Chapter 9: Kara's Apartment

Kara closed her eyes as she rinsed the shampoo out of her hair. Her thoughts drifted to last night's strange dream and her earlier argument with Juri.

"Maybe I should just forget about it. She hasn't changed her stance one bit."

While Kara had no plans to throw Juri out of her apartment, she was coming around to the idea of letting the street fighter leave in a few days. Kara really wasn't in a position to insist if Juri didn't want her company.

However, last night's dream, or rather nightmare, continued to bother her. Who was the terrifying man in the red uniform? It couldn't be attributed to pure imagination. There were too many strange aspects of it that didn't make sense. The very clarity of the dream was puzzling. She remembered almost being 'killed' in the previous two dreams before last night, but there was much more that remained hazy.

But her latest nightmare remained crystal clear. Even now, Kara recalled every detail of it. From the man's ominous chuckle, his massive arm reaching for her and the terror she felt as the hand closed around her. Not to mention the other invisible force that had grabbed the back of Kara's collar and physically yanked her out of his reach. She could have sworn feeling the tug on her collar upon waking up.

She had initially chosen not to divulge her nightmare to Juri, fearing ridicule, but now reconsidered. What did she have to lose, Juri mocking her again? Kara could deal with that, especially if Juri left in a few days. If that occurred, it was very unlikely the two would cross paths again. She resolved to confront Juri on the subject later on at dinner. Perhaps the street fighter could make more sense of what had happened.

She twisted the shower nozzle, enjoying the last couple seconds of water washing over her. Then, the shower turned off and she stepped out. Kara let out a contented sigh as she dried herself off. Then, she took care of her hair, put some clothes on and headed to the kitchen. There were dishes remaining to clean and be put away.

Kara briefly checked on Juri as she passed by. Juri's head was slumped forward onto her chest. Her breathing was regular and steady.

"Juri? Juri? Huh, she's out like a light."

Several minutes later, while doing the chores, Kara heard Juri stir. Kara snorted as she turned to face her. In turn, Juri had a groggy, confused look as she watched Kara put plates away.

"You're finally awake. Wow, you were really out for a few minutes. Looks like you needed the rest."

She shrugged her shoulders when Juri didn't respond.

Then she heard Juri gasp and cry out. Kara flinched at the near scream and almost dropped a dish she was about to put away. She spun around and noticed Juri attempting to stand up, only to collapse in a heap in front of the chair.

She rushed over to Juri and helped her up. Kara could feel Juri's body trembling as she supported her. Something had clearly shaken the street fighter.

"Oh my god, are you ok?"

Juri didn't respond. Kara realized that Juri's attention was entirely focused on the ring box she held in her hand. The lid had an intricate design which Kara hadn't noticed before.

"Juri, what's wrong?"

The street fighter ignored her, still staring at the ring box lid. She swallowed and got her breathing under control. Once Juri regained her balance, she pulled her arm away from Kara, and strode to the kitchen, where she grabbed a glass from the cabinet. After filling it halfway at the sink, Juri gulped the water down, the lukewarm liquid soothing her throat. It felt as dry as the desert.

Kara stared after Juri and then followed, observing as the other chugged the water. Kara didn't know whether to scream at Juri or wait to hear an answer. The stonewalling was getting quite tiresome! Kara chose the latter option and held back, but Juri still refused to provide any details and instead proceeded to get more water. When Juri finished her second glass, Kara's patience snapped.

"Goddammit Juri, what the fuck is going on?! You damn near gave me a heart att-wait, why is your face red?"

Juri set the glass down on the surface before whirling on Kara.

"I don't know!" she shot back, shaking her head with her fists clenched at her sides. "I...don't know!. And what about my face?!"

Kara stepped closer for a better look, noting Juri's fists. At this point, she didn't care if Juri took a swing at her.

"Your face is bright red! Wait a second, are those finger marks? It looks like someone clutched the front of your face."

Kara didn't wait for an answer and turned her head to the barely visible front door around the corner of the kitchen. She then marched over to it and checked the lock. No one had entered that way. A quick inspection of the sliding glass door showed the locks in place as well.

While Juri was busy drinking her third glass of water, Kara returned to the kitchen. She crossed her arms and gritted her teeth. Enough was enough.

"Ok, I want answers. I seriously doubt you grabbed your own face. So, who or what did this?"

Juri jutted her chin and bared her teeth. She was still trying to process the strange dream and Kara's demands were distracting her. The street fighter let out a huff and walked over to the kitchen table, where she sat down.

"Well, duh, I didn't freaking grab my own face! What the hell kind of question is that? As for the rest, I don't even know how to explain. I fell asleep while you were in the shower and..."

Kara slipped into the chair across from Juri and gazed into her eyes. Juri uncharacteristically looked down and away, a slight frown forming on her lips. Kara decided to lay down her last trump card in a last-ditch effort to get Juri to open up.

"I debated all morning and afternoon to say this."

Juri looked up and watched her with an impassive face but said nothing. Kara continued.

"Last night, I had a really weird dream and before you start mocking me, just...hear me out."

Juri raised her left eyebrow, but her blank facial look persisted as she waited for Kara to resume. She assumed that the nurse was going to kick her out. It wouldn't have been surprising given how she had treated Kara over the last few days. However, a coldness formed in the pit of her stomach when Kara mentioned a dream.

"In my dream...nightmare is probably more accurate, there was this tall...big guy...not fat but built. At least I think he was. It was hard to say because he wore this...I dunno, red, military style outfit. It was definitely a uniform."

Kara paused when Juri let out a gasp, her form going ramrod straight. Kara's own eyes widened in turn as she watched the color drain from Juri's face.

"Hold on, you know who I'm talking about. Don't even try to tell me otherwise!"

Juri shrugged, folded her arms across her chest, slumped back into the chair and waited for Kara to continue.

"He had this huge grin, his eyes were totally white, I mean, no pupils at all. And he chuckled as he reached for me. It was one of the scariest sounds I've ever heard. As he was about to grab me, I was suddenly pulled backwards out of his reach. That's when I woke up."

Juri gave a small nod of acknowledgement.

"I heard you cry out last night."

So, Bison had taken a trip into both of their minds. There was obviously some connection between Kara and the strange woman named Ingrid even though Juri had no idea what that was. Did Bison know?

Juri couldn't hold off on her decision any longer. If Bison visited both of their dreams, there was no way in hell it was coincidental and it was certainly important, though the details eluded her for the time being.

A metaphorical line was now drawn in the sand and Juri was surprised at how easy it was to step across it. Juri's voice was almost a whisper as a lump formed in her throat.

"His name is Bison. He's...he's..."

"A bit of an asshole?" Kara offered, a small smile forming on her lips.

Juri had been looking down at the table but glanced up and snorted before looking back down again.

"Yeah, you could say that. That's really understating it though."

Juri then slowly divulged parts of her own dream to the expectant nurse, though she left out the details regarding her parents and much of her discussion with Ingrid. It was enough to satisfy Kara for the moment, who was hanging on Juri's every word as it was told.

"Sounds like you and this Bison guy have quite a bit of history."

Juri gave her a strange look and maintained it for several moments.

Kara swallowed as her pulse quickened. Did she overstep some boundary again?

Juri broke the stare and gazed down at the small box that she fished out of her pocket. Juri gently placed the box on the table and slid it across towards Kara.

Kara stared at the box for several moments before turning her attention to Juri. The other sat wordlessly, waiting for Kara to open it.

Kara examined the box for a couple more seconds, again noting the odd golden symbol on the lid before carefully flicking it open. Inside was an eye with a blue iris. Kara's brow furrowed. Her gaze moved from the eye to Juri.

"I don't get it. All that effort for a glass eye? You were almost killed over this."

Juri let out an exasperated sigh.

"And for good reason. It's not a glass eye. It gives my abilities a hell of a boost."

"Wait a second, you mean it's mechanical or something? That would mean it would be hooked up to...oh my god!"

Kara put her hand to her mouth, glanced down at the eye and then squinted hard to study Juri's face.

Juri returned the gaze, her expression difficult to read.

Kara gingerly closed the lid and handed the box back before swallowing hard.

"Jesus. Did it hurt? I mean, the surgery. You did have surgery, right? I don't see any scars."

Juri shrugged.

"Not really. I was in a deep meditative state while it was being installed, though I was still technically conscious. No painkillers were involved though."

Kara shuddered while shaking her head. Just thinking about the details made her blood run cold. She was no stranger to surgery, but what Juri had mentioned unnerved her a little. There was no further explanation provided by Juri. That suited Kara fine since she didn't really want to know more details, at least for the moment.

The discussion went on for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, mainly revolving around Shadaloo and street fighting. Kara carefully probed with her questions, not wanting to delve too deeply into Juri's past. Now that Juri was starting to leave her emotional shell, Kara didn't want her retreating back in. She was pretty certain there was more to Juri's dream that was left unsaid. No matter. Kara still considered this a victory of sorts since Juri had finally opened up a bit. However, there was one question that Kara was reluctant to ask. She finally found the courage to inquire during dinner.

"Ok, I've learned quite a bit today," Kara announced as she took a bite from a slice of cheese pizza. She had been so engrossed with Juri's explanations throughout the day that she didn't feel like cooking dinner. She ordered a large cheese pizza and hot wings from her favorite nearby pizzeria, the latter a hat tip to Juri's preference for hot and spicy food.

Juri dipped her pizza slice in a blot of hot sauce before taking a bite.

'Ah, much better.'

Juri found the cheese pizza a bit too safe for her tastes. In South Korea, pizza was considered to be more of a snack than an actual meal and often had a far wider array of toppings compared to Western traditions. The chicken wings were pretty decent because of the hotness, but Juri felt that they were too fatty and not crisp enough.

'Give me Korean fried chicken any day. Bite sized pieces double fried, coated in a sweet and spicy sauce...add a beer or soju and oh wow...!'

Juri was resolved to find a good Korean restaurant to show Kara what fried chicken was really like. Perhaps even introduce her to one of Juri's favorite dishes. She'd love to see the reaction on Kara's face when she took a bite of tteokbokki. Juri would make sure there was plenty of water when Kara ate the spicy sauteed vegetables, fish and rice cakes!

Juri gave a noncommittal grunt as she chewed her pizza. Kara screwed up her courage and decided to ask.

"Does this mean you're considering taking me along?"

Juri swallowed before answering. They had danced around the subject most of the afternoon and she wondered when Kara would pop the question.

"I need to know a few things about you. Why are you so hell bent on tagging along with me? Don't give me the 'Menat explanation.' Why do you want this? How committed are you to learning how to fight? What if you had to kill someone?"

Kara was about to take another bite of her pizza but set the slice down. She was no stranger to death, having witnessed it several times while she had worked at the hospital. It was never pretty. Of course, she was also present when Juri killed the five gang members the other night. That had been brutal to watch, but it also had been a question of survival.

Could she take a life? Kara was honest enough to admit uncertainty. She hadn't done anything but flee the other night when the gang captured her. If Juri hadn't shown up, Kara knew she would be dead right now. She broke out of her thoughts to find Juri watching her, expecting an answer.

"I...I don't know. Sorry, I wasn't expecting the question. I mean, if I had to, yes, I probably could. I wish my dad was still around. He was a Marine and he saw some fighting, but I never really talked to him about it. He never said much about what he did in the service. Is it easier when you've already seen people die? Does it bother you to kill someone?"

Juri didn't answer immediately. So, Kara's dad had been a soldier boy. Juri had known a few of them in her time as a street fighter. Then, an image of her own parents being executed reappeared in her mind.

"Yeah, I think it's easier. And no, not really. The ones I kill deserve it."

A distant memory appeared in Juri's mind as soon as those last worlds left her mouth. Those people caught in the middle of a virtual warzone at that indoor amusement park about six years ago; did they deserve it? What was the name of that place, Heaven's World? Yeah, that was it. It was anything but for the people trapped inside that night.

Juri had been tasked by Seth to test the new Feng Shui Engine by tracking down and eliminating a bunch of rogue S.I.N. soldiers who had chosen an amusement park, of all places, to make a stand. It was Juri's first mission with the bionic eye and to say that she was excited had been a huge understatement. Getting that eye was like a teen getting their driver's license and handed the keys to a Ferrari right after.

Less than an hour later, all the rogue thugs were dead, at the cost of the building being practically blasted down around them with numerous civilian casualties. Not that she had specifically targeted any of those people. It wasn't as if she cared about them. They simply weren't a threat to her and were ignored. But many were killed simply because those former S.I.N. idiots couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, even with the high-tech weaponry they possessed.

'Well, that wasn't entirely true...I did have a hand in some of it...'

Towards the end of the fight, she had cornered the remaining rogue soldier, who foolishly threatened to execute hostages if Juri moved closer to him. She had laughed at the ultimatum and practically dared him to. Those people were worthless, she had responded, but he was worth even less. If that guy thought taking hostages would alter her mission...

But there was something about the threat that had thrilled Juri enough to test the full power of her new eye and she created a massive energy blast wave that erupted outwards. It smashed windows, knocked down walls and flung cars about as if they were toys. It also brought down parts of the ceiling, which seriously injured a nearby mother trying to shield her child from falling glass and debris. The others nearby might have survived. To be honest, she didn't pay attention to the rest of them. They were irrelevant. Hell, the only reason why she knew about the mother was due to the kid bawling over her prone form.

Amidst all the destruction, the soldier had remained surprisingly untouched. Despite his pleas for mercy, Juri swiftly executed him.

Would Juri have done all that damage again now that she fully understood the power of the eye? Perhaps, but she more likely would have just killed the guy outright without all the fanfare. Oh well, what happened, happened. Not much she could do about it now.

At the time, the battle had brought Juri into contact with a Chinese Interpol agent, Chun Li, who had arrived right after the last soldier was finished off. Juri had started to walk away when Chun Li ordered her to halt. The former didn't really want to deal with an annoying two-bit cop no matter how cute she looked. She changed her mind when the eye noted the newcomer's ki level. Juri toyed with Chun Li for a short time, nonchalantly blocking kicks and punches before tiring of the exchange. She finally grabbed Chun Li's arm, twisted it behind her back, spun her around and pulled her close.

Juri brought her lips close to Chun Li's left ear and softly insisted that the mission was over and she needed to be left alone. Chun Li angrily accused her of destroying many innocent lives. Juri almost laughed and told her there was no such thing as innocent. Chun Li could be quite adorable at times with her naivety.

So what did that make Kara? If she was worthless, then why should she tag along? Was she innocent? She seemed a bit naive, that's for sure. It gave Juri a headache just thinking about it. For all the mocking she gave Chun Li that evening, she was about to take on a partner who was a wildcard in every sense of the word. Juri briefly considered the Interpol agent's potential reaction to her taking on, what, a... sidekick?

'I guess the joke's on me after all, eh, China doll. Maybe I'm becoming a soft-hearted sucker...'

Juri suddenly realized that Kara was talking.

"Before I met you a few days ago, I had no idea that you, Menat, this Ingrid woman or any of this existed. I didn't know there was some terrorist organization that's apparently doing so much shit in the world. Until today, I've never even heard of the word Shadaloo, much less anything else about them. How is it that they're so powerful and yet almost no one knows about them? Or maybe they know and they're too scared to talk about it!"

"Part of me wishes that I never got that flat tire! It would have been so much easier living in blissful ignorance, but I can't now. If Bison knows who and where I am... he'll just come after me again. At this point, I don't think I have a choice but to tag along. I'm not gonna lie. I'm scared shitless about what might happen or how things will turn out. What if I wind up facing that...what was his name...Vega person? Yeah, what if I ran into the claw guy again? He'd tear me to pieces!"

"I know that if you didn't show up that night, I'd be dead right now. I've never felt so helpless in my life as I did a few nights ago and I don't want to feel that way again. So yes, I want to be able to defend myself. I know it won't be easy, but I want to learn. I just don't know where to begin. That's why I want to go. I might as well take the road that seems to be leading me somewhere."

"The fact that this Bison person dropped into one of my dreams and tried to...god, I don't even know what he was planning. I mean, he tried to attack me, right? What would he want with me? I'm a nurse, not some super fighter! I can't be that important, can I? "

Juri had remained silent throughout Kara's rambling speech. She pursed her lips and exhaled through her nose. Despite Kara's conviction and apparent determination, Juri could only guess at how the nurse would fare under real pressure in the middle of a fight. But there was one aspect about Kara that Juri hadn't divulged to her yet.

"It's your ki. I'd bet money that Bison's interested in you because of that."

Kara stared at Juri.

"What, the life energy force stuff you told me about earlier? I don't understand. I don't have any special abilities or anything like that. I mean, shit, if I could do the stuff you did, I'd definitely know!"

Juri tapped the side of her head next to her left eye.

"One of the functions of my eye is reading ki levels. Yours is pretty high for some reason. It's one of the first things I noticed when I initially met you. It's not like my level or any of the fighters I know, but it's more than the average person. You have potential, no doubt about it and training you could unlock whatever it is you have. But you need to start with the fighting basics if you're going to tag along and I'm not going to go easy on you."

Kara picked up her slice of pizza, took a bite and chewed carefully. So, her ki level was above average, according to Juri. What abilities did she have? If she had some of these strange powers, then why haven't they shown up? They would have been useful the other night with that gang.

There were so many questions to ask, but she didn't know where to start. She swallowed her bite and asked what was foremost on her mind.

"Where do we start? I mean, what's next for you to do?"

Juri was in the process of pulling the outer skin off of a wing and she set it down.

"Sheesh, there's so much fat on these things! Leave the details to me. First thing to do is find a place where I can get this eye installed. I haven't thought much beyond that. Probably whatever is more fun hurting Shadaloo."

Kara nodded slowly. She had been hoping for a more concrete answer.

"Ok, next question. I'm not exactly made of money. I have a decent bit saved up, but some of that was going for my graduate degree. Hell, I might as well forget about that now, right? I hope we're not gonna have to rob banks or anything like that."

Juri smiled and purred.

"Money won't be a problem."

Her family inheritance had been pretty decent, given her upbringing. It was enough to keep Juri living fairly well while she took small enforcer jobs in the criminal underworld until she joined S.I.N. six years ago. However, Seth had seriously slipped up when he offered her a virtual blank check after her bionic eye 'test' with the rogue soldiers at the amusement park.

"I can fulfill anything else you wish for, as long as it's reasonable," he had declared.

Juri had downplayed the offer at the time, stating that she was just there to have some "fun". However, she was certainly interested in Seth's proposition. Juri had been certain that her idea of "reasonable" was much different than the S.I.N. leader's. Juri tolerated Seth because of his power, but he was always a means to an end. Sooner or later, he would likely screw up and Juri wanted to be in a position to acquire as much of S.I.N. as she could when that occurred. Having the resources of that organization would be a big help when Juri moved overtly against Shadaloo. She took measures to exploit whatever opportunity presented itself.

When Bison finally destroyed Seth at the end of the latter's fighting tournament six years ago, Juri was ready to make her move. Due to her rank within the S.I.N hierarchy, she used her position to transfer much of S.I.N's finances over to her own private account before Shadaloo could recover it. Hey, Seth had said as long as it was reasonable, right?

Unfortunately, the rest of the organization simply folded back into Shadaloo directly, so Juri had no chance to take over.

Nevertheless, Juri became a very wealthy woman. Certainly not on the level of Japanese economic consortium head Karin Kanzuki or American hotel tycoon Ken Masters, but it was more than sufficient to live very comfortably several lifetimes over. Juri didn't get her own private army, but she got the next best thing: a huge fund for her constant personal war with Shadaloo. However, she wasn't above using it to splurge on particular desires such as fashion from time to time. A girl needs to live sometimes, right?

Kara raised an eyebrow.

"Ok, I'll take your word for it. Do you have any leads on where you can plug that eye in?"

Juri tilted her head from side to side and made a wagging motion with her left hand.

"I have someone in mind, but she's probably not going to be too thrilled to see me. I texted her a couple of days ago but didn't get a response. Kinda surprising, since she's a punctual woman. I should be fully healed in a couple of days, so if she doesn't reply by then, I'll figure something else out."

The discussion continued for a while longer, with Kara asking minor questions centering on fighting while cleaning the table. When everything was put away, she decided to sprawl on the couch and watch TV. She had a lot of information to digest and wanted a little time to just 'space out' on mindless entertainment. She suspected that there wouldn't be much in the way of leisure time once Juri was fully healed. She might as well enjoy it while she could.

Juri joined her and sat in the comfy chair. She was starting to feel a little tired and wanted to consider the ways that Kara would be useful in the short term. There was also the training regimen to figure out. She had never considered taking on a partner before, much less a rookie like Kara. Whatever happened, it was unlikely to be boring. Maybe this would be a bit of fun after all.

Kara flipped through the channels but couldn't find anything worth watching. She sighed in frustration and got Juri's attention before tossing the controller to her.

"It's all yours. Maybe you'll have better luck. I don't even know why I bother with cable sometimes."

Juri shrugged and flipped channels before finally settling on a martial arts tournament on one of the sports channels. She didn't recognize any of the people involved but was still curious about their skill levels. Kara started asking questions about the fighting styles while Juri provided commentary. The latter found that she enjoyed showing off her combat knowledge, even though none of the fighters impressed her much.

The doorbell suddenly rang. Juri's head swiveled towards the door. She set the controller on the table and tensed. Kara immediately sat up, staring at the door as well. Juri spoke while her eyes remained focused on the door.

"You expecting anyone?"

Kara frowned and shook her head. It was unlikely to be any of her friends. They always called before showing up.

"No. I'll check who's at the door. Just get ready to back me up."

Juri nodded, getting up from the comfy chair and moving to the side to get some room to move. Kara walked over to the door and glanced behind her. Juri looked ready. The doorbell rang again.

Kara surveyed the scene through the peephole and saw two women standing in front of the door. One was dressed in blue jeans and sported a black leather jacket covering some sort of tight grey suit. She was scowling at the door. The other was also in blue jeans but had a grey hoodie sweater. The latter woman glanced furtively around behind her.

Kara turned back to Juri and whispered.

"I see two women. An older one, I think, with long braided red hair. The other looks like she's in her teens."

Juri considered the descriptions, then relaxed a fraction and laughed.

"They're alright. Let 'em in. I didn't think she'd show up personally."

Kara stared at Juri for a couple of moments before shrugging. She unlatched the door chain lock before pausing again to turn and give Juri a look. The street fighter rolled her eyes and motioned for Kara to continue.

Kara, flicked the door handle lock up before opening, tensed up and took a deep breath as she did so. She was having second thoughts about being so cavalier at choosing to open the door. Despite Juri's confidence, if the two women outside were hostile, Kara would initially bear the full brunt of any attack. But who would attack a home by ringing the damn doorbell before breaking in? It was too late to worry about that now. Besides, it was her apartment. The door opened and both of the females' attention were fully on Kara. She tried to look bored but was trying mightily to stop herself from shaking.

"Can I help you?"

The younger woman glanced at Kara before breaking eye contact and looking down. The red-haired woman with the long braid scowled at Kara for a moment before answering. Her response was blunt.

"Yes, I'm looking for-"

The redhead's voice broke off as she noticed the person behind Kara. Her eyes widened for a moment before narrowing.

Juri took a couple of steps forward and put her hands on her hips. She carried a smirk on her face.

"Well, hey Maya. It's been a while, hasn't it?"

Author notes: The events described in Juri's amusement park memory are from Juri OVA. I mixed a few of the stuff said between the English dub and direct Japanese translation (both of which can be viewed on Youtube).

Seth's direct quote comes from the direct Japanese translation of Juri OVA, though I made up the part where Juri transfers the money from SIN to her account. It seemed plausible, though. She's clearly not wanting for money given that she has customized clothing and a trike (motorcycle) in the SFV's A Shadow Falls storyline.