One Tainted Secret
Chapter Nine: The Suspension of Disbelief
Five years ago, when Jin was fourteen, he lived on the forest island of Yakushima. One of his fond memories, before his mother disappeared, was watching her sprinkle the left over rice, customarily after a meal, nearby the bird bath. This was an invitation for all animals: squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, possums, and sometimes deers. Nature's surprises never bewildered his mother, not even the bears that sniffed about their trash cans, calm and curious. Pure in spirit, she walked around them fearlessly, one time, even patting one on the back.
Jun was tall for a Japanese woman, her posture and poise like a ballerina's. Her walk was never hurried, she seemed to glide quietly from place to place and her face always carried a remarkable serenity. Her son thought her perfect and liked to refer to her as an angel. His eyes were filled with love and awe for his mother, but Jun's unequivocal insight felt otherwise.
She was aware her son was becoming a man. It took her breath away, nearly every manner in her son's gait to his huge appetite to the way he scratched his head when confused, gave her strong flashbacks of Kazuya Mishima.
Something else Jin inherited from his father was beginning to transition the same way his body was transitioning from boy to man.
Jun feared the devil gene with a trembling heart, sometimes feeling unsafe around her own son. Jin had been a wonderful child, always a happy baby, but once he began to show signs of his father she feared for his future.
One beautiful sunny afternoon Jin walked up behind his mother, while she spread rice for the birds, and told her about his reoccurring dream.
"I saw you as a child," he said. "And I took care of you."
He reached for his mother's hand and held her wrist up, kissing it tenderly. When his lips lingered Jun gingerly pulled her hand away. She patted his cheek motherly. Jin had the same look of adoration in his eyes, as did Kazuya when he courted her possessively and relentlessly.
She was well-aware of the fact that Jin has never been out of her sight. She protected him too much and raised him in complete isolation from the corrupt world. It was inevitable that his imagination would wonder beyond her teachings and, eventually, his body would yearn for the opposite sex. Jun realized her ways of upbringing had a consequential impact on her son: he became mother-fixated.
"Is this the same girl you spoke of yesterday?" Jun proposed a different interpretation of the dream. "You said she came from a far away place?"
"Yes, she's not part of our world," he said. "She has no parents, just like you."
"So she's an orphan?" Jun indulged.
"I think so," Jin's eyes were glowing with a thought.
"There will be many girls, Jin. But remember: there is only one love."
Jin did not understand what his mother meant. All that he was sure of was that there is only one orphan girl in his dreams.
Today, Xiao's class was reminded of the myth of the devil and angel. The story ended with the birth of their hybrid child. Half demon, half human, the myth did not reveal the poignant life of this boy child. It did not reveal the many pains and troubles the angel had to endure while transitioning to the vehement realities of human life.
The myth, however, required the suspension of disbelief. Otherwise, how else could we believe the hyperbolic contents of fairy tales and fantasy and folklore?
"Give away your disbelief," the professor said. "It is a story told through metaphors and symbols. It has all kinds of meanings."
"What happened to the baby?" a student asked without raising his hand.
"The story ends there," answered his fellow student.
"Or it could be a beginning of another story," argued another.
"See," the professor proved. "All kinds of meanings."
"Like the angel's a hooch falling for the devil?" a disrespectful male student asked.
"Don't go for bad boys?" asked a girl student.
The bell rang. For this the professor was grateful.
"Okay everybody: I have your papers! Great interpretations on the devil, I'm pleased."
Every body stormed for their things, borrowed pencils were returned to their rightful owner, notes exchanged are stuffed into pockets and purses, desks scooted around as students squeezed past each other in the crammed aisle.
"Okay class: remember your rough draft due in two weeks! At least a ten page short story on your take on the angel's baby story. Continue on where the myth left off!"
Ling Xiao was still seated in her desk while the class shuffled about preparing to leave. She had been watching Audrey out the window kissing her fiery-haired lover.
Audrey appeared her happiest, her entire body was leaned against his, she used the same moves, Xiao noticed, she did with Jin. Remarked the signature wide-mouth laugh, the delicate hand flip that signaled disbelief. The young lovers were obvious with their appreciation of each others' bodies, Audrey's white shirt nearly came unbuttoned while her breast was being groped.
Xiao wondered if her happiness with Jin matched Audrey's happiness with her lover.
The professor walked by and held Xiao's devil interpretation essay out before her, there was a pleasant smile on her face.
"You are convincing, Ling. Nice empathy for the dark horse. You raised some good points. Still, I'm afraid the devil is worth no pity."
Audrey actually came to lunch today. There was a little disappointment on her face, but she was nonetheless ecstatic to share stories of her love life with the group. The oversexed girls reaped coitus ideas from Audrey's experiences, they blushed and giggled uncontrollably, which put her at the center of attention.
The more Xiao listened the less she was convinced what Audrey had with her foreign lover was real. Pricilla felt the same, not interested in some random boy stranger, there was much eye rolling while listening to Audrey's fables. Jokingly, she quoted their professor from this morning:
"The suspension of disbelief is required," Pricilla whispered to Xiao.
"What?" Audrey asked sharply, having been interrupted.
"Ling and I have a story to work on," Pricilla said plainly.
"Oh," Audrey turned her attention to herself again, going on about her Korean fellow named Hwoarang, a name nobody could pronounce.
"What's the story for?" Miharu, also bored of Audrey, shifted her attention.
"It's a writing class," said Xiao.
"You write?" Miharu was interested.
"We have to write our version of the myth," Pricilla explained.
"The devil and angel myth."
Miharu looked confused.
"It's roughly about the Mishimas," Xiao said. "There was a scandal way back about Kazyua's love affair with a woman named Jun Kazama."
"Jun Kazama?" Miharu stated the obvious.
Xiao blinked. She had an idea. That idea walked into the cafeteria the moment she thought of him.
Jin stopped at the entrance of the cafeteria and unzipped his hoodie, the cap fell back and away from his face. Xiao felt his eyes scan the room for her and, when he saw she was sitting at the table with girls he probably slept with, he walked to the opposite end of the cafeteria and sat at the empty table near the windows. Two boys followed behind him, an entourage from the soccer team.
She slumped down in her seat, she felt his disappointment somehow.
The other day he questioned her intentions for hanging out with the Plague. Why do you hang out with those girls? That's what they're called, the Plague. Especially Audrey, he mentioned, she's totally two-face and talks like her life is fabulous when really, he also mentioned, she is an empty person.
An empty person sure had many things to talk about, Xiao derided. It damaged her thoughts ruminating about how Jin knew all this information about Audrey. Invented visions of their intimacy popped in front of her randomly - of Jin touching Audrey's face the way he did hers - and it left her with a copious amount of self-sorrow.
Closing her eyes, Xiaoyu shook off the uncertainty of jealously.
"Xiao, he's looking at you," said Miharu.
She opened her eyes, she was still holding her sandwich with both hands, it looked like she was praying before a meal.
"He's still looking."
"Probably at you guys," Xiao dismissed it.
"Um, no," Pricilla said. "I flashed my bra and he didn't flinch."
Audrey noticed, too. "Why is he looking at you like that?"
Xiao bit into her sandwich, unable to respond.
Jin was certainly intense with his gaze. He only broke it when one of his soccer teammates followed his eyes to the Plague's table and let out a long hoot and laughed, turned to high five another teammate and slapped Jin on the back.
Xiao couldn't read their lips to what they were saying, their uncontrollable laughter embarrassed her.
"You should go see what they're laughing about, Ling," Audrey sneered. It sounded more of a threat than a confident boost.
"I'm going to the library," Xiao polished off her sandwich, her cheeks stuffed like a chipmunk. Hastily she gathered her things, pushed everything into her backpack as she chewed.
"You know he's twenty, right," Audrey sparked.
Xiao swallowed. "Twenty years old?" And still in high school?
Audrey twirled her hair. "I know a lot more about him than you do, deary."
She decided to walk home after school. She didn't tell Jin. It was only her and Panda walking the long way back to the mansion.
Xiao needed to clear her mind, she vented aloud during their way, saying anything that came to her mind, most of it was about ideas for her story and about Jin's age. Panda, of course, was a locked vault, all of her mistress' secrets and feelings for Jin was always safe.
"Jin is the son of the devil," Xiao said out loud.
Panda stopped, her head tilted slightly to one side, confused.
"I'm using him in my story, Panda," she explained. "I got this idea: there's a grave site in the Mishima forest somewhere, I followed Jin once. It's Jun Kazama's grave, but I don't think she's buried there. Jin thinks she's dead, but maybe she's missing."
Panda sat her big body down on the ground, nothing Xiao said made sense.
"It's just a story, Panda, I'm just talking."
The echoing roar of a motorcycle came up from behind them. It raced by them so close that Panda, out of protective instinct, picked up Xiao and held her over her head.
High in the air, Xiao saw the motorcyclist was without a helmet: it was Audrey's red-haired fellow. He made a doughnut at the end of the street and u-turned, smoke screamed from the back tire, then came roaring back toward them.
Xiao was still held in the air by Panda after Hwoarang quieted the engine. He slid the goggles off his head and wore it around his neck like a necklace. He swept his long hair back and asked a firm question:
"You from Mishima High?" his voice was thick with Korean accent.
Afraid that her panties were showing, Xiao tried to adjust her skirt to cover her bare thighs. Panda refused to put her down so she leaned her head on one hand and rested the other on her hip, looking like a reclining Buddha statue.
"The uniform gives it away, doesn't it," jested Xiao, trying to appear normal.
Up close, Hwoarang had a mean face, as if he thought badly of everyone he came across. Xiao was sure he would never smile except for evil reasons.
"Why is big beast holding you like that?" Hwoarang asked, distracted.
"Because you could be a bad boy," she answered frankly.
He shook away a thought in his head and asked the question he came to ask, "Do you know a Jin Kazama?"
"He's a bad boy, too."
Hwoarang stared at her with his beady eyes. His face was tense, as if he was going to snatch her out of Panda's hands.
"Let me give you a ride," he offered. "If you can get down from there."
Xiao politely declined, "Audrey wouldn't like it."
Flummoxed, Hwoarang bursted out laughing. "You friends with Audrey?"
"She knows more about Jin Kazama than I do."
"I know," he smirked, turning the engine on. "She's useless info."
Gunning the motorbike once, he roared away, road dust rose behind his departure.
At the mansion, Panda had her special quarters, near the dojo, where she slept and trained and fed until she was called to accompany and guard Xiaoyu.
Tired from the long walk home, Xiao clung to Panda's back during the last mile. Panda, on all fours, made it to the dojo entrance and sat down heavily. Xiao slid off sleepily, yawning, she caught sight of someone practicing in the dojo.
Jin's body was brawny and pumped from hours of training. From far away his body glistened, sweaty, and seemed to glow. The practice dummy, on which he rehearsed his moves, was nearly dismembered.
Breathing deeply, sweat dripping from his face, he walked in circles around the dummy as he adjusted his red gauntlets. Belligerently, he swung a punch that cleanly knocked off the dummy's head. It rolled to the entrance of the dojo, where Xiao stood watching him. He noticed her still in school uniform.
"Where were you?" he asked, his tension abated at the sight of her.
"Panda and I walked home," she said, stepping into the steamy dojo.
Sensing a palpable magnetism between the two, Panda went off to her quarters.
"I'm swamped at school, got a big writing assignment, had to clear my head," Xiao said, picking up the dummy's head.
Jin tore off his gauntlets and stretched his fingers. "Run into anybody on the way home?" he asked without looking up.
Xiao opened her mouth to answer but her thoughts began to race. How did he know?
"Were you meeting him?" Jin's eyes pierced through her.
"It's Audrey's boyfriend," she said.
"I know who he is."
"He saw the uniform and stopped to ask if I went to Mishima High."
"Is that so?"
Xiao sucked in breath and held it, stung. She didn't like the way he was talking to her, as if she was a liar.
"His name is Hwoarang and he asked about you, actually. He also offered to give me a ride home."
Jin's face was silently calculating, his eyes staring at her the same way he did during lunch. It finally registered to Xiao that he was trying to read her. He was possessive of her the same way she had jealous feelings for him. This was real, what they shared, the crazy emotions that came from a passionate bond.
"Come here," his face softened. He reached for her hand and held her palm up, grazed her tiny wrist with his thumb.
Xiao watched him bring her wrist up to his lips, kissed it affectionately, lingering, he breathed in the delicate smell of her skin.
"Jin," her breath taken away.
"You're mine, do you understand?" his eyes were captivating, all his soul shining through.
"I'll take care of you."
At dinner, Heihachi did not touch any of the dishes set before him. Not the sirloin, or the filet, not even the miso soup, which he normally guzzled straight from the bowl. He refused all entrees without complaint or reason and drank only black tea. His eyes seemed edgy and alert, as if an insect buzzed around him.
What was eating the old man? His steel gray hair had not been styled its usual. It did not stand straight up on both sides of his head but hung down like crinkled frayed strings, covering his face like a transparent veil. It made him look haggard and sullen and very bald.
Xiao had trouble looking at him, felt it was impolite to look at someone who was in such bad shape.
This got her wondering, while she quietly slurped her udon like spaghetti, how old was the old man. If he was feeling sick. If he needed a doctor. Heihachi usually came to dinner with a large appetite and lots of ordering about, keeping the menu beside him open, looking at it frequently to change a dish or substitute a side. It seemed normal, how quick and stealthily he ate, food vanishing without Xiaoyu hearing much use of utensils or chewing, as if he picked things up and swallowed them whole.
Thoughts to herself, she hummed a pleasant tune heard off the television or the radio or from Lucy. Lost in her world of too much happiness, she couldn't remember.
"You've been in a cave," Heihachi said dourly, in a low barely audible voice, not directly at anybody.
Ling Xiao did not hear, delighting in a tune.
Jin was chewing loudly and did not hear. His steak bloody on his plate the way he likes, fork and knife held delicately in his big bandaged hands. Like all the men in his family, there was a large appetite involved with every meal. His mind was simply on the pleasure of eating.
Xiao wasn't sure she heard correctly. A sinister whisper, a snarl something-like:
"Come out, devil."
Her humming stopped and, without moving her head, she rolled her eyes to the corner peripheral for a glimpse at the old man.
Heihachi had his head bent downward, as if channeling a spirit from the steam of his tea. The top of the old man's head was very bald, Xiao noted again, staring at the shiny surface daringly for a reflection.
Jin's head slumped down as well, as if his head died on his shoulders, his body immobile. The fork and knife, released from his hands, clattered loudly on the table like he had fallen asleep. Small purple colors rose from his fists, nebulous.
This alarmed Xiao to the brink of screaming, but she was held in her chair as if someone embraced her to stay seated. She felt the whole weight of some unseen presence pressing down on her.
"Don't let him in," she heard his voice, but barely. It didn't come from across the table but like a whisper next to her ear, like the whispers they shared in bed. "Don't react," Jin implored.
How to not react? Xiao's thoughts panicked as her eyes shifted from grandpa to grandson, disrupt with qualm. They both seemed to have fallen into a short nap, Jin's face near planting itself on top his steak.
She raised her spoon and swirled it in her miso clockwise, her attention on the floating pieces of green onion and squared chunks of tofu. She resumed humming, a nervous made-up tune. Unbeknownst her, she began to sing aloud the nonsense sentences.
"Cats and rabbits," a little she sang. "Would reside in fancy little houses. And be dressed in shoes and hats and trousers."
Heihachi moved first, inhaling himself deeply into a straight posture, the hairs on his head reaching for the ceiling like two arms stretching to catch a flying ball. His regal appearance came back to him suddenly, as if slapped back into his face.
Jin, too, awakened, his eyes wide and full of oxygen, shimmery with gold flecks. He cleared his throat, took a sip of water and excused himself. He left with an expression Xiao could not read. The steak, half eaten, was taken away by a diligent servant.
Quiet, the old man watched Xiaoyu as he gingerly sipped his tea, he was hiding an amusement. His old eyes crinkled in a way Xiao had seen only once, the day she attacked his yacht he had thrown his head back in mirth, when he rewarded her for her extraordinary feat.
Why had he adopted her? He could have easily tossed money at her and she would have her amusement park under construction. She wouldn't be sitting here now, sitting at his right hand every dinner, mindlessly chopping tofu with the edge of her spoon.
"Xiao Ling," he spoke to her earnestly for the first time. "What did you learn at school today?"
"We're studying the myth, sir," she put the spoon down and faced him politely.
Heihachi's face seem to have relaxed, the wrinkles smoothed out, his eyes watched her keenly when he asked her to explain.
Xiao recited the short story with as much clarity her memory could provide. Heihachi watched her mouth move but did not listen. His mind was rapidly putting together a puzzle.
His grandson and this orphan girl, to his knowledge, shared the dojo together, did a school project together. However he thought about it they were always in each other's path, crossing ways. They were not of blood relation or a relative through marriage, yet there was an unspoken bond created between them that was natural and mutual.
He had felt it, their affinity, when he tried to tempt the devil out of his grandson. Ever since Jin mysteriously appeared in his dojo two years ago, showed up out of the blue as a skinny and malnourished teenager claiming to be Kazuya Mishima's son, Heihachi had had a strong inkling that the devil gene might be hereditary.
"Doing another project with Jin?" Heihachi tried to worm his way into their world.
"No, I only have one class with him," said Xiao, unsuspecting of his sudden interest to speak with her.
"Like two peas in a pod, never apart."
Xiao smiled a little, "We always have dinner with you, sir, you always see us together."
A subtle grin looked dangerous at the corner of Heihachi's lips. She was a clever girl, her mind was quick to dispel an accusing question or report.
"Are you prepared for the tournament?" he asked.
A stressful headache rushed to her head, "I'm a little swamped with school, I should make a better schedule for practicing."
"The tournament begins on Jin's nineteenth birthday."
What an astonishment, Xiao was hugely relieved to hear this. He is turning nineteen. Audrey had blatantly lied to her, but why?
"Something I said surprised you?" Heihachi pried.
"No, sir," her eyes averted from the old man's absorbed stare. "May I be excused?"
He excused her and watched her graceful gait as she left. The servant carried away the remaining plates with the same diligence, the chair tucked underneath the table again.
Little Miss Ling, who sat obediently until she was dismissed, was not just extraordinary. Heihachi pieced it together. His trip to China had been a choice on a whim, a chance decision.
She was destined in some way, Heihachi was realizing now, for his grandson. Just as Jun had been for his son. A natural balance, it seems, of devil and angel.