Summary: Devil has just figured out the true reason for Hwoarang's presence there and he's had enough. Things are beginning to unravel for Jin and he's at the end of his rope with asking Hwoarang to leave him alone. Unfortunately for him, Hwoarang isn't the type to leave so easily.
Feedback: Comments are welcome; constructive or positive. Flames are nice too because they make for something to 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: Umm, enjoy? I'm so falling in love with Hwoarang from just writing this thing out. This story is the one thing I think about while I'm not at my computer or in my notebook writing stuff. I was at a loss when a large chunk of my update was eaten by my pda and I've switched back to pen and paper for the next little while until my trust with that electronic wonder is restored. If you like, track this journal and get email notifications of when it's updated (although you'd get notifications of any updates I make, and while a large chunk of my time is spent on UA, I've got other projects on the go as well.)
Alternately, you could track the UA Index for UA-specific updates (although I believe that only paid users can do this.)
"Angel/Devil's words inside Hwoarang/Jin's head"
Please see the Index for more details, chapter links and fanart.
Jin woke feeling as if he hadn’t slept at all. Although he was in the comfort of his home, wrapped up in blankets to protect him from the chilly morning air, the beast that lurked within his conscious had been pacing all night, keeping his mind from peaceful dreams and any sort of restful sleep.
“Wakey, wakey, Kazama,” Devil purred in his mind, mocking the name that Hwoarang used to address him.
Jin looked over at Hwoarang, noting how the other man appeared to still be asleep and he quickly rose to address Devil properly. He threw on some loose training pants and shirt and hurried outside to begin his usual argument with the beast. “What are you up so early for?” he asked, keeping his footsteps steady as he walked out to the stream. He followed its course upstream through the woods towards one of the lesser waterfalls that were fed from Sempiro Falls. It wasn’t accessible to tourists and Jin instinctively knew that he’d need to meditate to get Devil under control that morning.
“You promised you’d make that disturbance leave today. Have you forgotten?” He sounded more aggressive than usual… agitated over something.
“I haven’t forgotten,” Jin said, deciding not to rise to the baiting tone of his voice. He sat down on one of the boulders that overlooked the base of the flowing falls. He closed his eyes and focused on meditating.
“You don’t look like you’re making him leave!” Devil interrupted him.
“Damn,” Jin cursed, shaking his head and starting over. If he’d slept properly he’d be strong enough to enter a state that Devil couldn’t affect. “What do you want? Just leave me alone, I’ll take him back later today.”
“Later will be too late, Kazama,” the beast threatened, more brazen than usual. “By then your precious little chosen one will be dead… and I’ll have used your body to do it!”
That promise snapped Jin to attention. “I told you I’d handle it, Demon!” Why was Devil being so aggressive that morning? He could feel the creature pacing within his mind with renewed strength and he didn’t understand it. What had happened between the previous day and that morning?
Devil growled, the monstrous sound fierce in Jin’s ears. “If you want that pretty little thing to live to see tomorrow, you’ll do something about it now. If you don’t, you know what I wouldn’t mind doing with him…”
Jin bowed his head as the words resounded in his mind. Not even awake for an hour and Devil was making threats. His quiet place by the falls wasn’t having the calming effect as it usually did. He wasn’t able to relax his mind enough to enter a protective state that the darkness couldn’t penetrate. Devil was always there with his foot in the door, making sure he was always a shadow looming over Jin and never letting the man have a moment of peaceful thought.
“Sitting on this rock isn’t going to make me happy, Kazama…”
“Just give me a minute,” he muttered, furrowing his brow in concentration and filling his senses with the aura of the forest. “You barely let me sleep, just let me rest for a moment.” It was a dangerous gamble to try negotiating with the demon when it was so strong and he was so weak. Still, he wouldn’t let himself lose control in front of Hwoarang. Not in front of him.
Devil growled a threat, but Jin was already digging his way into that elusive meditative state. Instead of resisting the overpowering voice in his mind, he let it roll over him and pretty soon it became a muffled boom, like thunder echoing in his mind. The thunder meshed with the rumbling of the waterfall that had, until that point, been mute to Devil’s power and Jin was able to enter a restful state that coexisted with his darker half.
His mind was a twisted mix of black and white, neither colour mixing together to form a palatable grey coexistence. He’d always been at odds, it was common for him. He sat back and let the colours wrestle together, just a casual observer of his own inner psyche. Black overwhelmed white which in turn pushed its way through the middle of the dark colour and flooded Jin’s vision with bright light before blackness moved the same way and blotted white from his vision. He’d seen the fight a few times before, although this time it was more disturbing with the roaring thunder in his ears. It was like a sandstorm of emotion and he was the only solid part of it, his devil half twisting around him as it chased and was chased by the white goodness that he fought to keep strong inside him. It was dizzying and timeless and before he knew it his eyes had closed and the battle was happening with a dream that seemed to take on various familiar shapes and forms.
An hour later Jin awoke, still with Devil in his mind, but feeling strong enough to face Hwoarang. He couldn’t remember the victor of the colour battle, though it didn’t really matter. He was still in control of his body and he’d keep it that way until Hwoarang finally left. No matter what that incorrigible redhead said, he’d push him away. Devil wouldn’t wait any longer.
“I told ya, Kazama, I’m not ready to leave yet,” Hwoarang frowned as he poked the skillet of fish on the stove. The meat sizzled in its juices and filled the cabin with the delicious smell. He’d woken to see that Jin had left and, being hungry and resourceful, he’d gone fishing for breakfast. “I even caught you something to eat too, so the least you could do is thank me and eat your damn fish.” He turned back to the stove, leaving the Japanese standing in the doorway to try and figure out what was going on. He was sure Jin didn’t think he could cook. He did little to hide his smug, little smile as he poked the simmering meat.
He could feel Jin’s presence looming in the doorway, but he chose to ignore the dark feeling he got from the other man. He was going to play oblivious a while longer and stepped away from his skillet to digging through the cupboards himself to find something else to add to the meal. Moments later he pulled his head from the storage, a frown fixed to his face as he looked down at the small box of rice and a few spices he’d found. “Damn, looks like we’ll have to go to the store today, eh?” he dug out a pot and turned to Jin. “Want to get the water, or should I do it?” He didn't wait for a response and walked up to the Japanese man. "You've been out all morning and it's my turn to get some fresh air." He walked by and out the door, leaving Jin to make sure the fish didn’t burn.
Hwoarang didn’t spend too long outside and was right back beside Jin moments later and the two prepared breakfast in silence. Hwoarang knew how to cook a fish, but Jin knew how to mix the rice and spice to make something from practically nothing. Together they made enough to keep them going for most of the day. They ate in silence, although Hwoarang didn’t miss the little frown Jin would get, or the way the other man seemed to zone out and stop eating. He tried to ignore it, but it was obvious something (or someone) was on Jin’s mind. He chewed his food, fighting back the scowl at the thought of what was happening no-more than a metre from him. He watched Jin, feeling the other man’s presence darkening and he frowned. Was it time to make his move? Was it too soon? His mind swirled with sudden anticipation. He could come out and tell Jin what was going on… but that wouldn’t work. Angel had said she didn’t want Devil to be aware of her… and blowing her cover would probably piss her off, and Hwoarang didn’t want that headache. He’d have to wait for his opportunity. He hated waiting, oh god did he hate it, but he’d do it. He sound of a plate clattering pulled him from his thoughts. Jin had finished and was pushing his dish away as he stood. “Hey… Kazama. Where are you going?”
The dark man turned to look at him before turning and leaving. “Thank you for breakfast. I have to do something… alone.” He seemed to hesitate before turning and walking to the door.
“Now wait a second…” Hwoarang started to follow but stopped short as Jin turned to face him again.
“Hwoarang, I’m sorry that I can’t keep our promise of a rematch now. Things are… difficult. I promise that I’ll fight you later, I swear it.” He took a deep breath, his eyes hard and closed though they stared right through the redhead. Hwoarang couldn’t move. He felt so small under Jin’s gaze; it was as though the weight of his words were crushing him. He could hear what Jin wasn’t saying, read between the lines and knew that it would be so easy to just listen and leave so Jin could be alone and comfortable. Though he would have had a witty remark he couldn’t pull his eyes away from Jin’s and his breath caught in his throat. The air was suddenly heavy, or maybe it was just him.
“Please…” Jin continued, his eyes wavering before looking away. “I have to tell you to leave by the time I return. This is not a request,” his voice was firm and unyielding. “There is some money in a tin on the hutch and there’s a ferry that will take you to Kagoshima. You have no reason to stay, so just go.” He turned on his heel and left, only hesitating as he stepped from the cabin before he bowed his head and marched away.
Once he’d gone, Hwoarang felt the weight lift form the air and he dashed out the door after Jin. He banged down the steps to the soft bamboo-grass lawn, but Jin had already crossed the clearing and Hwoarang could only watch his back as it disappeared amongst the trees. “Fuck…” he said mouth agape. What the hell was going on? He walked across to try and find the path that Jin had taken, but it was invisible to his eyes. The trees grew together, the moss covering the ground and refusing to give up the path that the Japanese man had taken.
“Well, THAT went well,” Angel hummed in his mind.
“What the…? I thought you had to hide or something!” Hwoarang said. “Won’t that bastard know you’re here?”
“Oh, he already knows, Hwoarang. Why do you think he’d giving Jin such a hard time? This isn’t good… if you wait it’ll be too late… but if you’re here when Jin gets back…”
“You think I won’t be? Damnit, I’m here for Jin, so don’t think I’m gonna pull out now.”
“That’s a relief,” Angel said, strangely relieved-sounding. She said nothing of Hwoarang’s use of Jin’s given name.
“Well, how about some advice. Should I follow-”
“No!” she said immediately, cutting him off. “No, you’ll have to find something else to keep busy for today. Just be prepared for tonight…”
“Yeah,” Hwoarang muttered as he felt her dig into his subconscious again. He heard a bird cry out and he looked to the sound. Whatever it was was hidden behind the wall of trees and the Korean shrugged his shoulders and walked back inside. It was darker inside when compared to the sunny clearing and he grabbed the plates to clean them before hearing his stomach grumble again. He was still hungry. He eyed the money tin that Jin had indicated and popped the lid off. It was full of money; single bills crumpled into balls, or several folded neatly together. The tin rattled with the change at the bottom and he fished out some coins and several wads of bills – enough for some food, more rice and maybe some snacks. He didn’t know how Jin could live without a bag of chips every now and then, but he was starting to feel a headache coming on from the lack of sugar in his body and he had all day to wait for his opponent to return.
The path to town was easier to follow since Jin had shown him the way the day before. He’d paid attention to the unique trees along the way, acutely aware of their energy and recognizing it as it thinned out before the roadway. He broke through the tree line, climbing onto the road while overlooking the ocean as it glimmered beneath the sunlight. Really, when he stopped to look at it, Yakushima was in Jin; calm, strong, unpolluted, beautiful, rural… hot. He wiped his head as the sweat began to form, maybe not everything was the same, but the longer Hwoarang had to think about it, the more he was seeing the comparisons. He began hoofing it into town, passing by the onsen they’d visited the day before. He walked into the small building of the hot springs and was greeted by the same woman from earlier.
“Oh, hello! Hello!” she greeted again with the same, cheery expression. “You’re Jinny’s friend, aren’t you? Want to sit in the springs again? It’s nice today, you can sit outside, but there are other people so you’ll have to share!”
“Uh, no, thank you,” he said, a little surprised by her offer. He was surprised she remembered him and was even offering for him to use the springs. He was just a stranger. He’d always thought that people like her would be frightened by people like him. He hadn’t seen many other redheads around the island… “I was just wondering if you could give me directions, I need to get some food…”
“Oh! Poor Jinny didn’t buy enough food for you two? That boy trains so hard he forgets to eat! You’re a good friend to visit him like this,” she led Hwoarang to the counter and she began digging about in a box in one of the drawers. Hwoarang leaned over to see her flipping through several papers before she pulled one free with a satisfied noise. “Here it is,” she pressed the paper into Hwoarang’s hand. “Take this up the road to the Yamada market. Old Momo owes me a favour, and she won’t recognize you without this!”
“Uh, what is it?” The Yamada name sounding eerily familiar to him, though he couldn’t remember exactly how it did.
“Take it,” she said a knowing smile on her weathered face and she quickly rushed around the counter to grab Hwoarang by the arm and usher him out the door. “Give it to Momo, she’ll take care of you!”
Hwoarang could have sworn that she’d swatted his ass before the door closed behind him, but he tried not to think about it and looked at the stained piece of paper in his hand. A handwritten list of ingredients was scribbled onto it and he didn’t recognize half of the words. He knew Japanese, but a lot of the more complex scripts just hadn’t interested him enough to learn. He kinda regretted it at that point, but quickly shrugged and stuffed the scrap into his pocket. It didn’t matter. Jin had seemed to trust that woman, Inoue, and if Inoue trusted Momo, then he’d just give her the paper and let her do the work of translating. He just hoped that they had some junk food and his stomach grumbled at the thought.
The moment he’d walked through the door of the Yamada market he remembered why the name had sounded so familiar. The elderly Momo greeted him in much the same way as the girl from the café had the day before. Nana, wasn’t it? Momo and Nana, their names suited their personalities. They both talked a mile a minute and pressed food that he hadn’t asked for into his hands, insisting that he should eat it. He was glad Jin didn’t talk like that. He’d have been annoyed if every time he tried to talk to Jin he was greeted with a “No, leave me alone! Leave me alone! No reason, no reason to fight! Try this food!” He chuckled at the mental image, earning him a queer look from Momo as she was pulling several boxes from shelves behind the counter. He shook his head and tried to flatten out the smile that kept trying to break his neutral expression.
“Here we go! I'm sure this is what Inoue had in mind with that note... not that the smudges made it easy to understand, but I remembered the recipe." She pressed a tin to Hwoarang's hands. "It's just a special tea," she quickly explained, hastily producing a basket and filling it with some foodstuffs. "Take some of this, and this,” she tossed some packages of dried meats and fruit the basket. “And some of these too!” she quickly spun around and grabbed some tins off the shelf behind her. Hwoarang let her put whatever she wanted into the basket and hoped she'd give him a discount; he didn't think he'd brought enough money with him.
“Take the basket, return it later. I’m so glad to hear that Jin has someone so strong and handsome to take care of him!”
Hwoarang nodded politely before quirking his eyebrow. ‘What does that have to do with helping Kazama?’ he thought to himself as he felt his ego swell a bit at the compliment. “Jin doesn’t need me, I’m just staying with him for a bit,” he tried offering up as more food was tucked into the basket. "That guy... he can take care of himself..." He could only imagine the thoughts running through her mind as she winked at him with a knowing smile.
“Hmm, what else,” Momo looked him up and down with an appraising glance before a smile broke her face and she nodded enthusiastically. "Junk food!" and quickly ushered him to another aisle that was fully stocked with all the kinds of crazy foods that people who didn’t care for their health ate. “I guess kids your age don’t have to worry about eating right all the time,” she said, motioning for him to continue on. “Grab whatever you like. Don’t worry about paying…” He walked down the aisle while she watched from the end. He looked upon the rows of drinks and junk that did nothing but add sugar to ones system. He grabbed a few cans of coffee and a six-pack of pop as well as a few chocolate bars and chips and a few things he didn’t recognize but had attractive packaging that made him wonder at the taste. He had a feeling that Jin would flip when he showed him what he’d bought, but he didn’t care. Jin would flip when he found that he hadn’t left on the ferry. He threw the unknown candies into the basket and then walked back to the woman, reaching into his pocket to pull the neatly-folded money. He looked through the bills, letting her see what he had and hoping that it was enough. “Always discounts for friends of the family,” she said as she reached out to pull whatever bills she wanted. “Nana wants you to visit again! She’s got more surprises that she wants you to try!” Hwoarang did his best to make his smile genuine as he inwardly shuddered at the thought of that girl pushing more of her made-up dishes onto him.
“Thank you,” the redhead muttered, deciding to turn the conversation away from Nana and her mystery foods. “So what’s with the discounts and freebies? Not that I’m complaining, but what’s so great about Jin?”
“We knew him growing up!” she exclaimed, as if it was the stupidest question in the world. “Jun was like a daughter and I watched Jin lots of times when he was just a baby. How could I make him pay full price?!” she nearly demanded. Her tone softened as she looked him up and down, “You’re with Jin, so you get a nice discount too!”
“I’m not really with him…” Hwoarang tried, but was ignored.
“Take good care of that boy, alright?” her tone grew serious and she seemed to have hit a moment of complete coherency. “He’s strong and can handle himself, but everyone needs a little help and since you’re here, that means you’re the one to do it!” Her serious tone then vanished and she winked as she grabbed his arm and hurried him out of the shop and out into the street before he could ask anything more. He found himself kindly pushed out into the street, looking back at the closed door of the Yamada market before turning back to the main strip with its other shops and houses. The sun was still high in the sky, and he wouldn’t have minded exploring the town a little more. He had enough time, since Jin wouldn’t return until later. Hwoarang shifted the heavy basket of foods and drinks from one hand to the other and set to walking further up the street. It may have been the main street of Onoaida but it was nothing like the main streets back Korea – at least where he’d grown up. He had a feeling that the excitement closed with the shops and the only thing to do at night was to go to sleep. No all-night canteens or gambling halls for sure. Still, he had hours to kill and decided that trying to hunt down the elusive bar scene would be a good use of time. After all, what else could he do on his own?
The further in he ventured, the busier it became and he kept his eyes peeled since he’d convinced himself that if he looked hard enough he’d find a bar that served alcohol somewhere. He was tempted to turn around and head back to see Nana at the Sky Café, but thought better of it. With his luck she’d decide that he wanted something other than beer and refuse to sell it to him! His feet led the way up the paved street, turning sharply to take him down a side street that looked appealing. “C’mon, be~er. I know you’re here somewhere,” he mumbled. He was starting to itch for a smoke and added cigarettes to his list of wants for that moment. He promised whatever deity was listening that he’d be a good boy for the rest of the afternoon and go home to Jin’s cabin if he could just find something. The side street had its own share of shops peppered between houses. Several of them had signs out to advertise their wares, but most of them were invisible to the passers-by unless they were looking directly in the window. It was just as Hwoarang was promising to only smoke half the pack that something caught his eye and he all but leapt towards a shop window to look inside. “Jackpot!” he grinned, ignoring the odd look he received from a young woman standing beside the door.
The door was open, trying to vent some of the stale air from within, though the lone fan perched up next to the cash register seemed to be doing a poor job. Hwoarang didn’t care; it was grittier and dirtier than Momo’s shop, but he instantly felt at home and asked the old man behind the counter for a pack of smokes. He added a few cans of beer to his order and grabbed a lighter and papers while he was at it and threw his supplies into his basket. Once outside, he ripped the plastic off the cigarette pack and tapped the stiff box, wriggling it about until one of the slender sticks were knocked free and he brought it up to his mouth, roughly taking it with his teeth and pulling it free. The strong tobacco smell hit his nose before he lit the end. He could feel Angel in his mind rustling about uncomfortably and snickered as he lit the end, inhaling the first real puff of smoke into his lungs and letting the chemicals work on his system. He sighed, exhaling the grey smoke into the air. The woman from before was still leaning against the store wall, looking darkly at him and he glared back. “What’s your problem?” he asked, seeing her eyes flick up before quickly cutting away from him and looking down the street.
He tried to look up, almost laughing when the edges of his red hair came into view. So, it seemed he stood out a little too much for some people there. Well, he never liked fitting in and was used to the cool reception from some people. He was glad that Jin wasn’t as closed off to him when they’d first met. Then again, the other man had something that set him apart from everyone else. Something that would have gained him so much more ostricization than Hwoarang had ever experienced in his life. Hwoarang had never had any worries of a demon-parasite taking over his body… at least until he’d met Jun, and even then he was too dense for Angel to possess completely. He chuckled, being spiritually inept did have its advantages.
He felt Angel bristle at the thought, a wave of resentment washing over him and he bowed his head, taking another drag from his cigarette. “Sorry,” he muttered, turning and walking back to the main road that would take him back home.
Jin grunted at the strain as he climbed over one of the Buick-sized boulders that littered that part of the Yakushima forest. He’d ventured in a new direction that morning and was surprised to find himself in a place he didn’t recognize. The trees were just as wizened as the other sugi on the island, but these ones were strangers to him and he relaxed his spirit, letting it mingle with the cedars by his side. Hwoarang probably wouldn’t have understood the significance in connecting with the trees to let them ‘smell’ you. He knew that Devil didn’t understand as the being grumbled within his mind.
The sugi’s aura mingled with his, shuddering uncomfortably when Devil poked back, and quietly retreated to allow him passage through their wood. The sky was blotted out by the leaves and it took a few more climbs over enormous boulders before Jin could see the sun’s rays poking between the canopy.
“It’s almost time to turn back…” Devil thrummed merrily. “He’s probably gone now. I can’t sense him…”
“Hmmm,” Jin mumbled, feeling disappointed. He’d really wanted Hwoarang to stay… he’d only pushed him away this time because Devil had been threatening to ruin the tentative friendship he’d forged with the other man. He didn’t even know how it had happened; he’d never really made any friends on his own, in fact, if it weren’t for Hwoarang’s persistent nature, he was sure he wouldn’t have seen the Korean beyond their first encounter. And here he was again, pushing his way into Jin’s business, and Devil had forced him back. No, Jin had forced him back. It was his own fear of discovery…
“There you go getting all melodramatic again, Jin,” Devil chuckled in his mind. “Friends are a distraction that a you don’t require. Mourning their loss is a weakness that is unbefitting of my host!” Devil’s sharp words stung deep within Jin’s heart. The constant speeches of ‘power’ and 'weakness' almost mirrored those that his grandfather had spewed at him years earlier. He’d learned to block most of them out, although the accusation that Hwoarang as a weakness was unsettling. The other man was anything but weak, and his presence didn’t leave Jin feeling weak at all. If anything, the knowledge that he’d left made him feel weak… he shuddered, realizing that he would only have Devil for company from then onward. For once, the lonely task did not appeal to him. His chosen opponent had left him, and while he'd told him to go, it wasn't what he'd wanted. He scowled, suddenly feeling foolish for his fanciful thoughts. The situation couldn't be helped, and he was being selfish. He'd see the fiery Korean at the next tournament, and it was too dangerous to let him stay, not with Devil always purring in his mind. He didn't want Hwoarang to see him like that. He hoped that Hwoarang was still oblivious to his demonic nature. Devil whispered otherwise in his mind, switching from assurances that nobody cared about him, to a diatribe about how his mother's goodness wouldn't reach him now.
"What are you talking about now?" he asked, exhaustedly turning around to head back to his home.
"Oh nothing," Devil chuckled in a sing-song way. "I can feel you're slowing down. Tired, Jin? Maybe I should take over for a bit. We both know I can control your body better than you when it's at its limit like this."
"I'm not at my limit," Jin panted as he stumbled. "You know I've been in worse. I won't let you out willingly, bastard."
"Ohh," Devil tisked in a disappointed tone. "You know how I hate it when you get all high and mighty like that, Jin. I'm your better half, I should be in control. Power is inside you and you quell it down, like one afraid of reaching is true potential! What good is being a god if you live as a man?"
"Shit, not this again," Jin mumbled, catching his breath as he found a familiar path through the weathered trees. "I'm not giving in to you tonight, so spare me your speeches."
"As you wish, my darling host. You pushed that disagreeable Korean rat from you, so I'll acquiesce this once. His proximity was... disturbing. He and his white spirit were foolish to find us..."
Jin shut Devil out as best he could once the dark being started its commentary on everything that pissed it off… which was practically everything. He was still a good two-hour hike away from his home and any semblance of physical rest. He steeled his resolve, shutting out that voice completely as he focused on the pain in his limbs and joints, finding solace in the physical pain as he stumbled across the arching roots of another tree. Without the distraction of Hwoarang's presence, he could shut out that voice completely, and in the end, that was his purpose for being in Yakushima.
Although, if he were selfish, he'd feel otherwise.
~End Chapter Twenty~
| Index | Chapter Twenty-One |