When dealing with a tiger, it is necessary to remember that they're just big versions of house cats. They're lazy, attention-seeking, and affectionate. They don't move unless they want to. With that said, when a tiger does move, they are swift and decisive, every action performed with maximum efficiency.
Tigers fear nothing, for they are the top of the food chain, the kings of the jungle.
I'm going to Thailand to fight one such tiger; to see if I can measure up. Last time, he won. I expect this time to be no different, but at least it'll last longer. Who knows? I might even surprise him.
The bad news is, while I go hunting for a tiger, someone else is hunting for me. I need to make sure he doesn't find me, because if he does... I don't know what I'm going to do.
— From the diary of Sakura Kasugano, recent entry
Kanto the Slayer presents
A Street Fighter Fanfiction
"He's done, isn't he."
Karin glanced to her right. "No he's not. He's still on his feet—the fight's not over yet." She turned back toward the ring again as the two fighters circled each other. "It'd better not be. I have money riding on this!"
"Oh, I know that, and I know you might be about to lose it." Sakura leaned forward and channeled her senses toward the battle. She pointed to the man wearing red. "If he's gonna pull something out of his ass, it has to be right now." She settled back in her seat. "Otherwise, this is going to be very one-sided."
Karin huffed and folded her arms. "How do you know he's the one I'm betting on?"
Sakura grinned. "Because you always go for the long odds." Her eyes narrowed as the grin faded. The tension in the air rose, and so did the hairs on the back of her neck. "Okay, here we go."
The two men made feints and jabs at each other, testing defenses and looking for weak points. The fighter wearing red made for a front kick, only for the one in black to hop backwards just before the attack landed. Black fighter rushed in, tried to exploit the lack of balance, but the man in the red trunks planted his right glove in his face.
Then, he went to town.
Karin leaned forward as one blow after another rained on the man wearing black, her hands balled into fists. The roar of the crowd made her ears ring, partly because she shouted along with them. "Come on, finish it! Take him down!"
Sakura's eyes never changed, her mouth in a hard line. After a few moments, she shut her eyes, her head tilted down.
Karin turned toward her, pointing at the ring. "You're missing it! He's gonna win!"
"I'm sure he's putting up a good fight. But keep watching."
Karin turned toward the fight again. Her eyes widened as the fighter in black slipped a punch, caught the red-clad boxer in a clinch, and threw an elbow at the right side of his head. She winced as the blow did its job, and before long the crowd chanted along with the knees the black fighter threw. "No... no, no, no!"
"Sit down, Karin." Sakura smiled, eyes still closed. "This just wasn't his night."
Karin flopped into her seat after one knee made the fighter in red fold in on himself. She groaned as the referee stopped the fight, her right hand covering her eyes. "Wonderful... Remind me to make my bets based on what you tell me next time."
Sakura shook her head. "Can't do that. It's all based on how they use their energy." Her eyes opened and she scanned the crowd. "Now where is he...?"
Karin huffed, giving the collar of her pantsuit a tug. "Why don't you just try to sense him with your ki? If he's here, it's gotta be strong enough to detect." She swept her arm over the stadium. "Look at them, they're all on their feet, going crazy! How are you going to pick him out just by sight?"
Sakura smiled, her eyes zeroing in on one section of the arena. "Because he'll be the only one that doesn't react."
Karin peered toward the direction of Sakura's gaze. She blinked at the sight of a man in a white suit with black pinstripes, his six-foot frame filling out the clothing. Even here, she could see the clean-shaven head, the calculating gaze from his one good eye, his right hand stroking his chin.
"You see now?" Sakura turned toward Karin. "Knew we'd find him here."
"Yeah. But how are we going to talk to him?" Karin met her gaze. "He's the world champion! Even if you do know him, he's not going to be easy to access."
Sakura turned back toward the man with a nod. "Don't worry about that. He already knows we're here."
Karin looked in his direction again and gasped.
Sagat leveled his stare in their direction, his face made of granite. Then, he smiled, just for a brief moment, before getting to his feet and smoothing out the wrinkles in his suit. The King of Muay Thai walked away from his seat, making his way toward one of the exits.
Sakura stood, stretching her arms above her head. "Time to get what we came here for. Let's go."
Five hours earlier
Ryu set his bags onto one of the beds of the hotel room Karin had set up for them with a sigh. "We really should be moving on. People are waiting for us out west, and I don't see what you could learn here." He turned toward Sakura. "I mean, you already use some of this style, right? A refresher is always good, but there's nothing you could use here."
Sakura sat atop the bed to the right of her master's, legs folded beneath her and head tilted to the right. "Isn't there? This is fight city, Ryu!" She grinned, the expression just about splitting her face in two. "There's a gym on every corner, and every one of them pumps out champions. One of them has to know where Sagat hangs out!" She pouted at him. "Besides, there might not be anything to learn, but there's plenty to work on. I'm nowhere near where I should be."
"Well, we'll have to work on it later." Karin stepped out from the bathroom wearing a white silk robe. "I'm tired from our little flight here, and I need sleep. Bet you do too, Sakura."
"No, I don't!" Sakura stretched her arms over her head. "Mmmmm, I feel like I could keep going all night if I wanted to. That little trick Dhalsim taught us did the job." She folded her arms behind her head, elbows high. "Why would I want to sleep when I feel this good?"
Karin rolled her eyes and sat next to Sakura. "Well your body might not need rest, but your mind will definitely require it. People who have gone without sleep are known to see things, have mood swings, all sorts of nasty effects." She chuckled. "Wouldn't want you to lose your focus in the middle of your big fight."
"If it happens." Ryu folded his arms over his chest. "Honestly, I doubt he has time to see us. There could be any number of things going on that we don't know about." He glanced at Sakura. "There's no guarantee that he'll accept your challenge."
Sakura's eyes narrowed as she formed her hands into fists. "He'd accept yours, though."
Ryu went silent, and Karin blinked.
"He'd drop everything to fight a worthy opponent, one that he figured was worth his time and effort. And so far, he thinks you're the only one worth facing to the death." Sakura smirked. "Being here is not pointless. If I can get him to see that I've grown up, he might put me on the same scale. The last time I fought him, he said I wasn't ready to face him at his full strength."
Ryu closed his eyes. "And now?"
Sakura bowed her head, her eyes turning away. "I expect to lose again." Before anyone could respond, she pressed on. "Height, weight, reach, strength... he's got every advantage over me that anyone could ever have." Sakura lifted her head, brows in a slight frown and eyes alert. "But I'll do it anyway, and I'm going to earn enough of his respect for it to mean something."
Karin chuckled. "What if you're wrong? What if you actually beat him this time?"
Sakura grinned. "Wouldn't that be something? To beat the King of Muay Thai!" She shook her head. "It's not in the cards, though. But what a fight it's gonna be, huh?" She stood from the bed and moved toward her shoes. "Gotta find him first though. I'm doing that right now, with or without you."
Karin huffed. "Wait a minute!" She headed for the suitcases and rummaged through her clothing. "You're not going out there alone, that's for sure." She sighed. "Besides, I've never met Sagat before. If we have any chance of seeing him, I want to be there." Karin marched toward the bathroom with a pair of jeans and a light blue halter top. "You're going to wait right there at that door, and stay there until I tell you to. Clear?"
Sakura scratched the back of her head with a chuckle. "Clear!"
Ryu shook his head, a smile on his face instead of the stoic, hard line from earlier. "Makes you wonder who's leading this trek of ours." He met Sakura's gaze for the first time in the past two minutes. "I'm going to stay here. This one's all you."
Sakura nodded. "It'll be alright. The worst he'll say is—"
Karin shook her head. "Told you he wouldn't."
Sakura schooled her face into a mask of impassivity. She hadn't even asked anything, and that's the first thing she got? She banished the thought from her mind's eye, but the brief disturbance in her ki was enough of a mark for her disappointment. "Why not?"
Sagat stood in the lukewarm air, his suit neatly pressed and shoes polished to a sheen. Even so, his imposing frame made his refusal of the challenge absolute, even if Sakura hadn't even asked. "I have another issue to take care of, one that's been a thorn in my side for a while now. And no, there's no need to offer your assistance."
Sakura grimaced. "You know I won't leave until you tell me what that is. If there's someone after you—"
"—Then he can take care of it," Karin cut in. "We're wasting our time here, Sakura-chan."
Sagat glanced over his right shoulder for a moment as the two women bickered. He chuckled as Sakura locked eyes with the blonde, the two of them glaring each other to death. "Walk with me. Maybe explaining it will suffice."
Sakura huffed and followed as he walked toward the parking lot.
"I will admit that I was surprised to see you tonight. Almost didn't recognize you from your aura—it was much less potent the last time we met. The calm certainty in your eyes is new as well. Soon as I looked further though, I knew it was you." Sagat gave a nod. "You've had training. I have no doubts where it came from, and I am certain he's in town with you."
Sakura's eyes widened. "You can... do that too?"
Sagat nodded again. "It's a natural thing for me, to determine how strong one is without considering how physically built they are. As you are now, you are far more interesting of an opponent than when we first fought." He went silent for a few moments. "Still, my answer is no, because of a man I once taught how to fight."
Karin closed her eyes, her arms folded. "Adon. Currently number three in the world."
Sakura glanced at Karin. "You know an awful lot for us having just touched down here." She turned toward Sagat. "And he's gunning for you, isn't he?"
Sagat stopped moving. "He has been for some time now. Thinks I've gone soft because of my new way of thinking." The bowling balls he called shoulders shook when he laughed. "He has no idea of the mistake he's making, and I intend to set him straight."
Sakura blinked. "New way of thinking?"
"Yes." Sagat calmed himself. "I've had a long time to develop it, and despite what that fool might say, it's made me even better than before. It has to do with the reason why someone like me, or you, or even your friend over there fights in the first place." He turned to face them. "For people like us, fighting should never be about winning or losing. It is a means of communication."
Karin folded her arms, her eyes trained on the warrior before her. "That's a new one for me. Unless you're talking about communicating the desire to smash your fist into someone's face, then I don't get it."
Sagat chuckled. "You will when I'm done." He glanced down at Sakura. "You've felt it, haven't you? Every time you fight someone, you come back feeling you have learned something about them."
Sakura nodded. "It's why I do it in the first place. It's my way of getting to know people, no matter how strange others may think it is."
Sagat smiled. "Then you're barely scratching the surface. During a fight, you can have an entire conversation without saying a word. The very language of the soul is best translated during combat, when all pretense vanishes away. If you're only focused on victory or defeat, then you miss the point of the battle itself. So I made it up in my mind that I can't quit the sport, because I still have a lot to say."
Karin's eyes widened. "I think I get it, at least a little."
"And I get it a lot!" Sakura grinned. "See, now I want to fight you even more!"
Sagat turned his back again. "And while I would love to oblige you, Adon is my concern at the moment. Don't go looking for him and don't challenge him to a fight. Our paths are set, and I won't let anyone interfere. Perhaps when we're done with our little chat in the ring, I'll consider your request."
He walked away with a wave over his shoulders. "If nothing else, you're invited to the match. I'll make sure to let them know you're coming."
Sakura waved back before turning toward Karin. "Sorry about earlier..."
Karin offered a shrug. "It's not like I didn't see it coming." She cleared her throat, adjusting the collar of her suit.. "But it was wrong of me to say this was a waste of time. At the very least, now we know what's going on." She glanced sidelong at Sakura. "So what do we do now?"
Sakura grinned. "D'you even have to guess?" She made her way toward their rent-a-car. "We start training! After all, we have ourselves a fight soon!"
Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, that same evening.
"Okay honey, you make sure to eat your dinner, you hear me? Yeah—you tell me how your day at school goes tomorrow, I wanna hear all about it! Look, mommy has to go to work now, she's got a long trip ahead. Okay. Love you too!"
The redhead clicked her phone closed and put it into a pocket just inside of her trench coat. She retrieved her yellow, bullet-resistant glasses from another inside fold and put them on, then clicked a panel in one of the stalks. The lenses lit up, text scrolling across her vision as she scanned the area. Seconds later, the silhouette of an incoming transport truck came into view, outlined in light blue. She walked toward it with a smirk and stopped a few feet away when the truck stopped.
"Major Guile. Glad to see you're punctual when you want to be."
The blond had a scowl on his face, as if he'd swallowed something sour. "Let's get a couple of things straight, spook. I don't like you, I don't respect you, and I damn sure don't trust you. I'm only doing this for a friend of mine, and nothing else. With that said, this operation is under my command, no matter how much leeway the CIA gives you. You follow my orders." He glowered at her. "Clear?"
She raised her hands. "I get it, you're sore over S.I.N. and Project BLECE. Look at it this way: I was deep cover—otherwise, I'd have told you everything about it."
Guile snorted. "Why do I find that hard to believe." He marched toward the C-130. "You wanna make it up to me? Give me everything about our targets. First, the ones we're supposed to be protecting from five miles off."
Special Agent Crimson Viper chuckled. "I'm surprised you realized there were two of them." She pressed on before Guile could say another word. "First one is Sakura Kasugano, age twenty-two. IQ of 115, hailing from Tokyo, Japan. You wanna know the details, or should I skip to her most recent location?"
Guile glanced over his right shoulder. "I said everything, didn't I? We need to know what she likes, what she doesn't, how often she sleeps and trains. I wanna know if she snores or not, so let's hear it."
The spy sighed. "If you say so." She cleared her throat. "She has an exceptional command of the English language, without a trace of an accent. Could pass for American-born Asian with her fashion sense. She's skilled in a martial art that involves manipulation of ki, the exact same thing S.I.N. was obsessed with. But what's even more impressive is that she awakened this talent at age sixteen, without any sort of formal training beforehand." She frowned. "It shows an exceptional force of will."
Guile nodded. "Go on."
Viper adjusted her glasses. "The reason the Agency began to track her exclusively was something a bit more recent. There was an attack on the university she studied at, by an unarmed assailant capable of destroying school property without the use of a single explosive or firearm. The man was engaged in a battle with a brown-haired male in his early forties, using the same tactics and capabilities, but in far less destructive of a manner."
The woman nodded. "The very same. The three of them in one place is no coincidence—they were both there for Sakura, and it's obvious which side each man was on. Subsequently, Ryu and his longtime associate, Ken Masters, made their escape with miss Kasugano with apologies to the university staff for the damage. Masters paid for all the mess, of course."
Guile grunted. "Stuff I already knew, besides the one part where she learned how to use ki at age sixteen. Chun-Li was right about her potential." He stopped just in front of the loading bay for the plane. "Tell me her location."
Viper pressed in the panel two more times before more text showed up on her lenses. "Air traffic control in Thailand showed her flight arriving several hours ago in Bangkok. Financial records of her associate, Karin Kanzuki, has them located at a five-star hotel just a few hours away from downtown."
"Then that's where we stay away from." He turned toward the agent. "Speaking of her associate... I've heard that last name before."
The agent smiled. "Karin Kanzuki is the current CEO of the Kanzuki Zaibatsu, one of the largest corporations in Japan. Her family could be called the direct rival to the Masters clan. She took the company over from her father in what could be called a bloodless coup of sorts, and runs it through various other individuals and agencies while she follows Sakura around." She chuckled as further bits of information showed themselves. "Seems she has a rivalry going on with our girl."
Guile gave another nod. "I think that's all I need to know about her. Now tell me about this Gouki."
Viper grimaced. "This is the part that gets hazy. We have almost no information on him besides his capabilities and birthplace. No permanent address, no family history. He only shows up where there are extremely talented martial artists, and only fights the most capable of them. A test of strength more than anything else. He is one of the world's only known users of the Surge of Killing Intent, a manifestation of the survival instincts latent in all human beings. Sometimes it shows up in those who have suffered such pain and loss that their psyches are degraded to a suicidal level."
Guile folded his arms across his chest. "Which means anyone that uses ki can have it if they're driven enough, or pissed off enough."
Viper nodded. "Which is why Sakura is in such danger from it, and Ryu has a piece of it already in him." She headed for the plane. "They're ready to take off, by the way."
Guile followed behind her. "Chances are good that he knows exactly where she is, and if he doesn't, then we can be a nice, shiny beacon for him. We need to hold his attention for long enough that he doesn't notice anything else going on but the fight."
"Thus, giving them the time to do what they have to." Viper shook her head. "It's a bad plan, even if I see the logic in it. There's a chance we could both die if he thinks we're a big enough threat."
Guile marched up the ramp. "It's a risk worth taking. That animal gets to Sakura and she won't last long against him. She'll turn into a worse monster than he'll ever be... and then the whole world is in for a rude awakening."
Round 40: King of the Jungle
I know it's been some time since I plunked down a chapter, but I think the wait's been worth it. Here goes your daily dose of awesome, straight from the source. Also, this marks the end of all subsequent Sean chapters, because I want to really get into his character when they get to the States at last. Worry not, I have plans for him... they just no longer fit into the story at this point in time.
Thanks for sticking around you guys, I appreciate it. See you next battle!
The stakes have never been higher!