out of the cave. "Is lunch almost ready?"

Yin looked at her brother with a bit of annoyance. "You know… if you had helped Yang and I with the food, we would've been able to finish it much more quickly!"

Yun showed off a goofy grin as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Eh, sorry. If I had known that you two were cooking, I would've helped." He then noticed the food that was being made. "Hey! You're making curry chicken!"

He was about to reach for the large spoon that was in the chicken and rice, but Yang saw him and smacked his hand away. "You have to wait like everyone else, Yun. Maybe we could've gave you some now had you helped us."

"Drat," Yun muttered.

"Hey guys," a female voice said. All three of them looked up and noticed Maki standing over them. Yang could've swore he felt his heart flutter a bit at the sight of her. "Is lunch almost ready?"

"It'll probably be another half hour," replied Yin. "Good thing we have hot plates with us."

"Well hopefully, with all the dishes Rose has been throwing at Raiden," mentioned Yang. "Let's hope these plates survive."

"Tell me about it," Maki agreed.

Yun spoke then. "Well, this tournament seems to be going pretty well so far. And I know I'm going to last the longest."

Yin glared at her brother then. "Don't be so cocky Yun! Just because you made it to the next round, that doesn't mean you're going to win that round!"

"Look who's talking? I sense cockiness in you as well."

This made Yin furious then. "I wasn't the one who said I was going to last through the tournament!"

The two began arguing to the point where Yang lost track of what they were saying. He sighed to himself and turned he head towards Maki. "Siblings… isn't it a wonderful thing?" he said a bit sarcastically.

"Yeah," Maki replied with a bit of a sigh as she thought about her deceased sister Rena. "But then again, no matter how much you fight, you never know how close you really were until one's time passes in this world."

Yang sighed as well. "Yeah, you're right." He then decided to change the subject. "Hey! The second round of the tournament begins tomorrow. Are you excited?"

Maki's grim face turned a bit brighter then. "Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. I'm so glad to be here and able to fight great fighters all over the universe."

"Me too," Yang agreed. "That reminds me." He looked a Maki a bit seriously. "That guy you fought in the first round… Master Christopher… I heard that he went missing the night after your match with him."

Maki cringed a bit at the thought of the match she had with him. Even so, she couldn't help but feel a little sympathy towards her former opponent. "Does anyone know what happened to him?"

Yang shook his head. "Well, I only heard it over from a group of people at a table during dinner in the main palace. I assumed they were allies of his and were worried about him. They weren't sure what happened… he just disappeared during the night."

The young blonde nodded then. "I see. Well, I hope for his friends' sake that they find him."

"Yeah. I can't help but feel bad either, even after what he did to you."

Maki smirked a little. "It's all right. It's over and we don't have to worry much about it anymore."

Yang nodded in agreement then. He then heard a loud scream coming from his brother. He and Maki turned their heads and saw that Yin had taken Yun's hat and threw it a few yards back.

"I hate it when you do that!" Yun cried out as he chased his hat, which was blowing away.

"That's what you get for being cocky!" Yin called out.

Even if the action was a bit childish, Yang and Maki couldn't help by chuckle a bit.

~~~

Inside The Cave

"Lei?" Chun Li said as she pulled the curtain to his room over to the side. The Interpol agent expected her partner to still be in bed, or at least start getting ready for the day, but was surprised when she saw that he wasn't there.

"Hmm, I wondered where he could be?" Chun Li said aloud to herself. She had been looking for him in order to tell him that there was going to be a meeting with them, Special Forces, Delta Red, and the US Air Force this evening concerning the facts of their mission so far (though right now it's a bit of a disappointment).

She decided to search the back of the cave. Since Lei's room was near the front, Chun Li had to pass a majority of other curtain-closed rooms. As she did, she noticed that one of them was partially opened and a small light peaked through it.

After a moment of staring at the light, curiosity got the best of Chun Li and stepped a couple of feet closer to the room. I wonder what's going on in there.

"Hello?" Chun Li called out as she wrapped her hand on the edge of the curtain. A few seconds passed, but there was no reply.

Chun Li pulled the curtain back then. "Sorry to intrude, but I was curious about the light." She saw the person in the room and was surprised by what she saw.

A green female cyborg was above her own bed floating in mid-air as lights came on and off of her. Although Chun Li had only seen her a few times since coming to Outworld, she remembered the cyborg Matrik.

The only time Chun Li saw her was at meetings and once during one of the days of the tournament. The Interpol agent knew that some of the people staying in the cave kept mainly to themselves and she figured that Matrik was one of them.

"Um, hi there," Chun Li said. There was no answered, but she decided to continue anyway. "My name is Chun Li. I haven't really seen you around much."

Without moving, the green cyborg spoke in a robotic tone. "I am Matrik. I'm sorry, but I wish to be alone right now… perhaps we may chat another time."

Chun Li was a bit taken aback by the request. Then again, she did intrude without Matrik's permission. The Chinese woman decided to respect her wishes then.

However, she wanted to say one thing before she left. "You seem lonely. You can always come to me if you ever want to talk to someone." And with that, she closed the curtain behind her. Unknown to Chun Li, the moment she left, the lights on Matrik slowly dimmed down.

~~~

Main Palace Grounds

Heihachi Mishima opened his eyes after sometime of meditating. He had spent most of the morning doing so. The only thing that pulled him out of his meditation… was food. He hadn't bothered to have breakfast this morning and now it was around lunch time.

I wonder what they are serving this afternoon, he thought.

Before he got up, thoughts of the Bloody Eye medallion came to him. Originally, he had come to Outworld to hunt down his own grandson Jin Kazama in order to retrieve the devil gene power he possessed. This would've been so that he would make the Mishima Zaibatsu more powerful.

Now, with the medallion that's claimed to be the most powerful artifact in the universe, Jin's 'devil gene' power would seem useless now. The power of the medallion would definitely prove to be more of a benefit for the Mishima Zaibatsu than any other powerful source.

He just hoped, if he won the tournament, that it wasn't a hoax. But even if it was, he could always fall back on his original plan.

Heihachi's thoughts were interrupted them by the rumbling of his stomach. He got to his feet then and patted his stomach.

"You know," the Zaibatsu leader said aloud. "I'm in the mood for curry chicken. I wish I knew someone who made good curry chicken."

He then started walking forward back towards the main palace. As he did, he noticed someone from the corner of his eye. He turned his head and saw the person in full figure. The person was a woman, a beautiful one as well. Heihachi felt a small smirk creep up on his face.

Ivy Valentine, originally heading to the palace on a spying assignment for Shao Kahn, noticed the older man at the corner of her eye and stared at him with her icy blue eyes. She noticed the small smirk on the man's face and became a bit disgusted. Soon, the man's smirk disappeared, perhaps intimidated by her now.

Both knew instantly that they weren't going to really like each other.

Heihachi noticed the sword that Ivy was carrying. "You know… you are not required to have a sword in order to be a great warrior."

Ivy narrowed her eyes at him. "This sword means more to me than you'll ever know. And besides, I don't need to be lectured by an old fossil like you!"

"Hmph," Heihachi replied. "You really should think before you speak… because you're not so young yourself, wench!"

That did it. Quickly, Ivy lashed out her sword, which uncoiled into eight pieces attached to a single string and threw it at her new enemy. She had expected either the sword to land or for Heihachi to run off like a coward. A small side smirk appeared on her face, satisfied by what may come.

Then suddenly, the sword stopped in mid-air. Ivy became confused at first and wondered why her sword suddenly stopped swinging. Then, she looked at the other end of her sword. Her eyes became wide with shock as she discovered why her sword stopped.

On the other end, Heihachi had managed to catch the sword in mid-air and with a single hand around the string just behind the first piece of sword. It was something Ivy couldn't believe. She had been sword fighting for years and no one had ever caught her sword with their own hands.

Heihachi then looked at Ivy square in the eye. Then, using the sword, he quickly pulled her towards him. Ivy didn't have time to react and she soon found herself slamming her body right into his and was now looking eye to eye.

"Be more careful with who you fight with next time, lady," Heihachi said. Then, to Ivy's surprise, he quickly leaned his head towards her and gave her a kiss right on the lips. He placed one hand on the back of her head and the other around her waist.

UGH! Ivy cried out in her mind with agony. She struggled to free herself as Heihachi continued to kiss her, and he was obviously enjoying it.

Then, after what seemed like forever (but it was only a few seconds), Heihachi let her go. Ivy spat a few times as she backed away from him.

"You disgusting bastard!" she cried out as her cheeks suddenly turned rosy. "The next time I see you, I will have your head for that!" And with that, she ran off.

For a minute, Heihachi watched her run off until she disappeared behind the trees. "That was fun," he laughed. "Looks like things will be getting more interesting." With that, he began heading back to the palace for lunch.

~~~

Forest Area

Throughout most of the fight, Alex had been on defense with Tanya on offense. Alex admitted to herself that Tanya was quick and more likely had more fighting experience than she did. She knew that eventually that she would have to find a way to get on offense before she tired out.

"Is that all you got?" Tanya sneered. "Taking you down is going to be easier than I thought."

"Don't be so sure of yourself," Alex replied. She then managed to bend herself down towards the ground and perform a sweep kick. However, Tanya saw it coming and managed to jump over it, then attempted to kick Alex in the head, which she managed to dodge from before getting back on her feet.

As she did, Alex suddenly saw a figure behind Tanya. She was just about to back away in order to see who else had come, thinking that someone had come to aide Tanya. However, that no longer became the case a loud smack was head and Tanya fell forward unconscious.

"What the…" Alex muttered in surprise. She looked up, still in a fighting stance, to get a good look at Tanya's attack.

Floating just a foot off a ground and surrounded by a green aura was a male stranger. He mostly wore an reddish-orange and black attire with eyes glowing the same color as the aura around him and had a black tape-like garment around his head and eyes.

The two of them stood there for a moment staring at each other. Alex wasn't sure what to make of the person, whether he was friend or foe. Then to her surprise, he turned around, grabbed Tanya, and disappeared behind the trees. Though it seemed he wasn't out to harm her, she still wasn't sure what to think of him.

"Wait!" she called out. She only managed to take two steps forward when she suddenly felt a hand touch her shoulder. She nearly jumped out of her skin as she turned around to take a look at who was there. When she recognized her blonde-haired superior, Alex sighed of relief.

"Thanks Sonya," she said. "I almost jumped out of my skin."

"I heard fighting nearby," Sonya mentioned. "I figured I'd check it out, but I guess you took care of things."

Alex sighed. “Yeah... don't ask me what it was about... but let's just say that I'm sure they won't be much of a bother after this.”

"How many were around?" Sonya asked.

"Well, there was a woman, but..." Alex briefly looked down at Tanya, then back at the Captain. “There was this man here… he was glowing in a green color…well, it doesn't matter. However, we have to report this to Guile and the others. The woman who attacked me was going to take me to the Emperor just because she happened to find me alone in the woods."

“Good thing we have that meeting tonight then,” Sonya said. “We'll discuss more about it then.”

"Yeah…" Alex trailed off, now suddenly feeling a bit confused by the ordeal, especially by the green glowing floating person who, for some reason, knocked Tanya out cold and stopped her from finishing the fight. As she and Sonya began their walk back to the cave, it all began to bug her for some reason.

Who was that guy anyway? Alex thought.

Chapter Text

The day of round two of the tournament had finally arrived. Those who made it to the next round were prepared for it and all hoped to move on to round three in order to get closer to victory. Just like on the first day of round one, each fight received their cards, telling them the date and time of their match and the location. Again, they would not know who they were fighting until the actual match took place.

With the preparations made, round two now begins…

~~~

Dungeons, Unknown Area

Shao Kahn stood by a doorway of a torture room impatiently. Yesterday, he sent Ermac and Tanya to find someone to place in the dungeons. They managed to find one woman (someone else Tanya ran into a few hours after being knocked unconscious), but the Emperor wasn't pleased with her, especially since she seemed unaffected by the torture methods. Since she had lost the tournament, he ordered them to kill her, knowing that her death would not affect the tournament.

Tanya and Ermac soon finished the job and they walked out of the room, drying up their bloody hands. They both looked up and were surprised to see Shao Kahn standing there. Immediately, they got on their knees and bow to him.

"We are sorry she didn't please you enough my Emperor," Tanya said. "May we look for another?"

"Forget about it," Shao Kahn answered. "There are other matters that needs to be taken care of. Besides, the next round of the tournament starts today." He then noticed the black and blue bump on the side of the woman's head. "Where did you get that bump from?"

Tanya looked up at the Emperor, surprised that he asked about it. "To be honest master, I don't know. However, I was-"

"Do not concern yourself with that anymore. Now, I want you to go with Ivy on her spying assignments. I don't need you right now. Leave at once."

"Yes master," Tanya replied. She got herself up and left the dungeon.

Shao Kahn turned to Ermac then. The Emperor found it suspicious that he was silent the whole time. He would worry about it later. "As for you Ermac… I want you to stay down here for a few hours to keep an eye on things. That is all."

Ermac nodded. "We will do as you wish, master." He then got up and left.

Shao Kahn decided to leave the dungeon then. He had to put out another assignment to someone who he admitted has done nothing but sit around since this whole thing started. He had promised this being that once things go smoothly that he would assign this person a job.

He went back to the palace and entered a chamber area. He went into one of the chambers and entered without much thought. There, he immediately met eye to eye with Ogre. Using the medallion, Shao Kahn put him under his control.

Ogre was a being who Shang Tsung learned about during one of his studies. According to Earthrealm legends, Ogre was an ancient war weapon left behind by aliens many years ago. He later was worshipped by the Aztec as the God of Fighting. He possessed unspeakable power and loved the thrill of killing, especially those with so much power. However, the being had supposedly been killed about two years ago according to the reports from Earthrealm.

Traveling to Earthrealm just a couple of weeks ago, Shao Kahn's Shadow Priests were able to not only find the being alive, but they managed to capture him. Using the medallion, Shao Kahn was able to control the supposed 'God of Fighting.' Since then, the Emperor gave him the place in the chambers.

Shao Kahn took a few steps forward towards Ogre. "The time has come Ogre. I have an assignment for you. It won't be much of one, but it is a way for you prove your loyalty to me. Until I say so, I want you to spy on the participants of the tournament… even the ones who are serving me. Do not fail me."

Ogre only replied with a single nod.

~~~

Courtyard

A few matches came and went in the Courtyard and Shang Tsung felt more pleased than he did during the first round of the tournament. It would seem that the weaker fighters were indeed eliminated and the better fighters were beginning to show their true potential.

By noon, the fight he was looking forward to seeing was about to begin. That was because one of the fighters was someone he knew quite well…

"Kitana!" he called out with a smirk.

The Princess of Edenia stepped into the ring and began walking towards the middle. Briefly, she looked at the sorcerer sitting on his throne. Memories of her past in Outworld came flooding back to her. She had once worked alongside Shang Tsung, the sorcerer who was responsible of creating Mileena, who she once believed to be her twin sister.

Now, years after earning her freedom, she was now going to have a match under his watchful eye. Kitana wondered if she would be able to concentrate. She wished that her mother was here with her, but she too had her own match to attend to in another outdoor arena on the opposite side of the main palace.

Once the Princess got to the middle, her opponent was called out. "Maki!"

Maki felt a bit relieved... she was going to be fighting a woman this time, one who looked to have more respect for other fighters.

She looks strong, the young blonde thought sighing. She wasn't sure if she was going to win, but she had to try. She could be wrong about Kitana for all she knew.

Maki then heard her friends cheer for her. She turned to them and managed to smile at them. She felt a bit better then and more confident. She just hoped that she didn't lose her pride again like in her last match.

The two women set themselves just a few feet from each other, then got into their fighting stances. "Begin!" Shang Tsung called out.

Kitana and Maki stood there for a brief moment before Kitana advanced a few steps towards Maki. The Princess raised her leg and performed a high kick, which Maki blocked right away. Kitana then followed with a right hook which Maki ducked under.

For another minute, they continued like this with Kitana on offense and Maki on defense. Then, Maki decided that she had enough and jumped back a few feet. The distance between them gave her a chance to pull out her two dark brown tonfas.

She then ran forward and began swinging her weapons at her opponent. Kitana dodged the moves, then she pulled a few feet back as well to buy time. From her boots, she pulled out two fans, both which were closed up. Maki had covered the distances between them and attempted to deliver a kick to the Princess's stomach. Kitana quickly straightened herself before blocking the kick with her left forearm.

"You're not bad," Kitana said to Maki as she swung her closed fans at her.

Maki was a bit surprised to hear her opponent make a comment like that in the middle of a fight. "Um, thanks?" she replied, feeling unsure whether the Princess was mocking her or not as she blocked a move with her tonfa.

Their weapons clashed with each other in rhythm then, both of them hoping to get back on full offense. It was then that Maki saw Kitana open up her fans. The thick paper was blue with various designs in white. For a split second, Maki admired the fan… that was until she noticed that on each end of the fold contained a long blade.

"Crap!" Maki cried out as Kitana began swinging her fan blades at her. Maki dodged a couple of times before attempting a block. The weapons seemed stronger then and Kitana was able to knock both weapons out of Maki's hands. To the young blonde's dismay, both of her weapons ended up rolling out of the ring.

"Oh no!" she cried out. Suddenly, she found herself being pulled forward by an unknown force. She looked at Kitana and noticed that the Princess was on one knees and was spinning both of her fans in a clockwise motion. Not having any control then, Maki had no choice by to take the side kick Kitana performed and flew a few feet across the ring, landing on her side.

Kitana stood up and ran towards Maki. Immediately, Maki rolled back, managed to stand on one hand, and spun herself around with one leg out. She managed to hit Kitana who flew back a couple of feet. Maki then flipped forward and got back on her feet. By then, Kitana was on her feet, her weapon placed away on the side of her boots.

The two women then exchanged moves again, pretty much even on both offense and defense. As they fought, Kitana noticed her chance to end the match. Maki, with her back turned to it, was about three feet from the edge. For the Princess, it was now or never.

Kitana jumped up and forward towards Maki. She lifted up one leg and managed a kick to the side of Maki's head. She then lifted up her other leg and did the same thing to the other side. Maki was surprised by this and ended up stumbling back. As Kitana hoped, the young blonde stumbled right out of the ring.

It so happened that Maki's friends were right behind her. Both Sakura and Asuka managed to catch her once both of her feet were completely out of the ring. "Maki!" both girls cried out as their realized that their friend had just lost her match.

Shang Tsung stared at Kitana for a moment before standing up. "Winner: Kitana!" he called out. As normal, the audience clapped in unison.

Maki fell onto her knees, realizing that she had been defeated. "Damn it!" she cried out as she slammed the side of her fist to the ground. Tears welled up in her eyes almost right away. Her whole reason of coming to this tournament was to prove that she was worthy enough to fight in a tournament like this one. She had wanted to show everyone at the Bushin dojo that she was worthy of the title of Bushin Master. Now, she realized that she did nothing but fail. She was thankful that Guy wasn't watching her right now. What would he think of her failure right now if he was here?

Maki then got out of her thoughts as she heard a pair of high heels coming towards her. The moment they stopped, Maki looked up and her eyes met with Kitana's.

The Princess offered her a hand. "You are a worthy opponent. I enjoyed our match. Do not think this is the end for you. Just keep up with your practices, and maybe one day, we can have a rematch."

Maki couldn't help but smile. She was then thankful that her reign in the tournament ended the way it did. At least she was beaten by someone who had respect for their opponents rather than being taken down by an arrogant jerk.

The female Bushin ninja took the Princess' hand and she was helped up. "Thank you," Maki answered and she bowed to her. "I won't forget this fight."

Kitana smiled and also bowed before leaving the area. The only real problem for Maki now was, besides training, figuring out how to kill time until the entire tournament was over.

~~~

Indoor Arena

“Winner: Alex Walker!” the Shadow Priest announced as the latest match ended in a ring-out.

Alex took a deep breath once the fight was over. In a way, she felt a bit disappointed by the match mainly because her opponent didn't put up much of a fight the whole time. Still, upon returning to the sidelines, she was greeted by her allies, all who had a match today. She just happened to be the first to be called upon this morning.

“Nice job!” Wagner complimented as she stepped over the ropes.

“That looked like an easy win,” Sonya mentioned. “Maybe someone who got lucky the last round.”

“Too easy if you ask me,” Alex sighed. “I'm sure the next fight will be tough... not I expect to make it past round four or anything.”

Wagner decided to kind of change the subject then. "Pretty neat that all three of us are going to be fighting in the tournament today, and even in the same ring too."

He suddenly heard someone clear their throat then. Wagner turned around and noticed Kenshi just behind him.

"You mean four," Alex said with a small chuckle.

"Damn it,” Wagner began to mention as he turned to the swordsman. “You were so quiet that even if you were standing right in front of me, I wouldn't even have known you were there!"

"That's nothing new to me," Kenshi replied without much expression.

Is he always this grumpy? thought the Air Force Sergeant.

“The next match shall begin!” the Shadow Priest announced.

The four of them expected one of them to be called upon next, but it turned out to be not the case. The first to be called was the cyborg, Matrik, who they knew was staying with them in the cave. Her opponent was a red-head dressed in red and black clothes is Kira, and she sported a pair of knives placed in the scabbards strapped to her black boots. Neither one of them said a word as they stood in their fighting stance, ready for their match.

From the audience, Sonya was wondering why the red head in the ring seemed familiar to her.

“Begin!” the Shadow Priest called out.

Immediately, the two opponents charged towards each other and quickly exchanged maneuvers at each other while simultaneously blocking.

Then, kick to the face caused Kira to stumble back a few feet. She rubbed at her cheek from her pain before looking up at her opponent. She just had to be a cyborg! the red-haired woman growled in her mind as she stood in her guard.

The red-haired woman took a few steps forward and began performing various punches and kicks at Matrik, who ducked and blocked each move. Kira then managed to find an opened and used both of her fists to push Matrik back. The female cyborg ended up stumbling back a few feet. Before Matrik could recover, however, Kira bent her knees a bit and put both of her hands out. A pink projectile immediately came out of her hands and successfully hit Matrik. The power of the projectile forced Matrik on the ground.

"Gotcha!" Kira called out, then proceeded to run towards her opponent to perform more attacks.

Matrik quickly sat up as Kira approached her. The cyborg put out one hand and a compartment in her hand opened. Kira wasn't sure what to expect until five golden marble-like balls shot out at Kira. Unsure of what the flying marbles would do, Kira began doing multiple back flips in hopes to avoid being hit. She then heard small explosions from the marbles, which went off one by one. However, the fifth and final explosion was close enough and the force of it sent Kira flying back sideways while upside down. She landed on the ground and skidded a few feet before coming to a halt.

Kira ended up scratching up her arm and part of her exposed leg and began to bleed a little. She ignored the stinging pain as she looked up to see Matrik back on her feed. The female Black Dragon clenched her teeth as she struggled to get back on her feet.

Come on, she thought to herself as she glared at her opponent. After a little struggle, Kira managed to finally get back on her feet and into her fighting stance. Matrik saw that she was ready to fight again and once again attacked her. Kira blocked her incoming moves with all she had, though she was punched a couple of times in the face.

Matrik then lifted up a foot and swung it at Kira. Kira managed to jump back, but then she felt a sharp pain just above her breast. As she pulled back, she saw the bottom of Matrik's foot and noticed the sawing that just rolled in fast speed. Kira looked down and noticed a small amount of blood dripped out of the cut.

"You bitch!" Kira cried out. She then reached to her boots and took out two dragon teeth knives. "Let's see how this feels for you."

Kira began slashing her knives at Matrik, who dodged from them. That was until Kira managed to cut a wire that sat above Matrik's shoulder. Sparks immediately came out of Matrik, who backed up from Kira a bit. She held on to her shoulder and trying to regain her concentration at the same time.

"We're even now, cyborg!" Kira cried out.

Then, to Kira's surprise, Matrik took her free hand and grabbed a hold of Kira's neck. Kira suddenly felt a surge going through her body. After a second, Matrik lifted her up in the air, then threw her across the ring. The shock from the surge weakened Kira and when she attempted to get up, she only fell back and went unconscious.

Once the Shadow Priest was sure, it stood up. "Winner: Matrik!" it announced.

The audience clapped in union for Matrik's victory. However, Matrik didn't acknowledge it because she was beginning to feel weak from the wire that was cut. Immediately, she got out of the ring and pushed through the audience and soon disappeared.

Back in the audience, Alex couldn't help but feel sorry for Matrik. "That poor girl," she said. "I hope that she'll be able to get that fixed."

"It seemed minor," mentioned Sonya. "I'm sure someone back in the cave will be able to help her with that if anything."

"Don't you have that sort of technology?" asked Wagner.

"We do," Sonya replied. "But unfortunately we've only done something like that once and it was about a couple of years ago. We would have to be back at base in order to get back into the groove."

Soon, the Shadow Priest spoke, catching everyone's attention. "The next match shall begin." It then paused before announcing the first of the two. "Sonya Blade!"

"Oh good," Sonya said happily as she stepped over the ropes. "I'll be right back. It shouldn't take me long to take my opponent down."

"Good luck Sonya," Wagner said. Sonya found herself smiling at the young man before making herself to the middle of the ring. However, Wagner suddenly didn't feel so thrilled. "I have this feeling that I'm going to fight her."

"What makes you think that?" Alex wondered.

"Well, after my last match, I think it's going to end up being a never-ending streak until I lose… and I think I could lose this match."

Alex laughed a little. "Don't worry just yet. I'm pretty sure she'll end up beating the bloody pulp out of another poor soul."

Then, the Shadow Priest announced Sonya's opponent. "Ken Masters!"

On the other side of the ring, Ken tightened his fighting gloves before he stepped into the ring. Wagner found himself laughing a little. "Now I've been put in another awkward position."

“How so?” Alex asked with confusion. “I figured you'd be happy that you're not fighting her.”

“Well, on one hand, I'm pretty sure Sonya is expecting me to cheer her on. On the other hand, Ken is practically family. You see, since Guile pretty much adopted me, his wife and Ken's wife are sisters.”

“Oh I see,” Alex said, now understanding.

“I didn't realize the Colonel adopted you,” Kenshi mentioned.

That sort of surprised Wagner as he didn't expect the swordsman to chime in. “Looong story,” Wagner admitted with a small sigh.

Back in the ring, Sonya put out a hand. "May the best win," she said with a smile.

Ken nodded with a smirk and shook the Captain's hand. "Indeed." They then both got into their fighting stances, indicating that they were ready.

"Begin!" the Shadow Priest called out.

The two fighters immediately circled each other with both of their fists up, waiting for the other to make the first move. Both of them felt confident about the upcoming fight, though they also expected it to be a challenging one.

Sonya decided to make the first move then. She covered the space between them and threw the first punch, which Ken blocked. Ken attempted an uppercut, but Sonya quickly moved her head to the side before the punch connected. Once Sonya recovered from that, she managed to elbow Ken just in the shoulder. This caught the millionaire by surprise and he backed up a bit to give himself a second to recover.

The blonde agent took this opportunity then. She ran a couple of feet, jumped up and attempted a flying kick. Ken saw the kick coming and sidestepped out of the way. Sonya passed him and she managed to land safely back on the ground on both feet. She turned around then just in time to see a roundhouse kick coming from Ken. Sonya pulled herself back, barely escaping from the move.

Once she straightened herself out, Sonya decided to try one of her 'special' moves. She placed her hands out, and four pink ring-like projectiles quickly came out.

"Shit!" Ken called out as he barely ducked under the projectile. Once the projectile passed, he sat up and decided to retaliate.

Hadouken!” he called out as he shot out a blue projectile from his hand. Seeing this, it became Sonya's turn to duck underneath the attack. She barely managed to succeed in avoiding it as it flew above her head before it flew into the audience, all who were forced to avoid the attack as well.

Sonya took a deep breath after that before getting back into her fighting stance, ready for me. “Nice one,” she admitted.

“Thanks,” Ken replied. He then lifted one hand and beckoned her over with his index finger, ready for more.

Sonya ran after Ken then and they continued the fight with the two of the exchange various punches and kicks. Both of them received bumps and bruises from each other. Then, Sonya found a big opening and kicked upwards. Ken didn't see the move in time and Sonya's boot connected just under his chin.

The blonde millionaire flew back bit, then landed on his back. Unfortunately, when he was hit by Sonya's kick, he ended up biting down on his tongue and immediately drew blood.

"Damn…" Ken muttered under his breath as he tasted his own blood. Despite that and the pain, he managed to get herself up slowly. I really should return the favor…

He waited for Sonya to come closer as the blonde agent ran back towards him. Once she was close enough, Ken performed another roundhouse and managed to kick Sonya under her chin with his foot. Sonya stumbled back and held on to her chin in pain as Ken got back on both feet again.

"Nice," Sonya admitted.

This time, it was Ken who covered the distance between the two of them. He attempted more punches, but then Sonya grabbed him, turned him around, and managed to get him in a chokehold.

Ken struggled as he tried to find a way to get out of the hold. He then noticed that they were only a few feet from the edge of the ring. He had a chance to win and it was now or never.

Ken elbowed Sonya a few times before the agent finally began loosening her grip on him. Ken then took the opportunity to escape, leaving some space

Tatsumaki Senpuukyaku!” he called out. His foot then managed to hit Sonya a couple of times. Then, the last hit had enough force to send Sonya flying back before she hit the floor on her side. Sonya then rolled a couple of times before falling out of the ring.

Oh shit... Alex thought in the audience once she realized that her superior just lost the tournament. She knew that Sonya was definitely not going to be happy about it.

"Winner: Ken Masters!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Sonya sat herself up then. She was thankful that her blonde hair was covering her face at the moment because she didn't want anyone to see the shame that appeared on her face. She had hopes of making it to the next round, but now those hopes were gone.

The blonde agent's deep thoughts were soon interrupted when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked up and saw Ken bending down to her and he managed to smile. "You did great Sonya," he said. "I'm sorry I had to be the one to eliminate you."

Sonya sighed a little, but she managed to smirk. "It's all right. I'm just wondering what I'm going to do for the rest of our time here." She then noticed Ken's injury and ended up chuckling a bit. "Gee, no wondered you kicked me back. Sorry about that.”

“Nah, it's cool,” Ken assured the agent as he put out a hand to her. “I've had worse.”

Sonya took his hand and pulled herself up. “Good luck with the rest of the tournament,” she said. Ken nodded before he began to head back to the part of the sidelines he came from. Then Sonya returned back to where Alex, Wagner, and Kenshi were standing.

"Sorry you lost, Sonya,” Wagner said. “But even if you did lost, you sure as hell kicked some ass.”

“I guess it could've been worse,” Sonya said as she took out an ice pack from her backpack. She bent the pack around a bit to 'activate' it before placing it on her face. “Except now I'm sure I'm going to develop a nice bruise on my cheek.”

“I bet you'll be feeling that for a couple of days,” Alex mentioned.

“Unfortunately, yes,” Sonya grumbled.

“At least nothing's broken,” Kenshi said.

“... True... except maybe my pride.”

Two more matches soon passed, both of which held everyone's interest. When the second of the two matches was over, the Shadow Priest announced the next fighter for the following match. "Wagner!"

"Woo hoo!" Wagner cried out. "It's about time my turn came."

Sonya patted the young Sergeant's back. "Good luck. It's too bad Guile couldn't make it today to see you fight."

"Yeah," Wagner sighed thinking about his surrogate father. "He wanted to be here, but he wasn't sure when I was going to go up and he had to finish up those paper works…which he should've finished before the tournament even began… well, I'm off." He went over the ropes and headed towards the middle of the ring.

Sonya laughed then. "Let's hope he doesn't have another girl who teases him throughout the match again."

"Tell me about it," Alex replied, having heard what happened previously. "I'm sure that won't be the case though."

Once Wagner reached the middle of the ring, he let himself stretch out his arms and legs, preparing for his upcoming match. When he was done, his opponent was announced;

"Kenshi!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Sonya laughed. "Well, he's doomed either way.”

Alex turned her head to the free agent as he took a step forward. "Good luck," she said.

Kenshi slightly turned his head to her, a a hint of a smirk appearing on his face. "Thanks." With that, he tightened his finger-cut black gloves before stepping into the ring.

Sonya raised an eyebrow then. "You know… I think that was the first time I've ever seen him smirk since he joined Special Forces." She stared at Alex after her statement.

Alex felt Sonya staring at her and shifted her blue eyes to her. "What?"

"Oh, nothing," the blonde agent answered innocently before turning her head to the ring. Alex rolled her eyes at that and soon brought her attention to the ring.

Wagner stood in his place as Kenshi approached him. This was the type of match the young Air Force pilot feared. He has seen the swordsman train a few times and he seemed very serious about his training. To Wagner, a serious trainer equaled a good fighter. Wagner was a good fighter too, but he didn't always train. However, he had a feeling that after this fight, he was going to do more of that.

They soon stood a few feet from each other. In respect, Kenshi bowed to Wagner. "I look forward to our match." He then got into his fighting stance.

Wagner was a bit surprised to hear him say that. As a matter of fact, he didn't expect Kenshi to say anything at all. None the less, Wagner bowed to him as well. "May the best win," he said. The young man then straightened himself up and got into his own fighting stance.

"Begin!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Both men slightly shifted their feet sideways in opposite directions before they covered the distance between them. They ended up grabbing on to each other's shoulders and neck. Then they added pressure to try to push down the other similar to two wrestlers in a beginning of a wrestling match.

After a few seconds, Wagner felt himself being pushed back, nearly losing his footing at one point. He was thankful that he wasn't that much shorter than the swordsman at the moment since if he was any shorter, he would've been down on the ground more quickly.

Wagner then attempted to knee Kenshi in the abdomen. He succeeded in connecting the move, forcing Kenshi to loosen his grip and draw a sharp inhale. Now with the opportunity, the younger fighter managed to push his older opponent back a bit.

The Air Force pilot performed a medium height kick, but Kenshi managed to step back from it before pulling back and throwing his own punch, which Wagner blocked. The two continued to exchanged their moves and blocks for a few more seconds before Kenshi finally landed a blow to Wagner's face, forcing his head to swing ninety degrees sideways. The swordsman then opened up his palm and struck Wagner in the stomach. The move caused Wagner to keel over in pain.

Damn it, the blonde man thought as he looked down at the ground. He then noticed an object just in front of his neck. He looked up and noticed Kenshi holding a katana, the tip of the blade just a few inches.

"Don't worry, I won't use it against you," Kenshi said. "The lesson here is to never take your eyes off your opponent, no matter what." He then placed his sword back in the scabbard behind him.

"Oh, um, great," Wagner muttered as he slowly got himself back on his feet. Once he was up, he stared at the red blindfold that covered Kenshi's eyes. "So I'm curious… if you should never take your eyes off your opponent, how is that advice helpful in your case?"

"You'll know soon enough," was all Kenshi said before performing a high round kick, which Wagner dodged from immediately.

As the fight progressed with Kenshi on offense, Wagner let the anger flow within himself, which activated the yellow sparks around his right arm. Let's try a projectile…

"Ultra Disc!" Wagner called out. He took his right arm and swung it from his right waist, over his chest, and ending just above his left shoulder. In the middle of the swing, a yellow disc-like projectile came out his arm and began speeding towards his opponent.

Kenshi only stood there and it would seem that he wasn't going to make any attempts to get out of the way. Wagner stood there confused, wondering why the swordsman wasn't attempting to move from the projectile's path.

It was then that Kenshi put a hand out and both hands and head glowed in a blue aura. Just as quickly, the projectile stopped just a few inches from him.

Wagner's eyes immediately widened, now noting Kenshi's telekinetic powers. "How the-" he tried to say. Suddenly, Kenshi shot the disc right back at Wagner.

"SHIT!" Wagner cried out as he immediately ducked out of the way of his own projectile, which then went flying out of the ring. As Wagner got himself back up, he noticed that Kenshi was no longer in the spot where he originally was. That was until a blue mist quickly appeared and Kenshi appeared right in front of him.

Because it happened so face, Wagner didn't have time to react and was immediately met with a handful of punches and kicks, none he could block in time. Then, he was elbowed in the head and flew sideways before landing on the ground. The power of the final blow made Wagner dizzy and before he could think, he blacked out.

After a few seconds, the Shadow Priest stood up. "Winner: Kenshi!"

Sonya and Alex immediately jumped into the ring to check up on the now-unconscious Wagner. "Great job Kenshi," Sonya said. "Not only did you advance to the next round, but I have the feeling Wagner's going to wake up with a headache now."

"He'll be fine," Kenshi assured her.

"Let's get out of here," Alex suggested. With Sonya's help, Alex got Wagner up on his feet and stood on his left with Sonya on the right. They carried the young Sergeant out of the ring with Kenshi following them.

Once they got out of the arena, Wagner began to wake up. He fluttered his eyes open and felt his feet being dragged. He slightly moved his head a few times and noticed Sonya and Alex carrying him. The Sergeant couldn't help by smirk.

"Hey," he managed to say. "I must admit… this is better than the dream I had with the two of you fighting in lingerie."

Immediately, Sonya and Alex stopped in their tracks and stared at their young ally. Wagner was able to feel what felt like two death glares without even having to look at them. "Eh," he said. "Ignore me, I just woke up… say, did I win the match?"

Sonya patted him on the chest. "I hate to break it to you, but I'm afraid you didn't. The bright side is, you're on the same boat as I am."

Wagner shifted his head again and noticed Kenshi walking besides Alex. His match with him quickly came flooding back to him. It was one of the most challenging fights he had ever been in in quite a while. Not only that, but he was taken down by a blind man. With that alone, Wagner now gained much respect for the swordsman, even if he was a grump.

There was going to be a long way to go before the end of the tournament. Wagner decided to take the time to train himself more seriously, especially if he wanted to save his sister in the future…

~~~

Outdoor Arena

"Sindel!" the Shadow Priest called out after the last match ended.

Queen Sindel sighed a sigh of relief as she stepped into the ring. She felt as though she waited forever, having spent most of the morning waiting for her name to be called out. She was a little disappointed that neither her daughter Kitana or their friend Jade were able to watch her fight. Both women had their own fights to attend to (in separate rings). All three would meet back at the palace once all of them were completed with their matches.

Sindel reached the middle of the ring and stretched herself out a little. In the audience, she could hear some whistling from the men, but she chose to ignore them. 'Horn dogs,' she thought.

Soon, the name of her opponent was announced… a name she hadn't heard since the last time she was in Outworld. "Mileena!"

"It can't be…" Sindel muttered under her breath. She looked over and noticed the younger woman approaching her, confirming the Queen's fears. The clone of Kitana was once thought to be dead in the Edenian world, having been supposedly killed by her daughter's hands years ago.

However, Mileena was now standing there, well and alive.

"Surprised to see me?" Mileena sneered, following a low hiss. "I heard the Edenian royal family was going to be here… but I didn't think I'd be facing any of you in this tournament."

Sindel glared at her with her pale eyes. "You're supposed to be dead!"

Mileena sneered once again. "You're a fool! I was merely unconscious when you and your dear daughter left me for dead all those years ago. Too bad I can't return the favor right now since I really want to win this tournament. Perhaps we can arrange a later meeting after our match."

The Queen had enough. Not wanting to wait for the call for the fight to begin, she immediately charged after her. Mileena quickly got in her fighting stance, ready to take her on.

Once she was close enough, Sindel delivered a high kick, which Mileena blocked. The pink-clad woman then attempted to follow with a karate chop to the abdomen, but Sindel managed to grab a hold of her wrist.

Mileena chuckled under her breath. "Oh mother… do you really want to hurt me?"

Sindel narrowed her eyes at her. "Face it, you are not my daughter and you never will be!"

The younger woman managed to get out of Sindel's grip then and pulled back. "At least I didn't betray the Emperor the way you and the bitch Princess did!"

Mileena suddenly sank right through the ground, which confused Sindel at first. When she turned around to look for her however, she was met with a boot to the face, forcing her to fall to the ground as Mileena landed safely on both feet.

Sindel tried to get herself back on her feet, but before she could, Mileena lifted her leg and kicked her back in the abdomen. Sindel let out a sharp exhale as she went back on the ground once again.

"Imagine if you didn't betray him," Mileena mentioned. "If we had succeeded, you and Kitana could've had everything you've ever wanted."

"Can it!" Sindel ordered as she began to slowly get up again. "You and everyone else who serve the Emperor are nothing but greedy scums who only care to ruin the lives of others. Even if it takes years, you will be eliminated, even if Kitana or I don't do the deed."

"Shut your trap, you old wench!" Mileena cried out. "When I'm finished with you, I shall kill both you and that wench you call your daughter. I'll even kill your bodyguard in the meantime. And when I do, I will take over the Edenian thrown. Do you like the sound of that?"

By then, Sindel was back on her feet. "You wish!" She then leaned forward and opened her mouth. A purple projectile came straight out and headed towards Mileena, who quickly rolled out of the way. Once she was, she put both hands out and two pink projectiles in shape of sais shot out towards Sindel. The Queen sidestepped from the move. She then began running towards Mileena and, just a few feet away, dived forward and skidded towards her.

Once she was in reach, Sindel grabbed a hold both of Mileena's ankles. Using her hips, the Queen lifted her lower half up to do a handstand with both feet pointed up and managed to slam her feet into Mileena's face. Mileena tried to stumble back, but because Sindel still held her ankles, she ended up falling backwards.

Sindel pulled her legs back, got her foot back on the ground, and stood herself up. She waited until Mileena was back on her feet again. The younger fighter glared at Sindel and let out an animal-like growl before covering the distance between the two of them.

From there, Mileena played offense with various punches and kicks, which Sindel blocked most of. Soon, the Queen found an opening and managed to punch Mileena in the abdomen, then followed up with and uppercut with her other fist to the jaw. Mileena pulled back slightly to recover from the pain before proceeding her own move sets once again.

However, Sindel had another trick up her sleeve. She quickly pulled back to take a deep breath. The Queen then followed by leaning forward and opening her to let a scream that was as loud as a Banshee.

The scream forced everyone in the crowd to cover their ears in agony. However, because she was closer, Mileena felt the impact of the scream much worse. She covered her ears and fell to her knees. "Make it stop!" she cried out, but her words were drowned by the scream.

After what seemed like a long time, Sindel finally stopped, leaving everyone's ears ringing. Mileena tried to get up then. However, Sindel saw a chance to finish the match for the win.

The Queen of Edenia whipped out her long hair, which immediately extended longer than normal, and wrapped around Mileena. The younger woman began to try to get out of the hold, but soon she found herself flying over Sindel's head. Mileena soon landed on the ground, but rolled just a few more inches until she ended up completely out of the ring, much to her dismay.

The Shadow Priest stood up then. "Winner: Sindel!"

Mileena sat where she was in disbelief. She couldn't believe that she lost to a royal wench, especially considering that this woman happened to betray Shao Kahn and all of Outworld selfishly.

After a little struggle, Mileena managed to get herself up glared at Sindel. "This isn't over! You haven't seen the last of me!" And with that, she disappeared within the crowd.

Sindel had the urge to follow her, but then decided that now wasn't the right time. She had won the match and was glad to beat someone who could've used the medallion for negative reasons. Now all she wanted to do is get out of the arena and head back to the main palace. She wanted to go freshen up while she waited for Kitana and Jade anyway. And so, she stepped out of the ring and made her way out of the area.

A handful of matches continued on afterwards. In the audience, the Lee siblings Yun, Yin, and Yang watched and waited. It was Yun's day to fight in the tournament and they had been at the arena since this morning. Now it was past lunch time and Yun was feeling more anxious to get into the ring.

"It's funny," he said. "I only fought in round one two days ago and now here I am, the first day of round two and I'm going to be in one of today's matches… well, I just hope it comes up soon because I'm getting bored just watching the other matches."

"I feel more bad for those who wait all day, only to fight in the last match of the day," replied Yang. "Now that has to be a bummer."

"Yeah," agreed Yin. "And if that's the case, Yang and I would probably be off to dinner by then." After that statement, she followed with a smirk, indicating that she was only joking.

Yun glared at his sister. "Gee, you two are such a great family," he said sarcastically.

Ten minutes later, a match ended. Once both fighters cleared the ring, the Shadow Priest stood up. "The next match shall begin." He then fell silent for a brief moment before calling out the first fighter of the next match.

"Yun Lee!"

Yun immediately stood up. "Finally!" He adjusted his cap before looking over at his siblings. "It's only round two so I'm sure I'll come out the victor."

"Don't get your hopes up too much," mentioned Yang. "Good luck."

"Same here," said Yin.

Yun nodded, then made his way to the middle of the ring. Once he made it there, his opponent was announced.

"Anna Williams!"

The young man looked around in search of his opponent. Looks like I'll be fighting a girl this time.

Soon he was able to spot her. The moment he laid eyes on Anna, he could've sworn that he felt his own heart flutter a couple of time at the sight of her beauty. Anna's attire consisted of a black tank top with a matching vest, which was opened, a black and white stripped flannel shorts, and a pair of black two inch high heels.

Anna stopped a few feet from Yun and placed a hand on her hip. "Don't worry… I promise you won't suffer… much."

Yun couldn't help but smirk at the comment. "And you don't have to worry about me ruining your beautiful face." He then got into his fighting stance.

Anna smiled in amusement. "How cute. Now then, shall we get this going?" She stretched a little before getting into her own stance.

"Begin!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Not even a split second after the call was made, Anna quickly began running towards Yun before jumping forward with one foot out towards him. Yun sidestepped out of the way and let Anna pass. She caught herself just in time and landed on both feet.

Anna managed to turn herself around, but was then met with a kick to the abdomen from Yun, causing her to step back a couple of feet. Yun then followed with a spinning kick, which Anna dodged out of the way from. She then saw him throw a punch and managed to grab on to his wrist, then followed with a knee to the stomach. Yun clenched from the pain.

I have to admit, she's good, Yun thought to himself. He then looked at her in the eyes. "Let me do something special for you."

Anna smirked. "Try me."

Yun performed a karate chop at Anna's arm, forcing her to let go of him. He then pulled back a few feet before running forward, crouched down as he slid, and pushed himself up with his hands. Anna attempted to get out of the way, but the move hit her in the leg and she felt herself falling forward face first. She quickly put both hands out to protect her face from the fall and soon she completely landed on the ground. Yun flew back down from his move, landed safely on his hands before doing half a forward flip to get back on his feet.

"Not bad," Anna said as she began getting herself up. "But just because you pulled off a fancy little move, that doesn't mean that you're going to win."

Yun gave her the chance to get back on her feet. Once she was, he covered the distance between them and began to throw various punches and kicks at her. Anna was prepared and began performing her own while blocking Yun's moves as well.

The fight continued on like this for sometime. Both fighters were exchanging various moves and block one another forcing each other to walk forward and back in order to attempt to dominate the fight between them. Soon, they ended up being close to the edge of the ring and both of them saw their opportunity to win the match.

Both of them grabbed on to each other and began to wrestle one another in an attempt to throw the other out of the ring. After some struggle, Anna, who was now at the bottom, managed to kick her leg on Yun's stomach and push him up diagonally. Yun few up a couple of feet, came back down with a hard land, then, out of his control, rolled out of the ring.

There we go, Anna thought with a smirk.

The Shadow Priest stood up. "Winner: Anna Williams!"

Yun sat where he was in disbelief. He didn't expect himself to actually lose the match and he felt completely disappointed in himself. He sighed, wondering what was next for him.

Anna got on her feet and looked at Yun. "Mmm, it was my pleasure… in defeating you." She then gave him a blow kiss and winked at him before making her way out of the ring as victor of the match.

By then, Yang and Yin came to Yun. "You all right there, bro?" Yang asked with concern. "I'm sorry you lost."

Yun wasn't paying attention to his brother as he watched Anna leave. She's beautiful… he thought as his heart fluttered once again. Suddenly, losing the match didn't seem all that bad to him.

"Earth to Yun!" Yin called out, waving her hand over her brother's face.

Yun shook his head upon hearing her voice, then looked up at him. "Um, yeah… I'm all right… let's get back to the cave now."

Yin glared at him oddly. She could've sworn that his eyes had stars in them. Yin then decided to forget about it and she, along with Yang, helped their brother up on his feet.

Once he was, Yun looked over in hopes of getting one more glance at Anna. However, by that time, she long disappeared from sight.

Chapter Text

The Cave

Raiden sat on the chair in the lounge area and was feeling a bit frustrated. It was only the second day of round two of the tournament and he had hoped by then that they would find something concerning the exact whereabouts of Chishio No Me.

He knew that Shao Kahn was in possession of it and was hiding out somewhere in Outworld. A while ago, during one of the days of the tournament, Raiden, traveling alone, exploring Outworld and ended up in an area where Shao Kahn's original palace stood. He found it mostly abandoned.

It seems that he has moved to another location, the Thunder God thought. But where exactly?

Normally, if he was back in the Heavens, he would've been able to quickly find Shao Kahn's new location. However, even as a God, his powers were weaker here than anywhere else, so there was no possible way for him to find the new location.

He had vowed to find the medallion with the help of the mortals staying in this very cave with him. What he couldn't understand was why the Elder Gods felt that they shouldn't interfere when it was obvious that peril was ahead. He even announced that he would relinquish his status just to secure the realms.

The deity wondered how things would be once he returns to the Heavens.

Raiden was at least thankful that one Elder God understood; his friend Fujin. As a matter of fact, it was Fujin who suggested that he allied with Rose in order to have more of a chance to succeed.

Now why would he partner me up with a crazy woman like her? he thought a bit amused.

"Raiden!" a female voice cried out, sounding a bit angry. Raiden already figured out who it was.

Speak of the devil, he thought as he turned his head to face Rose. The psychic had her hands on her hips and, by the expression on her face, didn't look quite too happy.

"What are you doing sitting around?" Rose asked. "Shouldn't you be helping the boys out with their fishing trip?"

Raiden stared at Rose. "And shouldn't you be helping the girls out with berry picking?"

Rose ended up growling a little. "I was on my way to do that. However, I was told that a certain leader was sitting around doing nothing."

Normally, Raiden would continue with his smart remarks just to rile the woman up, but this time, he wasn't in the mood, not with everything that was on his mind. "Unfortunately, I have other things to do!" he exclaimed as he got up.

Rose watched as Raiden grabbed a heavy dark cloak. "And where are you going?" she demanded.

"I'm going to do something useful," he replied. "Our mission is going quite slow and I feel that we need more recruits. I'll be back in the evening."

With that, electricity surrounded Raiden and he disappeared before Rose could say another word. Once he was gone, she sighed to herself. For once, she actually felt bad for yelling at the Thunder God.

He does care about our real goal, she thought. I just wish that he was more serious about everything else…

~~~

Indoor Arena

A near kick sent Yoshimitsu pulling back, barely missing the attack. Another kick came after him forcing him to do two backwards flips before re-positioning himself in his fighting stance, katana in hand.

He's a very good opponent to fight against, the katana wielder admitted to himself.

This particular match began only two minutes ago. Yoshimitsu stared at his opponent, the cyborg Smoke, who also got into his own stance, axe in hand. So far, the match had been mainly weapon to weapon with a few kicks coming from each fighter.

After a nearly one-minute stare down, Smoke finally decided to make the next move. He maneuvered himself over towards Yoshimitsu and once again, the two exchanged weapons moves, the sound of two crashing steels reaching the audience's ears. Smoke made a overhead swing, which Yoshimitsu blocked with his sword. They slightly pulled back and the clan leader swung his sword sideways, which Smoke blocked as well.

They continued to swing their weapons and block each other for a little while longer. Soon, Yoshimitsu received the upper hand when he managed to lift his leg, perform a round kick, and smacked Smoke's metal arm, forcing him to lose his grip on his axe. This quickly angered the cyborg. He made one flip forward, then proceeded a handful of swings with his fists at his opponent. Yoshimitsu quickly blocked the moves. He then followed with a left hook, which Smoke blocked.

Smoke then backed away, but not before leaving a cloud of black smoke in mid-air. This was meant to both blind his opponent and force them in an uncontrollable fury of coughs. However, Yoshimitsu saw this just in time and managed to back away a few feet to avoid the element.

As the black cloud evaporated into thin air, Smoke quickly disappeared in another puff of smoke. Yoshimitsu quickly looked around in confusion, but found Smoke too late when the cyborg reappeared behind him and performed an uppercut from the ground up. Yoshimitsu flew up in a diagonal angle, but as he began to fall back to the ground, he managed to catch himself, performing a backward somersault in the air before landing on the ground safely.

Smoke already was on his feet and got himself ready for his next move. However, it was Yoshimitsu's turn to pull off a move. He jumped up in the air, clasps his fists together (with one hand still holding his sword), and came crashing down towards the cyborg. Smoke saw this in time and dodged out of the way.

The cyborg straightened himself after the dodging, but by the time he got himself ready to fight again, he was suddenly met with the butt of Yoshimitsu's sword right to the face. Because of the force of the blow, Smoke was quickly knocked back on to the ground. The blow also damaged an internal mechanism and when Smoke was completely on the ground, he jolted a few times before shutting down.

Yoshimitsu looked down at Smoke as his own name was announced as the winner of the match. He already knew that, with cyborgs or any other type of robots, if they malfunctioned in mid-fight, it didn't count as a death because they were fixable by their rightful superiors. Because Smoke was a cyborg, the katana wielder was able to advance to the next round without worrying about a disqualification.

As Yoshimitsu stared at his opponent, a feeling came over him. Suddenly, he was able to sense something about Smoke. Though he knew nothing about the cyborg, Yoshimitsu felt that something wasn't right with him.

He pondered on this thought for a few more seconds before deciding to forget about it. He would most likely never see Smoke again after today anyway. Placing his katana back in it's scabbard, the clan leader stepped out of the ring and left the building.

~~~

That Evening In the Cave Area

After a whole afternoon of picking berries with all the girls in the cave, Yin walked over to the lake alone. When she reached the lake, she dipped her hands in them, whipping away the residue and the stickiness from the berries she picked. She let them stay underwater before rubbing them together.

That's better, she thought to herself.

Her mind wandered to yesterday at the tournament, when her brother Yun lost his match after being thrown out of the ring. She remembered when she and Yang went over to help him out, Yun seemed as though he was in a daze, as though he was…

Nah, couldn't be, Yin thought. Yun has much better taste in girls.

She remembered the time when Yun dated a girl named Hoimei, who once worked at the restaurant the brothers used to work at before Yin came to town. She was a sweet girl, though she could be a bit demanding at times. However, Hoimei and her younger sister Shaomei ended up moving out of the city and Hoimei broke the relationship off, leaving Yun heartbroken for a while.

That was over a year ago and Yun had been over it since. He would normally mention if he spotted a pretty girl, but that was it afterwards. However, yesterday at his match, he gave off a look towards his opponent that would be on anyone's face when they were…

No way! Yin thought while cringing. My brother couldn't be, not that fast!

"Yin!" a voice called out then, interrupting her thoughts. Yin turned around and noticed Maki coming up to her. The blonde woman had a smile on her face as she sat next to her friend.

"Hi Maki," Yin said. "Here to clean your hands too?"

"Yeah," Maki sighed as she dipped her hands into the lake. "As good as those berries taste, they can be really messy to handle."

"Tell me about it," the brunette agreed.

Maki took the time to clean her hands under the water before pulling them out. "I heard Yun didn't win his match. Well, at least I'm not the only loser in the cave."

Yin couldn't help but chuckle a little. "Don't worry about it. I'm sorry to hear you didn't make it though. However, Asuka tells me that you fought a really nice woman."

Maki nodded as she remembered her opponent Kitana. "Yeah. I guess you could say that I was honored to lose to a noble fighter. I hope she makes it far in the tournament. How was Yun's opponent?"

"Well… the opponent was female… tall… pretty… weird… she's not THAT special!"

Maki stared at Yin oddly after that comment. Yin noticed the stare then and felt a bead of sweat go down the side of her head. "Eh, sorry, I got carried away. It's a long story, really."

"That's all right," Maki said. She then looked down and noticed her nails. "Darn, my nail polish is peeling off."

Yin looked down and saw the remaining red nail polish on Maki's fingernails. "That shade of red is really pretty. It almost matches your fighting attire."

"Thanks," Maki nodded. She then looked down at Yin's nails, which weren't painted. "Say, I have an idea. Since this evening is going to be quiet, why don't you and I go inside and we can have our own manicure party."

Yin raised an eyebrow. "Gee, eh, I never had a manicure before."

"Don't worry about it," Maki said as she stood up. "Your nails are going to look really nice after and the best part is that it won't affect your cooking at all."

Yin laughed a little as she stood up as well. "I never said it was going to affect my cooking. Which reminds me… now that we have more berries, I can try to make some pies with them tomorrow."

"Great! Let's get started now before everyone gets back from whatever they're doing."

So the two female fighters began heading back to the cave for their own manicure party.

~~~

Main Palace

Sitting on a chair in front of a small lit fireplace, Raven stared down at the fire without any emotion on his face. His chin rested under his left hand as the intelligence agent let himself drift into thought.

It has been eleven days since he arrived in Outworld. Normally at this rate, he would find some sort of clue concerning his mission to find out more about the sorcerer and host of the tournament Shang Tsung. He had attempted to ask those who may be of help. But last night proved to be more dangerous than he expected.

One of the people he asked questions to attempted to assassinate him in the middle of the night. However, being a light sleeper, Raven was able to wake up in time in order to defend himself. The two fought for only a minute before Raven got the upper hand and managed to finish off his would-be killer mercilessly.

Although Raven was able to take the assassin down by himself, this only proved to him that he was putting himself in even more danger. Intelligence back at headquarters were not able to communicate with him due to the fact that their technology was never meant for inter-realm travels. He had been on his own ever since he came here.

It took him long to admit it, but Raven realized, for the very first time, that he needed help.

In his right hand, he held a manila envelope addressed to him. Before he arrived in San Francisco, he was in Miami, awaiting his flight there, when he was met with an officer who gave him the envelope. The officer had told him that he was only to open it if he felt that he was truly desperate.

Raven assumed that intelligence was going to have a situation like this. One thing was for sure… they were right.

Slowly, the agent opened the letter. He held white paper with both hands as he read the letter;

Raven,

This is your first time doing a mission in another world, the first for any of our agents. We are aware that you would be alone in this mission and that, due to lack of our own technology, we may not able to keep in contact with you.

Invitations to the tournament were passed around the world to the best of the best. We were informed that some members of the United States Air Force, the United States Special Forces, Hong Kong Interpol, and MI-6's Delta Red, were given invitations and will be attending the tournament. These members have been assigned to look into small terrorist groups that may hiding within Outworld and to find out any information behind the tournament.

We recommend that you meet with these members if you are truly desperate for assistance. We are confident that these members will assist you in your mission as you may also assist them in their mission.

We wish you luck on your assignment. Upon your return to Earth, please report to Headquarters immediately for further orders.

Sincerely,

-HQ.

P.S. - After reading, we strongly advise that you burn this letter immediately.

Raven looked up from the letter after reading. Throughout his entire career as an agent, he had never allied himself with anyone before, not even anyone in the same unit he was in. He wasn't too sure about it, but if this was what headquarters recommended, he might as well take it.

However, that didn't mean that he wasn't going to seek out the military and police unit just yet. There were countless fighters in the tournament and any one of them could be members of the police unit or military branch. He would have to search for them and try to get any information on his mission. That way, he didn't end up wasting time.

Following the order in the letter, Raven placed the paper back in the envelope, then tossed it in to the fireplace. The letter was quickly engulfed in flames. Soon after, it was nothing but hot, black ashes.

~~~

Underground Lair

"Adon!" Shang Tsung called out. A loud 'Yeah!' was heard as the Muay Thai fighter jumped over the ropes, ready for his match. He stepped towards the middle of the ring and punched the air a few times, feeling a bit pumped up. Adon felt quite confident in himself. He felt that no matter what was thrown at him, he would be able to take on his upcoming opponent.

Soon, his opponent's name was announced. "Havik!"

Adon searched for his opponent, ready to fight. Once he spotted the cleric of chaos, a bit of disgust came over the Muay Thai fighter, noting the missing flesh that should've covered the bottom half of his face. Havik walked over to the middle of the ring and stopped just a few feet from Adon. Silently, he got into his fighting stance.

Not only is he ugly, Adon thought. But he's practically rotting alive! This match is going to be easier than I thought! He then got into his Muay Thai stance, both fists leveled at his face and one leg off the ground.

"Begin!" Shang Tsung announced, interested in how the fight will turn out.

Not wanting to waste any time, Adon jumped forward and attempted quick jabs with his fists before delivering countless kicks to his opponent. Havik, immediately forced on defense, blocked the incoming moves that came. After a little while, Adon began to feel frustrated.

Why can't this moron budge? he yelled in his mind.

Just as his thought finished, he suddenly felt a kick to the side, forcing him to stumble a few feet to the side. Adon looked over at Havik. Even with no lips, he could've sworn that his opponent was currently grinning at him.

"Chaos lies within you," Havik mentioned as he got back into his fighting stance. "Continue to embrace it, for Chaos is the way."

"You're crazy!" Adon cried out.

"Why thank you," Havik replied, taking the intended insult as a compliment.

The comment angered Adon even more. He quickly lept up in the air, placed one foot out, and in quick speed, darted down diagonally towards Havik.

"Jaguar kick!" he cried out. To his delight, he managed to strike Havik in the face, sending him crashing onto the floor. Adon landed back on his feet, then followed with a single backflip. As he finished the flip, Havik had rolled back and quickly got back on his feet again, ready for more.

Adon went after him again, throwing speedy high kicks at Havik. Havik was once again forced to defend himself, blocking all the moves that were thrown at him. When he finally found an opening, Havik clenched his fists, spread them out, and twists his torso 360 degrees! Adon was hit twice by the move, forcing him to fall back. The Muay Thai fighter looked at him, stunned by what just happened as Havik returned back to normal anatomy.

"What the hell was that?" Adon cried out surprised.

"You haven't seen anything yet," Havik said. He then took both of his hands, placed them around his head, and managed to break his neck without much effort. He kept it like for a couple of seconds before fixing his neck to it's normal position.

Adon growled in anger, realizing that Havik was taunting him. "No one mocks me!" He got himself up and ran back towards him. In a furious rage, Adon attacked Havik with punches and kicks and had managed to get a few blows on Havik, though it seemed to have little effect on the Chaosrealm native.

Havik once again saw an opening and used his fist to punch Adon. The punch came to Adon as a surprise and he ended up turning his entire body 180 degrees. As his back was turned to him, Havik took out his morning star… a weapon that had a ball with sharp spikes on them.

The Muay Thai fighter felt his lip bleeding, but ignored that fact as he began to turn around. Before he could completely face his opponent, however, he suddenly felt a couple of spikes impale into the left side of his cheek and jaw, blood immediately oozing out from the wounds.

Feeling the intense pain from the blow, Adon screamed and cursed as he held on to his face, the blood now dripping down his hand. "YOU'LL PAY FOR THIS!"he screamed out in rage.

Havik quickly grabbed him then. The cleric of Chaos lifted him up over his head, then threw him, sending Adon right out of the ring, the maneuver automatically declaring him the victor.

"Winner: Havik!" Shang Tsung announced.

When the winner was announced, the pain in Adon's face suddenly seemed to go away as his anger began to blind him. He quickly got up and attempted to go back in the ring to attack Havik, but he was then stopped by the viewers surrounding him.

"Get off me!" Adon cried out as they pushed him back. Havik only watched in amusement as Adon was pushed towards the back of the crowd and left the building by force.

"May Chaos live on forever," Havik whispered before leaving the ring.

~~~

Outside The Cave

The sun was halfway from setting behind the mountains in the distance for the night. Though it was mostly beginning to get dark, it was still light enough to see one's way around.

Sitting in front of the open campfire, Alex set up the fire stand over the flames before placing the frying pan on it. "Nothing sounds better than chicken and cheese taquitos right now... even though I'm sure the chicken is going to taste like crap."

A can of chicken and a can opener was handed to her. Alex took the two items as she looked over at Kenshi. When she had invited him to join her at the campfire, she was surprised that he took her up on the offer, but she figured it was most likely because she happened to catch him when he was starving. Despite being colleagues, rarely did he accept invites to 'hang out' with the other soldiers of Special Forces, preferring to spend his free time in quiet solitude.

"So where did you get the can?" he asked curiously.

Alex couldn't help but smirk to herself. "Let's just say that I'm quite sure Sonya can survive without one can of chicken." She then used the can opener to open up the can before using a fork to scoop the chicken out and on to the flat tortillas which were on cooking sheets.

"Something tells me that Sonya will notice anyway," Kenshi mentioned.

"I wouldn't be surprised." Alex then rolled the tortillas before placing them in the frying pan. She then took the spatula in her hand and began to wait. She decided to continue the conversation in the meantime. "Wow, so we both managed to make it to the next round."

Kenshi nodded. "You sound surprised."

"Well… you advancing is not surprising, but I didn't think I'd make it that far. Well, I already know that I'm not going to win this tournament anyway. There are so many good fighters… then again, this is my first time actually attending a tournament and I wasn't even invited."

"What matters is that you've made it as far as you did," Kenshi mentioned. "There are many fighters who came to this tournament in hopes of winning, but never even made it to the second round."

Alex nodded in agreement then as she turned the taquitos over. "I guess I should be grateful after all then."

The two fell silent then, unsure of how to continue the conversation. The smell of chicken consumed their senses and Alex took a moment to enjoy the smell. It was the type of smell that would make anyone more hungry. After a few minutes, she decided to add the cheese on top of the taquitos.

"So," Alex began, trying to begin a new conversation with the free agent. She briefly let herself think before she finally came up with a subject. "Do you have any family back in Japan?"

Kenshi sighed to himself. "I did… a long time ago. My grandfather was also a swordsman and had trained me with both the way of the sword and Tai Chi. I lived with him until I was fifteen when he passed away."

As he continued his story, Alex noticed that the cheese was melted. She removed the pan from the fire stand, then set it down on the cooking sheet so that they would have a few minutes to cool off. “What about your parents?” she asked.

"… My mother died when I was young. My father had disappeared before I was even born, so I never knew him.”

Alex felt saddened up hearing that. "I'm sorry," she said.

"It was a long time ago." The swordsman continued then. "But it was after my grandfather died that I decided to travel and challenge the greatest swordsmen I can find. I've mostly traveled alone since then without anyone else. Sure, I ran into the occasional traveler, but we tend to go our separate ways not long afterward.”

“I assume something compelled you to join us when Sonya and Jax asked you to join Special Forces last year,” Alex inquired.

Kenshi was silent for a moment before he answered her. “In a way...” He then quickly changed the subject. “Is the food ready?”

Quickly getting out of her thoughts, Alex quickly shook her head a little once his last four words sunk in. She grabbed two plates and placed the food on them. "Yeah, they're ready. Sorry to say that I'm not exactly a gourmet chef, but I promise that this beats military rations any day."

“I believe that,” Kenshi said.

They ended up eating silently as Alex was deep in thought. If she remembered correctly, Sonya had nicknamed Kenshi 'The Rogue Swordsman' because he had been a lone traveler for years and from the new information she got, he had been alone ever since his family's death. For some reason, the thought of it made her sad, but she decided not to comment on it... she was sure that he didn't want any pity from her.

~~~

Underground Lair

Match after match came and went. The sun was beginning to set for the night outside of the lair, but even with the sun out, the underground lair would've still been as dark as night had it not been for the lit candles displayed all around.

Soon, a match ended and another winner was announced. Shang Tsung looked over at the list to see which two fighters were up next to compete against each other. When he saw one particular name on the list, an amused smirk came upon his face.

It was the fight he was waiting for all day.

He stood up and announced the first of the two combatants. "Quan Chi!" he called out.

Quan Chi stepped into the ring and headed towards the middle of the ring without a second thought. Once he did reach the middle, he stared at Shang Tsung with no emotion. In reply, the sorcerer sitting on the throne returned the gesture. For a moment, it was as though the stare down would never end and some people in the audience thought that the two would end up having their own combat right there. However, it soon ended when Quan Chi slowly turned his back, awaiting his opponent.

Another smirk came on Shang Tsung's face, fully aware of who Quan Chi's opponent was.

"Astaroth!" the shape shifter announced.

Quan Chi raised an eyebrow in a bit of surprise. He had thought that he would be fighting a normal mortal, but it would seem that he got a nice little surprise.

Astaroth stepped in to the ring, having been hiding in the shadows. The audience fell silent just by the sheer size of the golem alone as he held nearly an equally large axe in his hands. He stopped just a few feet from Quan Chi and stared down at him.

Noting the weapon, Quan Chi immediately took out his two broadswords and got in position. It was well known that very large fighters relied on their strength. The pale sorcerer knew that he would have to rely on his speed during the upcoming match.

"Begin!" Shang Tsung called out.

Immediately, the two fighters unleashed their fury on one another. Quan Chi would dodge from Astaroth's axe whenever the golem would swing his weapon around in different directions. Quan Chi would them lash his own swords out, but Astaroth would bend himself out of the way. Only once did Quan Chi leave a scratch on the golem's side.

Angered, Astaroth lifted his leg and kicked Quan Chi, sending him flying across the ring. The sorcerer lost his grip on his swords and cursed himself when both weapons slid out of the ring. Astaroth ran over to him and attempted to swing his axe again. Quan Chi quickly put out both of his hands, each one glowing green. Then, a large projectile came out of his hands in the shape of a grinning skull. He had hoped that the projectile would hit Astaroth's beating heart, but the golem ended up slightly stepping aside and the projectile hit his arm. It only stung the golem slightly, but other than that, it had little affect on him.

Once that failed, Quan Chi quickly got himself up and attempted various punches and kicks at the golem. Although he was able to land many of the moves on Astaroth, Quan Chi was beginning to feel frustrated as he felt beads of sweat falling on his face.

What does it take to take this thing down? the sorcerer thought in frustration.

After another minute, Astaroth began to have enough. "Worm!" he called out. He took one of his elbows and jabbed Quan Chi in the face. Stars began to surround the sorcerer then as he was kneed in the abdomen afterwards.

Shang Tsung watched in amusement as the fight continued on. He watched as Quan Chi attempted to get back on offense, but it would to be no use as Astaroth dominated him with his strength.

Finally, a hit from the butt of the axe sent Quan Chi flying across the other side of the ring. The impact when Quan Chi fell to the ground was hard enough to render him unconscious, ending the match.

"Winner: Astaroth!" Shang Tsung announced. The audience clapped in union. Each person's facial expression showed that they weren't surprised by the results of the match.

Shang Tsung smirked in amusement.. Such a shame, he thought. Had Quan Chi advanced to the next round… I may have requested for him to face a certain spectre…

~~~

Unknown Area

The sun had completely set and the light wind was picking up a bit more. Raiden's navy blue cloak blew forward as he continued to walk around the area in search of fighters with pure hearts and souls. However, no matter who he passed, his small mission had been unsuccessful so far, unable to find the right people.

There must be someone who is good enough to be called 'the chosen one,' the Thunder God thought.

Another few minutes past as he continued moving forward. Fighters would walk by, but none that caught Raiden's interest. He then began to feel that coming out, for now, was useless.

Before turning around, however, he heard what sounded like someone training. Though not feeling positive, Raiden decided to check one more person before returning to the cave. The walk only took less than a minute as Raiden passed some tall bushes. He then saw a clearing and that's when he was able to spot the person training.

The person, wearing a red karate gi and sported blonde hair that was gelled up, continued his training, using an old, dead tree as a punching bag. He punched and kicked at the tree furiously, not caring about the damage he was inflicting on the tree. As he continued, a name came over Raiden's mind.

Paul Phoenix, he thought. The God of Thunder then began to sense it… a pure heart and soul. Not the best of them all, but it'll do.

It was then that Paul mumbled aloud to himself, saying each word in between breaths. "I'm… gonna… win… this… match… tomorrow… and… be… the… best… in… the… universe!"

Raiden slowly stepped forward then, but he ended up stepping on a twig, snapping it in two. The sound caught Paul's attention and the red-clad fighter stopped his training and quickly turned around to face Raiden. He showed a bit of a surprise look at first, but then his expression changed to annoyance.

"What do you want, old man?" he demanded.

Not the best attitude however, Raiden thought, solving why Paul's pure heart and soul 'wasn't the best.' "Please take a moment to listen to me, Paul-"

"Hey!" Paul cried out, interrupting Raiden. "How the hell did you know my name?"

"Never mind that," Raiden continued. "My name is Raiden, God of Thunder, and I'm here to tell you that the world is in danger."

Once again, Paul cut him off. "Don't give me that crap! You're crazy!"

"Listen to me!" Raiden demanded, now feeling a bit frustrated. "There is much more to the Bloody Eye medallion than you think. It is the most powerful artifact in the universe and it's in the hands of evil. You have been chosen to defend our worlds and make sure that the medallion falls into the right hands."

Paul stared at him for a moment before replying. "I'm not sure whether to take you seriously or not, old man. Besides, even if you are telling the truth, I'm here for one reason and one reason only; I'm here to prove to everyone that I AM the best in the universe! I don't need to defend the realms in order to prove that!

Raiden sighed. "Please Paul, do not be so naïve. I am serious about this and I need your help."

Paul smirked a little. "Maybe when I get proof that the worlds really are in danger. Say, I have a match tomorrow! Why don't you come and see my skills in combat? I'll show you that I truly am the best in the universe!"

Sighing once again, Raiden decided to give up with him, at least for right now. The Thunder God began walking away as Paul continued punching and kicking at the tree.

He is arrogant, Raiden thought. But deep down, he has much better potential than what he displays…

Chapter Text

Outdoor Arena

A match was taken place as Lei Wulong watched. He sighed to himself, wondering when his turn was going to be up.

I'm quite surprised that my match ended up being delayed for a day, he thought.

Lei was supposed to have his match yesterday in the Indoor Arena, but because of long matches and overbooking (according the note he received this morning), some matches, including his own, had to be cut for the next day. The note given to him this morning apologized and relocated him to the Outdoor Arena instead of the originally-assigned Indoor Arena.

At least it's a nice day… I think, Lei thought as he looked up at the purple sky, which seemed darker than normal.

Soon, the current match ended as a result of a knock out. The knocked out fighter was dragged out of the ring as the winner raised his arm in victory before returning to the audience. Lei lost sight of the fighter afterward.

The Shadow Priest stood up. "The next match shall begin." It paused before announcing the first of the two fighters. "Lei Wulong!"

Lei sighed of relief as he stepped into the ring. It's about time! he thought. I just hope I don't fight another guy like my last opponent. He shuddered a little as he thought about the large, devil-like opponent. Too bad Chun Li isn't here at the moment.

Chun Li had a match today as well, so she wasn't able to be here to cheer her Interpol partner on and Lei couldn't be at her match, obviously for the same reason, to cheer her on either. They would have to wait until tonight to see how the other did in their match.

The Shadow Priest announced his opponent. "Jade!"

Lei immediately spotted his opponent then, who seemed to walk into the ring with grace, showing confidence in her green eyes. Lei noted the staff and boomerang Jade had strapped behind her back. Jade herself saw that Lei didn't possess a weapon and decided that she didn't have any need for her staff… for now at least.

Once Jade stood a few feet away, Lei placed a fist on the palm of his other hand in front of him. He then followed with bowing his head, showing his sign of respect. Jade acknowledged the gesture by repeating the same. They then looked up at the same time and got into their positions.

"Begin!" The match was now on it's way.

"Yah!" Jade cried out as she jumped forward, a foot aimed at her opponent. Lei saw it coming and stepped aside, letting Jade pass him. He then attempted a punch, but to his surprise, without turning her back, Jade blocked the move. She then turned herself around, still blocking the punch, and attempted to jab Lei with an open palm. Lei barely blocked and smacked Jade's block with his other hand, then attempted to follow with his own elbow with the same arm. However, Jade was able to block once again.

They continued back and forth like this for a bit more. As they did, Lei could already feel a bead of sweat on the side of his head. She's fast, he thought.

Jade felt a bead of sweat on her forehead as well. He's quite quick, she thought as well. This may turn out to be worth the one-day wait.

After another minute, Lei quickly pulled back, then performed a double round house kick. Jade pulled herself back from the two kicks, but as she attempted to straighten herself again, Lei took the opportunity to land a blow with his fist to her abdomen. The force of the blow pushed Jade back a few feet, skidding on the ground before coming to a halt.

Jade quickly pushed herself back up with her feet as Lei ran towards her. Without thinking, Jade raised her leg up and used her inner chi to push herself forward. Green shadows trailed behind her as a result.

Lei noticed the fast move too late. Before he was able to react, the kick connected at his collarbone. The force also pushed him back, only he ended up rolling before stopping, just a few feet from the edge of the ring.

"Damn," the super cop muttered, quickly shaking his head from being temporary stunned. He slowly got himself up back to his feet.

By then, Jade had her boomerang out. She pulled her arm back before throwing it towards Lei. She had purposely placed the trail slightly off course. It was just a way for her to give him a little scare.

However, Lei wasn't aware of the flying weapon and ended up stepping right into it's path. He had just began to face Jade when the boomerang ended up smacking him in the forehead. Lei flew back a foot, before landing on his back. By then, he was already unconscious.

The boomerang turned itself around and headed back to Jade, who caught it in her hand. "Winner: Jade!" the Shadow Priest called out then.

Jade closed her eyes in disappointment. Damn, she thought. Sorry Lei… I ended this match sooner than I was hoping.

The green ninja sighed to herself again before leaving the ring and the area.

~~~

Courtyard

Cassandra and Li Mei stared at each other while standing in the middle of the ring. The two were surprised when they were called up by Shang Tsung himself to face each other in a match, though they only knew each other just for living in the same cave. Cassandra held her sword and shield in her hands. Noting the weapons, Li Mei had taken out her Kunlun Dao sword in preparation for a weapon-to-weapon combat.

"Good luck," Cassandra said to her opponent as she positioned herself in her stance.

Li Mei positioned herself as well. "Same to you, Cassandra."

Shang Tsung noted that the two females were officially prepared for their match together. "Begin!" he called out.

Not wanting to waste anymore time, the two girls charged towards each other, then swung their swords at the same time, resulting in the two weapons clashing with one another. They then pulled back and Li Mei attempted to jab her sword forward, while Cassandra blocked with her shield. The blonde girl then tried to swing her sword sideways, but Li Mei managed to block.

Cassandra noted the determined look on Li Mei's face, something she was seeing for the first time since they met. I guess she can be serious when she wants to be, she thought. Besides, she's pretty good at this sword fight.

The two continued their sword fight, their weapons crashing against one another. That was until Li Mei pulled back a couple of feet. Cassandra was a bit confused by this and moved forward… which was what Li Mei wanted.

Li Mei pulled her leg as far back as she could before swinging it forward, doing a backward somersault in the air in the process. Cassandra, though caught by surprise, pulled back and the kick barely missed her. Li Mei landed back on her feet afterwards and ran forward, swinging her sword in the process. Cassandra blocked once again with her shield.

Once again, they proceeded with their sword fight, each one going back and forth with their weapons. At one point, Cassandra attempted a kick, but Li Mei saw the kick coming and dodged out of the way. From there, the sword fight continued once again.

That lasted for another minute. Small beads of sweat began to slide down Cassandra's forehead and she was beginning to feel tired from the sword fight. As fun as this is, she thought. I think it's time to end it.

However, it seemed that Li Mei had the same idea as she pulled herself back once again. She put a hand out and, immediately, a lavender energy-ball surrounded in sparkles and shot out towards Cassandra.

The Keisei native saw the projectile coming and attempted to block it with her shield. However, the force of the projectile was enough to knock Cassandra back and landed with a thud! on the ground.

"Getting all fancy now, aren't we?" Cassandra muttered as she looked up at Li Mei. The blonde then got on her feet. "I have a nice trick up my sleeve as well."

Cassandra quickly raised her sword in the air and managed to summon a bolt of lightning in the air, which landed on the tip of her sword. Electricity surrounded the sword then an once she was ready, Cassandra lashed her sword forward, the lightning bolt released and zapped towards Li Mei. Because of the speed of the lightning, Li Mei wasn't able to react fast enough before being hit. The force sent her flying back before landing on the ground.

The young brunette felt a bit stunned from the move and once she recovered, she slowly got back on her feet. She noticed the smirk on Cassandra's face and felt angry then.

"Come and get me!" Li Mei called out. "If you think you can-"

"Winner: Cassandra!" Shang Tsung suddenly called out.

Li Mei stared at the sorcerer in confusion. That was until she noticed the small distance between her and the ring. The Outworld native didn't realize that Cassandra had knocked her completely out of the ring until now. Feeling embarrassed, Li Mei ran out of the area.

Feeling satisfied then, Cassandra began to walk out of the way. As she did, a random male in the audience whistled at her, catching her attention. "Hey baby, I love the 'shot' I got when you did that lightning move." The men surrounding him laughed after the statement.

Cassandra had always admitted to herself that she sometimes would forget the fact that the lightning move produced a heavy wind and since she wore a skirt in battle…

Anger came to her quickly. "You pervert!" she yelled out. She then took her shield and bashed the stranger over the head, knocking him out cold. Cassandra then looked over at the other men. "Anyone else want a 'shot?'" The guys stayed silent then. "I thought so." The blonde girl then headed back towards her friends.

"Way to show that jerk!" Asuka said with a smile. "I hate cocky guys like him."

"We all do," replied Mika. "But you sure showed him, Cassandra."

Cassandra couldn't help but smile. "Thanks."

Three more matches passed. Once they did, Shang Tsung stood up to announce the fighter for the next match. "Ibuki!" he called out.

"All right!" cried out an excited Maki. She then looked at her friend. "Good luck."

Ibuki smiled under her cloth mask as she began to step into the ring. "Thanks you guys." She then got into the ring and headed to the middle.

Once Ibuki reached there, Shang Tsung called out the next opponent. "Julia Chang!"

Ibuki was surprised to hear the same of someone who was staying in the cave with her. Looks like Cassandra and Li Mei won't be the only ones, she thought.

Julia stepped into the ring then. The Arizona native wore her hair in two low braids which reached down to her waist. She also wore a green mid-drift tank top under a brown vest of the same length, a jean skirt, white socks, and brown cowboy boots. She also had a purple and blue headband around her head, which consisted of two black and white feathers behind her.

The two girls stared at each other before Julia spoke. "Good luck," she said.

Ibuki nodded. "Same to you." They then got in their fighting stances.

"Begin!" Shang Tsung called out.

Neither girl hesitated as they jumped towards each other. Ibuki lifted up her leg for a kick as Julia jabbed her fist forward. The two moves ended up blocking one another. They both pulled back then and Julia attempted a swinging upward kick. Ibuki bent back and let Julia's foot swing pass her before pulling back forward. She then attempted a few punches, which Julia block.

More punches and kicks were exchanged between them for another minute. Finally, Ibuki managed to find a good opening and landed a kick on Julia. Julia stumbled back a bit, but then retaliated by throwing some punches and elbow jabs. A few times they connected, hitting Ibuki's face and upper arms. One shot of pain forced Ibuki to pull back to re-cooperate. As she did, Ibuki reached to one of her pockets and grabbed the hilt of her knife.

As Julia began running towards her, Ibuki quickly threw a knife, making it go off course as a way to distract her. She just hoped that Julia didn't step into it's path.

Luckily, Julia saw it coming and, though it was already off course, she stepped quickly to the side to avoid the knife. The knife flew passed her and stabbed into the ground.

Ibuki took an opportunity then to grab a hold of Julia. The young ninja then jumped in the air, curled herself into the ball, then finally pushed Julia back to the ground with her feet. Julia cried out as she landed hard on the ground. Ibuki herself did a backward somersault before landing on her feet.

As Julia slowly got herself back up to continue the fight, Ibuki stood in her fighting stance, giving her a chance to get herself back up. The female ninja always felt that it was unfair for someone to continue a fight while their opponent was on the ground, never able to have the chance to get up.

Soon, Julia was back on her feet, still in a bit of pain, but still willing to fight. Ibuki decided to make her move then. She ran forward, then pulled a few punches and kicks, some of them connecting.

At one point, one of Ibuki's punches was blocked by Julia's forearm. She then pushed the fist sideways and managed to get herself behind Ibuki. Julia then wrapped both arms around Ibuki's waist, lifted her up, and performed a German Supplex. The blow to the back of Ibuki's head caused her to lose consciousness. Julia let her go as the rest of her body slid to the ground.

"Winner: Julia Chang!" Shang Tsung announced.

The audience clapped as Julia managed to get on one knee. She felt bad for knocking Ibuki out, but at the same time, she couldn't help but feel happy. She clasped her hands together then and bowed her head.

"Thank you, spirits," she muttered under her breath.

~~~

Indoor Arena

Chun Li quickly sidestepped as Seong Mi-na delivered a high kick, which was aimmed at her face. The Interpol detective felt a light wind hit her face as Mi-na's foot passed her. As she pulled herself back, Mi-na attempted to deliver another kick, but Chun Li quickly-but-barely blocked it.

That was too close for comfort, Chun Li thought.

The two of them only had their match for less than two minutes amongst the onlookers around the ring, including Chun Li's ally Guile, who also had a match today. So far, it had been an intense match between the two women, so no one could make a guess of who was going to win.

When the match was announced, Mi-na, knowing that Chun Li didn't have a weapon on her (aside from a handgun as Chun Li mentioned, but it obviously wasn't allowed in the tournament), decided not to use her own weapon. Hwang, who was watching, suggested that it was more fair against someone who didn't have her own weapon. Although she resented it, it was the right idea after all.

However, Mi-na would get Hwang for this if she lost the match.

Mi-na, only able to rely on her limited hand-to-hand combat training, continued delivering various punches and kicks, taking the chance of being on offense. Chun Li, who was forced on defense and was looking for an opening, was able to block most of the moves. Though she was hit a couple of times, the Interpol detective still managed to keep her composure.

After some time, Chun Li was finally able to find an opening after dodging from another one of Mi-na's kicks. She bent herself down a bit and then performed an uppercut. Mi-na didn't see the uppercut in time and was knocked back a couple of feet, though she remained her footing.

As Chun Li straightened herself up again, Mi-na ran forward towards her. When she was close enough, she jumped up a couple of feet and quickly kicked up with one leg and repeated with the other a second later before landing back on the ground. The first kick had missed. However, the second one managed to connect, hitting Chun Li's cheek. Chun Li was forced to pull back as pain hit her.

Unfortunately, Chun Li didn't have time to recover though. When she looked up, Mi-na was already in her face, ready to deliver more combat moves. Chun Li quickly got on her guard and defended herself once again as Mi-na performed more punches and kicks.

"Got you now!" Mi-na told her.

Chun Li managed to pull herself back. "Don't jump to conclusions just yet."

As Mi-na stepped towards her again, Chun Li lifted up one leg. She managed to connect a few kicks in a row at Mi-na. Then, she sped things up. The speed of her kicks were so fast that it was hard to follow. Mi-na was able to follow the kicks and was hit about what felt like a thousand times. The final kick, however, pushed her back a few feet and forced her on the ground.

"Damn it!" Mi-na cried out as she clenched her teeth in pain. Despite the pain, she attempted to get up.

As she did, a blue aura surrounded Chun Li's hands. With every second that passed, the aura seemed to get bigger and bigger. Once she felt ready, Chun Li pushed both hands forward.

"Yah!" she cried out as a large blue of energy surrounded her and Mi-na. The force of the energy pushed Mi-na back and, between that and the pain from the previous move, it rendered her unconscious. Chun Li wasn't aware of that until the energy shrunk and the Shadow Priest hosting the Indoor Arena tournament stood up.

"Winner: Chun Li!" it announced.

Chun Li could've sworn she felt a small sweat drop on the side of her head then and she bit her lower lip. She noticed Hwang getting into the ring to help Mi-na out. Once he got her in his arms, he looked up at her.

"Eh," Chun Li managed to mutter. She placed one hand behind her back and waved a little. "Um…Duey bu chyi! Duey bu chyi!" She then got herself out of the ring and back towards Guile.

Guile couldn't help but smirk in amusement. "Why are you nervous suddenly? You did win the match."

Chun Li sighed. "I know… it's just that, well, I think I went overboard with the last move-"

"Don't worry about it," Guile cut in. "Mi-na will be fine."

Chun Li nodded then, unsure of how to reply to the comment.

A few more matches passed afterward. Once they passed, the Shadow Priest stood up and announced a name for the next match;

"Jin Kazama!" it announced.

Guile and Chun Li immediately recognized the name as one of the individuals staying with them in the cave. At that moment, Jin stepped into the ring, wearing only a pair of black pants with white flames and gold lining on the right pant and a pair of black geta shoes. He tightened the black finger-cut gloves as he headed to the middle of the ring.

"He's one of the quiet ones in the cave," mentioned Chun Li. "I believe that's why we don't see him very often."

It was then that Jin's opponent's name was announced.

"William Guile!"

Guile nodded a little. "Maybe I'll get a chance to know him a little more."

Chun Li chuckled a little as her ally stepped over the ropes. "Good luck," she said.

"Thanks," Guile replied as he began heading over to the middle of the ring.

The Air Force Colonel soon was face to face with Jin, the two just standing a few feet from each other. In respect, Jin placed his left fist on his right palm in front of him and bowed his head a little. Guile decided to follow and did the same. Afterward, Guile got into his fighting stance.

"Koi," Jin muttered under his breath before getting into his fighting stance.

"Begin!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Neither one of them waited another second and both ran after each other at the same time. They then delivered punches and kicks following with one blocking the other. It would seem that they both shared the same strength and were quite even with the normal hand-to-hand combat.

That was until Jin found an opening and delivered a punch to Guile's stomach. As Guile flew back from the powerful punch, Jin suddenly saw the small amount of red electricity that surrounded his hand. His eyes widened at the sight.

No, not now! he exclaimed in his mind.

Guile, who only noticed the distracted look on Jin's face, quickly recovered from the punch and was running towards him. When the Air Force Colonel was close enough, he jumped up high in the air and performed a backward somersault with one leg out, taking Jin with him.

"Somersault Shell!" Guile called out. Jin flew in the air with Guile before falling back and landing on his side. Guile himself landed safely on both feet.

Jin slowly got himself back up on his own feet. Guile gave him the chance to do so before running towards him. Jin was prepared and once again, the two exchanged more punches and kicks at each other, along with blocking one another.

This last for a brief moment until Guile jumped back a few feet. He then quickly pulled his arms back, with both of his hands glowing in a yellow aura.

"Sonic Boom!" he yelled out. He then swung his arms forward and a boomerang-shaped projectile shot out towards Jin. However, the younger man saw the energy coming and he immediately jumped up. As the projectile passed him, he did a forward somersault and once it completely passed him, he landed back on the ground.

Once he did, Jin ran towards Guile and quickly delivered a punch. The red electricity surrounded his hand once more. When the punch connected, Guile was pushed so far back that he ended up right out of the ring, knocking down a few onlookers in the process.

Once Guile stopped in his tracks, the Shadow Priest stood up. "Winner: Jin Kazama!"

Chun Li immediately ran over to her ally to see if he was all right. By the time she got there, Guile had just got on his feet and was brushing himself off. The female agent placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

Guile nodded. "I'm fine." He looked up then, looking over towards the ring. Chun Li noticed the grim look on his face and she knew that he was disappointed by his loss.

However, there seemed to be a bit of pride in the Colonel's eyes. "You know," Guile said. "I never really admit something like this, but… that kid has guts. I can see him going very far in the tournament."

Chun Li knew that he was talking about Jin. She looked over to the ring to see if she could get another look at the younger man. However, by the time she did, Jin was long gone…

~~~

Later That Night, Underground Lair

"Paul Phoenix!" Shang Tsung cried out, announcing the first match of the night.

"Yeah baby!" Paul cried out to no one in particular. He jumped over the ropes that separated the onlookers from the ring. He felt extremely pumped up as he approached the middle of the ring. "I'm number one! And I'm the best in the universe!" he exclaimed.

Shang Tsung smirked lightly. Let's see how confident you will be once you fight your opponent.

The sorcerer then announced the name of Paul's opponent. "Scorpion!"

Long story short; Scorpion became one of the two late entries to the Blood Tournament, mainly to seek revenge against the sorcerer Quan Chi. Shang Tsung let the spectre in the tournament… however, he didn't exactly tell him that Quan Chi had lost the tournament a couple of nights ago. Whatever was to happen, Shang Tsung would find a way to deal with him later…

Scorpion stepped into the ring and walked himself to the middle before stopping just a few feet from Paul. The Judo fighter looked at the spectre, unimpressed.

"Typical ninja… this will be easier than I thought," Paul mutter. He then lightly punched his fist into the palm of his hand just below his chin before cranking his neck twice from side to side. He then called out an "Osu!" before getting into his fighting stance. Once he did, Scorpion quietly got into his own stance.

Shang Tsung saw that they were ready. "Begin!" he called out.

The two fighters wasted no time as they quickly approached each other. Scorpion was quick to get on offense, forcing Paul to get himself on defense, much to his dismay. This continued for about a minute. During that time, Paul became frustrated as he tried to find a way to break away from his defensive position and get himself on the offense.

Now angered, a yellow aura surrounded Paul's right hand. He then took advantage of an opening and managed to punch Scorpion in the face. The ninja spectre stumbled a few feet back before glaring at Paul with his transparent eyes.

Suddenly, a small ball of fire appeared in front of Scorpion and, from what it seemed, he shrunk right to it's size before disappearing. Paul stared at the spot in confusion… until he felt a punch to the back of his head and fell forward. Paul quickly turned around and saw Scorpion just landing on his feet.

"Damn ninja tricks," Paul muttered. Ignoring the pain, he managed to get himself back on his feet, then began running back towards Scorpion.

When Paul was close enough, Scorpion quickly performed a back flip. Paul, however, saw it coming and immediately stepped back a couple of feet. He felt Scorpion's feet slightly brush against the top part of his red gi, but that was all.

As Paul recovered from the move, he suddenly saw a spear on a rope shooting towards him. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to get out of the way and was impaled just below the right collar bone. Drops of blood immediately came out from the new wound. Paul clenched his teeth in order to stop himself from screaming because of the sheering pain that suddenly hit him.

"GET OVER HERE!" Scorpion exclaimed as he pulled Paul towards him. Paul felt slightly dizzy then and wasn't able to defend himself from Scorpion's second attempt at his back flip. Paul fell backwards to the ground then.

As he tried to recover, Paul noticed that he was able to breathe fine, meaning that the spear didn't puncture his lung. However, he was still bleeding and he was starting to feel the coppery taste of his own blood in his mouth. That was definitely not a good sign.

"Never," Paul said as he attempted to get up. "I… won't be taken down… that easily. I'm number… one… always will…be."

However, it was a quick swift of a kick to the side of his head that finally knocked Paul out cold. He landed face down to the ground, ending the match between the two.

Shang Tsung stood up. He knew that Paul was wounded during the match. One of the rules of the tournament was that if a fighter died during the match, his or her opponent would automatically be disqualified. However, if the person was pulled out of the ring before his or her death, their opponent still wins the tournament.

The sorcerer was still able to sense Paul's vital signs. He turned to one of the guards. "Get him medical help immediately," he ordered.

Quickly, the guard, followed by a few others, picked the unconscious Paul up, and immediately got him out of the ring. He was then placed on a long wooden cart before being taken out of the lair.

Shang Tsung looked over at the viewers. "Since his opponent was still alive upon departure," he announced. "Scorpion still has the rights to move on to the next round!"

Everyone clapped unsurely at the announcement. As they did, a smirk came on the sorcerer's face once again as a thought came to him;

Paul Phoenix will be taken good care of…

Chapter Text

Outdoor Arena

Rainbow Mika and Sakura Kasugano stood in the middle of the ring, looking at each other with a bit of surprise. After waiting all morning to fight, it turned out that the two friends would face each other in the same match.

Sakura smirked at her friend. "You think out of hundreds of people, you and I would end up being paired for a match."

"Tell me about it," Mika replied. "Well, all I have to say is… may the best girl win."

Sakura nodded in agreement. "Yes. Because I have a few new moves up my sleeve." She then got into a fighting stance.

Mika got into her fighting stance as well. "Don't think I don't have some tricks on me either."

Soon, the match was called to begin. Both girls circled around the ring, keeping their eyes on one another. After a while of this, Sakura decided to make the first move. She ran over to Mika and attempted an uppercut, which Mika blocked. Mika then attempted to grapple Sakura, but the younger girl saw it coming and had no choice but to step out of the way.

Sakura then attempted various punches and high kicks at Mika, who blocked and dodged from them. Mika then found an opening and jumped up, swinging her leg sideways. Sakura saw it coming again and barely ducked from Mika's foot.

"Now I'm definitely ready!" Sakura called out. She bent her knees a little, then pushed herself upward. As she did, she placed one leg out and began spinning herself around.

"Shunpuukyaku!" Sakura called out. Mika ducked underneath the move and pulled back a bit. She watched as Sakura began to land on her feet. There, she saw an opportunity.

"Flying Peach!" Mika cried out as she launched herself forward, rear-end first. Sakura had just turned herself around when she was suddenly smacked in the face. The younger fighter immediately fell back, a bit dizzy from the impact.

Sakura looked up after a brief recovery and saw Mika slightly rubbing her rear a little before she turned her head with a grin. Sakura realized what part of Mika's body she was hit by.

"Now you're gonna get it!" the younger fighter called out as she stood up on her feet. The two fighters launched themselves towards the other again and from there, they exchanged various punches and kicks. The two girls watched the other in order to avoid getting hit by one of the moves.

This lasted for a bit before the both of them pulled back, feeling a bit exhausted. They both took a moment to catch they breath before Mika launched herself forward to perform another Flying Peach. However, this time, Sakura was prepared.

"Hadouken!" Sakura called out. She pushed both of her hands forward and ejected a ball of blue energy and it shot out right towards Mika. Unfortunately for the young wrestler, she didn't see the projectile coming and was hit… right in the rear. She let out a small yelp as she suddenly found herself flying in the opposite direction and landed on her side.

After the landing, Mika felt a burning sensation behind her. "Owe! Owe! OWE! Hot! Hot! HOT!" she cried out as she attempted to stand up.

Sakura couldn't help but laugh as she watched. "Now this fight is really mine!" She began running towards Mika, ready to launch one of her biggest attacks. Mika managed to look up and saw Sakura coming.

"Shinkuu Tatsumaki Senpuukyaku!" Sakura called out. She slightly jumped, placed one leg out, and spun herself around multiple times in hopes of hitting Mika. However, Mika had just enough time to barely get out of the way.

Soon, Sakura stopped spinning. She was about to deliver a kick to the stomach at Mika… but realized that she wasn't there.

"What the-" Sakura began to say.

Suddenly, Sakura felt a pair of arms wrap around her waist. Mika managed to lift the younger girl up in the air and performed a solid German Supplex.

"Hora!" Mika cried out as she made the impact. Before Sakura landed head first and a bit hard, Mika managed to render her unconscious. Mika let her drop to the floor, then stood herself up before she realized what she did to her friend.

"Winner: Rainbow Mika!" the Shadow Priest hosting the tournament called out.

"Oh no!" Mika cried out as she bent down to her friend. "Sakura, I'm so sorry!"

Asuka and Ibuki, who were both watching the tournament, came into the ring. "She's all right, isn't she?" asked Ibuki.

"She looks fine, just knocked out," Asuka replied as she lifted Sakura up with Ibuki's help. Then she looked over a Mika. "Congratulation Mika!" she said excitedly.

"Um, thanks," Mika answered unsurely. It did feel good to win, but a part of her wished that it didn't have to be at the cost of another friend's victory.

~~~

In the Cave

"Wagner?" Sonya Blade said aloud beside a curtain. "Are you in there? I need to talk to you."

The curtain was then pulled slightly aside and Wagner poked his head around it. Sonya noticed that his blonde hair was a bit messy. "I'm not in trouble, am I?" the younger man asked as he stared at her with his midnight blue eyes.

Sonya laughed a little. "Unless you're hiding something, no. Can I come in?"

Wagner looked in his room, then back at the blonde agent. "Um, sure." He then pulled the curtain back to let Sonya in. Sonya stepped in and felt her nose twitch at the sight of his room. Even in the caves of Outworld, Wagner's dirty clothes laid everywhere. She noted a pair of jeans hanging off one of the rocks on the wall and she couldn't help but sigh by the sight.

The Air Force Sergeant noticed Sonya looking around the room. "Yeah, I didn't get a chance to do my laundry. As a matter of fact, I don't know where to do the laundry."

"Oh, there's a clean river near the springs," Sonya mentioned. "I have to do my own laundry tomorrow so I'll show you where it is."

"Thanks." Wagner then stared at her. "So… I'm pretty sure that you're not here to talk about laundry."

Sonya briefly thought about what she was about to explain to Wagner and couldn't help but chuckle. "Well… it's kind of out of character for me now a days, but considering how Alex got to advance to the next round and I didn't, I can't help but feel that I should pull a prank on her. I haven't done something like that since high school."

Wagner snorted in amusement. "You? Pull a prank? This I have to see!"

"Well," Sonya continued. "I came to you for advice… because Guile told me some stories of the pranks you pulled when you were a teenager."

Wagner smirked proudly. "Those were the days. Well, come to think of it actually, did Guile tell you about the small party he plans to throw for Alex and Kenshi for their victory in round two?"

"Hmm, I almost forgot about that," Sonya answered.

"Do you think we should pull a prank on Kenshi too?" Wagner suggested.

"Bad idea," Sonya mentioned. "My colleagues Jax and Cyrax back in Special Forces tried pulling a prank on him once… and it backfired miserably because of Kenshi's keen sense."

"Damn," Wagner muttered in disappointment. "So much for my little revenge after losing to him in the tournament."

"If you think about it, helping me pull a prank on Alex is almost like pulling a prank on Kenshi since they're good friends. It's probably the closest you'll get."

Wagner raised an eyebrow and smirked even more. "Good friends, eh?"

Sonya got the idea of what he was thinking. "No no, it's nothing like that."

"Well I can't imagine him in a relationship anyway," Wagner replied. "He seems too grumpy to be in one."

Sonya chose to ignore that last statement. "Anyway, back to the prank… say, do you know what they'll be serving at the party?"

"Let's see… the usual chips and dip, Outworld berries, Outworld fish…" Then a smirk came on Wagner's face then. "And Outworld liquor."

A devilish grin came on Sonya's face. "Outworld liquor… that gives me an idea for a prank." She looked at Wagner then. "One question before I devise my plan. Do you sleep in boxers or briefs?"

"Huh?" Wagner asked in confusion.

~~~

Indoor Arena

A match between the ice ninja Sub-Zero and the saurian Reptile was taking place. It seemed like an ordinary battle between the two. However, they had done nothing but impressed those watching their match.

A shadow in a black hooded cloak watched the match as the two continued with their various move sets. Soon, the two fighters brought out their potential;

Reptile removed the mask covering his mouth, reveal a chameleon-like mouth. He quickly opened his jaws and a glob of green acid spewed out of his mouth. Seeing the acid coming towards him, Sub-Zero quickly shot out a freezing cold projectile. The two projectiles crashed into one another, and disintegrated just before hitting the ground.

From there, they continued with the match for a few more minutes. Finally, Sub-Zero slid towards Reptile, leaving a trailed sheet of ice behind him, leaned forward with his shoulder in front, and slammed into the raptor. Reptile went flying backwards in fast speed before and flew right out of the ring, crashing into unexpected viewers in the process. Once things settled, Sub-Zero was then declared the winner of the match and will be moving on to round three.

The cloaked shadow stared at Sub-Zero as he left the ring. I had hoped he would win, it thought. Now I can set him up for the perfect match.

~~~

Palace Hot Springs

"I can't believe you didn't want to trek back to the outdoor hot springs," said Yang as he stared at his brother Yun.

"Well why not?" Yun replied. "We just had dinner and this hot springs was just two levels down. Why should we go to the hot springs outside when this one was right here?"

"Whatever you say," Yang said as he decided to give up with arguing with his brother. He leaned his bare back into the edge of the bath and let himself relax. At least there weren't that many people in the springs right at the moment. All of them kept to themselves, which was what Yang liked whenever he was in the springs.

It was then that the brothers heard footsteps heading their way. Sounds like one more person is coming in, thought Yun sighing.

Then, an older man with crazy grayish-white hair stepped into the area. He held a white towel in his right hand and the only thing he was wearing was a black speedo.

All the guys except for the Lee brothers began to snicker.

"Look, it's Heihachi Mishima, and he's wearing a speedo. How pathetic!"

"Old timers shouldn't be wearing things like that anymore."

"Ewww, I can almost see his-"

"Don't even say it! I already want to gorge my eyes out so don't make me want to gorge my ears out!"

Yun then couldn't help but snicker as well. However, he ended up stopping upon feeling Yang nudging hard on his arm. "Eh, sorry," Yun muttered to his brother.

Heihachi calmly placed his towel on the bench as the snickering continued. He then turned towards them and glared, enough that he managed to render the snickering bathers scared.

However, that wasn't enough for the Zaibatsu leader. Yun and Yang then ended up watching as, what seemed like within a millisecond, take out all the bathers and threw them out of the bathhouse. They screamed in terror and ran out of the springs in seconds.

Yun and Yang were the only ones left alone with Heihachi afterwards. They both sat there frozen in their place, unsure of what was going to happen next. Then, to their surprise, Heihachi let out a laugh as he stepped into the bath, just across from the brothers.

I'm not sure whether to stay or leave… thought a nervous Yang.

Heihachi looked over at the brothers then. "Hmm, water is quite nice today, huh boys?" he said in a cheerful tone (which almost seemed sadistic in a way as well).

Yun was the first to speak. "Um, yeah… it does seem nice today."

"Eh, yeah, same here," Yang managed to say.

Heihachi smirked then, which also seemed both cheerful and sadistic. "Say, why don't one of you get me a drink."

"That's your job," said Yun suddenly to his brother.

"Me?" Yang asked surprised. "He was looking at you when he asked!"

"Well I'm not doing it!"

"Me either!"

"Ahem!" they suddenly heard. Yun and Yang turned their heads and noticed Heihachi glaring at them with his arms folded. The look alone was enough for the both of them to jump out of the bath, grab their towels, and make a run for it.

Heihachi laughed to himself while they were gone. "Finally. I thought I'd never get the hot springs to myself. Now to finally relax." He leaned back a bit and proceeded to enjoy the peace and quiet.

~~~

Cave Area Later That Evening

The members of Special Forces, US Air Force, and Delta Red gathered around the campfire that evening. Near the fire, various food and drinks were being served, including the infamous Outworld Liquor, which was barely touched at the moment.

McCoy looked over at the liquor bottle. "I ain't chugging on that bloody bottle again for as long as I'm here," he said.

Lita grinned sadistically. "So… that means you'll still have some when you return to Earth?"

McCoy glared at her. "You know what I mean." After the statement, he took out his guitar from it's case. "Right now, let me play some music to lighten things up." With that, he began playing various tunes on the instrument as everyone sat around and enjoyed the environment.

"Hey, where's Kenshi?" asked a curious Guile.

"He'll be here," Alex replied. "He wanted to do some training before he came to the gathering."

"Must be dedicated to the fight," Wagner said. He then handed a filled cup to Alex. "Here, have some liquor. It's reaaaallllly good!"

Alex looked down at the cup before taking it. "Thanks." She then began drinking the liquor.

McCoy continued strumming his guitar, the various notes pleasantly reaching everyone's ears. Everyone continued eating and enjoying their time together. During that, however, Guile couldn't help but notice both Wagner and Sonya continuing to offer Alex more and more liquor. A few times she denied their offers, but they begged her to take it. Eventually, she would and continue to drink. This went on for about twenty minutes.

"Wagner, don't give her too much," the Air Force Colonel mentioned to his trainee.

Wagner stared at his surrogate father. "It'll be fine, Guile."

"But don't you remember when-"

Suddenly, Alex stood up. "WOO HOO!" she cried out catching everyone's attention. She stumbled a bit, indicating that she was definitely drunk. "Is it me or is it HOT out here?!"

Alex began taking her shirt off, but Lita immediately stood up and stopped her from doing that. "Now now mate, you don't want to be doing that!" She then looked over at Ginzu, who was playing around with his computer. "And that's why, Ginzu, you should never be drinking."

"Uh huh," Ginzu replied, not even paying attention as he tapped on the keyboards with his fingers.

The young brunette looked upward in a daze, "Pretty colors…" she muttered before passing out. Lita caught her in her arms before she was able to land on the ground.

About time! Sonya thought mischievously.

"Looks like she had a bit too much to drink," Cammy mentioned.

Wagner turned his head and noticed Guile giving him dagger eyes. The younger man sighed a bit, realizing that Guile was right all along.

Wolfman stood up. "I'll bring her to her room."

"Actually," Sonya called out. "Wagner and I will do that, if you don't mind."

"Be my guest."

Wagner stood up as well. Taking the now passed-out Alex in their arms, Sonya and Wagner carried her back in to the cave. As they disappeared behind the trees, Guile rubbed his chin a little.

Something fishy is going on with those two, he thought.

~~~

Courtyard

Mi-na stood in her spot as her friend Hwang got himself ready in the ring. They practically spent the whole afternoon in the courtyard area, waiting for Hwang's name to be called up for his match. She sighed of relief as his name was finally called out.

"You better win this," she had said to him as he stepped over the ropes. "Or else what kind of role model would you be to me?"

Hwang stared at the younger girl, noting her slight sarcasm. "Don't worry, I'm not going to lose." With that, he stepped into the ring.

Hwang's opponent was called out then. Mi-na recognized the second fighter as one of the people staying in the caves. If she remembered correctly, his name was Cody. With his scruffy blond hair and a hint of in-grown beard, and his name, he reminded her of a country bumpkins.

I'm surprised he doesn't have one of those accents, she thought. If I'm correct, I think they're called 'hillbillies.'

The two men stared at each other for a moment. She saw Hwang's mouth move, possibly saying good luck. She quickly looked over at Cody, who nodded to Hwang before getting into his stance. Without a weapon on Cody, it would like Hwang was going to have to fight hand to hand. Leaving his sword in it's scabbard, he got into his stance.

"Begin!" Shang Tsung called out as he looked at the two fighters in the ring.

Neither one of them waited another moment after the call. Mi-na watched as Hwang and Cody ran towards each other and go at it, starting with various punches and kicks. Mina became a bit frustrated because she couldn't tell who really had the upper hand at the moment.

I seriously hope you win this, Hwang, she thought.

The match proceeded on for a while as Mi-na continued to watch. At one point, Hwang would have the upper hand, then at other times, it would be Cody getting the offense. The two would manage to land different punches and kicks on their opponent, but the opponent would quickly recover and continue fighting.

Then, to Mi-na's surprise, Cody quickly pulled out a slim butcher knife from his pocket. A sadistic smirk came over his face as he quickly threw the knife at Hwang.

"Look out!" Mi-na cried out.

Luckily, Hwang saw the knife coming in time. Quickly, he pulled out his sword from it's scabbard and place it over his face. He had managed to block the knife as it hit the sword and fell down the ground.

"You tried to kill me!" Hwang called out.

Cody couldn't help but smirk even more. "No, I was only trying to distract you."

Hwang narrowed his eyes as he placed his sword back in it's scabbard. Once he did that, he immediately began running towards Cody, who was long prepared for Hwang's next move.

"Criminal Uppercut!' Cody called out. Hwang stepped right into his trap as he threw an uppercut and managed to develop a small tornado. Hwang stepped into the hurricane and went flying sideways, just a foot away from the edge of the ring.

Cody cracked his knuckles a couple of times. "Now things are heating up!"

Hwang stood up as Cody began running towards him. Hwang clenched his fists and concentrated on collecting energy around him. This produced some green mist around him and the area seemed to darken a bit, making the audience wonder what was about to happen next.

Once Cody was close enough, Hwang hit Cody with a punch and the green mist seemed to come flying out. Cody was punched so hard that he flew right across the ring and landed hard. The force of the landing rendered him unconscious.

Shang Tsung stood up after a few moments. "Winner: Hwang Seong-gyeong!"

"Yeah!" Mi-na cried out as she jumped into the ring and joined with Hwang. When she approached him, she saw that he had a blank expression on his face. "Hey, what's wrong?"

Hwang heard Mi-na's voice and looked over at her. "Nothing, I'm fine. Let's get out of here. Something tells me that Cody is going to wake up soon and cause a bit of havoc."

Mi-na couldn't help but laugh a little. "All right, let's go. I'm tired of being here anyway."

With that, the two of them left as Cody's allies came to his aid.

~~~

Back In the Cave Area

"I can't believe I lost," Sakura sighed as she placed a hand on the side of her face. She then let out a huff that went up, forcing some locks of her short brown hair to stand up quickly before falling back down in place.

"I'm just glad you're okay," Mika replied. "I think that's what really matters."

The two of them were sitting on rocks just by the beach area not far from the cave. Along with them were Maki, Cassandra, Asuka, and Ibuki. The six of them had just finished eating some fish and had set their dishes to the side.

"You did great Sakura," said Ibuki.

"Yeah," Sakura said with another small sigh. "Besides training, what else am I going to do with my time?"

"I'm sure you'll find something," said Cassandra. "But I have a similar question… what should we do now?"

All of the girls fell silent then, pondering over what to do next. The sun had already set for the night and some of the people in the cave had already gone to bed. There was no use doing anything in the cave. Every time they were together in one of the rooms, someone who was trying to sleep would always yell at them to be quiet.

After a while, Asuka's eyes lit up. "I have a game we can play."

"What kind of game?" asked Maki, now interested.

"My high school friends and I used to play this game all the time," Asuka continued. "Basically, we sit here like we are now and we wait for a cute guy to come by. Once we see a cute guy, one of us will go up to him and hit on him. It's like truth or dare, but only with a dare and only a single dare that everyone is assigned to."

"Gee, I don't know," Maki said.

Cassandra smiled. "I think it's a great idea. Besides, I need to get to know some of the guys around here, especially since we're going to be here for a while." She then turned her head and spotted Maxi walking nearby. "Here we go. I'll go first." She then got up and began walking over to Maxi.

The girls looked at her in a bit of surprise. "She's quite the daring type," said Sakura.

"Hey, did anyone notice she's bringing her shield along?" asked a curious Ibuki.

Cassandra soon approached there. "Hi, I'm Cassandra."

Maxi looked over at the younger girl, a bit surprised. "Um, hi there. Aren't you the one who hangs out with the girls who giggle a lot?"

Cassandra couldn't help but giggle herself. "Yeah, we always like to hang out together."

"So I see," Maxi replied. "Well, I'm sorry but I can't talk right now, maybe next time."

Maxi began leaving then. Cassandra exhaled loudly, now angry because she wasn't able to get Maxi to talk to her longer. In her anger, she took the shield that was in her hand, bonked Maxi over the head, and rendered him unconscious.

"Well you know what?!" Cassandra yelled out. "You're definitely not my type!" Then she stormed off.

The other five girls looked at her and could've sworn they felt a bead of sweat on her forehead. All five of them sighed in sync.

"Well, that game got ruined," said Asuka. "Let's do something else…"

"Yeah," the other four replied, unsure of what to do now…

~~~

The Next Morning…

After a long sleep, Alex woke up and found herself in her own room on her bed. After opening her eyes, a pounding headache immediately came over her.

"Damn…" she mumbled to herself. "How much did I drink last night?"

She remembered being at the gathering by the campfire in celebration for her and Kenshi's victory in round two. Other than that, it was all she could remember.

Alex slightly moved a little and felt her headache even more. She placed a hand over her forehead and rubbed it a little, hoping that it would ease the pain a bit.

She then moved a little again. This time, she felt someone next to her and her blue eyes quickly widened nearly as big as saucers. "No... I didn't…" she mumbled. Alex then slowly turned her head over to the left, hoping that it was all in her imagination.

However, once she got a view of a shirtless Wagner, her worst fears were confirmed. Wagner himself was already wide awake, baring a big grin on his face as he looked over at Alex with his midnight blue eyes.

"Good morning, honey," he said jokingly and with high-pitch cheerfulness.

Suddenly, Alex let out a shriek so loud, it forced Wagner to jump back and fall off the small bed. Alex ended up backing away too far that she too fell off the other side of the bed. She quickly got on to her feet and saw Wagner struggling to get his jeans over his boxers, the only piece of clothing he originally had on.

"Please tell me this was a joke!" Alex yelled out.

Wagner laughed as he got his jeans on. "Don't blame me! This was all Sonya's idea!"

"What for?!"

Then, at that moment, Sonya pulled the curtain over to see what was going on. With her were both Guile and Lita.

"Oh bloke," said Lita as Sonya slapped her own knee and burst out laughing. Guile only shook his head, realizing that his own instincts were right.

"Don't worry Alex, Wagner didn't do anything to you," said Sonya, still laughing. "After you won your match and I didn't, I just had to pull a prank on you."

After the statement, Alex screamed, "GET OUT!" Immediately all four of them scrambled out of there, but not before Wagner grabbed his green tank top from the floor.

Once they were far from Alex's room, Lita looked over at Wagner. "I'll admit, that was pretty funny. However, something tells me that you two pulled that prank at a very bad time."

Wagner sighed, getting what she might've meant. "You know… I think you're right…"

Chapter Text

Outdoor Arena

Once again, the morning sun rose into the Outworld sky. It was another day for round two, another day of fighting, and another day of less fighters gaining the chance to possess The Blood Tournament's grand prize.

As the morning matches were performed, Yun, Yin, and Yang Lee sat on the front benches of the Outdoor arena, watching these matches as patiently as they could. Some matches went quick, some took a long time before a winner was announced. Some were quite impress while others were, well, boring.

The three siblings were mostly quiet as the matches continued. They were here because Yang was going to fight today. When that was, they weren't sure. All they knew was that his notice card said to be there at 9am this morning and nothing more, as it normally was for all the fighters in the tournament.

Yun let out a small yawn before breaking the silence. "It makes you wonder how many fighters are here. I have to give credit to those running the show. They're handling the amount of fighters attending quite well."

"Considering this is another world," replied Yin. "It might not even be a bit of a problem to them."

A match soon ended. Yang found himself sighing a little. "To think Grandfather was invited to this tournament. I still feel guilty about leaving him behind."

Yun turned to his brother at the mention of their grandfather Gen. "He wanted us to come here."

"There had to be a reason," Yang mentioned. "Something tells me that he wouldn't just let us go to this tournament, not with all that was happening."

"We shouldn't worry," said Yin. "When you guys told me about the tournament, Auntie offered to go down to Hong Kong from Shanghai to look after him. We don't have to worry about anything." She then sighed. "I just hope he's still with us when we return to Earth."

That statement alone completely silenced her brothers. They had been living with Grandfather since they were toddlers, ever since their parents divorced. Their mother, now deceased, had taken Yin up to Shanghai to live with their aunt while the brothers were supposed to stay with their father. However, their father mysterious vanished one night and Gen had taken them under his wing almost immediately.

The three seemed to have dazed out for a bit, not paying much attention to anything around them. That was until the Shadow Priest hosting the tournament in this particular arena announced the first of two fighters for the next match.

"Yang Lee!"

The grim feeling suddenly seemed to disappear as the three of them stood up. "Make it quick," said Yun. "It's almost lunch time!"

"Good luck Yang!" said Yin, now feeling a bit excited.

Yang managed to smirk at his brother and sister. "Thanks," he said before stepping into the ring. He managed to get himself in the middle before his opponent was announced.

"Nina Williams!"

Yang was a bit surprised when he heard the name. As the blonde agent stepped into the ring, a thought came to Yang.

Didn't Yun fight someone who had the same last name? Yang smirked to himself a little by the coincidence. I wonder if they're sisters.

Come to think of it, Yun had even fought in the same arena a few days ago.

Nina walked near the middle of the ring before stopping, leaving some space between her and Yang. Hmph, he's one of the 'kids' living in the cave, she thought. At least he's one of the better amateurs.

Without saying anything, the two got in to their fighting stance and immediately after, the match was called to begin. The two of them circled each other for less than a minute before running towards each other. Immediately, they exchanged hand-to-hand combat, both of them switching between offense and defense. Both fighters had the same determined look on their faces as they each hoped to dominate the other.

Meanwhile, Yun began to find himself daydreaming a bit. He thought back on his last match. It may have been the match he lost, but it happened to be the match when he first met Anna. He hasn't see the young woman since their encounter in the tournament and he wondered where she was right now. He couldn't remember the last thing she said to him, but he wouldn't forget the little wink she gave him along with the blow kiss.

She's such a beauty, he thought.

Then, his thoughts were quickly interrupted as he felt a nudge on his arm. Yun turned his head and faced his sister Yin. "You better be paying attention," she demanded. "You could learn a few things from Yang."

"Yeah yeah," Yun replied before turning his attention to the match.

Back in the match, Nina and Yang continue they hand to hand combat. Both fighters were able to get a few hits, but that was it, for a while at least. Yang made a decision then once he was able to find an opening.

"Raishin Mahhaken!" he cried out. He quickly stomped on one foot, then, at the same time, he performed a spear-hand strike at Nina's stomach. The move caught Nina by surprise as she keeled over a bit. Then, she was hit with a few punches before Yang dashed past her and jabbed an open a palm at the flesh of her neck. He only applied the move just enough that he didn't end up killing her.

Nina fell on her knees as she tried to catch her breath, coughing in the process. Yang stood where he was, giving her the chance to recover. Not even thirty seconds past when Nina began getting back on her feet, still trying to catch her breath. Yang got back in his fighting stance then, prepared for her next move.

Without turning around, Nina spoke. "Not bad… not bad at all… and I rarely admit that too." Then, she quickly turned around and covered the short distance between them. Nina quickly threw a right hook punch, but Yang quickly blocked it. He attempted to follow up with a left uppercut, which Nina blocked as well.

This went on for another minute before Nina found a wide opening. She slightly smirked to herself as she jumped up and wrapped her legs around Yang's neck. She then dropped the rest of her body upside down, placed her hands on the ground, then manage to flip Yang over her. Yang flew a few feet forward before stumbling out of the ring.

"Crap," Yun muttered as he and Yin quickly made their way to their brother.

"Winner: Nina Williams!" the Shadow Priest called out as Nina straightened herself out. She thought nothing more as she made her way out of the ring.

Yun and Yin soon reached Yang as he slightly shook his head a little from the impact with the ground. "She was one heck of a fighter," Yang mentioned. "Too bad I lost."

"It's all right Yang," answered Yin. She then smiled a little. "Look on the bright side, at least your little sister is still in the tournament."

Yang looked at Yin. "Yeah."

Then Yun spoke. "You have to admit though, that last move she did… that was hot."

Immediately, Yin nudged Yun, but harder than previously. "Owe!" Yun called out.

~~~

Indoor Arena

Weapons clashed as the shaman Nightwolf fought against his opponent Sodom. The two had been going at it for a couple of minutes, with Nightwolf using his two tomahawks against Sodom's two juttes.

Just before the match began, Nightwolf sensed that Sodom was the arrogant type just by the way the former Mad Gear member displayed himself, speaking in random Japanese. Though Nightwolf didn't speak much Japanese himself, he was able to understand the language well. What he basically got was that Sodom was going to beat him into a blood pulp.

Overconfidence… it was what made Sodom arrogant.

Their weapons continued to clash with one another as the fighting between them continued for a little bit longer. Then, the weapons collided with such force that both fighters lost their grip on their weapons. The four weapons slid away from them with only one of Nightwolf's tomahawks sliding out of the ring.

Immediately after, the two of them exchanged punches and kicks, both of them on offense and defense. This only last for a few seconds before Nightwolf got the upper hand. A few kicks from him forced Sodom to pull back a little in order to give himself room to recover from the hits.

Sodom was able to quickly shift his eyes under his blue helmet and saw that he was just a foot away from one of his juttes. Quickly, he picked them up as Nightwolf attempted to go after him. Sodom quickly slid himself forward, swinging his jutte in the process. Nightwolf saw the move in time and tried to get out of the way, only to get a cut in his left arm.

Nightwolf clenched his teeth a bit, covering his hand over the wound he just received. I'll admit, he's fast, the Earthrealm shaman thought to himself.

Then, Sodom used his weapon and quickly threw it at Nightwolf. Being more prepared this time, Nightwolf spread his arms apart as his body was surrounded by a green aura. Just when one would thing that the jutte would slice right into Nightwolf's chest, the weapon suddenly seemed to reflect right off of him and headed back towards Sodom.

Sodom quickly jumped out of the way of his own weapon, despite being quite surprised by the attack. With him jumping out of the way, this gave Nightwolf the chance to perform another move. Still surrounded by the green aura, Nightwolf slid himself towards Sodom, covering the distance between them, and slammed himself shoulder first right into his opponent. The force of the move pushed Sodom right out of the ring.

After a few seconds, the Shadow Priest stood up. "Winner: Nightwolf!"

The audience clapped in unison after the announcement. Sodom was on his hands and knees, attempting to get up. Some people in the audience tried to help him, but the Earthrealm native pushed their hands away harshly. He got to his feet and turned around. He felt surprised when he saw Nightwolf standing there, his tomahawks placed away. In his stretched out arms were Sodom's juttes. Sodom stood there for a moment before taking his juttes back in his hands. Then, silently, Sodom turned around and walked out of the arena. A moment later, Nightwolf followed.

A few more matches followed. Maxi was one of the handful of other fighters waiting for their turn to participate in their matches today. With him were his close allies Kilik and Xianghua, who were both there to support their friend.

"I forgot to mention," Maxi began to say as he looked over at Kilik. "Congratulations on making it to round three yesterday."

"Thanks," Kilik replied as he slightly leaned against his rod weapon.

"I have my match tomorrow," said Xianghua. "I wonder who I'll be fighting."

Maxi decided to joke with her then. "Hopefully against someone who doesn't have a pretty dress for you to ruin."

Kilik couldn't help but chuckle a little as he remembered Xianghua mentioning how she ruined a very nice dress her last opponent wore during the first round. Xianghua sighed to herself, ignoring the comment.

After a few more minutes, a match ended. The victor stepped out of the ring as his unconscious opponent was dragged out of the ring by his allies. Once everything calmed down, the Shadow Priest stood up.

"The next match will begin." It was silent for a brief moment before announcing the first of the two opponent for the next match. "Maxi!"

"Finally," Maxi said.

"Good luck," Kilik and Xianghua said at the same time. Maxi nodded, acknowledging them before going under the ropes and headed into the ring. Once he got in the middle, he stretched his arms and neck a little, then checked to see that his two nunchakus were still in place on either side of his hips.

Then, his opponent was announced. "Vega Fabio De Cerna!"

Maxi shifted his eyes around in search of his opponent. After a brief moment, someone from the audience performed a forward flip, then landed in the ring just a few feet away from Maxi. It was definitely Maxi's opponent Vega. After the landing, Vega slowly straightened himself out, revealing his 6'2'' frame. Maxi looked up at him, not intimidated by his height despite being only 5'8'' himself. He saw the mask, which made him raise an eyebrow. Just who was this guy?

Vega laughed just after Maxi raised his eyebrow. "So I'll be fighting you?" He then looked at his hair. "I must say though, you are one ugly excuse for an Elvis wannabe."

Who? Maxi asked himself. Being from Keisei, he has never even heard of Elvis in his life. However, he did call him ugly…

"Hmph, and by your looks and that stupid laugh, you're more girly than your mother!"

Unknown to Maxi, that hit a major nerve on Vega. Years ago, Vega's beautiful mother was murdered by his own ugly stepfather, all because he believed that she didn't respect him. His ice blue eyes quickly widened in rage and, nearly as quickly, he darted after him before the Shadow Priest had the chance to call the match to begin.

Maxi was nearly caught by surprise by Vega's speed. However, nothing caught him more with surprise than the three sharp claws presented on Vega's left hand.

Quickly, Maxi took out one of his nunchakus and dodged out of the way of Vega's path. Vega past him, but he managed to quickly land on the ground safely with his feet. Then, with equal speed, he stepped forward and slashed his claw continuously. Maxi was forced to jump back with each slash.

Damn he's fast! Maxi cried out in his mind. At one point, he placed his nunchaku in front of him to avoid more slashes from the claw. I wonder how long I can keep up.

After another swing from Vega's claw, Maxi was able to regain himself and began lashing back with his nunchaku, let out battle cries with each new swing. Both fighters lashed at each other with their weapons along with dodging from one another in order to avoid getting hit.

Then, Vega was able to land three cuts, one from each claw, on Maxi's left arm, the wounds immediately bleeding. Aside from drawing a sharp exhale, the Keisei native ignored the pain and bleeding altogether and continued fighting.

The two fighters fought in the same fashion for a little while longer. Maxi was able to smack Vega with his nunchaku a few times while Vega managed to draw more blood from Maxi's body. Not wanting to get anymore cuts (or a fatal wound for that matter), he had a plan, and had to do it now.

Maxi stepped aside from another jab from Vega. Taken by surprise, Vega stumbled forward a bit. Maxi then wrapped his nunchaku around Vega's left wrist, pulled forward, then with his free hand, he was able to get the claw off of him and threw it aside.

"How does it feel to not have the only thing you rely on?" Maxi asked in a serious tone.

This immediately angered Vega. With his free arm, he jabbed his elbow into Maxi's side, forcing the Keisei native to let go. Vega then rolled forward before getting back on his feet. He turned himself around, then quickly covered the distance between them. Maxi had long placed his nunchaku away and now they would fight hand to hand.

Vega jabbed a fist forward, which Maxi blocked. Vega then followed up with a left hook, which connected. Maxi head swung back a bit, but that didn't stop him from throwing a punch of his own, which landed on the side of Vega's head. Vega quickly pulled back then and attempted a few kicks. Some of them hit Maxi, but he was able to block and dodge most of them.

Then, Maxi performed a round house kick, forcing Vega to turn 180 degrees. Following that, Maxi lifted his foot up as far as he could, then landed a hard kick to the back of Vega's head. Vega let out a small yelp as he fell forward face first. Maxi expected him to get up afterward, but after a few moments, Vega still wasn't moving. Maxi slowly walked over to him and slightly nudged his foot just under his stomach. Indeed, he was unconscious.

"Winner: Maxi!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Indeed, Vega was fast, but perhaps he didn't have the brawn Maxi had. Maxi smirked to himself as he looked down at his defeated opponent. "Hurts doesn't it? That's what it's like to lose." He then turned around and headed back to where Kilik and Xianghua were. Beforehand, Maxi realized that the strand of hair in front of him, previously clumped together and nicely curled, was now going in different directions.

Man, he messed up my hair…

~~~

Underground Lair, Later that Evening

Ivy Valentine looked over at her opponent with interest. She only knew him by his name, Kabal, and he bared an oxygen mask and countless scars. She noted his hookswords too and became even more interested. For the last few days, she noticed him around Shao Kahn's palace. She was curious to know what kind of fighter he was.

Kabal himself was thinking the same thing as he studied the woman he was about to fight. Determination was written all over her face and nothing more. In her right hand was her sword, which he heard from Havik that it was able to uncoil itself and become a whole new weapon.

Neither one of them said a word to each other as they placed themselves in their fighting stance. Because he had other things to attend to, as it was announced before the first match of the night in the lair, a Shadow Priest had taken Shang Tsung's place as host of the tournament. Once it saw that the two fighters were ready, it called for the match to begin.

Not wasting any more time, both Ivy and Kabal lashed their weapons out and went after each other. The weapons quickly collided, the beginning of yet another weapon battle. The sound of steel hitting steel was heard around in the quiet arena along with the battle cries that escaped of the throats of both Ivy and Kabal.

The weapons continued to collide for a while long before Kabal pulled back, then ran past Ivy in such speed that he almost became a blur. Ivy wasn't sure what he was doing, but she prepared herself for it. However, she didn't expect herself to suddenly spin around continuously and out of her own control.

Kabal wait for a brief moment as Ivy became nothing but a blur, almost resembling a cyclone. Then, he put his foot out and kicked her in the abdomen, sending her flying a few feet back. Ivy was glad to be out of that situation… however, she was more dizzy than she has ever been in her entire life. She closed her eyes, hoping that the spinning feeling would cease.

After another minute, she was able to hear Kabal's footsteps coming towards her. Ivy opened her eyes. She was still feeling dizzy, but not as bad as before. She then was able to feel the hilt of her sword… her treasure.

"Sing, my sword," she whispered. The Keisei native quickly lashed her sword out, causing it to uncoil into eight pieces. Because Kabal wasn't expecting this, the tip of the uncoiled sword manage to leave a cut on his right forearm, now adding to the collection of scars he had on his shard body. He briefly stopped in his tracks to recover from the unexpected pain.

"You are indeed a very worthy fighter," Kabal admitted, his deep voice reaching Ivy's ears. "No one in the past has been able to recover from my move as quick as you have."

Ivy was finally able to get back on her feet then. She slightly smirked a little. "I don't know what to say… however, I promise you won't suffer… much."

"Hmm," Kabal mumbled before quickly dashing forward towards Ivy. Ivy quickly reconnected her sword into it's normal form just as Kabal began swinging his hookswords forward, which she blocked immediately. Once again, the two continued their swordplay.

For a while, they seemed even. That was until Ivy was able to get the upper hand, leaving more future scars on Kabal. Afterwards, she uncoiled her sword once again before wrapping it around Kabal's neck. With a kick to the stomach, she forced Kabal to his knees before going behind him and placing her foot behind his back.

Ivy applied pressure on Kabal's neck along with the tube that provided him with air supply. She only let a little air in his lungs, that way she didn't end up killing him. Kabal struggled to get out of the hold, having lost his grip on his hookswords after the kick he received from Ivy.

After a few moments, Kabal limped forward as he passed out from lack of oxygen. Immediately, so that she didn't officially kill him, she released her hold on him, his body falling forward into the ground.

After another moment, the Shadow Priest stood up. "Winner: Ivy Valentine!"

The audience clapped as Ivy coiled her sword and made her way out of the ring. Unknown to her, up in the balcony, Shao Kahn found himself applauding a couple of times.

"Good show," he said to no one in particular despite the guards around him. "I'm glad I recruited her to my army. As for Kabal… he and the other defeated minions of mine should consider themselves lucky… they will all be needed at the end of the tournament…"

A few more matches went underway before Noob Saibot's name was announced for his own match. He entered the ring quietly, not expecting much out of this tournament. Once he reached the middle, he folded his arms, awaiting his opponent.

"Song!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Noob stood there with no emtion as an old but well fit man stepped into the ring. He was bald man with a light gray goatee resting just above his chest, which was covered by a brown shirt accompanied by black pants and black slippers. He nearly had the same look as Noob as he stepped further into the ring.

Pathetic! Noob thought disappointed. They put me up against an old fool.

Keeping an eye on each other, both Noob and Song got into their fighting stance.

"Begin!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Immediately, the two went after each other, quickly going on both offense and defense throwing various punches and kicks. A minute into the fight, Noob realized that he may have underestimated the old man. Song had great strength despite his age and he was a quick fighter as he was able to maneuver away from Noob's attacks just as quick as the wraith can.

In a bit of frustration, Noob quickly pulled back, then threw his right arm out, his hand opened. In the middle of the throw, countless throwing stars came out and heading towards Song. To Noob's surprise, the old man was able to dodge away from all of them, despite them going in different directions. The people behind Song ducked out of the way to avoid the small weapons, though only one viewer was unfortunate enough to have one lodged in his shoulder. He was taken out of the lair immediately by his friends around him.

Noob then decided to try another tactic. He quickly surrounded himself in a black mist before disappearing altogether, making himself invisible. He attempted to run forward and jump kick at his opponent. However, Song was able to sense Noob and knock him out of the air. Noob reappeared in normal sight after the hit and landed on the ground.

As he got up, Noob was suddenly met with a large fireball projectile. The force was so powerful that it literally knocked Noob right out of the ring.

Song stood there silently as the Shadow Priest stood up. "Winner: Song!"

Noob, now pissed, managed to get himself up. "Prepare to die!" he announced. He attempted to get back in the ring, but the guards surrounding the ring blocked him from his way. This only angered Noob more as he grabbed two guards and threw them in different directions, much to the surprise of the audience. Having enough of this afterward, Noob then disappeared in a black mist.

After the incident, Song turned to the Shadow Priest hosting the tournament and bowed to him. The Shadow Priest nodded to Song before the old man began making his way out of the ring. He passed the audience, not acknowledging the fact that they were congratulating him on his victory.

Once Song completely passed everyone… once everyone was behind his back, he smirked to himself as his eyes glowed in a green mist…

Chapter Text

Indoor Arena

"YAHOO!" Dan Hibiki cried. His name had just been called out by the Shadow Priest hosting the tournament, being the first of two fighters in a match. He had waited patiently since he won his fight in round one. He jumped into the ring, performed a couple of forward rolls towards the middle of the ring, and then stood himself up. He grinned and showed off a thumb's up with his right hand. Not much reaction was heard, except for a couple of claps coming from the back.

Then, his opponent's name was called out. "Tanya!"

Dan was surprised upon hearing a girl's name. He never expected to fight a girl at all in this tournament. No matter, he was going to come out of this a winner. Once he spotted the tanned woman coming into the ring, he smiled.

What a cutie! he thought in his head.

Tanya noticed the goofy grin on Dan's face and felt her nose twitch a couple of times. How did someone like him get into the second round? she thought.

She soon stood a few feet from him. The grin vanished from Dan's face and was replaced with a small smirk. Tanya got into a fighting stance and moved her feet a little. Dan placed his hands behind his back and paced back and forth a little.

"Begin!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Dan raised his arms up then. "Let's do this shall we?"

Tanya only stared at him, her fists raised as the two began circling each other. Dan slowly brought himself closer to Tanya. However, at one point, he nearly tripped over his own feet, but then he managed to catch himself before falling completely flat on his face.

Tanya simply rolled her eyes at this. This fight is going to be too easy.

Oopsie, he thought as he laughed in his mind. He then began to approach, being more careful with his footing this time before he started throwing punches at her. Much to his dismay, Tanya was able to dodge and block all of his punches.

After a while longer, Dan looked at her. "Come on, are you going to try to hit me?"

At that moment, Tanya saw a chance to strike. Feeling that he wasn't a serious fighter, Tanya showed a sadistic grin and, using two fingers, quickly poked him in the eyes as though she was a cat scratching him.

"OWE!" Dan cried out as he backed away, covering his eyes. He took a moment to recover. "Why did you do that?"

Soon Dan was able to adjust his eyes. Tanya stood there with her hands on her hips, her grin still on her face. He smiled as well. "Ah, are you trying to flirt with me?" He then ran back towards her and threw more punches combining them with kicks. Once again, Tanya was able to dodge and block his moves. And once again, when the right time came, she poked him in the eyes again in the same way she did before.

"OWE!" Dan cried out, once again covering his eyes and backing away. The audience began to laugh a little.

This started to get to Dan a bit. He was sick of being a joke to everyone. Ignoring the pain, he managed to open his brown eyes and look at Tanya. "Okay, eat this!"

The pink-clad fighter threw his hands forward and a small blue ball of energy came out. "GADOUKEN!"

However, the projectile only went a feet towards Tanya before popping into nothing like a bubble. Dan sighed to himself. "I really have to work on that more," he mumbled.

Tanya smirked as she raised her hand. "Too bad," she said before throwing her hand forward. A large fireball shot out of her hand and quickly headed towards Dan.

"OYAJI!" Dan cried out before being hit and sent a few feet from her. The moment he landed, Dan lost consciousness.

After a few more seconds, the Shadow Priest stood up. "Winner: Tanya!"

The audience clapped, but more slowly and unsure than normal. Tanya looked down at Dan as she pushed back her black hair over her shoulder. "That match was such a joke..." she said before leaving the ring.

~~~

The Cave

Wearing a silky lavender dress, Rose looked into her crystal ball in the lounge area, probably what was the quietest place in the area, especially considering that most of the fighters were out either attending or watching the tournament.

Tomorrow is the last day of round two, Rose thought. And if I'm correct, Guy is the only one fighting tomorrow from this cave.

A small shiver went up her spine as she thought about this morning. Guy had went up to her about an issue with his fight that just came up…

"Rose I need to talk to you," the Bushin Ninja said as he approached the psychic in the lounge area while she was preparing breakfast.

Rose looked over at Guy, who displayed a serious look on his face. In his left hand was a blue index card. She turned the rest of her body around. "Is something wrong?"

Guy walked over to her and handed over the card. "I'm not sure but… at the moment, it's more like a suspicion." Rose took the card and read it over.

Guy-

Your match tomorrow in the Courtyard at 8am has been moved to another location. We cannot disclose the location in this card. However, we advise that you'd be at the main palace grounds at 7am tomorrow by the water fountain. Someone will meet you there and take you to the location.

PS- Come alone, no exceptions.

Rose looked up at Guy after reading. "This does seem strange. I don't think such a thing has happened yet in the tournament. Are you going to go along with this?"

"I feel that I have no other choice," Guy replied. "I will meditate on this in a little while. Something tells me that this match is going to be quite different."

Rose began to get an uneasy feeling then. "I know it says to come alone, but I wish I could go with you in case anything happened."

Guy waved his hand to her. "I'll be fine. I'm sure it's not a big deal. If I do discover anything, I'll report back to you and Raiden. Besides, you told us that you were going to find new recruits to our cause. Continue with that, don't worry about me."

Rose shook her head. "At least let Raiden go with you."

Again, Guy waved a hand. "It's fine. I just wanted to inform you about this. Besides, something tells me that I'll get something out of this fight. If that's the case, then I should go alone, just in case it may cause an interference in my match."

Rose nodded as she unwillingly accepted Guy's wishes. After that, Guy began heading out of the lounge area, leaving the index card with her.

Rose sighed to herself after the thought. Guy was right… it was time to look for more recruits as Raiden requested if the group was going to be a better force. She straightened herself up in her chair and took a deep breath as she cleared her mind.

Her hand sized crystal ball began to glow a bit in a soft blue color. In her mind, Rose was able to see all the fighters gathered together in one large group. Her vision seemed to scan the area as though it was looking for the perfect recruit.

This seemed to last for eternity, at least that's how it felt for Rose. She kept her patience as her vision continued to scan. Finally, it stopped. Rose was only able to briefly look at the person. She immediately saw that it was a woman wearing mostly white and wore what looked like a gasa on her head. Before Rose was able to see her face, the vision vanished and the fortune teller opened her eyes, finding herself back in the cave.

That lady in white, Rose thought. I could sense her pure heart and soul… I must seek her out soon.

Her thoughts were then quickly interrupted when she suddenly felt a electric surge quickly go through her hands. Rose looked over at her crystal ball with wide eyes and saw that the object was filled with electricity. She quickly backed her hand away as she felt her purple hair beginning to stand on it's ends.

"What in the world…" she said. "The crystal ball never did that before."

That was when Raiden came in to the lounge. In his hands was a fork and plate and on the plate was what looked like a slice of blueberry pie.

"I swear," Raiden began to say. "That girl Yin makes the best blueberry pies in the world! I'm glad I recruited her to this group."

Then a thought came to Rose. Who else has the power of electricity around here?!

"YOU!" Rose yelled out, pointing a finger at Raiden. "You tried to kill me!"

Raiden looked at her in confusion. "What are you talking about?"

"You know exactly what you did! There should be no other reason why my crystal ball had any traces of electricity unless it was tampered with! I nearly fried myself to death!"

Raiden raised and eyebrow then. "You're crazy! When I met you, I figured you were a little loopy, but not like this!" With that, he left the lounge leaving Rose even more pissed. To relieve her frustration, she grabbed a mug and threw it at the area where Raiden was standing a few seconds ago.

As a crash was heard, Raiden couldn't help but smirk to himself. The best part about pulling little pranks is denying it.

~~~

Courtyard

Kilik and Maxi stood behind the ropes as their friend Xianghua headed towards the middle of the ring. They had waited all morning for her named to be called and the both of them sighed of relief once it happened. They both wished her good luck and she smiled at them before heading in.

"How are your cuts healing?" Kilik said.

Maxi patted his arm, one of four sets of cuts he got from his match with Vega yesterday. "They still sting a bit, but at least I'm not dead or anything. Hopefully, that crazy guy I fought doesn't go after me with those claws out of revenge or something."

"I'm sure it won't happen," Kilik assured.

Then, Shang Tsung, who was once again hosting the courtyard matches, announced Xianghua's opponent. "Ryu!"

Immediately, Kilik and Maxi sighed. "She's done for," said Maxi.

"Yup," Kilik agreed.

Xianghua stayed in her place as Ryu approached the middle of the ring and stopped once he did. Figuring that she didn't need her sword, Xianghua placed her weapon in her royal blue scabbard next to her waist.

Ryu bowed to her in respect and Xianghua followed. "Good luck and may the best win," Xianghua said. Ryu nodded with a small smirk, acknowledging her words. At the same time then, they got into their fighting stances.

"Begin!" Shang Tsung called out.

Xianghua waited for a moment, seeing if Ryu would make the first move. The two ended up circling each other for a bit before Xianghua decided to make the first strike, wanting to get the match moving. Immediately, Ryu defended himself by blocking her moves. He then attempted to fighting back and the two ended up switching between offense and defense. For a while, the two seemed a bit even, much to Kilik and Maxi's surprise. They had to give their friend credit though. Xianghua was a petite young woman who, at twenty years old, could hold her own in a fight quite well.

Some time came before Ryu began getting the upper hand in the fight. In between, Xianghua tried her best to fight back, but she was only getting blocked in return. The more Ryu fought, the more Xianghua came to the realization that her loss was inevitable. Ryu was indeed a very strong fighter, probably the strongest fighter she has ever faced in her entire life.

Xianghua backed herself up a bit as she attempted to recover from the fight for a just a moment. However, it ended up being a big mistake. Quickly, Ryu gathered chi energy into his hands before shooting them forward, letting out a large blue round projectile.

"Hadouken!" he called out. Xianghua saw the projectile coming and tried to step out of the way. However, the projectile was too fast for her and before she knew it, she flew right out of the ring and crashed into the audience and landed on the ground outside of the ring.

Shang Tsung stood up. "Winner: Ryu!"

Immediately, Kilik and Maxi ran towards Xianghua, pushing people out of the way in the process. They soon reached her and bent down to her as she slowly sat herself up.

"Are you okay?" Kilik asked her as he and Maxi helped her up to her feet.

Xianghua felt the tears swell up in her eyes, but she was able to suppress them, refusing to show any weakness. "I, I'm fine."

Maxi turned his head to the ring, wondering if Ryu was still around. However, the man in the white karate gi was now nowhere to be seen.

"What a jerk," Maxi said. "Who defeats a girl and walks away without checking if she's okay?"

Kilik only half listened as he too noticed Ryu left the courtyard. Yes, it was indeed a rude thing, but even though Xianghua was one of his close friends, the Ling Sheng Su fighter had a feeling that Ryu had his reasons. He always seemed respectful to everyone in the cave and never saw him like that until now. And if anything, it can't be anything like just over a bad day either…

~~~

Forest Area Not Too Far From The Cave

Sitting crossed legged with his hands on his knees while leaning against a large tree, Guy kept his eyes closed as he meditated, breathing in deeply and exhaling out in a slow, rhythmic pace. Not a sound was heard all around him, which was exactly what he needed at this time.

Guy had done some meditations when he arrived here in Outworld, mostly preparing his body for the tournament. However, it hasn't been this serious since receiving the invitation to the tournament.

Tomorrow, the last day of round two of the tournament, was his match and one that felt different from all the rest. He was to meet with someone at the main palace grounds and that person would escort them to the location where he was supposed to fight. Whatever was to happen then, he wasn't sure. All he knew was that he had to prepare himself.

Rose was worried once she found out. She wanted either her or Raiden to come with him to this match somehow. However, Guy was willing to obey the note telling him to come alone. Not only did he feel that their presence may cause interference, but he also didn't want the two leaders to jeopardize their lives just for him. This was the type of thing he felt confident about handling on his own.

As he continued to meditate, a vision suddenly came to Guy. In his mind, a young woman with long black hair stood before him. She seemed to reach her hand out towards him. Then, she partially opened her mouth;

"Guy," she called out.

Quickly, Guy snapped out of his meditation and opened his eyes as a bead of sweat lingered from his brow. He let out short breaths, having been surprised by the vision, especially since he knew who he was.

"Rena…" he muttered.

It was his fiance and Maki's older sister, who he lost four years ago to leukemia. He couldn't remember the last time she appeared to him in his mind. For a long time, she had haunted him during his meditations as well as in his dreams after her passing. He thought that it was over after it all stopped almost a year ago. As much as he loved her, he didn't want this to happen, now right now, not the night before his match.

As he tried to figure out what just happen, he suddenly heard a twig crack not too far from him. The crunch was heavy enough to be from a human's foot. Guy immediately knew that someone was close and he slowly stood himself up, still standing next to the tree he was leaning on. He listened and soon was able to hear the footsteps. Slowly, he stepped to the side, ready for whoever was there.

Guy took another step and then he suddenly heard a whooshing noise, as though a weapon was flying after him. Not taking a chance, Guy quickly tucked himself and rolled over to the opposite side. As he did, a weapon plunged itself into the tree. Guy looked up at it and recognized the weapon… it was a jutte.

The Bushin ninja had no doubt about who his attacker was.

"I guess it was only a matter of time," he said as he shifted his eyes. Standing before him was the former Mad Gear gang member Sodom. In one hand, he held another jutte, which he then placed back on his belt.

Guy stared at him, expecting Sodom to fight him, just like he always did every time they met. However, he only went to the tree to retrieve his other jutte. This time, he kept it in his hand.

"What do you want?" the Bushin ninja asked.

Sodom finally looked at him then. "Watashi wa saishūtekini ima anata ni chōsen shitai to omoimasu!"

Being a Japanese speaker himself, Guy understood what he said. "This is not a good time to challenge me. It's going to have to wait until after the tournament. You'll get your wish then." With that, Guy walked away, though he still kept his eye on him.

Sodom stood there in anger, throwing down his weapon on the ground in frustration. He wanted nothing more than to kill the Bushin Ninja right then and there, all because he broke his undefeated streak in an underground tournament years ago back in Metro City. He'll let this go for now, but the next time they meet, even if they were in the middle of a big crowd, he'll attack without calling out his intentions. It wasn't worth it after all.

~~~

Later That Evening, Underground Lair

A kick to the stomach sent Sagat stumbling a few feet back. He quickly recovered from the blow before he looked up at his opponent, Ermac. The Muay Thai fighter had to admit… during the last three minutes of their fight, the enigma proved to be a very powerful fighter. Sagat had seen him around Shao Kahn's palace since he arrived. He believed that he was one of the recruits in the higher ranks of the developing army.

Ermac quickly placed a hand out and a green orb-like projectile shot out of it, leaving a trail of green mist behind. Sagat quickly dodged out of the way, bringing himself towards Ermac, and began their hand to hand combat once again. They continued their until Ermac floated himself just above Sagat's head. Before Sagat could grab him, Ermac dropped himself to the ground in a quick fashion, causing a brief earthquake in the lair. Sagat nearly lost his balance, but was able to regain himself once the earthquake ceased.

"Tiger!" Sagat called out as he shot his arms out forward. A projectile in a shape of half disc shot out at Ermac, who ducked from it just in time. Sagat then shot out another projectile, this time lower. This took Ermac by surprised and he was literally swept off his feet. He floated up quickly as a green aura surrounding him. He then got himself on his feet just as Sagat reached him.

Another minute went by during their combat. Both of them had been on both offense and defense, though Sagat began to get the upper hand in the offense side. Soon, the Muay Thai fighter had enough and decided to perform one of his more devastating moves.

"Tiger Genocide!" he called out. He managed to grab Ermac as he leaned one of his knees forward and smashed it hard into his stomach. He then followed it with multiple uppercuts sending both of them flying high into the air. Soon, Sagat landed on his two feet safely as Ermac landed on his side, losing consciousness in the process.

Sagat was then announced the winner. The Muay Thai fighter looked down at Ermac after. He was powerful, but not powerful enough to win.

"Not even an army can take me down," he said before departing. There was a meeting tonight for all the new recruits, including himself, and he had to prepare for it.

~~~

That Night, Unknown Area

Accompanied by a few guards, Shao Kahn entered a large room. A handful of people stood in their place, having waited for him for quite some time. These people were new recruits, waiting to be placed on their assignments under Shao Kahn's orders.

The Emperor looked at each of them. He mainly noticed seven of them mostly… Sagat, Vega, Viper, Anna, Havik, Kabal, and Kira. These seven he had the most interest in.

"Welcome!" he booming voice called out. This caught everyone's attention and all stayed quiet as they listened to the Outworld Emperor.

"You are all here because you have passed your training in order to be a member of the new developing forces. You have proven that you have good reasons to be here and I believe you will all be loyal to me." He then looked over at Sagat. "I am most impressed with you Sagat. Ermac is one of my best Generals and you were able to take him down."

Sagat nodded. "Thank you, Emperor."

Shao Kahn continued. "Now, from here I will assign you to your positions. Havik, Kabal, and Kira… you will be guarding the entrance to my main quarters. Sagat and Vega… based on your previous experience with Shadaloo, you will be my personal bodyguards during the evening when necessary. Anna, I want you to join with Ivy and Tanya. From there, you will receive further directions from Ivy. Viper, I want you to spy on those who may be a threat to our plan. The rest of you, follow the guards out the door and you will receive further directions."

Everyone nodded, accepting their assignments. Unknown to anyone, just near the exit, the door was partially ajar. There, Mileena took the opportunity to listen in on the meeting. She made sure to keep herself hidden in the dark so that no one saw her there.

However, one particular person didn't need to see that she was spying. This person only had to smell her blood. "What are you doing?"

Mileena turned her head quickly, surprised that anyone was even near her. Standing there was the tarkatan Baraka. He stared at her with no emotion with his eyes.

"It's nothing of importance," Mileena replied. "I was only curious about the new recruits. I'll be the first to admit that my father has bad taste, especially in the women he picked."

"You shouldn't be spying to begin with," Baraka reminded her. "You know the Emperor wouldn't be happy about that, especially when it comes to secrets." He then took her hand. "Then again, I shouldn't be speaking about secrets, considering the secret we share."

Baraka then brought Mileena's hand up, opened his mouth, and licked her hand. It was a tarkatan's way of expressing a kiss. Mileena sighed as she felt the warm saliva spreading on her hand. She took Baraka's other hand then.

"Someone may see us," Mileena mentioned. "…let's go somewhere more private. Something tells me things will be quiet tonight."

She didn't have to repeat herself twice. Still holding her now wet hand, Baraka let her away from the door and the two of them disappeared into the dark shadows.

Chapter Text

Main Palace

Your match tomorrow in the Courtyard at 8am has been moved to another location. We cannot disclose the location in this card. However, we advise that you be at the main palace grounds at 7am tomorrow by the water fountain. Someone will meet you there and take you to the location.

PS- Come alone, no exceptions.

The words from the index card repeated in Guy Hinato's mind as he waited by the fountain that stood in front of the main palace as directed. Although the directions had told him to arrive at seven in the morning, he came to this place fifteen minutes early.

What waited for him, he wasn't sure. He knew that it was a match, but why all the trouble? There had to be a catch to this, that was for sure or else why would they do this?

Rose had insisted on letting Raiden come with him, but the Bushin Ninja had declined. He felt that he should do this alone, just in case anything happened where they would only get in the way, or worse. They were his leaders here in Outworld and he didn't want them to go out of their way just for him. There were other things to worry about anyway.

He didn't bother to tell Cody or Maki about this either for the same reason, especially since he knew that they wouldn't listen to him and would just follow him to wherever he went.

Despite all that, there was only one thing that was bothering Guy... the vision he got of his deceased fiance, Rena last night while he was meditating.

Why now? he thought to himself. There has to be a reason for this.

However, he would worry about that later. Right now, there was a mysterious match to deal with.

Soon, seven o'clock hit. Guy wondered how much longer it would be before his escort would arrive. However, right after the thought, he turned himself around and suddenly became face to face with a person wearing a brown cloak. Every part of the person was covered, include a large hood over their head, concealing even their eyes. He knew that whoever it was, it definitely wasn't a Shadow Priest since the figure walked normally rather than floated towards him.

"Are you Guy Hinato?" a male voice whispered.

Guy straightened himself up and nodded. "Yes, that's me."

"Just follow me." With that, the cloaked figure began walking off with Guy following not too far.

They walked off the palace grounds and into the forest. Along the way, Guy noted noticeable items (a fallen log, a large white flower, etc) so that when this was over, he could easily find his way back to the tournament grounds on his own if needed.

The walk seemed to take forever, though it was actually a forty minute walk, before they came to a clearing. Guy immediately noticed a palace-like building ahead. It was like the main palace, but smaller and it had a more gothic feel to it. The entire building was a dark purple and consisted of statues of unknown creatures.

Another five minutes passed before they reached the entrance. Guy found it peculiar that the guards were easily letting him in. Perhaps they knew about the tournament he was about to attend.

Guy continued to follow the cloaked figure as they went down the stoned spiral stairs with a lack of banister. This also seemed to go on for sometime before they finally reached the bottom. Guy saw the arena he was to fight in then. It was a large, dome-like room, the arena itself in a circular shape. It was much larger than any of the other arenas in the tournament.

The audience wasn't a very large one. They were a mix of different humans and species along with the guards who guarded every inch of the arena. There was also a throne and in that throne was the sorcerer Shang Tsung.

Shang Tsung stood up upon noticing Guy's entrance. "Good, you have arrived. Step into the arena and stand by my throne."

Guy said nothing as he followed orders. He then went to the throne and stopped a few feet as he kept his eye on the sorcerer without much emotion on his face. In moral respect, he bowed to the sorcerer, who followed after.

Shang Tsung explained everything then. "You were chosen at random to attend this match this morning here at the former palace of Shao Kahn." He then smirked. "However, I have seen your skills in the first round and I was quite impressed. I look forward to seeing more of your skills in this match."

Guy only nodded at the compliment. A part of him just wanted to get the match over with, but it would seem that the sorcerer only wanted to try to leave him in the dark for as long as possible.

However, he didn't have to be left longer in the dark as Shang Tsung raised a hand. "I would like you to meet you opponent." Then, he snapped his fingers.

Immediately, two guards opened two doors slowly. Guy heard a low growl as soon as the doors parted. He raised an eyebrow… he was now convinced that whoever his opponent was, it wasn't human.

Soon, the doors were wide enough for whatever it was to come in. However, Guy only saw two guards pulling on thick ropes. And once he saw what came out from behind them, he tried to keep his own brown eyes from going wide.

Shang Tsung smirked once again and spoke. "I would like you to meet… Berserk."

As though he was living up to his name, Berserk suddenly let out a loud, insane-like roar, nearly shaking the objects in the room. Guy only kept his foot planted on the ground he stood on. Shang Tsung was quite surprised that the Bushin Ninja didn't make any attempts to run away in that moment.

That in it's self was impressive to the sorcerer. It was indeed going to be a good match.

Berserk was soon released from his cage and in no time, he chased after Guy. Guy was already disgusted by the bluish pale-skinned monster, but that thought soon left him as he quickly got out of the way from the monster's madness.

The match had begun.

Meanwhile, a long window was placed above the entire room. There, Shao Kahn sat on his own throne, watching the event below him. Around him were two Shadow Priests and his new bodyguards Sagat and Vega. The two had recognized Guy from previous Street Fighter tournaments and were both curious to know what was going to happen.

Shao Kahn couldn't help but think of the words he had said to Berserk previously…

I have come here to congratulate you. You have been very loyal to me and have been very cooperative. I want to reward you for that. I know you love the thrill of the fight… so as part of round two of the tournament, I would like for you to fight in a match… Shang Tsung will be picking the fighter, and you'll be facing them on the last day of round two.

After the thought, Shao Kahn did his best to withhold his sadistic laughter.

~~~

Underground Lair

Wearing a dark purple cloak, Rose showed up at the tournament in the underground lair. Since there weren't that many matches left to cover, all tournaments were either at the Courtyard or the Underground Lair. She had just left the Courtyard after the final match of the second round there. She was now heading to the Underground Lair, where the remaining matches would take place.

Rose's main reason for this was to find more possible fighters who can join in her and Raiden's cause. They haven't had much luck doing so, but Rose did hope for one thing… that she would at least find the 'lady in white,' the one she saw in her visions yesterday. She had a good feeling about her and if she could find her, she would be able to reach her goal.

When Rose arrived at the lair, she immediately heard fighting. Indeed a match was going on. She looked around to find a place where she can be able to see the match. She was then able to find a place to stand and went over there. Rose was now able to see the match that was going on… and suddenly notice a woman wearing white in the ring. Upon seeing the gasa on her head, she realized that this was the woman from her visions.

A name came to the psychic then. "Ashrah… so you're the one I was looking for…"

In the ring, Ashrah threw a punch at her opponent. Her opponent, a blonde male in heavy armor, was able to block the punch. Ashrah began to follow up with more punches and kicks, letting out battle cries during every other move, but once again her opponent would block.

Rose then looked over at the male opponent. Another name came to her. "Siegfried…"

The purple-haired woman sensed good within Siegfied… however, at the same time, there was such darkness in him that she wasn't able to tell which side of him was the true side. Unfortunately, he wasn't the right candidate. After that thought, Rose continued to quietly watch the match between Ashrah and Siegfried.

The two continued their hand-to-hand combat with Ashrah mostly on offense and Siegfried on defense. After a while of this, Ashrah extended her arms and shot out a white, sparkling projectile from her palms. Siegfried didn't see the move coming and was hit. He slid across the ground, but was still able to stay in the ring. He then recover quickly and managed to get himself back on his feet.

Siegfried ran back towards Ashrah and they fought hand-to-hand once again. This time, Siegfried was on offense and Ashrah was on defense. This lasted another minute before Siegfried pushed Ashrah as far away as he could. He looked down at his right hand with wide eyes as it began to slightly shake.

Not now! he called out in his mind.

Not knowing what was going on, Ashrah decided to take this opportunity to perform another one of her attacks. She raised her hand above her as the same projectile she used before shot out upward. It then maneuvered itself and began heading straight down towards Siegfried.

However, before the projectile made impact, Siegfried, out of his control, lifted his right hand up and quickly sent a shock wave around him. The projectile went off course and landed far off somewhere by the audience. Ashrah herself was knocked off her feet and flew back. She soon found herself outside of the ring before landing on the ground.

Afterwards, Siegfried was able to control himself again. He brought his arm down and looked at his hand once again as the Shadow Priest hosting the tournament announced him as the winner of the match.

I just don't understand this, he thought, not even acknowledging his win. Without anymore thought, he quickly left the arena.

Rose turned to Ashrah afterward and saw that she was already on her feet and leaving the arena. Once the former demon reached the exit, Rose adjusted the hood of her cloak and followed her.

~~~

Cave Area

Sitting by the unlit campfire alone, Julia Chang held a piece of paper in her hand. She reads the words on the letter over and over again, unsure of what else to do. This was the letter she received, only telling her to come to the tournament if she wanted to find out about her mother Michelle.

Julia sighed to herself. Nothing has even came up since coming to Outworld for this tournament. She was hoping that the person who wrote the letter would at least show up and tell her… or perhaps Michelle herself was here, but Julia didn't believe that was the case... though a part of her wanted it to be true.

Julia continued to stare at the letter when she suddenly heard footsteps behind her. She didn't bother to turn to see who it was, believing that it was just only someone passing by.

However, the footsteps soon stopped and the person spoke near her. "I haven't seen you around in a while."

Julia turned around then and was now face to face with Ryu, who brought himself down to sit next to her. The Arizona native couldn't help but smile a little. "I only saw you yesterday at dinner."

Ryu scratched the back of his head. "Oh yeah, I almost forgot." He noticed the letter then. "What do you have there?"

The smirk on Julia's face faded then and she looked back at it. "This paper is the reason why I'm here at the tournament. My mother disappeared two years ago when she went to travel to Japan. I've been looking for her ever since, but to no avail. This is my first lead in a long time. However, we've been here for fifteen days now and nothing has been coming up yet."

"Do you know who wrote the letter?" Ryu asked.

Julia shook her head. "That's the worst part. If only I knew, then I would've tried to meet up with them."

Ryu stretched his arms out as he yawned a little bit. "Well hopefully you'll be able to find out soon. If anything, let them find you. That may be your best option."

Julia nodded in agreement. "Thank you Ryu. You and Ken have been such good friends since I came here."

Ryu nodded with a small smirk.

As this was going on, Mika was just returning from training herself just near the edge of the forest. She was hungry and was about to head back in the cave to fetch some breakfast when she noticed Ryu and Julia by the campfire. She stopped for a moment out of curiosity. However, she couldn't help but feel a bit of jealousy wash over her. She didn't know why, but it was the only feeling that came to her. Why would she worry though? Ryu was giving Mika just as much attention as he was giving to Julia.

Was he?

Deciding to forget about it, Mika quickly went back into the cave before they saw her.

~~~

Shao Kahn's Former Palace

It was almost as soon as Guy moved out of the way that Berserk managed to grab him by the arm. Without much effort, Berserk tossed him to the side and Guy hit the ground hard. Sheer pain shot through his body almost immediately. Suddenly, he noticed Berserk's oversized bare foot coming down at him.

Guy quickly grabbed on to Berserk's foot. Using all of his strength, he tried to push the monster back, hoping to knock down the eight foot beast. At five foot nine, Guy had faced bigger fighters nearly all his life… but Berserk was as big as they came and he was most likely never going to fight someone like him again.

If he survives…

Then, Berserk lost his balance and stumbled back a bit, giving Guy the chance to roll out of the way and get back on his feet. Not hesitating any longer, Guy lunged himself at Berserk, landing a few punches in the process. Berserk would swing his big fist at Guy, who would dodge out of the way as much as he could. At some point, he was able to feel the large fists barely brushing on his skin.

This went on like this for another few minutes. Guy had hoped that if he worked on it, he would at least weaken Berserk. However, when he pulled himself back to look at the damage, there was little effect on Berserk.

It was time to take more measures.

"Bushin Senpuukyaku!" Guy called out as he jumped forward. He then placed one leg out and spun himself around in rapid speed. He managed to get a few hits on Berserk and was able to daze him out, but that was all.

Guy got back down on the ground. There was a bit of a difference now, but not much. Berserk let out another roar and lunged himself forward again. Guy dodged out of the way, prepared for his next move.

"Bushin Gourai Kyaku!" Guy dashed closer to Berserk and managed to unleash a flurry of punches and kicks and ended it with a flying kick. Berserk stumbled back, completely stunned by the move but still kept on his feet. Now Guy was getting somewhere.

However, before anything else happened, a booming voice shouted, "STOP THIS MATCH!" Everyone turned around and immediately were surprised upon seeing Outworld's own Emperor Shao Kahn approaching the ring. With the exception of Guy, Berserk, and Shang Tsung, everyone else in the room bowed to him.

Shao Kahn stared at Berserk then. He had the medallion in his hand, but he kept it hidden so that Guy didn't see the artifact. "You disappoint me, Berserk. You will never again fight in this tournament." He then looked up at the guards and ordered them to send him away. Quickly, they got Berserk in his cage using ropes they managed to tie around him. His loud roars were heard all throughout the room until the double doors leading out was closed.

No one dared to ask his reasons to stop the match just yet. They only kept silent and continued to bow to him. Shao Kahn then turned his head to Guy, who was sweating from his match. The Bushin Ninja figured that this was the Emperor Raiden had talked about. Now things were getting complicated and Guy wasn't sure what was about to happen next. Unless it threatened his safety, he was going to let the Emperor talk.

Shao Kahn spoke then. "You are one of the greater fighters in this tournament. I've seen the fear in the eyes of other fighters who faced the weakest of the tarkatans. However, you were able to hold your own and I saw no fear in you. You are one of a kind. This match is considered a draw… however, I grant you permission to continue to round three of the tournament."

Guy nodded, unsure of what to say. Rather yet, now that he thought about it, it was better not to say anything.

The Emperor snapped his fingers twice. The same cloaked figure who brought Guy here stood up and stepped forward. "Reptile, escort him out of here and return him to the palace grounds… that's an order."

"Yessss massster," the cloaked figure said. Guy hadn't noticed the hissing from him before, but it was no matter. He had to get back to Raiden to tell him about his discovery. Reptile, still hidden within the cloak, began walking out and once again Guy followed him.

Once they were gone, Shang Tsung stood up from his throne. "What's the meaning of this?" he demanded. "We were supposed to kill him after this was over!"

Shao Kahn glared at him in such a way that it made Shang Tsung sit back in his throne. However, the Emperor answered his question anyway. "Guy Hinato was his name, correct? What I said to him about being a great fighter is true. He has potential …potential to be in my army."

Shang Tsung got the idea then as a smirk came over his face. The match had ended because Shao Kahn wanted Guy in his army and he didn't want Berserk to end up killing him as originally instructed.

~~~

Cave

It was just past noon and Li Mei had just come back from having lunch in the palace. Since losing the tournament, she suddenly found herself bored. She wasn't interested in the matches that were going on today, especially considering that none of the people she got to know in this cave were attending either.

"I'm bored," Li Mei suddenly announced to no one in particular... not that anyone was around to hear it at the moment.

She paced back and forth in the cave. It was mostly quiet with the exception of feet rustling about in their rooms. Li Mei then decided to talk to the first person who came out of their room, no matter who it was.

Li Mei only had to wait a minute before a curtain pulled over and Ibuki stepped out. Her mask was pulled down to her neck and she was enjoying a potato which was half eaten. She wasn't really looking around when she suddenly bumped into someone. Ibuki looked up and noticed Li Mei staring at her.

“Hi Li Mei,” Ibuki greeted before she took another bite of her snack.

"I'm bored Ibuki," Li Mei said. "What do you think I should do?"

Ibuki swallowed her food. "Gee, I don't know," she said politely. She began thinking for a minute before two ideas came to her. "Well, you can do two things… you could either go out and do some training or go pick some berries. I think Rose wanted to do that tomorrow before round three begins."

Li Mei placed a finger on her own chin. "Well, there's no use in training right now since I lost the tournament… so I'll go pick some berries." She then stared at Ibuki. "Want to come with me?"

Ibuki waved her free hand. "I'm sorry Li Mei. I have to do some other things."

"Please?"

Ibuki began to feel bad then. She had seen Li Mei around the cave and realized that she didn't have that many companions as far as she knew. Just this once, she'll push her other plans back.

"Well all right. Let's not be too long."

"Thanks Ibuki! I'll go get the baskets, then we'll pick so many berries that we don't even have to go berry picking tomorrow, even though it's fun but sometimes it's could get a little boring…"

Li Mei continued to talk as she and Ibuki went to back to retrieve the baskets. Then they left the cave and headed into the forest.

~~~

Unknown Area

In a hallway, Ivy Valentine had just exited her sleeping quarters and was heading down to get something to eat. She would normally get to Tanya fetch her food, but today, Shao Kahn had sent her to look after the dungeons.

Though Ivy has been down in the dungeons a few times only to overlook things briefly, she couldn't understand the point of it. Sure, it was a way to shut up those who suspected the Emperor's plans, but there seemed to be prisoners who were there for no reason. Not that she herself didn't enjoy the thrill of torturing others when they deserve it, but at least she had a reason for it... torturing just for random fun was not her style.

Ivy was just beginning to head down the stairs when she noticed Shao Kahn standing at the very last step. Shao Kahn has been pleased with her loyalty to him so it was no longer required for her to bow to him.

"You're back," Ivy asked, well aware that he had been at a private tournament. She slowly began going down the stairs.

Shao Kahn stood in his place as he spoke. "Berserk is a good torturer, but he's not that great of a fighter."

"I thought he loved the thrill of the fight."

"Obviously that was a lie I was told. I'll be taking care of the one who informed me of that later."

As Ivy walked down the stairs, Shao Kahn couldn't help but stare at her form. She was taller than most human women, her clothes hugging her fit and curvy figure. Her short platinum hair covered half of her face, only showing one eye, which was a deep blue.

Such beauty is rare in a woman, the Emperor thought to himself.

He then spoke up. "I have an assignment for you."

Ivy smirked as she stood a few steps away now, almost matching Shao Kahn's height. "About time. I was aching for some fun."

"Well it's not much of one, but it'll do for now," the Emperor continued. "Your job is to recruit more people to the army."

Ivy nearly raised an eyebrow. He definitely had a thing for recruiting more people into the forces. She wanted to ask why he needed more people when he had plenty, but instead she bit her tongue in fear of his rage... not that she's been on the receiving end yet, but she didn't want to try to start either.

"At least find one person," Shao Kahn suggested. "Then you can continue with your normal duties."

A thought came to Ivy then. She thought back on her encounter with Heihachi Mishima a few days ago. She was originally there to check out activities in the main palace when they met up. During their confrontation, he had grabbed her and kissed her violently as a way to get to her. She could still feel the sour taste of his lips on hers and it made her nose twitch in disgust.

She then looked back at Shao Kahn, a side smirk appearing on her face. "It seems that my assignment is already over. I have someone in mind."

Shao Kahn nodded. "Go on."

A gleam seemed to go over Ivy's eyes. "In the main palace, there's a peculiar fighter named Heihachi…"

~~~

Forest Area

Rose was still following Ashrah, who was possibly heading back to the main palace. She was still wearing her cloak, but she had pulled the hood back, revealing her head. Her normally wild purple hair was actually much calmer and in ringlets. It was one of her disguises that she used to navigate in places she shouldn't be at.

The psychic had been trying to find the right time to confront her, but there had been too many people around previously. She couldn't risk inviting Ashrah to the cave and having other people know about it, especially on the off chance that a member of Shao Kahn's minions were near.

Once they were in the forest, Rose realized that this was the perfect moment. She couldn't sense anyone else around her so it was now or never.

However, before she could make her move, she suddenly found herself being knocked down by another person. Rose yelped out in surprise as she was pushed to the ground. She felt the person still on her and she looked up.

Rose was surprised that the person on top of her was Ashrah herself, the person she was seeking out! Not only that, but in her right hand, Ashrah was hold a knife!

"Die demon!" Ashrah called out. Before she should bring the knife down, Rose managed to knee Ashrah in the stomach, knocking the wind out of her. Rose then pushed her off of her, rolled back, the got on her feet. She then ripped off her cloak, revealing purple dress, black stockings, and high heels. A yellow scarf wrapped around her shoulders and lingered past her arms.

Rose quickly grabbed her scarf as Ashrah attempted to approach her again with the knife raised. The psychic threw one end of her scarf forward, the fabric quickly extending out. It wrapped itself around Ashrah a few times before Rose pulled her towards her.

Ashrah struggled to get out of the hold. "Let me go you demon!"

Rose wasn't sure why she was calling her a demon. The only conclusion she could come up with was her past with the dark arts. It was a story to be explained in another date.

"You may call me a witch, but I'm no demon," Rose said.

"Why were you following me?" Ashrah demanded harshly.

"Because I need your help," Rose proceeded. "You possess a pure heart and soul. No one is perfect, but as a long as they possess that, it doesn't matter."

Ashrah began to calm down a little when Rose mentioned 'pure.' As a demon, it was what Ashrah had always wanted. To hear that from someone, even by someone with a dark essence inside of her, it touched her emotionally, though she tried not to show that in front of this stranger.

"My name is Rose, and you must be Ashrah," Rose said. Ashrah was surprised to know that Rose knew her name.

Then, unexpectedly, Rose had a quick vision. A shadowed figure appeared before her. The only other color on this figure was a pair of white that indicated eyes. Then, just as fast, the vision was gone.

Rose looked at Ashrah. "Do you know of a shadowed figure dressed all in black with glowing white eyes?"

Ashrah stared at her as only one name came to her. She slowly nodded. "His name is Noob Saibot and he's a wraith from the Netherrealm. I was once a demon there until I managed to free myself with a purified weapon. However, Noob is now in possession of it and has tainted it with evil."

Rose nodded after hearing her story. She then released Ashrah from the scarf's grip. The white clad woman stumbled a bit before regaining her balance.

"Our mission is to stop a possible threat to the realms. Chishio No Me is more than you think. If you help us, we'll help you with your cause."

Ashrah stood there for a moment. Despite the dark energy within Rose, she found herself wanting to trust her. She seemed like a reasonable woman, though she was going to stay on her toes in case she was wrong about her.

"Tell me more," Ashrah asked.

Rose nodded. "This is not a good place. There is a cave south of here just by the beach hidden behind some trees. Meet me there tomorrow morning."

Ashrah nodded. "I shall."

~~~

Other End of the Forest

Ibuki and Li Mei continued to pick berries. The bushes they would normally go to seemed to lack the delicious fruits, mainly because they had been picked so much. The two of them grabbed whatever was left and placed them in the baskets before continuing to walk along the path.

Ibuki found herself enjoying Li Mei's company and wondered why she hadn't taken the time to get to know her to begin with.

"So you're from here?" Ibuki asked.

Li Mei nodded. "Yeah, but I don't like it here. There's just too much war and chaos here and I never liked it. My parents passed away trying to rebel against our oppressors when I was a child and I've been living with my grandfather and brother ever since. I was hoping that one day I could go to Earthrealm and live there for the rest of my life. That's my dream… what are your dreams?"

Ibuki had to smile at that. "Well, after the summer, I'm going to be going Tokyo to attend my first year in college. I wanted to go two years ago when I was eighteen, but my ninjitsu training just took too much time. I'll finally be relieved from my duty after this tournament. I've always wanted to be just a normal student without worrying about my clan."

"That sounds really nice," Li Mei said. "So college is like a school, right? We don't have that here."

Ibuki nodded. They then reached a fork in the path going in two different directions. Li Mei had an idea then. "Say, let's split up for a bit. That way we can get more berries faster."

"Well," Ibuki said. "We shouldn't separate, but I'm sure a few minutes won't be too bad."

"All right," Li Mei said as she went right, whistling as she did. Ibuki stood there for a moment, looking down at her path on the left before she began walking along it.

~~~

Unknown Area

After being relieved from his duties for the day, Sagat decided to take a walk to get to know the area he was now staying at better. Today had indeed been a long day, especially with the secret tournament he had attended, which he personally considered a waste of time. He had thought the match was going fine until Shao Kahn decided to stop it for his own personal gains.

Things could be worse though, he supposed. At least Shao Kahn was giving him what he wanted, unlike his old master Bison. Sagat had done everything for him, but he had never been given his main request… to face his old foe Ryu in an honorable match. Ryu having left a scar on his chest so long ago in the first World Warriors Tournament so many years ago. He hadn't requested this wish to Shao Kahn yet. He didn't think it was wise to ask for the opportunity so soon after his recruitment.

Sagat then stopped walking and looked up at the sky. He wondered if getting closer to the medallion through recruitment was even worth it at all. He never even thought about having the medallion, but the only reason he accepted Shang Tsung's offer to join the Emperor's army was because he merely wanted his long-time wish. If he could prove that he was worthy, perhaps he could finally have it granted.

It was then that his thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of footsteps. Sagat quickly whiled around and was slightly surprised to see Adon standing before him. The cocky grin that was normally on his face was nowhere to be seen. Bandages covered one side of his face as a result from his defeated match against Havik.

When he noticed Sagat staring at his bandages, Adon clenched his teeth in frustration. "Don't even say it! You're going to say that vengeance is not the worth it! Don't even dare speak about vengeance when you seek it as well! Just stay out of it!"

Sagat decided not to say anything. It was ironic though… Adon was now following the same path that he had once walked. Though he had to admit, the scars on younger fighter's face was indeed worse than on the chest. It didn't matter though, Adon was quite the ugly one to begin with, he thought.

Adon continued then. "I was offered to join an army and I gladly accepted. This is definitely my way of proving that I AM, and always will BE, Muay Thai God! So stay out of this!" With that, Adon passed Sagat.

Sagat raised an eyebrow afterward. He was suspicious of Adon's recruitment. Not only that, but he figured out why Adon accepted… because it was a good way to get closer to Havik, the cause of his new scars.

Despite their current grudge against each other, Sagat decided to keep an eye out on Adon.

~~~

Forest

Ibuki continued to walk through the forest in hopes of finding more berry bushes, but to no avail. Maybe there aren't any more, she thought. She wondered if Li Mei was having better luck. The young ninja girl decided to go on a bit further before heading over to Li Mei's path.

A few minutes later, Ibuki suddenly heard a moan somewhere. She stopped in her tracks to listen again. She heard the moan again but much more clearly this time. Ibuki followed the noise.

"Hello?" she called out.

That's when she heard a faint call for help. Ibuki dropped her basket and ran over to the noise. She soon reached a young woman who seemed not much older than she was, battered and bruised, possibly from a previous fight, or worse... Tears stained the woman's face and she seemed to have fear in her gold eyes.

Ibuki quickly bent down to her. "Are you okay?" she asked.

The woman looked over at Ibuki. "I, I don't know… the, there were so many of them…"

Ibuki hushed her a bit in order to calm her down. "I don't have any medical supplies, but the palace is not too far from here and I can get you help."

The woman took a deep breath. "Th… there's something I need…"

"What is it?" Ibuki asked.

The fear suddenly seemed to disappear from the woman's eyes. Ibuki nearly felt good, feeling that she had calmed the woman's fears. However, the fear in her eyes was suddenly replaced by a sadistic grin. Her sweet voice suddenly changed into a deep, demonic one as she spoke these chilling words;

"I need your soul!"

Upon hearing that, Ibuki attempted to get herself back up, realizing that the woman was not who she seemed. However, the woman had quickly sat up and managed to grab a hold of Ibuki's throat. Ibuki struggled to fight back, but it was to no avail. The woman was too strong for her.

The woman's eyes glowed green, the sadistic grin still upon her face. She then freed one of her hands from her grip and raised it above Ibuki's head...

Meanwhile, Li Mei had just entered Ibuki's original path because she too wasn't able to find berries. She expected Ibuki to be walking by. However, upon seeing the horrifying sight of her friend being choked by a female stranger, Li Mei dropped her basket, the berries pouring out and spreading in different directions on the ground.

Li Mei was about to call out Ibuki's name before running over to try to save her. However, even if she did, it was long too late. A green mist was sucked out of Ibuki and transferred into the woman's hand. Immediately after, Ibuki's body went limp and her once peachy skin turned a pale blue almost immediately. Then, the woman dropped her body as though she was nothing but a rag doll.

Tears fell from her eyes as Li Mei sprinted out of there in fear of the woman seeing her. She tried her best not to scream as she quickly headed back towards the cave.

~~~

Cave Area

A dark feeling came over Raiden as he was walking past the edge of the forest. He had just finished speaking with Guy, who had informed him of what happened in Shao Kahn's former palace. It was odd since Raiden had already checked out the place previously before the tournament and found nothing. However, he realized that it was a good way to throw him off, plus it was his and Rose's first lead in their mission. He thanked Guy and sent him off so that he could rest.

The trees began to sway more than usual as the dark feeling continued to pass over. A serious look came upon the Thunder God's face.

Something has happened, he thought.

It was then that he noticed Li Mei running out of the woods. He was curious why she was, possibly running from Outworld wart hogs, he guessed at first. However, upon seeing the tears on her face, Raiden knew that whatever dark feeling he was feeling, it had something to do with whatever the Outworld native was running from.

Li Mei felt so much relief and cried even more upon seeing Raiden, his dark blue cape swaying in the wind that suddenly came. "RAIDEN!" she cried out. Once she reached him, she threw her arms around him, buried her face in his chest, and sobbed uncontrollably.

"Li Mei," Raiden said calmly. "What happened?"

It took a moment for Li Mei to find the ability to speak. "Ibuki… she's… she's…"

She didn't have to say no more. Raiden placed his arms around Li Mei and he let her sob into his chest for as long as she needed. A grim look appeared on his face. He and Rose had tried so hard to protect their chosen ones from bad situations like this… but now, death had befallen on one of their own.

Chapter Text

The Next Morning...

For the past twenty hours, Rose realized that things didn't seem right around the cave area. She had sensed a dark energy around her just past lunch time yesterday. With the exception of the swordsman Kenshi (despite being blind, his other keen senses were heightened and he is also able to sense things like that), no one else noticed the change in the environment and went about their own business.

She did notice, however, that the group consisting of Mika, Maki, Asuka, Cassandra, and Sakura came up to her twice during the late evening asking for Ibuki's whereabouts. They had not seen her since that late morning when they decided to go to the hot springs. Ibuki had declined to go then. Rose assured them that Ibuki should return soon despite not knowing where she was at the moment. However, Rose began to worry herself. With a mix of the dark energy and Ibuki's missing presence, she knew something had happened, but she couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was. Even when she went to her crystal ball, it was like something was blocking her from discovering anything.

Speaking of being missing, she realized how quiet it was in the cave. Not long after noticing, she realized that Raiden had been missing since past noon. He had told her earlier this morning that he was going to find new recruits for the group.

How could it take him that long for him to find new recruits? the fortune teller thought to herself.

It was just after the crack of dawn, after Rose entered the lodge to begin making herself breakfast, that Raiden finally showed up, electricity surrounding his body as he teleported himself in. Rose turned herself around to face him. She was about to ask where in the world he had been this whole time. However, upon seeing the grim look on his face, Rose's heart sank. She felt stupid for not figuring it out before. The dark energy… Ibuki's disappearance… it all made sense now.

Before Raiden could speak, Rose spoke for him. "Ibuki's dead, isn't she?"

Raiden slowly nodded. "Yes… poor Li Mei witnessed her death. She's in her room now resting..." He sighed a bit before proceeding. "I buried her not too far from here during the evening. I then proceeded to look for new recruits, but I just couldn't do it. Not right after what happened to Ibuki. I've been at the beach the whole time thinking. When we recruited our chosen ones, I had hoped that death would've never befallen on any of them… but I was wrong."

Rose nodded as she understood. "How did it happen?"

Raiden sighed once again. "From what I've gathered, her soul was taken. Li Mei had said to me that a woman performed the terrible deed. However, despite that, I have no doubt that Shang Tsung was behind this. He is known to shapeshift himself into anyone he comes into contact with. However, at this point of the tournament, we cannot confront him, not yet, not until the tournament is over, not until we have proof that he was actually behind it. For one, it would blow our cover and halt the tournament. With Chishio No Me in their possession, they could use it against us. Avenging Ibuki's death will have to wait until the tournament is over. In the meantime, we are not to speak of the details to anyone here. This is for their protection."

Rose nodded, completely understanding the situation.

It was then that footsteps were heard, making Rose and Raiden turn to face the person. Rose recognized Ashrah as she took another foot in to the room.

"Um, Raiden," Rose said quickly before he said anything. "This is Ashrah, I recruited her yesterday… before I knew about Ibuki…"

Raiden nodded. He sensed Ashrah's pure heart and soul and knew she was a good choice. However, though Ashrah didn't know it, this turned out to be a bad time.

"Ashrah," Rose spoke. "I hate to do this to you, but you'll have to come back here later this evening. We have to take care of a personal matter at this time."

Ashrah nodded. "I understand. I will meet with you this evening." With that, she left the lounge.

Raiden sighed. "I'll inform everyone of Ibuki's death in an hour or so."

"I'll help you," Rose offered.

The Thunder God nodded in appreciation. "Thank you."

Though both of them didn't think about it until later, this was the first time that they managed to talk to each other without arguing. However, they both wished that it would've happened under better circumstances...

~~~

About two hours later, Raiden and Rose gathered everyone in the cave around the lit campfire, only telling them that 'it was very important.' No one was sure what the meeting was going to be about, though Maki, Mika, Cassandra, Sakura, and Asuka had an idea of what it was. They feared that it concerned Ibuki.

Once everyone was there, Raiden was straight about the situation, telling them that Ibuki had passed away. Immediately, her five friends were in tears, hugging and comforting each other as their worst fears were confirmed. Some had grim looks on their faces while others were shocked. Some of the other girls in the group let a few tears slid down their faces as their male comrades comforted them.

They held a moment of silence, which was suggested by Guile, before Raiden offered everyone to pay their last respects at Ibuki's grave. Once Raiden and Rose began leading the way, they were surprised to see that everyone, even those who kept to themselves, were following them.

The walk was about ten minutes before they reached a spot that had loose soil and a large boulder over it. The boulder had Ibuki's name engraved on it, which Raiden had done himself.

One by one, each chosen one paid their respects, each one leaving Outworld wildflowers on her grave. Some got on their knees and prayed. Some talked to Ibuki for a couple of minutes. Some simply stood there and stayed silent before placing the flowers down and walking away.

Maki, Mika, Cassandra, Sakura, and Asuka waited until everyone had their turn. All five them then approached the grave, each one holding a handful of wildflowers in their hands. Those to stayed behind watched silently as the girls got on their knees, the endless tears streaming down from their eyes. They held hands as they placed the flowers with the others. They stayed silent as they continued to cry, though Mika managed to utter a few words;

"We wish we were there to protect you…"

Unknown to anyone nearby, the Netherrealm wraith Noob Saibot happened to have passed by the area where the chosen ones were paying their last respects for Ibuki. He hid himself in the shadows of the trees and watched the scene in front of him. It was obvious that someone had died. As the heartless wraith that he was, he showed no remorse for the situation.

Perhaps maybe back when he was still human, he would have…

The only reason he was in this area at the moment was to spy on the activities of the other tournament participants. He considered the main palace itself to be too dense, thus there was a good chance that he would be caught easily. So he decided to spy outside the palace grounds. This was the first time that he noticed these group of people.

Amongst the group, he noticed the Thunder God, Raiden, which surprised him. He was the last person the wraith expected to see in Outworld. At this point, there was obviously a plan amongst this group if Raiden himself was here. Why else would he be?

The group in front of him seemed be a bit close knit as far as he could tell. Were they from the palace as well? Or were they staying somewhere else?

Meanwhile, back in the group, the cyborg Matrik stood where she was as a few words were said about the young girl who died in the forest yesterday. It was then that she saw something move from the corner of her eye from within the forest. Turning her head slowly, she activated a heat emission through her lenses, and it didn't take long to spot something that emitted a high temperature. There was no doubt in her mind that it was a person... or something else.

Someone is spying on us, she thought suddenly.

Using her technology, Matrik used a scanner to shape out the figure from within the woods. However, by the time the heat emission was taking form, it was too late. Briefly, she saw a smokey mist burst from behind one of the trees, followed by a shadow being seen against another tree nearby. Matrik continued to scan just in case. For a moment, she had it in mind to go after whatever was there, but considering yesterday's incident as well as the memorial she was standing at now, the last thing the cyborg wanted to do was make the others worry even more than they are now.

Either way, whoever had been hiding behind the tree was now gone. Matrik decided then that she would keep an eye out on any activities surrounding the cave grounds. The last thing the group needed right now was more tragedy...

~~~

Later That Evening

Sitting around the campfire, Maki, Mika, Cassandra, Sakura, and Asuka stared at the fire. The tears were long gone, but the grim look on the faces remained. For some time, they remained silent, not bothering to say a word to each other.

Eventually, Maki sighed and spoke. "I didn't know her for that long… but she was such a sweet person. Why did she have to die?"

It was a question no one could really answer, though Mika replied, "I wish I knew who was responsible for this. If I ever find out, they'll get it in the end, that's for sure."

Asuka raised her head then. "Remember when we were first heading over here when we all suddenly got transported to the lower levels of the ship? Poor Ibuki was just getting her pajamas on when that happened and she was only in her bra and underwear."

Aside from Cassandra, the girls couldn't help but chuckle lightly. "She did get a good laugh later on," said Sakura. "She said it felt like something out of a TV show."

"Yeah," the girls said before falling silent again. It did feel a bit good to talk about the good times, but nothing could escape them from what happened.

"For now on, we stick together," declared Sakura. "I don't want anything like that to happen to any of you. If we're by ourselves, we're not to leave the cave area until one of us is around. We're doing this for Ibuki, she would've wanted this."

"Agreed," answered Maki. The other three girls nodded as well, agreeing to the new deal in their friendship.

It was then that Xianghua showed up. She had just returned from the palace after dinner with Kilik and Maxi and was just heading towards the cave. She also had a large bottle of Outworld liquor in her hands for a later time.

"Hey there," Xianghua said to the girls.

"Hey," the girls said. Xianghua then noticed that all five of them were staring at the large bottle. Xianghua stopped herself, wondering if she should give some to them. Then again, today was rough on them…

Xianghua sighed to herself. "Well all right." She sat down on a log, then she popped the bottle open. "Not too much though." She then took a swig before passing it to Maki, who followed. The other girls did the same.

As they began to relax a bit, Xianghua began to wonder if she was going to regret her decision later…

~~~

Main Palace

It was the last hour of dinner at the main palace's dining quarters. Queen Sindel showed up at the hall to get herself some dinner. Princess Kitana and Jade were taking care of a few things and promised to meet Sindel there soon. Sindel trusted their word and headed off to get something to eat. She was definitely starving.

After collecting some food on her place, Sindel began looking for a table. She wanted to sit at a place where it was quiet and a bit secluded so that when the other two arrived, they would have more privacy. However, upon spotting the Keisei knight Siegfried, Sindel immediately changed her mind. She hadn't seen him in some time and decided to head over to where he said.

"Good evening Siegfried," the Queen of Edenia said. "Do you mind having some company?"

Siegfried looked up from his food, a bit surprised to see Sindel there. "Not at all, my Queen."

Sindel smiled and sat down in front of him. "And why is it that I find you sitting here all by yourself?"

Siegfried shrugged a little. "Well, you, your daughter, and Jade are the only ones I know here, really."

Sindel nodded. "I haven't seen you around in a while."

"I've been around. However, I did win a match yesterday and will be moving on to round three."

"Congratulations," Sindel mentioned. "My daughter, Jade, and I have also moved on to the next round."

"Congratulations to all three of you," Siegfried replied. "And thank you."

The two fell silent for a moment, unsure of what to talk about. Both of them took a few bits from their food before Sindel thought up another conversation starter.

"You seem like a lonely person. You are more than welcome to come visit us anytime you like."

Siegfried was a bit taken aback by the offer. He never expected a Queen of a realm to offer such a thing. "I thank you for the offer," he said. "In your position, it doesn't seem right for me to accept such an offer from a Queen."

"Nonsense," Sindel replied with a wave of a hand. "I am just as capable of doing things as any other citizen. It's not like there's a strict code when it comes to how to behave when you are Queen."

Siegfried nodded in agreement. "Thank you for your hospitality, though it is not necessary."

Sindel smiled more then. "I'm sure my daughter Kitana would love to see you again."

Siegfried was a bit surprised that Sindel brought up her own daughter. He did admit, however, that Sindel seemed a bit forward since she came to sit with him. "I'm sure she will," he only said.

As the conversation continued, Kitana and Jade showed up at the main palace. Only Jade noticed Sindel sitting with Siegfried as they continued talking. Sindel herself seemed to be a bit happy, which made Jade raise an eyebrow.

What is going on with the Queen? she thought curiously. It wouldn't surprise me if she was trying to play matchmaker between Kitana and Siegfried...

~~~

Main Palace Hot Springs

Heihachi Mishima sat in the large bath tub of the hot springs, only wearing his black speedo. It was his lucky day once again because only he was in the bathhouse. However, a couple of people did try to come in earlier, but upon seeing Heihachi, they immediately left. It was exactly how the Mishima Zaibatsu leader wanted it.

Aside from that, nothing exciting has been really happening in and around the main palace for him, not since he made it to round three as also his encounter with Ivy Valentine. He smirked to himself as he thought about the kiss he gave her. He definitely got a kick out of seeing the look on her face and her initial reaction once he pulled back. What else could a bored man do?

He knew, however, that his grandson Jin Kazama was also in the tournament. He only spotted him once when Jin won his match against some guy with tall blond hair that reminded Heihachi of Paul Phoenix, who was a participant in his previous King of Iron Fists Tournaments. He had been sitting in the back so Jin never spotted him. As much as Heihachi would have loved to approach Jin at that very moment, he held back. He wanted to wait for the right opportunity before approaching his grandson.

Jin was the main reason Heihachi was here. He lusted for the powers Jin possessed, the powers he had no control over. Heihachi wanted the powers to benefit the Mishima Zaibatsu. He wanted the world to fear him. Plus, if he won the tournament, it nearly counted as an extra bonus.

Heihachi then picked up a margarita, which sat next to him. "The right time will come eventually," he said. "I see Jin going far in the tournament. If he loses, I'll approach him then."

Actually, Heihachi did hope that Jin would lose. If he won, that would mean that Jin would be in possession of Chishio No Me. Who knows what Jin would do with it then.

Heihachi was about to take a sip of his beverage when a weapon suddenly hit the glass, smashing it into pieces and causing the fresh drink to spill on Heihachi's hand. The old man didn't jump at the surprise attack. As a matter of fact, he almost always expected this, even in a place where rarely anyone knew him.

He stood up them, still in the tub, and turned himself around to face his would be opponent. Now he became surprised upon looking at the creature in front of him. If it wasn't for the small blades coming out of his body and the teeth outside of his mouth, he would just look like a normal human.

Heihachi got into a fighting stance. "You wasted a perfectly good drink. Let's get this over with."

The mutant seemed to smile, though that's what it looked like previously. "Baraka will kill you!" he said. Baraka then lashed his arms out, his two long blades coming out of each arm.

"Hmph," Heihachi said, slightly impressed by the weapons. "This will be interesting."

With that, Heihachi and Baraka charged after each other.

~~~

Main Palace, Fourth Floor

In his room, Adon looked at himself in the mirror in his bathroom. He brushed his fingers lightly over the right side of his face. The scars he received have recovered, but they were only going to recover as far as a handful of red dots at this point.

It was such an ironic thing. Ever since his former master Sagat received the scar on his chest, Adon looked down on him, believing that because of Sagat's loss to Ryu that he dishonored all in the name of Muay Thai. He knew that the scar would always remind Sagat of that loss. From there, Adon claimed himself as Muay Thai God, believing that he will someday surpass what Sagat once was.

Now this had happened. Adon came to this tournament to prove that he was indeed Muay Thai God, only to end up following the same path as his former master did. And just like Sagat, the scars on his face will always remind of him of his loss… the loss of his dignity, sense of honor, and the fact that his own words to Sagat came back to him.

Adon figured that Havik was a member of Shao Kahn's developing army, which he believed was a rumor at first. However, upon asking a guard about it, he told him to go deep in the woods and he would find an abandon palace. There, he was sent to the main palace where Shao Kahn stayed.

On the way, he encountered Sagat, who joined the same army. Adon told him to stay out of his situation and walked off. He didn't want Sagat to remind him of the scars he now had upon his face.

Adon passed his tests and was recruited as a guard. He later learned that his hunch was right… Havik was there. However, since he was a guard and Havik was in a higher rank, Adon wasn't allowed to approach him, not until he reached a higher rank, whenever that was.

Upon thinking about Havik again, he thought about their match. He knew that no matter how hard he tried, he would never forget the moment when the morning star was shoved into his face.

Anger quickly filled within Adon. Without thinking about it, he punched at the mirror, shattering it into countless pieces as they fell on the sink and floor. Adon's fist began to bleed immediately, but he didn't care, not one bit.

He growled and declared, "I WILL have my revenge!"

~~~

Cave Area

After some training, Kilik and Maxi began their return to the cave. They had been training at the beach area. Normally they would train in the forest, but after hearing of Ibuki's death, they changed their locations. That way, if any intruders came, they would easily spot them.

They trained to clear their minds from today's events. It had indeed been a grim day. Losing one of the chosen ones in the cave was one of the last things anyone expected, especially this early in the tournament.

As they walked back, Maxi spoke. "We were definitely sloppy today."

Kilik nodded in agreement. "Yeah… I just can't stop thinking about what happened to Ibuki. I didn't know her that well, but to know that she died the way she did… it's so unexpected. When I came here, I didn't expect anyone to die. Maybe from a major injury in the tournament, but not like this."

Maxi sighed. "Unfortunately Kilik, with so many different types of people here, it was bound to happen to anyone. The person who killed Ibuki was one sick asshole and I hope he or she gets killed a thousand times over. I haven't felt like this since my crew was killed by Astaroth. Losing my friends, my brother, my parents from illness beforehand… death is a horrible thing to experience. I can't imagine how her friends are feeling right now. Worse, if she has family at home…"

Kilik couldn't agree more. He had his share in death as well, but in such a different way that not even Maxi and Xianghua knew about it. He thought of his surrogate sister Xianglian, who lived with him at the Ling Sheng Su temple when he was a teenager. She had given him his staff as a gift, which was named Kali Yuga.

One night, an unknown plague possessed everyone in the temple and it caused everyone to go in an out of control frenzy, a murderous one at that. Kilik was the strongest fighter in the temple, thus he was the sole survivor. He had killed a few of his comrades including Xianglian with the weapon she had given him a few nights before. Although he was assured that it wasn't his fault, since he couldn't control the plague, he still, to this day, couldn't help but blame himself for what happened. As far as he knew, the temple still stands, but now in ruins.

He was surprised when Raiden and Rose declared that he had a pure heart and soul and was worthy enough to stay with them as one of their chosen ones. He still felt like he possessed the blood on his hands from that night, but somehow, Raiden and Rose looked passed it.

Kilik shook the thought from his head and looked over at Maxi. "So, round three starts tomorrow."

Maxi nodded. "I look forward to it. My last opponent was tough, but I was able to handle it."

"Eh… you said he was nothing when you fought him."

Maxi bit his tongue. So he told a little white lie to his friends earlier. "Eh, keep that between you and me."

It was then that Hwang and Mi-na approached them. Kilik and Maxi saw a slight worry on this faces and became concerned. "What's going on?" Maxi asked.

"You have to see what Xianghua and the girls are up to," said Hwang.

"Follow us," Mi-na said. She and Hwang began walking back with Kilik and Maxi following them.

They soon reached the campfire. The fire was long out and Xianghua, Maki, Mika, Cassandra, Sakura, and Asuka were all passed out. In Asuka's hand was a large bottle of Outworld liquor, which was half empty.

Kilik sighed. "It was definitely a long day for them."

"I thought I told Xianghua to save that," said Maxi as he picked up the bottle and set it to stand.

"We should put them to bed," suggested Hwang.

"We'll help you," said Maxi.

And so all four of them began carrying the girls back to their rooms.

~~~

Main Palace, Hot Springs

The fight between Heihachi and Baraka continued on. Because of Baraka's long blades, Heihachi found himself mostly dodging from his attacks. He then performed his attacks whenever he got the chance to. The wet floor caused both combatants to slip a few times, though they would always regain their balance. Objects in the room were either knocked over or broken in their path.

Heihachi didn't understand why this mutant was attacking him. What was his purpose exactly? He never saw him before in his life.

The fight continued for some time as they maneuvered around the indoor hot springs. At one point, two people, who were looking forward to taking a bath in the springs, saw the fight going on and looked with interest. However, upon being noticed by both fighters, they realized that it was best to stay out of it and ran off.

Then, Baraka shot out a blue projectile at Heihachi. The old man ducked from the projectile. He then bent both of his knees and performed a powerful punch, briefly sending red electricity out of his arm and into Baraka. Baraka backed away quickly as Heihachi stayed in his position, ready for more.

However, Baraka slowly straightened himself and his blades went back into his arms. Heihachi kept his place, unsure of what was to happen next…though he began to believe that this fight was over.

"This is good enough," Baraka said. "I never planned to kill you… I was only testing your strength and skills." With that, the tarkatan jumped out of the window that was open.

Heihachi got out of his stance. "That was a pathetic end," he said. "I saw potential in him, but I was wrong. He was nothing more than a mutant punk with a death wish."

He then grabbed the only dry towel in the springs and left, leaving the mess that was left by the fight. Unknown to Heihachi, Baraka had fought him to test Heihachi… then report it to Shao Kahn as directed…

Chapter Text

Forest

Today, round three of The Blood Tournament began. Especially for those fighting today, many of the warriors who were still in the tournament trained themselves in order to prepare for their future matches. As normal, all the fighters hoped to move on to round four in order to get closer to the grand prize - Chishio No Me, or better known as The Bloody Eye medallion.

It was around nine in the morning when Matrik decided to train herself in the middle of the forest, isolating herself from everyone else. Although Raiden and Rose had advised those staying in the cave to stay close to the cave grounds, the cyborg made the decision to come here alone anyway. Whenever she trained, she preferred the isolation.

At one point, Matrik thought about the tournament, wondering if she would actually emerge the victor. There were many strong warriors, that she can see, but in a way, she hoped to win in order to get her hands on the medallion. She figured that it would be a good way to not only free herself from the shackles of the technology that coursed through her body, but to get her memories back as well.

Even if she didn't receive the grand prize, the cyborg at least hoped that the artitfact does fall into the right hands. The last thing that was needed was for a greedy villain to dominate the realms with this kind of power.

Matrik then thought about the mission she was a part of along with the rest of those in the cave. For one thing, they were trying to crack down on the activities behind the tournament. A good question that came up at one point was... why would the Emperor of Outworld offer such a powerful artifact when he can have it for himself? There was obviously a catch to it, like a fine print that barely anyone notices and only caring about the main product.

The main plan about the medallion was to find out the story behind it and it's source. However, no one knew a thing about it, except those in possession of it, which was a big risk indeed. The best thing the group could do right now was to wait for more information to come to them. They would most likely find out something before the tournament was over.

Matrik spent about an hour of training before she decided to call it a day. She was just beginning to walk back when she heard a noise nearby... a pair of footsteps, she realized.

Getting herself hidden behind a tree just in case, Matrik began using her scanner to find their location. It didn't take long for her to spot two figures amongst the tree. One she realized right away was a male cyborg, but his armor was a smokey gray color.

He looks like he has the same technology as Sektor, she growled in her mind. It wouldn't surprise me if Sektor was actually here now with some new prototype...

The other he was with, however, gave her a bit of pause. He owasn't a cyborg, but the energy that was giving off in her readings showed that he wasn't exactly human either. It was more like he was one of the undead...

That was when she remembered a shadow figure from yesterday... perhaps this was the person she spotted that morning.

At the moment, however, Matrik realized that she was too far away to hear their current conversation. Worse, if she even tried to get too close right now, there was a good chance that the mysterious cyborg would spot her.

Eventually, the two of them began to walk away, moving deeper into the forest. Deciding to take the opportunity to figure out what they were up to, as well as discover where they were hiding, especially if there was a chance that Sektor was there, Matrik began to follow them, making sure to keep her distance...

~~~

Outdoor Arena

"Ken Masters!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Ken was quite surprised to hear his name called out so soon. He was going to participate in the very first match of round three.

He felt a light punch on his shoulder almost immediately after his name was called. He turned his head and saw his best friend Ryu, a small smirk appearing on his face. "Kōun."

"Arigatou," Ken replied giving Ryu a thumb's up. Afterward, he stepped over the rope, then made his way to the middle of the ring. He did a few punches in the air, preparing for his upcoming match.

Soon, his opponent was announced. "Sektor!"

Ken stopped what he was going and searched around for his opponent. It wasn't long before a red cyborg stepped into the ring and made his way towards Ken. He stopped just a few feet away from Ken and immediately got into his fighting stance. Ken followed after.

"Begin!"

Immediately, they covered the distance between then and began their match. They both delivered a kick at the same time and both legs collided. They both pulled back before Sektor delivered a punch, which Ken blocked. Ken saw an opening and attempted an uppercut, but Sektor saw it coming and blocked that as well.

They both threw a few more punches, kicks, and blocks before Sektor pulled back. His chest opened up and immediately a single missile came out. Ken was nearly caught by surprise, but he was able to find the time to get out of the way of the missile's path.

As the missile landed on the ground and exploded, Ken quickly shot both of his hands out, a light blue projectile shooting out from them. "Hadouken!" Ken called out as the projectile headed towards Sektor. However, Sektor saw it coming and he too dodged out of the way. Afterwards, the two fighters ran towards each other and began their hand to hand combat once again.

The two of them spent about a minute on both offense and defense. Suddenly, Sektor sank into the ground. This surprised Ken more than the missile.

"What the-" he began to say, but then he suddenly felt a punch behind his head and stumbled forward. Sektor had appeared from the sky and had delivered a kick. Thankfully, Ken didn't lose consciousness from that. He felt only dazed for a moment, but just as quickly he regained his composure.

Ken bent his knees down as Sektor quickly approached him. When he was close enough, Ken tightened his fist. He then pushed his fist above his head as he jumped up, hitting Sektor right under the chin.

"Shoryuken!" Ken called out. Sektor flew up before falling back hard on the ground. Ken spun himself in the air before falling back to the ground safely. However, Sektor managed to get himself back on his feet quickly, ready for more.

Ken ran over to Sektor and they fought more. However, Ken suddenly found himself on defense as he blocked a flurry of Sektor's punches and kicks, which seemed endless. Some time passed before Ken finally found an opening and he managed to kick Sektor hard enough so that there was a bit of space in between then.

This gave Sektor another opportunity. The compartment in his chest opened up and another missile came out. Ken was much more prepared this time and he quickly got out of the way. However, Sektor had shot out a missile following it and right into the path Ken stepped into. The missile landed a foot in front of Ken and exploded on impact. Ken flew a few feet back and landed on the back of his head.

Ken felt extremely dizzy from that and tried to get back up. To his dismay, he fell back and as he lost consciousness, the last words he heard were, "Winner: Sektor!"

~~~

Courtyard

In the middle of the ring, both Julia Chang and Yin Lee stood a few feet away from each other. They both have seen each other around in the cave, but never actually met until now. However, their first time meeting wasn't in a way that they hoped. In a few moments, they would face each other in a match to determine who would move on to round four.

Julia placed a hand out. "Good luck to you," she said.

Yin was a bit hesitant at first. Last time she shook hands with someone, her brother Yun tossed her to the ground. He had been joking around, but Yin could've sworn she lost the feeling in her arm for the rest of the day. Needless to say, she socked him with her other fist when the chance came.

Julia seemed honorable though. Either way, Yin was still cautious as she took Julia's hand and slightly shook it. When Julia pulled away, Yin smiled. "Good luck to you too."

The Arizona native nodded. With that, the two of them got into their fighting stance.

Shang Tsung, once again sitting at his throne, looked at both women and saw that they were ready. "Begin!" he called out.

For a few more seconds, neither girl moved. Finally, Yin quickly covered the distance between them and the match began. Finding herself on defense, Julia blocked as much of Yin's attacks as possible. Yin mostly threw open-palm strikes and followed them with a few kicks. She managed to hit Julia a couple of times, but the young woman would quickly recover.

Yin then threw a punch, which Julia ducked under. This gave Julia a chance to perform a sweep kick. She succeeded as the kick connected, knocking Yin to the ground, letting out an 'Oof!' in the process. After that, Yin quickly rolled back, then got herself back on her feet. Julia covered the distance between them and they continued fighting.

They both played on offense and defense. During that time, Yin's glove got caught on Julia's headband and when Yin pulled her hand back, Julia's headband went with it. Julia felt the breeze suddenly hit her forehead and it almost caught her by surprise for a moment there. She then noticed another punch coming and barely ducked under it.

After a couple of more punches, Yin pulled back a bit. She then brought out a fist and jumped forward, ducking down a bit. As she did, a wave of blue energy emerged quickly out of her extended arm, leaving a small trail behind before dispersing.

"Shuuraizan!" Yin called out as the move connected. Julia let out a small yelp as she suddenly found herself flying back a few feet before landing on her side. She felt the sudden pain hit her and she took a moment to recover before standing herself on her feet.

Once she saw that Julia was back on her feet, Yin ran over to her and they continued with their match. Julia performed a high kick, which Yin ducked under. Immediately after, Yin attempted a palm strike to Julia's abdomen. Julia saw the move coming and blocked the move before it connected.

During this time, Julia noticed the edge of the ring not too far from them. Now's my chance! she thought.

"Sorry," Julia said to Yin. Yin wasn't sure why she said that… until Julia delivered a kick to her stomach, a kick hard enough that it sent Yin stumbling back and right out of the ring. Once she stepped out of the ring, she fell down on her back.

Shang Tsung stood up once that happened. "Winner: Julia Chang!"

The audience clapped in unison. Julia felt good that she won, but upon seeing the disappointed look on Yin's face, she frowned. It was the only thing Julia hated about tournaments. As good as it felt to win, she always felt bad for those who were deserving to win as well.

Julia approached Yin and placed a hand out. "That was quite a challenge. Great match!"

Yin sighed to herself as she looked up at Julia. It was as she thought… she was an honorable person. Yin always strived to be the best. However, today proved that she really needed to train herself better not just by body, but also the mind. She wondered if Yun was laughing at her right now from the other side of the ring. She knew Yang was feeling bad for her and was possibly trying to smack Yun to his senses.

Then again, the thought of having gone farther in the tournament than both of her brothers brought a smirk to her face. If Yun ever tried to hold this tournament against her, at least Yin would be able to back it up.

Yin lifted her hand and took Julia's hand. Julia helped the young woman to her feet. "It was a good match," Yin said.

Julia smiled. "Let's get back to the cave. I'll make us both some tea."

Yin liked the sound of that. She was starting to feel the physical effects from the match. After talking with Yun and Yang, the two girls left the arena and headed back towards the cave.

Meanwhile, the group consisting of Kilik, Xianghua, Maxi, Hwang, and Mi-na stood on the sidelines as they watched a few more matches taking place in the Courtyard. Both Maxi and Hwang had a match today. Mi-na had hoped that at least Hwang would get to his match that morning, but by lunch time, she was beginning to feel her stomach rumble.

"I'm hungry," Mi-na announced out loud to no one in particular. However, all four of them heard her.

"I am too," said Xianghua.

Maxi sighed. "All right all right, let's make a deal. After this match, if neither Hwang or I get called in, you girls can go to the palace for lunch. However, if you do happen to miss our match, you'll be sorry."

"Not really," said Mi-na. "I have great confidence that Hwang will win." She patted Hwang's shoulder after the comment.

"You know," said Kilik. "I'm starting to feel a bit hungry too now that you mentioned it…"

"Not you too!" Maxi cried out. "Did any of you eat breakfast before coming here?"

"Yes!" all three called out at the same time.

"I did too," Hwang added.

Maxi sighed. "Fine then."

Soon, the match in front of them ended. Some blood ended up on the ground so the guards had to take a moment to clean the ring up before the tournament could proceed.

Once that was done, Shang Tsung stood up. "The next match shall begin!" He paused before the first fighter was announced. "Maxi!"

Maxi grinned at his friends. "There we go. After this, you three can get your lunch."

"Why thank you Maxi, you're so kind," said Mi-na sarcastically.

"Good luck," Xianghua said with a smile.

"Thanks, I won't be needing it though," Maxi replied, then winked at Xianghua before stepping into the ring. Xianghua was a bit surprised by the wink and she slightly felt her heart flutter a bit.

She then felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to face Kilik and upon seeing his face, her heart fluttered once again. "How much do you want to bet Maxi will fight another weird freak?"

Xianghua had dazed out for a moment and it took a moment for Kilik's question to reach her. She slightly shook her head before replying. "Hmmm, I call it a 50/50."

"Same here," Kilik replied before turning his head to the ring.

Once he did, Xianghua looked down at the ground and sighed. Why is choosing between those two so hard…

Once Maxi was in the middle of the ring, Shang Tsung announced his opponent. "Hwang Seong-gyeong!"

Mi-na, Xianghua, and Kilik turned their heads to Hwang, surprised to have heard his name being called for the same match Maxi was in. Hwang looked a bit surprise as well, but soon he quickly shrugged it off. "I guess I'm up."

"Good luck," said Mi-na. Xianghua and Kilik nodding, agreeing with her.

"Thanks," Hwang answered before stepping into the ring.

Without looking over at her, Kilik leaned his head towards Xianghua. "Looks like normal fight wins."

"Yeah," was all Xianghua said as she felt her cheek burn upon hearing Kilik's voice. She knew that they turned red and she hoped that no one noticed.

Soon, Maxi and Hwang found themselves face to face. Maxi couldn't help but smirk. "I'm just surprised as you are." He took out one of his nunchakus. "May the best win."

Hwang nodded as he took his sword out. "Good luck." With that, they both got into their fighting stance.

"Begin!"

For a moment, Maxi was thankful that his weapons were made to withstand attacks from weapons like Hwang's sword. They were definitely going to be useful right now. Not long after the thought, they began their match. They swung their weapons at each other, both of them avoiding the incoming attacks. Eventually, they found themselves mostly performing kick attacks and both combatants were still able to avoid them.

"Eat this!" Maxi called out as he performed a somersault. One foot was extended out and it hit Hwang right under his chin, forcing him to fly two feet up before landing back on the ground. Maxi landed back on his feet and waited as Hwang slowly got himself back on his feet.

Once Hwang was ready, they continued battling, their weapons continuously colliding against one another. At one point, Maxi attempted to trip Hwang, but Hwang saw the move coming and jumped over it. He then attempted to swing his sword down, but Maxi looked up just in time and blocked the move with his nunchaku.

After a few more moves, Hwang pulled back for a moment before collecting green energy into his sword. He then lifted his leg up and quickly did a forward split, swinging down his sword in the process. Maxi had blocked the move, but the move itself was powerful enough to knock him to the ground. It left him stunned for a moment, but upon seeing the sword swinging over him again, Maxi regained his senses back and quickly rolled out of the way.

Maxi got back on his feet and he and Hwang continued swinging their weapons at each other, adding in their own kicks whenever they got the chance.

Soon, Maxi was able to land a kick to Hwang's chest. Hwang keeled over in a bit of pain, which gave Maxi an opportunity. He too collected green energy in his nunchakus. He waited for Hwang to look up and when he did, Maxi lashed his nunchaku, smacking Hwang hard over the head. The force of the blow flew Hwang sideways and rendered him unconscious.

A moment passed before Shang Tsung stood up. "Winner: Maxi."

Maxi smirked, having won yet another match in this tournament. After his name was announced, Kilik, Xianghua, and Mina began to head into the ring.

"Nighty night," Maxi said looking down at Hwang. "Don't let the bed bugs bite."

"Maxi!" Xianghua called out as she heard that. Maxi looked at her a bit surprised to see her standing there with both hands on her hips and not looking too happy. Behind her, Kilik and Mi-na were checking up on Hwang.

Maxi grinned unsurely as he rubbed the back of his neck with his free hand. "Eh, you know I'm kidding right? Heh heh… I just like to say that…"

~~~

Unknown Area

It was a few hours before the two mysterious figures reached what looked like another cave. The entire time, Matrik had kept her distance and, so far, it seemed to be working since it looked as though neither of them suspected her presence just yet. There were moments where she dared herself to get closer in hopes to catching whatever conversation they could possibly have.

However, neither of them have said a word since the moment she spotted them, even once she was close enough to hear them speak.

Once they reached their own cave, Matrik stayed where she was, deciding to leave some time between them entering the cave and before she made her move. Once she felt more comfortable, she moved from her hiding spot and went through the cave entrance.

For a while, she felt like she was walking through nothing more than a dark path, using her night vision to find her way. Soon, she reached a clearing and saw that the two figures were looking over a large piece of machinery towards the back of the cave. Seeing some crates nearby, Matrik moved herself so that she kept herself hidden just in case.

“So,” the shadow figure spoke out loud. “This was the new tech Sektor had developed... the one that we'll be needing human test subjects for soon enough. With this, we will create more cyborgs with your nano-technology. With that, we will be able to rule the Netherrealm with an iron fist. And Sektor will be able to expand his Tekunin clan.”

Hearing this plan didn't surprise Matrik. Sektor was always looking to advance the cyborg initiative. Also, it looked as though there was a reason the other cyborg was here after all. The shadow figure seemed to have his own plan as well. This explained their partnership.

That was when the lights in the room seemed to get brighter. As it does, a red cyborg entered the room. The shadow figure had heard him come in and he turned to him.

“Noob Saibot,” the cyborg greeted.

Noob nodded. “Sektor. It seems that your match in the tournament today ended sooner for you."

"He was nothing but a weakling even with his level of chi from my scans," Sektor replied about his opponent. "These matches seem to get easier with every round." It was then that he looked up at the machine in front of them. "When will you be hunting for a test subject?"

"Tonight," Noob answered. "Smoke and I will make our move then. We'll be searching for someone who is alone in the forests. We're sure that at least someone will be moronic enough to walk these Outworld woods alone."

Suddenly, Sektor lifted up a hand as though stopping him from

“What's wrong?” Noob asked him.

“... We're not alone.”

Shit, Matrik grumbled in her mind.

Having no other choice, Matrik did the first thing that she could think of... outstretching her hand, a compartment opened up at the palm. Five small golden balls quickly flew out and managed to pass Noob and Sektor undetected. Matrik heard them cling on to the large machine that was meant for human test subjects. Once that was done, she made a run for it.

Noob and Sektor had just spotted Matrik right before an explosion rocked the cave and knocking them and Smoke off their feet.

“Dammit!” Noob called out as the three of them stood back up. “Let's go-”

Sektor suddenly put a hand out, stopping the wraith. “No... let her go.”

Noob was confused by the request. “And here I thought you'd want her dead.”

“I do,” Sektor explained. “But believe me... she'll be back... we'll just bide our time until then.”

~~~

Indoor Arena

At the same time, two projectiles collided with one another. Both were blue energies which, upon impact, collided and left behind a small trail before completely dispersing.

Once the energies cleared, the fighter looked at each other. Both Akuma and Baraka only grunted before charging towards each other and continued with their match hand to hand. Akuma was able to land a punch on Baraka's jaw, but Baraka recovered just as quickly and delivered a knee strike, which Akuma blocked. Akuma then followed with a high kick, which Baraka blocked before following it up with a uppercut, which Akuma blocked.

After another minute of going back and forth, Baraka pulled back slightly. Akuma stood his ground in his fighting stance, prepared for Baraka's next attack. Baraka quickly extended his blades out of each arm. Akuma didn't even flinch at the weapons as he volunteered to cover the distance between them. Once Akuma was close enough, Baraka began lashing out his blades at the red haired demon. At one point, Baraka left a gash on Akuma's arm, but it didn't affect the demon one bit.

Eventually, Akuma jumped up, placed one leg out, and spin himself around rapidly. The move hit Baraka in the face a couple of times before stumbling back, still keeping his feet on the ground.

However, the moment Akuma landed on his feet, he shot out another projectile. Rather than a blue energy from previous, this one was red. Baraka was still recovering from the last move and never saw the projectile coming as it hit him square in the chest. The force of it was enough to knock Baraka out of the ring.

Once that happened, the Shadow Priest hosting the tournament stood up. "Winner: Akuma!"

The audience clapped as the 'ten' symbol on his back glowed in a fiery red through his top gi. Baraka stood himself up. As much as he wanted to kill the demon right there, he didn't. He had the feeling that if he did, Shao Kahn would have his head. As Akuma left the ring, Baraka's blades glided back into his body, then he left the ring.

When both combatants disappeared, the Shadow Priest announced the fighter for the next match. "Siegfried Schtauffen!"

Silently, Siegfried stepped into the ring, his large sword read in both hands. He stepped to the middle of the ring, then swung his sword in the air a couple of times in preparation for his match.

A moment went by before his opponent was announced. "Astaroth!"

Siegfried stood where he was upon seeing his very large opponent, who seemed to appear from behind the Shadow Priest's throne. The audience looked on in silence, not even sure what to think of the large golem. With the silence amongst everyone in the arena, the only noise that was heard was the rhythmic beating of Astaroth's heart, which left an echo behind with each beat.

Astaroth looked down at Siegfried once he reached the middle of the ring. "It will rain blood today!" he said before getting into his fighting stance, his large axe in both hands.

Siegfried looked up at Astaroth as he got into his fighting stance. "… Let's do this…"

With that, the Shadow Priest knew they were ready. "Begin!"

Quickly, Astaroth charged after Siegfried, who was long prepared for his attacks. Astaroth swung his axe down, which Siegfried rolled out of the way from as the axe hit the ground, leaving a dent in the process. Siegfried got back on his feet as Astaroth swung his axe sideways this time. This time, the young man blocked the axe with his sword.

From their, they continuously swung their weapons at each other and they collided against one another. The sound of clashing steels were heard throughout the arena along with grunts from both opponent as they try to get themselves on complete offense. At one point, Siegfried ducked under the axe as it swung sideways. At nearly the same time, Siegfried performed the same maneuver with his sword, but he aimed at Astaroth's ankles. Astaroth saw this coming and he barely jumped over it. As he landed on his feet, the ground shook a bit under his heavy weight, surprising some of the viewers for a moment.

From there, they continued with their match as the weapons continued to collide with one another. This went on a bit longer before Astaroth pulled back. He lifted his axe in the air and swung it down as a trail of fire was left behind. He swung the weapon down with such speed and force that it nearly caught Siegfried by surprise. Siegfried barely got himself out of the way and the axe once again left another dent on the ground.

Astaroth lifted his axe off the ground and swung it at Siegfried again. He missed again as his smaller opponent dodged in the other direction. This time, Astaroth cut the rope that separated them from the viewers. Those who stood in front of the axe backed away a few feet quickly in surprise before Astaroth lifted the heavy weapon up again.

As he did, Siegfried swung his sword. Astaroth blocked the sword with his weapon and the two continued their battle. During that time, Siegfried could once again feel his right arm a bit and he quickly pulled back to briefly recover. He could feel the dizzy sensation swirling in his head and he felt as though he was going to black out at any second.

Not again! he cried out in his mind, shutting his eyes tightly as he tried to control himself.

Astaroth saw that he was distracted and he attempted to swing his axe at him once again. Siegfried was able to hear the whoosh that followed the axe's trail. He quickly opened his eyes and blocked the move with his sword once again. After blocking, Siegfried brought the sharp end of his sword to the ground, pulled back, then quickly swung the weapon upward. The weapon managed to hit Astaroth and it had such force that it actually sent the golem up in the air. As he was flying up, he went in a slight diagonal and by the time he started coming down, he was out of the ring and began heading down towards the viewers below him.

"Look out!" someone called out. The viewers in Astaroth's path cleared the way as quickly as possible. Luckily, everyone was out of the way as Astaroth plummeted to the ground, leaving a large dent on the floor. Not only had he been kicked out of the ring, but he was also knocked out as well from the impact.

"Winner: Siegfried!" the Shadow Priest called out a few seconds later.

Once he realized that he won the match, Siegfried was able to relax and was able to keep himself in control again. He was more confused than anything else. What is wrong with me? he thought.

After another moment, he quickly left the arena.

Chapter Text

Near The Cave

Sitting on the sand with his legs crossed, Dan Hibiki gazed out at the clear waters of Outworld. Although he had plenty of time to do so previously, this was the first time that he was getting to know his surroundings. The sea before him was one of the most beautiful things he'd ever seen. A few times, he was able to spot some fish swimming beneath the surface.

Dan sighed to himself quietly. Aside from the scenery, his stay in Outworld hasn't really been a good one. For one thing, he had lost the privilege to move on to round three like the majority of those staying with him in this cave. His loss in round two was a humiliating one. He was too confident in himself that he nearly forgot that the more serious fighters would easily be able to take him down. He acted like a total goofball only to get his behind kicked so easily.

Originally, he came to this tournament because he found the invitation on the floor. He felt that by showing off his Saikyo fighting style, he would became one of the greatest fighters in the universe.

He was a fool after all, after hearing it from other people for so long. It was no wonder he didn't receive an invitation of his own… he truly wasn't worthy of this tournament, even despite winning the first round.

Also, he felt as though he was ignored by his supposed 'peers' of the cave. This was especially from Mika, Sakura, and Asuka, who he had considered friends to him. However, once in a while, Sakura would say hello to him and talk to him for a bit, but he believed that she was just being nice.

Dan wished that he could just leave Outworld right now, but like every loser here, he was stuck here until the entire tournament was over.

As Dan continued to look out at the sea, he heard footsteps not too far from behind him. Curiosity got the best of him and he turned his head to see who was coming. Only a few feet away was one of the people staying in the cave with him. Dan recognized him as the shaman Nightwolf. Dan had expected him to be going about his own business, but then the pink-clad fighter realized that he was looking right at him.

"Hi there," Dan said politely.

"Good afternoon," replied Nightwolf. The shaman originally came to this area to meditate when he noticed Dan sitting here by himself. He felt his energy and knew that he was in very deep thought and it made Nightwolf curious. Besides, aside from the first fishing day when he told his reasons for being here, he has been keeping mostly to himself since coming to Outworld. Perhaps it was time to get to know at least one person around here.

Nightwolf sat next to Dan, sitting himself in a similar fashion. "You seem to be in deep thought, my friend," Nightwolf said.

Dan sighed as he turned his head back towards the sea. "I'm not so sure about myself anymore," he answered. "I always thought that my Saikyo style was the best, at least to me. I wonder now if everyone is right about it… that it really does suck. I wasn't even supposed to be here in the first place…"

"Do not think that of yourself," Nightwolf highly suggested. "You do not believe that you were meant to be here, but the truth is that you are. Raiden and Rose would not have chosen for you to be here if you weren't meant to be here. You have a pure heart and soul and are one of their chosen ones."

A small smirk came over Dan's face, feeling a bit better after hearing Nightwolf's words. Even though many thought of him as a joke, even though he lost the tournament, he was still one of the chosen ones. There really was a reason for him to be here.

Before Dan could give a thanks, Nightwolf spoke again. "Perhaps during our time here, I can help you train your mind. The future of this tournament is unpredictable and anything can happen. If you are willing to be patient during your training, you will become a better fighter."

Dan nodded, accepting Nightwolf's offer. "I'd be honored."

"Now," Nightwolf continued as he straightened his back. "Let's begin by meditating."

Straightening his own back, Dan placed his hands on both knees and closed his eyes. Already, he was grateful for Nightwolf's offer to train his mind. If he was going to be a better fighter, this was what he was going to need.

~~~

Courtyard

A match was about to begin between Heihachi Mishima and Yoshimitsu in the Courtyard under the watchful eye of the sorcerer Shang Tsung. In the ring, Heihachi had his arms folded, ready for battle. Much to Yoshimitsu's dismay, Heihachi didn't have a weapon on him. To make the competition even, Yoshimitsu placed his sword back in it's scabbard.

"Hmph," Heihachi said as Yoshimitsu put his sword away. "Why do you need that in the first place?"

Yoshimitsu doesn't answer him. Instead, he got himself into a fighting stance.

"Begin!" Shang Tsung called out.

Neither fighter wasted any time and ran towards each other. Immediately, they both got on offense and defense as they threw various punches and kicks at each other. This lasted for sometime and the competition seemed quite even.

Yoshimitsu then pulled back and he quickly took out his sword, holding it with his artificial right hand. He quickly placed the sword above his head and, with his wrist, spun it in quick circles like a helicopter. He was able to fly himself a few feet up and, with both feet, kicked Heihachi in the face. The whole process was quick so it caught the old man by surprise and it made him stumble back a few feet.

As Yoshimitsu was getting himself back on the ground, Heihachi quickly charged some energy in his hands and the moment Yoshimitsu was on his feet, Heihachi performed a powerful jab, red energy surrounding his arm. The force of the punch sent Yoshimitsu flying back and landed a few feet from the edge of the ring. The move caught him by surprise as well and he had to take a moment to recover.

Soon he was back on his feet. Heihachi then ran to him and landed a few punches and kicks, though his opponent was able to block some of the moves. It brought them to the edge of the ring and Yoshimitsu knew that he had to do something quickly.

Yoshimitsu blocked an incoming punch. Then, in a puff of smoke, he disappeared in front of Heihachi's eyes. He then reappeared behind him and was about to punch him. However, to his surprise, Heihachi had quickly turned around and blocked the incoming punch. It was the first time anyone was able to track Yoshimitsu down that quickly after teleporting.

"Impressive," Yoshimitsu admitted.

"Same to you," Heihachi said. "And I rarely admit that to anyone."

With that, Heihachi performed a few kicks. He then quickly maneuvered himself around Yoshimitsu and, with a powerful roundhouse kick, sent Yoshimitsu flying right out of the ring, knocking into some of the viewers in the process.

After a moment, Shang Tsung stood up. "Winner: Heihachi Mishima!"

As Yoshimitsu recovered, Heihachi looked down at him. "You're a worthy challenge… but come back when you are really ready to fight." And with that, Heihachi left the ring and out of the courtyard.

~~~

Main Palace

Princess Kitana was walking around the palace grounds, looking around at the beautiful scenery. Fighters of different kinds trained themselves on the grounds as they prepared themselves for their upcoming matches. Kitana herself had just finished training, having her own match in three days.

Nothing came to her mind as she continued looking at the scenery before her. It was amazing... to think that such a beautiful place like this was part of a world where she left behind her darkest memories. The horrible thing was that she couldn't think of any good memories from before Shao Kahn took over her world of Edenia, mainly because she had been too young to remember.

Kitana continued her walk when she came to a clearing. No one was there, except for a figure training himself with a very large sword. Kitana stood there for a moment as she realized that the figure training himself was none other than Siegfried. His long blonde hair swayed lightly with the wind as he continued swinging his sword, mainly from side to side.

The Princess sat on a bench nearby as she continued watching him with amazement. She has seen people train hard before, but never has she seen someone train with so much more dedication and it was indeed worth watching.

Soon, however, Siegfried straightened himself out before placing his sword back in the large scabbard behind his back. It wasn't until he turned around that he noticed Kitana sitting on the bench and knew that she had been watching him. He decided to go greet her and went over to her.

Kitana was surprised that he came up to her and had to struggle a bit just to get herself to talk. "You train yourself very well," she complimented. "I am very impressed."

"Thank you," Siegfried answered. "Your mother tells me that you made it to round three of the tournament. Congratulations."

Kitana felt her cheeks burn a bit, but she hoped that they didn't actually turn red. "Well, um, thank you. So when is your next match for this round?"

"I won yesterday," Siegfried replied.

"Congratulations."

"Thank you."

The two then fell silent for a moment, unsure of what to say next. It wasn't a very long silence though as Kitana came up with an idea, especially considering that she doesn't spend enough time with him.

"Say," she began as she stood on her feet. "Do you want to go for a walk for a little bit? We won't go too far from the palace."

Upon being asked that, Siegfried looked down at his right hand briefly. Kitana tried not to raise an eyebrow. Ever since she met him, he had a thing with looking at his right hand, but she couldn't understand why…and it wasn't something she was going to ask, at least not right now.

Siegfried looked at Kitana afterwards. "Sure, we can go for a walk. However, we can't be long. I have… other matters to take care of."

Kitana smiled. "That's fine."

With that, the two of them began heading towards the forest before them.

~~~

Forest Area, Closer To the Cave Area

"Ah, this is much better," said Lita Luwanda as she stretched her arms out. "Nothing like hanging out with all girls and getting away from all the testosterone."

Sonya couldn't help but laugh. "It's not that bad is it?"

"Not really," replied Chun Li. "But I've been around men for way too long."

"You said it," said Cammy.

"It's all right," replied Alex.

The other four girls looked at Alex oddly. Alex noticed the looks and forced a smile, despite the little pain on her left cheek from yesterday's incident. "I was, eh, kidding!"

"Don't you force me to make you do push ups again," Sonya laughed.

Alex almost wanted to joking retort at those words, but she ended up stopping herself on the off chance that Sonya will actually make her do push-ups after all.

“Hey Alex,” spoke up Lita. “If I recall, you had your match this morning. How was it?”

Alex sighed to herself as the flashback in her mind ended. "Well, I did win, so I actually made it to round four… at the cost of having my foot licked by some weird pervert. I kept both my feet in hot water for two hours after that."

Chun Li cringed upon hearing that. "I was watching that match! I was surprised he managed to get your boot off, plus your sock… that looked like it would take a while to get off."

"Let's not think about it anymore," suggested Sonya.

"Tell me about it," Alex agreed.

The five of them continued walking through the forest when Lita suddenly said, "You know what I'm in the mood for? I'm in the mood for sake."

"I wouldn't advise it," suggested Cammy.

"And why not?"

"Well… you remember what happened with me and Wagner?"

"What happened?" asked a curious Sonya.

Cammy sighed. "Well, it happened two years ago when we were both still underage, but it happened like this…"

Cammy was doing some paperwork in the kitchen when Wagner came home. Not too far behind him were a couple of friends and each one had a either a bottle or a pack of alcohol.

"Scott!" Cammy called out. "What is this?"

"I call it fun," Wagner replied. "You should join us, Cam!"

"You know that Guile will kill us if he ever saw us with all that!"

"He's not going to be home until tomorrow morning," Wagner said. "He'll never know about this. And again… you should join us!"

Cammy huffed with a bit of frustration. She then saw that Wagner had sake in his hand, and it looked as though it was straight from Japan. Where he got it from, she didn't want to know.

"Well," Cammy said. "I do want to try that sake you have in your hand…"

Three hours later…

"WOO HOO!" Cammy screamed out as she danced on top of the dinner table, holding the mostly empty bottle up in the air. Nearby, Wagner was having a drinking contest with one of his friends.

"Woo! Woo! Woo! Woo!" they called out. Wagner managed to finish his drink first. He slammed his cup down on the table, then raised his arm up in the air in victory.

"I freakin' rule!" Wagner called out as everyone cheered for him.

"It's HOT! Look at me!" Cammy cried out. Wagner had looked up and saw that his surrogate sister had just taken her shirt and bra off, leaving her completely topless.

Wagner suddenly felt sober as he jumped from his seat. "Cammy, NO!" he called out.

"WOO HOO!" Cammy cried out again as she swung her bra in a circle above her head. She also began swinging her hips to the beat of the loud music in a similar fashion.

"Not good! Not good!" Wagner said as he tried to get to Cammy.

One of his friends noticed Wagner. "Dude, your sister's hot!"

"Shut up before I slug you!" Wagner growled.

That was when the music suddenly stopped. Everyone at the party looked around wondering what happened. That's when Wagner noticed Guile and his wife Jane and young daughter Amy standing by the stereo, not looking too happy. Jane was covering Amy's eyes with her hand so that the young girl didn't see what was going on around them.

Cammy, still standing on the table, looked over at the Guiles… it was at that moment that she suddenly felt sober…

After Cammy told her story, Sonya, Chun Li, and Alex couldn't help but laugh. "That was a good one!" cried out Sonya.

Cammy sighed. "Yeah, but not the aftermath. Wagner and I were grounded for two weeks and we had to clean the military cafeteria with only a sponge and a bucket of water."

"That's a bummer," said Alex.

Sonya looked at her and grinned. "Let's not forget the prank we pulled on you."

"Yeah yeah," Alex grumbled as the other girls laughed as they remembered the prank Sonya and Wagner pulled on her.

It was then that a serious look came over Chun Li and she forced the other four to hush. "Did you hear that?"

"Hear what?" asked a confused Lita. A few seconds passed before any of them heard footsteps not too far from them.

"Someone's coming," said a wide-eyed Cammy.

"I'll go check it out," Sonya suggested. "You four stay here." With that, she pulled out a gun from a hidden pocket in her jacket before slowly making her way over to where the footsteps were heard. The other four stood where they were silently. Alex pulled out her own gun just in case.

Sonya slowly approached where she was hearing the footsteps, keeping her loaded gun in front of her. She went about thirty yards from where she was previously when she realized that she could no longer hear the footsteps. Sonya stopped in her place and looked around. She could just see the girls behind the many trees she just walked by.

Maybe it was our imagination… she thought.

Suddenly, she heard a loud whoosh, but before she could react, her own gun was suddenly knocked out of her own hands, catching her by surprise. Her gun flew about twenty feet before landing on the ground, along with another weapon. Sonya took a closer look at the weapon and saw that it was a long knife.

Sonya quickly turned around towards the direction where the knife came from. Immediately, she noticed a male figure dressed in all black, with the exception of his bleach blond hair, about ten feet away from her. He stood completely straight with his arms crossed in front of his chest as he looked over at Sonya under his dark sunglasses.

"So you want to fight?" Sonya mumbled. She quickly put her hands out and four pink ring-like projectiles came shooting out of her hands. Her foe looked a bit surprised, but he managed to jump over them quickly, then made his way towards her. Once he got to her, he performed a few high kicks, which Sonya blocked before she found an opening. She attempted a few jabs to the torso, but the mysterious man blocked her from succeeding.

Looks like it's going to be one hell of a fight, Sonya thought.

~~~

Cave Area

Sitting by the unlit campfire, Ken Masters looked at a wallet-sized photo in his hand. In the photo was a recent picture of himself along with his wife Eliza and son Mel. He sighed to himself as he remembered Eliza being weary for him when he was leaving for the tournament.

I hope she's doing all right without me, he thought sighing.

For one thing, Ken had lost The Blood Tournament entirely yesterday. He was knocked out by his opponent and woke up later in his room with a big headache. He rested for the rest of that day and today he decided to relax a bit longer while everyone else either attended or watched the tournament.

If he could, for Eliza and Mel, he would head home right this minute. However, like everyone else, he was stuck here until the very end of it. He wondered how much longer that was going to take. Besides, he promised Eliza that he would go on a cruise once he got home. That he was looking forward to the most.

Ken was in such deep thought that he didn't realize that someone had come up from behind him, noticing the picture he held in his hand. "That's a nice family you have," a young woman's voice said.

Ken blinked a couple of times, a bit surprised by the voice. He then turned his head and looked up to recognize Cassandra. A warm smile appeared on her face as he continued to gaze at the picture.

"Thank you," Ken replied. "It's my wife and son."

"That's what I thought," Cassandra said as she sat down next to him. "I have a big family back at home… my parents, of course, my older sister Sophitia and my brother Lucius. Sophitia is married and they have two kids."

"That does sound like a big family," Ken said. "Are any of them fighters like you?"

"My siblings and I… we're all fighters. My brother is still learning and my sister is one of the best. Actually, she was invited to this tournament, but she was too weary from all of her travels. So, she gave the invitation to me. I'm surprised that I made it this far."

Ken sighed. "Well, even though I lost, I'm grateful for making it as far as I did… at a cost of a headache."

Cassandra couldn't help but let out a hearty laugh. "Yeah, I know what you mean. I'm not sure whether or not I want to be knocked out if I was to lose."

They fell silent then. As he placed the picture back in his pocket, Ken thought about Ibuki. He knew that Cassandra was part of the small group of girls that Ibuki was part of. A question came over him.

"So," Ken said in a more serious but sincere tone. "How are you and the girls? I mean, after what happened to Ibuki…"

Cassandra's smile faded and she let out a small sigh. "We're still in shock. Actually, we haven't really talked much about her death, we try to talk about the good times. Even though I only knew her for a short while, I felt like I've known her for a long time and it hit hard once I found out she… well, you know. Through it all, we're trying our best to move on, for her sake."

Ken nodded in agreement. "I'm sure she would've wanted that. And always know… she's in a better place now."

Cassandra smirked, taking comfort in Ken's words. "You're right."

~~~

Forest Area, Closer To The Palace

Kitana and Siegfried continued their walk through the forest. Since the beginning of their walk, they only talked about the tournament, mainly of their own matches and some of the other matches they've seen.

Eventually, Kitana grew tired of talking about the tournament. Even though the two had known each other since the tournament began, she still felt as though she didn't really know Siegfried all that well. She then remembered that he was from the world of Keisei, a realm she had never been to before. She then decided to bring that up…

"So," Kitana began to ask. "What is your home of Keisei like?"

Siegfried looked at the Princess upon hearing the question. A small smirk appeared on his face. "It's a very beautiful place. I've heard that it is very similar to Earthrealm."

"That's very interesting.," Kitana replied.

"But I've also heard that my world itself is much smaller than Earth, and everything is more fresh and our way of life is much different. The mountains, blue sky, and grass are about the same, but the mountains are much higher, but not as high as the ones from here. I'm from what we call the Holy Roman Empire, one of the richest countries in Keisei."

"It definitely sounds lovely," Kitana said. "It almost sounds like my world of Edenia."

"I'm sure it's a nice place," Siegfried replied.

It was at that moment that Siegfried's right hand began to shake once again. He looked down at it and he clenched his own teeth in frustration behind his closed lips.

Kitana had noticed this. "Are you all right?" she asked. "If you don't feel well, we can rest…"

Siegfried quickly looked up at her, a worried look appearing on his face. This scared Kitana almost right away. It was definitely something serious. She went to go touch his hand, but he pulled back almost immediately, startling her even more.

"I, I'm sorry Kitana," Siegfried said in a shaky voice. "Whatever you do, please don't follow me!" With that, he quickly ran off deeper into the forest.

"Siegfried wait!" Kitana called out. She reached her hand out to him, but even before she did so, she knew that it was no use. Worry and confusion consumed her and she watched Siegfried disappear behind the thick trees that were now separating them.

Why does it have to be like this… she thought.

~~~

Dungeons, Unknown Area

"You are released from your duty for the night," said Vega as he looked at a black hooded man.

The hooded man, a torturer amongst this dungeons, nodded. "Thank you," he said before leaving.

Vega looked around the area, which was unusually quiet at the moment. That was mainly because there weren't many victims in this dungeon at the moment. The only ones there were those being held by chains until their fate was decided.

"That was a boring job," Vega said out loud. "I cannot believe that Shao Kahn gave me a duty to just let someone off for the night." He then turned to Viper, who stood behind him. "Let's have a bit of fun, shall we dear."

Viper said nothing as she stared into space. Either way, once Vega started walking, she followed, just like she always had (unless he sent her on a mission of course). Vega didn't walk long before he noticed a prisoner hanging in the back by chains. Vega decided to have a bit of fun. Taking out a key, he unlocked the prison doors and walked in.

Vega almost didn't recognize their prisoner… not without his long blonde hair being gelled up. The blonde locks now hung over the prisoner's face and ended just past his shoulders. Upon hearing the doors open, the prisoner looked up, his glassy blue eyes squinted from the sudden light that entered the room.

"Ah, Paul Phoenix isn't is?" Vega said. "I see that your wounds from your match has since fully healed… well, it's too bad that I can't say the same for the scars from your whipping."

Paul said nothing as he kept his eye on Vega as much as he could, feeling very weary from all the torture he received during the past week that he's been in here. As a matter of fact, he was one of the strongest prisoners and most people would've died from extreme exhaustion within four days. Paul wasn't sure if he could consider himself lucky right now.

Vega looked at Paul in disgust. "What a scum, and an ugly one at that! But it's no matter. You may have lasted seven days in this hellhole, but you'll die eventually."

Paul eyed him. "If you want me to die so badly… then how about you kill me, you wuss."

Upon hearing that, Vega lashed out his hand and brought his three claws right at Paul's neck. "Trust me… just for calling me a wuss, I would gladly kill you right now. However, it is not my place to do so… yet. The master has personally requested that you be kept alive for now. He wants to see what more you can withstand. And if you do live long enough, we have a nice friend named Berserk who would love to play with you."

Meanwhile, unknown to Vega, Viper was looking down at both of her hands, which she brought up closer to shoulder level, and was constantly blinking… it was as though Vega's hold on her was getting weaker and Viper was trying to break free from it.

Paul had noticed this and he looked over at her with curiosity. Vega immediately noticed that he was looking past him and quickly turned around. Indeed, his hold on her was getting weak once again.

Vega quickly took off his mask, revealing his pretty-boy face. He then grabbed Viper before he violently kissed her on the lips. Viper herself seemed to be in a state of shock for a moment before she relaxed.

For the first time since he could remember, Paul felt remorse. It was obvious that Viper was here against her own will, brainwashed by the sadistic Vega. Disgusting bastard, he thought. He couldn't do anything himself, but he hoped that someday, someway, that Viper would be free from all this.

Soon, Vega pulled back and once again, Viper was back to 'normal' her eyes as cold as ever. "Let's go my dear," Vega said. With that, the two of them left the cell and locked it behind them, leaving Paul in the dark once again.

~~~

Forest Area, Near Cave

Sonya and the mysterious male figure continued fighting. Both of them would switch between offense and defense as they tried to take control of the fight.

During the fight, unknown to either of them, Sonya's ID badge fell out of her pocket and on to the ground. Sonya sent a roundhouse kick, which the man blocked. He tried to follow it up with a punch, but Sonya blocked as well.

Damn he's good, Sonya thought. It makes me wonder when this fight will end.

As the two continued fighting, Cammy, Lita, Chun Li, and Alex showed up. Upon seeing them, the male figure pulled back from Sonya, but still kept himself in his fighting stance. Sonya stepped back a few feet as well towards the girls.

"About time you got here," Sonya said.

"Well you did tell us to stay back," replied Chun Li. "But we heard fighting and figured that you needed help."

During the conversation, the black-dressed man noticed Sonya's ID on the ground and picked it up. The girls noticed him doing so as he straightened himself back up. He then looked at it for a moment before looking back up.

"You're Agent Sonya Blade of Special Forces," he said.

Sonya raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, and?"

Immediately, he went though his pockets and took out his own ID badge. He then brought it to Sonya, who cautiously took it in her hand. Upon seeing the badge, she realized that there was a misunderstanding.

"You're Raven from… an intelligence agency," Sonya said, being careful not to say what organization he was from. "I've heard of you, they say that you're one of the best."

"If I had known that you were with Special Forces, I wouldn't have attacked you," Raven replied. "I had thought that you were hunting me down."

Sonya chuckled a little. "I thought you were doing the same with me."

Raven nodded. "I've been on a mission to find out what's going on behind the tournament and mainly find out the motives of Shang Tsung. However, since my arrival here, I haven't been able to find out anything. My agency suggested that I of I came up with nothing, I should seek out member of Special Forces."

Sonya nodded. "You came to the right place. Although our main mission here is to track down former members of Shadaloo and former and current members of the Black Dragon, we can help you with your mission." She then pointed at her four allies. "This is Alex Walker, another Special Forces agent, Detective Chun Li of Hong Kong Interpol, and Agents Cammy White and Lita Luwanda of Delta Red."

Raven nodded to each of them. The other four girls nodded to him as well as Sonya continued. "We're currently staying at… another location. We have other allies with us. Perhaps we can set up a meeting at this location for tomorrow evening."

Raven nodded in agreement. "Make it at eight o'clock. I'll be there."

He then turned around and began walking away, his scarf and two talon-like ropes on his waist swaying slightly in the wind.

~~~

Other Side Of The Forest

Siegfried kept running at a fast pace as he continued to go deeper into the forest…trying to get as far away as he could from anyone, from anything… the palace, the innocent fighters…

Even Kitana…

He couldn't understand why this was happening to him. He knew that something was controlling him somehow, but he couldn't figure out what it was. He tried thinking back… trying to figure out the source, but it was to no avail.

Then suddenly, Siegfried stopped running. It wasn't just his right hand shaking anymore… now it was his whole body. Eventually, it forced him to fall to his knees. He then felt sheer pain running through his veins. He clenched his teeth and closed his eyes tightly as his head tilted upward. He did all his could to suppress that sheer pain.

Eventually though, Siegfried was forced to let out a scream. As he did though, an invisible energy circled Siegfied. It stood for a moment before quickly expanding out, causing the trees and everything else in it's path to shake violently. It caused him to lose some energy of his own and it rendered him unconscious as he fell forward into the ground.

A minute passed before he opened his eyes again. However, they were no longer blue…

The whites of the eyes were now completely black and it's pupils a fiery red-orange…

Chapter Text

Unknown Location

The sun was barely rising from behind the high mountains the next day when Shang Tsung entered a deep chamber. He first passed a small dungeon, where he heard some cries for help. He smirked to himself as he heard these cries from these helpless fools…they were practically music to his ears.

After passing the small dungeon, he walked about another hundred yards before entering a large room. Nearly every inch of the room was surrounded by lit candles. In the middle of room stood a long table and two chairs. The table itself was filled with large quantities of various types of food, all completely fresh.

Near the back of the room was a throne. In the throne sat a female figure. Just by looking at her tall, muscular physique and four arms, it was obvious that she was a Shokan. Her eyes, completely red, stared at the sorcerer as he entered the room.

Shang Tsung nodded to her before speaking. "The Emperor wanted me to inform you that we are in the third day of round three of The Blood Tournament. He also said to not worry… you're time will come, Sheeva."

The female Shokan, Sheeva, slightly narrowed her eyes at the sorcerer. "Shao Kahn should know that I am growing quite impatient. I've been thirsting for a fight since this whole thing began."

"We are aware of that," Shang Tsung mentioned. "He wanted to wait for the right moment to place you in the tournament. My prediction… possibly round five, when we are more than halfway through the tournament."

Sheeva looked up a bit. "To think I volunteered for this because of Goro's… unfortunate demise. All because Shao Kahn wanted an easier way to retain the medallion."

"Do not forget that he is offering you the medallion when you win… it won't be just his you know."

"I'm aware of that!" Sheeva called out. "But you and I both know that there is a possibility that he would turn against any of us to retain the medallion. With it's power, why would he just give it up?"

Shang Tsung nodded as he agreed with her. "That is true."

A moment of silence past between the two. During that time, Sheeva stood up, her seven foot frame towering over the sorcerer's. "Don't you have a tournament to attend to?"

Shang Tsung turned his back to her and slowly began walking out of the room. As he did, a sadistic grin came over his face. "Yes… as a matter of fact, I do…"

~~~

Indoor Arena

In the ring, both Cammy and Kilik stood in the middle looking at each other as the viewers looked on. On the sidelines, their friends watched over, wondering who would be the victor after the match between them. Both were quick and strong fighters so the results were pretty much unpredictable. Both of them knew each other only by the fact that they were both of Raiden and Rose's chosen ones staying in the cave.

Cammy got into her fighting stance, prepared for the match. "Good luck," she said.

Kilik nodded. "Same to you," he replied. He saw that Cammy didn't have any weapons on her, so he proceeded to put his staff away.

Cammy saw the gesture and couldn't help but smirk. "What's wrong with using your staff? Don't want to use it because I'm a girl?" She smiled during the second sentence, deciding to be a bit playful… a good way to distract him.

"Eh…" Kilik managed to say. "Do you want me to?"

"Only if you feel more comfortable using it."

"Well… if you say so." With that, Kilik raised his staff and got into his own fighting stance.

The match was soon called to begin. Immediately, the two of them covered the distance between themselves. Cammy dodged Kilik's staff as she attempted to land some punches and kicks on him, which he managed to block with his arms and staff.

This went on for some time until Cammy came up with an idea to throw him off. Quickly, she jumped on his shoulders from behind and wrapped her legs around his neck. She then flipped back, taking him with her and sent him over her, flying a few feet away before landing.

Kilik then got himself back on his feet. Cammy saw that he was ready to continue the match.

"Cannon Drill!" she called out as he ran towards them. She then let herself fall back, her body still going towards him, and spun herself around a handful of times. She managed to connect the move and knock Kilik off his feet, sending him crashing in to the ground.

Kilik was only on the ground for a moment before rolling back once and getting back on his feet again. He then looked around to find Cammy, but realized that he wasn't anywhere in sight.

Cammy was actually behind him and saw him just beginning to turn around when she decided her next move. She quickly crouched down, stood on her hands, and swung both legs around, tripping Kilik for the third time since the match began.

Damn, she's fast! Kilik thought after crash landing. He turned on his back just in time to see Cammy beginning to let herself fall down, elbow out and ready for the next blow. Quickly, Kilik took both hands and blocked the move. He then pushed her back up, the force making her stumble a few feet. This gave Kilik enough time to grab his staff and get back on his feet.

He then began swinging and twirling his staff at Cammy, who was almost caught by surprise with his speed. The staff went in different directions and Cammy would just barely miss being hit with an exception of a few surprise kicks.

After a minute of this, Cammy quickly pulled herself back for a moment to recover. She then attempted another Cannon Drill. However, Kilik was able to see the move coming this time and he stepped aside to let her pass.

At this point, he received his opportunity to win this match.

"Sorry," he said to her. Quickly, his swung his staff sideways and managed to hit Cammy on the side of the head. It was just enough to render her unconscious as she stopped spinning and slid a few feet on the ground before coming to a halt.

After a moment, the Shadow Priest hosting the tournament stood up. "Winner: Kilik!"

Cammy's friends ran into the ring to check up on her. One of them, McCoy, quickly patted Kilik on the shoulder. "Congrats, mate. Don't worry about Cammy, she'll be fine." He then joined the others to check up on her.

Kilik frowned as he looked down at Cammy, now feeling bad that he made Cammy lose by knockout. He decided to talk to her later in the evening once she wakes up. With that, he walked out of the ring to meet up with Xianghua and Maxi.

"Great fight, Kilik!" exclaimed Xianghua. "She almost got you there."

"Thanks," Kilik answered with a smirk.

Maxi nudged his friend. "I must say though… that move she did when she sat on your shoulders… that was, dare I say… very interesting."

"You pervert!" Xianghua called out, nudging her older friend hard in the stomach.

"Oof!" Maxi huffed, surprised by the nudge.

Kilik couldn't help but laugh. "Let's get out of here," he suggested

The other two nodded in agreement and soon they were out of the arena.

~~~

Courtyard

"Guy Hinato!" Shang Tsung called out.

Upon hearing his name being called, Guy stepped into the ring and went towards the middle, tightening his brown gloves in the process. He looked up at Shang Tsung, who had a faint smirk on his face as he watched him enter the ring. Obviously, the sorcerer remembered Guy from their last encounter.

He only fought the monster Berserk four days ago. Since then, Guy stayed within the cave grounds as to not draw attention from whatever guards were there that morning, especially since meeting Outworld's Emperor Shao Kahn. The other day, Raiden once again scouted the palace Guy was in, but once again it was empty with no one in sight. It was obviously their way of keeping their true hiding place a secret. It was anyone's guess where the Emperor's official palace was at this point.

Guy stretched himself a bit, preparing for his match. As he did, Shang Tsung called out the name of his opponent. "Rose!"

Rose? Guy thought, having an idea of who it may be. He turned his head slowly a few times before spotting Rose walking into the ring. Indeed it was who he thought it was. For a second though, he almost didn't recognize her. Her normally wild hair was now smoothed out and fell over his shoulders. She also wore a purple tank top, a black skirt, black stockings, and purple high-heeled boots. Wrapped around her neck was her long yellow scarf.

"Rose?" Guy asked confused.

Rose lowered her voice enough so that only Guy has able to hear her. "It was Raiden's idea. This attire is actually a disguise, just in case anything goes down. The rest… well…"

Guy nodded to her, immediately understanding her main reason for entering the tournament. It was to gain a better chance for anyone in the cave to retrieve the medallion through this tournament. It made perfect sense now. However, he was now wondering why Rose and Raiden failed to mention to anyone in the cave that they too have entered the tournament.

In his mind, the Bushin Ninja shrugged the thought off. He then got into his fighting stance, as did Rose.

"Begin!" Shang Tsung called out.

In an instant, Rose held on to one end of her scarf quickly lashed out the other end towards Guy, who immediately jumped high over the fabric. He launched himself forward before falling forward diagonally, his right foot extended out towards Rose in an attempt to kick her. However, Rose saw the move coming and quickly side stepped out of the way. As she did, she lashed out her scarf once again.

"Soul Spark!" she called out as a light purple projectile shot out of the scarf. The projectile hit Guy square in the back, sending him on his knees for a moment. He then took a quick, deep breath before getting himself back up on his feet and turned to face Rose.

Guy then dashed forward before stopping two feet from Rose. He then made one full spin and as he did, he extended one arm out in an attempt to punch Rose. Once again, Rose avoided the attack by blocking it with both arms in front of her.

From there, Guy threw some more punches and kicks as Rose tried to defend herself. When she found an opening, she did the same, forcing Guy on defense for another while. He then pulled back before jumping forward again, extending one leg out and spun himself around rapidly.

"Bushin Senpuu Kyaku!" he called out. The move managed to hit Rose a few times before she was knocked back a few feet. She then landed on the ground on her side as Guy landed on both of his feet safely.

After recovering from the move, Rose got herself back on her feet and the two again covered the distance between them and fought hand to hand for a bit, both switching between offense and defense, though Guy was mostly on offense.

This lasted for some time before Rose decided to perform what she called her 'specialty.' She quickly side stepped from one of Guy's kicks and managed to get behind him. She then grabbed his shoulders and performed a handstand. Once she was completely straight, soul energy shot out and completely surrounded Guy's head. Guy was completely frozen where he stood, having no other choice but to receive the powerful blow.

Rose kept this move up for some time before finally releasing him. The move had rendered Guy unconscious a couple of seconds before, having to completely lose all his energy. He fell on his back with a thud as Rose stood a couple of feet away.

Shang Tsung stood up afterwards. "Winner: Rose!"

The viewers clapped as Rose went up to Guy to check to see that he was all right. As this was going on, the standing sorcerer looked down at the Bushin Ninja with no emotion on his face.

A disappointment indeed, he thought. I had expected him to go quite far in the tournament.

~~~

Outdoor Arena

A match had just ended and the viewers and fighters awaited their turn as the winner walked out of the ring. His opponent, rendered unconscious, was taken out of the ring by his friends. Soon things seemed settled and the Shadow Priest hosting the tournament stood up.

"The next match shall begin!" It waited a moment before announcing the first of the two opponents of the next match. "Nightwolf!"

Nightwolf stepped into the ring, checking that his two tomahawks were in place around each side of his waist. He got himself to the middle of the ring, then awaited for the announcement of his opponent.

"Jin Kazama!"

Nightwolf recognized the name instantly as the young man stepped into the ring. His fighting attire consisted of a zipped-up blue jacket with gray sleeves, black t-shirt underneath it, and yellow designs in shape of fire. He also wore matching pants, red sneakers, and red and white fighting gloves. The hood of the jacket was draped over his head with only a few strands of black hair seen hanging over his face.

As Jin approached the middle of the ring, a dark energy came over Nightwolf. He had felt it numerous times since coming to Outworld, but this one was strong. He then looked over at Jin and realized where the energy source was coming from.

Jin stopped in his tracks and tightened his fighting gloves. "I know you are a good person or else you wouldn't be in the cave," Nightwolf said to him. "However, I sense a strong, dark energy within you."

Jin looked up at him, realizing that the older man had sensed his devil gene, a part of him that was waiting to release itself. He sighed at the thought. "It's a long story," he said before getting into a fighting stance. Nightwolf nodded to him and got into his own stance.

"Begin!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Immediately, the two of them covered the space between them and began their match, starting with hand to hand. They would both switch between offense and defense every few seconds.

Nightwolf then pulled himself back to give himself a bit of distance. He then summoned a green energy that shaped itself into a bow and arrow. He held it up, then shot the arrow at Jin. Jin immediately stepped out of the way, feeling the arrow whiz just passed him.

This gave Nightwolf the chance to perform his next move. He raised his right hand up quickly above his head. Quickly, a strike of lightning landed just next to Jin. The force of the lightning was enough to knock Jin off his feet. Once he was on the ground, Nightwolf ran over to him. He then raised his foot in an attempt to stomp him, but Jin saw this in time. He rolled away from Nightwolf who stopped himself once Jin was out of the foot's path. Jin then rolled up and got back on his feet.

Nightwolf leaned himself then slid forward quickly, leaving green energy trailing behind him. Jin sidestepped from the move and as Nightwolf passed him, he quickly extended his arm out and his clenched fist managed to connect on his opponent's back. Caught by surprise, Nightwolf fell on his knees from the blow, then rolled forward a couple of times before stopping.

Jin gave Nightwolf time to get himself back on his feet. Once the shaman did, he turned to face the younger fighter. They then ran towards each other again and fought hand to hand once again. Nightwolf quickled blocked a punch from Jin, then followed up with a low kick to the knees, but Jin sidestepped, then attempted to jab an elbow. However, Nightwolf was able to block the move.

This went on for another minute before Jin was able to completely get on the offense, leaving Nightwolf on defense. Soon, Jin was able to break through Nightwolf's blocks and was able to land various punches and kicks on him for a bit. He soon ended it with a double round house kick that was powerful enough to send Nightwolf flying right out of the ring.

"Winner: Jin Kazama!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Jin took a deep breath upon hearing his name. He was thankful that his dark energy didn't attempt to seep out, at least this time around. He walked over to Nightwolf who was just sitting up from where he landed outside of the ring. When he was close enough, Jin placed a hand out to Nightwolf. Nightwolf saw the gesture. He took his hand and pulled himself back up on his feet.

"You are a strong fighter," said Nightwolf. "But your dark side seems to be holding you back. Perhaps I can help you suppress it."

Jin shook his head. "Thank you for the kind offer… but I'd rather deal with this matter on my own." The young man took the hood of his jacket, which had fallen off during the match, and pulled it over his head. Afterward, he stepped over the ropes and made his way out of the arena. Nightwolf left as well not long after.

~~~

Early Evening, Underground Lair

Nina Williams barely missed being kicked as the foot went right past her torso. Following it, a fist came quickly towards her, which she barely sidestepped from. A couple of more punches and kicks came to her, which she managed to block.

She then found an opening and jumped up, doing a somersault and a kick at the same time. Her opponent, the old man Song, stepped back to avoid being hit by the kick. Nina finished her somersault, then did a normal back flip to leave some room between her and Song. Afterward, she got in a fighting stance as did Song.

Both opponents stood where they were and eyed each other. They waited for the other to make the next move as the viewers watching the tournament watched, wondering what was going to happen next.

Nina made the decision to make the next move after a minute past. She ran a couple of feet towards Song before jumping up in the air and aimed her foot at him. Song quickly sidestepped in order to avoid a blow from the kick. He took that moment to use an open palm and jab Nina right at the base of the neck. This caused her to lose her balance in the air and she ended up stumbling on her knees. She held on to the back of her neck as the pain began to set in.

Song lifted a leg and kicked Nina on her back, forcing her to fall further, now completely lying on the ground. She turned on her back, only to be met by a kick to the stomach and the blond woman nearly had the wind knocked out of her. Song did it a second time, forcing her to exhale quickly and cough a couple of times.

The old man attempted this move a third time, but Nina managed to grab her foot, even when still trying to catch her breath. She used her strength to push the old man back, forcing him to fall back. Once he did land, Song quickly rolled back, then got back on her feet. He got himself in a fighting stance and waited for Nina to get back on her own feet.

For an old fossil, he's fast, Nina admitted bitterly. She considered him lucky… since firearms weren't allowed in this tournament so if she had her gun…

The two fighters ran to each other again and fought hand to hand for another minute. Then, to Nina's surprise, Song put both hands out and shot out not one, but two fireballs. Both fireballs hit Nina, sending her flying back a few feet before landing on the ground. The force of the double projectiles had rendered her unconscious and she landed on the ground as though she was a rag doll.

The Shadow Priest hosting the tournament stood up. "Winner: Song!"

The audience clapped as Song left the ring, smirking at the fact that he received yet another victory. This tournament just keeps getting better and better by the minute.

~~~

Unknown Area

Sitting at a desk in her sleeping quarters, Ivy Valentine was surrounded by a handful of heavy books as she browsed through a blue book. A fast reader, she collected information from the book with great interest.

The reason for this was so that Ivy mainly was able to learn more about Outworld in her mission to get closer to Chishio No Me. Perhaps if she learned more about this world, she may be able to find more information on the artifact.

Yet, it just would seem easier for her to ask Shao Kahn himself about it. However, he was the type of man who would feel defied if any sort of question like that was asked. She has asked a couple of questions to him before, but he seemed to not be insulted by it. Even so, this sort of question was not once she was going to ask. It was too much of a risk.

She read some interesting things about Outworld, some of it dating back millions of years ago. She did notice that there was a brief mention of someone who ruled Outworld right before Shao Kahn did. However, it seemed to be a piece of history long forgotten, though Ivy had the feeling that someone out there knew more about this particular time. However, that wasn't important right now.

Amongst books about Outworld, there were also books about different inter-realm artifacts. Ivy had browsed through those books as well in hopes of any information about Chishio No Me, but once again it was to no avail.

They're quite good about keep this sort of information under wraps, the Keisei native thought to herself.

It was then that she heard the door to her room open. Ivy turned her head to see Tanya come in, carrying a heavy stack of books in her arms. Tanya seemed to struggle a bit as she tried to walk over to the desk. When she was a few feet away, Tanya ended up tripping over one book and fell forward. She lost grip of all the books and they slid around in different directions.

"Ah, I was beginning to wonder where you were," Ivy said to her. "You may leave those books where you placed them."

Tanya growled in her mind as she stood back on her feet. Whether she wins this tournament or not, I'm so killing this bitch when this is over…

"I will say," Ivy continued. "You are a very loyal pup and I'm glad Shao Kahn has you working for me."

"What about that new girl, Anna?" Tanya asked bitterly.

Ivy wagged a finger at her. "Watch you temper dear. And besides, Anna has such pretty nails. Why would I make her ruin such a beautiful feature." She was kidding when she said that and almost laughed upon seeing the pissed-off look on Tanya's face. Ivy continued. "She's actually off duty for the night and has already returned to the main palace."

Tanya only stood there, not saying anything as she whipped the sweat that developed previously off her forehead. Ivy saw the tired look on her face. Perhaps Tanya had enough for one day.

Ivy shifted her eyes and saw a bottle a reach away. She smirked as she reached for the bottle, grabbed it by the neck, and pulled it over to Tanya. "Sake?"

Tanya was a bit surprised by the offer since Ivy hasn't really offered anything good since she came here. None the less, Tanya took the offer as she grabbed the bottle, opened it, and took a few swigs. Ivy was a pain, but maybe she wasn't as bad as she plays out to be. After all, she couldn't remember the last time anyone has actually offered her anything.

~~~

Wastelands, Far From The Tournament Grounds

Broken statues and dead trees were the only things seen for miles around. The dark purple sky was slowly being covered but darker clouds as the full moon peaked through them. The only noise to be heard was the whispering winds that filled the air.

This was where the demon Akuma trained. Everyday since his arrival, Akuma would continue his training using the dead trees as target practice. Without ever stopping, he used these trees to shoot out his projectiles and perform various other martial arts on them.

In truth, he actually didn't care about the tournament. He only accepted the offer to be part of the tournament in order to see if anyone was as strong he was. Perhaps he may bump into Scorpion again, who he had not seen since that one moment back in Earthrealm. He lost track of him when he ended up here. From there, he wandered aimlessly for a challenge and ended up at the tournament by accident.

Even if he won, even if he did get the so-called 'prize,' it was nothing to him. Fighting was truly the only thing that meant to him and not even the most powerful artifact was of any use. He might as well destroy it the moment he receives it after he wins.

As Akuma continued training, three male Shokans came by, all young and seem to be teenagers. It was unknown why they were there, but it was of no matter. The three of them saw Akuma train and couldn't help but laugh.

"Look at that," the first said. "He must think that he's going to win the tournament!"

"Yeah, training is for losers," a second replied.

Akuma turned to the three then. The three Shokan laughed even more. The third one spoke. "What are you going to do? Beat us up?"

Before they even knew it, Akuma had thrown a few powerful punches and kicks, followed by a fiery Hadouken. All three shrieked and fell before their life was completely taken from them. Their broken bodies fell to the ground as though they were nothing but rag dolls.

Fools, the sadistic demon thought. Even if I did let them live, they would never know the true meaning of the fight. They were nothing but a waste.

Not wanting to waste anymore time, the demon continued his endless training as though the previous event never happened.

Chapter Text

Once again, the morning sun rose over the mountains of Outworld, bringing in the first source of light for the day. The participants of The Blood Tournament were beginning to wake up to start off their day with whatever they were planning to do.

In the cave, Ryu had just sat up on his bed only a few minutes after he woke up. He stretched his arms out before getting himself out of bed and began getting ready for his day.

Normally, he would be training himself once he was ready. However, he would change his routine today. This was because, last night, he and Julia made plans to spend the day together. They planed to do some meditating before lunch. Then, as Julia suggested, they would take a walk through the forest since Julia hasn't had the chance to see the area since they arrived here.

As he began getting into his day clothes, he thought about his deceased master Gouken and his murderer Akuma. It has been some time since he thought about the two. When he received the invitation to the tournament, he had hoped that Akuma would be there. Though he has constantly sensed a dark presence lurking around during meditation, Ryu wasn't about to immediately conclude that the dark presence is Akuma himself. The dark presence could've been from anyone in the tournament.

Besides, for all he knew, Akuma was mostly likely not here at all.

Just as he finished getting his red headband on, Ryu snapped out of his thought when he heard a female voice call out, "Knock knock!"

Ryu turned his head towards the closed curtains. "Come in."

The curtain was pulled aside and Mika walked in. "Good morning Ryu, how are you today?"

"I'm all right," Ryu replied. "I just woke up not that long ago."

"Same here. If I remember correctly, Rose mentioned that no one in the cave has a match today. So I'm expecting more people than usual to stick around the cave grounds. By the way, I won my match yesterday."

"Congratulations."

"Thank you," Mika smiled. "Did you have your match yet?"

"I'm scheduled for my match tomorrow afternoon at the Indoor Arena."

"Cool, I'll be there!" Mika then paused for a moment before proceeding. "Say, I'm not doing anything at the moment. Why don't we go to the palace for lunch, then train for a bit afterward."

Ryu smirked a bit. "I look forward to it."

Mika smiled more. "Great. I'll see you at the main palace at noon. See you then."

She then left the room. However, not even a second passed when the curtain was pulled aside again. This time, Ken walked in the room with what was probably the hugest grin Ryu had ever seen.

Ryu sighed a bit, suspicious of his friend's grin. "What now?" he asked.

"It's funny," Ken said. "Back in high school, I used to always accidentally schedule two dates with girls at the same time. I didn't think you'd be the kind to do the same thing."

Ryu raised an eyebrow. "What do you-"

It suddenly hit the Japanese fighter like a brick hitting him upside the head. He placed a hand over his face in embarrassment. "Oh great… I made plans with Julia last night and now I just made plans for Mika for the same time!"

Ken patted his best friend on the shoulder. "Just relax. Like I said, I've been in these situations in high school plenty of times. I happen to have just the perfect plan so that you can spend time with both girls."

Ryu glared at the blond man. He had the feeling that it was not going to be good. However, he didn't want to hurt either girl's feelings.

"I'm afraid to know… however, I'm willing to go along with it, for now."

"Great!" Ken exclaimed. "So here's what you'll do…"

~~~

Main Palace Grounds

"It's been a while since we had breakfast here," said Lita as she and Cammy reached the palace grounds.

"That's because we sleep in a lot," Cammy reminded her friend as she rubbed her eyes. "Much to my dismay…"

Lita couldn't help but grin. "Ooooh that's right," she said sarcastically. "Is that why Wolfman and Guile keep bragging about it everyday?"

Cammy laughed a little at her friend's sarcasm. She then looked around the area for a moment. There weren't that many people around, most likely because the tournament was going on at the moment and most of the people were either watching or participating.

She then turned back to Lita. "So why did you wake me up just to have breakfast?"

Lita shrugged. "Well it's because I couldn't sleep this morning, and then my stomach began to growl. Since we didn't have much food left in the cave, I figured you and I might as well come here."

Cammy yawned during that. Once her mouth closed, she rubbed her eyes again. "Well this is going to be the last time I do this. I'm the worst at getting up early and-"

However, Lita didn't hear the rest of what Cammy said. It was during that moment that she recognized Jin Kazama not too far from them. She hadn't really seem him since she and Cammy went to the hot springs a while back and Lita made fun of her about him. He was standing by a fountain and was looking up at the statue above the water as though he was admiring it.

Lita then realized that she and Cammy were just about to pass him…and an idea came to her.

Cammy was still talking when they were just beginning to pass Jin. At that second, Lita stepped to her left and bumped right into Cammy.

"Oops!" Lita called out.

Cammy suddenly found herself stumbling sideways and before she knew it, unknown to her during that moment, she slammed right into Jin. Jin was caught by surprise himself. He was busy looking at the statue and never saw Cammy coming. Instinctively, he held on to her arms as the two stumbled back a few feet before finally coming to a halt.

"I, I'm so sorry, I-" Cammy began to say. She stopped talking then when she looked up and recognized Jin, who had a surprised look on his face as he looked at her. At that moment, Cammy suddenly found her face burning hot… again.

First I accidentally saw him naked, now this! Cammy thought frantically.

She was so going to kill Lita once this was over.

The two of them stared at each other for a moment. During that time, Cammy took a step back, realizing that they were close to hugging each other. Jin placed his arms on either side of him once she did that.

It was then that Jin spoke. "So, um… we've been seeing each other a lot lately."

Cammy couldn't help but smile at the remark then. She only heard him say one word since the tournament began and this was the first time she was truly hearing his voice. He had a light Japanese accent as he spoke, one which Cammy seemed to like already.

"Yes we have been," the Delta Red member replied. She then decided to start a real conversation. "So how has the tournament been treating you?"

"Well," Jin answered. "I just won this round yesterday."

"Congratulations. Unfortunately, I just lost this round."

"Sorry to hear that. But what really matters is that you did your best."

Cammy nodded. "Yes, that's true." She then looked up at him. "Say, did you have breakfast yet?"

Jin shook his head. "No, I just arrived here."

"Great because I just arrived here too. You don't mind sitting with me, do you?"

Jin smirked a little. "I don't mind at all."

Jin and Cammy soon began their walk towards the palace. As they did, Cammy spoke again. "I'll admit… if the food here wasn't free, I'd pay the tab."

Jin smirked more. "That's very kind of you. And if that was the case, I'd say no and I would pay the tab instead."

Cammy laughed at the comment.

During this, Lita watched the two of them head off from a bench next to the fountain. A smirk came over her face. It would seem that Cammy had forgotten about her. However, just for this (and the fact that she instigated this meeting in the first place), she didn't mind at all.

~~~

Forest Area

Not too far from the cave, Kenshi and Alex walked through the forest area. Their plan for that morning was a sparring session. Both had made it to the next round of the tournament and Kenshi wanted to take the time to do some training.

Alex couldn't sleep this morning and when she saw her friend beginning to head out, she had asked him if he wanted to spar with her. Though Kenshi prefers to train alone, he decided that sparring wouldn't hurt this time around.

"I normally train not too far from the hot springs," Kenshi mentioned to her. "Not too many people go to that area, so no one will bother us."

"That's good to know," Alex replied. "And besides, I get the feeling that you're going to kick me to the ground a lot during this sparring session."

Kenshi couldn't help but smirk a bit. As cocky as it seemed, he knew she was, well... correct. "And what makes you think that?" he asked anyway.

Alex eyed him. "Don't play innocent with me. I bet you've been training since before you were able to walk. Me, I knew nothing about combat until I joined the military. And the only weapons I know how to use are guns. Oh, and I'm not telekinetic or have any other 'special' powers. So… that's why I know you'll kick me to the ground."

"Well… I won't use my katana against you if you don't want me to."

Even though Kenshi couldn't see it, Alex spat her tongue out at him anyway. "Very funny. Well, the bright side of this sparring session is that this is not a real match."

A thought came to Alex then and she decided to change the subject. "So I wonder," she began. "You mentioned that you've been traveling about since you were fifteen, roaming mostly Japan to challenge the greatest swordsmen. What made you join Special Forces of all things?"

Kenshi frowned a bit. Indeed he had his reason, one which he never revealed to anyone, even after all these years. However, he didn't want to reveal his reason to join Special Forces, not just yet.

"It's a long story," the swordsman replied after a while. "Perhaps we'll talk about it another time."

Alex was a little disappointed by that answer, but nevertheless, she respected his wishes. “All right.”

It was at that moment that Kenshi suddenly stopped in his tracks. He put his arm out in front of Alex in order to get her to stop walking as well. She stopped just a few inches from his arm, then looked at him in confusion.

"What's up?" she asked.

Kenshi drew his katana from it's scabbard behind his back. "I sense something strange… just stay where you are."

"No problem," Alex said as she took out her gun from its holster.

Keeping his sword in front of him, Kenshi took a few slow steps forward. The only sound that was heard was the cracking leaves that Kenshi stepped on. Alex stood there quietly as she wondered what exactly he sensed.

Kenshi took a few more steps when a figure suddenly popped out from behind a tree. The sudden movement made Alex jump back a bit in surprise.

The figure immediately shot out a green orb-like projectile at Kenshi, who immediately swung his sword at the projectile, making it flying in another direction. The projectile eventually hit a tree.

Alex looked at the attacker and immediately recognized the black and orange outfit the person wore. It was the man who had helped her when he knocked Tanya out unconscious a while ago.

"Wait!" she called out trying to get both Kenshi and the man's attention.

However, neither one of them heard her. Both of them quickly put their hand out. Kenshi's hand glowed a light blue as the man's hand glowed green. It would seem that they both possessed telekinetic powers… because then the both of them found themselves flying back as they both were hit by each other's invisible attacks. They flew a few feet back before hitting a tree.

Alex took the opportunity to intervene at that moment. She immediately ran over to Kenshi, who was just beginning to get himself back on his feet.

"Stop!" she demanded. "This is the man who helped me a while back when I was attacked. Sonya and I told you about it at the last group meeting we had."

The man had got back on his feet himself. He was ready for perform another attack when he recognized Alex and immediately stopped himself.

"Why did you attack?" Kenshi asked him.

The person spoke as though he had multiple voices. "We… we're after another enemy and we had thought that you were the one we were hunting."

Alex looked around a bit. The man had said 'we' but it seemed that he was the only one around.

Kenshi had noticed the same thing. "Why do you say 'we' when you are the only one here?"

"We are Ermac," he answered. "We are an entity composed of thousands of souls fused to what we are now."

Ermac turned his attention to Alex as he proceeded. "When you were attacked by Tanya, we were originally working with her. As a matter of fact, we work for Shao Kahn. However, we no longer wish to serve him. We once believed in him, believed in his plans. However, with Chishio No Me in his hands, we no longer trust him. We do not know what he plans, but we know that it won't be good. He's been good about keeping the initial scheme under wraps."

"Come with us then," Alex suggested. "We're not too-"

"Hold on a minute," Kenshi quickly said, cutting her off. "How do I know that you won't just betray us?"

"If we wanted to betray you," Ermac answered. "We would've never told you that we were working with Shao Kahn, would we?"

Kenshi sighed a bit. It made sense because if he did want to betray them in any way, why would he suddenly mention the Emperor?

"However," Ermac continued. "We are bound to Shao Kahn. As long as Shang Tsung is alive, we are bound to the Emperor until then."

Shang Tsung… the name immediately caught Kenshi's attention. "You want us to kill him?"

"More like defeating him in a fight. However, if you so desire to kill the sorcerer, then be our guest."

Kenshi's grip on the hilt of the katana tightened. "I'd be honored to slay him."

Alex looked at her friend afterward. She had noticed that, at first, he didn't seem much interested in Ermac. However, upon hearing Shang Tsung's name, the swordsman acted as though his previous suspicion didn't happen.

There was something going on and she had the feeling that whatever it was, he wasn't going to mention anything about it.

~~~

Main Palace

It was about one o'clock in the afternoon when Ryu and Mika were leaving the main palace and began heading back towards the forest ahead of them. Thanks to Ken, Ryu was able to work things out. Since Mika wanted to meet for lunch, he decided that it was best to meet up with Julia at four o'clock. This way, he would get four hours with Mika and it was just enough time to eat and train.

Neither girl knew about it either.

"That was a good lunch," said Mika. "They served some great sandwiches today."

"They sure did," Ryu replied as he patted his full stomach.

Mika smiled as she saw him do this. She admitted to herself that they definitely had quite an appetite. Both had lost count of how many sandwiches they had before they got full.

"So," Mika continued. "For our training session today, I want to use the tire again. It's great for warning up. Have you ever tried it?"

Ryu rubbed the back of his neck. "Not really…"

"It's fun. You should give it a try. You're in great shape so I'm sure running with a heavy tire tied to you would be nothing."

"We'll see about that."

"Then after that," Mika proceeded. "We'll do some stretches. Then after that, we'll do the real training session. That definitely sounds like great training, don't you think?"

"Um, sure," Ryu replied, unsure about it. He didn't mind hard physical training… heck training and fighting was his life. However, he wasn't sure if training with a tire was exactly something he wanted to do. He never used any equipment to train.

Might as well give it a try, he thought.

Unknown to either of them, Julia Chang had spotted the both of them about twenty feet away. She was on her way to have lunch when she noticed them and stopped in her tracks. For a moment, she thought that her eyes were playing tricks on her and she even adjusted her glasses just to make sure.

Julia saw the big smile on Mika's face as she and Ryu talked to each other. Ryu talked to her as though he was talking to any other person. Even so, she couldn't help but feel just a little bit jealous.

No, she wasn't jealous of Mika. She was jealous by the fact that Ryu had postponed their plans for this. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad… had he told her that he was hanging out with Mika.

Julia then noticed that the two of them were getting closer to where she was standing. Not wanting to be noticed, Julia stepped away and out of sight.

~~~

Beach Area, Not Far From The Cave

It was now mid-afternoon as Yang headed towards the beach area. He had just finished helping his sister Yin with cleaning the dishes and his hands became dirty in the process. Being that the water at the beach area was the only source of water they had (not counting the hot springs which, obviously, was meant for taking baths), this was where they went to clean their hands.

It was a five minute walk to there and Yang felt like it was taking longer than that. Eventually though, he reached the area, much to his relief. He then saw a figure on their knees right in front of the water.

Yang recognized the thick blond hair and realized that it was Maki, who was cleaning her own hands as well. The young man felt his heart flutter a bit upon seeing her. His crush on her was still there. They've hung out since arriving here in Outworld, but they never actual had any alone time since either Maki was with her friends or Yang was with his own friends or siblings.

Yang came over to Maki and got on his knees. Maki heard him rustle about and turned her head to him. "Hey Yang," she said with a warm smile.

"Hey Maki," Yang replied. "Some tournament this has been, huh?"

"Yeah," Maki shrugged. "Ever since I lost, the only time I've been going there was when I was cheering on for anyone I knew. Other than that and hanging out with the girls, things have been a bit dull around here." Though she didn't mention it, she had been feeling down ever since Ibuki's death. She didn't want to mention it to Yang because she didn't want to break into tears.

"You're telling me," Yang replied. "Since I lost, aside from the different environment, things seem more like at home. Yin and Yun keep bickering at each other and they always want me to take one of their sides."

Maki laughed a little. "That's family for you."

"I'll admit… since Yin lost the tournament, I feel a bit better about losing now. Not that I didn't want Yin to go far or anything. It's strange when your little sister, who used to be such a shy, quiet person, suddenly becomes such a great fighter that you wonder if you've trained enough."

Maki wasn't sure how to comment on it. She figured that there seemed to be a bit of competition amongst the Lee siblings, the three of them competing to see who was the better fighter.

"Well," Maki finally said after a brief pause. "Since we both lost the tournament, it looks like we're in for the long haul."

Yang laughed. "That's true. We're still in round three too. If I remember correctly, this thing is going to round eight so it's definitely going to be a while."

"Let's enjoy it while it lasts."

Maki and Yang found themselves looking at each other when Maki spoke. Yang didn't know what made him do it, but before he realized it, he found himself claiming Maki's lips with his own. Though Maki was caught by surprise, Yang was even more surprised that he made this move. Thoughts rushed through his mind. Does she see him the way he does? If not, would this jeopardize their friendship?

Not long after these thoughts, his fears were put aside when Maki leaned herself closer to Yang and wrapped her arms around him, letting herself sink deeper into the kiss. Feeling more relaxed, Yang wrapped his arms around her as well.

They stayed like this for some time before Maki pulled away and a smile spread across her face. Yang opened his eyes to see this and he too smiled.

Maki couldn't help but giggle a little like a child. "If I knew you liked me to begin with, I would've kissed you sooner."

Yang laughed a little too as he got himself to his feet. "Come on, let's get back to the cave. We'll go to the palace for dinner in a couple of hours if you like."

He put his hand out and Maki took it, pulling herself up to her own feet. "That'll be great," she said.

Still holding hands, the two began walking back towards the cave.

~~~

Campfire

"Well it was nice meeting you," said Wagner as he looked at the new recruit Raven. "Too bad we didn't meet yesterday evening."

Raven nodded at the younger man. "Nice meeting you too," he said. He then got himself up and walked away. Once he did, Sonya scooted herself over to where Raven was previously sitting.

Sonya had just introduced Wagner to Raven. Unfortunately for Wagner, he came down with nausea yesterday evening most likely from the fish he ate at the palace. Because of that, he had missed the group meeting that was conducted in the forest, where they were introduced to Raven. Their situations were explained and Raven agreed to stay in the cave with them for the remainder of his stay. Raiden and Rose believed he had a pure heart and soul and so became the newest chosen one.

"He seems like the workaholic type," Wagner mentioned as he placed some twigs in the burning fire. He then grinned at her mischievously. "Sounds like the perfect guy for you Sonya."

Sonya playfully nudged him with her elbow. "Ha ha, very funny. Have you been eying any girls around here lately?"

"Not really. I just got out of a relationship a month before coming here. As much as we care about each other, we realized that a love relationship wasn't for us. We're still friends, just like we were before."

"I see," Sonya said, tucking her shoulder length blond hair behind her ear. "So hey, how's your search going?"

Wagner sighed as he thought about his sister Lisa. Though he had been keeping his eyes out everywhere he went, he found no sign of her.

"Not so great," the young man replied. "Especially since I don't have any leads. We don't even know if any former Shadaloo soldiers are even here. Honestly though, I've been keeping my eye out, but I'm not really sure where to really begin."

"Have you been checking the main palace?" Sonya asked.

"With so many people there, definitely. However, I look there everyday and find nothing."

"With no leads for you as of now, just continue keeping a sharp eye out," Sonya suggested. "There's still plenty of time before the tournament's over."

Wagner nodded. "I know. Then again, for all I know, she may not even be here at all. If she is, she'd obviously be with a former Shadaloo soldier." He then proceeded to crack his knuckles. "When I find them, the first thing I'm going to do it break the guy's neck."

Sonya said nothing as she stared into the campfire. She'd seen many of her comrades seek revenge for any reason. She just hoped, for Wagner's sake, that he doesn't get himself in a big mess.

~~~

In The Cave

Four o'clock came around. Mika had departed a half hour before and Ryu waited until it was time to get Julia from her room, where she told him to meet her when he changed plans.

Once they met up, Ryu immediately could tell that something was bothering Julia. He asked her if everything was all right, but Julia had waved a hand and told him everything was fine.

They headed out of the cave and into the forest. They only walked for five minutes until they found a comfortable spot. They sat across each other, leaning against a tree and began to meditate.

However, it only lasted for ten minutes. Ryu knew that Julia seemed distracted and couldn't get herself to meditate properly. Once the ten minutes passed, Ryu suggested that they go for the walk they planned. Julia agreed so they got up and began walking through the forest, staying on the trail in the process.

They were silent for some time before Ryu spoke. "Julia… people like Ken consider me a hermit, but that doesn't mean that I can't tell if something's bothering someone."

Julia sighed to herself when he said this. Perhaps it was best to tell him what was bothering her.

"I saw you and Mika leaving the palace together earlier," she said. "If you had told me that's what you planned, I'd encourage it so long that we hung out later or earlier. I don't mind if you hang out with someone else. Why didn't you tell me about this to begin with?"

Ryu sighed to himself, feeling awful about the situation. "If I had known that you didn't mind, I would've told you. I didn't want to hurt your feelings since I planned to spend the day with you first. I didn't want to hurt either of your feelings. I apologize for this, it won't happen again."

Julia nodded. "Just remember for next time." She forgave him, but she still felt disappointed. Ryu did make plans with her first after all. If he made plans with Mika first, that was a different story.

"Let's go back," Julia suddenly said. "I'm feeling tired."

"All right," Ryu replied as they turned around and headed back towards the cave.

At that moment, Ryu not only cursed himself, but also cursed mentally at Ken. Never again will he take any of his women advice. The whole 'hang-out-with-both-girls-and-don't-tell-either-of-them-because-they'll-get-mad' thing was not worth it in the very least.

~~~

Not Too Far In the Forest

After some training, Matrik decided to head back to the cave for the day. As she did, she thought about the past events since coming to the tournament.

The main reason she was here was because of her former master Sektor. If she wasn't sure of who she really was, if she didn't have any Tekunin members hunting her down, she would've never really bothered with this tournament. Instead, she would've gone into seclusion. She believed that Sektor knew who she really was before becoming a cyborg. Once she does find that information, he was a good as dead, literally.

So, once she heard the rumor that Sektor was heading to the tournament, she made the trip to Hong Kong where the boats to the tournament were departing from. She had worn a dark cloak to conceal her cyborg features so that she didn't draw any attention from anyone.

There, she recognized, from her data, her former's clan rival… the Lin Kuei Grandmaster Sub-Zero. She knew that one of his missions was to take down the Tekunin and knew that he was a good ally. It took a little convincing, having to tackle him down and all. Once Sub-Zero realized that they had the same goal, he was willing to team up with her… so long that she kept her word.

When they arrived at the cave, Matrik gave Sub-Zero further information about the Tekunin. What they do, what they've planned, but the most valuable information of them all was where they were located. The location was deep within the mountains of northern Japan. This information was indeed useful for Sub-Zero. The moment they return to Earthrealm, he would make plans with the Lin Kuei to travel to Japan and destroy the Tekunin once and for all.

Since then, they've gone their separate ways, at least for now. Matrik had spent all this time searching for Sektor and trained her mind and body for the tournament as well. She wasn't expecting to find Sektor anywhere in this Outworld, at least until near the end of the tournament.

However, that wasn't the case when an incident occurred three days ago. She saw the wraith Noob Saibot and the cyborg Smoke, who had many similarities to herself, in the forests. She followed them and discovered Sektor working with the both of them.

That was all Matrik needed. She had discovered Sektor's current hideout. Since then, she hadn't told a soul of her discovery. She knew that everyone else in the cave wanted to help with this. However, Matrik believed that this particular situation wasn't essential to their actual mission. From what she saw, Sektor was only working with Smoke and Noob, no one else.

The only other person she was going to talk to about this was Sub-Zero. However, she had not seen him around in the last three days. She knew that he was still about, training and meditating in order to prepare himself for his own matches. The next time she saw him, she planned to tell him her discovery.

As Matrik continued to walk through the forest, a figure suddenly jumped at her in surprise. The figure managed to tackle her to the ground, but she immediately kicked the person off of her. She noted the heavy weight as she did so.

She got back on her feet, as did the figure. The female cyborg got a better look at her attacker and immediately recognized Smoke, much to her surprise. Clearly, they'd been hunting her down since she discovered their hideout.

Not wasting anymore time, Smoke ran towards Matrik and soon the two found themselves in combat. Smoke began by throwing a handful of punches at Matrik, who retaliated by performing some punch and kick combos.

The two continued fighting for some time. During that, Matrik realized that the both of them had very similar fighting styles. Her hunch about him was correct… he was definitely built from the same technology that made her and Sektor. Where he came from, she wasn't sure.

At one point, Smoke sank into the ground and Matrik knew what was coming. She took a few steps away as Smoke came out of the ground and did an uppercut, completely missing her.

As he came back down, Matrik put her right foot out, a small saw extending out from the bottom of the foot. When he was close enough, Matrik performed a few kicks with that foot. All missed him except for the last one, which cut one of the outer wires on his arm.

Immediately, electricity surrounded Smoke and he backed away from Matrik as he began to malfunction. He then turned around and began running off as though he was in a rush. Matrik went after him, but eventually lost him amongst the trees.

Hopefully, he got the message to stay away from her. Without any other thought, she headed back to the cave area.

Matrik soon reached the cave grounds… and it so happened that the first person she saw was Sub-Zero, who seemed to be heading into the forest as well. Immediately, she went over to him.

"It's been a while," said Sub-Zero. "I haven't found any traces of Sektor since we got here. Have you?"

"Yes, I have," Matrik replied. "As a matter of fact, I found his hideout a couple of days ago. It seems that he planning something. What it is, I'm not sure about. All I know is that he has gained two allies from the deal. One is an undead figure named Noob Saibot. The other is another cyborg, a gray one named Smoke."

The name immediately caught Sub-Zero's attention. "Smoke? …Are you sure?"

"I'm very sure."

Sub-Zero's blue eyes widened a bit in surprise. He was silent for a moment before speaking again. "Smoke… I thought he was killed the last time we were here…"

"You know him?" Matrik asked curiously.

"Know him?" Sub-Zero answered. "He was my best friend. We were both members of what I call 'the old Lin Kuei.' Things were fine in the clan… until they began to make their members into cyborgs for reasons I'll never know. I do know that Sektor had volunteered himself for this and he was actually the first person to become a souless cyborg. Smoke and I wanted nothing to do with it. We both believed that it was a fate worse than death. We escaped the clan and though I managed to get out of there completely, Smoke wasn't so lucky. He was captured and turned him into what you saw of him now. As a matter of fact, he was sent out to kill me. The last time I saw him, it was right here in Outworld. I had managed to help him realize that he still had a soul. However, we ended up separating and I had not seen him since. I presumed he was dead… but now I know that he's still alive."

After telling the story, Sub-Zero brought up another subject. "You said that you found Sektor's location."

"Yes," Matrik replied.

"Good. We'll take the next couple of days to plan things out. I wish to head out tomorrow, but I have a match to attend to."

"I have my match in two days," Matrik mentioned.

Sub-Zero nodded. "All right. For now, our main motive will be to rescue Smoke. We'll take care of Sektor and the wraith after the tournament. As much as I want to take care of them now, it's best to heed Raiden's words to not get into real conflict with anyone outside the cave."

Matrik nodded in agreement. "Follow me. At least let me you show you the location."

She then began to walk back towards the forest and Sub-Zero followed her.

Chapter Text

Early the next morning…

In the cave, Li Mei was the first to wake up. She slowly sat up and sighed to herself a bit, feeling her back crack a couple of times in the process. I have been sitting around for way too long, she thought to herself.

She had lost the tournament during the second round. With the last day of round three tomorrow, it sure felt like a long time since. Even with her loss, Li Mei tried to keep her good spirit up.

However, she had been the one to witness Ibuki's death. She regretted never getting a good look at her killer's face all because she felt that she fled in fear. Li Mei had spent quite some time training to be a good fighter and to never fear anything, even in the face of death. She felt that not only did she fail her masters and Ibuki, but also herself.

Which reminded her… it had been some time since she manage to escape from her own village of Sun Do, located about a three hour walk from here. A while before the announcement of the tournament, the people working for Shao Kahn enslaved her and her people. They had made them work hard labor under threat of death. She had seen many fall to their deaths, mainly from exhaustion.

Li Mei, however, managed to escape Sun Do when she and a handful of other villagers rebelled against some of the guards. Li Mei was the only one of the group who managed to make it out alive, at least as far as she knew.

Knowing about the tournament, Li Mei came here. She knew that there would be others from other realms coming to the tournament. It was her chance to be able to leave Outworld and start her life anew.

She admitted that the way she acted was not normal for her… it was the only way for her to cover her true emotions. She didn't want anyone in the cave to keep asking her if everything was all right.

Li Mei wondered about the people in Sun Do. Have things been calm since the tournament began? Has it grown worse since? Were her brother and grandfather okay?

She had to know.

The young woman knew that everyone would be busy with the tournament today so it would be easier for her to leave without being asked where she was going. It was something she wanted to deal with on her own.

She got herself dressed in her favorite outfit… a purple low-cut shirt decorated with white flowers, purple baggy pants with white trims with black and gold button piece of fabric on each side, a lavender sash, and a pair of geta shoes. She then got her Kunlun Dao sword, which was in a scabbard, and placed the strap around her torso.

Once she was ready, Li Mei headed out. She knew that once she got there, the town was going to be surrounded by Shao Kahn's guards. The young woman promised herself that no matter what happens, she won't back down this time.

~~~

Outdoor Arena

During a match, Chun Li delivered a few kicks while her opponent Sindel attempted to block them. Sindel waited for the right moment and soon found an opening as she delivered her own punches and kicks, which Chun Li blocked as well. The two had been going at it for only a minute, but to them, their match was just beginning.

The two women fought hand to hand for a bit before Sindel suddenly jumped up. Chun Li backed away quickly, believing that the older woman was going to deliver a high kick. However, that wasn't the case as purple energy surrounded Sindel and now she was floating just a few feet above Chun Li's head.

From there, Sindel opened her mouth and began shooting purple projectiles at Chun Li every few seconds. Each time, Chun Li had to maneuver herself out of the way. She had to especially stay on alert due to the fact that the projectiles were raining down on her fast.

Eventually, after dodge yet another purple projectile, Chun Li shot both of her hands up. "Kikoken!" she cried out as a blue projectile shot out of her hands. It barely missed Sindel as she flew back down to the ground. The projectile flew over her head and were a few more feet towards the sky before it dispersed.

Once she got back on her feet, Sindel dived forward and slid across the floor in an attempt to grab on to Chun Li's ankles. Instead, Chun Li jumped over Sindel, somersaulting forward in the process and ended up behind her.

Sindel quickly got back on her feet afterward. She turned her head and saw an incoming punch, blocking it right on time. Once again, the two women fought hand to hand, both switching between offense and defense.

Eventually, Sindel managed to break the barrier and delivered a few punches to Chun Li's face. Chun Li backed away, holding her face in pain. Sindel then attempted to cover the distance between them.

However, Chun Li was prepared this time.

The Interpol detective lifted one leg up once Sindel was close enough. She then rapidly delivered endless kicks with her one leg in such a speed that her leg looked as though it blurred out. Sindel was hit multiple times before Chun Li delivered one last hard kick. The kick was enough to send Sindel flying back… and out of the ring.

Chun Li stood where she was as her name was announced as the winner of the match. She was surprised that she had won. Sindel was her toughest opponent yet since this tournament began.

After the thought, Chun Li walked over to Sindel, who was just sitting up after taking her fall. Sindel looked up at her and managed to smirk a bit. "Congratulations on your win," the Queen of Edenia said.

Chun Li smiled. Despite losing, Sindel seemed to take it well. In respect, Chun Li helped her back on her feet with Sindel taking her hand and pulling herself up. "Thank you," Chun Li replied. "You did great yourself and you were a very good challenge."

Sindel smiled. "Glad to hear I gave you quite the workout. I wish you the best in the tournament. I must go, my daughter has her match today as well and I hope to get there before her turn is up."

With that, the older woman left the area as Chun Li walked to the other side of the arena to meet up with her friends who were watching her match.

~~~

Courtyard

"Cassandra Alexandra!" Shang Tsung announced as he began the setup for the next match.

Wielding her sword and shield once again, Cassandra walked into the ring, ready for her match. Here she was in the third round in the tournament… and three times in a row, she was assigned to this very ring, which she knew was coincidence, but found funny none the less.

She soon reached the middle and awaited her opponent, curious as to who it was. Soon the name was announced.

"Ivy Valentine!"

Cassandra turned her head and noticed a tall woman entering the ring. In her hand was a sword, which was a bit thicker and a couple of inches longer than her own sword. It was what Cassandra hoped for… a sword fight, just like the last two times.

Ivy soon stood a few feet from Cassandra. Both got into their stances. "Good luck," Cassandra said with a small smile.

The older woman smirked a bit. "Hmph, you'll need it."

The small smile on Cassandra's face faded. Wow, she's cold, she thought with a bit of bitterness.

Shang Tsung sat back down on his throne once he saw that both women were ready for battle. "Begin!" he called out.

Ivy seemed to not want to waste any time as she covered the distance between herself and Cassandra. Their swords clashed almost immediately. The two then pulled back and Ivy lashed her sword out again at Cassandra, who blocked the incoming move with her shield. During this, Cassandra could hear her friends cheering on for her. This alone made Cassandra more determined to win this match.

During the fight, Cassandra lashed out her shield and attempted to hit Ivy with it. However, Ivy blocked the move with her sword. I think it's time to have some real fun, the older woman thought.

Ivy managed to dodge another one of Cassandra's moves. She then pulled back, lashing her sword behind her. The sword uncoiled itself, turning into eight pieces. She then lashed her weapon out at Cassandra. The weapon's sudden change caught Cassandra by surprise and was just barely blocking the extended sword with her shield.

Then, to Cassandra's surprise, Ivy's sword wrapped itself around Cassandra's sword, then pulled it away from her hand.

"My sword!" Cassandra called out as she saw her weapon land on the opposite side of the ring. Once her own weapon was on the ground, Ivy immediately swung her sword back at Cassandra, aiming for her head. Once again, the younger woman blocked the incoming attack. She realized how close she was to Ivy and decided to make a daring attack of her own.

"Take this!" Cassandra called out as she raised her shield above her before bashing it in Ivy's face. The move knocked Ivy to the floor, which just gave Cassandra enough time to go to the opposite end of the ring to get her sword.

Just as Cassandra got her sword, Ivy's own sword managed to wrap itself around both of her legs. Cassandra then suddenly found herself being pulled back before flying in the air. Ivy took a moment to whip her around the ring for a bit, smirking as she heard Cassandra shriek a few times. She then pulled her towards her and had her land on the ground face first before letting her sword coil back to one piece.

Cassandra managed to lift one of her feet and smack Ivy in the face with it as she reached her. The smack, thankfully, was hard enough to knock Ivy further back and down to the floor. The younger fighter rolled away from her opponent before getting herself back on her feet. She got into a fighting stance, ready for more.

Ivy got herself back on her feet, narrowing her eyes at Cassandra. "You'll pay dearly for that!"

Cassandra said nothing as she ran over to Ivy to continue the fight. In reply, Ivy lifted one leg up then twirled a few times, surrounding herself with her sword, which was once again uncoiled. Cassandra managed to stop herself and blocked the spinning sword with her shield.

Once Ivy stopped spinning, Cassandra jumped up and managed to wrap her legs around Ivy's neck. This one's for you Sophitia, she thought before twisting herself. Had she added more pressure, she would've surely broken Ivy's neck. However, it was just enough to stun her. Cassandra then jumped off as Ivy stumbled back as she held on to her neck, coughing violently.

Quickly, Cassandra raised her sword in an attempt to summon lighting from the sky. However, before a lightning bolt even came down, her sword was once again wrapped by Ivy's sword. Though it caught Cassandra by surprise, she was more prepared this time, keeping a tight grip on the hilt.

"I definitely saw that coming," Ivy said, a smirk once again appearing on her face.

However, Cassandra had another surprise up her sleeve. She concentrated some energy around her and soon a red aura quickly appeared and trailed through her sword and then through Ivy's sword. The move eventually reached Ivy, knocking her back a bit.

Cassandra saw another opportunity then. Quickly, she charged green energy in her sword. However, as Ivy recovered, she did the same. At the same time, they charged at each other and their swords clashed. The energy caused an invisible explosion, sending shockwaves out of the ring, past the viewers and out of the Courtyard grounds. The viewers had yelped in surprised before falling completely silent, quite impressed by the two women.

Ivy and Cassandra soon clashed swords again, going back and forth in the process. During that, Ivy managed to kick Cassandra back a few feet. It was now time to end this…

The older woman placed her uncoiled sword just under Cassandra, who was still recovering from the kick. Using energy around her, Ivy charged up her sword before quickly lifting her sword up. The sword hit Cassandra at such a force that it sent her flying quite high in the air, letting out a shriek in the process. Soon she landed on her side and was rendered unconscious.

Shang Tsung stood up once he realized this. "Winner: Ivy Valentine!"

The audience clapped afterward. Some even whistled, obviously quite impressed with the match. Cassandra's friends jumped into the ring to see if she was all right. Meanwhile, Ivy coiled her sword back in one piece before leaving the ring.

She thought she could really win? Ivy thought. How cute.

~~~

Indoor Arena

"There you are, mother," Princess Kitana said as she spotted Queen Sindel arriving at the indoor arena.

Sindel managed to pass through the other viewers of the tournament and was able to reach Kitana and Jade. "Good, you didn't have your match yet. I'm glad I came here right on time."

"How did you do in your match?" Jade asked.

Sindel sighed a little. "Unfortunately, I didn't make it out the winner. I am thankful that my loss was to a nice young lady rather than some repulsive person who shouldn't have gone this far to begin with."

"That's true," Kitana said.

After the conversation, the three of them watched a couple of matches pass. Eventually, the next match was to begin and the Shadow Priest hosting the tournament in the indoor arena soon announced the first of the two fighters.

"Kitana!" it called out.

"About time," said Jade. "Good luck Princess."

"Indeed," Sindel followed. "And please don't be disappointed if you lose."

"I'll try not to be," Kitana replied before getting herself in the ring.

Once the Princess reached the middle, her opponent's name was announced. "Ryu!"

A young man stepped into the ring. "So," Sindel said. "Looks like she'll be fighting a man this time."

"Yes," Jade answered. "And if I say so myself, he's quite handsome."

Sindel quickly turned to the younger woman, a small smirk appearing on her face. Jade was still looking ahead before she felt the Queen staring at her. She turned her head and upon looking at her face, she realized what she said.

"Eh, did I say that out loud?" Jade asked as she put a hand on her own cheek.

Sindel smiled. "Don't worry dear, it'll be between us. Which gives me an idea… when we return to Edenia, maybe I can pair you with a nice, young noble man."

"Um… thanks, but no thanks," Jade said before turning her head back towards the ring.

In the ring, Ryu and Kitana stood a few feet from each other. Kitana bowed to him. "Good luck to you."

In reply, Ryu bowed to her as well. "The same to you." They then got into their stances.

"Begin!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Right away, Kitana jumped toward him and began throwing some punches and kicks, forcing Ryu on defense. This lasted for some time before Ryu managed to find an opening and began fighting back. For a minute or two, they fought like this, both switching between offense and defense.

When she got the chance, Kitana pulled back a bit before jumping forward again. She lifted one leg and managed to kick Ryu. The first kick forced Ryu to stumbled. However, as she pulled her one leg back down, she pulled up her other leg, once again kicking him. This second kick knocked him back and on the floor as Kitana herself landed safely on both feet.

Ryu rolled back before getting back on his feet. He then ran forward before jumping up, placing one leg out. "Tatsumaki Senpuukyaku!" he called out as he spun around in the air rapidly. Kitana saw the attack coming and managed to duck down under it before gliding herself to the side.

Once he was back on his feet, Ryu turned and went after Kitana. Again, they fought hand to hand, but it was shorter than the first time. Kitana pulled herself back before being surrounded by a blue mist and suddenly disappeared from Ryu's eyes. Before Ryu could react, he was suddenly kicked to the ground from behind by Kitana, who managed to teleport behind him.

In the audience, Jade cheered for Kitana. "Yes! She finally got that move to work!"

"You taught her well Jade," Sindel answered as she applauded along with some of the other viewers.

Back in the ring… as Ryu got himself up, Kitana took out one of her two fan blades from her boot. As Ryu turned around, she opened the fan and threw it forward, the weapon spinning towards Ryu in the process. He immediately got himself out of the way and the weapon went past him.

From there, he ran back after Kitana. He then does a forward motion with an elbow out and managed to land the attack on Kitana, who stumbled back a bit. Once she recovered, she went after him.

However it turned out to be a mistake as Ryu crouched himself down with one fist clenched.

"Shouryuken!" he called out once Kitana was close to him. He jumped up and performed a powerful uppercut, sending the both of them flying in the air. Soon, Ryu landed safely back on his feet as Kitana, already unconscious from the last move, landed on the ground with a thud.

"Winner: Ryu!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Sindel and Jade immediately jumped into the ring to check up on Kitana as Ryu watched from where he stood. He wasn't sure whether or not he should check up on her. In his last match, a friend of his opponent Xianghua gave him a lecture about his actions when he left her without checking to see if she was all right.

However, it would seem that he got the okay to leave when the white-haired woman checking up on Kitana turned to him and nodded, letting him know that it was all right. Ryu nodded to her before leaving the ring.

~~~

Far From The Tournament Grounds

After a very long walk, Li Mei finally reached the Outworld village of Sun Do. Upon viewing the village, Li Mei had expected Shao Kahn's guards to surround the gates that surrounded the village.

However, not one guard was in sight and Li Mei immediately assumed that it was safe to pass through.

Have my people been freed? she thought to herself with hope.

Li Mei emerged from the forest and reached the entrance to Sun Do. As she entered, a dark feeling came over her suddenly, a feeling that felt as though something was wrong.

She looked around the village. She remembered how it looked before she and her people were enslaved. The place was filled with wooden-built homes, each baring stairs and porches that lead up to the entrances. People had gone about their business. Li Mei remembered the happy faces of those she didn't know and the smiles on those she knew every time she greeted them.

She knew that those days were pretty much over. Even if most of the villagers survived, the happiness would be gone, the traumatic experience leaving them in unspeakable states.

Li Mei walked further into the village, walking on the pebbled sidewalk. A chill came up her spine as she realized how quiet it was around her. Not even the sound of the wind was heard.

The young woman was walking for some time before she made a turn at a corner. Upon seeing the sight before her, Li Mei immediately stopped in her tracks, gasping in horror in the process.

Before her, countless corpses were littered all around, all covered in a mix of dirt and blood. The bodies were of children, teenagers, adults, and elders alike. It would seem that they died not too long ago for that most were just beginning to decompose. It would also explain why the smell didn't hit her until now.

In the distance out in a small field, Li Mei saw another horrifying sight that caused the tears she was fighting back to escape her eyes. A field of poles stood like stones in a graveyard… each one baring a decapitated head of a villager.

Li Mei looked down at her hands as the tears continuously poured down her face. "So this was our fate. If only I had been here, this may not have happened…"

It was then that she heard voices not too far from her. She turned to her right and was a bit surprised to see three men walking towards her… each one wearing a uniform, obviously members of Shao Kahn's guards. They were talking amongst themselves, they had not noticed Li Mei just ahead of them.

And they had not noticed her unsheathing her sword…

"It would seem that our job here is done," one guard said. "It's about time we received orders to return to the Emperor's palace."

"Tell me about it," another guard agreed. "I was sick of being here."

"Besides," a third guard said. "I'm curious to know how the tournament's going-"

He was suddenly cut off as he suddenly felt a sword plunge right into his chest. He turned to see the face of the young woman behind the sword before death consumed him.

Li Mei pulled her sword out of the man's body as the other two guards pulled out their own swords, prepared to attack her.

"That was just luck!" the second guard cried out as he lashed his sword out.

Li Mei quickly blocked the sword with her own. The two exchanged swords moves for only a few seconds. When she found an opening, Li Mei pulled one leg back before kicking forward, flipping back in the process. She managed to land the blow right at the man's stomach. The move forced the man to fall back on the ground. Before he got up, Li Mei kicked him back again before raising her sword and swinging it down, decapitating the man in the process.

The other guard had his sword out and was ready to stab it through her back. However, to his surprise, Li Mei jabbed the weapon at him first and managed to stab him right through the abdomen without even turning to face him.

The man stood there in surprise. Before he knew it, Li Mei took the sword out and turned quickly to face him, swinging her sword once again at him. A slice was heard and the body collapsed after, his head rolling away a few feet from his body.

For a while, Li Mei stood above the slaughtered guards as their blood dripped on the ground from her sword. Though her face was wet from her sorrow, the tears had stopped. That moment, she made a promise to herself. From this day forward, she would improve herself as a fighter. Every fight she would become involved in, she would do it for the people of Sun Do.

Keeping her sword in her hand, Li Mei left Sun Do, most likely to never return to the once-peaceful village.

~~~

Evening, Underground Lair

After entering the ring upon hearing his name being called, Sub-Zero stretched himself out a bit, ready for the fight that was about to start. He waited for the name of his opponent to be called out, looking at the viewers before him trying to make a guess of who it could be.

However, unknown to the ice ninja, he was about to be in for a big surprise. Before Shang Tsung even announced his opponent's name, he nearly forgot that he set up this fight and tried to withhold his sadistic laughter. Soon, the name was announced…

"Scorpion!"

Sub-Zero raised an eyebrow as he remembered the name… the name of an old foe from his past. He figured that the name was just a coincidence.

However, upon seeing the yellow-clad ninja step into the ring, Sub-Zero looked at him in surprise. It was at this very world where he last saw the hellspawn spectre… the man responsible for the murder of his brother, the original Sub-Zero.

In their last meeting, Scorpion thought that he and the old Lin Kuei played a role in the death of his family and clan, the Shirai Ryu. Though Sub-Zero's older brother was responsible for Scorpion's own murder, they had nothing to do with the other murders. It was in fact Quan Chi who was responsible. When the sorcerer attempted to send Scorpion back to the Netherrealm, the spectre took him along for the ride. Until this very moment, Sub-Zero had not seen him since.

As Scorpion approached him, Sub-Zero shifted his eyes at the sorcerer sitting at his throne. Indeed the past was catching up with him. Upon his brother's death, the old Lin Kuei had sent Sub-Zero to assassinate Shang Tsung, the very assignment that his brother failed. Scorpion had been after him then as well, thinking him to be his brother. However, upon witnessing Sub-Zero sparing the life of his defeated opponent, Scorpion realized that it wasn't the same person… the older Sub-Zero didn't show any mercy when he killed him all those years ago.

Soon, Sub-Zero and Scorpion stood a few feet from one another. They stared at each other for a moment before Scorpion got himself in a fighting stance. Sub-Zero slowly followed after.

Shang Tsung saw that they were ready. "Begin!" he called out.

Not wasting any time, the two ran towards each other, thus beginning the match. They began hand to hand, each of them going on offense and defense. They delivered their moves in high speed, both fighters extremely skilled at their respectful fighting styles.

Some time past before both of them pulled back. Sub-Zero pushed his hands out as an ice projectile came out of his hands. Just as fast, Scorpion shot out his own fireball projectile. Both projectiles reached each other and clashed before dispersing.

Then, Sub-Zero pulled his hands out a bit and spread then apart. Collecting water vapors from the air, the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei was able to form his large Kori Blade. In reply, Scorpion pulled out his Mugai Ryu sword. They raced after each other and eventually their weapons clashed with one another.

They swung their weapons back and forth a couple of times before Scorpion managed to push Sub-Zero a bit, forcing the blue-clad fighter to turn 180 degrees. Scorpion swung his weapon down towards his back, but Sub-Zero swung his own sword over his shoulder and held it in front of his back. The weapon managed to catch Scorpion's. As Scorpion pulled back after the block, Sub-Zero turned to face the yellow-clad fighter, swinging his sword sideways.

Scorpion jumped over the weapon, doing an air-split in the process. As he fell back down towards the ground, he swung his sword back down again, which Sub-Zero pulled himself back from. Scorpion landed on the ground with his feet and the two fought with their swords for another few seconds. However, having a larger sword, Sub-Zero eventually knocked Scorpion's sword right out of his hand, the weapon landing outside the ring.

Sub-Zero let his sword disperse in the air afterward. He then saw that Scorpion was running after him. In retaliation, Sub-Zero jumped back, leaving an ice-made clone of himself in the process. Scorpion saw this move done in their past fights and he managed to stop himself just inches from the clone, knowing that he would be frozen upon touching it. He stood his ground until the clone dispersed into water vapors.

Having been standing before the clone, Sub-Zero immediately kicked Scorpion in the face once it was gone. He then attempted another kick, but Scorpion blocked the move, then followed with a backhand, which Sub-Zero ducked under before delivering a punch to Scorpion's abdomen. The move connected, causing Scorpion to keel over for a split second.

Once he recovered, Scorpion attempted a roundhouse kick, but Sub-Zero managed to duck under it. With that, he turned himself fully around, sidestepping once in the process before using both palms to deliver a powerful push that sent Scorpion flying back a few feet. He landed just a few feet from the edge of the ring, but that close call didn't seem to faze the spectre as he bend his knees back and pushed himself back up on his feet.

Afterward, Scorpion shot his hand out. Quickly a spear connected to a rope came out of his hand and managed to lodge itself into Sub-Zero's shoulder. Sub-Zero let out a small yelp upon being impaled.

"GET OVER HERE!" Scorpion called out as he pulled Sub-Zero, stunned from the move, towards him. Once he was close enough, Scorpion pulled the spear out of him. He then disappeared in a puff of smoke before reappearing behind and above him, delivering a kick to Sub-Zero, who stumbled forward.

Once back on his feet, Scorpion raised his hands. Knowing what was coming, Sub-Zero did a backward flip as a burst of flames shot out of the ground where he originally stood.

When the fire was cleared out, Sub-Zero attempted to go after Scorpion again. However, the spectre had another trick up his sleeve. Once Sub-Zero was close enough, Scorpion performed a backwards somersault, a line of fire following his feet in the process. The move managed to connect, the force sending Sub-Zero flying back… and out of the ring.

When Scorpion landed back on his feet, Shang Tsung stood. "Winner: Scorpion!"

The audience clapped as Sub-Zero sat himself back up, realizing his loss. He was just about to get back on his feet when he noticed Scorpion approaching him. He stayed still for a moment until Scorpion stopped a few feet from him. Once he did, Sub-Zero got himself back on his feet.

Scorpion spoke. "I have not forgotten our deal… any future encounters we'll have will just be coincidence."

Sub-Zero nodded as he understood. Despite their past and despite Sub-Zero's involvement with the Lin Kuei, Scorpion vowed not to harm him, since he was never involved in the murders of himself, his family, and his clan.

Having nothing more to say, Scorpion walked past him and left the arena. Sub-Zero stayed in his place for a minute. Once the next match was announcement, he soon left as well…

~~~

Forest Area, Not Far From the Main Palace

Sitting cross-legged and leaning against a tree, Yoshimitsu took the time to reflect on the events that took place during the past few days.

Three days ago, he lost the Blood Tournament. Normally after being defeated in battle, Yoshimitsu would try to learn from his mistakes in the fight and move on after. However, this loss meant more to him than many will ever know. With the medallion he once possessed involved in this tournament, it was completely different.

Yoshimitsu's hoped that upon winning the tournament, he would destroy the medallion. With his loss, his plans were now nothing more than a setback. He didn't have much of a backup plan, but he figured out a small plan for now…

Once he knew of the winner of the tournament, he would try to get the medallion. He hoped to reason with the winner, maybe going as far as telling him what it's done to him…

No… it was too drastic. He needed a better plan than that. Besides, he was a thief, he could just find the winner's room and snatch it away. Then again, with the medallion's power, it may be too risky.

This was indeed no minor setback. Yoshimitsu had to think of a good plan. The last day of round three was tomorrow and it would be soon that they would reach round eight, the final round the tournament. Whatever was to happen, he had to find a way to get the medallion away from the winner… how, he couldn't figure it out.

While he was thinking, footsteps were suddenly heard not too far him. Immediately, Yoshimitsu reached for the hilt of his katana, which immediately glowed green upon touching it. Once he did, the footsteps stopped.

The unknown person realized that Yoshimitsu knew that he was there.

A whoosh! was heard. Yoshimitsu knew a weapon was thrown at him. He sat in his place calmly and waited. Once the weapon was close enough, Yoshimitsu turned invisible, the weapon plunging through him without hitting anything fatal.

The figure who attacked him came out of his hiding place, confused by what just happened. Unknown to him, Yoshimitsu appeared right behind him and flew down towards him. He slashed his sword out, did a forward roll, and finally landed on his feet, the attacker now behind him.

The attacker stood there stunned, amazed by Yoshimitsu's skills. Indeed he underestimated him as did the person who gave the order to assassinate him. Another moment passed before the attacker's torso detached from the rest of his body and fell to the ground.

Upon hearing the thud, Yoshimitsu straightened himself up. It would seem that another problem had arisen. This was the second time since coming to the tournament that someone tried to kill him. To him it was no coincidence.

Someone was watching him… and that someone wanted him dead.

Chapter Text

The final day of round three of the tournament has finally been reached. Though there was going to be eight rounds throughout the whole tournament, many felt as though at this point, they were just about halfway done with the entire Blood Tournament.

It was only a matter of one question… who will emerge the victor of the tournament? Which one of these participants will earn the right of ownership to the Chishio No Me medallion?

Only time will tell.

~~~

Courtyard

"Anna Williams!" Shang Tsung called out, beginning the first match of the day.

Anna smiled to herself as she stepped into the ring. She nearly expected to spend all morning waiting for her turn to fight in the tournament. Now that she was the very first person to be called upon for the first match, Anna was quite delighted and was feeling good about it.

The young woman reached the middle of the ring and looked up at Shang Tsung. She remembered how he invited her along with Vega, Sagat, and Viper to join with him and Shao Kahn, assisting them in their cause. As appreciation, Anna smiled up at Shang Tsung, winking in the process. Shang Tsung smirked a little in reply.

After a few seconds, Shang Tsung called out Anna's opponent. "Matrik!"

The cyborg Matrik stepped into the ring. Anna raised an eyebrow a bit, not very impressed by the fact that she had to fight her. However, she was indeed going to be a challenge and Anna indeed loved challenges.

Once Matrik stood a few feet from Anna, she got into a fighting stance. Anna followed afterwards.

"Begin!" Shang Tsung called out.

Immediately, Anna and Matrik covered the space between then and began their match. It started with Matrik immediately getting the upper hand, forcing Anna to go on defense. During this, Anna noted the strength of Matrik's punches. Indeed she had a challenge ahead of her.

This went on for about a minute before Anna found an opening. Once she did, she broke out of her defense and managed to land a blow to Matrik's face. She then followed up with some punch combos before lifting her leg and kicking her up a couple of feet into the air. Matrik landed on her side afterward, but then she rolled herself to the side before getting back up on her feet.

Once she did, Matrik's fingers pulled back, then reappeared as small cutting knives. Anna was a bit surprised by this, but being a trained assassin herself, dodging these was going to be nothing. Matrik ran over to the young woman, then began slashing her sharp fingers at Anna, who easily avoided them with great speed.

Anna once again waited for the right opportunity to strike again. When it came, she punched Matrik twice, forming a purple energy around her hands in the process. She then followed with a third punch. The energy she collected in her hands strengthened her for a moment and she was able to push Matrik a few feet back from her. Before the cyborg was able to land, Matrik did a backward roll in order to avoid a bumpy fall. After the roll, she was once again on her feet.

When Matrik was ready, Anna went after her and performed some punch and kick combos, forcing Matrik to be on her guard. She managed to block them all before she saw an opening. She kicked one foot up, a buzz being heard as the small saw at the bottom of her foot came out.

Anna jumped back in a bit of surprise, but it still wasn't enough. A part of her red dress ended up being cut a few inches upward just near the silt on her left side. Anna checked the damage before looking up at Matrik.

"Why you little!" she screamed out angrily. She quickly jumped up and performed an air kick at Matrik. Upon impact, an energy seemed to explode, only causing Matrik to stumble back.

Once Anna was back on her feet, Matrik performed a few kick combos, some of them hitting Anna, who attempted to block her. She then used both of her hands to push Anna back a few feet. When Anna stopped stumbling back, Matrik ran towards her, placed one elbow back, and glided quickly towards her. Anna saw the move coming and immediately stepped out of the way, letting Matrik pass her.

Before Matrik recovered from the move, Anna quickly spread her hands apart, collecting energy from the air in the meantime. By the time Matrik turned around to face her, Anna jumped forward and quickly brought her hands together. Matrik jumped back from the move. Anna's hands ended up clapping together, creating a small explosion from the developed energy.

Matrik seized an opportunity afterwards. She jumped forward and managed to land a handful of punch combos on Anna. Anna tried to lift her hands up in order to block the moves, but this time the cyborg was one step ahead of her.

After the punch combos, Matrik pushed Anna's arm, forcing her to turn around, her back now facing her. Lifting her leg up, Matrik performed a hard kick to the back of Anna's head. Anna flew a few feet forward before landing face first into the ground. The kick itself had already rendered her unconscious.

"Winner: Matrik!" Shang Tsung called out after he stood up from his throne.

The viewers clapped after the announcement. Not even acknowledging it, Matrik stepped out of the ring and left the courtyard.

~~~

Outdoor Hot Springs

After spending some time relaxing in the hot springs, Jin Kazama emerged out of the men's area and began heading down the small hill leading to the main path. It had been a quiet morning to him, mainly because most of the people in the cave were already attending the tournament by the time he woke up.

For the first time in a while, Jin's mind felt relaxed. The only sounds he heard around him was the light wind and the leaves being brushed by the winds. The forests of Outworld was nothing like the forests in Earthrealm, but it was still nice enough to enjoy.

Then again, he did hear about the trees that actually possessed faces that actually moved. This was something Jin didn't buy for now since he hasn't come across a moving tree yet.

Soon, Jin reached the main path. Once he did, he heard footsteps not too far from him. He turned his head and was a bit surprised to see Cammy walking the path. She held a small duffle bag in her hand, obviously heading to the springs herself.

Cammy looked up just as Jin appeared from behind a tree. She stopped in her tracks and the two looked at each other for a moment, remembering their two embarrassing encounters since coming to Outworld.

Some time passed before Cammy spoke, eyeing him in the process. "Are you stalking me?" she asked jokingly.

Jin shrugged a little. "I thought it was the other way around." He smiled a little after the comment.

Cammy couldn't help but chuckle a bit. "I guess we just both like to come here around the same time."

Jin's smile turned into a smirk upon hearing her chuckle. She has a nice laugh, he thought to himself without thinking.

"So," Cammy began to say, trying to start a conversation with him. It took a moment before she came up with a topic. "I know it's been some time, but I never really asked…what brings you here to the tournament?"

Jin mentally sighed to himself upon hearing the question. He thought back on his reasons for coming here. He remembered the words from the letter he received with the tournament invitation;

The item in the envelope will help you break the curse of the devil gene. Come to the tournament and you will have answers. PS- You've done well in the King of Iron Fist Tournament…I wish you the best in this tournament.

Jin never found out who sent him the letter and why. Whoever sent him the letter obviously knew that there was a way for him to break his curse. Since this tournament, his devil gene seemed to cease during his matches… for now. However, he still wanted to sought out answers, but he hasn't really found any leads on who sent him the letter as of now.

He also remembered his mother's words in the dream he had the night he received the letter. Danger awaits in another world. This he slightly understood ever since Raiden named him one of the chosen ones. Obviously, something was going to happen, perhaps after this tournament. However, that remains to be seen for now.

Jin looked at Cammy after thinking through this. "It's a long story really. But I always liked a good fight. Knowing that I'd be fighting the best in the universe… who could resist that call?"

Cammy nodded. "I know what you mean. I mean, I'm really here for a mission with Delta Red, but coming to this tournament is such a rare opportunity. It seems like a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

It was then that they heard footsteps not too far from them. Jin and Cammy turned their heads to see Wagner coming towards him. He wore a pair of jeans, black sandals, and a black tank top. He also had a white towel thrown over his right shoulder.

"Hey Cam," Wagner said. "Seems like you have the same idea as me."

"We sure do," Cammy replied.

Wagner shifted his eyes at Jin, a grin creeping up to his face. "Oh! You must be Cammy's boyfriend Lita keeps telling me about!"

Immediately, Cammy's face turned red, looking at her surrogate brother in complete shock by what he said. However, Jin seemed to not mind as he managed to laugh a little, obviously aware that Wagner was only kidding.

"I should be going," Jin said. He turned to Cammy. "It's good seeing you." He then began his walk back down the trail.

When Jin was far enough, Cammy punched Wagner's arm. "Why in the bloody hell did you say that?" she yelled out. "I've already been through enough embarrassing moments with him! I'm so going to kill Lita too for mentioning that!"

Wagner laughed. "Um, actually, Lita had nothing to do with it. I decided to say it in the spur of the moment! She never said anything to me!" He laughed even more after mentioning that.

Cammy swore she felt her blood boiling. Quickly, she grabbed the towel Wagner had with him, then rolled it up with both hands. Immediately Wagner realized why she was doing that.

"Oh shit!" he called out and began running from her in the opposite direction, trying to get as far away from her as possible.

Cammy began chasing Wagner soon after. "GET BACK HERE SO I CAN WHIP YOU ARSE!" she screamed out.

From there, screams could be heard in the forest for some time from both of them.

~~~

Indoor Arena

Raven entered the ring the moment he heard his name being called for his match. Silently, he got into the ring and went to the middle. He did a couple of kicks in the air before straightening himself, awaiting for his opponent.

"Nediar!" the Shadow Priest called out.

Raven raised his eyebrow upon hearing the strange name. A man with long white hair tied back stepped into the ring. The man was also wearing dark blue Hakama pants, a pair of wooden geta shoes, and white tabi on his feet. He also wore a large beaded necklace around his neck.

For a moment, Raven wondered why his opponent seemed so familiar. He got into a fighting stance before he even reached the middle.

Once he did, he smirked. "Hello Raven."

Immediately, Raven recognized his voice and soon realized what Nediar was when the letters were put backwards… Raiden! He was surprised to see him participating in the tournament, but had an idea of why…most likely because then he and everyone in the cave had a better chance of getting their hands on the medallion.

Raven nodded to him once he figured it out. Afterward, Raiden got into his fighting stance. A moment passed before the match was called to begin.

Raiden and Raven circled each other for a moment before Raven covered the space between them. Before Raven was able to land a punch, Raiden suddenly disappeared in front of him. Raven looked around for a second, not realizing that Raiden reappeared behind him before kicking him in the back. Raven stumbled forward before turning around to face Raiden.

Immediately, Raiden jumped up and attempted an air kick, which Raven quickly blocked. Raiden landed back on his feet and tried to perform an uppercut, which Raven blocked once again. The agent then followed with a kick of his own, which the Thunder God blocked with both arms.

Both of them went on like this for some time before Raven managed to push him a couple of feet. He jumped up, then turned his body before kicking Raiden in the face. Raven turned forward and landed on the ground, then jumped again, turning his body in the opposite direction before kicking Raiden's face again with his other foot. Raiden stumbled back again as Raven landed back on the ground.

Quickly after, Raiden pushed a hand out and a projectile made out of electricity, which headed towards Raven. Raven saw the move in time…for a moment, he seemed to have gone invisible as the projectile went through him completely without inflicting any damage.

He then seemed to disappear completely before reappearing a few feet above. Quickly, Raven collected purple energy in his hands before coming down with a powerful punch at Raiden. Raiden barely dodged out of the way of the move and Raven ended up punching the ground instead.

The Thunder God waited until Raven was standing again. Once he did, Raiden quickly delivered a few punch and kick combos, which Raven managed to block, at least most of them. A few punches went passed him and he was hit in the face and abdomen a couple of times.

Then, Raven began to perform the same move as he did before, disappearing and reappearing in the air. Raiden expected him to perform his punch again. Instead, Raiden came barreling down with one leg extended out and he managed to land the blow on Raiden, who fell back. When Raven landed on his feet, Raiden rolled back before standing himself up again.

Raiden decided that enough was enough now. Jumping forward, he shoots his body towards Raven in high speed like a torpedo. He managed to grab Raven and bring him to the other side of the ring. He then stopped just a foot away from the ring. Raiden let go of Raven as he did a somersault and got back on the ground.

However, the move caught Raven by surprise and when Raiden released him, he ended up stumbling back… and falling right out of the ring.

Soon, the Shadow Priest stood up. "Winner: Nediar!"

Raiden stood where he was as Raven slowly got back on his feet. Once he did, they stared at each other for a moment. The viewers around them expected an after-match showdown between the two.

However, that was never Raven's intentions. He nodded to Raiden in respect before turning on his heel and leaving the arena. A minute later, Raiden did the same.

~~~

Unknown Area

On the grounds of Shao Kahn's palace, Havik, Kabal, and Kira walked from the palace far enough that no one was able to hear them. However, they still stayed in view so that no one around them became suspicious of them.

"It's been some time since we last met up," said Kabal. "Our time under Shao Kahn has not given us much time to discuss our plans to gain the medallion for the Black Dragon's benefits."

Havik nodded in agreement. "Indeed. It's been quite… chaotic I must say." He seemed to grin in delight aft the comment, despite having no lips.

Kira sighed to herself. "This wasn't a good idea to begin with. Us serving Shao Kahn is only getting in the way. We've been too busy with everything else that we haven't been able to come up with a solid plan."

Kabal looked at the red-haired woman. "You'll have to be patient about it for now," he suggested.

"I must agree with her," said Havik. "Patience is not exactly fun, it's not the way of chaos."

"I'm aware of that," Kabal replied. "But for now we have to, much to our dismay. You, Havik, are still in the tournament so we are still going with plan A."

"Is there even a plan B?" Kira asked.

"We make one in due time."

"There is one thing," Havik began to suggest. "If there is the case where I don't win the tournament, we'll have to wait until we know the winner of the tournament, as much as I hate being patient. Once we know, we'll ambush them when they least expect it."

Kira mentally sighed to herself. This whole scenario just wasn't making sense to her. First, they join with the Emperor, which turned out that it didn't help with their cause at all. Now, they plan to just go off and ambush whoever wins the tournament. Considering that the winner would obviously be the strongest