I knew this day would come. To be honest, I expected it to get here soon.

I just didn't think… well I didn't think it'd hit me this hard.

It's funny… we just met this guy. Skinny, somewhat creepy with those blank eyes of his and the paint and all that other stuff. The skulls especially, when I heard they used to belong to some kids. I don't know why anyone would keep something like that. If you think that's weird, you should see him stretch, the positions he can take. I still hurt from some of them, really.

It's been what, a month since we got here? Feels like a week, time's been passing so quickly. But in that month, I've come to know Dhalsim pretty well. I know I shouldn't be so attached to him, but it happened anyway. He taught us so much in such a short time, but I feel like we're just barely scratching the surface. Not to mention he is a wonderful man.

All good things though, must end… just wish this didn't have to.

-Excerpt from the diary of Karin Kanzuki, recent entry

Kanto the Slayer presents

A Street Fighter Fanfiction

Beyond Alpha

Why they were out on the beach at three in the morning, Karin would never understand. The wind sliced and bit at them, making its best attempt to strip the flesh from their bones. If it weren't for the jackets and sweat pants they both wore, the click-clack of teeth as bodies shook to warm themselves would've been more evident.

They'd brought their beach towels with them, something Karin had almost forgot in the midst of bleary half-sleep. Of course, if she were more accurate, Sakura brought them. Hell, she'd brought everything with them besides their luggage, still at the hotel and packed to leave. Two bottles of water, their training uniforms and wrappings, a battery-powered lantern and Sakura's usual cloth bandana.

Karin glanced over at Sakura, the electric lantern casting a harsh shadow over her features. "I never see you without that thing wrapped around your head. Don't you want to get rid of it now that you're actually living out your dream?"

Sakura sat there, silent for a few moments. Karin almost moved to prod her when an answer finally came ten seconds late, almost too quiet to really hear. "I'm not living my dream yet."

Karin's mouth closed, for she'd opened it to ask if the brunette was all right.

Sakura took in a breath of the sharp, cold sea air and sighed. "Training with Ryu was all I wanted to do when I saw him fight for the first time. I spent countless hours and late nights in my back yard trying to teach myself what he'd probably learned from some grand master. If I could just meet him and prove I at least had the talent, maybe he'd accept me."

Karin nodded, the only motion she'd made to prod Sakura onward.

"When that first burst of ki came out of my hands, I was a little freaked out. I'd just been practicing the motions, going through what I thought the move was supposed to be. There was just something about it that was always off except for that one day when I got it right." Sakura chuckled, brushed her right hand through her hair. "I looked back and there was a… feel to it. Something that I'd never thought to really add. So I put every ounce of that feeling I could into the motion, and just like that, my first real Hadouken."

Karin offered a tender smile, her head tilted slightly to the right. "You never did tell me the full details of that. So that's when you decided to get that bandana?"

Sakura shook her head. "No, Ryu actually gave this to me." She grinned, turning her head toward Karin. "We didn't fight that first time. I was just passing through and ran into him. I couldn't even breathe when I figured out he was right there in front of me!" They both giggled before she continued onward. "I tripped all over my words, couldn't get my head straight, but he seemed to understand. Then I couldn't speak at all when he left without his headband and I had it in my hands."

Karin's smile turned wistful. "Reminds me of the time I met Ken Masters, though that was after you'd made your brush with fame. I'd been following his career for a while and told him about the thing between you and me. What he told me made me really think…" Karin's head tilted down just a bit as she recited the words. "It's good to have a rival, not to prove you're better or to lord it over them, but to have someone to push you onward, to become better as a result."

Sakura grinned. "Inspiration!"

Karin nodded. "Exactly. You're my inspiration, Sakura."

"Well I don't know how to feel about that. I've been following someone else around for the longest time that I never really thought about how others saw me." Sakura's cheeks flushed pink at the thought. "I don't even teach you anything, you've got your own style that you made yourself. If anyone should be inspired, it's me."

Karin chuckled. "You teach me more than you think, you know." She glanced toward the horizon just in time to notice the sky was beginning to shift into the first shades of indigo that came with the dawn. "Hey, I think it's starting."

Sakura faced the ocean again and lay back on her towel. "Well then, I guess we should sit back and enjoy it."

Silence reigned for a while before Karin turned toward the brunette again. "So… what exactly is your dream, if not to train with Ryu?"

Sakura didn't respond immediately, simply watching the waves roll in. It took her a shorter time to respond than in the beginning, though. "I don't want to be him anymore. It's a lot bigger than that now." She smiled. "I want to surpass him."

Ryu stepped onto the beach in sweat pants and a gray hoodie, a pair of trainers making imprints in the sand as he made his way toward the last known location of his two wards. Dhalsim floated next to him, legs folded in lotus posture, blank eyes staring forward. "Worry not about the girls. Let them do as they will. I am more concerned about you…"

Ryu continued to walk without looking in the yoga master's direction. "And what is it that you feel the need to be concerned about?"

"The darkness within you."

Ryu fell silent, unable to say anything.

Dhalsim glanced in his direction. "You do understand that there is no way to tame it, to control it. It is the natural impulse of mankind to destroy. Why do you not remove this impulse from your soul? Why do you continue to struggle?"

The warrior maintained his silence, yet it said enough for him.

"I see… you don't want to. You enjoy the torture."

Ryu stopped in his tracks. "It's not that…" He fixed his gaze on the beach, listening to the wind for a few brief moments, watching it stir the grains of sand. "…It's just that I don't know how. My master taught me many things during his life time, but he never taught me how to control the Satsui no Hadou." He looked up at Dhalsim with a heavy sigh. "It's such a part of me now that I don't know if I can even get rid of it."

Dhalsim turned away from him, facing forward yet again. "And he is gone."

Ryu nodded. "Dead."

Dhalsim nodded. "Yes, dead. But he has left you an opportunity."

Ryu stared, one of his brows rising in confusion. "Do you… know something?"

There was silence for several hanging moments. Then the yoga master spoke again. "There is a power that exceeds death and violence. You have seen it for yourself, within me. But it is something I cannot teach you."

Ryu huffed. "You already told me that once. I'm asking if…"

"…Allow me to finish." Dhalsim floated his way around until he faced Ryu. "Your master… he knew this power as well. We may call it different names, but it shares the same traits. The ability to act without attachment to thought or emotion, to access the full power within while maintaining a state of peace. It can only be accessed by those truly willing to release their anger, hate, and aggression."

Ryu looked back down at the sand again. "But fighting is aggression. There's no way out of it."

Dhalsim shook his head again. "One can do battle without the intent to kill. To be aggressive is to begin the fight, not to cease it. Surely, you know this, but you have not truly embraced it. The creature hunting you, for he is no longer a man, cannot be defeated by anything less than one who has removed themselves from their aggression."

Ryu raised his head to look back up at the bald guru. "So what you're saying is… I can do this?"

Dhalsim did not speak for a time before shaking his head. "It takes much to attain and much more to maintain. As such, you may very well spend the rest of your life accessing such a state. What I meant by opportunity… was the women traveling with you." He began to move again, and Ryu followed him. "He taught you so that you could teach others. The one you call Sakura has limitless potential and imagination. The one named Karin has determination and focus. They can learn in months what would take you years to accomplish."

Ryu nodded. "I know. They really are something special, especially Karin. Her fighting style isn't something she learned, it's something she invented. I can see that determination in her eyes every time she spars with Sakura, too. What can I teach her that she doesn't know already?"

Dhalsim smiled without turning to face Ryu. "What indeed? For now, watch them and continue to instruct. Perhaps you will find the answer to your own question."

In the distance, they saw the two girls in question kneeling on a pair of beach towels in Zen position. From the sand on their clothes, they were here since early morning, before sunrise. Ryu smiled as he took the sight of them in. "Maybe I will, Dhalsim…" He called out to them that it was time to leave, and they stood from their meditation with a bow toward Dhalsim.

The guru said nothing in response, simply smiled… and vanished in a haze of light.

Sakura blinked as even his aura vanished from her radar. "How does he do that?"

Ryu chuckled. "Some things are best left to the imagination. Come on, we have a flight to catch."

Sakura peered out the window as the jet took off, trying to get a view of the beach they'd been training on for the last month. When she couldn't see the ground anymore, she closed the shade and turned toward Karin. "So… we're back to running away again."

Karin nodded. "Yeah. But now we can run away without our ki being tracked all that easily. Speaking of that, are you ready?"

Sakura grinned. "Let's do this!"

No one would notice what happened next besides Ryu, who sat in a seat across the aisle. The air around them cooled as their personal auras retreated. A tingle ran along their skin as all their valves shut closed, but only for the briefest of moments. This time it took three minutes, and when it was over the energy went to work immediately, taking the past few weeks of wear and tear away one inch at a time.

Sakura sighed and leaned back in her seat. "I just hope this is working. I don't want to have been there for nothing."

Karin smiled. "Of course it's working. I can feel it, after all. Can't you?"

"Well I can feel it, but that's not what I was talking about." Sakura closed her eyes, settling her head against the backrest. "If he can still trace us after all this, we're as good as dead, or worse." She looked over toward Karin for a moment, her eyes half-lidded with fatigue. "Promise me you'll stop me if I'm ever like that?"

The CEO of Kanzuki Enterprises sat silent for a few moments, the weight of the request hanging over her head like the anvil of a thundercloud. Then she nodded and closed her eyes as well.

"I promise… but it won't come to that. You're stronger than he is. I know it."

A pair of red eyes snapped open as something deep within him silenced. His eyes narrowed as he lifted his head, attempting to see beyond the darkness of the cave for something leagues away. After a few moments, a smile spread across his face and he rose from lotus posture.

"Interesting… so they have learned how to hide at last."

An otherworldly aura, deep crimson in color, flared to life, and the light of pure, unchecked violence pierced the darkness. His black gi was whole again, as if everything on him had healed, not just his body. The demon tilted his head to the right, and a pop from the base of his neck bounced off the walls. "If you have advanced that far in such a short amount of time, you are no mere child. You are finally ready to learn the truth about your fists."

His aura flared, brighter, hotter, as the thought of what she could accomplish raced through his mind. "Now it truly begins." He took his first steps since his battle in Hong Kong, looking as if he hadn't even fought. Part of him recalled the woman that faced him without fear, fully prepared to die. He chuckled. "I do hope you aren't dead yet, Inspector. I would like to see where that courage of yours comes from…"

Then the light winked out, for he had vanished in a blink.

Her brown eyes glanced over at the many flower bouquets sitting near her hospital bed. A smile graced the detective's face as she went over each card that came with the gifts in her mind. Despite what she'd heard them say behind her back on a daily basis, she'd expected this kind of response. It still touched her, and she'd have to give the whole precinct something in return.

She looked over at the blond man, built like a tank and face hewn from granite, arms folded across his chest and eyes closed. "So… the bastard that did this to you is still out there somewhere."

Chun-Li sighed. "I know what you're thinking, Major, and I advise you not to do it."

Guile opened his eyes, giving her a flat stare. "I can't just let this pass. If what you told me is true, he almost sucked the life right out of you without even touching you. That means he could give less of a shit whether you lived or died, and I don't take that lightly."

"And I'm saying that it's almost impossible, even for someone like you, to even find him in the first place." Her eyes narrowed just enough, lips tightening into a thin line. "He'd kill you before you were even able to sense where he was. The only reason I'm talking to you right now is because Ryu was fast enough to pull me out."

Guile held his stare for a few moments, and then turned away. "So what do you want me to do? Just sit here and do nothing while you recover?"

Chun-Li smiled. "Not exactly. You do remember our… mutual friend, right?"

The Major rolled his eyes. "Yeah… red-headed bitch. She kept everything from us until the end. Don't tell me we're actually going to ask for the CIA to help us track two Japanese women accompanying a guy that's almost as hard to hunt down as he is to beat up."

The smile turned to a smirk. "She has her uses, Guile. Besides, I'm sure she knows more about Sakura Kasugano than you do."

He huffed. "I know she's Ryu's one-girl cheering section. Wants to be just like him."

"And that is more possible than you think."

He glanced toward her from the corner of his eyes. "What do you mean?"

Chun-Li paused, her eyes tilted down at the sheets as she searched for a proper explanation. "There are certain people in the world who have the potential to accomplish great things, especially in the world of professional fighting. Some of them take years to unlock it, while others seem to be born with it." She looked up at him for a brief moment. "Sakura is of the second type. She learns intuitively, in months, what most would take years to achieve. Give her two years and she'll be the best in the world, while others would take six."

Guile shrugged. "Yeah, I've heard of that… prodigies who understand things earlier than most. What's that got to do with this?"

Chun-Li's face took on a serious cast. "The problem… is she's this way regardless of what she learns. The one that did this to me? He's looking for her."

One of the airman's brows rose, his features perplexed… then his eyes widened. "He's going to teach her how to do what he does…"

The Interpol detective folded her arms. "If he does, and she manages to survive the training, she'll be a whirlwind of destruction. The slightest provocation will be all it takes for her to fight, and she won't be able to stop. She won't want to." Chun-Li tilted her head to the right. "You can already guess what I'm asking you to do."

Guile nodded. "Find him. Stop him via any means necessary." He growled. "And you want me to get her to help."

"At least until I'm back at a hundred percent."

He tugged at his leather flight jacket. "Don't you have anyone else that could do this?"

Chun-Li shook her head, giving him a longsuffering gaze. "Not with the resources and technology she has access to. Besides, no one else I would call on would be as readily available. You'll have to grit your teeth and bear it for just a little while."

Guile sighed again and fished his aviator shades from the right pocket of his jeans. "Only for you, Chun-Li. Only for you." He slid the shades on, pushed on the bridge with one of the fingers on his right hand for good measure, and turned to leave. "But get better soon. I can't stand her attitude for long."

The hospital room was silent yet again, and Chun-Li looked out the window to her right. "Stay safe, Sakura… wherever you are."

Round 39: Forward, Once Again

WHOO! That's what I'm talking about! We finally get moving, and this chapter is ovar! But seriously, I'd like to thank everyone for sticking to this story when it's been so long since I updated. Hopefully someone will notice this on their e-mail and leave a review. Then again, I could care less right now, because it's done!

Yes, I'm writing shorter chapters. I tend to put things out faster and think clearer if my word count shrinks. Yay for efficiency.

With that said, tune in next time, when Sakura and company head toward Thailand! You already know what's goin' down next, so get ready for it.

This is your Slayer.