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Chapter Forty-Three

Later That Evening…

Underground Lair

Hidden underneath a heavy black cloak, the sorcerer Quan-Chi watched the matches unfold while standing a few rows back amongst the viewers. He arrived in the lair just before the first match of the evening took place. It would be part of the last handful of matches for Round Four of the tournament.

A little over two days ago, Quan-Chi met up with Shang Tsung, who had given him a rolled up paper he was supposed to deliver to a man named Song. Shang Tsung had told him that it contained important information about his next match and to deliver it to him in his quarters in the main palace.

That afternoon, Quan-Chi did go to the palace, but he didn’t head to Song’s room just yet. He began to think through exactly what he was doing. For one thing, he never directly met Song at this point. According to Shang Tsung, he was supposedly a reliable ally, but why hasn’t Quan-Chi been introduced to him as of yet?

Before taking the scroll up to Song’s room, Quan-Chi hid within the shadows and peaked over at the letter. Song’s match was the eighth match to take place in the Underground Lair for that night and his opponent was going to be Sagat. Once Quan-Chi memorized the information, he took the scroll up to Song’s room and slipped it under his door (whether Song was in his room at the time was unknown).

Quan-Chi arrived at the lair and from there, he began counting how many matches had gone by. The more matches that passed, the slower time seemed to go for the sorcerer. Eventually though, the seven matches that took place before Song’s finally passed.

Sagat was the first to be called. Quan-Chi didn’t really pay attention until that moment and when he did, he realized that it was one of the Shadow Priests who was hosting the tournament and not Shang Tsung. It was no matter, since Shao Kahn did give him breaks from hosting every once in a while. Even so, Quan-Chi decided to take note of this anyway.

Then, Song’s name was called. An old man stepped into the ring. Despite his age, he looked strong and most likely could hold his own. ‘We’ll see about that,’ Quan-Chi thought.

Soon, the Shadow Priest called for the match to begin. Neither Sagat or Song waited another moment and quickly charged towards each other. They exchanged various punches and kicks in a quick speed, enough to leave the viewers impressed, with the exception of Quan-Chi of course.

After what seemed like a minute, Sagat shot out a low projectile in which Song jumped over. As he jumped, Sagat shot out the same projectile, but higher this time. Song saw the projectile coming and the only way he was able to counter it was to shoot out a fireball. The fireball soon collided with Sagat’s projectile, both leaving a small explosion in the air before dispersing.

The match continued from there. Each combatant found themselves on either offense of defense, delivering normal and what they called ‘special moves.’ For a while, both fighters seemed quite even as they fought with ferocity. Even Quan-Chi was beginning to get impressed by both of their skills.

It’s a shame that I didn’t get the honor to fight either one of them in the tournament,’ the pale sorcerer thought.

It had to be about five minutes into the match that Song slowly began to get the upper hand, finally breaking through Sagat’s blocks. Sagat was only about to block every other move at first, but Song soon broke through that and was able to fully gain control of the match. This went on for about a minute before Song delivered a double fireball projectile, both hitting Sagat and rendering him unconscious.

When the Shadow Priest announced Song as the winner of the match, the old man left the ring and began making his leave. Once he was out of the ring, Quan-Chi began to following him out, leaving forty feet of space in between them.

Quan-Chi wasn’t sure how long he was following Song before he found himself in the darkness of the forest. Even in the darkness, he could still see Song in the distance.

Suddenly, a green aura surrounded Song’s body, forcing Quan-Chi to stop in his tracks as he watched. Soon, the aura disappeared and when it did, a sadistic grin slowly crept up on the pale sorcerer’s face. He realized from that point that he had no further need to follow Song.

“So,” Quan-Chi said to him. “That’s why you’re relied on so much…”


Far From The Tournament Grounds

It didn’t seem that long since darkness took over Paul Phoenix. It was more like a minute for him. The last thing he was able to remember before losing consciousness was someone picking him up from the ground in his cell. When he slowly opened his eyes, he was lying down on the ground again. However, he wasn’t on hard stoned surface this time.

Paul’s body was completely surrounded by two heavy blankets…one underneath him which covered the grass he was lying on. The other covered him from the neck down. When he was able to completely open his eyes, he felt the cool breeze hitting his sore face, stinging him in some spots. Already facing up, he saw tall trees surrounding him, the green leaves swaying with the wind.

Aside from the sound of the wind, he was able to hear a soft cracking sound just to the left. He slowly turned his head to that direction before a bright light hit his eyes, forcing him to squint them. When Paul was able to adjust his vision, he was able to make out the small lit campfire.

Where the hell am I?’ the Judo fighter asked himself. He then dared himself to at least sit up so that he was able to get a better idea of his surroundings. Even while going slow, sore-like pain shot up and down his body, making him grunt with each force he used. Soon, he was fully sitting up and was able to let out a sigh of relief.

Paul shifted his eyes up and was now able to see that he was in the middle of a forest. Aside from the wind and the crackling fire in front of him, no other sound was heard and nothing else was seen for what looked like miles.

“You’re finally awake Paul Phoenix,” an echo-like voice spoke suddenly.

Paul quickly turned his head to the voice and saw a man dressed in a black and reddish-orange attire floating towards him and surrounded by a green aura. In his gloved hands was a wooden bowl with hot stream escaping out of it.

“…Who are you?” Paul asked him.

The green aura disappeared and the man floated back to the ground. He walked a few more feet forward before sitting himself down two feet from Paul.

“We are Ermac. We were the ones who made your escape from the dungeon possible.”

Paul raised an eyebrow, noting the ‘we’ in his sentences. “We?”

Ermac sighed a bit, pretty much used to this type of question being asked at this point. “This body consists of many souls…souls of great warriors collected by Shao Kahn over the years.”

Even with the explanation, Paul still felt confused. He figured that it was too soon to be collecting even small information in his mind.

Before Paul was able to speak, Ermac continued. “Shao Kahn is the Emperor of Outworld. He has been the one orchestrating this tournament. The host of the tournament, Shang Tsung, is his second set of eyes. Until a few hours ago, we worked for the Emperor, taking on any orders he gave without question. For a long time have we wished to discontinue serving him and today we finally got that chance. Since Chishio No Me was handed to him, we no longer trusted him. Whatever plans he has for that medallion, he has been keeping it under wraps since day one, even to the most loyal of servants.”

“What was your reason for rescuing me?” Paul asked curiously.

“We had served Shao Kahn for many years and with our escape, we wish to atone for our sins. Rescuing you was our first act of doing just that.”

A thought came to Paul and he suddenly felt a bit of anger within him. “Why me? For anyone you could’ve escaped with, it should’ve been that girl who was being tortured by that beast-”

“An ally of mine found himself in the dungeon and escaped with her,” Ermac cut in. “She will be fine, we assure you.”

Paul felt a small sigh of relief escape his throat. ‘That’s good…’ he thought.

Ermac passed over the bowl he had in his hand to Paul, who slowly took it in his own hands. Paul looked into the bowl and saw that it was hot water.

“You have been in that dungeon for over two weeks and you will need much rest,” Ermac told him. “We’re currently very far from the fortress and the tournament grounds so no one will find us. Shao Kahn and his forces are sure to be hunting us down as we speak.”

Paul didn’t really pay attention to the last part Ermac said to him as he looked down at the bowl he had in his hands. ‘Have I really been only trapped in that dungeon for two weeks?’ he asked himself, still feeling a bit shocked. ‘If felt much longer than that…

Throughout his time in the dungeon, he saw even the strongest of men die within three to four days after arriving at the dungeon. How he managed to survive for that long he would truly never know.

Perhaps just being alive is more worth is than being the best in the universe…

After the thought, Paul placed the bowl to his lips and drank the hot water, feeling true warmth for the first time in over two weeks.


Cave

After some time brushing her hair out, Julia put her hair in a single braid rather than her normal double braids. She looked at her face in a small compact mirror, noting the bruise that developed on her right cheek from her match with Mika a few hours ago, now covered with as much cover-up as she could get on it.

Since the end of that match, nearly everyone in the cave did all they could to keep the two of them separated. This irritated Julia not even an hour later so she volunteered to take a well-deserved nap (despite losing the match), that way she would let Mika do whatever she wanted during that time.

Since waking up, Julia got herself in her blue jeans, brown boots, and a light green shirt, planning to put on her denim jacket as well once she left her room.

Hopefully everything will be much more calm once I step out of this room,’ she thought.

Julia stood up and put on her denim jacket. She took a deep breath, almost expecting a big mob in front of her room, like the paparazzi waiting on a celebrity. However, that wasn’t the case once she opened up her curtain. As a matter of fact, no one was around the area and the only noise she heard were voices coming from different rooms.

Julia began taking her leave then. She took a few steps forward before she heard a male voice calling out her name. She turned around and was a bit surprised to see Ryu walking towards her. She managed to smirk a bit.

“Hey Ryu,” she said.

“Hey,” Ryu replied. “Haven’t seen you since…well, have you been doing all right since that match this afternoon?”

Julia sighed a bit, placing her hand over the bruise she had on her cheek. “Well, I still feel a bit sore, but I’m all right.” She then found herself chuckling a bit. “I’ll admit, I was a bit embarrassed…I guess you can say that I…overreacted.”

“Um, sure,” Ryu replied. He then seemed to be looking around the area a bit before turning his head back to Julia. “Well, I know for a fact that Mika and her friends just returned from dinner at the main palace…so if you’re hungry, I wouldn’t mind, eh, escorting you.”

Julia smirked a bit more by the invite. “That’s nice of you, assuming it’s a safe bet.” She then grinned. “And that you don’t have another planned date.”

Ryu found himself laughing nervously. “Well I can assure you that I have no one else waiting for me.”

“Good. Well, let’s get going then, shall we?”

Ryu nodded as he and Julia left the cave. Unknown to them, Ken was listening in on their conversation from his room. When he could no longer hear their footsteps, he raised his fist as though he was posing in victory.

“Woo hoo!” Ken called out. “Ryu actually asked Julia to dinner…and without my help this time.” He then placed his arm down and a confused look came over his face. “Wait a sec…he’s doing this without my help?” After another moment, Ken shrugged. “Oh well, if he screws up, it’s not my fault.”


Main Palace

“So,” said Seung Mina while looking at the people walking about on the main palace grounds. “Who do you think is going to win the tournament?”

Xianghua blinked a couple of times after hearing Mina’s question while looking at the people in front of her as well. “You know…that’s a pretty good question.” A small smile came over her face. “I bet it’ll be someone we don’t know at all.”

Mina looked at Xianghua then. “Well okay…how about…who do you think, out of everyone in the cave, will make it the furthest in the tournament?”

Xianghua thought through this for some time before answering. “We have some pretty good fighters in the cave.”

Mina nodded in agreement. “We definitely do. I place bets on the following…Jin, Ryu, Ken…no wait he lost, never mind…um…oh yeah, the guy with the red blindfold, I forget his name but he’s pretty good…”

Xianghua couldn’t help but laugh a bit. “We’ll have to see when round eight rolls around.”

“Yeah,” Mina sighed as she rested her cheek in her hand. “I feel like it’s taking forever. I feel like it’s been like…a year, seven months, three weeks, and a day.”

Xianghua looked at her oddly. “That was a random calculation.”

Mina couldn’t help but laugh a bit. “I know, isn’t it?”

As they continued to talk, the Spanish matador Vega was walking by the palace grounds when he happened to spot Xianghua sitting at the bench. He noted that she was talking to the girl sitting next to her, but he didn’t pay much attention to her. His main focus was Xianghua.

Neither girl noticed Vega approaching them until Mina noticed a shadow suddenly coming over Xianghua, making her look at the area in front of her. ‘What the-’ Mina suddenly thought upon seeing the stranger.

Xianghua looked up then after she noticed Mina turning her head away from her, now noticing the blond haired man standing before her. A smirk came over his face as he pulled a fully-bloomed red rose from his pocket and handed it to Xianghua, who was a bit surprised by the gesture.

“Um, this is lovely,” Xianghua began to say as she took the rose in her hand. “But what for?”

Vega smirked more in reply. “Simply because you possess great beauty. I expect a beautiful rose like this to be well taken care by a beautiful woman like you. Until we meet again.” And with that, Vega turned around and took his leave.

Xianghua looked on in awe as Mina folded her arms with one eyebrow raised. “I’d be suspicious of that guy if I were you,” she said. “I mean, what guy randomly gives out a rose like that?”

As Mina talked, Xianghua felt her cheeks turn red, but this time she didn’t seem to care as she looked down at the rose. “You have to admit, he was very cute!” She looked at Mina. “And face it…you’re jealous because he didn’t give you a rose!”

“I don’t give a hoot,” Mina replied. “I’d rather get a half eaten rose from a goat. But seriously, I’m more concerned about you…I have a bad feeling about him.”

“Don’t worry,” Xianghua began to assure her friend. “I’m sure I’ll never see him again after today anyway.”

“I hope so. Say, let’s get back to the cave before the sun completely sets for the night.”

“Good idea,” Xianghua agreed. Soon, the two of them stood up and took their leave.

From a distance, Vega watched Xianghua take her leave with her female companion, looking on with his icy cold-like eyes. ‘That’s one step out of the way for my revenge,’ he thought to himself.

It was then that a female voice spoke behind him. “What is your interest with that girl, may I ask?”

Vega turned his head to the voice. A smirk came over his eyes as his eyes met with Anna’s. “Simply revenge my dear,” he replied. “The man who defeated me during the second round of the tournament is allied with the girl. Whether they are friends or lovers is of no matter to me. Either way, it’s still the perfect vengeance.” Vega turned his head again and was able to see one last glimpse of Xianghua before she out of sight. “I will admit, however, that she is quite lovely.” He then turned his completely attention to Anna and brush a finger on her chin. “But no matter what, you are the loveliest of every girl I’ve known.”

“Even Viper?” Anna asked curiously.

Vega nodded. “Yes…even that puppet can‘t compete with your beauty.”

Anna smiled, feeling quite flattered by his compliments. She then took a hand and brushed the side of his neck before speaking seductively. “Come to my room…I’ll show you just exactly how lovely I am.”

A smile came over Vega’s face. “I look forward to it.”

With that, they both headed into the main palace.


Forest

Just after sunset, Kilik was able to leave the cave grounds without being seen and began heading into the forest. This morning, he was told that, due to recent events, everyone in the cave were not able to leave the area without at least one person with them. As much as Kilik respected this, he couldn’t help but venture out on his own so that he was able to train with his staff.

As he continued walking through the forest, Kilik looked down at his staff. He shook his head slightly as he remembered exactly how he got his weapon back…

Earlier that morning after the meeting…

I’m telling you,” said Xianghua as she walked with Kilik and Maxi through the forest. “These apples were the best!”

I hope you’re right Xianghua,” replied Kilik.

Hoping it’ll be worth the trip?” asked Maxi.

Kilik nodded. “I’ll admit, I’m still a bit bummed out about losing my staff…and losing an Outworld bamboo stick…and losing my match…”

And losing the girl,” Maxi joked, referring to Kilik’s opponent Jade.

Kilik looked at his male companion oddly. “What are you talking about?”

Maxi was about to say something when he suddenly tripped, letting out an ‘oof’ upon landing. “Owe…” he uttered.

You all right?” asked Xianghua.

Maxi rubbed his head a bit. “Yeah, I’m fine, I tripped over something…” He briefly searched the ground before his face lit up. “Aha!” Maxi called out. “Right where I left it!” He then grabbed the object and lifted…Kilik’s staff!

Wha-” Kilik began to say as Maxi nervously gave the staff back to him before patting him on the shoulder. “Here you go buddy.”

Xianghua watched as Kilik looked at his staff, then back at Maxi. Upon looking at Maxi, Xianghua could’ve swore that, if it was possible, that devil horns grew on Kilik’s head, along with his teeth sharpening like Piranha teeth and his eyes turning a blood red.

MAXI!” Kilik screamed out in rage.

Oh crap!” Maxi cried out before making a run for it with Kilik following him not far behind with his staff ready to whack him over the head.

WHEN I REACH YOU!” Kilik screamed out. “I’M GOING TO TURN YOU INTO A BLOODY PULP!”

Resorting to violence is not the answer!” Xianghua called out. She then realized what she said, considering that they were here for a tournament, and sighed. “Oh what’s the use…” she uttered before walking down the path the boys ran through…

Kilik sighed to himself after that thought. The truth was, he just gave Maxi a good slap across the face. Maxi told him that he would do any chores that Kilik had, including laundry and dishes, for the remainder of their stay as his apology. Kilik forgave him, but even not he still felt a bit fumed by the fact that Maxi took his staff without his permission.

Well with no chores to do,’ Kilik thought to himself. ‘I’ll have more time to do some training now.

As he continued walking, he began to hear what sounded like training not too far from him. Curiosity go the best of him and he began to follow the noise. It didn’t take him long before he saw the female figure training with her own staff. Kilik then saw her face and recognized Jade.

Wow, I didn’t think I’d see her again,’ he thought to himself. Not realizing it, a tiny smirk came upon his face as he continued to watch Jade training in the small open field she stood in.

It wasn’t long since Kilik spotted Jade that she stopped with her training and turned to where he stood. For a brief moment she looked at him with her green eyes as though she was trying to recognize him. Soon, she remembered who he was and walked over to him.

“Nice to see you again,” she said to him.

For a second, Kilik found himself dazing out as she was walking towards him. Upon hearing her voice, he snapped out of it, slightly shaking his head a bit.

“Same here…I was, eh, just talking a walk and heard a noise,” he replied.

Jade shifted her eyes, seeing the staff that he had in his hand. “I see you got your staff back.”

Kilik sighed a bit. “It’s a long story. Say, I noticed that you’re alone. Why so?”

“I normally like training alone,” Jade answered. “But actually, I just was about to complete my training for the night.”

“I see,” Kilik said. “Do you mind me escorting you back to the main palace? I’ve heard…rumors about bad encounters in the forest…”

Jade quietly sighed to herself as she thought about Shao Kahn’s minions going after her and the royal family. After pondering in her mind, she looked at Kilik. “Well, if you insist.”

“Not without me!” a voice suddenly said not too far from them. Jade tightened the grip on her staff, reading to fight. However, it wasn’t necessary since Kilik instantly realized that the voice belonged to Maxi.

“What are you doing here?” Kilik asked as Maxi came out of the bushes.

“I saw you sneaking out alone,” Maxi answered. “You know that’s against the rules now you know.”

“Yes Maxi,” Kilik said through clenched teeth.

Jade chuckled a bit. “Well thank you anyway Kilik, but I’ll be fine. The palace isn’t too far from here. Perhaps next time we meet we can finally have that sparring match since you have you staff back. See you later.” Then Jade took her leave.

“See you,” Kilik said with a small sigh. He then glared at Maxi. “You realized that I’m still not happy with you about this morning right?”

“I know I know,” Maxi said. “Hey, I’m just looking out for my best friend…if I had known you were going to meet up with your girlfriend, I would’ve left you alone.”

“…Maxi…she’s not my girlfriend.”

“Suuure she isn’t. You may think that now, but soon-”

Kilik didn’t want to hear the rest and began walking away.

“Hey I was kidding!” Maxi called out as he began following Kilik.


Cave Grounds

“I’m glad you two were able to meet up tonight on such short notice,” said Ashrah as she placed some firewood in the campfire.

“It’s not a problem,” replied Sub-Zero.

“You have discovered something new with Noob and Sektor?” asked Matrik.

Ashrah leaned back and sat herself down on the ground before replying. “I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion just yet. However, during my last few days of investigation, I’ve been sensing Noob’s presence about an hour west from here, deep within the forest. His presence seems to be lurking there a lot. Because of this, it may be possible that I have found his and Sektor’s new hideout.

“Have you been able to spot anything, like a fortress, that could possibly be their new hideout?” Sub-Zero asked.

“I haven’t seen a fortress,” Ashrah replied. “But I have spotted a few caves in the area so it’s possible that their new hideout could be in one of those caves.”

“It’s best that we investigate those caves first,” suggested Matrik. “I know this piece of information is most likely of little significance, but the Tekunin clan’s hideout back in Earthrealm was in a cave so it could be that they chose a similar hideout.”

“But it is a bit of information to keep in the back of our thoughts,” Ashrah said. She then looked at Matrik seriously. “It’s unfortunate that you lost to Sektor in the tournament this morning…”

“I know,” Matrik answered. “But a tournament means nothing to me when it comes to Sektor. Our rivalry should be settled at our own time.”

“As much as I agree with you,” said Sub-Zero. “Try to remember that our main focus right now is rescuing Smoke.”

“He’s right,” said Ashrah. “Your fight with Sektor has to wait a bit longer for now.”

Matrik only nodded in reply.

“I’ll continue to investigate the area for a couple of more days,” Ashrah continued. “If my feelings are right that Noob and Sektor are indeed hiding there, we’ll make our move again.”

“Sounds good,” Sub-Zero said. He then looked up into the dark sky afterwards. ‘I just hope we can succeed this time…'


Inside the Cave

“Glad you two can make it,” said Raiden. He sat down in the lounge at a small table next to Rose. Across the table, both Raven and Nina Williams sat in their own chairs, drinking the green tea that Rose prepared for them.

A side smirk appeared on Nina’s face. “Where else could I go really in a place like this?” she said a bit sarcastically.

“So what’s going on?” asked Raven.

Rose looked at the both of them seriously. “First off, we want to tell you that this meeting is top secret. No one else in the cave is to know of this but the four of us. You two are some of the most skilled and ruthless agents we have here and are very stealthy. These are the reasons why you are perfect for the assignment we’re about to give you.”

Raiden continued for her. “We believe that we may have found Shao Kahn’s true hideout.”

Both Nina and Raven looked at their leaders a bit surprised but with interest. “Really?” asked Nina.

“Yes,” Raiden continued. “An…anonymous tip came to us this afternoon during our investigation. The fortress we were told about is supposed to be located North from here. It’s more than a two hour walk.”

“Let me guess,” Nina began to say. “You want us to investigate.”

Rose nodded. “Yes. What we want you two to do is go down there for a couple of days and investigate wherever you can in that area and report anything you find there…even if it’s one piece of information.”

“Perhaps there,” Raiden began to mention. “You two will be able to find…information that brought you to Outworld to begin with.”

Raven nodded as he thought about his original assignment…finding out more about Shang Tsung. “I’ll take the assignment,” he said.

“Same here,” Nina said. Then she looked at Raven. “However, I’m used to working alone.”

“I know,” Rose said. “But just this once I want you two to work together. It’s supposed to be a large fortress so it’s best that two people go…plus with the new rule…”

“Fine then,” Nina and Raven both said at once.

Raiden smiled a bit. “Good then. I can assure you two that teaming up is the best thing to do when it comes to things like this.”

That depends on who you team up with,’ Rose said in her mind as she eyed Raiden.

“When do you want us to leave?” Raven asked.

“You can leave anytime tomorrow,” Raiden said. “Preferably night time.”

“That won’t be a problem,” Nina said.

“Then it’s all settled,” Rose said. “I wish you two the best of luck. And be careful.”

“We will,” Raven replied.


In Another Part of the Cave

Upon finally (but slowly) waking up, the first thing Alex Walker felt was a bit of a stinging feeling on her back, then a slight pressure. She blinked a couple of times, trying to get her vision back. When she did, she realized that she was lying on her side, back in her own bed.

Alex then felt the pressure on her back again and that same stinging feeling from before. The stinging feeling wasn’t enough to make her twitch (then again, she was still waking up so it would probably hit her more when she was more awake), but she wondered why her back was stinging.

The pressure went away for a moment. She heard the sounds of soft splashing water before feeling the pressure again. It was then that she realized that someone was patting her back down with a wash cloth. Not knowing who was behind the wash cloth, she decided to speak.

“That’s so sweet of you,” she said, her voice sounding raspy.

The person immediately pulled the cloth away before touching Alex’s shoulder and guiding her to lay on her back. Alex was able to see the person clearly this time, immediately recognizing Sonya.

Sonya smiled upon seeing that Alex was awake. “Sarcastic as ever.”

“…Was I being sarcastic?” Alex asked confused.

“Well…oh it doesn’t matter, you’re okay! I’d hug you, but I might end up crushing you.”

Alex laughed nervously a bit. “Um yeah…gee, what happened…the last thing I can remember is walking through the forest after I lost my match…”

Sonya was silent for a moment, unsure if she even wanted to tell her what happened. However, even with her memory wipe, Sonya felt that it was best to tell Alex what went on. After all, she was going to wonder why she had scars on her back and red marks on her wrists.

“Alex,” Sonya began to say. “We’re actually not sure what happened…you were found pretty far from this area. We manage to get you back here last night.”

As she talked, Alex noticed the burns on her wrists and examined them for a moment. “I’m afraid I’m starting to have an idea…these look like rope burns and with my back stinging…”

“Hey,” Sonya cut in as she patted her friend on the should softly. “What matters is that everything is going to be fine.”

Alex nodded. “Yeah, I guess.” She then looked at Sonya. “Hey…I’m still feeling groggy. Don’t tell anyone I’m awake.”

Before Sonya could speak, the curtain to Alex’s room opened. The two women looked over at the curtain and saw Kenshi, who had just woken up from his day-long sleep, pulling the curtain aside before walking in.

“Alex?” Kenshi asked.

“I’m awake,” Alex said to him.

A grin came over Sonya’s face as she stood up. “Well, um, I think my job here is done for now. I’m going to go, eh, check up on some paperwork.”

“I thought you and Guile got all those done,” Kenshi mentioned.

“Eh, double checking them doesn’t hurt you know,” Sonya answered. “I’ll see you two later.” Then she left the room, leaving the curtain closed.

Alex had just taken out the wet cloth from the water-filled bowl as Kenshi sat down in the chair Sonya was just in a moment ago. “How are you feeling?” he asked her.

“Like getting hit by a truck,” Alex replied as she placed the cloth on her right wrist. Before she could put pressure on the cloth, Kenshi had taken both the cloth and her wrist in his hands. Alex wanted to protest, but she felt took weak to do so, having no other choice but to let him care for her wrist burns.

“You were in pretty bad shape when I first found you,” Kenshi said. “Everyone here keeps saying that it was good that I found you when I did.”

“…Sonya didn’t tell me that you were the one who saved me.” A small smirk came over Alex’s face. “You didn’t go alone did you?”

Kenshi fell silent then, which pretty much gave Alex the answer. “It’s not good to be alone in a strange place like this…I sure learned my lesson after this…whatever happened to me…”

“I’m used to doing things alone,” Kenshi said. “I’ve only been close with very few people throughout my life. All those people died before I even went blind.” He then smirked a bit. “It’s a good thing that you didn’t know me then…I was one egotistical bastard. You could say that becoming blind turned me a bit humble.”

For a moment, Alex wasn’t sure why Kenshi mentioned that to begin with. Then it came to her…she remembered him telling her that he had been on his own until he joined Special Forces. Now she understood why he rescued her alone…he didn’t want to wait around only to lose yet another close friend.


Main Palace

It had been a few hours since Sagat lost his match in the Underground Lair to an old man named Song. Even with his loss, Sagat trained himself on the palace grounds. It was beginning to get late so there were less people outside. To Sagat, the less people around, the little chance of any sort of distraction.

However, before he could finish up his warm ups, his thoughts of knowing that he would not be distracted would come too soon as his former pupil Adon showed up, appearing from behind one of the statues. At first, Adon didn’t seem to notice him, but once he turned his head towards his former master, he stopped in his tracks, staring at him for a moment before approaching him.

Sagat stopped his warm ups and looked down at Adon. The two of them stared at each other before Adon spoke. “Why do you bother training?” he asked. “After all, you have lost your sense of honor.”

Sagat narrowed his single eye at him. “Petty things, even revenge, shouldn’t stop one from training.”

Revenge…a small word, yet it meant so much to the former Muay Thai champion. That included the fact that Adon was going out for his own revenge against the man who left scars on his face.

“It’s not too late to go back on your words Adon,” Sagat said with a small hint of concern.

Adon grunted a bit. “Nothing will stop me from going back on my word! Besides, I plan to challenge Havik to a fight with the next few days-”

“You’re a fool!” Sagat cut in. “You’re not ready to face a fighter like Havik! You are a good warrior, but what you have not realized is that you have-”

“Can it!” Adon demanded. “Sometimes I wonder why I even approach you! From this point on, you are to no longer get involved with my affairs!” With that, Adon left and began heading towards the palace leaving Sagat bewildered.

As Adon left, Sagat noticed two shadows not too far from him, a male and a female. After a moment, he immediately recognized the male…Ryu! That alone made Sagat forget all about his previous encounter with Adon.

So,’ Sagat thought. ‘You are finally in my presence…

But then, Sagat almost forgot about the female who was with him. He shifted his eye to her and was quite surprised to see who the girl was.

Julia Chang…

Sagat then remembered the last time he saw Julia…

Phoenix, Arizona, Nearly A Month Ago…

It was two in the morning when Sagat approached the apartment that belonged to Julia. Wearing a pair of black slacks and a heavy hooded black sweater (with the hood over his head), Sagat was able to jimmy the lock to the apartment. Then quietly, he walked into the apartment.

The living room was in the back of the apartment and it was there that he found Julia sleeping peacefully at her desk. No matter where she was sleeping, Sagat planned to wake her up.

Before he was able to touch her shoulder, he noticed an envelope with her name on it just next to her. Curiosity got the best of him as he picked up the card. It was unopened, most likely delivered to her recently. He recognized the handwriting on the envelope and realized that she was invited to the Blood Tournament.

This gave Sagat an idea.

He found a piece of paper and a pen and wrote a brief letter to Julia before attaching it to the envelope with a paper clip. Once he completed that, he left her apartment, locking the door before stepping out…

The flashback ended as Sagat continued to look over at Julia and Ryu. Since the both of them were hanging out together, now wasn’t the best time to approach either one of them.

Seems that you have come here to find out the truth,’ Sagat thought about Julia. ‘The next time I see you, I will complete my last mission during my quest to atone for my sins from Shadowlaw…soon, you will know the truth about you mother, Michele Chang.

To Chapter Forty-Four

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