Disclaimer: Tekken and Tekken characters are the property of Namco Limited. This is nonprofit fan fiction.

Warnings: Violence, angst, offensive language, one-shot OCs, and slight AU.

Hwoarang's ending in Tekken 5: Flames dancing, Devil Jin approaching, and the end-of-the-world music playing... In this, the daredevil grin of Hwoarang's has turned to a fiendish glower, and his mind is bent on scorching animus. The story spans the year between Tekken 5 and 6, with a focus on select events.

The Meaning of Pain

by Salysha

"Your eyes are full of hate, 41. That's good. Hate keeps a man alive. It gives him strength."
Quintus Arrius to Judah Ben-Hur
"Ben-Hur" (1959)

Part 1 of 4: Animus

The bar was sweltering, full of sweat and inexistent ventilation. Despite the remote location in one forgotten town and nondescript bar in the province of North Gyeongsang, South Korea, the premises were filled to the brim with spectators and participants from all corners of the world. It seemed, in fact, that Westerners had taken over the bar tonight, while the native Korean representation culminated to the slender young man who stood by and awaited his turn with a mixture of frown and indifference.

The youth's opponent, a freefighter with an impressive stature and an even more impressive track record, had taken one look at him and, along with the rest of his company, turned his attention to the ongoing fight.

The fight ended in a knockout: a real one, not a technical knockout. The crowd burst in cheers and a couple of hesitant boos as the unconscious fighter was dragged to recover in the back. Someone moved to sweep the floor hastily of any spilled fluids and garbage that the audience had managed to squeeze in through the cage holes as the umpire announced the fight results.

The audience drowned the voice of his microphone. They weren't interested in a match already finished; they were out for fresh blood. When some was on the menu, the crowd quieted.

"Jeff Knight, from the United States of America. Freestyle. Knight stands the champion for ten weeks straight, and looks like he'll stay with us a long time. Challenging: Who-oh-rang," the man pronounced the letters carefully, "native to Korea and hungry for victory. Practicer of taekwondo. Dark horse, so, gentlemen, place your bets carefully tonight."

It was almost comical, having such civil announcements, which mimicked those given in the more distinguished games. Honor among thieves and illegal fighters.

While someone cleaned the last of the trash, the fighters entered the cage and took positions on the opposing sides. It was the first time that Knight even bothered to look at his opponent properly. Slim build—extremely slim, compared to Knight's 6'2'' stature and weight of 185 pounds. Dressed in form-fitting denims and an elbow-length shirt, adjusting his gauntlets.

"Pretty boy. You any good?"

Hwoarang looked through the man.

"Don't speak English? Or just not talking?"

No response.

Knight snorted. This was what he had traveled to this godforsaken dump for? Korea had proven a disappointment so far, even if the karateka he had faced two weeks back had been a tough one. Then again, that one hadn't been native to this country; he had been some Japanese guy, looking for a purpose across the sea, just as Knight was. These Korean fighters—when would they learn that a sparring sport wasn't any good in the real arena?

Looked like this one needed a lesson. Frowning at him like there was no tomorrow, vying for the fight Knight was going to win.

One of Knight's travel companions, drunk to the gills, gripped the cage. "Pretty boy," he slurred. "Why so serious?"

Knight's posse broke in malicious laughter, while Knight snorted. Hwoarang paid no heed to the speaker, which fueled the man further.

"Hey, ya— yan-foe! I'm talkin' to you."

This time around, Hwoarang jerked his head at Knight. His eyes narrowed, as his fingers balled in a fist. His whole body tensed.

Knight frowned at the speaker. Dipshit. Any more Koreans present to hear, and they'd been lynched. "Shut your mouth," he growled. To his opponent, Knight gave an apologetic shrug as if to say, "Sorry, not my doing," but Hwoarang was ignoring him again, tuned in on the bloodthirsty chant of the crowd. Feeding off it.

The indifference ceased with a slam as the bell rang. Knight had expected a situation assessment the fighters around here seemed to prefer even in the ring, a bow even, but instead, a rock-hard kick to his rib cage slammed him against the wall. He was on his feet in no time, with a sudden realization that this might be the match he had been looking for.

It had seemed like the match the sanguinary audience had wanted, until they had realized this was for real and their cries had died out. By the time the fight came to an end, the silence was deathly. They had been taken aback by the sheer brutality before their eyes.

The little movements registered, down to Hwoarang clenching his fists. The spectators were unaware how the fresh cuts on his knuckles chafed against the protective gloves; instead, they were anxiously looking for signs that he had been affected by the match, but to their disturbance, they hardly found any. Knight, slammed into a corner of the cage, gave up on rising and battled unconsciousness. Hwoarang stood a distance away, staring at him emotionlessly, and the audience stared at Hwoarang. They were unsure if he was going to finish it, and even less sure they wanted to see the conclusion anymore.

The silence broke when Hwoarang made his final move. An almost imperceptible twitch traveled his jawbone, distorting his handsome features momentarily, and then...

He bowed.

"The winner is Hwoarang!"

The announcement brought the bar down to Earth, and the trance broke. Wild shouts filled the barroom again, and cheers boomed at the victor.

Hwoarang did not pay his respects to the audience: he gathered his belongings and headed for the exit. On his way, he stopped abruptly when he reached Knight's travel companion, in drunken shock over Knight's rout. When the man realized who stood beside him, his heart sank.

The few people who weren't after the bookmaker realized the broiling situation and made haste to back off, involuntarily forming ring around the two men.

Hwoarang stared at the cowering man intently, and the onlookers keyed in on the wordless exchange could have sworn he was going to make the man pay. Yet, when the tension got almost unbearable, he snorted and left without a word. Knight's companion, though not a timid man by trait, was left amazed in his wake, with only the foreign population and his beating heart for company.

Hwoarang was almost out of the door when someone called out to him.


The man behind the event, an enterpriser in many trades that preferred moonshine rather than the light of sun, had stayed out of limelight and surfaced only now. "Your winnings," he said, and offered an envelope to Hwoarang with both hands.

"Keep it, Nam Young-kwan."

"This is yours," Nam repeated, and held out the envelope again. Nothing in his manner suggested he found the younger man's address discourteous.

"I will not have it. Goodnight."

Nam watched as Hwoarang bowed shortly and left the tumult of the bar behind. He verged on being malcontented at the abrupt departure, but then decided otherwise. If the winner didn't claim, it was more profit for him. It was poor business to argue over the quirks of others that worked in his advantage, even if it was peculiar not to claim one's rightful prize. It wasn't his worry, Nam decided, and retreated to his privacy once again.

Soon after Hwoarang bolted out, another Korean exited quietly. Unlike the other spectators, the elder man had no winnings to claim or losses to contest. He had stayed in the back, observing silently, and few had taken notice of him. The man looked at the receding rear light of the motorcycle thoughtfully before setting on his way and vanishing into the night just as swiftly.

To Be Continued...

The word that the drunken man was trying to utter was ianfu, comfort woman.
"Why so serious?" was Joker's taunt in The Dark Knight (2008).
The spelling Hwarang emulates the native Korean pronunciation of the name. The original names in the story do not refer to real persons.

Many thanks to Gypsie (Gypsie Rose) for the proofreading!

Published Oct 29, 2008.