Summary: Jin takes Hwoarang into Onoaida to visit the hotspring (onsen) and get something to eat. There, Hwoarang meets some of the more colourful people that Jin knows and discovers why his rival is truly such a quiet person.
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: For those of you who have been to the Onoaida hotspring, I apologize for any inaccuracies. The only way to be 100% accurate would be to visit one myself, and damnit I just don't have the money to go to Japan right now ^_^
"Angel/Devil's words inside Hwoarang/Jin's head"
Please see the Index for more details and chapter links.
The main trail wasn’t very far from Jin’s home, and they quickly found their way to the road just outside of the town of Onoaida. The walk was pleasant and Jin was happy to have quieted Devil down by the time they walked into the tiny building put up by the people who managed that part of the springs. A kindly middle-aged woman smiled at them from behind the counter. “Jin! Hello! Hello!” She said cheerily. “The moment the rain leaves you want to spend some time in the water? You boys must really like to be wet!”
“The hell?” Hwoarang mumbled under his breath, and Jin elbowed him in the ribs before the woman could hear.
“Yes, I was hoping we could spend some time in one of the pools, if that’s alright, Inoue,” Jin addressed her warmly and with all the respect his mother had used with the woman.
“Sure, sure. Inside or outside? With the rain you could only stay inside, but now that it’s stopped… do you boys really want to stare at a grey sky, though? Nobody else is here now, so you can use one of the private indoor rooms. I know how much you like your privacy, Jinny!”
Hwoarang chuckled and Jin shuddered at the name. “Yes, that would be great. Thank you.” She waved away the money he tried to hand her and he bowed. “Thank you, Inoue.” She never accepted his money whenever he went. He felt like he was somehow taking advantage of her generosity, but she just wouldn’t let him pay.
She led them to a small shower where they could clean up before going to their room. She took their gi pants from them, laughing at how muddy they were and promised to send them out for cleaning. Jin tried to tell her it wouldn’t be necessary, but she was gone before he could tell her so.
“This is a pretty sweet place, Kazama, or should I say, Jinny?” Hwoarang said, laughing as he showered the mud from his body. “Private rooms and you don’t have to pay… I shoulda come to find you sooner!”
“Don’t call me Jinny,” the darker man said, keeping his eyes front and centre as he washed himself under the spray of the showerhead. The spray was nice and warm, fed from the same water that was found in the springs. He’d visited that spot so many times, but with Hwoarang standing at the shower beside him, it somehow felt strange and foreign. He glanced sideways at the Korean who seemed to unabashedly revel in the water, running his hands along his lean, muscular torso. He caught his eyes wandering lower and he quickly turned his attention back to the tile in front of him. He didn’t know why he felt so shy all of the sudden, but it was probably the fact that Hwoarang was so brash and loud to actually call him out on his wandering eyes. The last thing Jin wanted was Hwoarang accusing him of being a pervert… it would almost be worse than him finding out about Devil. He shook his head and stepped away from the shower spray. Inoue had left them with towels and he quickly wrapped the large, white terrycloth around his waist. He waited for Hwoarang to wrap his own blue towel around his waist before leading the way from the showers down an open-air corridor to a door that was separate from the rest. It opened out to a room that was little more than a few flimsy walls and a roof covering a large hole in the rocky ground. The hole was full of water that steamed and swirled, filling the room with the smell of sulphur.
“Ohhh yeah!” Hwoarang exclaimed and ripped his towel off before jumping into the pool.
Jin watched the Korean’s bare ass as he jumped into the water with a splash before climbing in properly, removing his towel before quickly sliding into the warm liquid. For a moment his worries melted away as he immersed himself in the steaming sulfuric waters that seemed to instantly reinvigorate his body. He settled into a seat in the rock, letting out a sigh as he tilted his head back. It really had been too long. He closed his eyes. Bliss.
“So, Kazama, what do we do in this place?” Hwoarang couldn’t stay quiet for longer than half an hour before he was fidgeting again.
“We relax,” Jin said, keeping his eyes closed, although his eyebrow twitched at the question.
“So where are we going after this?” Hwoarang asked, obviously not happy with the answer. “I’m hungry. Is there a place in town that we can get something to eat?”
“Hwoarang,” Jin said tiredly, not bothering to look at the other man. He was beginning to regret having taken him to the hot spring. He was letting himself get distracted and enjoying himself when he should have been taking Hwoarang to the airport and getting him AWAY from there. Devil wouldn’t stay quiet for too long. “We’ve only been here for 20 minutes. Can’t you just relax and enjoy this? People come from all over just to do this!”
“Well, now that I’ve done it I’m bored,” Hwoarang almost whined, kicking his foot out to poke Jin’s leg with his toe.
“Fine, we’ll get something to eat in a little while. Just let me relax a bit longer?” He didn’t bother opening his eyes to see Hwoarang’s answer. He took the redhead’s grunt as assent. So the hot springs and lunch and then he’d take Hwoarang to the airport. He cracked his eyes open to look at the Korean who was sitting across from him. What could be the harm in letting him stay a bit longer?
“If that disturbance doesn’t leave soon, I’ll break him in half,” Devil warned in a booming voice.
Jin was startled by the force behind the words and shot forward from his perch in the water. “Shit,” he muttered.
Hwoarang’s voice broke in on the inner conversation. “Holy crap, Kazama, you can swear? Guess you’re not the boring, uptight guy I pegged you for, eh?” He reached out to punch Jin in the arm, although the contact only infuriated Devil more.
“Sorry,” Jin said, grimacing and doing his best to get Devil to shove off. He could feel the darkness inside him staying low, there was no threat of Devil forcing his way out, but the snide remarks could be unnerving. He knew he was pushing things by taking Hwoarang out to see a bit of Onoaida, but it wasn’t as if he was inviting the man to live with him. No, one day of fun and then that was it. ‘Just one more day!’ he firmly told Devil, ‘I’ll make sure he leaves, but give me this day.’ He waited for the rebuttal but was surprised to feel Devil quieting within his mind. He took the beast’s silence as agreeance and relaxed, a smile brightening his face when he looked over at his bored guest. He was starting to feel a little restless himself and an idea sprang to mind. He reached out to poke Hwoarang with his toe. “Let’s get something to eat. I know this place…”
“You don’t have to tell me,” Hwoarang said, climbing out of the tub and quickly retrieving his towel. “Let’s go. I’ll find out when I get there!”
Jin climbed out as well with a bounce in his step and wrapped his towel around himself. He had the day to enjoy himself and he already felt giddy at the thought. Hopefully Devil wouldn’t make him pay for it later. He hoped the beast would give him that much.
Hwoarang didn’t realize it until they’d left the springs and had begun walking up the street, but he really did feel rejuvenated after sitting in that pool of water. He’d have to go back to that place later. Jin seemed to be happier once they’d left and he pounced on that good humour when he realized that Jin wasn’t ignoring him and was actually listening to what he was saying. He couldn’t help it; he just felt like talking to Jin, filling the air between them with as many words as he could, most of them open-ended questions to get Jin to talk. After bit of time describing his elaborate escape from the military and a few adventures after shacking up with Doyon – all angelic references removed, of course – he asked Jin a few questions. He’d never really gotten to converse with the other man, so he’d saved up a pile of really good questions that he’d always wanted to know. Since they weren’t fighting, it seemed safe to ask him about the basics; Yakushima, how he knew all the people, if he planned on living there forever, things that seemed like proper conversation although he couldn’t help slipping a few aggressive jabs at him regarding their rematch. It had been the sole thing drawing him towards Jin, and it was starting to feel like it was slipping away from him. His purpose had been to prove he was better. He was, wasn’t he? He shook his head and bit his cheek to let physical pain blot out his wandering mind. He was there for Jin, first to help and then to kick his ass. In that order! He wouldn’t let any feelings of brotherhood or friendship leak in there. They were just too different to get along on any other level…
…and yet he found himself wishing otherwise. Jin wasn’t of his ilk, and yet he didn’t look down on him as some filthy street rat. He bit his cheek again.
Jin led him past many cozy store fronts, bypassing some of the alleys in favour of a spot that was promised to be really good. “My, ah, mother’s friend owns this little place that is really good.”
“Mother’s friend? Does that mean it’ll be free?” Hwoarang leaned into Jin.
“N-no! Well, probably, but that’s not why we’re going there!” Jin became flustered and shoved Hwoarang back. The Korean laughed and shoved back.
“Don’t start with me. I’m still itching for my rematch…” he shoved back and this time Jin stepped out of the way, causing Hwoarang to lose his balance and fall over.
“Yeah, don’t remind me,” Jin enjoyed seeing the redhead picking himself up from the ground. “I knew there was a reason you kept following me around.”
“Well, it ain’t cuz you’re cute, Kazama,” Hwoarang spat and crossed his arms over his chest. “Don’t fuck with me. The next time I push you, take the hit like a man instead of side-stepping like a girl.” He shoved Jin again.
They continued up the street like that, earning them a few queer looks until Jin stopped in front of a sunny little shop. “This is it,” he said and led the way inside. The restaurant was set apart from the rest of the low buildings and Jin strode purposefully towards a table that overlooked the beach. They both settled into their seats and immediately a young girl appeared beside them.
“Welcome to the Yamada Sky Cafe!” she chirped, a warm smile spread across her face and she tilted her head to the side. “Jin Kazama? Oh, I’m so glad you came! You look fresh so you must have visited Inoue at the onsen! I’d better feed you good, then. Mother said that you haven’t been by the market to buy more food so I should remind you to visit her and the next time I see you that I should feed you really well, so I’m going to have to cook you my extra-special noodles! But,” her smile dropped as she took her first breath after talking a mile-a-minute. She raised a finger to her chin in thought. “Noodles aren’t enough, so I think I’ll add some of my secret egg sauce and… eel!” she clapped her hands together as if that was final and she turned towards Hwoarang. Her eyes became very wide as she peered at him closely. “And, ah, your friend? What would you like?” she snapped back upright, a grin on her face as if she’d had the most brilliant idea. “I know!” she gestured, poking a finger up in the air. “I’ll make you my seaweed surprise with my extra-special noodles.” With that she turned on her heel, keeping her finger raised as she marched off to the kitchen.
Hwoarang watched her go with wide eyes before looking back at Jin for an explanation.
The brunette shrugged sheepishly, “The food’s really good,” he assured Hwoarang when it was obvious the redhead was about to leave.
“The hell was that?” he whispered harshly. “Seaweed surprise? I wanted beef! Lots of meat and veggies!” He waved his arms about to make his point. “Can’t I at least get a beer?” he asked before sitting back and sulking.
“You’ll like it!” Jin laughed as the girl returned with two glasses of tea. “Nana, can my friend have a beer too?” he quietly asked. She laughed and nodded, pulling a bottle of cold beer out from behind her.
“I knew he’d want this!” she set the bottle down with a thunk. “I just knew it, so I thought I’d surprise you… surprise!” she shouted before suddenly becoming very serious and turning back to the kitchen.
“Now I know why you’re so fucking quiet, Kazama,” Hwoarang muttered before lifting the bottle to his lips.
The food arrived quickly, both plates containing unidentifiable creations that looked both appealing and revolting at the same time. Hwoarang had eaten Japanese food before, but this wasn’t anything he’d ever seen before. It was as if the girl had grabbed random ingredients, mixed them together and then slathered them with some strange yellow sauce. Well, Jin had the yellow sauce, he had a strange lime-green concoction that bathed his noodles. Without a word, Jin grabbed his chopsticks and tucked into his dish, separating some pieces of vegetable from the fray and picking them up in one swift movement. Hwoarang looked to his plate and hesitatingly put the tips of his chopsticks into the mixture. He fancied that he saw it move, but twirled some long strands of noodles around the wooden utensils and lifted the wriggling mass to his mouth. He tipped his tongue out to taste it before making a noise of pleasant surprise and popping the food into his mouth. “Damn!” he exclaimed as he reached back for more.
Aside from grunts of enjoyment from Hwoarang, the two fighters ate in amiable silence. The sounds of the sea drifted up to them adding to the ambiance which was tinted to a modern feel by some retro rock music that filtered through a little radio tucked into the corner of the room. It was becoming a pleasant day as the sun finally appeared and it wasn’t long before Hwoarang let out a satisfied sigh and pushed his plate away from him. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten so well. After living for a week on the garbage that Doyon called food, he was happy to be able to eat some real food, even with a name like ‘seaweed surprise’.
“That was great! Thank you!” he told the young girl who came to collect his plate, a little more enthusiastic than he’d meant, but he enjoyed the twitch it triggered in Jin’s eyebrow. He looked over at his rival that sat across from him, moving his noodles around on his plate without actually eating anything. Jin had been jovial between the hot spring and the restaurant, but it seemed that the silence had made him withdraw into his shell.
‘What’s wrong with him?’ he wondered before he almost smacked himself in the head for not realizing the obvious. ‘It’s probably that fucking Devil,’ he thought, a surge of jealousy coursing through him. Jin had always been quiet, but right then he was bordering on comatose for conversational abilities. He didn’t even notice when Hwoarang reached across the table to steal one of the shrimps that were moved to the side of his plate. “Hey, Kazama! If you don’t eat you’ll get weak, and our next fight won’t be a tie!” He made a show of dropping the crustacean in his mouth and chewing loudly. When that didn’t get a reaction he reached across to shake Jin’s arm, earning him a flinch as the Japanese man reacted to his touch. “What’s the matter with you? All this good living wearing you down?”
“It’s not that, Hwoarang,” Jin said, pushing his plate away from him and looking directly into the redhead’s eyes. Those dark orbs were hard, unyielding, and closed off. Hwoarang felt a stab of worry stab through his belly, and he didn’t know if it was him or Angel that had felt it. He could only guess as to the conversation that Jin was having with Devil at that moment. “We should get going,” Jin said after a long pause. “It’s getting late.”
Hwoarang wondered what was going on in his head. He would have preferred an air of annoyance like he usually got, or even anger. Anything that showed emotion instead of the cold wall he’d suddenly put up. Maybe he was pushing things too far. He nodded without a word, biting his tongue from the snide comments he’d usually have for Jin as they left, or even the random observations he had about the island as they returned to the forest path. It really was beautiful. Had he told Jin that yet? Then wasn’t the time. He began to think back to what Angel had said to him.
”You have to yell so that everyone knows you’re alive.” Why did she have to be the one to say it? He was an attention whore, sure. He liked Yakushima, but couldn’t live there forever by himself without anybody around. He needed to interact with people, to hear them say his name and know that he mattered to someone else.
Not like Jin did… The other fighter pushed everyone away from him. He could live on his own, without his name crossing another person’s lips and it wouldn’t matter to him.
Of course, Hwoarang thought further, if he stayed there with Jin, knowing he had the other man’s attention, Jin’s acknowledgement of him, could he do it? Did the hollow praise he received from strangers at his competitions compare to the tilt of Jin’s head when they met at a tournament? Did it match the spark of life he saw shoot into the other man’s eyes when they stood off against each other? He brought a reaction to the surface of the other man, and it sustained him far more than the roar of a crowd ever could. ”You want Jin to know you exist, so you keep following him and being a distraction when he needs to focus on Devil!” It was true; Jin knew he existed, and for him, Jin had become the centre of his focus. He needed Jin. He may have been a distraction, but would it have been better if he wasn’t there at all and all Jin had to think about was that creature inside his head; the only being to say his name?
Hwoarang shook his head. He was thinking too deeply about matters. His sudden realization of just how deeply Jin mattered to him left its mark deep in his heart. If he were to leave tomorrow he’d mourn the loss of contact with Jin, almost as strongly as he’d mourned Baek’s loss when he’d thought his mentor had been murdered.
Murdered… If he left would Devil murder Jin – the Jin he knew?
“We’re here,” the brunette said, completely unaware of Hwoarang’s train of thought as he pushed some brush away to reveal the clearing of his home.
The redhead nodded and walked on without saying a word as Jin led him into the cabin. His reasons for being there were far beyond his promise to Jun – he knew that now. Her proposal had been the trigger that had put him in motion. The knowledge of Devil had moved him to action, but if someone else had told him of Jin’s trouble, would he have reacted in the same way? If he were to be honest with himself, he knew that, inside, he’d have felt just as jealous and affronted as when Jun had told him. The only one worthy of Jin was him!
His thoughts followed the same pattern as he lied there in the dark on his makeshift bed until he finally drifted off to sleep. His dreams were fraught with the upcoming battle that he could sense looming. Angel flickered through his conscious, although the fight was a blur in his mind, he could feel her power coming to him with more and more ease. He was dimly aware of his physical body twitching every so often whenever he threw out a dream-kick, but he remained asleep, his focus remaining on Jin.
Though Jin slept, Devil was conscious within his mind. A god-being rarely slept and he entertained himself with rifling through Jin’s dreams. The Japanese man’s mind was a whirl of worry that manifested in dark and ethereal dreams. Devil chuckled as he probed into the imagery to twist it to his liking. He’d been told in the hot springs to behave and give Jin the day, but he’d changed his mind when he’d seen Jin enjoying Hwoarang too much. Jin wasn’t allowed to enjoy anybody! Jin was his! Not some filthy Korean’s but his! He’d been fuming since Hwoarang had arrived – the perfect distraction for Jin – an annoyance of a man who only cared about his stupid rematch. Devil knew that wasn’t the case, but hadn’t been able to figure it out. It wasn’t until then when Hwoarang slumbered that he realized the truth. One moment he was plotting his revenge on Jin for letting the outsider stay for so long, and the next he was sent reeling as his conscious was pierced with a painfully blinding white light. He couldn’t see through Jin’s eyes, which were closed to dreams, but he didn’t need to. He recognized her energy the moment he felt it. The same flash of power he’d felt flare up before Hwoarang had appeared was there, beside his host, in the body of the thug that kept following him around. He grit his teeth, barely repressing a chuckle of anticipation. Jin wouldn’t be able to stop him from ripping Hwoarang apart in the morning. He’d do it slowly, drawing out the suffering for both men as Jin’s body was used to mutilate and then murder the one that he treasured as his chosen opponent. So Angel had somehow convinced that filthy street rat to act as a host for her power to save Jin? It was the biggest miss-match he’d ever seen! He doubted the other man even had an idea of how to properly use her power, whereas all he had to do was push Jin’s consciousness to the side and he had full control. He laughed menacingly, the noise rippling throughout Jin’s conscious and tingeing his dreams with black promise of things to come.
Soon enough there wouldn’t be anybody left that even remembered Jin before him.
~End Chapter Nineteen~
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