A/N: This update was motivated by TigerEyes2


Chapter Nine

Ryu could see his friends in suspended animation in the large greenish canisters in the odd laboratory type room on the tournament grounds. He remained hidden in the shadows, masking his presence. It was a comfort to know that the two fighting so cruelly were not in fact those whom he cared about, but clones.

He sent the signal and Jann Lee, LieFang, Brad Wong, and Tina rushed through the doors, catching the clones off guard. It provided enough time for Ayane to escape from her imprisonment in the airshafts above. It was fortunate that they'd followed after her. If they waited for her to report back her findings she might have already been dead. He pulled out his rarely used sword from the sheath across his back and took aim for the tank holding Kasumi.

He couldn't stand the sight of her attached to so many wires. As his blade began to descend, it was stopped abruptly by the visage of Kasumi herself standing outside of the tank. She was glowing an odd greenish color. She held the sharp edge of his blade in her hands without so much as flinching. Obviously, she was not human.

She shook her head and clucked her tongue at him. "Afraid I can't let you do that," she admonished pushing away his sword with incredible strength. Ryu jumped back in an acrobatic dance. This wasn't his Kasumi, she was stuck in the giant jar like some sort of sick science experiment. He could kill this imposter.

It looked like he wouldn't have the privilege of taking care of her on his own for Brad Wong showed up at that moment, dosed her in alcohol and then carelessly threw a lighter in her direction.

The Hayate look-a-like screamed in rage as he caught sight of his companion before he reared a deadly attack at Ayane. Jann Lee intercepted, he whispered over his shoulder to Ayane, something that Ryu couldn't quite hear even with his sensitive hearing. It didn't matter; he was busy at the moment anyway.

The flames seemed to extinguish themselves and standing before him was a green ethereal like figure. It would be much easier to fight this clone now that it was definitely not Kasumi. Ryu glanced across the room in time to see Jann Lee slay the Hayate clone.

It was his duty to dispose of Kasumi's clone. But first, he wanted answers. "Who is behind this?" he demanded.

She merely cocked her head at him and refused to answer.

Brad Wong seemed impatient and gripped her around the throat, possibly in an attempt to strangle her? It was hard to tell. Ryu took the opportunity to slice her form into equal halves.

Brad stood aside from the glowing green mass and frowned at Ryu. "Why'd you do that?"

Ryu ignored him and walked towards Kasumi's tank, his palm rested upon the cold glass. He then felt the glass vibrating and then the doors opened, amniotic fluid gushed out. Ryu caught Kasumi as Brad Wong and Ayane caught Hayate's form.

Ryu began to pluck off the various electrodes that were stuck to her and slipped off the face mask. She began to cough and sputter so he held her close to him, cradling her in his arms, grateful that she was warm. "Kasumi, can you hear me?" he called softly. He soothed his hand down her wet hair and pushed the strands that had adhered to her face away so that he could see her more clearly.

Her hazel eyes slowly fluttered open. "Ryu?" she asked confused and disoriented. She blinked and tried to gather her wits. "Where's Helena?" She struggled to sit up, but was unable to do so. "Hayate, is he okay?"

"He's fine," Ryu told her. He looked over her shoulder and met Ayane's gaze. She mouthed the word Helena to him. They now knew the identity of the individual working for DOATEC. Ryu slipped out of his outer layer of clothing and covered Kasumi with it. He met Brad Wong's eye and reluctantly made his request. "Watch over her for me."

The white haired Chinese drunkard nodded and gathered Kasumi to him. Ryu and Ayane left together alongside Jann Lee. LieFang and Tina had Hayate balanced between them, Tina's rhinestone jacket the only thing preserving his modesty.

"Where are they going?" LieFang asked concerned.

"To bring down DOATEC obviously," Brad Wong answered. "I suspect this will all be over within the hour."


OoO

Two Weeks Later

"So, you're actually ordained?" Ryu asked suspiciously.

"Yes, why is that so hard to believe?" Brad answered in exacerbation throwing his hands into the air. "I have many talents and one of my abilities is to legally marry the two of you if you want." He reached up and took hold of Ryu's shoulder and pulled him down just slightly so that he could whisper in the taller man's ear. "You aren't the only one that has fallen for Kasumi, but you're the only one she'll ever see. No man can compete with the shadow you have projected. Let me do this for her."

"Okay," Ryu agreed. "But it has to be done outside. In a forest. Preferably one with sakura trees."

"We can find such an environment easy enough. And between Jann Lee and Bass we can even clear it out of any bystanders. When do you want to do this?" Brad asked.

"She's out with Tina and LeiFang looking for a dress right now. I found a suit earlier in the week. So, whenever she's ready. I'd like it to happen as soon as possible," Ryu said. After seeing Kasumi in that laboratory he couldn't imagine another day without her. He'd left her side for too long during his last mission for his clan. And it was obvious that the Hayabusa clan needed him there. His time in China needed to come to an end, but he wasn't going back home without Kasumi. She'd told him what she and Hayate had discussed before their capture and if she was to return to Japan it would have to be under his name. So he was working to make that happen.

"Oh, well, with those three and their wildly different tastes that could take months," Brad said. "Will her siblings be there?"

"We had toyed with the idea of Ayane as her bridesmaid and Hayate as my groomsman, but the relationships had been strained so long that just having them as witnesses should be enough," Ryu said. "Besides, Jann Lee threw a fit when he heard I was considering having someone other than him as the bestman. And Tina wasn't about to let Ayane cheat her out of a chance to buy a new dress and stand alongside Kasumi during the event."

"That's quite some family you're marrying into," Brad said.

"Indeed. I'm looking forward to it," Ryu admitted.


OoO

Two Months Later

Ryu stood behind the bar, using his bartender rag to polish the smudges of fingerprints off his glasses. He glanced over to the corner table and frowned. He didn't like the way the patron was looking at Kasumi. The rule was, you can look, but don't touch.

But the man looked entirely too tempted to touch. Of course, he probably wouldn't have minded so much if Kasumi wasn't smiling so sweetly at him. He heard an ominous crack and looked down to see that the glass he was polishing had shattered. He grimaced slightly as he pulled out a small shard from his palm. He'd have to take care of that.

He felt the presence of two familiar souls at the front of his bar. They smiled in greeting at him and sat on the two stools directly in front of him. The man and woman stared at him with identical hazel eyes. "So, how are things?" the man asked casually, noting the broken glass with a quizzical raise of his brow.

"Fine," Ryu answered, tossing the glass shards into the trash. His eyes drifted back over towards Kasumi's table, betraying his thoughts.

"That outfit is a bit scandalous," Ayane remarked with a frown. "Why would you permit her to wear such a thing?"

"Because it brings in the customers," Brad Wong answered moving to Ryu's side and pushing the super ninja out of his way as he mixed some drinks.

"It is alright as long as they look and do not touch," Ryu said darkly. The patron's hand was stretching towards Kasumi's backside when she began to walk away. Reacting on instinct, Ryu pulled a five point Chinese star out of the folds of his shirt and flung it at the man. His shirt sleeve was pierced and pinned to the tabletop as he cried out in surprise.

Kasumi walked towards the bar, never knowing what happened to the patron behind her. She smiled brightly at her siblings as they sat across from Ryu. "What a pleasant surprise!"

Hayate gave her a warm hug and Ayane gave her a more conservative embrace. "I was curious how life would be treating you now that you didn't have to worry about the clan hunting you down." Hayate looked her up and down. "You seem to have put on some flesh; guess the running from before kept you too thin."

Ryu cleared his throat uncomfortably and looked away. He suddenly busied himself mixing drinks.

Jann Lee came up behind Hayate and clapped him on the shoulder. "You sure are pretty dense," he remarked.

"Oh?" Hayate asked.

"Yeah, it only took Jann Lee a couple of days to figure it out," Brad Wong commented as he slid a couple of bottles of beer down the bar to some patrons.

Tina appeared and wrapped her arm around Kasumi's shoulders and stood close to her, they were dressed in similarly revealing articles of clothing. "Yeah, she can't fit in her own clothes anymore so had to borrow some of mine." She called out to the kitchen behind them to Bass who was slaving away in the kitchen. "Dad, I've got a request for your cheese fries!"

Ayane's eyes immediately focused in on Kasumi's belly. "You're pregnant," she stated.

Kasumi's cheeks flushed but Tina smiled proudly. "I'll be the godmother of course," she announced cheerfully. "And I'll bring the little angel gifts from all over the world. I'll be touring soon. I joined a band. I'll be the leader singer in an all girl rock band! Be sure to come to our shows!"

"Isn't it enough I've had to listen to you and your bandmates here twice a week?" Brad complained.

Tina reached over the bar and grabbed hold of either side of Brad's face and pulled him toward her and kissed him soundly on the lips. "I expect you to be my number one groupie, handsome," she said.

Hayate's brows had drawn together dangerously close as he turned to glower at Hayabusa and ignored everyone else. "I don't suppose you'd happen to know about this, Ryu?"

"I certainly hope he does, I mean he was there when it happened and all," Brad Wong answered for him breaking out of his Tina-induced daze. "You were there, right? You didn't use some super ninja trick or something to do it did you?" he asked turning to Ryu with genuine curiosity. "It must have happened right after the wedding. Unless it happened right before..." he said trailing off.

Hayate began to growl menacingly as he leapt over the bar and tried to throttle Ryu. All he had was a swirl of green leaves in his grasp. Hayabusa had materialized on the other side of the counter, arms protectively around Kasumi.

He gave Hayate a mysterious smile before he and Kasumi vanished in a swirling mixture of green and pink leaves.

The two reappeared in their bedroom, Kasumi giggling and Ryu breathing heavily. "You know he'll find us in here in a couple of minutes," Kasumi said.

"Hm, perhaps," Ryu agreed, he pulled Kasumi close to him and kissed her deeply. He gave a contented sigh when she melted against him and he closed his eyes. "I suppose this means he'll be sending the clan after my head now."

Kasumi's arms tightened around him. "Don't worry, we can easily elude them."

"Oh? How do you propose we do that?"

Kasumi shrugged. "We could turn into mer-people and live in the sea?"

He laughed despite himself at the imagery. "Sure, whatever you say."

"I suppose we should turn in our notice though. You don't think the others will be too upset do you?" Kasumi asked.

"A bar, no matter how fun it might be, is no place to raise a child," Ryu said. They would soon be leaving for Japan. They would be living with the remainder of his Hayabusa clan. It was a much smaller clan, but he and Kasumi had every intention of increasing the clans numbers.

However, it was important that Hayate accept Kasumi's presence back in Japan. He would have to call off the assassination officially. He and Ayane weren't after her anymore, but that didn't mean the order wasn't still issued. He'd have leverage with his clan's elders because Kasumi wasn't a runaway shinobi anymore. She was now the wife of the Hayabusa clan's leader - their allied ninja clan. Or at least, Ryu was about to be leader. His father Joe had decided to pass the mantle of leadership on to him.


Edited January 26, 2014