Summary: Hwoarang and Jin finally meet up.
Feedback: Comments are welcome; constructive or positive. Flames are nice too because they make for something to laugh at and keep my feet toasty.
Special Thanks: To my beta Kat for betaing everything I send her, and listening to me talk her ear off about this thing.
Disclaimer: The characters found here *do not* belong to me. The story itself *does* belong to me. I am making no profit from this endeavour.
Notes: To write Yakushima properly I did a bit of research on it. It’s quite an amazing place and I’m so glad that I did my homework. I now not only have the goods to make Hwoarang and Jin’s meeting/growth interesting, I also have a fantasy-vacation destination if I ever learned Japanese and wanted to go camping/hiking.
It pained me to think that Devil had burned out a chunk of it because, fiction or not, the thought is completely unforgivable to me. I mean, this island is covered in 3,000+ year old cedars (sugi) and, despite it being a complete loss to have any of them burned out, I think Devil would be hard pressed to incinerate them so easily in the first place. After talking to Kat for a bit, we discovered that Devil only burns “a forest” and then Jin regains control of his body and returns to Yakushima. I was so happy to hear this, so if anyone is wondering about the continuity regarding the burned forest and Yakushima, they’re two separate places. I’d originally made Yakushima the burning forest but quickly changed it. Writing about the skeletons of such strong trees would be too painful ^_^
I’m taking liberties with insinuating that Sempiro falls feeds Toroki falls. It might be...
"Angel/Devil's words inside Hwoarang/Jin's head"
Please see the Index for more details and chapter links.
Hwoarang had been flying for longer than his attention span could keep track of. He knew he'd left Korea many hours past, and most of those had been spent flying over water. It wasn't until the white-capped ocean was replaced with land that Angel decided to make her presence known.
"I know where I'm going!" he grumbled when he felt her tug his consciousness towards the Southeast corner of the island. He soared over the mountains that were coated with greenery and he could almost feel the life-force of the forest, even from his vantage point in the air.
"“Stop being so stubborn and just go over here. He’s in this direction.”
Hwoarang frowned and tilted his wings to carry him in the direction she indicated. He was going to go to the Southeast anyways, even before she told him where to go.
The scenery changed little as he continued to soar high above Yakushima, eventually seeing the waterline crop up on the horizon and he circled to find a good place to land. The trees were thick and would be very difficult to navigate through to land safely. He observed a long stretch of road that appeared to run along the perimeter of the entire island. The sun was beginning to sink into the horizon and he landed on the road, quickly looking around to make sure he hadn’t been spotted by any of the locals. Angel whispered for him to move quickly and he rushed forward into the greenery of the forest and was swallowed up by the cedars and ferns.
He immediately felt the change in temperature as he ventured further in amongst the trees. It was humid. Not too uncomfortable, but Hwoarang knew that after a few hours in it he’d be complaining. His boot crunched a branch beneath him and he winced at the sound. He’d try to be quieter, but he wasn’t used to having to tiptoe around so many fallen branches and living moss with the soft ground giving way under his white boots.
He stumbled a few times, even with Angel’s urging for him to follow some path that she insisted was there. “You must hurry,” Angel piped in when Hwoarang stopped to gather his thoughts for a second. “Waiting won’t get you any closer to Jin. Enough time has passed since Jinpachi was awoken and Devil’s strength multiplied,” her tone was accusatory and Hwoarang rolled his eyes, shifting his wings to fold them against his back. They were just getting in the way at the moment.
“Yeah, yeah. Thanks for the guilt trip. You know how much I fucking love those, right? So, Kazama’s in here somewhere?” His thoughts began churning with the fight he’d face when he finally met up with his rival again. Any other man may have begun to question his familiarity with Angel’s powers and perhaps want to train more before engaging Devil in a fight. Of course, Hwoarang wasn’t like other men and his only thought centred on how fast he could kick the fuck out of Devil. A small portion of him was angry that Jin could be overpowered by that creature. He knew Jin was a very strong fighter, which meant he had to be a strong person. While he didn’t know the Japanese fighter all that well, he knew that Jin wasn’t the type to roll over for anybody. Just like him! Devil must really be powerful if Jun and Angel had gone to the trouble of recruiting his sorry ass.
He pushed away from the tree he’d been leaning against, feeling the life-force of the ancient wood clinging to his aura before he moved away and they parted. The longer he spent in the woods, the more acutely aware of the magic he became. It was hard to explain, since he couldn’t really understand it. He could just feel it. The essence of life was permeating the air and was everywhere he looked; the ground, the trees. Even the rocks seemed to possess a soul that brushed against his when he stepped on them. The larger boulders silently ignored him, or encouraged him to continue on deeper into the ancient forest, depending on their mood.
Angel’s spirit mingled with theirs in that vein. “You’re on the right path, Hwoarang. You can sense where Jin is, right? You’ll have to be careful… Devil is more powerful now. You should pick your time to challenge him; I’m going to need to stay quiet. That means…” Her tone was expectant, her sentence unfinished and Hwoarang hated being tested like that.
“Don’t start with me, Lady,” he said and concentrated on repressing his angelic features. He had more control over the transformation this time, and the light came and went more rapidly, his wings leaving along with the rest of his white ensemble. He was left in his usual clothes; jeans and a white tank. He suddenly felt the chill and his skin prickled uncomfortably despite the humid atmosphere. He dug into his bag that was still slung over his shoulder and dug a thicker shirt out, quickly pulling it over his head. It wasn’t much, but was better than nothing.
Angel was silent in his mind, and he could feel her digging in deep to hide herself. She wasn’t intruding into his memories, but made herself difficult to find if someone were looking for her. Unfortunately, it would be difficult for her to see what was going on in the real world which meant, in essence, Hwoarang was on his own.
He managed to find his way through the forest well enough without Angel’s instinct guiding him, like she had during his trip from Korea to Yakushima. It was a bit more difficult, but when he found a break in the trees that opened upon a large, powerful river, he picked a direction and followed it. If Jin was living there, he’d need access to water. Logic wasn’t one of his strong suits, but Hwoarang was happy to know that he’d retained some of the training from his time with the military.
He stayed as quiet as he could, keeping to one side of the waterway that seemed to become narrower the further he traveled upstream. It wasn’t until it was several metres across – still more difficult than easy to traverse – when he spotted a building on the side opposite from where he was. As he drew closer, he could see it was a log cabin set against the encroaching forest. The trees were trying to reclaim their fallen brethren, although the clearing between the cabin and river remained clear with some short bamboo grass lining the ground in a pseudo-lawn. Hwoarang climbed down to the river bank, trying to get as close to the cabin as he could when he saw a figure stepping out of the structure.
Even from his vantage point, Hwoarang could see Jin’s features that stood out in sharp contrast against the green background. His black hair was longer than he remembered seeing it at the tournaments and he wore a pair of plain, white training pants. The darker man didn’t notice him at first and walked over to a large boulder that sat at the perimeter of the clearing. The rock was easily the size of an apartment that Hwoarang had lived in years past, and he marveled at how Jin just approached it and began training against it, punching at the weathered stone to strengthen his hits. Since the other man was distracted, all Hwoarang had left to worry about was his approach. He stood and looked down at the rushing current of the river at his feet. It would be difficult to traverse, but he didn’t feel like wandering further upstream to find a bridge, and just because it was difficult didn’t mean it would be impossible…
He stepped into the water, gasping at the chill water that surged around him and he waded in to his waist. Subtlety wasn’t really Hwoarang’s forte, and in the end he figured it would be expected of him to just walk up to Jin and say hello. He was still undetected by Jin as the other man’s back was facing him, but Hwoarang discovered that he had another problem. He’d misjudged the current of the river. On the surface it looked calm, but underneath the riverbed was unstable and the Blood Talon did his best to stay upright, but he slipped on some loose stones and plunged into the rushing, cold water. “Fuck!” he yelled before he was swept along on the current and water filled his mouth.
Jin stepped out of the log cabin, the wooden steps creaking under his weight before his bare feet touched upon the soft moss and grasses that covered the ground. He could sense something strange in the air that day, although he couldn’t put a finger on it. Even Devil, who usually had a comment for everything, was complacent. Still, the sensation was too faint, and after a while it seemed to flicker into oblivion. It was almost familiar, but it had been too faint to identify. He shook his head and looked up through the break in the canopy at the sky; the blues had faded to the dusky reds and oranges of sunset. The was very little light left to be had and he wanted to end the day with some healthy, knuckle-building training. His mother had trained at the boulder at the side of his cabin and the weathered stone was still strong enough to withstand his own training that was wearing a groove into its surface.
He calmed his mind, shutting Devil out and approached the stone, taking his stance before stepping forward and throwing all his force into a punch that resounded throughout the clearing. He stepped back and readied himself for another hit. There was the familiar cry of a monkey that echoed as his fist cracked against the boulder again. Crack, crack, crack, his knuckles were stinging and numb, but it was to be expected for the first few minutes. Afterwards, the numbness would take over. Crack, crack, crack- splash!
“Huh?” Jin stopped and spun around, looking for the source of the sound. There had been lots of rain a few days earlier and the Senpiro falls that fed the river had swollen with the extra water. The stream, which was usually safe to swim in, was flowing too quickly. It was too dangerous. “Hello?” he cried out, catching sight of a flailing arm before it was pulled under the water and a leg flailed about in its place. Someone had fallen in, and it didn’t seem they could right themselves. Jin watched as the body was tossed about on the current before he saw an arm shot out of the water and grab hold of a large boulder that sat at the side of the river.
“Fuck!” he heard a voice exclaim before coughing violently, and his heart skipped a beat as he thought he recognized the voice that uttered the expletive. He sprang forward, coming up beside the boulder. There, clinging to the rock for dear-life was Hwoarang. The Korean street fighter with the nickname Blood Talon was gripping the boulder with white knuckles while he cursed a blue streak.
Jin hesitated to ask if the other man needed help but then shook his head and broke through the string of swearing. “Hwoarang?”
“Ugh, Kazama!” Hwoarang coughed and began pulling himself to the edge of the river.
Jin opened his mouth to say something but stopped and tilted his head to try to watch the drenched redhead as he climbed from the river. The light was fading and it was making it more difficult to see what was going on, although he did hear Hwoarang sputter once or twice, coughing water from his lungs before swearing again.
“Little fucker likes to swear, doesn’t he? ” Devil observed.
Jin ignored the voice in his head and watched Hwoarang climb to his feet. He wanted to laugh; he’d always seen Hwoarang so proper and tough, and to see him soaked to the bone with his hair sticking flat against his head… he bit back the chuckle that was building in him. “What’s so funny?” Hwoarang asked, his teeth chattering as he drew his arms around his body.
Jin’s mirth turned to sympathy. When the sun wasn’t shining down it could become very cold in Yakushima. It wasn’t even a question in his mind that he’d offer for Hwoarang to stay with him, but Devil’s voice rang in his head, asking what he was doing there in the first place.
“Kinda suspicious… I don’t like it. I can almost taste… her on him…”
‘Quit being paranoid,’ Jin thought, conversing with the beast inside him. ‘I’ll take care of him. Just go back to sleep, or something.’
“Hwoarang. What are you doing here?” Jin asked, hoping to shut up the creature’s demands.
“Looking for you, Kazama!” the other man said, trying to keep his teeth from chattering while he said it.
“For me?” he rolled the words around in his mind. ‘For me…’
“Something’s not right! Why would he come all the way out here? Why not wait until the next tournament? Something’s… I don’t like it!!!” Devil’s voice rattled violently in his head and Jin bit his tongue to overwhelm him with pain.
“Yeah, Kazama. You’re a tough guy to find! So, you wanna have our rematch now or…” Hwoarang shivered visibly and his words faltered on his tongue.
“Let’s not fight now,” Jin said, filling the void between them with something constructive. Devil was itching for a fight and he didn’t want that to happen right then – anything but that. “Um, I guess you need a place to stay? I still want to know why you’re here, but first I think you should come back to my place.”
“Naw, I-” Hwoarang began to blow Jin’s invitation off when he stopped and seemed to consider it. “Alright, fine, Kazama. You’re probably right, since I can’t feel my damn fingers anyways.” He adjusted the strap on his shoulder, the bag it was attached to dripped water all over the ground. “Lead the way, will ya?”
Jin nodded and turned to walk back to his cabin. “You’re really lucky,” he said, trying to make conversation. “If you’d become swept away you might have been taken to Toroki falls, and that leads directly into the ocean.” Hwoarang’s chattering teeth was the only reply he got and Jin shut up. He began to mentally rifle through his wardrobe back at the cabin for something the redhead could wear. Night was nearly upon them, and that meant that he’d need something warm to wear and a bed… where would Hwoarang sleep? He thought for a moment, remembering that he had a few spare blankets he could lay out for a makeshift bed. He nodded as they crossed the clearing, content with his plan for his guest – his unexpected, uninvited guest. He felt torn; he was happy to see Hwoarang there, but was worried that he’d become distracted and Devil would take advantage of the opportunity. He’d built his own little sanctuary there and Hwoarang seemed to be the opposite of serene. He didn’t want to lose control of his body in Hwoarang’s presence. As welcome as Hwoarang was to him, he just wanted to be alone…
“Go on, push him away. He’s a filthy street rat that got a taste of power – the true power of a GOD – and can’t stay away! Don’t let him in!” Devil’s voice had a lilt of… was it fear?
‘What’s the matter?’ Jin asked the dark voice, questioning its tone. ‘Does it anger you so much to know that Hwoarang is here for me, that he doesn’t even know you exist?’ Jin asked the Devil in his mind. It was almost elating to think it. It was something that gave him strength whenever he began to doubt his self-worth. He mattered. Even without the devil gene he still mattered to one other person. It was such a pitiful thing to cling to, but at that moment it held incredible significance to him and he didn’t want to let it go.
He closed the door to the log cabin once they’d walked inside and he turned to his shivering – although he’d never admit it – guest, “I have some clothes you can wear to warm up.” It was a modest cabin with a main area and a couple small doorways off to the rear for storage. It had at one time been where Jun slept, while Jin had slept on his futon in the main living area. When his mother was alive, things had been in proper order. It had felt more like a home; she’d had her bedroom and Jin had his… but now? He couldn’t even bring himself to fix it up to the way things were. He just used the common area, and entered his mother’s old room as little as possible. It would be a bit cramped for two people there, especially since the only bed that was left was Jin’s. That would be a problem unless he could find another option and busied himself with digging some clothes out of his storage chest while thinking of what he could do for the other man. “Here, these should warm you up,” Jin finally said and handed some sweatpants and shirt to the redhead.
Hwoarang quickly peeled off his tank and jeans before accepting them and pulling them on. He was unabashed with exposing himself – or perhaps it was just a need to get warm that overrode any modesty he might have had – although Jin doubted the man was modest at all; from what he knew of him at least.
Hwoarang left his clothes in a soppy heap on the floor and Jin thought nothing of picking them up to hang to dry outside. When he returned from the task, he met Hwoarang’s puzzled stare and he felt himself growing uncomfortable under the penetrating gaze. He stood there for a moment before feeling flustered, “Did you want them to dry or not?” he asked a bit too defensively.
“Hey, thanks, Kazama. You’ll make someone a good, little housewife some day.” Hwoarang laughed and laid back on the futon. Jin’s futon.
Jin stepped up to the bed and stared down at his uninvited guest. “I didn’t say you could sleep on my bed,” his voice was steady, but firm. “What are you doing here?”
Hwoarang rolled over to look him in the eye, “Like I said, Kazama. I’m looking for you.”
“Well,” Jin said, warring with what he wanted and what he knew he needed. “You’ve found me. I’ll take you into town tomorrow so you can go back home. I want to be left alone.”
“Aww, seriously?” Hwoarang sat up and scooted back to get a good look at the darker man. “I thought you’d want some company. I don’t know how you can stand to be by yourself.”
“A God doesn’t need company, human!” Devil bit out and Jin shook his head. Not then! He didn’t want Hwoarang to know about Devil. He couldn’t let the other man see him warring with that evil. Hwoarang was his, and he had to get him away from there.
“I’m not really alone, although I don’t think you’d understand.”
“The trees your friends?” Hwoarang grinned.
“Are you a tree hugger?” the Blood Talon clarified. “Y’know, hugging the trees, petting the deer – a real nature-boy. I’ve never really cared about trees before, but I have to admit,” Hwoarang’s eyes grew wide as he spoke. “If I was going to like a tree, it’d be from here. The things are huge here!”
“The sugi here are thousands of years old. To appreciate them is to appreciate life itself,” Jin nodded and smiled. If he’d had the luxury of letting Hwoarang stay with him he would have liked to show him around the island. There were a few things that he’d always wanted to share with a friend… he turned away from the redhead and lit a candle that was perched on a table. The dim light cast shadows around the room that had darkened since the sunlight had disappeared from outside.
The Blood Talon remained silent in that light and Jin prepared for bed, gathering some spare blankets from the back room and laying them out on the floor in a makeshift bed. He looked back to Hwoarang who was lying on his back, eyes closed and his breathing light. Jin lightly kicked his leg, waking him. “Your bed is over there.”
“What? Isn’t it rude to make the guest sleep on the shitty bed?”
“You’re an uninvited guest. Be happy I’m letting you stay here at all, and that’s my bed.” Jin prodded the redhead a few more times before the other man rolled off the hard mattress and onto the even harder floor.
"Way to treat a guy. After all the trouble I went through to find you."
The darker man ignored him and climbed into his own bed, pulling the blankets over his back and closing his eyes. Happy that Hwoarang wasn’t saying anything more.
"If you're not careful, he'll stab you in your sleep. There's something about him that stinks. Some... energy... he'll betray us!
'Shut up! Jin cursed inwardly. Devil was getting chattier than usual. He'd have to try harder to repress it. If he could... The thought fogged his mind with doubt and dread at the possibility that he could be overpowered by the evil like his father had...
Shivering he wrapped his arms around himself and tried to think of more pleasant things. He stared up into the darkness, listening to the rain as it began pelting the roof with loud pitter-patters and the crash of thunder that sang to his nature with an electric familiarity.
He was still awake hours later, long after Hwoarang's snores had started.
~End Chapter Seventeen~
| Index | Chapter Eighteen |