Chapter 11 - Fireplace
Night had fallen at the Mishima Zaibatsu compound and with it had come a visitor – or rather, a former resident. A small group of unconscious solders lay on the ground before a familiar figure to the larger group now surrounding him.
"So, Jin got himself a lackey, did he?" Heihachi Mishima taunted a slender blonde Irish woman standing across from him. She had arrived with the larger group of soldiers. The rumors were true: his grandson had become leader of the Mishima Zaibatsu in Heihachi's absence, recovering from an explosion intending to end his life.
Nina sneered. "It's just business."
"He's only using you. You'll be tossed out like the trash you are soon enough." The boy would have no interest in this woman otherwise.
"What do you care? I should point out, most people don't hold onto garbage for twenty years." She narrowed her eyes, intensifying her stare as she looked her former captor square in the eyes.
Heihachi grimaced, recalling how he had held her and her sister in cryogenic freeze. They had awakened when Ogre did, and he allowed fate to run its course for them. "You were worthless in the end. Even so, doesn't that bother you about him?"
Nina smirked. "That's between me and Jin. If you've got something to say before you go back into your fake little grave, say it. Otherwise, get out of here. You're on private property."
"Oh? The boy wants me to live…?"
Nina snickered. "I'm not at liberty to discuss such matters."
"I could break you here and now," Heihachi said with even enunciation on each word.
"Maybe some other time," she said as she winked at him. "Today," she walked to his right side. "Your body would be riddled with too many bullets," she whispered into his ear.
The intention was to start choking her as he reached his right arm to her neck, but she was planning on exactly that. She grabbed his arm and hit the back of his knee, holding tight to the arm as she positioned herself to then wrap both her arms around his neck, becoming the strangler amidst the two of them.
"I could break you here and now," she teased and bluffed using his words. She knew the Mishimas were in their own league, but this man was clearly underestimating her. She held him tight for several seconds, enough to know that he had made himself vulnerable by lashing out at her. Then she released him.
An out of breath Heihachi glared at her. "What are you to him? Hmm? You're more than just any lackey."
"We're not here to talk about me. Are you leaving or not?"
"Tell that whelp he will regret this. He should have had you kill me on sight. The Mishima Zaibatsu is mine, and I will have it back. The next time I see you lackey, will be the last." He walked away, seething.
"And then back into the freezer?" she called after him as a taunt. "How boring," Nina said to herself, more in reference to the grandfather's message for his grandson though it applied to her own threatened fate as well. She posted guards to the area and decided she needed to inform Jin right away. News like this wasn't supposed to wait and better delivered in person.
It was perhaps an hour later when Jin stood alone in his room, lights off, staring into an empty fireplace with his right arm grasping the mantle, contemplative. The chilling air surrounding his body permeated the room. He didn't feel it the way others did, but he knew it was there. He released his grip and took a few steps back. With a deep breath, his entire body changed as he exhaled and became his devil form. The evil creature stared blankly at the firewood, as concentrated as his human counterpart a moment before, and the flames shot upward with a fierce jolt before subsiding.
A knock at the door disrupted a likely internal discussion that was about to ensue. Nina heard some rustling within the room as Jin reverted to human form. "Who is there?"
"Just a moment."
She waited a few minutes. He opened the door, holding it ajar and blocking the view into his room. "Heihachi's alive, as you suspected. I can give you the full report tomorrow if you'd like."
His eyes didn't flash, and in fact, the news didn't seem to faze him in the least as he said, "No, come on in, tell me now. I'll get us some drinks."
She entered the spacious room to see he had his fireplace at work and pondered if it had anything to do with how cold Jin's presence seemed to make any room he entered. The fire had been produced as a cooperative exercise of power. The evil side thoroughly enjoyed Jin's coldness, but warmth upon airing out his wings had been welcome. Nina saw some scattered black feathers on the floor.
"Were you…?" Did he know that she knew he had a devil form? It was in the research, and he hadn't really told her not to read any of it.
Jin had two wine glasses in his hands and looked down at the feathers. She probably had read at least some of that material she gave him. "How much do you know?" he asked as he calmly poured her a glass without looking at her, followed by his own.
"Enough to know what happened in Mexico and that this might be you." She took a sip, following his casual lead for this conversation.
"Then you already know the answer." He took a sip as well.
They sat on the floor in front of the flickering fire.
"So, you can transform at will now?" She looked to his face to read those eyes and see if they flashed anything.
Again, they did not change, but he looked deep in thought as he reflected on a proper answer as if he would find it in the flames. "Yes." One simple word for what Nina was sure had to be a more complicated matter.
"Well then, onto business." She relayed what transpired as they drank.
"Having Heihachi Mishima at your mercy. That is no small task, Nina Williams," he stated as he poured her another glass. It was the most relaxed she had ever seen her boss.
"Hmm, well, I'm very good at my work, Jin Kazama."
Their glasses clinked together in a toast.
He lay on his side, resting his head on his right hand. "I don't think of you as trash," he said, staring at his glass as he said it.
Nina grabbed two pillows from his bed, handed him one, and lay on her stomach, resting her elbows on the other. Jin rested his left arm holding his wine glass on his pillow. The right-hand woman replied, "I know. We made our agreement when you hired me."
"As your assistant, am I allowed to ask you any personal questions?"
"So long as it's not about my family or where I went after Mexico, you can ask. I do not promise an answer. Or even that the answer will be true."
"Alright then. Do you like anyone?" She was genuinely curious with one particular person in mind.
"Like anyone? What, like romantically?"
"In any way."
He sipped some wine and shook his head. "Nope, no one. I tolerate people and manipulate them, but I don't like anyone."
"Oh, an actual answer."
He smirked. "It might not be true."
"If you consider employment manipulation, then yes. But then, you're using me too, for my money."
"I suppose so. Who do you find most tolerable?"
He stifled a short laugh. Was she fishing for her name or something? "I'm not answering that."
"Have you ever been physically intimate with someone?"
"Now we're getting really personal. What a curious thing to ask. I just told you: I don't like anyone."
"Doesn't stop some people."
The young man raised his eyebrows as if that were an entirely new idea to him but said nothing further.
"You still don't trust me. That's why you won't tell me…about that girl."
"Oh, you're thinking of Xiao. Is that why you're asking these types of questions?"
She nodded since he didn't say it with annoyance or anger, as she expected.
There was a pause before he finally said, "We were friends before everything changed."
"Things are different. I can remember friends, but I cannot have friends."
"Because of your devil gene?"
Both of them had enough conversation by this point and quietly finished their drinks together in a mutually understood silence. After Nina left, Jin went back to staring at the fire. He didn't feel like having one of his duality talks here. "I need some air," he muttered. He left the compound on his motorcycle, heading to the roof of one of the less important Zaibatsu buildings. He knew his usual stalker could still be watching, but he would take the risk, perhaps it would give the observer false confidence that he had not yet been discovered.
The young man's body freed his wings to become his devil form and sat perched, overlooking the city streets below. Casual observers could not have seen him even if they looked in his direction, clouded away by their own concerns. Only someone looking for him would be able to see him, which he knew could include the one who watched him from the shadows. This time, it was Jin that stood with arms folded as an apparition, his long black coat, leaning against the wall, facing the other direction and eyes closed. The being knew there was a small and unintentional chance that the stalker could see the apparition instead of the devil or both. However, the internal discussion was more important than some eavesdropping fly on the wall that could not hear the words passing between selves in thought.
"Your humanity can't come back through her. You're just a paycheck to her, and she's just an asset to you. Beyond that, she is merely intrigued by the circumstances," Devil said.
"I know," Jin agreed. "But, it was the closest to human I felt in a long time. Even now, the breeze this evening is nice. My muscles don't feel as tight."
"Your body's not emitting that chill, but you know that's because I've taken form."
Jin nodded. "Do you know why my body does that?"
"I can only guess. Your behavior is cold, and so your cursed body emits that to others beyond just what you say and what you do. It extends to how you feel and how you make others feel. Even I feel it in your dreams."
"Corrupted Kazama blood."
Jin had no idea how to respond to this new information at first. He had no use for it, at least not that he could think of in this moment, and Devil admitted to only be guessing. "Makes about as much sense as you, I suppose."
Devil snickered, and another pause passed between the two. "Think I could teleport to the roof across the street?" Devil asked.
"You could just fly there if you can't, so it shouldn't be hard to test. Given enough time with the war, I'm sure it will happen soon. I intend to use the power to see Asuka."
"Kid, I've told you…"
"I remember what you said. That should make a trip easy then, right? I confirm it. Just because you can't intentionally lie to me doesn't mean everything you say is true. If you believe it but are wrong, I need to know."
A silence passed, longer than the two before it. Devil knew he had a strong influence on Jin's mind, so did Jin, but they both knew it was ultimately Jin who decided the course. The boy held tight to his declared mission. If Jin wanted to see that girl, Devil could not stop him. He could perhaps deny his power's use in that manner, but Jin could just hop on a train or a jet the next day instead. He hadn't done so yet because he had kept himself quite busy and was trying to figure out how to approach her, preferably without his increasing number of enemies knowing. Devil's power would just make it easier but was not required to make it possible. They had too much of each other for a straight possession. Finally, Devil consented with, "You win that round, Jin. Let's test it out already."
The human apparition faded, and a vision of black feathers swirled Devil's body as he disappeared instantly to reappear on the roof across the street. The evil creature sneered with pleasure. He tried again, this time to where Jin had parked his motorcycle. The devil features left the young man, replaced by his original attire. It's still short-range, so a visit to Osaka will have to wait. It would definitely come in handy for avoiding his stalker.
Not far from their location, Raven lurked in the shadows as Jin had suspected, alarmed. He had been tailing the young CEO with ease, saw both the devil and the apparition without knowing which was real, and before he knew it, both had disappeared. The agent suspected a manipulation of the senses, especially given that at least one of them had to be an illusion. What if both were? The main known powers of the specimen in question were increased strength, speed, healing, and the ability to fly. It seemed he had more. Raven made his way to the roof where Jin had stood, searching for any sign. The usual key sign, a few scattered black feathers, could be found, answering at least that much though he still didn't understand why the destructive monster had committed no damage or how he disappeared.