"Two Sides, One Coin"

He is the fight. He is the dragon. He is power. Stretching his massive arms out as if to test the streams of cold air streaming with a ghostly wail through the trees, he tensed, his skin bulging with the energy contained within and wanting for sweet release. The veins carrying fire across the pale peach of his flesh pulsated as his heart strengthened it's beat and heralded the flow of energy addicting beyond any narcotic.

He is the fight.

His ivory karate gi, somehow unstained by mountain living and deprived in brutal fashion of the sleeves, stretched about his form, his dragon-branded headband painted a bloody crimson twisted and curled in the wind, his toes pushed into the soft, embracing grass as he steadied his form and practiced his superior balance. Long strands of chestnut mahogany flittered upon his brow, and fell behind his broad, heaving shoulders. His eyes lit with fiery charcoal were hidden beneath a thick brow arched angrily upwards and furrowed with a pain prevalent upon his features. It possessed him, this unearthly power, and delivered a warmth both false and deceivingly embracing.

He is the fight.

He gritted his teeth, sneering back his lips like a wounded animal preparing for the kill. The trees presented a target too enticing to ignore, and the wind threatened to thrust him from this hill overlooking the barren grasslands of Japan. The energy erupted from his skin and arced a sapphire blue between his hands, swelling warningly with the pounding of his heart, an echo overpowering the wind's howl and thrust from his ribcage like a cannon. "Ha-do-ken." he growled softly as if a mantra parroted in mechanical drone and consuming his only train of thought, the shotokan master building upon the growing ball of cerulean fire between his hands.

He is the fight.

"HA-DO-KEN!!!" He held within his hands a thunderstorm and unleashed an eruption of lightning and thunder and a maelstrom of emotion, allowing into freedom a massive ball of fire streaked by a flaming trail from his flesh. He filled his lungs and screamed into the air, his energy carving through the still, placid atmosphere and aimed for the trees beyond. The precious wood was splintered, almost atomized in the lapping flames of his chi, leaving a smoldering path through the dense forest for almost a mile beyond.

He is the fight.

He screamed, and gave free rein to his anger, leveling the entire forest with a wall of fire colored an azure mist, as a tempest grew and enveloped his form, stirring up any debris unlucky to be caught in the chaotic path. His power expanded and burned away the grass as the now visible sphere of swirling energy swelled uncontrollably to encompass the entire area, setting aflame the ground and meadow and sky. He bellowed and snarled and nearly frothed at the mouth in the hollow, echoing emptiness that was his soul.

He is the fight.

He pondered deeply the words spoken so viciously in a soft, womanly tone he had once cherished like the spring cherry blossoms he had just rid himself of in a holocaustic pyre, and steadied the chi exuded as if flammable gasoline fumes from each and every pore. The energy died down, and he stood silently, surrounded by the ring of scorched earth, charred flora and tree stumps, and labored his rasped breaths, knowing his tears were burning two distinct trails down his flesh, hot, and acidic to the touch.

For he is bereft of a soul, devoid of a heart, he is nothing now, but the fight.

"I lived for nothing but the fight," Ryu Hoshi whispered cryptically, "and I am dying."

****************************************

She is vengeance. She is the tigress. She is strength. And she found herself in a uniform that meant nothing now, her anger once driving her soul for revenge now sated, her spirit mournful for days past. Easier days, full, where the spirit of youth and a young, enduring love filled her heart and allowed her a life worth living, instead of this empty shell carrying on her duties day after pain-filled day within corridors unending and excruciatingly prescribed.

She is vengeance.

Her skills were at their ultimate peak, her body toned, perfected beyond excellent, beyond extraordinary, and yet nothing came of such preparation except the empty feeling when seeing Bison's corpse lying crumpled at his killer's feet. She had trained and readied for that confrontation against the man who had stolen her father's life, and had that chance cruelly taken by the man who had bested her in his own quest. She had been so angry, so filled with hatred, she had failed to realize he had saved her from the consuming emptiness that came with revenge, and the death that would have tolled the cost of her very soul, and in doing so, granted her another chance to live.

She is vengeance.

She hit in repetitive motion with legs toned and shaped with feminine muscle, shooting from beneath her slitted uniform skirt and pummeling against the thick, bound leather of the gym's punching bag, exerting the thick, sterling chains holding this bag to their limits. With each thrust, she grunted, with every swift, razor-sharp kick, she snorted forcefully through clenched teeth.

She is vengeance.

Her words were so bitter to him in the aftermath, and malicious, she had defeated him with just the fire in her heated, spiteful breath. And thus, her lasting sight of him before turning and leaving the Shadowlaw compound were the cracks at last splayed across his wintry exterior fashioned so damnably stubborn, and the hurt so apparent in his eyes. "Lightning kick!!" she screamed, and jumped and snapped both the chains holding the bag with the final kick, nearly shredding the apparatus in two distinct halves with the sheer power radiated from her lithe, and seemingly harmless form.

She is vengeance.

Within the flurry of foam, the remnants of the bag creating a synthetic snowfall to descend languidly upon the floor, she collapsed to the ground and huddled, tearing away the white coverings to her braided hair and allowing the long strands loose, tumbling lightly and vaporously aloft her shoulders. She shivered, and drew blood in her clenched fists, the long manicured nails tearing into the flesh of her palms.

She is vengeance.

The darkness called to her, the barrenness surrounded her, the blood seeped, crawled and ironically warmed her as it trickled down the entire length of her arms, and spotted the floor beneath into a growing slick. She choked her sobs, and shut her eyes to attempt to stop the tears from falling, from marring her creamy, porcelain skin. Her last reserves drained, she broke down and cried, and allowed her tears to stain and dilute the small pool of crimson reflecting her

She is bereft of fire, devoid of passion, she is nothing now but an empty husk left in the wake of unfulfilled vengeance.

"I lived for nothing but vengeance," Chun Li Xiang whispered solemnly, "and I am alone."

****************************************

The great cat licked contentedly at its wide paws, the orange fur shimmering a cloaked, striped satin in the open firelight. The tattooed mystic washed a hand through the covering of sunset red blurring into frosted white, and smiled beneath the thick, cratered skin browned and mottled slightly by the sun-stricken land of his ancestry. "They fight for so much, and yet receive so little from their chosen paths." he whispered to the beast curled around him, the Bengal tiger stirring and heeding his master's words with flicked, attentive ears. "I wonder if they truly realize their fates were intertwined from the very beginning."

He could feel them both, and their pain, the ability he possessed and revered now heeding a sensation of agony so much so he wished he could dull his great senses to the psychic backwash of their private torment. They were uniquely attuned, especially these three of a small group of fighters, the best of the world and drawn together by circumstance, one tournament, but made comrades by destruction and death.

"Betrayed love, unquestionable lust, cold vengeance, the addiction and sheer adrenaline rush of the fight. They are slaves to their chosen paths, and cannot readily be swayed." The thin, dark-skinned man settled into the trailing cloak, and tasted the dry heat suspended within the air. "But perhaps, my friend," he continued, stroking the cat when it growled low in being neglected by his soothing hand, "they will soon realize their paths are undeniably and intimately joined. One day, they will return to each other, and ease their tortured souls."

Dhalsim nodded, blinked and stroked his chin thoughtfully, stirring the fire and rousing a flurry of sparks to dance and frolic into the night sky. "One day..."