Summary: Despite Jin's requests for him to leave, Hwoarang is dead set on staying in Yakushima. When Devil becomes too much for Jin to take, the beast finally breaks free of his bonds and faces off against Hwoarang, who has finally let loose his own Angelic persona. Introductions are swift and the following battle is only the beginning in this confrontation of Angel versus Devil.
Feedback: Comments are welcome; constructive or positive.
Special Thanks: To my beta Kat for betaing everything I send her, and listening to me talk her ear off about this thing.
Especially on this chapter, since she had to go through so many times. Oh, my instinct to be wordy was brutal here.
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: I have to say that this is my favourite chapter so far. I'm in love with fight scenes. It's almost like sex. Let me know what you think!!!
"Angel/Devil's words inside Hwoarang/Jin's head"
Please see the Index for more details, chapter links and fanart.
The pot was bubbling merrily on the stovetop, simmering with the meats and vegetables that Momo had given him – without his asking. It filled the small cabin with a delicious smell that made Hwoarang's belly grumble. He was starving! "Soon, my pet," he patted his stomach and added some spices to flavour the pot. He stirred the mixture before turning the flame off and put a kettle on the second element and set the flame to gently lick the bottom. He figured that the herbal tea would be well received when Jin returned, which was probably the only thing Jin would be happy to see. He had a feeling it wouldn’t be long until the other man came back and then he’d have to argue his way into staying longer. The Korean fighter stretched, feeling his muscles resist in a satisfying way before he stooped to grab a can of pop from the basket on the table and stepped out onto the porch.
The sky was still bright, but the telltale colours of the setting sun had begun to appear in the west and he knew Jin would be back soon. The wooden boards of the porch creaked as he sat down and leaned against one of the support beams while he pulled his smokes from his pocket. He felt guilty lighting it, but it was almost fitting that he continued. The smoke was a disturbance in the purity of the air, foreign and filthy; kinda like Devil was for Jin. Hwoarang stopped for a moment, analyzing that thought. “When did I decide Jin was all pure and shit?” he wondered, setting the lighter on top of the pack as he pulled the white, smoking cylinder from his lips. With a shrug he brought the can of pop to rest against his bottom lip and tilted it back to let the remainder of the liquid slide past his tongue and down his throat. The wicked bite of the carbonation stung in a good way and he pulled the can back, his eyes scanning the tree line for any movement. He sat like that for a few minutes, his cigarette burning away, the long line of ash breaking as he brought it to his lips again for a final drag before dropping it through the opening of the can. It hissed and then nothing and then… Hwoarang’s head shot up and he looked around the clearing. Had he imagined it? He could have sworn he’d heard something rustling beyond the trees… Angel stirred beneath his conscious, still hidden in his mind but even she could sense something was happening and Hwoarang frowned. The sound came again and he turned amber eyes to the source, this time louder as the reeds and greenery were pushed away and Jin stepped into the clearing from a hidden trail.
Hwoarang stayed where he was in front of the cabin, waiting for the other man to make the first move. He felt a shiver run down his back as Jin’s eyes locked onto him, never wavering as he approached at a slow, steady stride that only drew out the tension that suddenly filled the air between them.
“Hwoarang?” he finally asked, his eyes wide as he stood only a couple of metres from the redhead.
The Korean smiled, his teeth gleaming and he held his arms out as if to say, ‘yep!’
The faintest hint of a smile formed on Jin’s face, but quickly fell as a shadow fell over his eyes. “I thought I told you to leave.” His teeth glinted in the late-afternoon light, the lines of anger forming around his eyes. “Are you that inconsiderate or just stupid?” he ground out, fists clenched.
“Hey, if I didn’t stop by to visit Momo and get you something to eat you’d starve!” Hwoarang climbed to his feet and turned to return inside the cabin to show his purchases as proof. “I even picked up some tea for you,” he said as an afterthought. His adrenalin was coursing through his veins as he entered the cabin, returning to the stove as he heard Jin follow behind him moments later. He looked in the pot, seeing that the meal was still simmering and quickly turned the flames off on both elements. He felt those dark eyes watching his every move, feeling the other man’s anger burning through him, even bridging the distance between them. He reached for the kettle, pulling it aside and reached for the tea that Momo had given him.
“In the morning I’ll take you to the airport to get out of here,” Jin said through grit teeth.
“I don’t have any money to fly outta here,” Hwoarang said as naturally as he could muster.
“Then I’ll give you money,” Jin said. “You’ve got to leave.”
“No. I like it here, Kazama. It’s all calm and shit. No wonder you like it. I guess this is why you’re always so quiet, huh?” He adjusted his goggles on his head to casually break the gaze that Jin had him locked in. He saw the other man shake his head before storming over to the dresser and pulled something from a drawer. He was tense, almost… shaking. “Y’know there’s another tournament coming up?” Hwoarang asked casually asked, placing a lid on the pot. He was pushing his luck and he knew it, but he had to get it through Jin’s head that he wasn’t leaving. “I think I’ll stay here and then go there with you when it happens. I wanted to train for it anyways and who better to train with than you, Kazama?”
“Please… just leave…” Jin said, holding his head. “I don’t want you here…”
“What’s the matter?” Hwoarang asked, still with bravado in his voice but concern at the heart of the question. “Do you need a doctor?”
“No, I need you to GO!” Jin stood, quickly walking towards the door and pushing Hwoarang out of the way.
Hwoarang rushed out the door after him, the food and tea forgotten on the cooling stove. The sunlight was almost gone, and in the red sky the moon was fighting for dominance. He followed Jin until the darker man stopped by the edge of the forest.
“Why won’t you leave? Why the hell do you keep following me? I thought you hated me, Hwoarang!” Jin clutched at his chest and braced himself against the side of a tree.
Hwoarang slowed his approach, watching his rival for a moment, a million thoughts going through his head. He could only imagine what Jin was going through and instinct – or Angel – was telling him to do something, but he didn’t move. He remembered how Jin had reacted to his touch back at the springs. He knew what he had to do, but he also knew that he might piss Devil off if he made a wrong move and revealed Angel’s presence too soon.
He was torn, and so he just stood there, watching Jin as he leaned heavily against the bark of the ancient cedar, his back heaving with his breathing. Hwoarang inched closer, looking Jin up and down. He didn’t appear to be physically injured, and it suddenly occurred to him that he didn’t know how to use Angel’s powers to heal Jin spiritually… or mentally. He’d barely figured out physical healing… Was it even the right time to use Angel’s powers? What would Jin say? He knew the other man had no idea about him, but he suddenly felt grossly unprepared.
He waited, feeling the weight of the silence between them pressing in on him and he absently scratched the back of his head before finally reaching out to touch Jin’s back. It was a brief contact, but even through that he could feel the evil pouring off the other man. ‘Not good,’ he thought. ‘Devil must be giving him a hell of a time…’
“Hwoarang?” Jin asked, his voice strained, forced. “Why won’t you listen to me?”
“I’m really stubborn,” Hwoarang said, trying to laugh but failing.
“So… why are you here… really? Is it for me, or… something else?” Jin asked, turning to face Hwoarang with suspicious eyes that bordered on cracking. “I mean, do you honestly expect me to believe that you want to fight me that badly?”
Hwoarang sighed; what could he say?
“I thought you hated me.”
“When did I ever say that?” Hwoarang asked, genuinely shocked. “I never said that, Kazama. Fuck, I just wanted to settle our fight!”
“Yeah, our fight…” Jin trailed off, his gaze wandering somewhere behind Hwoarang before he seemed to remember their conversation. “You have a habit of getting in my way when I’m busy, like now. If you don’t hate me, then leave me alone. I’m running out of time…”
“Sure thing, I’ll leave you alone, after I help you do whatever it is that you need to do. Then we can finish our fight?”
“No!” Jin yelled turning and walking back into the clearing. He marched out towards the other side of the yard, but stopped halfway as he doubled over. Hwoarang rushed to his side, this time firmly putting a hand on his shoulder. It was painful to touch him! He could feel the anger building inside him through the contact. “I-I just need to be by myself and quiet and-” he clutched at his head again and ground his teeth against a rumbling groan that spread through his chest.
Hwoarang roughly grabbed his rival by his shoulders and spun him around to look at him. “Jin?! What’s wrong? You fucking idiot, if you think I’d leave you when you’re like this...”
Jin shuddered violently, “H-he’s getting stronger. Please just go!” Jin’s body bowed backwards and Hwoarang wrapped his arms around his rival to hold him steady.
“That bastard! What the fuck is he doing to you, Kazama?” Hwoarang felt a surge of energy rushing through Jin’s body. He almost dropped the other man, but he held on tight. He wouldn’t let go, even though the energy was frightening, even though he knew to hold on would be dangerous… he wouldn’t leave. “Oh fuck, hold on!” he pulled Jin up until he was looking into the other man’s eyes. Those orbs that were usually so dark and brooding were rolling back in their sockets and Hwoarang had never been more frightened for someone in all his life. Even when Hitch was bleeding all over the floor, this was different. Jin was different. He could feel the darkness inside taking over. He could fucking feel it! It was twisting Jin into a monster. The Jin that he’d fought, and thought about, and even obsessed over for so long was slowly slipping away. He was losing his mind!
Hwoarang gripped Jin tighter, pressing their bodies together and the other man’s head flopped exhaustedly against his shoulder and he concentrated on trying to draw on that white energy he’d used so few times before. He trusted Angel to help him direct her powers towards Jin’s consciousness. He had to trust her. He closed his eyes and focused, clearing his mind of all of his anxiety and apprehension and fear for Jin and remembered how easily that white light had filled him once he’d let it in. He sighed, picturing that point of white in his mind as he stroked the back of Jin’s head, calming the other man as he willed that warm energy through his fingertips to spread between their bodies. He felt Jin shudder against him and Hwoarang tensed his body further, putting all his energy into bringing that white, healing light to life. He brought their first encounter to the forefront of his imagination, recalling the exhilaration he’d felt when Jin had stood up to his attacks with equal strength. Equal strength! He’d loved it! Whenever he’d seen Jin after that he’d been filled with the same giddy hope that they could do it again. What would he feel if that feeling was taken away from him? If Jin was taken away and replaced with a dark copy that didn’t even bear the same soul that he’d come to know and respect? He’d feel mad… his grip tightened and the white wavered around his mind. No, he’d be more than mad. He’d feel loss… violation! His Jin would have been stolen from him and he wouldn’t get to fight him or even drink with him or just… be…
He felt his heart aching at the thought of the loss, that bitter warmth that brought his anger to the surface and filled him with burning fire. It started out in his chest but spread across his torso, through his limbs and into his skull. His strength and confidence radiated from him in powerful, red tendrils of energy that sparked from his angelic white centre. He closed his eyes and felt the sources of heat on his back growing to form feathered wings and he focused his strength through his hands and into the body that he had pulled against his chest; the body that was struggling with all its might to move away from him. He held tightly as Jin growled and lashed out, digging long, black talons deeply across Hwoarang’s chest.
“Foolish boy!” Jin growled, taking another swipe and knocking the redhead backwards with the force of the hit, although he managed to keep his footing. Hwoarang stepped back, the white light fading around him as he stood before Jin in his angelic form, eyes locked onto Jin’s which began to glow and he let loose a terrible howl of agony as two black shadows burst free from his back.
“Kazama!” Hwoarang yelled, keeping his distance a few steps away, but what was a few steps might as well have been a few miles for all the good it did him. Jin gripped his head with clawed hands as he lurched forward, a terrible scream resonating on his lips as Hwoarang watched, horrified as two bony points forced their way through his forehead, crackling with electricity and reaching for the moon as they spiraled upwards to sit as a set of horns upon Jin’s head like a crown. The horns gleamed as did the fangs that were suddenly visible at his mouth.
Jin was still screaming; his voice cracking as the terrible sound erupted from deep within him. He desperately clutched his chest, holding himself tightly before his head snapped back as something gripped him, leaving his mouth agape as that harrowing scream turned guttural and his wings splayed out in a magnificent display as his body was illuminated by an incredible flash of light. Hwoarang was taken aback at the brilliant sight, deciding that it could only be compared to black lightening encasing the other man before it dissipated, retreating within Jin. Only… Hwoarang blanched as he realized that it was no longer his Jin that stood before him. It was a devil in Jin’s body. His hair fell about the two, angular horns what arched out from his head and pointed straight forward like a challenging bull. His eyes were now white, glowing with a terrible light that was simply-put; creepy. Black pants seemed to have been painted on his legs with yellow-red fire arching up one leg and several chains were wrapped around his limbs, almost as an afterthought or fashionable touch, though the Korean knew they’d be put to use in due time.
Devil was in control as everything became deathly quiet, Jin’s scream had long-finished echoing through the clearing and the two divinely-influenced fighters paused before their battle. The wind rippled through the air, gently blowing the bamboo grass and teasing Devil’s bangs about his face. Hwoarang narrowed his eyes, ignoring even the simple feeling of the breeze and concentrated on Devil. The creature’s aura was impressive, although it was not something Hwoarang could bring himself to admire. It was disgusting compared to Jin. He suddenly understood exactly what Jun had asked of him, the full weight of her desperate request cascaded down upon him as he bore witness to exactly what terrible curse her son had come to inherit. He glared down his nose at the other man and raised his fists to show he was ready. He’d keep his promise for both their sakes, and prayed that their fight wouldn’t end in a simple draw; that was simply not an option, and his pride had nothing to do with it.
Their eyes locked and Hwoarang glared into those black-white orbs, waiting for the first indication that the other man would move. Hwoarang liked fighting, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew Jin’s fighting style, but wanted to gauge Devil’s strength and technique before he dove in head-first. There was more resting on this battle than his reputation; his life would be over if he lost.
They stood there for what felt like hours before Hwoarang noticed it, the slight movement of a creased brow around Devil’s eye before the other man moved forward with god-like speed, driving himself through the air with his black, feathery wings that were a mirror image to Hwoarang’s own white appendages – a dark mirror image.
Hwoarang’s fists moved up to block and deflect the swift succession of attacks that Devil began with, several blatant punches aimed straight for his vital spots and a few debilitating kicks that would have broken bone if they’d struck their mark. The first flurry of attacks was fast-paced and impressive, acting as a test to gauge each others speed and competence for a stronger assault.
“I thought I’d smelled a rat when you got here!” Devil Jin clacked, tossing his head to the side as he backed away to gloat. “Angel should have stayed back and watched what one with a true drive for greatness can do. Your irritating persistence has annoyed me long enough, Korean filth,” his lips curled around his fangs as he spoke, yet his voice was clear and thick with the same evil aura that had encompassed Jin. “Now I can quash two tiresome bugs in one move!” He took a step towards Hwoarang and the angelic fighter moved back, keeping a safe distance between them.
“It’ll take more than one move to stop me, so I hope you’re ready to have your ass kicked!” Hwoarang spoke through clenched teeth, his form staying true to anticipate the next move. He knew how quickly the gap between them could close when either of them decided to put their wings to use.
“Usually I block Jin’s conscious when I take over,” the black demon continued, as if Hwoarang hadn’t said anything. “However, this time I think I’ll allow him to witness the destruction of his chosen one. How pitiful! You didn’t even come here for him and he derived such happiness at the thought that you had!” He rolled his head back, cracking his neck as he went, before he sprang forward and the space between them closed in an instant. Hwoarang moved to match and the air filled with the blur of moving limbs that lashed out at one another to attack or block.
Hwoarang deflected a punch before grabbing it and redirecting it to get in close. He drove a knee into Devil’s side before spreading his wings and leaping back to land several metres away, leaving Devil Jin between him and the cabin. He barely had time to think of his next move when his reflexes moved into action and his knee bent to let him roll out of the way of a swift lancing attack as Devil sprang forward. He rolled, tucking his wings out of the way before turning to face the beast again, keeping his fists up and at the ready. “You’re flattering yourself if you think I’m here for you,” Hwoarang said, taking the opportunity to fill the air with his voice. “I’m here for Jin. I just gotta get past you to get to him. Hey Kazama, can you hear me?” he asked, trying to talk to the man that was trapped behind Devil’s power.
The demon roared, leaping into the air and held aloft by two downward beats of his wings before his eyes glowed bright for a moment and a flash of light shot out from his forehead, hitting Hwoarang and knocking him back. The attack singed the white gauntlets and Hwoarang could feel the heat burning through the leather, suddenly grateful that his clothing was strong enough to deflect the energy from the blast. He didn’t have time to think about it as he saw the other man’s eyes glow again and he sprang into the air, flying backwards as the concentrated blast shot to the ground where he’d stood moments earlier.
Hwoarang hovered a moment before landing, keeping his eyes on his opponent that was muttering something under its breath as he landed a few metres from him. “Kazama! Fight him, damnit!” Hwoarang called out as he stood his ground, feeling his power surge within him at Angel’s insistence. It swelled in waves, forcing its way through his head, his eyes locked onto Devil’s form before everything went white and he felt that power focus like a vacuum to a central point on his forehead before blasting free towards his target. The kickback from the blast snapped his head back, but he knew he’d hit his mark as Devil howled in fury.
“I’m surprised that a whelp like you could gain her power, or even learn how to use that attack!” he snarled as Hwoarang quickly regained his stance. “However, your inexperience will be your death!” He bowed forward, eyes glowing again before his laser attack ripped through the air, electricity coiling around the solid beam of light that burned the ground where the angelic fighter had stood moments before.
Hwoarang was already on the move, side-stepping the attack and launching himself towards his opponent, catching the darker man by surprise and knocking him to the ground. He perched on top of Jin, pummeling him with a series of swift punches, but the position was precarious, and even from below, a skilled opponent could control the fight.
Jin was a skilled opponent.
Devil made him ruthless.
White feathers fell around them as Hwoarang cried out, never expecting Devil to go for a low-blow and dig into his wings with his clawed hands. He tried wrenching free, but the action only brought more pain as he was held fast by the demon beneath him. It was unlike anything he’d ever felt before. It was almost as if his arms were being twisted in abnormal directions, the skin and muscle being stricken from bone. His fists fell silent, only bracing against Jin’s chest as the beast tugged and a bitter cry fled his lips at the agony. White was flashing behind his vision and he felt as if there was a heavenly voice inside his head, calling him into unconsciousness. He felt his eyes rolling back in his head and might have lost consciousness from the pain if Devil hadn’t made a sound to draw him back. It was pure sadistic pleasure that curled from those dark lips, a bestial sound that was thick with salacious desire for more of his cries.
Hwoarang peered down to the man beneath him, clenching his teeth against the pain and reached down to dip his fingers into the inky-black feathers that made the bed upon which Jin lay. They were just as soft as his, and when he dug into the bone, twisting and jerking, he elicited the same cry of pain from Jin as had been wrought from his own mouth. Hwoarang was nearly at his breaking point, but he’d been at that point so many times during training in the past that he knew he could hold on for a bit longer. “Kazama… Jin…” he grit out, breathing heavily. “Fight…” He trailed off as Devil twisted harder, wrenching the thin layer of skin until the bone was surely bruised. He wanted to cry; his wings were so damn sensitive! They were made for feeling the slightest shift in the wind, to carry him along… not stand as something to be twisted and pulled! It was Hwoarang’s stubbornness that made him keep fighting and he released his grip on Jin’s wings to grab the other’s horns instead, bringing his face close to look right into the other man’s eyes. “Jin?” he asked, drawing his face away, “Sorry!” he exclaimed as he drove his forehead down into the brunette’s twisted face. The claws that were wrenching his white wings from his back loosened and the Blood Talon rolled away, quickly climbing to his feet and reached back to touch a tender wing before letting out a grunt of annoyance. He’d think twice about climbing back onto him in the future.
Devil was on his feet at the same time as Hwoarang, but instead of rushing towards the Korean, the two fighters seemed to pause as they each inspected their wings, feeling out the tender appendages. There were black and white feathers dotting the ground around them, being taken up by the wind and blown away. Their eyes never left each other, though a reluctant acceptance of their strength seemed to grow in them both. Hwoarang eyed his rival, a brief thought flashed through his mind. In a way he was getting his rematch, since they were equal again. Still, some things were better left alone, and a fight with the added powers wasn’t what he’d been thinking about for so long. He hadn’t wanted supernatural attacks and evil spirits soiling their time together. Jin sprang towards him and he faltered, distracted by his thoughts he gave the other man the perfect opening for a terrible corpse-thrust right to his ribs. He doubled over, the wind knocked from his lungs and giving Devil many more openings to pound into his back and kick up into his face before he blocked what he could and moved away again. The beast tried to follow, but the Korean used his wings to carry him further back.
“I can’t believe that Jin thought you were worthy of his time,” Devil clucked, merriment evident in his eyes as Hwoarang spat to clear his mouth. The blood was leaking from his face where he’d been hit and trailed along his vest, smearing the angry red into the pristine, white clothing.
“Aw, really? Now you’re just making shit up,” Hwoarang wiped his mouth and focused his energies on healing the cut above his eye. “He was always too busy with personal crap to give me the time of day.” He’d talk while he healed, semi-grateful for the break he was getting. He could cure his injured ribs, although his clothing was officially ruined.
“You were always a pain in our side,” Devil hissed, his wings fluttering around him, clearly healed from whatever damage Hwoarang had done. “You were annoying and pretentious, but he’d planned on fighting you because he…” he cringed suddenly, bringing a hand to his head as if he was distracted.
‘Kazama?’ Hwoarang thought, immediately seeing his opening and rushing forward to pay Devil back in kind for his broken – now healed – ribs. His initial kick was blocked, but he managed to quickly recover and plant two more into Jin’s side before switching stances and lifted the other man off the ground with a tsunami kick. He was sure he’d felt something break as his foot connected and he immediately leapt into the air, deciding to try out some aerial attacks while he had his opportunity. He flew high into the sky, hoping that Devil would follow. The moon was bright enough to act as a suitable target to aim for and he flapped his wings fiercely, trying to bring himself high enough before turning around to look down upon the clearing. It was a sea of dark trees surrounding a lighter patch of the green. The light was reflecting off the river and he could easily see Devil looking at him from the darkness.
Those glowing eyes bore into him, even from that distance, and they grew closer, bobbing with every beat of Devil’s powerful wings. Hwoarang balled his fists and tensed his whole body, warming it for the exertion he was about to put it through. The leather creaked around his knuckles and stretched comfortably around his legs as he hovered mid-air, staring down as his opponent drew closer. He leaned forward and flapping his wings once before folding them against his back, diving through the air, faster and faster, rushing down towards those eyes that seemed like the headlights on a freight train.
He’d found sky-diving thrilling when he’d done it back over Korea, but now the sensation was tinged with the adrenaline of bloodlust. It was the kind that he could feel at the back of his throat before a match, churning through his veins in anticipation of the beautifully executed moves that he displayed as he broke his opponent down. He fell fast, and what felt like minutes was actually a matter of seconds and in a flash of movement the two men met. Hwoarang’s instinct propelled his attacks, driving a punch beneath Jin’s block as his wings fluttered and he fell to the side, just missing a heavy attack from Devil’s boot. There was no moment for rest as the two put all their strength and energy into tearing the other down from the sky.
Hwoarang barrel-rolled out of the way of a vicious attack before snapping back into Devil’s face with a kick as he flew past and upwards into the sky. He strove to put a few dozen metres between them, but it turned into a chase as Devil was hot on his tail. For a brief moment, the cold sound of dueling wing-beats filled the space between them before Hwoarang turned and smoothly swung his leg around, bringing his heel down to catch Jin across the face as he came up on him. It would have been graceful too, if it hadn’t been caught and held fast in Devil’s iron-grip.
Hwoarang’s heart skipped a beat before he twisted to try and free himself. He could feel the strength in the other man’s grip, and knew that if his boots weren’t so strongly reinforced with steel plating, that his foot would have already been crushed. With a grunt of irritation he tried kicking his other foot out, finding it difficult to maneuver in the air. His wings flailed about as they tried to keep him upright as he twisted and turned to free himself. Devil, however, pressed his advantage and reached higher along the Korean’s leg to pull him close. His hand clamped around a white-clad thigh before the other released his foot and reached higher to grab Hwoarang’s vest and pull the redhead down to his level. White wings faltered and Hwoarang lost his balance, his weight falling into Jin’s body and the other man struggled to keep them both aloft. The wind whipped around them, stirring their feathers as Jin’s wings beat furiously to support both their weight. Hwoarang sank heavily against him when he saw it was difficult and pressed his advantage.
“Fool!” Jin bellowed as Hwoarang locked his arms around his body, holding on tight as the other man bore into him with vicious-yet-awkward attacks. “What do you think you are doing? Release me!” He brought his arms around Hwoarang’s back and began tearing at the redhead’s wings again.
Hwoarang hollered at the pain, his face twisted up and he gnashed his teeth, but he couldn’t let go, instead clinging tighter to the other man. It difficult to understand, but he was overcome with the feeling of what he had to do. He could see Yakushima below them, now only a small form amongst the darker waters the surrounded it. There was a good distance between them and the trees and he remembered the test of trust that Angel had put him through. The tests that had pushed him to realize the healing abilities locked deep within him. He’d figured out how to heal physical wounds, and even though there was more that he needed to figure out, and still more that he’d never know, he realized that it didn’t matter. All that mattered at that moment was putting what he knew to use and he closed his eyes, hoping Angel gave him a little hint so he wouldn’t screw up.
The pain from Jin’s attacks stung throughout him. The sound of tearing feathers filled his ears. It burned. It fucking hurt, but Hwoarang held on tight. Devil ripped at his wings before his claws sought out the rest of his body, digging into his flesh and tearing at his arms. The smell of blood filled Hwoarang’s nose and for the first time it made him sick. It was getting harder to hang on, but he ducked his head into the crook of Jin’s neck and turned his thoughts inward.
He closed off his senses and traveled deep inside himself. The pain followed his mind down towards that inner light that he could feel burning at his core. Everything that was happening outside his body didn’t exist in that chamber and it was strange how vividly it all appeared to him. He saw the colours and shapes and elements that comprised his soul, with the foreign, glassy essence that was not his own mingling therein. It took the shape of a flame burning brightly, and he could see the form of Angel glimmering at the centre of the heavenly fire.
Devil’s roar of outrage crashed through the sanctuary, but Hwoarang’s mind did not falter. The pain reigned around him and he fearlessly stepped into the flame. It crackled as he entered, growing hotter as it became tinged with a red energy that turned it from pure white to a dark, blood-pink. Angel remained at the core, watching as Hwoarang made the energy his own. It burned hotter, brighter and angrier as he molded the fire to his own soul until it completely overtook him. He was blinded to all but the red-hot power coursing through him and pushing him back into awareness of his body.
When he opened his eyes he was still clinging to Jin’s waist. The energy that he’d found inside himself was burning through his skin, surrounding him with light that was as clear as white crystal at the base, but glowed with angry red licks of flame that hungrily reached out to caress Jin’s body, leaving trails of smoke where it touched the possessed man.
Devil was gnashing his teeth in outrage, his limbs still tearing into Hwoarang’s body, but nothing he did could loosen Hwoarang’s grip on him. It was as if Angel’s conscious had been superimposed alongside Hwoarang's and they were fighting as one in his body. Her strength helped him force that energy outwards, through skin-on-skin contact with the other man as their bodies pressed together and the light spread across to touch Jin’s body. Hwoarang concentrated hard to flick his mind out and the energy reached further, beyond skin and bone and right into the heart of Devil’s influence.
Hwoarang could see, no, feel… it was beyond the familiar five senses. He just knew what he was touching inside of Jin. He could feel his way around and feel the all-encompassing black that swirled and stung at him. It was as if Jin was filled with evil, every inch of him occupied by that dark presence. It was so thick that wherever Hwoarang concentrated on filling it with light, the black would swirl about and sift until the light was blotted out with its dark essence. It was like trying to clear the air in a smoke-filled house by waving your hand around. Hwoarang realized that as painful as it was for Devil, it just wasn’t enough to make a difference. He took one last swipe within Jin before withdrawing, pausing as his mind brushed over something hard and solid within the other man. It was shiny, almost like a gleaming gem immersed in a bed of sand, ever at risk of being swallowed by the shifting dunes which threatened to bury it. Hwoarang focused on touching it again and was shocked to feel Jin’s familiar essence reaching back to him. He could feel the tiredness ebbing through their thin connection, the exhaustion and frustration that the other man was locked into as Devil had control over his being.
The Blood Talon held onto that solidity even as his consciousness slipped free and Devil’s dark presence bore down on him. He felt himself being pushed away from Jin and deeper into the pits of his soul. Hwoarang flailed about, his mind suddenly feeling the effects of vertigo and confusion as it was filled with terrible visions that Devil projected towards him. Some visions were foreign to him, only making him fear for a moment before it disappeared and changed to something else. Others, unfortunately, were familiar and terrifying, sending agonizing waves of nausea through his mind as he was shown visions of his friends lying dead before him, his life in ruins as hell itself swept across his life in the nightmare that Devil forced upon him. Though it was just his mind, he felt as if his body was trapped in that void of dark hell and flailed about to gain some purchase to fight the visions. His mind shot up and again felt that solid diamond in the rough that glimmered in the darkness. He brushed against it, his mind clearing for a moment before he felt himself being pulled back as Angel wrenched him free of Devil’s clasping power and snapped him back into his own body.
Hwoarang’s eyes shot open, his mouth open and gasping for air that seemed to only now matter that he’d been forced back into his body. He was overwhelmed with a barrage of sensations that had, for a few moments, been cut off from him as he’d focused all his energies on making that connection with Jin. While he’d been occupied, Angel had been controlling his body, keeping him close to Devil and doing her best to block his attacks. Of course, staying close enough for Hwoarang to reach inside of Jin had put her at a disadvantage and among the feelings that Hwoarang experienced, unspeakable pain was at the forefront to greet him as he regained control. As if to compound that pain he felt Jin’s energy shift, seeing the hazy black outline of his aura before it cracked with lightning that danced along his skin to nip at Hwoarang’s flesh.
The Blood Talon loosened his grip and kicked away from the other man, intending to fly around and swing up to a higher point in the sky, but instead he found himself spiraling downward as it became painfully obvious that his wings had been torn and battered. Trying to flap them only sent a barrage of pain through his body and he fell helplessly through the sky, spiraling from dizzying heights towards Yakushima. His eyes watered as the air rushed past him, blurring his vision and whipping his hair about as his wings trailed behind him. They felt broken. He tried to pull them in again, just to fold them against his body so they wouldn’t be snapped about by the wind, but every time he tried, a terrible pain stabbed through him and he couldn’t do anything but let them flail about behind him. It was just like the time he’d been in the hospital and his ribs had been killing him – definitely broken. He would have to do something fast; he was still fairly high above Yakushima, although gravity was helping to reduce the distance every second. He rolled onto his back to locate his opponent in the expanse of sky and cloud. He didn’t have to look too far as he spotted Devil soaring down after him like a hawk diving after its kill. Hwoarang groaned; his wings still ached and it was impossible to draw them in, so he focused on spreading the energy that still burned within him out towards the feathered appendages. He half-expected to hear Angel’s voice in his mind barking orders, but she was strangely silent. He could sense her presence in his mind, although something was different about her. She wasn’t digging deep into his subconscious as she had when he’d first arrived, she was… moving outward… taking control.
“What the hell are you doing?” he asked, his words swallowed up by the roaring of the wind. He flailed about as his body suddenly felt too crowded, his skin becoming tight and his eyes rolled back as he felt the familiar light encompassing his frame.
“You’re injured,” Angel piped in his mind. “You need some help.”
“I’m fine!” Hwoarang cursed. “I don’t need your help.”
“I told you to trust me, so do it already! Gravity is a bitch, Hwoarang! Let me in!”
The redhead gritted his teeth. He knew what needed to be done, but giving up control wasn’t something he could easily do. He wouldn’t just roll over, close his eyes and give Angel free run of his body. He looked up at Devil, metres away, talons glinting in the moonlight. Jin’s eyes were white pools staring back at him with malice that promised fulfillment. Hwoarang’s mind was racing with excuses for why he couldn’t let go, but Angel continued pushing on his consciousness; pushing for control so they would survive. He couldn’t fly away, couldn’t even raise an arm up to block as the other man drew closer to him, reaching out to slice him to ribbons. He took a deep breath and time seemed to slow down as everything grew quiet. The roaring wind was a dull roar, Devil's roar of attack slowed to little more than a whisper and it was the split-second Hwoarang needed to shut his eyes and mentally step back, relaxing his body as he felt the divine presence step into the soles of his feet and fill him to capacity, and then the moment had passed, time sped up, and he felt his body move under an influence that was not his own.
When he opened his eyes, it was as if he was peering out to the outside world, only his eyes were like bright, glass windows that added a heavenly-white haze to everything he saw. He was still conscious, although his body was now shared; all control and strength given over to her. His body was moving on its own and it was a bit disconcerting to see his arm strike out with a clenched fist when he hadn’t willed it to do so. He pushed back with his will, testing the bonds that connected Angel to his body and realized that her hold on him was tentative at best and any resistance on his part would jar her from power and leave him vulnerable to any attacks Devil sought to throw at him. He relaxed; he’d trusted her before, he’d have to do it again.
Devil was upon him the moment Angel had taken over and although she was doing her best to ward him off, things weren’t going too well. Hwoarang – having more free time to watch the fight without worrying about participating – saw that Devil’s eyes were full of anger, Jin’s attractive features twisted into a scowl that knit his brows together and contorted his face to an ugly visage of rage. Jin never looked like that. He’d never seen that look in the other man’s eyes, and he was suddenly gripped with the thought of Jin always looking like that. He’d touched Jin when he’d been reaching into his body with his mind. He’d felt the solid presence within the swirl of chaos, the shining diamond in the rough that was buried in black sand. Jin was still in there and he couldn’t forget the feeling of touching him.
The battle between Angel and Devil was unlike anything Hwoarang had ever seen. He marveled as she directed his body in a fighting style that he’d never used before. Defensive, gentle, and yet brutal with its attacks. Even in mid-air, hindered by broken wings, she moved him about with angelic grace, using Devil’s body for leverage to slow their descent to the ground. Hwoarang blanched at the remembrance; the ground was nearly upon them. He mentally reached behind to his wings which were still flailing helplessly at his back. Angel was too busy to worry about them, although he hoped she had a plan for what they’d do before they hit the ground. No, she was too busy; it would be up to him. He turned from gazing out his eyes and looked backward with his mind. Looking with the mind’s eye was so much different than seeing with regular eyes. Things weren’t coloured and detailed, they were made up of energy, still colourful but in different ways. He could see the protrusions from his back, the thick base from which they’d sprung and then stretched out with thin bones. He couldn’t see feathers, although the energy that was splaying from the wings did jut out a bit in crimson rivulets. He spread his energy outward along the bone, feeling the breaks and fractures that Devil had inflicted while Hwoarang had been busy contacting Jin. He focused on the breaks, knowing they'd take the most effort. The energy flowed through him, filling the cracks and pooling around the jagged edges of bone and ripped cartilage. The healing was just as painful as the breaking, but he ignored it and willed the bone to snap back together and knit with the aid of his concentrated energy. He spread his focus out to encompass both wings and set to mend the rest of his injuries. By the time he'd finished, he was exhausted, only dimly aware of Angel pulling his wings inward before snapping them out to catch the air and halt his descent. The sudden movement snapped his attention back to the visual battle happening. He watched detachedly, almost as if he'd left his body and was witnessing from a short distance off as the two winged creatures fought with a stunning display of aerial attacks, both agile and deadly. His white vest that had been so pristine and clean was showing his blood as it ebbed down his chest. Droplets splattered free as Angel fired out a series of punches that hit their mark while speedily angling her wings to dive out of the way of Devil's Thunder Godfist. She plunged several metres, nearly missing the treetops before whirling around for another attack from below.
It was strange to see his body being used for punching attacks, when he’d always favored kicks. He winced as Devil caught Angel’s – no, his – arm as she tried another attack. He saw the flash of panic rush through Angel’s aura as the arm was pulled taught and twisted about. He could almost feel the tendons being stretched to their limit before, in an act of desperation, Angel brought his leg up to kick the beast away. Devil let out a roar before slashing down into Hwoarang’s thigh, his claws sinking deep into the muscle before Hwoarang’s vision faltered and everything went black.
When he opened his eyes again he was in his own body and Angel was tossed to the back of his mind. He could feel her soul shudder with exhaustion, she’d used up everything she had to save him and Devil was still there, bearing down on them. Hwoarang, now in full control of his body, flapped his wings to keep himself level, staring Devil down as the two seemed to pause in their fight. The redhead never dropped his guard as he mentally checked his body for any injuries that Angel had incurred. He felt the gash in his thigh throbbing with a dull ache, the wet blood ebbing down his leg. He was sore along his chest, but he already knew of the gashes there. His wings felt fine, despite the red that had sprayed across them. They felt strong and though he was hurting, his brief spiritual rest while Angel fought had let him build up his energy so he could stand against Devil. He gauged the distance between them and his body tensed as he prepared to dive towards the other man – the demon – and hand-deliver some payback for his clawed-up thigh. His eyes never left Devil’s as he angled his body, flapping his wings once before raising them high and bringing them down in a powerful blast that propelled him forward.
It was in the fraction of a second before their two bodies collided that the Blood Talon was close enough to clearly see Devil’s eyes. It was in that non-existent moment that he realized why the creature hesitated; he was exhausted. The beast was tiring, his hold on Jin’s body was weakening and the Japanese’s consciousness was struggling to take advantage of that fact. It was interesting the things that could pass in a handful of seconds, Hwoarang mused, before the instant passed and he slammed into the other man.
The blow seemed to snap Devil’s power back in control for a moment and his reaction was immediate and deadly, the gem on his forehead glowed brightly and a focused blast of energy shot forward, narrowly clipping Hwoarang’s wings as he clung to his opponent once more, carrying him along with the momentum of his attack. Devil was snarling and gnashing his teeth, so close they were, as they plummeted to Earth. The blast didn’t stop and Devil continued to expel all his power out in an attempt to punch a hole through whatever part of Hwoarang was unfortunate enough to get in the way. The two tumbled through the sky, wings slicing through the air rather than catching it and the trees welcomed their falling bodies, the braches bending and breaking under them as they crashed into the ground, Devil’s energy blasting out behind them before he was spent and everything went dark.
~End Chapter Twenty-One~
| Index | Chapter Twenty-Two |