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Chapter 19 – Intrigue

"Are you ready?" Asuka asked Xiaoyu.

"Ready," Xiaoyu prepared her stance.

It was the first day of the King of Iron Fist Tournament 6, and the two girls discussing Jin Kazama the night before now faced each other. Quick on her feet, Xiaoyu evaded Asuka well. "You know some of my moves," Asuka noted.

"Jin and I trained together in the past before he changed his style. It wasn't all Mishima."

Eventually, though not easily, Asuka won. She stretched out her arm to help Xiaoyu up after being declared the winner. "Not all Mishima?" she picked up their conversation. The two had started to focus more intently on their match earlier.

"Yes. He knew some moves from his mother. I suppose that's the style you practice."

"Yeah," Asuka agreed. "It sounds like the two of you were close. I know you said he was the strong, silent type, but was he ever….I don't know…not evil?"

Xiaoyu bowed her head and released a short, nervous laugh. "He's not evil now."

"Uh…"

"I know what you're thinking Asuka Kazama. It's the same thing everyone thinks, but I knew Jin. His family and his blood betrayed him."

"Wait, what are you talking about? Family…" That had to mean the Mishima side. As for blood, Jin made it sound like that was important too but in the fact that theirs was connected on the Kazama side.

"It's their curse. His curse. It's like he's sick."

"But this curse…makes him evil…" Asuka nudged.

Xiaoyu wiped a tear from her eye. "I won't give up on him. He was gentle. On the day we met, he had this quiet surprise in his face when I called him my friend. We talked, we trained, and we studied together back then. Asuka, the whole world is against my friend, with good reason, but he's still my friend. It may be buried under whatever this curse has done to his mind, but I have to believe in him. If I don't…who will?"

Asuka swallowed, considering the question at hand, thinking back to the night Jin came to see her in both his forms. She could not put that kind of faith into this stranger, even if they were connected by blood. But…if any of what Xiaoyu said was true, it had to mean the shadow in the riddle was Jin. Perhaps the light was not a literal power but a figurative one. She needed to see the Jin Kazama Xiaoyu described. It was still hard to fathom any such person could exist under that demonic exterior. He said it himself that it was too late…well, in devil form. She looked down. "I don't know," she replied, "but I won't tell you he's not there when I'm not really sure."

The two shifted conversation into lighter matters before parting ways.

[…]

Miguel approached his opponent, cracking his knuckles and neck before they began. The other man, Bryan Fury, wore a hungry look reminiscent of the devil he fought the night before. He could not be sure if it was the creature's or Zafina's touch or just the much-needed rest, but he felt refreshed and ready. It was hard to really say why he still entered this tournament after his confrontation with Jin Kazama. His rage and hatred for the young tyrant felt hollow, yet he could not just up and leave.

Bryan was no push-over and evidently a cyborg. Still, Miguel packed a powerful punch and in the end stood victorious. He rubbed his right shoulder when done, feeling restless and scanned the vicinity, realizing he walked to a nearby cemetery. Up in a tree, he could see the silhouette of Devil Jin perched, waiting for him.

"It's you," the Spaniard said, not at all startled.

"You recovered quickly," the beast observed.

"Oh," Miguel looked again to his shoulder. "Zafina helped me out after you left. What did you do to me? She sensed it, and I feel some weird link between us."

"Zafina? Interesting. She has spiritual powers. Your life belongs to me now. I was not lying when I told you it was forfeit if you attacked. If you do not wish to die, you obey."

"That's not much of a life," Miguel replied. Apprently, it didn't stop him from arguing with the demon. "Plus, you made it sound like I could give you something else."

"Do you have another human life to give? Or something on par with that value?"

"Meaning if I killed someone for you, I'm off the hook?"

The creature finally leapt down from his perch to face the tall Spaniard and grinned. "Would you? You couldn't do it for the one you wished to die."

"Hey, that's not fair…" Miguel pointed and wiped his nose, stopping himself. Did this thing even care about that?

"Sometimes I'm fair, and sometimes I'm not, just like everyone else. My human half strives for justice if he sees the opportunity. We digress though…if you killed someone for me, then yes; the debt is paid in full."

"And if I don't?" Miguel probed, sensing murder would not be asked of him. "What are your orders, boss?" he asked sarcastically.

"This link we have will serve your instincts well. Good-bye Miguel."

[…]

"Eliminated already?" Asuka asked in shock.

"It's so embarrassing," Lili groaned, burying her forehead into the palm of her right hand.

"Mister Yoshimitsu is a veteran of these tournaments Miss Lili. He is very skilled and likely had an advantage with his supernatural sword," Melissa explained.

"Ugh, I still don't like losing, especially when the two of you advanced. Who'd you beat anyway?"

"A woman named Julia Chang." To save herself from likely pestering questions, Melissa abstained from noting that Julia shared she wished to stop Jin Kazama and Kazuya Mishima from meeting in fear of the world being destroyed as a result.

"I guess I'll just have to watch from the sidelines," Lili decided. "One of you should avenge me."

"Why? It's not like we're friends with you," Asuka retorted.

"So cruel Asuka. At least Melissa has the excuse of being a robot, and one that works for Jin Kazama at that." The young Japanese girl had eventually explained at least that much of the situation. It was hard to hide such things at this point. First, Lili tried kicking Melissa in the shin only to be thwarted back by its force, expecting her. Then she tried pestering Melissa with a million questions about working for Jin, to which the robot denied answers until vowing to simply ignoring them all entirely.

"Whatever," Asuka muttered.

"I will be facing Mister Yoshimitsu in my next match Miss Lili, so an incidental revenge is possible," Melissa noted.

"Incidental? I suppose that will do."

[…]

Miguel collapsed to the ground, gritting his teeth, holding his left forearm out as if to shield his body. Kazuya Mishima approached, and his opponent put in one last desperate punch, shoving Kazuya back to skid along the ground for several feet. He felt his devil gene stir. What just happened? Miguel took a few tired breaths before collapsing, unconscious.

Kazuya clutched at his forehead briefly. The elder Mishima walked over to the body, placing his foot just over the back. As he put some pressure in its place, a wispy white force-field protected the fallen man. Devil Jin's work, no doubt. His son had tapped into some interesting powers.

[…]

Melissa fared quite well in her match against Yoshimitsu and approached his fallen body, prying the sword from his fingers. "How…?" he uttered before losing consciousness.

"I'm not human, so it stands to reason this sword will not react to me in the same way as it does you or others," Melissa replied. "Fascinating," she tilted her head, studying the object in her hands. "Master Jin has an interest in you, so…come with me."

Back in her hotel room, Asuka and Lili stared at the sword, propped carefully against the wall, fascinated.

Lili reached out her hand in earnest. "You shouldn't…" Melissa began to say, but it was too late, and the young blonde girl pulled it back after being stung. "…touch it."

"Why did you take it?" Asuka asked.

"That information is classified."

"Jin must want it for something," the young Japanese girl decided. "But I can't imagine what…"

"He probably can't touch it either," Lili pointed out.

Asuka quietly pondered if Devil Jin could.

"Unbelievable," Raven remarked to command from a considerable distance peering into Melissa's hotel room window. "She got a hold of the sword." He saw the blue-haired robot turn her head in his direction and smile from underneath her dark sunglasses. He gasped and leapt clear, relaying what just transpired to Command. He needed to head to a match with Nina Williams.

There, even though he expected no answers, he needed to ask all the same. "Jin seems to have a complicated plan in the works. Why does he need the Kazama girl?" His organization knew nothing of any special qualities of the blood on his mother's side, but clearly, the young CEO took an interest for some reason, and it was the only connection they knew. The attempt proved unsuccessful as Nina refused to answer. Before long, the two began their match, and the blonde assassin finished victorious. She studied his attire and pulled out his ear piece in search of clues for who might work for and concluded that it was very likely to be the CIA. Of course. She sighed. They probably wanted Jin's body the way G Corporation once held Kazuya's and ignored the obvious lesson from that endeavor.

Later, she met with Jin to discuss the encounter. He stood facing the window, his back to Nina, knowing Raven had stopped observing so closely once he discovered Melissa and instead focused on her and Asuka. He scoffed. "Everyone wants a piece of the pie, even knowing the pie is poisoned. They think they can suck out the venom and use it for their own ends."
This chapter is all over the place, covers a good chunk of the actual tournament. Some Asuka, Xiaoyu, Devil Jin, Miguel, Lili, Melissa, Kazuya, Raven, Nina, and Jin Kazama.

The full version of the chapter picture can be found in the gallery, here: Perched .
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