Chapter 1: First Encounters
When Raiden first met the cryomancer whose fate detailed that of eventual unspeakable power, he was taken aback by surprise.
Kuai Liang, at the time, was sitting with her close friend, Tomas Vrbada, far away from the Lin Kuei temple, laughing about something. Raiden could easily see that she was a girl, as her cowl and mask had been removed while she talked freely. Listening closely, Raiden could just barely make out what they were saying. "Your hair is so long, Kuai," Smoke drawled.
"It's only because you like it when it's long so you can play with it," Kuai snarked. Thomas leaned back. "You're not wrong. Are you going to go back to the kitchen to continue the Grandmaster's punishment, now?" Kuai flicked Tomas's hand which was resting on her leg. "Why should I? They can wait for now." She sighed. "I just don't understand why Bi-Han is so mad at me. He's usually not this uptight."
Immediately understanding that this cryomancer was nothing like her brother, Raiden was able to depart the area feeling confident that Earthrealm's safety would be in good hands.
Scorpion could easily remember his first encounter with the younger Sub-Zero.
When he had killed Bi-Han, he had felt remorse for losing his one chance to have his clan restored to its former glory, but at the same time, he was glad that the cryomancer was dead. However, his world was turned upside down unexpectedly when he received word that Sub-Zero was still alive. Fuming in rage, the hellspawn was sitting in one of the trees in the forest, watching as the cryomancer split ways with his friend. As soon as Sub-Zero had walked away a good distance from the docks, Scorpion jumped down, intending to kick the cryomancer in the head.
However, the Lin Kuei whipped around quickly and ducked under the blow, getting into a fighting stance. Scorpion growled, throwing forth his kunai and shouted, "GET OVER HERE!" And at that moment, the unthinkable happened. Sub-Zero caught the weapon in the air. Stunned, the hellspawn was unable to stop himself as the Lin Kuei jerked the chain, pulling its owner to the intended victim.
The two traded blows for what felt like hours, to the Shirai Ryu. It wasn't until later in the fight when Scorpion picked up on subtle differences. For one, Sub-Zero had adopted a very defensive fighting style, very different from before. In addition, Scorpion had learned the hard way that the ice clone that Sub-Zero formed was to be avoided. When did he have the time to learn this?
In a last ditch effort, Scorpion teleported behind Sub-Zero, intending to catch him by surprise, but was instantly greeted by a cold spark of pain. The spectre fell the the ground, groaning and trying to hold the wound that Sub-Zero had inflicted on him. Looking up, Scorpion stared at the wickedly long and narrow sword made of ice that had been the instrument of his downfall. Sub-Zero impaled the sword in the ground, and there was a silence.
"Well? What are you waiting for, Lin Kuei? Finish me!" Scorpion snarled. Sub-Zero seemed to not hear him. Finally, he turned. "The Lin Kuei kill. I do not. I will let you go, for now, spectre. However, if we happen to ever cross paths again, I will kill you without hesitation, just as you killed my brother."
At those final words, Scorpion understood everything. "HE HAD NO HONOR!" he shouted at Sub-Zero's retreating form. Shockingly, the cryomancer turned to look down on him. "I know," he replied, sounding sad.
The next time they met, it would not be Scorpion going to meet him, but Hanzo Hasashi.
Chapter 2: Meet and Greet
"Six months living in the same building with Johnny Cage? Kill me already," Tomas groaned. Kuai shot him a side glare. "It won't be that bad if you don't count the days. Besides, Sonya will hold him back, hopefully," she muttered the last word.
It was a year after Earthrealm had successfully defended themselves in the Mortal Kombat Tournament and killed Shao Kahn. However, his followers, such as Shang Tsung and Quan Chi were still causing trouble, so Raiden had issued all kombatants to one area so that they could defend their realm together. Specifically, the Special Forces Base.
In the time between the Tournament and Raiden’s decree, Sub-Zero had established herself as the first female Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei, Smoke aiding her in the fight against a cyberized Lin Kuei force. Currently, the duo were walking to the rendezvous point.
"Anyways, you're right. Johnny Cage is the least of your worries," Smoke continued. Kuai looked at him, confused. Tomas rolled his eyes. "Scorpion, remember? Raiden gave him back his life so that he could 'help' us." Kuai had been trying to forget about that, and thanked Tomas sarcastically for reminding her about it. He at least had the sense to look sheepish about it afterwards. “Besides, he knows that Bi-Han and I didn’t have anything to do with his clan. And, if he’s human, then maybe he won’t be so.. angry,” Kuai finished lamely. Smoke sniggered. “We can dream, but Scorpion will always be Scorpion,” he stated.
After the joyous reunion with their friends, Kuai and Tomas headed to their rooms, which were right beside the other. Kuai stepped into her room, and began to immediately unpack her belongings. Tomas had finished suspiciously early, and had entered her room without knocking. “Your room must be a mess,” Kuai commented. He shrugged in response. “It’s my room; I’ll make it what I want it to look like.”
He sat on the bed (that Kuai had just set up neatly) and stretched, yawning as he did so. “So, masks on or off?” Tomas asked. “I think that it’s fine. These are people we can trust, you know.” Kuai sighed. “Easy for you to say. I’m pretty sure that half of the people here don’t even know my gender. The others have immediately assumed that I am male. Whether I like it or not, if I reveal my identity, they’ll go insane. I can’t. You can, though,” she pointed out.
Tomas grinned, removing his cowl and mask. “It also doesn’t help that your mask makes you sound like a man when you speak, you know. Now, I can breathe easily,” he joked. At that moment, Sonya walked by Kuai’s room. “There you are. Come on, Raiden’s here, and he brought Scorpion with him. Wait, I remember now that he doesn’t like being called that anymore.”
Seeing the one person who had sworn revenge against her was, awkward, to say the least.
Kuai wrung her hands in her lap nervously, sitting at the circular conference table. Raiden was talking to Sonya himself, but Kuai didn’t pay attention to their conversation. She saw Liu Kang sitting next to Princess Kitana, with Kung Lao and Jade sitting next to them. They seemed to be together, and Sub-Zero smiled at the thought.
Sonya, Johnny, Jax, and Kenshi were sitting together beside the White Lotus people and the Edenians. Johnny had somehow pissed off Jax again, and two metal arms were trying to find their way to a squealing actor’s throat, Kenshi sighing and trying to avoid the conflict, being the person caught in the middle. At last, Raiden teleported away, saying his farewells, leaving Scorpion standing. It’s Hanzo Hasashi, now.
Kuai reminded herself for later reference.
Her former nemesis was also wearing a mask and cowl, unlike Tomas (Johnny had joked about his long hair, and received a blow to the windpipe. It, unfortunately, didn’t shut him up), and was also wearing his traditional colors. However, you could still see that he was human, as his sleeves had been ripped to reveal his skin. He was staring uncomfortably at Sub-Zero.
Lokking around awkwardly, she then noticed that the only seat available was the one on her right (Tomas was sitting on her left). Sighing reluctantly under her breath, she beckoned him over, gesturing with her head. As soon as he sat down, Sonya cleared her throat, silencing everyone. “Alright, listen up, people! We’ve got a lot to tackle in these six months. First and foremost, we have to deal with Kano. He’s still been supplying Shang Tsung and Quan Chi with weapons. We take him out first, then we can move to the bigger pieces of pie.”
At the mention of Quan Chi, Kuai noticed that Hanzo clenched his fists. Turning away, she focused on what Sonya was saying. “Shang Tsung will be our next target. He’s got no allies, save for Goro and Kintaro. When he’s down, Quan Chi will be prepared for us. He’s got multiple Oni as well as the wraith known as Noob Saibot.”
Kuai stiffened at the mention of her undead brother. She looked down, feeling Tomas’s eyes on her back. He gripped her hand and squeezed it for comfort. “Quan Chi will be the last person we bring down. We can discuss tactics later. Any questions?”
As people started to get up and leave, Hanzo held a hand firmly on Kuai’s shoulder, preventing her from getting up. She hesitantly sat back down. After the Shirai Ryu had spoken to Smoke, he left the room with the others, despite Kuai’s desperate glances. The room seemed to empty too fast.
Kuai’s eyes tracked her former nemesis as he walked over to the chair opposite her’s, sitting down. At last, he spoke clearly in a deep and gravelly voice, “I’ve heard that you’ve taken control of the Lin Kuei. A major step from when we had met before,” he stated. Kuai’s mouth was dry, and not trusting herself to speak, she nodded. Hanzo frowned at the motion. “I’m glad that you revolted. You’ll definitely be able to shape the Lin Kuei into what they were meant to be,” he continued.
Still, she did not speak, but at least this time, she looked up to make eye contact with the only other person in the room. “I remember your eyes used to look like Bi-Han’s. Raiden has told me that you’ve changed in strength, ability, and appearance. I was not expecting...” he drifted off. Kuai nodded in understanding. Hanzo sighed. “I am.. sorry.. for everything that I’ve done. I regret Bi-Han’s death, and unfairly blaming him and you for Quan Chi’s crimes.”
For the first time, Kuai had spoken up, softly, but gaining purchase. “I’m not sorry for Bi-Han’s death. I may have been in the beginning, but I can see clearly now. He always held my rebellious nature back when we were younger. If he were still alive, I never would have escaped cyberization. And, to be honest, he always was... harsh.” She gestures to the door. “Tomas was more of a brother to me. So, Master Hasashi, you are forgiven.”
Sub-Zero’s words were echoing through Hanzo’s mind well after their brief conversation. He was sitting in the garden, one of the few places he was able to find peace. He had heard from many people that this Sub-Zero was kind and wise, but he did not fully understand the extent of this statement until moments ago.
You don’t even know his name, even though he knows yours. A traitorous voice full of doubt spoke clearly in his head, but he shook it off. Why should Sub-Zero need to tell him his name if he was responsible for most of his pain? Suddenly, Johnny poked his head through the door. “What do you want for dinner? I’m getting takeout,” he explained. Hanzo frowned. “I thought someone was cooking dinner,” he stated.
”Well, we drew straws, and turns out that Sub-Zero’s cooking. I’m not going to eat anything hazardous to my health, thank-you-very-much. So, what do you want?”
Hanzo got up, heading to the kitchen. He ignored Johnny following him. He knew a few things about preparing food, thanks to his wife...
Thinking about her made him sad, but thanks to the meditation he went through to keep a Scorpion at bay, he found it was easier to think about her. He stopped a few feet away from the kitchen door. It actually smelled, good. Johnny picked up on the smell as well. “Whoa! That smells like heaven to me, you know?”
Ignoring the idiot beside him, Hanzo went to the door and opened it slightly. What he saw surprised him.
In the kitchen, the Lin Kuei in grey attire was slicing tomatoes, chatting to his friend, while Sub-Zero poured a soup of some sort into the pot on the stove. He shouted at Smoke, “Watch it, hlupak*!” He snatched the knife from Tomas’s hand and grabbed the diced tomatoes. He scraped the tomatoes off the cutting board into the pot, throwing the items into the sink fifteen feet away from him.
Tomas yelped. “You almost took my head off, Kuai!” So, that’s his name. Sub-Zero turned to face his friend. “And the world would have been short one dummy. No one would care.” Tomas whined pitifully. “Why are you so mean?”
After dinner had been placed on the table, mourners of appreciation rose from the people sitting. “When did you learn how to cook?” Kitana politely asked. Sub-Zero shrugged. “We watched the cooks, learning about what we could make from a few ingredients.” Tomas coughed, but Kuai glared at him. The two Lin Kuei were not eating, giving the reason that they had already eaten.
Sub-Zero had stared at Hanzo when he removed his mask and cowl. He had raven black hair tied in a ponytail and a neatly trimmed beard. Turning away before she was caught staring, she looked at Johnny, who asked, "So, who was the 'Johnny Cage' in the Lin Kuei?"
The reply was instantaneous. "Tomas." Both assassins replied at the same time. However, Tomas said, "Well..." Kuai looked at him. "What?" Tomas smirked. "You weren't exactly a poster child yourself. Remember the Grandmaster's prize possessions incident?" Everyone looked at Sub-Zero. The part of his face they could see had turned an unnatural shade of pink. Tomas continued. "My friend here found that the Grandmaster had kept animals in cages so he could admire them. It was his own zoo, so to say. Kuai thought that it was unfair to the animals, so he let them all go."
Jade smiled. "That's sweet." Smoke held up a finger. "The thing was, there were mainly tigers, lions, and other man-eating beasts. They killed a few members, and the Lin Kuei evacuated the premise for the stupidest reason ever. As punishment, Kuai was confined to the kitchens. That's why he knows how to cook." Kuai covered her face in her hands as everyone started to chuckle. Once again, Hanzo was taken aback at how irresponsible the Grandmaster used to be. It showed a side of humanity that didn't appear often.
Smoke was feeling confident now. Ignoring Kuai's warning glances, he continued. "And what about the time you almost killed the Grandmaster?" There was silence.
"So, Kuai's still in the kitchens, mopping the floors, and he saw that the cook forgot to add pepper to the soup. So, he takes the pepper shaker and adds it. Unfortunately, this poor dolt only knew the word, 'pepper', when the rest read, 'Pepper's Rat Poisoning'. And he just added it to the Grandmaster's personal dish."
Johnny cackled. "Oh, my God."
"So, the Grandmaster takes one bite, and immediately, his face turns purple. He starts choking and gasping for air, and before the medics drag him out of the dining hall, he shouts, 'KUAI LIANG!' in a strangled voice."
At this point, nearly everyone was laughing, all but Hanzo Hasashi as he saw Kuai get up slowly and stiffly walk out of the room. He glanced at the giggling people around him in disgust, then turned to follow Kuai.
Chapter 3: An Understanding
Hanzo rushed quietly after the retreating form of the cryomancer at the end of the hallway leading to the back exit of the base itself, one that Hanzo wasn’t aware of. He walked silently, and when Hanzo burst through the doors, he froze just as Sub-Zero had as well.
"What... is that?" Hanzo pointed to the animal snarling in Kuai's lap. "Umm, it's.." Kuai groaned. "Okay. Look, when Tomas and I were sneaking behind the Lin Kuei temple to force Sektor out by means of a surprise attack, we came across a clutch of frost dragon's eggs. We took them to the temple, and when we had gained control, they hatched. We raised them and trained them." The baby frost dragon purred as Kuai stroked it under its chin. Hanzo took a cautious step forward. The dragon hissed at him.
Kuai jolted it gently. "Don't do that. He's a friend." Hanzo stared at Kuai, all attention on the cryomancer now. His former nemesis, although he had forgiven him, had given him the title of someone who could be trusted. Kuai shrugged. "It's the truth now, isn't it?" Hanzo took that as courage and sat down next to him slowly. "So, what happened back there?" Hanzo asked gently, remembering the scene before. Kuai sighed. "It's.. nothing. I can take a joke, it’s just that, every one of those memories just reminded me of how Bi-Han had reacted after I did something stupid.”
After a while, Kuai spoke again. "He was always angry at me. He never supported me. After the accidental poisoning, he voted to have me banished. That way, maybe he could have been free of one little pest. All the time, I looked up to him, idolized him, but he never did anything for me. He always looked down on me, and no matter what I did to try and impress him, I knew that I was always in his shadow." Kuai clenched his open fist. "So, yeah. Bad memories."
Hanzo nodded. "I sometimes have nightmares - sometimes they seem like bad memories - about my family. They blame me for not saving them, and then they say that I'll never be able to help anyone. Then, they point, and sometimes, it's your brother, other times, it's the others here, and they're always dead. I then wake up screaming." Hanzo didn’t know why he was saying this to Kuai of all people, but after Kuai’s tirade, he had added to the conversation.
He was about to say more, when Kuai placed his hand over Hanzo's trembling hand. Stunned, Hanzo looked at Kuai, but the cryomancer wasn't looking at him. "I'll have you know, that if I do die, I'll kill as many people as I can before I go anywhere." He smiled. Strangely, Hanzo had never felt more at peace, even when he was meditating, looking up at the night sky sitting with Kuai Liang.
"Kano's running!" Sonya yelled into the comms. Kuai winced at the feedback that resulted from the shouting. After about a month of preparation, the team had found Kano camping in an uncharted area of forest in Earthrealm, close to the border of Outworld. Sonya was steadfast about catching the thug once and for all, and she criticized every mistake they made. "Hanzo and I will get him," he assured her. Hanzo immediately appeared behind him. "Not on foot," he stated shortly. Kuai frowned. "Then, how? Wait... HOLD ON!"
When his feet hit solid ground, Kuai resisted the urge to vomit his breakfast, Hanzo holding him up. "Don't ever teleport without warning me again." Kuai tried to sound angry, but it came out more like a wheeze. Hanzo forced back the smile that threatened to emerge on his face. He had abandoned the cowl and mask, just as Tomas had, so that Kuai was the only one whose appearance remained hidden. "Where are we? And where is Kano?" Kuai asked. They looked around. The area was too quiet. Suddenly, before Hanzo could reply, his vision blacked out. He could hear Kuai shout before he fell unconscious.
When Kuai woke up, she was upside down, hanging from chains tied around her ankles. Blinking away the dizziness, she saw her friends upside down as well, hanging on trees so that they all formed a circle around the fire. With a sudden start, she realized that her mask had been taken, and her cowl removed. She struggled frantically, trying to freeze the chains, but she remembered that she had placed her restraint on, as Raiden had instructed, and could not do this. The restraint seemed to tighten around her neck. The others started to stir.
When Sonya opened her eyes, she blinked bleary to clear her vision. She looked confused at the newcomer wearing Sub-Zero’s colors. "Umm, guys? Where's Sub-Zero?" Smoke looked at his friend pointedly. He gestured with his head, bringing everyone's attention to her. "Who are you?" Johnny asked, confused. Kuai sighed. She muttered, "Sub-Zero. Present."
There was silence. For a brief moment, at least.
Johnny, Sonya, and Jax were all shouting at once, while Kitana and Jade looked at her in shock and sympathy. The two Shaolin monks were stunned, just staring at her, while Kenshi kept muttering, "How did I miss it?" Hanzo looked at her, not sure how to feel about the given situation. He was angry that she hadn’t told him, and at the same time, a little betrayed. He took a deep breath. You were her enemy once. You can't blame her. For once, that traitorous voice was correct. He instead settled with giving her a slow nod of understanding, and it seemed that she was less anxious and worried when she saw his gesture. She still wasn’t off the hook yet, however. They would talk later.
"Well, well. Ain't this just a lovely surprise?"
Kano emerged from the shrubbery along with his hundreds of Black Dragon followers. He laughed maliciously. “The great Sub-Zero, a little confused and lost girl. Maybe I’ll have a turn with you before I slit your pretty little neck,” he snickered. Hanzo didn’t know why, but his heart lurched in fear and anger at those words. However, Kuai smiled sickeningly sweet. “When you eventually get around to doing that, I’ll be sure to bite your dick off for you, sweetheart.” Tomas moaned. “Why? Why, Kuai? This is a stupid tactic. Please don’t do this again. You remember what Sektor did.” Kano, purple-faced, pointed at her. “She dies first.” Two lackeys went to unchain her. She looked at Tomas. “Key,” she mouthed silently.
Tomas’s eyes immediately lit up in understanding. As the two goons unchained her feet, leaving her hands cuffed, Smoke wrestled into his pocket and snatched a small and simple gold key. As she passed by him, he threw it at Kuai. She caught it and rolled backwards, getting as far away as she could from the two enemies. She lifted her hands to her neck, and unlocked what was dampening her powers. A collar that seemed to be made of obsidian, with an odd, glowing blue gemstone fell to the ground. As soon as it fell, the light from the stone faded away, and immediately, the temperature dropped.
What should have been a hot, summer day, seemed to turn into a winter night. The trees, Hanzo noticed with a sudden start, were being covered with layers of frost, turning the bark white. Kuai froze her cuffs, shattering them against her leg. She looked around her noticing that there were enemies surrounding her. She called out, “Umm, Tomas? I can’t get to all of them without affecting the rest of you.” He sighed. “Well, I guess I’ll be thawing in the medbay. Again.”
Hanzo felt a sudden chill, a flash of white, and there was nothing.
Sonya woke up with a jolt, struggling against warm hands. “Calm, Sonya Blade. You are safe here.” She looked up, seeing Raiden’s face. She sighed in relief. “What happened?” she asked. Raiden sat down. The others had already woken up, save for Johnny, but Raiden had informed them that the actor had been the first to wake up, due to his astounding energy.
“Sub-Zero had taken off her restraint, despite my warnings. You see, her powers had been increasing exponentially, at a rate faster than the greatest cryomancers in the olden days. I provided her with the restraint, and it successfully hindered her powers. However, she removed the restraint, and in doing so, turned the very forest you remembered into a tundra. I helped her bring you all back, and Kano is captured and in the cells below.”
Kung Lao stretched. “So, am I going to be the first to point out Sub-Zero’s apparent sex change?” Raiden nodded. “In truth, the only people who knew about this were her father, Smoke, the former Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei, and myself. Before I sent Sub-Zero and Smoke here, I advised the current Grandmaster we know today to not reveal her secrets, as they could be used as intel against her. However, this was not the thing she strongly protested against. I told her that she must keep the identity of the Netherrealm wraith, Noob Saibot, a secret. However, I have just recently decided that it would be a better choice to tell you.”
”Sub-Zero had fought and defeated the wraith in the past, but could not bring herself to kill it. You see, Noob Saibot is her deceased bother, Bi-Han.”
”That’s not possible,” Hanzo snapped. “In my time with Quan Chi, surely he would have said something?” Raiden shook his head. “This undead Bi-Han has a mind of his own. He has betrayed Quan Chi secretly dozens of times. He revels in his form. His goal is to erase every trace of his old life. He has been largely successful. Now, the only thing left, is of course, his own sister.”
”So then, he also knows Sub-Zero’s true gender,” Jax asserted. However, Raiden shook his head. “As children, raised in the Lin Kuei, the two siblings couldn’t be more different. The Sub-Zero we all know today is as compassionate as Bi-Han is ruthless, but Kuai Liang often idolized her older brother despite this fact. Her brother didn’t bother associating himself with a ‘weaker’ being, so he wouldn’t have known that he had a sister instead of a brother. However, I strongly believe that over the years, Kuai Liang has grown to be the better and stronger warrior over Bi-Han.”
”Where is she right now?” Jade asked. Raiden sighed. “In using the restraint, Sub-Zero has not been able to fully control her own powers. When she froze the entire area, she lost a lot of energy. As of right now, she has rested and quickly regained her strength. However, the restraint had been broken when she removed it. A new one is being constructed, but for now, I advise you to wear thick clothing for the time being.”
”She has been placed in a room so that the cold won’t affect us as much. However, she is getting more and more frustrated, and that might just cause it to possibly snow in the building.”
Kuai paced her “room”, muttering anxiously. Tomas sat outside, watching her. The box she had been placed in had a single vent, and the walls were made of bulletproof glass. Inside the room was a bookshelf, a chair, and a bed. She looked at her friend. “I can’t do this for one more hour, Tomas. Three days? That’s impossible.” She huffed, throwing herself on the bed. Already, frost was accumulating on the walls. “Umm, Kuai? Could you wipe that away?”
She glared at him, using her forearm to swipe at the barrier of cold on the glass. “You could at least be a little more sympathetic.” She crossed her arms and huffed.
At that moment, Raiden entered the room, along with the other kombatants. Tomas strode over to them. “She’s gotten very anxious. Being trapped in a small area is a no-no for her.” Raiden nodded. They all walked over to her. Raiden spoke, “I hope you understand what will happen if we open this, right?” Kuai nodded. “You lose a few fingers from frostbite. Yeah, I know. So, how am I going to eat? Or take a shit?”
There was a silence.
Kuai started to laugh hysterically. “Oh my fucking God. You’re telling me I can’t leave this place for three fucking days, and I’m locked here without the basic survival necessities?!” Raiden sighed. “Actually, I had just thought of a way.” He turned to the people behind him, looking at Hanzo. He raised a brow. “Why are you looking at me? I can summon fire. It’s not enough to keep me safe.”
Raiden smiled slightly. “You’re right. Hanzo Hasashi will freeze in there. Scorpion won’t.”
Chapter 4: Trials and Tribulations
"No. No fucking way."
Raiden sighed. Sometimes, dealing with Hanzo could be as frustrating as dealing with Scorpion himself. "He'll kill her. Whatever bonds I've formed with Sub-Zero will mean nothing. He's definitely not going to give her food." Raiden nodded in understanding. "But, I don't want Scorpion or Sub-Zero here. I'm sending the two of you to Orderrealm, where you both will find Quan Chi. He is taking refuge there, for the time being. Meanwhile, I will aid Sonya Blade and the others in finding Shang Tsung."
Kuai nodded from her confining room in agreement. "Kill two birds with one stone."Liu Kang turned to Raiden. "Only two people going after Quan Chi?" Raiden nodded. "They will act as a happy couple. Of course, Kuai, you must not leave the house until Hanzo can teleport the both of you to Quan Chi's exact location. Hanzo, in return, you must call on Scorpion to aid you with helping Sub-Zero. In truth, Kuai Liang, you will only be seeing Scorpion this entire mission. Hanzo, you will be relinquishing control to Scorpion for the entire mission."
Hanzo stood up. "And I've told you, Scorpion will not help Sub-Zero." He was shaking, Kuai noticed, in fear. Raiden held up a hand to cut him off. "Yes, I know. However, I will try and placate him before the two of you leave tomorrow. Besides, Kuai will be able to defend herself quite aptly. She is not the same person you met in the woods. Her chilling cold against your raging fire will hopefully balance things, so people will not feel too much of a temperature difference." Kuai crossed her arms. "Living with and depending on someone who wants to kill me for a week? Well, it can't get any worse than this, right?"
Kuai stood outside, watching the snowflakes fall around her, ignoring the summer sun overhead. The heat helped slightly with getting her powers under control, but she was still causing piles of snow to form. She tilted her head to one side, cracking it with ease. Behind, she heard people approaching.
Turning around, Kuai came face-to-face with Raiden and the hellspawn himself. He was wearing his cowl to hide his ghoulish nature, and Kuai shivered slightly, not because of the cold. The angered spirit walking into her space. "Just because you are a woman does not mean you are free from my wrath. I can kill you whenever I want," he hissed. Kuai looked up into his face, standing defiant. "Keep your anger in check, wraith. Quan Chi is responsible for your family's death. If you attempt to kill me for a crime I did not commit, you will be forced to thaw for an hour, at most. When we get to Orderrealm, we will find and kill Quan Chi. But, if you kill me, your chances of getting to him will be significantly lessened." Raiden nodded behind in encouragement. "Have a safe journey. Keep alert. We will contact each other occasionally." He teleported the two close to the edge of the border between Earthrealm and Orderrealm.
Sub-Zero looked up at the immense array of snowy mountains lining the border. She sighed, turning to her unhappy and resentful companion. Beckoning to the spectre, the two started their climb.
Starting up, Kuai was not fazed by the snow blasting in her face, and was unaffected by the cold. However, as she looked down at Scorpion, she noticed with worry that he was struggling, occasionally having to pull out his kunai to grasp at the hard-to-reach edges of the slippery rock face. She stopped, allowing the spectre to catch up, and she touched his shoulder gently. Despite her caution, he reeled from her touch, spitting wildly. She raised a hand. Shouting over the wind, she said, "Wait for me at the cliff up there," as she pointed up. She continued the climb, hoisting herself onto the flat surface. Scorpion was quick to follow, panting slightly as he tried to recover breath.
Kuai shouted, "Here, take these." She threw a pair of black boots that had once belonged to Bi-Han, not that she'd tell her companion that little detail. In fact, she was reluctant with giving them to her rival, but it was for their benefit. Scorpion glared at her, but not as harshly, Kuai noted. It was progress. He snatched the boots, putting them on quickly. The spikes on the bottoms would help, Kuai thought. She nodded once Scorpion was done, and she faced the ice wall, continuing their journey.
After more struggling and fighting to get to the top, the two realized that night was fast approaching. They veered off course to settle on another flat top of the mountain. The two collapsed from exhaustion, Kuai unpacking her stuff. It was poor shelter from the weather, but it would have to do.
She brought out two apples, throwing one to the spectre. He caught it in a brisk motion, glaring at it. "I don't think you know, insolent idiot, but I can't eat." Kuai shrugged. "Sorry. I forgot. It's kind of hard when you're all pissy and bitching about every little thing, and on top of that you don't talk to me, but that's fine. It wouldn't kill you to just say one little word, would it? No, you would think so." She took it from him, and turned to sleep in her makeshift bed. Scorpion glared. Her jest reminded him too much of someone he used to know when he was human. It was too similar. "You aren't afraid at all? I could kill you in your sleep, fool! I am the last person you should be placing your trust in." Kuai didn't even turn to face him. Instead, she muttered sleepily, "I have faith in the man you used to be. And he wouldn't do something as dishonorable as that."
Scorpion spent the rest of the night in deep thought and reflection.
In the morning, Scorpion went over to the Lin Kuei, shaking her. "Get up," he grunted. The grandmaster slapped his hand away, and turned on her side. Scorpion resisted the urge to just leave, or possibly kill the insufferable woman. He stood over her head, looking down. Without her mask, she looked almost like his dead wife, he noticed chillingly. She even had the same sarcastic and snippy attitude. He shook his head to clear his thoughts.
When Kuai woke up, she was definitely not prepared to be waking up with an undead assassin looking down on her. Kuai screamed and jolted up, getting as far away from the spectre as possible. "What the fuck?!" He crossed his arms in response. "You were still asleep." Kuai sighed in frustration and confusion. She packed up her belongings, and the two went on their way, without another remark.
As they climbed, Kuai looked up, squinting her eyes. The wind had died out, and the sun shone brightly on the duo. "Don't look at the sun. It's bad for your eyes," Scorpion grumbled. Kuai looked in surprise. "I didn't know you cared so much," she joked. He glared up at her. "I don't." Kuai rolled her eyes. "So much for that." They were nearing the peak of the mountain after hours of climbing when Kuai noticed that there were no hand- or foot- holds on the surface. She grimaced as she slid up using her cryomancy, impaling a Kori Blade at the peak to keep her still. She bent over the over side and shouted, "You have to throw me your kunai! I'll hoist you up!"
Scorpion's eyes seemed to ignite in fury at needing help from his nemesis, but he did as she said. Kuai grabbed the chain, wrapping it around her wrist. She began pulling on it, helping the spectre up, but she was losing her strength fast. She noticed that her Kori blade was starting to crack, and she thought of other options. She hesitated, then shouted, "Can you teleport to me and keep the kunai in your hand?" Scorpion nodded, concentrating. He slid down the peak before disappearing in a burst of fire. He fell from above Kuai, and he landed next to her, impaling one of his swords into the ice. Kuai looked down the mountain. Climbing down would take more unnecessary time, and it was more vertical. She glanced at Scorpion. He seemed to be thinking the same thing. Taking this as encouragement, Kuai said, "I'm thinking about doing something really stupid, but it's so stupid, it might just work."
Scorpion fixed another one of his glares on her. "What?"
If one stood at the bottom of the mountain from inside Orderrealm, you would have heard the faint sound of screaming before seeing two disgruntled people untangled themselves from each other hastily. This was because Kuai had thought of doing an elongated icy slide down the mountain, with Scorpion being dragged down behind her, the kunai holding the two securely. However, the two had hit rough rock in the middle of the way, and Kuai eventually lost her purchase about halfway towards the bottom, sending the two tumbling down the rest of the way. Luckily, there was only soft snow that cushioned their fall, however, there was a yank on the chain that broke Kuai's wrist.
When Scorpion went to harshly untangle his kunai from Kuai's wrist, she cried out in pain. The wraith sighed, removing it gently, and then examined Sub-Zero's injury. She grit her teeth as he set the bone back into its proper place, then he wrapped a bandage from Kuai's pack to secure it. She looked into his white eyes, and smiled. "Thanks." She turned around and walked into the snowy woods, heading towards civilization, leaving a stunned Scorpion. The further she traveled away from the burning wraith, the more snow seemed to accumulate on the brush and forestry. Shaking himself from his state of stupor, he walked quickly to catch up with her.
As they walked, Kuai looked consistently at the map and her compass, but the spectre was watching her, noticing how similar she was to Kana. Not only did they look alike, but she had the same snarky attitude, and was as precise and moved gracefully as his dead wife. He turned away, shutting out these thoughts. Why was he thinking this way? However, as Scorpion continued to glance at the cryomancer, the more he realized that Kuai was starting to grow on him.He wouldn't have admitted it at the moment, but he was starting to enjoy being around the cryomancer's quiet and calm aura.
Chapter 5: Undercover
Their reserved house was nice and spacious, but didn't stand out amongst its surroundings, thankfully. Kuai sighed in relief when she entered the house and fell on the couch. Scorpion looked down at her, contempt rising in a sneer behind his mask. "Don't judge me! I'm tired!" Kuai snapped. Scorpion snarled, taken aback by the sudden mood change. "I wasn't." Kuai rolled her eyes, muttering, "Yeah, right," but let the issue slide. She got up eventually, and stretched.
"I'm going to my room and unpack," she told her companion. He walked after her, and she paused. "Why are you following me?" The wraith crossed his arms. "We can't be farther than five feet away from each other before something freezes or burns up. Therefore, I am forced to remain close to you for the time being." Kuai raised a brow. "And then, how am I going to change and bathe?" Scorpion shifted uncomfortably. "I'll just turn away."
When the duo entered the vacant room, Scorpion just sat on the unmade bed while Kuai paced the entire room, putting away her clothes in the wardrobes. Then, she began to take out familiar clothing to the wraith. "What are you doing with MY clothes?!" Kuai looked up. "They're technically Hanzo's, and they're for you. Raiden packed my bag. I had no idea they were there, but we're lucky he thought of that. I'm definitely not leaving the house with you dressed the way you are." Scorpion fumed silently, but chose not to reply. They fell silent as Kuai methodically unpacked everything. She even went to place a few photographs on her nightstand, then went to the adjoining bathroom to put the remaining items in their correct places.
While she worked, Scorpion watched her stand in one corner of the room, then walk briskly to the other side. He was captivated by her movements, and he was slightly afraid of that. I shouldn't be thinking this. Why am I acting like a lovesick schoolgirl? He shook his head, confused. At that moment, Kuai walked back into the room, noticing the feeling of distress evaporating from her ally. "Are you alright, Scorpion?" He looked up and glared, everything bursting out of his seams.
"Why do you even CARE? I killed your brother! You shouldn't even be looking at me with concern or.. pity!!!" Kuai flinched slightly, and that subtle movement filled Scorpion with regret. However, the cryomancer recovered quickly, and summoned the courage to sit on the bed next to him. "The thing is, I can't stop caring about my friends and allies. My brother often scolded me and told me that it would get me killed one day, but I didn’t listen to him.” She looked up at the ceiling and sighed. “I never listened to him. And when he died, I felt almost free. Like I was floating. It unfortunately, didn’t last long.”
”Bi-Han is alive,” she said carefully. Scorpion whipped around. “That’s impossible. You said it yourself, he’s dead! He was killed by my own hands!” She looked at him. “Do you regret killing Bi-Han?” Scorpion blinked. Do I regret it? “I only regret taking him from a family I didn’t know he had,” he said carefully. Kuai snorted uncharacteristically. “It’s not like I was waiting for him. Trust me, he was worse than my father at times. He now serves Quan Chi and calls himself Noob Saibot.” She crossed her arms, continuing. “Actually, Smoke was more of a brother to me. He was always by my side, and made me laugh when I needed to. But, on one occasion, he tried to confess his feelings for me. I just considered him too much of a brother to me such that I refused. He thankfully took it with great stride.”
There was a silence. Eventually, Kuai placed a hand gently on Scorpion’s shoulder. “Can you stand up? I need to get the bed set up. And get ready; apparently there’s a party tonight. It’s masquerade themed, and I’ve also heard from the locals on the way here that their resident ‘shaman’ will be there sitting in one of the High Seats.”
That night, Scorpion stood in front of his open wardrobe, considering what would be deemed “acceptable” to wear. Eventually, Kuai walked by and took out a suit with a red bow tie attached to the hanger, examining it (and also startling the spectre). “Well, this will do,” she shoved the clothes to Scorpion without saying anything else, then exited the room before he could react. The two were able to stay within five feet between a wall if a nearby door was open between them. Scorpion eyed the clothing, and growled, annoyed.
After donning the uncomfortable clothing, Scorpion walked outside stiffly, arms crossed. “This is stupid.” Kuai looked at him critically. “If you mean the way you put on your tie, then yes, that is stupid.” Kuai tried to hide a smile while she adjusted the red silk until it was in its proper shape and form. She smiled. “There. Now stay out here so that I can change.” She walked inside the bedroom, leaving the door open.
Scorpion leaned against the adjoining wall. Everything about this was stupid. He felt as though he was being tethered to the other person, and there was nothing he could do about it. Inside their room, he heard a quiet “dammit” being uttered from Kuai. Eventually, she walked outside, and for the first time in their mission, the wraith could sense Hanzo react in an emotion other than anger.
Kuai had let her hair down, the straight strands falling to the small of her back. The scar that had once covered her eye was covered miraculously (using makeup, she said), and she was wearing contacts to make her eyes seem more "human-like". The brown eyes were reminiscent of what she used to look like before her cryomantic powers affected her appearance. She wore a sleeveless red dress that extended to the floor, but didn’t drag behind her. For the final touch, she wore a simple gold band on her wrist.
“Is it too much? I didn’t want to wear blue, because that might give me away,” Kuai asked, twirling around to examine her appearance. Scorpion shook his head quickly. “No. You look... nice,” he responded lamely. What else was he supposed to say? However, Kuai smiled gently. “Thanks. Ready?" Scorpion recovered quickly from his state of stupor and nodded. The two walked out of the house together. Kuai extended her arm, but Scorpion snapped, "Don't push it."
The outdoor space was full of people, the atmosphere hot. Kuai shifted uncomfortably in her outfit. She was not accustomed to wearing a dress. I don't even remember when I last wore one. She sipped her champagne that a passing worker had offered her. She glanced around the area, trying to catch sight of the Netherrealm sorcerer. Beside her, she noticed Scorpion tensing up, before muttering under his breath to her, "I need to go. You should stand in the corner so that the cold won't affect anyone," and left promptly. Kuai watched him leave, concerned that he would do something too drastic without her, but she told herself to relax.
Meanwhile, Scorpion cursed under his breath as he walked inside the building and climbed the stairs to the top. What is he doing here? He shoved a pair of twin doors open, walking to the balcony where the shadow servant of Quan Chi stood, waiting. Scorpion hissed. "Sub-Zero." The assassin regarded him coldly. "That is no longer my name. However, it's a major improvement that you've now been told who I am." Scorpion raised a fist, but Noob Saibot did not flinch. Instead, he waved a hand. "Come. There is no need for such measures. Tell me, were you shocked when you discovered that I had a sister?"
Scorpion stood stiffly beside his adversary. "I was surprised that you treated your own blood like dirt." That got a reaction from the wraith beside him. Hissing, he replied, "She was no blood of mine! She tarnishes the Sub-Zero name, and my reputation. She doesn't kill; doesn't push away emotion." Scorpion clenched his fists. "And yet, despite your lack of empathy for her when she needed you most, she still cares for you, deep down. Yet, you continue to push her away." Noob scoffed, seeming to be annoyed. "She will die for it. I have tried to erase every bit of my past. Now, Scorpion, that you are dead, take a look at that woman in the red dress."
From the top balcony, Scorpion peered over the edge to where Kuai was. Chills were sent down his spine. From behind, Noob whispered. "You see, the only thing I have yet to erase from my history, is her." And with that, he gave the wraith a harsh shove, sending him over the edge.
With a shout of outrage, Scorpion had to teleport to a safer place. His suit now burnt and smoking, he looked up too late as Kuai screamed as she was dragged by Oni that had emerged from a blazing portal. She was freezing the demons, but the corner took away the leverage she needed. As she disappeared through the portal, Scorpion growled, and teleported over the portal, falling into it after her.
The hellspawn landed on his feet, crouching. He looked up, the fiery depths of the Netherrealm becoming familiar to him. He looked ahead, and tensed up.
Kuai had already been tied up, chains circling her midsection. She had a cloth over her mouth, only wide eyes indicating the sense of panic that was being felt. Scorpion narrowed his eyes. Noob Saibot had her, constraining her with his clone. He sneered, then looked up at the cliff overlooking the area, where the sorcerer who was responsible for killing Scorpion's clan stood.
He teleported to the ground, chuckling menacingly. "Scorpion! Long time no see." Scorpion hissed. "You will die a slow and painful death," he promised. Quan Chi folded his arms. "Is that so? I have a bargain, then. I know you, Scorpion. You let me live, and I will restore your family back to life. I have heard that the Shirai Ryu have been reformed sucessfully." Scorpion hesitated. The sorcerer had led him astray too many times. "What about the girl?" Quan Chi titled his head. "The Grandmaster? She will die. Even if you kill me, you will not be able to stop Saibot from pushing her into the lava pit. That would be a shame." Kuai struggled at the words, but was unable to do anything.
Scorpion stood. Then, he laughed.
It started slow and soft, but grew louder. "Well, Quan Chi, it appears that you don't know me anymore. GET OVER HERE!" Scorpion threw his kunai, catching the sorcerer and reeling him in. At that moment, Kuai hit her head against the clone's, rolling away. She froze her chains, breaking them easily, and proceeded to defend herself from her two assailants. Meanwhile, Scorpion continued to channel his anger and frustration on landing blow after blow, beginning to taste his long sought revenge. At last, the sorcerer fell to the ground, to weak to stand up. Triumphant, Scorpion stood over his enemy, and unsheathed one of his swords. "Now, you die, sorcerer!" He swung downwards, decapitating his foe before he could plead for mercy.
Suddenly, Scorpion heard a shout of alarm behind. Whirling around, he saw that his ally had tripped on her outfit, and was trying to crawl away from her two attackers. Enraged at what was happening, Scorpion saw red as he charged, knocking Noob Saibot back. Taking him off guard, the clone disappeared, allowing Kuai to recover and aid Scorpion in taking down the thing that had once been her brother. The duo moved and fought flawlessly, seeming to know exactly what their partner was going to do, and helping each other set up for their attacks. It seemed that they had been fighting alongside each other for decades past. Before Scorpion could blink, the malevolent wraith was laying on the ground, unconscious. Kuai pulled on Scorpion's arm with a sense of urgency; the lava pits surrounding them had risen to an unsafe level, and they would be burned alive if they didn't leave quickly.
Scorpion grabbed Kuai's hand and was about to teleport back to Earthrealm when Kuai yanked her arm away. "I can't leave Bi-Han here!" The hellspawn looked at her, incredulous. "You have to be joking." Kuai seemed to be on the verge of tears. Scorpion could tell that she was being torn apart. "Raiden can help him!" Scorpion shook his head. "And if he can't? If Bi-Han can not be restored, what then?" Kuai's lower lip trembled. She hadn't ever felt this weak in her life. "I'll kill him." Scorpion hesitated, then growled in frustration. He knew what it felt like to lose family. "FINE. But if he isn't fixed, he dies." With a nod of confirmation from the Lin Kuei Grandmaster, the two jogged to the shadow wraith's fallen form, holding onto each other as they disappeared.
"What the fuck is that doing here?" Sonya was very annoyed. Her recent mission trying to bring down Shang Tsung with the others had failed miserably, as they were caught off guard by the sudden increased strength of the two Shokan, Goro and Kintaro. Now, Sub-Zero and Scorpion had returned, bags hastily packed and with an enemy in the Special Forces base. However, Raiden intervened before the blind general could say more. "This is your brother, yes?" Kuai nodded, breathless. "Can you help him, or not?" Scorpion retorted. Raiden held out his hands, feeling the unconscious wraith's energy and chi. After a while, he opened his eyes. "I am able to restore Bi-Han to his proper mind, however, I am unable to alter his physical form. He will never be able to summon or wield the power of ice again. Kuai nodded her head. "Just help him. Please."
Raiden teleported away with the body, saying that he needed the strength of the Jinsei to aid his task. However, he presented Kuai with a new restraint, a thin band made of obsidian decorated with turquoise gems. Scorpion felt anger and resentment as she snapped the band around her neck, feeling that it was like a chain or a rope harming her. Now that her powers were dampened, Scorpion relinquished his hold over Hanzo Hasashi. However, before he did so, he pulled Kuai aside, and hesitated, before finally saying, "It was an honor to work with you. You are a.. very honorable warrior. I hope we will be able to work together again." The Lin Kuei had smiled brilliantly, something that again took Scorpion off guard. How could someone who had experienced such pain still smile like she did? "The honor was mine, Scorpion. Thank you."
Chapter 6: Family, Friends... and Something More
The next morning brought a nice change, to Kuai's perspective. She blinked out the sun peeking from her bedside window, sitting up and stretching. She turned to the other side of her room, where Tomas was leaning in her doorway. She shrieked, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" He didn't say anything, but held up a picture on his phone that he had taken of her while she slept; messy hair, face buried in her pillow, snoozing like she was dead to the world. Her eyes widened as Tomas grinned wickedly. "You.. DON'T YOU DARE!!!" He faded away, Kuai cursing as she threw the covers off and chased after him wearing her blue silk pajamas and pink slippers.
Tomas hooted in joy as he dashed into the kitchen, where a sleepy Cage and Lao were sipping coffee. They looked up in confusion, then standing next to them, Smoke sent the picture to everyone in the base, snickering. Kuai burst down the doors, her hair looking more like a bird's nest due to her chasing after her "friend". Johnny's phone rang with the message sent, and he opened it up in confusion, laughing as soon as he saw it. He showed it to Kung Lao beside him, and soon, the two were laughing together. Kuai glowered at Tomas. "You. Are. So. Dead." He shrugged in response. "I've still got a few more minutes, at least. He bolted away, Kuai cursing again as she chased him.
She ran by the two Edenians' bedrooms, the two looking in confusion before their phones rang. Kuai blushed furiously, not bothering to wait for their reaction. She slid around the corner, but her slippers failed to give her the proper purchase, and she continued to slide down the corridor, slamming into someone.
"OW! JOHNNY, I.."
Hanzo looked in confusion and shock as he looked up at a dazed Kuai, sitting on his midsection. He cleared his throat, waiting for an answer, and when she looked up, her cheeks colored with a deep shade of red. "Oh! Um.. sorry. It's just... Tomas.." Hanzo's phone dinged from his pocket, and he pulled it out, looking at the picture. He smiled gently, Kuai holding her head in her hands, embarrassed. "You look cute," Hanzo said. Kuai shook her head, still covering her face. "I've got to go. Kill a friend," voice muffled. She got up, bolting away.
The breakfast table was an uncomfortable place to be. Kuai ate sullenly, glaring at Tomas occasionally, who now had a fresh set of bruises decorating his face. The others were watching the two awkwardly. Tomas grinned, missing a tooth. "So... how was your morning?" Kuai slammed her butter knife into the wood table, impaling it. "It was fine. But, if you keep this up, it won't be pleasant for you." Tomas raised his hands. "Jeez. Chill, Kuai!" She glowered at him. "Someone's going to be chilling soon. And what have we said about ice puns?"
"You're right. I've got to LET IT GO..."
"Never mind. It wasn't ice enough. And -"
Tomas was cut off unexpectedly when suddenly, a black-gloved hand was clamped over his mouth. "Say one more thing, and it's your neck that's going to break."
Everyone's eyes widened as Bi-Han removed his hand from Smoke's mouth. His skin was flesh, clothes still pitch black. Kuai smiled hesitantly, dislodging the knife quickly from the table. "Hello, brother. How are you doing?" Bi-Han titled his head. "I don't know. Everything is different and the same." The newcomer sat down in his chair, the others beginning to talk again. Bi-Han kept a level gaze on Kuai opposite him from the table. She was like his earlier description of everything earlier. Different and the same. He could tell that she was still too emotional and empathetic, but Raiden had stated how much more strong she had gotten. He would have to make her uncomfortable if he was going to get a proper measurement of that, he thought and leaned forward.
"Have you learned nothing in my absence?", he snapped. The occupants at the table went silent. He plastered a sneer on his face. "I thought that my death would have at least encouraged you to act more responsibly. Despite my hopes, you're still weak. Too emotional." He spat the words like a mantra he had repeated a many times before. "Like always, you always prove me wrong." He walked away, leaving the others.
Sonya stood up. "What the fuck? You saved his life and he doesn't give a shit." Kenshi shook his head. "Here we go again," he said, looking down sadly. Kuai blinked twice, not moving at all. Jade walked to her side, touching her arm lightly. "Kuai?" She blinked rapidly, voice breaking, "I.. um.. I have to go." She stumbled over the leg of her chair, hands shaking as she fumbled at the doorknob. Noob watched from a distance away, nodding slightly and felt a twinge of regret in his chest as she walked away.
She found herself in the training room.
All she could do was channel her anger in every blow, every strike. She kept at the simulation, eventually stopping in exhaustion. She leaned against a wall in the corner where the lights were unlit, sliding down and sitting down. She held her knees with her arms, and held her head against her kneecaps, sobbing silently. All I ever wanted was to earn his respect, his trust. I just wanted to be seen as an equal to him. But it wasn't ever enough!
About half an hour later, Hanzo walked into the room, leading up a simulation of his own, when he heard sniffling in Kuai's location. He frowned, approaching the light switch, and turned on the remaining lights. Kuai still held her head down, not noticing her own surroundings. Hanzo sighed, making his way over to her. "Kuai? Are you okay?"
She looked up with puffy red eyes. "I don't know. My brother with his own mind has told me that he hates me, and I can't even think straight. How do you think I feel?" Hanzo was not deterred by her snapping comment. He sat next to her. "I've never had someone I've loved dearly reject me as such, but I can tell you one thing; Bi-Han has never truly known you. If he really thinks you are worthless, he is wrong. You are the strongest person I've ever met. You could have easily dispatched Shao Kahn singlehandedly. I have the utmost respect for you. You have shown mercy when others would have resulted to less honorable tactics. No, Kuai Liang, you are not worthless." She sniffled, laughing after a while. Hanzo looked at her, surprised. "That.. worked quickly?"
Kuai shook her head. "That's probably the most I've ever heard you talk." The two chuckled together, Kuai wiping her eyes. Afterwards, she grasped Hanzo's hand, startling him. "Thank you. For everything," she said. He nodded. "Would you like to spar lightly with me?"
It was past noon before the two realized that they had to go for dinner. Kuai left to take a shower in her room, saying a temporary goodbye to Hanzo before departing. He could still feel the butterflies dancing in his chest from when he first saw Kuai in her corner. He walked to his room for a shower of his own, a smile splitting his face. When he was done, he walked to the dining area, taking his usual seat. Kuai sat next to him shortly afterwards, Tomas sitting next to her as Bi-Han sat stiffly opposite her. The others piled in, chatting. Kuai avoided her brother's gaze, and when Hanzo noticed this, he placed a hand on Kuai's leg in comfort.
She relaxed at the gesture, squeezing her hand over his. Looking up confidently, she talked with Sonya, who was giving more information about their mission trying to take down Shang Tsung. Her brother frowned at her behavior. He had to do something drastic if he was going to see how much stronger she had grown over him. Once the conversation had gotten more lively, Tomas piped in with, "How was your mission with Scorpion, Kuai?" She smiled, thinking back at the good memories. "It was great. He's actually not that bad, once you understand his pain and where he's coming from. Despite his lack of personal space, he's great company." Across the table, Bi-Han sensed an opportunity. He snorted, "Typical. Of course, you would stoop so low as to ally yourself with the enemy."
Unexpectedly, Hanzo stood up. "What is your problem?" Bi-Han didn't react, but sat and looked up leeringly. This person, he had no problem acting like an asshole at. "Was I talking to you, Hanzo Hasashi? Without Scorpion, you're just a mortal." Hanzo glared. He had forgotten how irritable it was dealing with this particular Lin Kuei. "So are you. So, I'd shut your mouth, bastard. Kuai is better than you in every way." Bi-Han clenched his fists in anticipation, the conversation leaning the right way. "Whatever." Tomas stood up. "Kuai would beat you, any day." Kuai looked up in alarm. "Tomas. Sit down," she hissed. Bi-Han held up a hand. This was exactly what he needed. "No. After dinner. Training room." Everyone sat back down, Kuai shaking in fear.
Kuai adjusted her armguards for the fifteenth time, fidgeting nervously. She looked up at Tomas and Hanzo, who had just walked into her room. "Guys, I can't do this. I can't beat him." Tomas crossed his arms. "Not with that on." He beckoned at his own neck, Kuai's hand flying to her own. "No. I can't. It's not fair." Hanzo shook his head. "Not fair? That is who you are. Stop holding yourself back. Be who you are. You are not Bi-Han. Forge your own path. Be free. If you do this, you can beat anyone. You don't have to be afraid anymore." Tomas looked at his companion in surprise but didn't comment.
Kuai breathed deeply, not reacting for a long time. Eventually, she started nodding slowly. "Okay." She took the key, unlocking the brace, and let it fall to the floor. Immediately, the air chilled, but Kuai narrowed her eyes, holding out her hand, and the cold dissipated. She stood up straight. "I can do this."
The three walked to the training room, Hanzo and Tomas sitting in the bleachers. As soon as they sat down, Tomas leaned over and said, "So... looks like you've got something for Kuai, huh?" Hanzo frowned. "I have no idea what you're talking about." Tomas waggled his eyebrows. "Really? You don't feel.. romantic? Love? A certain need to just bang her-"
"What the fuck is wrong with you?!"
"You're blushing!!" Tomas pointed at his face. Hanzo shook his head. "Don't deny it. The longer you wait, the harder it will be. I've seen the way she looks at you. She looks at you the way I sometimes wish that she would look at me." He sighed sadly. "But I can't be that person for her. You, you have a chance, you idiot." Hanzo didn't reply, touched in a weird sort of way, but also because the two fighters had walked to the arena.
The two siblings got into their respective fighting stances, facing each other. Bi-Han eventually made the first move, teleporting behind Kuai, but she whirled around, freezing him immediately. His eyes widened. She threw the ice faster than I thought she would! She landed a well-executed combo on him, dealing painful blows on his body. Growling, Noob teleported away to a safer location and resorted to throwing shuriken at his sister, trying to keep away. However, once Kuai caught on quickly after conjuring a wall of ice to prevent the sharp edges, she disappeared when the wall shattered. Bi-Han looked around, movements a little more frantic. From his seat, Hanzo nodded slightly in satisfaction. It was what the asshole deserved.
Kuai materialized behind her brother, kicking viciously at his ankles which made him fall over. Teleportation? He felt a spark of jealousy. If he was still with his cryomancy, maybe he would have been able to do this too. Snarling, he formed a shadow clone behind her, but Kuai formed her Kori Blade, and she sliced the sword in an arc, hitting the attackers from behind and below her. However, as she swung down, Bi-Han grabbed the blade at the last moment, and he kicked her shin, slamming her on the ground over him. The moment that Kuai hit the ground, the arena exploded.
The walls and floor were covered with a thick layer of ice, snow starting to accumulate on the ground. From the sudden blast, Noob Saibot had now been trapped in an icy prison, unable to break out of it easily as he had before. Raiden was not lying. But, she has not established full control. He felt a sense of pride looking at her, despite his situation. Kuai, who had been kneeling, stood upright. Her pale eyes were now glowing as brightly as the turquoise gems had been on the restraint when she wore it; pale mist evaporated from her forearms. She walked over to her frozen opponent and with a single fluid motion, punched him square in the face. Bi-Han was sent backwards, falling on the ground, defeated and unconscious.
"That was awesome!!!" Tomas squealed in delight as he ran down to Kuai (he slipped on the icy floor, but that never happened (according to him)). He hugged her, lifting her into the air. "Tomas... can't.. breathe," Kuai choked out.
After setting her down, the others carefully walked over to the two. Kuai examined her arms. "It feels weird. As soon as I removed the restraint, it seemed like I knew what to do to control myself." Liu Kang nodded thoughtfully. "Does this mean that you don't need the restraint anymore?" Kuai looked up, a pure smile on her face. "I think so. I've got the hang of most of it. I think that I need to spend some more time meditating to calm myself down, and I also need to be careful with being caught off guard." She gestured around her to prove her point. Jade and Kung Lao supported Bi-Han as they carried him to the medbay, the others walking out of the training room to stand on safer ground.
"You know what this means, Kuai?" Tomas looked at his friend expectantly. Kuai was confused. "Umm... what?" The enenra rolled his eyes. "Shots, Kuai. DRINKS! DRINKS!" She yanked on his arm, silencing him. "You idiot! No one is getting drunk, because we have a job to do!" Tomas shrugged. "Well, we're not doing it now. And besides, you just don't want everyone to know that you're probably a better drinker than Bo' Rai Cho." Kuai's face started to flush, the others watching the exchange like tracking a ping-pong ball being passed from one end of the table to the other. "That's a lie. And you know that it's only because my cyromancy restricts me from getting drunk easily." Tomas snorted. "Sure. I'm going to get wasted in the kitchen. Anyone who wants to join me is welcome."
Hanzo immediately went to his room.
It's not that he didn't like any of the other kombatants; he actually had formed solid bonds with the others. It was just that the idea of drinking with them was very uncomfortable to Hanzo. He walked in the long hallways, dimly lit. He was just about to unlock his door when he heard footsteps approaching from the opposite end of the corridor. He paused, relaxing when Kuai turned the corner. She smiled slightly when she saw him. "Hi, Hanzo. Are you okay?" He nodded, abandoning all of his attention towards the door. "You're not going to join the others?" Kuai snorted. "And stay slightly sober all night? No thanks. I wasn't lying when I said it took a lot to get me drunk."
She shifted nervously. "Umm, I actually was looking for you. I didn't get a proper chance to apologize for running into you this morning. It completely flew over my head." Hanzo shrugged. "It's not a big deal." Kuai frowned. "Well, if there's something I can do, don't hesitate to ask, alright?" As he looked at Kuai, he could hear Tomas's words from earlier ringing in his ears. He coughed, turning his head to the side. "Actually, I noticed that you've been very stressed recently, and I was wondering if you wanted to spend an evening off base. Just you and me. We can go to the town nearby and get something to eat, if you'd like." Hanzo mentally smacked himself. That was so stupid. However, Kuai grinned. "Sounds good. We should probably go tomorrow night; you don't know when we'll have to leave to take down Shang Tsung." Hanzo nodded. "Alright." Kuai continued to walk down the hallway to her own room. Their rooms were only separated by three doors.
She turned back after she unlocked her door. "Have a good night, Hanzo!" He nodded at her. "You too." After her door closed with a distinct click, Hanzo sighed in relief. He turned back to his own door, jumping in surprise and shock at the sudden form of Tomas on his other side. He glared at the newcomer. "How the hell..?" Tomas smirked. "Trade secret." Hanzo shook his head, exasperated. "You just got here because you turned into your vapor form." Tomas gasped sarcastically. "No. How did you know?" The Shirai Ryu crossed his arms. "What do you want?" Tomas leaned against the wall. "Good job, asking her out. I'll have you know, she loves ice-cream and trying new things. Something to keep in mind for your date tomorrow." Hanzo could feel his face heat up. "Thanks. And it's not a date!"
Tomas didn't respond and walked away. Now, if this works out, I get to torment two people! And maybe Bi-Han. That makes three!!! Tomas Vrbada, you are a genius.
Meanwhile, as soon as Kuai closed her door, she locked it with another padlock. Now, I don't have to worry about another surprise in the morning. A surprise named Tomas. She sighed as she fell onto her bed, looking up at the ceiling. She was unsure about how to feel as she thought back at her fight earlier. I defeated him, but I don't feel like I won. He got me to lash out like he always did in the past. If I'm going to win in any way, I just need to do what I've always done; doing my own thing and being myself. The last two words reminded her of the reformed Shirai Ryu's general telling her the same words in his talk before she went to meet Bi-Han in kombat.
She smiled at the thought of Hanzo. He always managed to get her to relax, without needing the humor that Smoke utilized constantly. It seemed that to her, he was quickly becoming a close friend, already having passed the level of appreciation that she held for her own brother. As she drifted off to sleep, the idea of a "date" passed by her head as she thought about tomorrow night, but she dismissed it as a silly thought. After all, it was just two friends going to the town for fun and relaxation, right?
Chapter 7: It's (NOT) a Date!
Bi-Han dreamed of fire.
He had been ever since he had died. Well, not really. While he was dead, he never dreamed. But he always did have frequent flashbacks, and they were always engulfed in fire.
No, fire was not capable of doing the things that it did to him. This was hellfire, and it burned deep, scorched him. He couldn't escape its grasp. He could only stare in horror as it licked greedily at his feet, the grinning silhouette of his brainwashed undead rival staring at him as he burned, screaming in the distance. But, it wasn't his voice. It was his sister's.
And then, he woke up.
Bi-Han gasped as quietly as he could, for a minute, thinking that he was in the Lin Kuei; the Elders did not tolerate such behavior and displays of weakness. But, much to his relief and slight embarrassment, he remembered where he truly was, and lay back on his bed, sighing almost silently. Seeing Hanzo Hasashi as himself again had sent mixed feelings towards the former shadow wraith. Part of him wanted to strangle him and rip his spine out, but another part of him seemed to understand his pain and wanted to talk with the Shirai Ryu. He shook his head, clearing his thoughts.
As soon as he had, however, he thought back to Kuai. Bi-Han stared at the ceiling, thinking of the fight the two had. He could easily see the expression of barely-concealed rage brewing in her eyes. Hurt. Betrayal. He felt a twinge of guilt, thinking back to the days when he was actually happy to see Kuai acting so carefree in the Lin Kuei, but that guilt shifted quickly to confusion and slight anger. He wasn't an idiot. He could clearly see what was brewing between his sister and his killer. Again, he felt angry and reluctant acceptance at the same time. Bi-Han growled, throwing the blanket off him and getting up. Why should he care? As far as he was concerned, he didn't have a sister. No, he didn't have any ties, no bloodlines, no -
Bi-Han blinked. These weren't his thoughts. He started to panic, laying back on the stretcher and clutching his head, an intruding voice taunting him. This is impossible. You're gone now! The evil spirit that he used to be stood in the darkest corner of his room. Bi-Han stared in shock. The thing was barely a shadow; alive, but not physically. It cocked its head, almost sarcastically. Am I, now? Funny, seeing that you haven't retained your cryomancy. That's why I'M here. I can't die, and now, I'm stuck to you. The spirit that was really Noob Saibot spoke with such contempt that Bi-Han flinched out of reflex. It seemed like it wanted to continue, but it hesitated, looking at the door, almost nervously.
Bi-Han followed its gaze, jumping in surprise at the sudden appearance of Hanzo Hasashi. The Shirai Ryu frowned in confusion, seeing Bi-Han awake. "I'm sorry if I woke you. I just thought.. nevermind." Bi-Han snarled out of natural reflex. "Just get out, filth." Hanzo's eyes narrowed at the other's response. He opened his mouth to snap something when Bi-Han pointed behind him, eyes widening in clear fear. Hanzo whipped around.
To the normal person, no one would have seen anything, but to these two, who had gone through death and come back alive, they could clearly see the ghostly form of Scorpion behind his human counterpart. Hanzo cautiously turned back to Bi-Han. "How- how did you... You see him too?" Bi-Han started to breathe unsteadily. His nightmare was seeming to become more real by the minute. "How can you not?!" Hanzo crossed his arms. "I've only been able to see him. I'm surprised you've.." He trailed off, noticing the counterpart of the other person in the room emerging from the corner.
He looked at Bi-Han, sitting on the stretcher. "I came here to get Scorpion. I thought I sensed his presence in this room, but it turns out it was your little friend instead." The Lin Kuei warrior flopped back into the bed, not wanting to talk to any of the people in the room. Noob Saibot smirked. "Did you enjoy my sudden return, Hasashi?" Hanzo frowned slightly, keeping his anger in check. "As much as a dog likes a continuously returning flea." Scorpion still didn't say anything but seethed in anger in the doorway. Hanzo ignored the two wraiths, making his way to the other human.
"I understand how difficult this must seem for you."
Bi-Han shot up. "Do you? Really? I can't sleep. And now that they are here, how the hell am I supposed to live peacefully?" he lashed out. Hanzo waited, not saying anything. The Lin Kuei huffed, turning around in a display of anger.
"My dreams are encased in ice."
Bi-Han whipped around. Hanzo's hands were clasped tightly. "It's always so cold. Too cold. I'm walking the path to the Shirai Ryu temple, but something's wrong. I start running. Everyone's frozen, some dead in their prisons, other slain and bleeding on the ground. I run to my house, thinking about my wife and son, but they're there. Frozen. Eyes lit in panic, but I was always too late." Bi-Han sat in mesmerization at what was happening. Hanzo Hasashi, opening up to him? Hell must have frozen over. "Then, I look at my hands in horror as they start to freeze, a thick layer of ice swallowing them. The ice covers my body, and then it's you..."
Hanzo had spat out the last word, trailing off in thought. "You kill me just as you did in real life. But, recently, you've changed into Quan Chi. That's how every dream of mine ends. Me dying, knowing that I was too late." He looked up at his rival, anger and sadness filling his eyes. "You see, I understand. I know everything you're going through right now."
"Mine are lit in a blaze."
Bi-Han spoke up, in a dead-like trance. The words were just flowing from him. "It's burning. The flames are licking my feet and climbing my body. I'm begging for help, but no one can hear me. But, I always know that its hellfire. And then, I look up to see you as that thing, and everything goes red, and then black." The two fell into silence. "We can't forget our fears, our demons," Hanzo started. The two looked at their invisible counterparts. "We'll never forget. It will always be engraved in our mind. But, over time, as you make friends and family; surround yourself with people who care, then the pain becomes easier to bear."
Bi-Han frowned at Hanzo. "Why do you even care?" Hanzo grimaced. "I know that what I did was wrong. I couldn't control my actions, and I'm sorry that it resulted in your pain." Bi-Han cut in. "I shouldn't have killed you in the first place. If I had let you live, you would have gone home to your family. I'm sorry." The words were hard to spit out, but the Lin Kuei realized that he actually meant it. There was only truth in the statement. Hanzo sighed. "I guess." He got up to leave, Scorpion rising from another cot to follow him out. "Over time, I was able to control Scorpion easily. I can help you with... Noob Saibot, if you'd like. Just something to start mending old wounds?" The last part was stated rather hopefully, in Bi-Han's opinion, but he didn't care.
In truth, he was tired of the fighting, of the conflict between the two of them. It was getting so old, it was no longer satisfying when he emerged, victorious. He nodded in response. Hanzo nodded back, walking out of the room. Just as Scorpion left the room, Noob called out from in the room in a smooth voice, "Later, pussy!" With a chill, Bi-Han shuddered after Scorpion growled from the hall in a booming voice, it was a wonder the others hadn't woken up, "It takes one to know one!"
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN?!!!"
"Whoa, chill, Kuai!" Tomas raised his hands to placate his friend. They were eating breakfast, Kuai choking when she heard that Tomas had overheard that Hanzo would be spending time today with her brother. "He'll kill him," Kuai muttered anxiously, wringing her hands. Tomas raised an eyebrow. "Who's killing who?" Kuai glared at him. "Does it matter?" She threw her napkin on the table, storming off to find the two. Tomas sighed, following her reluctantly.
"Why are we here?"
Tomas frowned. This was definitely NOT what he had in mind when Kuai said that they were going to follow them to make sure that nothing would go wrong. The two friends were in the air vents attached to the ceiling. The vent they were in currently was overlooking Hanzo and Bi-Han below. Tomas resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Kuai, this is not going to work," he whispered. "The vent is going to break. And I get it. You're worried, but this is a bad idea. And I'm known for bad ideas, and saying this." Kuai shushed him again.
Hanzo spoke. "With Scorpion, it was a matter of getting my anger under control. After meditation, I was able to restrain him effectively. Afterwards, I worked on properly channelling my anger to my advantage so that Scorpion would remain under my control even when I needed his help. For me, it was controlling my anger, because that is what fuels him."
Bi-Han then joined their conversation. "So then, for me, it would be to control whatever makes Noob Saibot stronger, correct?" Hanzo nodded. "Exactly. However, that is what I am slightly worried about. For me, it was easy to distinguish that anger was my problem. Noob does a better job of hiding his weakness." Bi-Han shook his head. "He bleeds it more clearly than Scorpion bleeds anger. He draws on pride. Even in life, that was what my downfall was." Hanzo thought carefully, eventually nodding. "It makes sense. So, if you want to repress Noob Saibot, you need to not be so prideful."
Kuai frowned. "I guess they're just helping each other out, then." Tomas sighed in relief. "Yes, now let's just get out-"
At that moment, the vent under them bent in a "V" shape, Kuai and Tomas at the bottom. They looked at each other, afraid. Tomas eventually sighed. "I told you." At those words, the metal snapped, sending the two tumbling to the ground.
Hanzo and Bi-Han were at first caught off guard, but then it shifted to Hanzo repressing a smile whereas Bi-Han looked down at the two, incredulous. "AGAIN?" Hanzo looked at the eldest Lin Kuei. "This has happened before?" Bi-Han sighed in slight frustration and exasperation, throwing his hands into the air. "Only a dozen times or so. These two had mapped out the vents of the Lin Kuei and got into restricted areas. Sometimes, they'd drop water balloons or other things on the heads of the other Lin Kuei." Tomas and Kuai, now standing, had listened to these words. Tomas laughed. "Oh, yeah! And we only got caught once! Kuai thought of dropping the pig guts on Halloween, right?"
Kuai was embarrassed. She was starting to wish that she had listened to Tomas earlier. She settled on kicking Tomas in the shins, silencing him effectively. "Sorry. We'll just... go." She started to drag Tomas out of the room when Hanzo called after her. "Could you actually stay? I think that it would help your brother with trying to get Noob Saibot under control if he's around people he's comfortable with." Kuai raised a brow. "I don't think that he would want me here. You saw how he fought me yesterday." Bi-Han walked forward, reminded of the events that she was talking about. "I wanted to talk to you about that, actually. I wanted to apologize, Kuai."
She looked at him in surprise. He continued speaking. "I just wanted to try and gauge how powerful you have gotten. Raiden had told me that you had accomplished many things in my absence, but I wanted to see for myself. I'm sorry." Kuai was shocked. "Umm, it's okay. Really." She hesitantly stepped forwards, and when Bi-Han opened his arms, she ran into them, hugging him tightly. "I missed you," she whispered. Unknown to her, Bi-Han blinked back sudden tears. "I did, too."
Tomas fidgeted. "So, does this mean I can leave now?" Hanzo sighed, socking him on the arm. "You are so stupid."
It was finally night.
Hanzo checked his watch. He had donned a simple grey sweatshirt and dark jeans as to blend in with the crowd for his and Kuai's "outing" (Tomas had repeatedly referred to it as a "date", annoyingly enough). As the time continued to tick by, he continued to grow more and more worried. Had she decided to just not come? He winced as his other invisible self, leaning against the wall spoke. "Don't be stupid. She'll be here. And for your information, you set your watch ten minutes early, dumbass." Hanzo frowned. "Thanks," he muttered reluctantly, fixing the device to its proper setting.
The Shirai Ryu and the undead spectre looked up simultaneously to Kuai standing in the doorframe. She wore a plain white tunic and bright blue jeans, leaving her hair untouched. Hanzo stared at her, not hearing her words. "- umm, are you alright?" He shook his head, disrupting his trance. "Sorry. I didn't hear you the first time," he stated in an apologetic tone. Scorpion scoffed, Kuai not noticing his presence in the room. "Typical." Kuai smiled slightly, despite Hanzo's reply. "That's alright. I was just asking where we were going to go for tonight. We have to get back early so that no one notices we are gone. I wrote a note on my desk just in case." Hanzo nodded. "That's a good idea. Are you ready?"
Kuai walked up so that she was standing right next to him, clutching his hand. "Ready," she nodded firmly. If they were caught outside of the base without permission, there would be serious consequences. However, Kuai had this mischievous glint in her eyes that caught Hanzo off guard. This must be the young girl that disobeyed the clan's rules. Grinning slightly himself, he teleported, the two of them disappearing from the room.
When Kuai's feet finally touched solid ground, she crouched in order to dampen the impact of the fall. Standing up a little shakily, she sighed in relief, thankful that none of her body parts had been left behind. When she looked around, she gasped at the view.
They had been brought to the border of a city, full of life and color. Sure, she had travelled to other places in missions, but she never had the time to examine the sight itself. She turned around, looking at Hanzo. "Well? What first?" He smiled at her sudden energy. "Well, we can go get something to eat first, and then we can walk around. Sound good?" Kuai nodded.
"I WAS GOING TO PAY!"
Hanzo winced, clutching his upper arm in the general area where Kuai had sucker-punched him. She was indignant, furious that Hanzo had paid for their meals when she left to the bathroom. They walked down the street, conversing. "The bill was right there. I had my money with me. Therefore, I paid for it. Besides," Hanzo stated, thinking if these next words would be good for his health and very existence, "I doubt the Lin Kuei are apt in their sums." Kuai's eyes lit up with fury. I should have just shut up. "Really? REALLY? Is that a jape at the Lin Kuei? I'll have you know that my teacher was impressed with my mathematical skills. In fact, he wanted me to teach the next generation, but I refused. I'd say that that accounts for more than you've ever accomplished."
Hanzo stared at her, shocked. "I was going to offer the Lin Kuei alliance with the Shirai Ryu when we were done here, but I think that I've changed my mind." Kuai snorted. "Fine with me. Take your offer and shove it up your ass before I do it for you!" Hanzo frowned but was immediately reassured when he caught a smirk threatening to break out on Kuai's face, turning away at the last minute. He snorted, unable to help himself, before breaking into laughter. Kuai started to giggle, very uncharacteristic of her, forcing Hanzo to stop and stare again. I've been doing this a lot lately. Behind them, Scorpion rolled his eyes. "No shit." Hanzo turned around to glare at the spectre, and Kuai stopped. "What's wrong?" Hanzo shook his head. "Nothing."
The two walked in comfortable silence before Kuai piped up again. "So, where are we going now?" Hanzo sighed jokingly. "I can see why the Lin Kuei hated you when you were a child." Kuai rolled her eyes, saying, "Are you going to answer my question?" Hanzo snorted. "We're going to see the ocean. I don't think you've seen it yet." Kuai nodded. "I've heard stories."
As soon as she said this, the ground under their feet shook, throwing the two to the concrete surface below them. Kuai narrowed her eyes. "What's going on?" Hanzo traced the outline of a huge crack in the pavement. "I don't know." The two looked up as the screaming started. They immediately took off, running into the fray rather than away from it. Soon, they found the source of the problem.
Multiple men carrying and wearing the Black Dragon symbol were jumping down from a large vessel that had come from the sea, with Tremor and Jarek at the head of the group. Kuai huffed quietly as she and Hanzo jumped behind a wall, peeking out from the dock alleyway. "What do they want?" she whispered to her companion. Hanzo held up a hand, telling her to wait.
"- are we even here?"
Tremor clenched his hand into a fist. "You know why, Jarek. Kano sent the distress signal. That means he's here. Close." Jarek rolled his eyes. "Yeah, but do we have to get him? Let's face it. Kano is an asshole. Why can't we just start over?" Tremor looked down at the shorter man, silencing him with a look. Then, he ordered the Black Dragon troops forward into the city. Kuai hissed, "We have to do something." Hanzo nodded. He teleported into the street at the top of the sudden incline in the road, stopping the tracks of the enemy. Cursing under her breath, Kuai touched the wall of the building she was against and formed a trail of ice to the top of the small building. She then performed a vertical ice slide, carrying herself to the top.
Meanwhile, Hanzo stared down the countless enemies standing before him. Jarek snorted. "It's just some ordinary citizen. Why have we stopped?" Tremor stared carefully, finally able to discern who the man actually was, and the threat he had against their attack. "Why don't you kill him yourself, then, Jarek?" he suggested. The man shrugged confidently. "Fine." He drew his blade, walking briskly before charging the lone person.
Hanzo snarled inhumanely, throwing his kunai at the intended target. The weapon buried itself into Jarek's chest, the man looking down in surprise, fear, and shock. "What-" He was cut off when Hanzo sent a trail of fire down the chain, scorching the victim and yanking the chain in. He then landed a small series of short but painful blows that eventually resulted in an unconscious Jarek. He kicked the prone body of the Black Dragon clansman, sending him tumbling down the hill. "Who's next?" The voices of both Scorpion and Hanzo rang out clear, directed to the intended audience below.
Tremor clapped slowly. "Well done, Scorpion. However, I think that you'll find that Jarek and I are very different people." He was about to say more when a sudden clamor from behind the group sounded. The earth elemental whipped around, seeing the bright blue light attacking the Black Dragon from behind. In moments, the ground that the Black Dragon was standing on had become covered in ice, and also froze the people standing on it. However, Tremor was able to break out of his prison, unlike his other companions, as he had a greater strength. He glowered at the approaching form of the cryomancer.
He turned around quickly to see the pyromancer also making his way to him as well, and he snarled like a cornered animal. "You will not capture me alive," he growled. Kuai and Hanzo got into their fighting stances, hands lighting up with their respective elements. "That's not up for you to decide," Kuai stated coldly. In desperation, Tremor attempted to encase the warriors in a crystalline prison, but Kuai froze his feet while Hanzo landed powerful blows. The two took their turns beating up their last enemy, moving like clockwork and pushed him back towards the boat and ocean. Kuai's attention was focused on her opponent, and it was when Hanzo did not correctly coordinate his move with her when she saw, too late, Tremor lashing down to land a punish Kuai for Hanzo's error.
She gasped in pain as she was sent back with a force so powerful that she felt her ribs shatter. The ground below seemed so far away, and she could see through her peripheral vision that she was going to land into the water. She tried to cry out, but as soon as she drew breath, she felt a spark of pain in her chest. I can't swim! I haven't been taught how to! She landed in the water despite her panicking thoughts with a loud splash that only amplified the pain she felt in her chest. She gasped for air at the feeling of pain, only to remember that she was submerged underwater, and was rewarded with a mouthful of saltwater. She struggled to swim to the surface for air, for something. But the pain she felt only hindered her progress, and she only felt desperation as her vision started to go black.
All the while, Hanzo saw this, immediately fearing for her life, but he knew that if he was going to help Kuai at all, he had to defeat his enemy first. At last, after a multitude of blows laced with anger behind every punch, Tremor was unable to take another hit, and he fell to the ground in submission
As soon as Tremor had fallen to the ground, Hanzo ran over to the dock, looking at the water's surface for a sign. When Kuai did not emerge, he dove in after her.
Because it was night, looking through the water was hard to do, and Hanzo frantically scanned the area around him. Finally, his eyes landed on her prone body, and he swam over to her, grabbing her arm and pulling her to the surface. He gasped as soon as his head broke the water, swimming to the shore. He shook the water from his face, quickly laying Kuai on the ground face-up. "Come on... don't do this." He shook her body, but she did not react to his touch. "What did you expect?" Hanzo looked up at Scorpion. "If you don't have anything nice to say, then shut the fuck up! Besides, a little help would be appreciated." Scorpion growled. "I don't know. How about CPR? The normal procedure for saving a person after they've got too much water in their lungs?"
Hanzo crossed his arms. "No way." Scorpion threw his hands in the air. "Fine! Let her die!" At those words, Hanzo's heart stopped. Wiping his mind clean of any lingering doubts, he bent down and did as he was told by his counterpart. Finally, after a heart-stopping minute, Kuai coughed, water spilling from her open mouth. Hanzo held her up in support as she expelled the remaining water from her lungs. She looked up blearily. "H- Hanzo? What happened? Did we- did we win?" Hanzo nodded quickly. "Yes. We did. Stay awake, alright? We're going to go back, and then I'm bringing you to the medbay."
Kuai frowned. "But- but the Black Dragon-"
"I'll get Sonya here. You just rest, okay?" He lifted her up into her arms, despite her weak objections. Kuai realized that he was warming her up with his body, and she began to fall sleepy. She tried to resist sleep's lulling pull, but finally, she gave in and dreamed a dreamless sleep.
When Kuai opened her eyes again, the room was lit with sunlight. She got up slowly, seeing with a start Bi-Han's sleeping form. His head was on her bed, slumped over in his seat. She shook him lightly, waking him up. His eyes lit up when he saw her. "Kuai? Are you alright?" She nodded slowly. "Yeah. My ribs just hurt." He nodded. "Raiden came by and healed your wounds, but he said you would feel a little pain for a few days." His face suddenly turned to one of anger. "What were you doing in the night in the CITY?" She winced. "I just needed some time to relax. I went out with Hanzo, but we ran into the Black Dragon. I'm sorry," she finished, looking down.
Bi-Han leaned back in the chair, going into deep thought. "Did you have fun?" She smiled, thinking back to the events that had happened before. She was about to talk when he cut her off. "Look. I'm not an idiot. I know that there's something going on between the two of you. I'll let you know that I won't intervene, but if he does something, you come to me, alright?" She looked at him in surprise and confusion. "Umm, okay. But why?" He grinned slightly. "Because then, I have an excuse to beat his ass up."
Kuai left the medbay in the afternoon, going to Hanzo's room. She knocked, standing awkwardly by herself in the empty hallway. The door opened, "What do you WANT, Johnny-" Hanzo looked down in surprise at Kuai, who grinned. "What did Johnny do?" He didn't reply but continued to stare at her. Right when she thought that the situation was growing too uncomfortable for her liking, the Shirai Ryu slammed the door shut in her face, the lock clicking. She stared at the door, jaw open, dumbfounded. "Did you just shut me out?" she spoke. When she didn't get a response, she turned away, feeling rejected.
She went to her own room, feeling depressed. Was it something that I did? It must have been. First Bi-Han, and now Hanzo. I just fuck up everything. She climbed into her bed, climbing under the covers to shield herself from the outside world, and cried herself to sleep.
Hanzo didn't know why he froze up.
It was knowing that he had violated her when she didn't know. The entire time since he had come back, he had locked himself in his room, mulling over this in fear and hatred. That was the problem. He punched the wall in frustration, getting pissed off at himself. "I think you hurt her feelings." Hanzo whipped around, throwing a glass ornament at Scorpion. "SHUT UP!!!" Scorpion walked into his personal space. "You're acting like a weak being. You didn't violate her, you fucking saved her life, dumbass! And now, because of what you did earlier, you hurt her!"
Hanzo growled in frustration. He sat down on the side of his bed. "I don't know why I'm acting like this. A goddamned emotional trainwreck. What the fuck is wrong with me?" Scorpion laughed dryly. "It's called love, you fucking idiot." Hanzo stared at his hands. After a few minutes, Scorpion became unsettled. "What's wrong with you now?" Hanzo didn't reply until a few more minutes had passed. "I fucked it up, didn't I? Even if I tell her everything, she'll hate me anyway, because of what I did earlier." Scorpion sighed. He stood in front of Hanzo, seized his shoulders, and started shaking him roughly. "Listen, you idiot! Kuai is understanding. She'll understand if you just tell her everything. So stop moping, and GO TO HER!" Hanzo stared in shock.
Scorpion paused at an afterthought. "In the morning. It's probably too late to do that right now."
Kuai didn't come down for breakfast the next day. Or lunch.
Hanzo became worried. Tomas dismissed this, saying that she probably just wanted to be alone, or was just training as usual. Bi-Han was training with his new powers and too worried about keeping Noob Saibot in check to worry about Kuai. So, that meant Hanzo had to go check up on her. He knocked softly on her door, thinking back at how he had treated her last night. As he thought, no one came to open the door. He was about to turn away when he changed his mind in a sudden spark of determination. "Kuai, you can open this door, or I'll just teleport in. I'm giving you a choice here. It's your decision."
Shoving all doubts to the back of his mind, Hanzo teleported into her room. He ducked, expecting an attack, but stood up straighter when nothing happened. Frowning, he realized that the curtains were drawn shut, and Kuai was laying in her bed. He walked to her side immediately, worried. Her eyes were red, staring at the shut window. He paused. "What'd I tell you, asshole? Look at her!" Hanzo reached for her hand, but she flinched. He sighed, about to apologize, when she spoke in a small trembling voice. "What did I do wrong?"
He looked down at her. "What? You- you didn't do anything!" She sat up. "BULLSHIT!" she spat. "Obviously, I did something to make you hate me. I did that with Bi-Han, now it's with you. So just tell me: WHAT DID I DO?!" Hanzo knelt down. "Kuai, you didn't do anything wrong. I was the one who wronged you. I shouldn't have reacted the way I did. It's just-"
He sighed, running his hand through his hair. "I felt as though I had used you," he admitted. Kuai looked at him in disbelief. "USED ME? How?" Hanzo didn't look at her, leaving Kuai to piece it together. "Wait. Oh, my god. Really?! Good God. You saved my life, Hanzo! There's nothing for you to be afraid or ashamed of!" Scorpion looked at Hanzo, arms crossing. "What did I say?"
Kuai reached for his hand, pulling him to sit next to her on the bed. "Hanzo. You didn't 'use' me. You didn't do anything that I hate you for right now. I am grateful that you helped me, okay?" He still didn't look at her, and she sighed. Kuai reached for his face, turning it to her. "Okay?" she whispered. Her eyes were full of hope and sadness. Finally, Hanzo spoke, mouth dry. "Okay." She nodded, eyes never leaving his. Hanzo gulped slightly, nervous. "Kuai, I -"
She leaned in and kissed him.
It was gentle, only a press of her lips against his, held there for what felt like forever. When she moved away, she looked up at Hanzo in question. "I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me." Hanzo looked at her, shock on his face. Kuai sighed, starting to turn away. "Again, I'm sorry -"
Hanzo was the one to cut her off, smashing their lips together fiercely. Kuai started in surprise, tensing up, but then relaxed against his touch. When they broke away, both were gasping for air.
Hanzo looked at Kuai to say something, anything. But seeing the inner turmoil in his eyes, Kuai silenced him with a pointed yet soft look. "We can talk some other time, alright? Here, just lay down and get some rest." Hanzo hesitated, but eventually decided to listen to her words. Assoon as he had settled down, Kuai lay down against him, cuddling. Hanzo was about to protest, but the look of peace on her face silenced him, and before he knew it, the gentle arms of sleep were embracing him.
And for the first time since he had been alive again, Hanzo didn't dream of ice.
Chapter 8: Working With This
I know, it's been a while. Sorry! Hope you like it!
No, Hanzo did not dream of ice. He dreamt of Kana.
She was wearing the same kimono decorated with the cherry blossoms. She had a luminescent glow; not appearing too harsh, but soft. She sat under a sakura tree, the pink petals falling to the ground, blown by the wind. The old Shirai Ryu temple stood in the distance, and Hanzo could still hear the sounds of men training. Kana held a small book in her fragile hands. There was a gleeful cry, and Hanzo's head snapped to stare at his once dead son running through the meadow, pulling on the string of a kite. Nostalgia hit him like someone had splashed ice-cold water on his face.
He slowly made his way over to Kana and sat down next to her, reaching for her hand. She placed the book down gently beside her, and with a small smile on her face, she took Hanzo's hand. Sadness engulfed Hanzo to the point where he couldn't speak. She leaned her head against his shoulder, as he tried to blink back tears. It was when she seemed to notice where she spoke for the first time.
"I'm glad to see you this way. Look at you, living out your life. Making new friends. I'm so proud of you." Hanzo still didn't look down at her. There was something wrong. Something was off, but he couldn't place his finger on what it was that was bothering him so. Kana snuggled closer to him, and when Hanzo finally glanced at his wife, he was startled. For a second, Kana was gone, replaced by Kuai in simple clothing. Instead of being laid-back as Kana had been, Kuai was concentrating on making something with her hands. She produced an unshapen block of ice that she held in the palm of her hand, and it began to shape itself according to her will. Hanzo watched, transfixed, as it took the shape of a butterfly. He was only more taken aback when it took flight. As it flew away, Kuai's gentle laughter rang throughout the field. Her laugh was loud and rang out, but somehow managed to maintain a soft tone. Kana's laughter was more held back; polite.
The Shirai Ryu blinked, and Kana was back. She looked as confused as Hanzo felt. "What happened? You weren't responding at all." He hesitated, but then shook his head. "It was nothing." She frowned. "I know you're lying. You are like an open book. So easy to read." She smiled and placed a hand on his cheek. Hanzo was scared. Whereas before, he would have been more touched by this gesture, it was as if he couldn't feel anything at all. He grasped Kana's wrist gently, watching as her smile turned to one of sadness, and then to one of absolute joy. She drew her hand back to her and tucked a strand of her long hair behind her ear.
"Hanzo, I want you to listen to me, okay? I am glad that you have found a way to coexist without Jubei and me by your side. However, while you have been holding onto us tightly these past months, it's time to let go." Hanzo sat up straighter. "What? I don't understand," he protested. Kana shushed him. "There is no point in staying with those who have left you. You have already found a new family. Your new friends. The boy, Takeda. And," she looked up with a sparkle in her eye, "your girlfriend." Hanzo sputtered. "What... I don't... Kuai and I aren't-" Kana cut him off, removing herself from him. "Please, Hanzo. The only thing that I can see happening between the two of you is definitely not friendship. But, the thing is," she said, looking at the distance, "I am not mad."
"I only want you to be happy, Hanzo. And I've always known that ever since I left you, I can't be that person for you. You need to find someone else. Someone who cares about you just as much as I do." She looked at him slyly. "And Kuai cares about you more than I do, sometimes. Just like you care about her." Hanzo shook his head, confused and embarrassed. Kana laughed herself, touching his shoulder lightly. It wasn't intimate anymore; it was a display of friendship, not love. "I am in full support of your relationship, Hanzo. I guess you could say (what is it that they say these days?) that I 'ship it', in the immortal words of Johnny Cage's daughter." Hanzo snorted, remembering when Johnny and Sonya had made out in an empty room, and everyone had walked in on them. Their young daughter had said those exact words when she saw them.
Hanzo looked at Jubei in the field, and then at Kana. Even now, they were losing their halo. "That's it, Hanzo. Let us go," Kana whispered, grasping his hand gently. "Just promise me that you'll love her as much as you loved me. We already know that she loves you. Just be the man you were for me." With that, they both disappeared from view. Hanzo stood up shakily. For some strange reason, he wasn't upset. No, he knew they were in a better place now. He looked up at the sky. "I promise, Kana."
When Hanzo opened his eyes again, he looked down, getting up carefully. Kuai had been wrapped in his arms, breathing gently. Despite his previous suspicions about the temperature of standing near her, she didn't radiate any cold. Hanzo sat on the edge of the bed, thinking back to the dream he just had, every detail stuck in his head. He could feel Kuai stirring in the bed, and he turned around to look as she opened her eyes slowly. "Ugh. Hanzo?" She got up slowly, smiling up at him. "Good morning." Despite the emotions whirling through his mind, he couldn't help but return it.
"Okay, what's wrong?" She sat up suddenly. "I've seen that look on your face a countless number of times before. What's wrong?" Hanzo sighed. "I... had a dream. It was about Kana." Kuai blinked. "Oh," she said quietly, "I can leave if you want." Hanzo shook his head immediately. "No, don't! I need to talk to you." Kuai looked worried but got up to sit next to him. Hanzo paused, trying to find the right words to say. "She was there, sitting under a tree. I sat next to her, and she said that she was happy that I had forged a new life for myself, but that I was still holding onto her. She told me I had to let her go." Kuai kept staring at him but reached out and held his hand in comfort.
"Kuai, she told me that I cared for you just as much as you care about me." The Lin Kuei took a few minutes to process this information, and when she finally did, she blushed a deep red, turning away. "Oh." Hanzo placed two fingers on her chin, tilting her head back at him. She made a small squeak of protest, but he leaned down and placed his lips over hers. Kuai's eyes were wide open, but they soon closed as she melted against Hanzo, wrapping her arms against his neck. Hanzo leaned back, feeling weightless. "I don't think I'll ever get used to this," he admitted. Kuai placed a hand over her mouth before turning to face him. "Then let's do this slowly. No rushing. Okay? I'm ready when you are." Hanzo felt a twinge of guilt (and yet, relief) from these words. "I'd... I'd like that," he finally said. Kuai smiled again, looking up at the taller person and embracing him in a gentle hug. "I'll see you later, Hanzo."
"You look stupid, smiling like that," Tomas raised a brow at his new "friend's" facial expression. Hanzo's grin immediately vanished, replaced by his usual frown. Tomas nudged the Shirai Ryu with his elbow. "Come on, spill the beans. What happened? I saw you go into Kuai's room and you didn't come out seven hours later. I'm not an idiot." Hanzo turned to shoot the grey assassin a pointed look. Tomas threw his arms in the air. "Fine. I'm not always stupid. This is one of those rare moments. Did you have a fun time, if you get what I mean?" Tomas waggled his eyebrows in exaggeration. Hanzo growled. "No. Actually, it was a very heartfelt moment where we let our walls fall for the other."
Tomas looked up with interest. "So, this is actually manifesting into something real here! Did you guys... are you guys," he gestured with one hand. Hanzo turned his head to fight the rising color change of skin on his face. "Kind of. We've both agreed to take things slowly. To not rush things." Tomas gasped, using his hands to clutch his face at his cheeks and pulling downwards. "Oh. My. God. You guys are SO together!" Hanzo shoved him. "Shut up!" he hissed, turning frantically to try and see whether someone else had heard. "You guys have no idea how cute you are together! You guys were literally enemies, then rivals, then more like friendly rivals, then friends, and now sickeningly sweet lovers." Smoke made kissy faces, fading into vapour when Hanzo lashed out physically at the other infuriating man.
Bi-Han groaned inwardly. He had been walking with Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage for about an hour, but that was apparently all it took to drive a man to the point of insanity. Johnny kept letting that monster he called a "mouth" talking, often providing annoying quips and jokes that didn't make any sense. Sonya, in turn, tried to silence her ex, but in vain. She instead had settled for shooting Bi-Han apologetic glances. If she was really sorry, she'd let me go. The only reason he was here was that Sonya wanted to inform him about their upcoming mission tomorrow. Evidently, Johnny had insisted on joining their group, and here he was.
As if someone had heard his thousandth cry for help, Kuai had turned a corner, eyes lighting up with recognition when she saw her brother. "Hello, Sonya! Is it okay if I borrow Bi-Han for a minute?" Sonya immediately nodded. "Of course. I'll take this idiot somewhere else." Bi-Han followed his younger sibling to a smaller training room. "Thank you. I would have died if I stayed with that actor a second longer. How is he able to talk such lengths without losing breath?" Kuai snorted. "Only the Elder Gods know. I think that it's a miracle that he hasn't passed out during one of his speeches."
Kuai stood erect, posture stiff. "How are things between you and Hanzo right now?" Bi-Han raised his brow. He could sense where this conversation would eventually end up. "We've gotten closer. He has helped me with conquering my inner demon, literally. In return, I seem to give him comfort that I have forgiven him, at least partially. But we have come to an agreement." Kuai nodded, slumping a bit in relief. Bi-Han rolled his eyes, noticing she was avoiding the big question here. "Okay, so you two finally fucked?"
Kuai sputtered. "Wha- no! We just... we're starting slow, okay?!" Her brother couldn't hold it together. He burst out with laughter, bending over and gasping for breath. "Jesus. I'm starting to believe that the things Tomas told me about the two of you were a bit of an understatement." Kuai frowned. "That youngling talks too much for his own good. I'm going to strangle him later." Bi-Han sighed in exasperation. "I'm not angry, or anything. I've seen that you can handle yourself, Kuai. Just... be careful, okay? I don't want you to get hurt." He stood straighter, nodding to her as he went to leave the room. "Oh, and Kuai?"
She looked at him expectantly. "If that bastard does end up hurting you, you come to me. I'll rip off his head as a trophy for you." Without giving her a chance to argue with him, he left.
Chapter 9: No Cause for Alarm... (So We Tell Ourselves)
"How is it that we always find ourselves in these situations?" Kenshi asked calmly. He yanked at the restraints which were effectively pinning him to the wall. Tomas shrugged indifferently. "Don't know. I feel like I've been given my ass handed to me in every possible scenario these past few weeks, to be honest." He was also in a similar position, frowning as he attempted to change into smoke. However, there was something preventing him from completing this transformation. "Maybe its because we were all scattered and unorganized. Right, Lao?" The monk scowled at the grey jokester. "You're one to talk, Mister "I Don't Do Anything Except for Shouting Jokes in Comms". Sonya shook her head. "Stay focused, guys! Liu Kang and Kitana are still out there. They're the closest ones to us. If I could send out a distress signal, I could..."
Suddenly, the single door to the cold circular chamber opened to reveal a struggling masked Kitana being led in by Kintaro. After chaining her to the wall in a similar fashion to her friends, he left the room. "What, that's it? No goodbye kisses?" Johnny called out after him. "Shut up, Johnny! Kitana, where's Liu?" Jax asked, worried. Kitana sighed anxiously. "Shang Tsung has him in a different holding area. He's too afraid to let him near us." Sonya thought. "Who else is not here?" Kung Lao narrowed his eyes. "Jade disappeared from the group when we were brought in. However, I think that she is still nearby. However, the entirety of Noob Saibot's group is still not here."
Sonya's eyes lit up with hope. "They were the group that was meant to stay behind. If we could get a signal to them, they can be led to our location. Johnny, do you still have your tracker?" He blinked, fumbling in his pocket. "Got it... oh." The actor had dropped the tracker in his haste, the device clattering against the stone floor. Sonya sighed at the man's stupidity. "Just crush it. That's what triggers it."
Bi-Han stretched lazily under the warm sun of the jungle. They had been told to remain behind while the others went to try and bring down Shang Tsung, but he wouldn't be surprised if they needed help along the way. Meanwhile, Kuai, who was leaning against the car they had driven in frowned. "They're taking too long. Hanzo, what's their status?" He picked up the tablet, eyes narrowing. "They're all standing still. Liu Kang appears to be separated from the group, as well as Jade. Wait, that's weird. She's coming back here." Kuai formed an ice blade, walking to see for herself.
Immediately, Jade emerged from the brush, panting. Bi-Han wordlessly handed her a bottle of water, which she drank from greedily, but not without shooting him a look. The female Edenian still had her doubts. "Are you okay, Jade? What happened?" Kuai asked. She looked at her. "The others have been captured. I only escaped with my freedom when Liu sent me to scout the area behind us to make sure we weren't being followed." Hanzo sighed, reaching into the car to retrieve his weapons. "Can you lead us back?" Bi-Han asked. Jade nodded. Kuai exhaled, relieving the stress that had built up in her body.
Jade sighed. "Of all the reasons why we had to have failed. Johnny saw Sonya being pinned under Goro's fire, and for some stupid reason, instead of following the plan to take him out, he decided to be the hotshot and tackle the Shokan. Tackle. A. Shokan." Bi-Han snorted in contempt. "Of course. I'm not surprised." He gave Hanzo a narrow look full of judgement. "Come on, Shirai Ryu. Let's see why you call yourself a Grandmaster."
Kuai breathed in and out quietly to focus herself. She glanced around at her surroundings, taking in every small detail. She then cursed, realizing that she had left her armguards at the base, and was practically defenseless. Unless... She closed her eyes and practically jumped up in celebration when she saw her handiwork. She had been able to encase her forearms in solid ice, forging a makeshift armguard for herself. She looked up to see that she had fallen behind slightly and dashed off to reach her companions.
Meanwhile, the others were running quickly to their destination, bobbing and weaving through the forestry. There were vines in the most unpredictable places, and it slowed down the group significantly. At one inopportune moment, Hanzo had ran into one of said vines, getting caught in it. Bi-Han laughed at his nemesis's misfortune, only to get caught in a similar situation himself. Hanzo untangled himself, seething with anger at himself and his "tormentor" as he continued striding forwards, not helping the other man. Kuai and Jade sighed simultaneously, having ran a great deal further than the men. Boys.
At last, through other troublesome events (Kuai felt like dying when she had to restrain her brother from attacking Hanzo), the four kombatants had reached the place where their friends had been captured. Except, there was one little problem.
The place was deserted.
And it wasn't an illusion. There was literally no one there. The building was intact, but there were no people. Smoldering fires were lit with dying embers, and birds were calling out as if mocking them.
Suddenly, a man clearly working for the enemy rose up from the ground. He was not harmed, but appeared as though he had foolishly slept over the leaving process. Kuai stepped forward to repress the man for answers, but the others had a different idea.
"Get over here!"
Hanzo had reeled in the man, while Jade quickly beheaded him with one of her razor-edged boomerangs. Kuai's left eye twitched with the stress and frustration of it all. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" She swung her arms wildly in the air in an uncharacteristic display of anger. The three looked at her in surprise. "He was an enemy, Kuai," Bi-Han said confused. "No shit, Bi-Han. But no one is here, and we don't know where anyone is."
Hanzo caught on immediately, and he had the decency to looked abashed, but Jade and Bi-Han, who never resorted to these methods, were still confused. "What's the point in not killing the man?" Jade started to ask. Kuai clenched and then unclenched her fists. She walked over to the dead man, leaning down to his level. "Hello, there! I currently have a knife to your throat, and we will kill you if you don't tell us where your comarades went. Or, you can just tell us if you want to. Oh, what's that? Oh, yeah. He can't talk... BECAUSE HE'S FUCKING DEAD!" She stared, wide-eyed at the two people, looking up to the sky, covering her face with her hands and screaming.
She stopped almost immediately, and started to pace the entire area, something that Hanzo noticed she did when she was stressed. "We don't know where they are. We don't know where they were trying to go off to. We obviously now can't find this out, because the one source of information has lost his head, literally, and Sonya and the others have no other way of contacting us. Is there something else that I'm missing?" She turned to look at the three "culprits", hands on her hips, accusatory. "UGH! I'm SO done. I'm so done! This was a fucking shitshow from the beginning. Why did I do this? After I ran away from the Lin Kuei, I could have just opened a bakery or some other stupid shop. But NO, I just HAD to take back and reform the Lin Kuei, just so I could help these GODDAMNED IDIOTS! Why?! What did I do to deserve this?!"
Jade was scared by this display of emotion, whereas Hanzo was slightly disturbed. Bi-Han whispered, "This is nothing new. Other than the curse words, I've listened to this almost every day in the Lin Kuei. It's kind of funny."
Once Kuai had recovered from her tirade, the four people stopped to regroup. "Okay, let's think this through," Hanzo started. "They obviously couldn't have gone the way we came from, which is East. That leaves us with three locations. North, South, or West. However, to the West is the Orderrealm border, and they have notified us that they would kill Shang Tsung on sight. He know this. That leaves us with North or South." Bi-Han nodded slowly. "We split into two groups of two. Kuai and I will head North towards the Earthrealm border, while you and Jade go South to the Outworld border."
"Actually, I want to go with Hanzo this time," Kuai slowly said. Bi-Han looked up in surprise and a little bit of hurt, but Jade wholeheartedly agreed. "I'll go with Saibot." The unsaid words after were obviously, so I can keep an eye on him, but everyone picked up on it. Bi-Han shrugged. He'd prove that he wasn't a traitor to the green-garbed Edenian. "Fine. If one group finds Shang Tsung, we contact the other group, alright?" There were nods of confirmation. Kuai hugged her brother before she left, and when she did, he whispered quietly, "Don't forget to use protection." Her face turned red, and she hit him hard on his arm. "Shut up," she hissed.
And just like that, their groups departed with solemn attitudes. Kuai walked briskly alongside Hanzo quietly before he said, "Sorry about what happened. Before, with the man. I reacted out of instinct." Kuai shook her head. "It's fine. I overreacted. It's just... stressful. I've been dealing with a lot lately." Hanzo looked at her, but she didn't elaborate until later. "There's been a ruckus going on at the Lin Kuei. Under my apprentice, Frost's, hand, things have been looking suspicious. My trusted advisor has noted me that she's been more investing in contacting a mysterious figure, but they don't know who it could be."
She glared at the thought of the shady cryomancer. "I've never trusted her. Tomas encouraged me to take her under my wing, and I tried to offer her my experience. But, she doesn't listen. She looks bored and uninterested, and is often thinking of ill intent. Tomas says I'm being paranoid, but I've seen that look before. It's a look of cold calculation of a bad deed." She huffed, shaking her head. "And... I'm also pondering over... our thing." Hanzo almost tripped over his own feet. "What about it?" he tried to ask casually. He was preparing himself for the worst, but what he got was not expected.
"I've been thinking that when this thing is over, you'll have to go to the Shirai Ryu, and I have to return to the Lin Kuei. But, I'm not sure that I can deal with this long distance relationship." Hanzo nodded understandingly. "So you want to stop this?" Kuai looked up suddenly, shocked. "Of course not! Can you let me finish? I was going to say that I was considering leaving the Lin Kuei and returning to the Shirai Ryu with you." Hanzo stopped in his tracks this time, stupefied. "What?! Kuai, you are the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei. You can't just leave your clan and responsibility!" She folded her arms. "I can if I give the title to Bi-Han."
Hanzo was certain that she had gone insane. "Kuai, Bi-Han isn't you. He'll just turn the thing into an assassins guild, just like the old days. It doesn't matter that he's changed. You can't just leave!" Kuai frowned. "If you don't want to continue this, then just say so. It'll save the drama later on." Hanzo stuttered, trying to form the correct words. "It's not that I don't want this, Kuai. You just can't abandon your duty to someone who will worsen the fate of your clan!"
Kuai sighed. She looked upset and depressed. "Fine. Whatever. Just, don't try and contact me again." She ran forwards, leaving Hanzo by himself, alone and confused.
Chapter 10: Lost and Confused (Does the Pain Ever Go Away?)
They had caught Shang Tsung in the end.
Bi-Han and Jade had caught up to the slow-moving large group and notified Kuai and Hanzo through the comms. They had rushed to help, and with Kuai's impressive cryomancy powers, they were able to free their friends and kill Shang Tsung. In addition to this, they had discovered that Kuai's student, Frost, had been waiting at the border to let the sorcerer and his forces into Earthrealm, and she was quickly apprehended by Sonya and Jax. Promptly after, Kuai stated neatly that she needed to return to the Lin Kuei to make sure that her clan was safe, and within the hour, she and her brother and friend had left the base.
Hanzo didn't even get the chance to talk with her.
He then chose to return to his clan, overseeing their training and health. But, where he would have felt joy in seeing the clan thrive, he felt emptiness. Where he usually felt pride in watching his students emerging victorious after a sparring round with another, he felt sadness. He couldn't understand what was happening to him. The only other person he could talk to who would understand him was Kuai, but she had told him to never contact her again. And, there was one other problem at hand.
He was to be wed in an arranged marriage. With the daughter of the Grandmaster of the Tengu Clan.
Obviously, he had objected to this, but there was nothing he could do. Their clan was significantly more powerful than his and would wipe out his rebuilding clan if he refused. He continued to get angrier at Kuai. Why did she shut him out? They could have still remained together...
"Except you refused that idea, dumbass."
Hanzo's head snapped up to see Scorpion glaring down at his sitting form. "What are you talking about?" he snapped bitterly. Scorpion rolled his eyes in contempt. "Please. She offered to go with you back here. She would have put her brother in the head, or even Tomas, had you argued against that. By offering to leave for you, she was practically offering her hand in marriage." Hanzo shook his head. "It doesn't matter. She's never talking to me again." Guilt and shame coursed over him. The wraith snorted. "And who's fault is that? By the way, I heard from the Netherrealm that the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei has stepped down and given her seat to her brother. She left." Hanzo looked up, confused. "Why?"
"Maybe because she found someone else. Or... maybe she's trying to reach out to you, despite your rejection." Hanzo looked off into the distance. "It doesn't matter. I'm to be wed on the morrow." There was a sad silence, both person and wraith staring at the sunset, dejectedly.
Hanzo woke up the next day, dreading the day immediately when joy struck through the rays of sun leaking through the window. His advisor had informed him as soon as he had gotten out of bed that there had been a one-man attack on the Tengu clan, destroying most of their ranks and almost killing their Grandmaster. The man who had attacked, the advisor had said, was reported to be completely masked and clothed in black, destroying the clan base with ease. Hanzo thanked this mysterious person, whoever he was, for delaying the wedding, if just for a week. Deciding to celebrate, he went to the neighboring town to celebrate.
He eventually found himself in the bar, drinking lightly on a beer sitting at the tabletop. Suddenly, the door opened with a bang and a single figure dressed in heavy clothing ordered the same drink Hanzo had obtained and brought it to the corner booth, their dark clothing concealing them in the darkness.
After a few minutes, the door to the bar had opened with a louder bang, and ten men wearing Tengu clothing walked in, weapons drawn. Hanzo quickly turned away. What were they doing here? The leader spoke up boldly. "We have come here from our homeland to kill the man who would attempt to kill our Grandmaster. He has already taken down my comrades, my friends. I will slit his throat like the degenerate his is. We also have reason to believe that he has stopped to rest in this town."
"You Tengu filth, you're all the same."
The person clothed in darkness spoke. The sun did not reach the area, making it seem that no one was there. "You accuse this man of being a killer of your clan? How many families have you slain? How many? And you talk about honor as if you live your life by it." There was a small motion, almost undetectable. "You grieve for the deaths of your friends, prepare to join them."
The Tengu man ordered his men forwards, but suddenly, a crossbow had been drawn from the shadows, the arrowhead glowing from the sunlight. It struck the first charging man in the chest, killing him. Two more arrows were unleashed, each finding their mark. Finally, the figure stepped from the shadows. It seemed that the figure was a shadow himself, all clothed in black as the report had said. The figure strode forwards confidently, drawing a long and thin elegant dagger with a slightly curved blade. He sliced his way with ease through the last aggressors, leaving the cowardly leader for last. He had sent out all his men, not charging to help himself.
The figure, although shorter, seemed to tower over him. "You will return to Wu Lae and tell him that if he tries to attack me with his men, he will only receive the feeling of loss. If he wishes to have a chance of victory, tell him to meet me at the battlefield himself. Run."
The Tengu followed the orders promptly, running out of the tavern. The dark figure scanned the entire area, glaring at everyone before making his way back to his seat. It was then Hanzo noticed the slight limp in his step. The man was injured! He quickly made his way over to the corner table. The enigma looked up at the newcomer, glaring without using eyes. He was wearing a full face mask, covering his entire face. It resembled a motorbike helmet, but without half of it. The hood drawn over the figure's head made him look ominous. "I wanted to thank you," Hanzo started, but stopped when the man grabbed the bottle of alcohol and poured the liquid on his wound.
It was a long and deadly gash in the right leg, bleeding profusely. And he was still able to dispatch the men. This man is a dangerous, seasoned warrior. The man hissed in pain, bandaging the area with a piece of cloth. "I am a Shirai Ryu. I wanted to thank you for ridding my area of these men," Hanzo continued. The figure looked up. "What do you want." It was not meant to be a question. "I want to offer my help. You're injured, I can help you. Just come with me back to my temple, and my medics can treat you." The man laughed mockingly. "Tell me, do you take me for a fool? I know how this works out. You lure me under false premises, and I end up dead. Take your offer of help and shove it up your ass." The assassin got up quickly to leave.
"Wait!" Hanzo grabbed the man's wrist. "I never got your name." The man looked down at him, eyes not visible through the tinted lens of the mask. "Did you not hear a word I just said?" Hanzo shook his head. "Just a name to thank you by." The man hesitated. "You may call me Enigma. That is all I will ever be to you." With that, he shook off Hanzo's grip and strolled out the tavern.
Back at home, Scorpion shook his head. "That person was familiar." Hanzo snorted. "Yeah. He dressed like Saibot, but it wasn't his voice." The wraith shook his head. "No. Definitely not Saibot. But someone familiar. Their life force was..." The wraith struggled to finish his sentence. "It was familiar, alright?" Hanzo nodded slowly. "O-kay. Whatever you say." He didn't take note of this. After all, Scorpion had often misled him before.
The next week, Hanzo was contacted again by the Tengu. Apparently, they had reached the point of slight stability and wanted to commence the wedding in three days. Hanzo felt the same sense of dread. What were the chances that something would happen again? He grew increasingly anxious as the date approached. But, once again, the event never happened.
"Again?!" Hanzo was unable to keep the joy from leaking from his voice. The advisor nodded, confused. "The same person. Although, he was clothed in grey this time. But they have confirmed that it was the same person." Hanzo spent that day overseeing his students' progress and was feeling more like himself. However, there was a clamor at the front border of their territory. "Grandmaster! It's the man who attacked the Tengu! They're wounded. Should I take him out?"
"No!" Hanzo snapped. "Bring him to the medbay. Have him treated." He paused at the sight of a profusely bleeding wound on the man's arm. In addition, the wound on his leg had re-opened again, adding to the damage. He reached to remove the assassin's mask, but a hand suddenly snatched his wrist, strongly preventing him. "Don't... do it." Hanzo nodded, drawing his hand away. "Alright. Just don't strain yourself, okay?"
After the man had been treated behind closed doors, he was permitted to leave. Hanzo bowed respectfully to him. "Once again, it seems that you have saved me from the same predicament." The man snorted. "May I ask what this problem is so that I can stop it next time I try to kill Wu Lae?" Next time? "I am to be wed to his daughter. But, it is an arranged wedding. I do not want any part in it. I have already met and fallen in love with another, even though she will not see me again. You prevented the wedding both times. I am in your debt." The silver assassin nodded in understanding. "I can make the wedding void." Hanzo shook his head. "No, it's fine-"
"You helped me with my wounds. It is only fitting." Hanzo looked in amazement. "But... I am in your debt!" The assassin chuckled. "I really don't care. And if I'm going there, I might as well." With that, he walked towards the border, leaving Hanzo alone again.
It reminded him of the time Kuai had walked away from him.
Where was she?
The third time, about three days later, Wu Lae had come to the Shirai Ryu compound, bringing his daughter and several guards with him. They would be wed tomorrow, he had stated with a wild and afraid glint in his eyes. The guards were placed everywhere. It made Hanzo feel trapped. Restrained.
The sun rose, and he knew that there was nothing preventing this from happening. He sighed sadly, dressing accordingly and walking outside. However, as soon as he had stepped foot outside, his eyes widened.
A familiar figure wearing a familiar mask jumped down from the big pine tree in the center of the fighting area where the wedding was about to be commenced. "Enigma" was wearing white garb today, ironically mirroring the event that was about to happen. He quickly dashed over to the outside guards, gunfire sounding. With a chill, Hanzo realized that the men had guns. He drew his sword, going to aid his new friend. Together, they slew the Tengu guards. Hanzo was not shot at, because they had thought that he was with them. When the guards had all been dispatched, the white figure, covered in red splashes of blood strode over to the cowering Wu Lae. His daughter stood behind him.
"Run." The Grandmaster was about to leave, but the assassin raised his hand. "Not you. Her." The young girl ran off, screaming in fear. The terrified Grandmaster looked up. Hanzo's nose wrinkled in disgust at the smell of urine in the air. This was the man he had been subject to? "You killed children. Today, you answer for your crimes." The man shook his head frantically in denial. "I don't know what you're talking about!" The assassin cut his blade into the man's neck, drawing blood. "The two children in my clan." Wu Lae was confused, but then his eyes widened in realization. "Lin... URGH!" He was cut short quickly (Too quickly, in Hanzo's view. Almost as if the assassin wanted to silence him.), a red line appearing on his neck as he fell to the ground dead.
The now red covered assassin stood triumphant. He turned to Hanzo. "It seems that our adjoining tales have come to an end. Goodbye, Hanzo." He started to walk away and got to the small dying sakura tree near the border of the clan before stopping. Concerned, Hanzo walked down to the man, his students peering from the windows of the main building. "Are you okay?" Hanzo called from the top of the hill. Down below at the border, the blood-stained man turned around to look up and fell to the ground.
Hanzo could remember running down to aid the fallen man. He was bleeding everywhere. There were bullet holes in his stomach that Hanzo didn't see before, and he cursed himself for not noticing. He had propped him so that he supported him with an arm over his shoulder, carrying him back to the complex. In the medbay, it was a crazy rush of medics running here and there. "We have to remove the mask. He's losing oxygen fast." Hanzo nodded. The man would understand afterwards. Only, when they had removed the mask, Hanzo realized he had made so many mistakes, as everyone in the room paused for an agonizing minute, recognizing the person.
One, Scorpion was right in saying that the man's presence was familiar.
Two, the man was actually a woman. It was painfully obvious from the angled face.
Three, that woman was Kuai.
Hanzo didn't know how long he stood there, frozen in shock, confusion, anger, and fear. Eventually, one of the nurses had removed him from the room and made him tea. Even when holding the cup, his hands shook, spilling tea over his hands and on the floor. The nurse looked at him sympathetically. "You're not angry at her, are you?" He stared at the ground. Was it anger? He ended up shaking his head. "No, I'm not. I'm shocked and afraid, but I'm not angry." The nurse nodded. "That's good. You can't blame her. She was trying to help."
One of the medics entered the room. "Grandmaster Hasashi. Grandmaster Liang is unconscious right now. However, the wounds are close to some major arteries. The probability of her surviving the operation is very slim. However, if we don't take action right now, she'll certainly die."
The operation took an agonizing three hours.
Three hours of Hanzo refusing to talk to anybody. Three hours of him pacing the room anxiously. Goddammit, Kuai. Of all the stupid things... He sighed, rubbing his eyes. Scorpion, leaning casually in the corner of the room, scoffed in contempt. "Well, your griping isn't going to do anything, idiot. Go to bed. I'll wake you up if something happens." These last words were said with a softer tone, catching Hanzo off guard.
Dreams that night didn't come by smoothly.
In fact, his nightmares had returned to their usual business of waking Hanzo abruptly in his sleep, but that night, he had dreamt of something much worse. The same nightmare played again as if on repeat; the ice, the death of his family. But the scene had shifted at the end, where Hanzo would usually wake up. It was pitch black, Hanzo breathing heavily as he felt the walls for purchase. Eventually, he came to an area where loud shouts had erupted in a flurry. It was a wonder that he hadn't heard it before. He watched, unable to move for some unknown reason as he watched his reflection in the scene battle demonic creatures.
Meanwhile, kombatants had started to appear in the scene, fighting against creatures of their own. It was going well until a loud inhuman screech sounded. Hanzo, who was watching the entire thing, had looked up to see a huge creature raising its wings in anger. With a swipe of its paw, it sent an inferno of fire down at the winning fighters. Hanzo heard a clear distinct, "Kuai, no!" from someone in the crowd. Hanzo stared in shock as Kuai stepped forwards quickly, raising her hands in a seemingly futile attempt...
and then he woke up, gasping for air.
He didn't remember how long he had been sitting there in his own sweat, but when the sun peeked through the window the next morning, he had calmed down and got out of bed in a stiff manner. He had splashed water in his face, washing away the dream from that night, before making his way to the medbay. What he saw chilled him.
A medic was unconscious, laying on the bed where Kuai had been laying in. He shook the man, trying to wake him up. The medic blinked wearily, clearly feeling pain. His eyes widened. "Grandmaster Hasashi! I was incapacitated by the patient. I was just bringing in supplies for rebandaging the wound, but she knocked me out." Hanzo cursed under his breath. "It's okay. See that someone sees to you."
He ran outside, scanning the treetops for someone, for something, but there was nothing in view. "I tried to chase after her. She didn't like that, though." Hanzo looked at Scorpion. "Why didn't you wake me," he demanded. Scorpion shrugged. "You needed the sleep. Not that you got much, anyway." Hanzo shouted in frustration, punching the closest tree to him.
"What did that poor tree ever do to you?"
Hanzo whipped around, expecting to see Kuai standing there, but she was not there. "Up here." He turned around and looked up to see her looking down at him, sitting in the tree he had just punched. Her face was paler than usual, due to the blood she had lost, but the color was slowly returning to her face. "Kuai! Get down from there! You could hurt yourself!" She snorted. "No, MOTHER." She stuck her tongue out childishly at him. "I'm not a little kid, Hasashi. I'm a grown, trained assassin and cryomancer. Hi, Scorpion!" She waved at the wraith, who had made himself visible. He nodded amiably at her.
Hanzo growled. "I'll stop treating you like a child when you stop acting like one, Liang! Get down here!" She laughed. "No thanks. I'm having a delightful conversation with the birds up here." Hanzo clenched his hands into fists. This was getting more and more infuriating, dealing with her. "I'll go up there if I have to!" She sneered down at him. "I'd like to see you try." He grabbed the first branch, and Kuai immediately swung on the branch above her. She grabbed the branch with both hands and swung up like a gymnast on the bars. She jumped off that branch gracefully, grabbing a higher branch and landing in a crouching position.
Hanzo stared. Two can play at that game. He climbed upwards, still a far distance away from Kuai. Scorpion sighed. "Children. I deal with fucking children." Kuai sat there, kicking her legs and humming loudly. When Hanzo had just about reached her, she used the branch she was standing on as a jump pad, the branch shaking up and down, hitting Hanzo lightly in the face. He growled. Kuai had climbed quickly and fast, reaching the top of the tree. She pouted mockingly. "Maybe you'll get it next time, slowpoke." She threw an apple at him, but he had moved to the side in time. Still, he continued to climb. "You can't get anywhere, Kuai. You've cornered yourself." She pretended to think hard. "Huh. You're right. What will I do?" she dramatically asked.
She jumped off the top, grabbing a hold of another nearby tree and climbing down quickly as if she were sliding down it. Her feet touched the ground, and she blew a raspberry. "See you never, idiot!" She dashed off, running out of the entire complex. Hanzo glared down at Scorpion. "Why didn't you stop her?" Scorpion looked up lazily. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
A few weeks later, when Hanzo had almost forgotten about their encounter, he had found himself in China trying to take down a crime boss that had caused a lot of grief for the families in his area. His eyes narrowed as he saw the intended target walk into the gala, laughing amongst his friends. Hanzo would have to wait until the man was alone, and then he would strike.
Opportunity struck when an attractive woman in a dark blue dress walked over to the man and whispered in his ear. The two left the party, going into a restricted area. Hanzo quickly followed the two people, staying a distance behind. The man was apparently showing the woman his collection of illegally gathered treasures. At last, the couple walked into a bedroom. Hanzo walked slowly, taking his time, to the door and drew a knife in his inside coat pocket. He couldn't hear anything happening inside, knowing the walls were soundproof and threw the door open.
The woman had disappeared. The intended target was dead, a knife in the man's back and his face buried in the keyboard of his laptop, still luminous. Hanzo looked at the screen. There was a balance of money from a bank account. Apparently, the man had been stealing money from the people. However, said money had been downloaded to a flash drive. Hanzo looked around for the woman, but she had vanished. The ceiling vent had been opened, and when Hanzo saw this, he immediately went back to the main event.
When he had scanned the crowd, he noticed that the blue dress was walking out the front doors, and he immediately shoved his way through rudely to get out. He ran down the stairs, the woman having rid herself of her heels and running through the abandoned street. He followed in quick pursuit, catching up to her in his more appropriate clothing. He tried to strike his palm down to stop her, but she rolled on the ground, drawing her blade from its sheath attached to her leg.
Kuai crouched low, waiting for Hanzo's next attack. "Kuai? What the fuck?!" She shrugged. "I just took out a crime boss. The least you could do is thank me. All the money on this drive will be given back to the people." She held up the black flash drive for emphasis. Hanzo stared. "You're just going to keep the money." Why else would she want to do the job? Kuai laughed scornfully. "This is why I left. Because you don't know anything!" She lashed out, forcing Hanzo to jump back.
He kicked at her hand, knocking the knife from her grasp, and tried to land a blow on her, but she just blocked it immediately. It had just started to rain, making the dirt ground slippery. The fighters were covered in mud and slick, trying to win. "I can't believe you!" Kuai shouted, punching Hanzo in the face. He stumbled backwards, unable to recover in time for her next blows. "You asshole! You sent me back to the Lin Kuei, and I had to watch as two children in my clan were killed in cold blood! And where were YOU? Back at your fucking clan, not giving a fuck about what was happening!" She had knocked him to the ground and was punching his face repeatedly, sitting on him to prevent him from moving.
Her blows were becoming more sloppy as she vented out her frustration, and Hanzo was shocked when she stopped. Tears were rolling down her face, and he could tell that it wasn't the rain. She sobbed, grabbing his jacket and burying her face in his chest. He was uncertain of what he was going to do, but then he saw the flash drive laying abandoned in the ground. He threw her off as gently as he could, running to the drive. Kuai looked up with shock and then anger. "YOU CHEATING FUCK!" She chased after him, and as soon as Hanzo had grabbed the prize, Kuai tackled him down the minor slope of the hill, the two tumbling roughly and rolling over each other. Kuai still landed blows on him, shouting curses at his treachery.
At last, somehow, Hanzo had ended up on top of Kuai, who was still trying to punch him. "FUCK YOU! I CAN'T BELIEVE I EVER TRUSTED YOU!" she shouted over the thunder. Hanzo stopped, blinking to clear his head. "Kuai, stop." She didn't listen, resulting in Hanzo holding her wrist to restrain her. "Kuai, stop! Let's just go back to the Shirai Ryu temple, and we can talk about this formally." She glared, blinking out the rain. "Fuck that! I'm done being passive, not taking action in anything. I'm not going to look weak to anyone. To you. Get the fuck off of me!" She froze Hanzo's hand, pushing him off of her. She looked around. "Where's the drive?"
Hanzo looked around. It had loosened from his grip as they had fallen down the hill. He looked back at Kuai, shaking his head. A sudden change came over her. She slumped in defeat, the air seeming to have been forced from her. She looked away from him. There seemed to be an uneasy truce between the two. Hanzo cautiously approached her. "Kuai. I'm sorry. I really am. For everything. But I never saw you as weak. I swear." She turned around. Her blue eyes screamed vulnerability and hurt. Hanzo felt a pang of guilt. "I'm sorry. Gods, Kuai." He pulled her closer to him, despite her cut-off protest. "I'm so sorry."
She hesitated, eventually returning the embrace. "Me too," she admitted softly. They stood there for a long time, basking in the comfort of each other.
Kuai looked around. "I've never had the chance to admire your clan. You've done a lot of work." They had cleaned themselves and were in the temple. Hanzo looked at her. "It's still a work in progress. Our numbers aren't as high as they should be." They fell into a familiar silence, the same one they had spent when they were friends. Kuai sighed. "I was ready to die that day."
Hanzo stared as she continued. "That day, when you brought me to your medics. I didn't really care about what happened to me. It felt like I had hit a dead end after killing Wu-Lae." She looked out a window. "I still sometimes wish I could just give up right now." She looked back down at her hands. Hanzo got up with a pained sound. Kuai's blows had been painful. He settled next to her. "Well, if you had left us, I know that Tomas would have retreated into a shell, Bi-Han would be extremely pissed off, and I..." He looked at her. "I wouldn't know what to do, either." She snorted. "That was so corny." They looked at each other for a split second before laughing quietly. It was genuine, at least.
She leaned against Hanzo, her head resting on his shoulder. "You're so warm," she said, voice implying that she was drifting off to sleep. He looked down at her. He didn't want to drift off to sleep again. The nightmares... He shook her gently. "Sleep with me?" he asked. She looked up at him with half-lidded eyes. She was about to ask why, but after noticing the fearful look on his face, she settled on not bothering. "Yeah, sure."
There were no nightmares that night. Only the feel of the other's presence lulling them to sleep.
Chapter 11: Aftermath
I've decided to have an email-type conversation for a good part of the story. Thanks for being so patient!!!
Hanzo blinked blearily. He hadn't slept well the past few weeks, but that night had been dreamless; pure bliss. He got up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. With a sudden jolt, he realized that Kuai wasn't even in the room. He cursed loudly, running out of the room in his bedclothes. He passed by the kitchen on his way out of the temple.
A puzzled Kuai stared for a split second before calling out to him, "Where are you going, Hanzo?" He didn't look at her while he continued to run, saying, "I have to check on something-". He came to an abrupt halt when he realized just then who had asked him the question. He turned around, walked back into the kitchen, crossing his arms accusatory. "What were you doing? I thought you were gone!"
Kuai chuckled. "You missed me already?" He looked away, embarrassed. "That's... NO!" She shook her head, laughing. "Sure, whatever you say. And, for your information, I was making breakfast. For me," she added the last part hastily.
At his offended look, she snickered. "Gods, I was just joking! Come on, you're already awake," she beckoned him over with a small gesture with her hand. The two sat at the table, chatting amiably. During this conversation, Hanzo learned that several wandering Lin Kuei members had been butchered by the Tengu clan due to their rivalry, the two children Kuai had mentioned yesterday being the ones that struck the Lin Kuei the hardest.
She had decided to strike back in retaliation, but as the Lin Kuei were trying to uphold their new and better reputation, she had volunteered (demanded) to attack their clan and destroy their ranks for once and for all. The flash drive collection after this supposed suicide mission was a side-mission that Kuai had received word of by Bi-Han from the Lin Kuei. She was in the area, so she decided to take the job.
"I have to go back soon," Kuai admitted. She poked at her eggs on the plate in front of her, appetite having vanished suddenly. "But, I actually don't really want to. These few weeks out here have let me relax in a way that I didn't think was possible. I am loathe to leave this and retire to my 'Grandmastery' duties of signing papers." She said this with such mockery that Hanzo couldn't hold back his snort. He could share with her in sympathy. "It's for the clan's prosperity. But," he added in an afterthought, "if you are against the idea of going back to the Lin Kuei, you could message your brother and tell him that you are just taking a break. You could stay here if you would like."
Kuai looked up quickly. "I don't want to be a burden to you." Hanzo shook his head. "It is fine," he dismissed easily. "Besides, it has been a while since we last saw each other. If you feel like helping, you could instruct some of my students." She groaned in reply. "You and I know that we have completely different views on that subject."
Hanzo shrugged. "It was a suggestion." Kuai leaned back in her chair. "I will admit, every time I left this place, I was intrigued by the forestry in the area. It makes for an interesting place to have sparring lessons. Maybe you should consider bringing your students to that area to help them with footwork."
Suddenly, a loud buzzing cut off any further words. Kuai pulled up a small device, frowning at the short message displayed on the screen. "Damn. I guess I can't linger for long. Sorry," she said, standing up. Hanzo got up as well. "What happened?" Kuai sighed. "Tengu are being annoying pricks. Nothing else, but I should still be there to impose my presence. I'm really sorry about this."
She looked upset, and Hanzo couldn't help but feel the same way. "I am too," he replied truthfully. "I hope you'll still contact me every now and then. Maybe we can come up with some activities for our clans to participate in?" Kuai smiled back at him. "Sure. That sound like a great idea." She hugged him suddenly. "I missed you." Hanzo returned the gesture moments later. "As did I."
To: Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei
From: General of the Shirai Ryu
Subject: Reaching Out
I was wondering how your confrontation with the Tengu ended. Are you alright? You didn't send me anything, and I was concerned. Please excuse my prying behavior.
On a different note, I was also considering making that pact between both of our clans you mentioned some time ago. That is, of course, if you are willing to and have the time. I will await your response.
Subject: Re: Reaching Out
Hello! I am sorry I didn't reach out to you sooner. I was caught up with so many things. My Tengu problem was dealt with easily; it was the half of my temple that caught on fire that was the problem.
Also, you do realize that you do not have to write so formally with me, right? My emails are not read by anyone other than me. I would greatly appreciate it if you referred to me with my actual name. (NO LAST NAME INCLUDED. PLEASE)
And as for your last point, I would love making that pact into an official document! Not that it would decrease the competitiveness of my students; they will most certainly end up destroying your students. I hope you have a great night, especially over that last sentence.
Subject: Re: Re: Reaching Out
I am sorry to hear about the fire. I'm sure that your clan is fine, knowing you. I will attempt to forgo my attempts at staying formal, although I find that it goes against my impulses. By the way, how are Tomas and Bi-Han? I have not heard from them in a long time. If you have time in your schedule, perhaps we could arrange a meeting. It would be great to meet up again.
And please, don't overwork yourself. I know you, Kuai.
If I receive word from Tomas or Bi-Han that you're overworking yourself, I'm moving everything aside to go to you and make you stop.
That's a promise.
Speaking of overworking yourself, you must have been already doing that to yourself. I have heard that it can bring extreme delusions; believing that your Lin Kuei could beat my Shirai Ryu is a serious sign of being delusional. I urge you to consult a doctor.
But, seriously, don't overwork yourself.
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Reaching Out
I laughed at your email. Thank you; it was a laugh much needed.
We have been busy repairing the damages done to our temple. Actually, we have made significant progress.
Tomas and Bi-Han are doing well, thank you for asking. Constantly hounding me and annoying the hell out of me. So, really, just the normal stuff.
They're telling me to take a break this weekend. If you're free, maybe we could meet up! I know this great sushi place in the town near your temple.
Hope to hear from you soon!
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Reaching Out
Sorry to hear about the trouble you are having, dealing with those two. Seeing them makes me feel grateful that I didn't have siblings.
And to answer your question, I will be free this weekend. I can meet you at the town.
I look forward to seeing you again.