Author's Note: Hi-ho, folks. Just thought I'd drop in with a story to tell. This story takes place a few months after 3rd Strike, and takes a lot of cues from the Nakahira mangas as well as the actual canon. Being that this is my very first full-on Street Fighter story, I look forward to seeing how this eventually turns out. Hope you enjoy!
With one final standing kick to the sternum from his opponent, the big man went down at last. Up until that point, the fighter known as only as "Han" had accumulated a twenty-man strong winning streak, accepting any challenge from those brave enough to stand up to him. He had been unceremoniously ex-communicated from his school of martial arts when he was caught extorting his classmates, but to Han, all that meant was that he was being freed to show off his skills in street fights and prove to them why they made a bad decision.
All of that came to a halt with this latest opponent. Sure, he was nothing short of "ripped" physically, his muscles chiseled as if he were hand-sculpted, but Han had almost a full foot of a height advantage, and was probably one-hundred pounds heavier. How in the world could this foreigner wearing a red headband and white gi with the sleeves torn out defeat him in such a short time? He wasn't even wearing shoes! "You…you must have cheated," Han growled as he rose up to one knee, clutching his chest and breathing heavily. "Just who the hell are you to beat me so easily!"
"I'm just a fighter passing through," the stranger said quietly, his breathing as steady and calm as if he had just gone through a brisk walk as opposed to a heated fight. With that being said, the stranger with the headband walked over to Han and stood over him, peering down at him like a vulture looking down at carrion. When the stranger started to lean down, Han instinctively turned his head away, expecting a knockout blow…but it never came. Opening his eyes, Han saw that the stranger was outstretching his gloved hand to him in friendship. "…can you stand?" he asked.
Once it became clear that the stranger had no intention of hurting him any further, Han swallowed his pride and accepted the stranger's friendly gesture, taking the hand and allowing himself back onto both of his feet. "I suppose you want my earnings now," Han grumbled as he reached over to the bucket of money that he had accumulated throughout his many street fights over the past couple of days. The big man in the nylon jacket and red martial arts pants turned away as he lifted the bucket up and held it in front of him. "Take it all. Just don't come back here…"
Clearly not done with the surprises, the stranger took Han's outstretched hand and lowered it. What in the world was wrong with this guy? Did he think himself too good for Han's money? Isn't money the driving reason of why street fights take place: to place your bets and make a decent living when you don't want to go through the mundane laws of the world? "Thank you, but I have enough for now," the stranger said with a smile before reaching into his gi and pulling out a photograph and showing it to Han. "I was wondering if you knew where I could find this person?"
It didn't even take Han a second to recognize the young lady in the photograph, her brown hair held up by two white hair buns and the all-too-familiar confident smile on her pretty face. He had several encounters with the woman in the past, mostly in his teenage days when he would shoplift from some of the stands around Hong Kong. He had become so familiar with the woman catching him and giving him a strict talking-to that he even knew her on a first-name basis. "How the hell do you know Chun-Li?" Han asked the stranger perplexedly.
"She's a very good friend of mine," the stranger replied, putting the photograph back in his pocket. "Years ago, she helped me get through a very tough phase in my life: a time when I was about to become consumed by own desire to become stronger. Sometimes I think I take for granted to just how good a friend she is." The stranger let out a single quiet chuckle, looking up into the sky as he continued. "Heh…I'm sorry. I've been doing this for so long, sometimes I can't help but get sentimental about old times."
"Well…if you want to know where you can find her," Han replied, not really knowing what the stranger was talking about. With his bald, tattooed head shining in the sun as he moved, Han pointed northward down to an open street. "She runs a martial arts school for kids about seven miles down that way. It's a big, wide-open area with a lot of traditional architecture: you can't miss it."
"A martial arts school for children?" The stranger repeated out loud before smiling. "That sounds just like her, trying to help those less fortunate than she is." With that being said, the stranger lowered his body and graced Han with a polite bow before taking his white duffel bag off the ground and slinging it over his shoulder. "Thanks for the fight, friend: maybe if we're lucky, we'll face each other again when we've both become stronger."
Thanks for the fight?, Han thought to himself as he watched the stranger walk away. Did this stranger take him on simply because of the thrill of battle? Most of the guys he knew who fought just for the sake of fighting were bad news: guys who joined gangs and enjoying hurting other people because they could. But this guy…this guy was as gentle as a lamb, and he fought Han not for his money, but for information that he could have gotten much easier. Is he some kind of adrenaline junkie? "Hey, you," Han called out, causing the stranger to stop walking away and stand in place. "What's your name, anyway?"
The stranger turned his head slightly before smiling another one of those soft, serene smiles and lifting his hand to wave goodbye. "My name is Ryu. It's a pleasure to have met you, sir…"
One o'clock…almost time for class to start, Chun-Li thought to herself as she finished securing her trademark hair-buns and tightened the sash on her equally-recognizable blue qipao. Looking out the window of her office, she saw her students filing into the court grounds of the dojo. Good to see that they're showing up early, anyway. It's always better to be early for something than to be too late.
Once her clothing was properly secured, Chun-Li turned around to the two small shrines she had set up behind her desk, each surrounded by candles. The first shrine, on her left, contained a picture of her late father. The second shrine, on her right, contained a picture of her deceased partner Charlie Nash. Kneeling down in front of them, Chun-Li clapped her hands together and closed her eyes. Father…Charlie…please help me make this another good and productive day for my students. Please…help me protect them from the evils of the world that claimed both your lives…
Though Chun-Li currently had a reputation as the strongest woman in the world, there were times when she wished she could trade in that title in exchange for the lives of those she was now praying to. Chun-Li's father, a powerful martial artist in his own right, was a police officer trailing the international crime syndicate known only as Shadaloo. Whether it was because her father wasn't careful enough to avoid being detected or was simply unaware of how much influence it had, he went missing during his investigation. In order to find her father, Chun-Li followed in his footsteps as an Interpol detective to become the new lead investigator in the Shadaloo case.
Joining her on the case was a United States Air Force officer named Charlie Nash. Like herself, Charlie was a highly-respected martial artist who could no longer stomach the corruption that Shadaloo spread, and together they did their best to expose the organization to the world. This, in turn, brought them into conflict with Shadaloo's terrifyingly powerful leader, Bison. As Chun-Li and Charlie delved deeper and deeper into the organization's influence, they discovered that Bison wouldn't settle for anything less than world conquest, and that Chun-Li's father was just one of the many, many victims he had claimed.
Unfortunately, Chun-Li's father wouldn't be the last person close to her that Bison would slay. In an act of selfless heroism, Charlie sacrificed his life to destroy the Psycho Drive: an engine that granted Bison his limitless evil power. While Charlie managed to destroy the machine, he was unable to destroy the man powering it: Bison survived and would go on to host the second Street Fighter tournament. Seeing a chance to avenge both her father and her partner, Chun-Li entered the tournament to finally take down Bison.
While she advanced remarkably far into the tournament and gain a reputation as "the Strongest Woman in the World," she opted to take on a more indirect approach to defeating Bison, raiding all of his major bases of operations and bringing Shadaloo to its knees. When it came time to finally face him in one-on-one combat, however…Chun-Li learned that someone had already beaten her to it. Bison had already been slain, though his killer was never made public information.
A few years had passed since that time, and Chun-Li had given up the life of a detective and instead start up a martial arts school for children who nothing else to look forward to. Sure, she would occasionally find herself caught up in evil plots: a couple of months prior, she was forced into action to rescue one of her young students from a madman known as Urien. Apart from the occasional hiccup such as that, however, Chun-Li believed that she had finally avenged the demise of her father and her partner. Now, she was at peace.
At least, that's what she kept telling herself.
As Chun-Li rose up from her prayer, she took a deep breath and headed out the door and onto the large courtyard of her dojo. A part of her still missed the thrills and experienced she gained from street fighting, and she wondered what happened to all of the friends she made on her quest to topple Shadaloo. While she was searching for Urien, she met a new crop of fighters, all with different reasons for fighting. However, there was one fighter that stood out most to her: one that she admired and respected above all the others, of either her generation or the next.
With all of her students lined up in rows, Chun-Li stepped up to the forefront and called out to her students. "It's good to see everyone here today," she said loud enough for everyone to hear (one of advantages of training in a courtyard of a large temple was that its walls allowed for her voice to echo). "I hope everyone is ready for another day of fitness and enlightenment!"
"Yes, ma'am," the students answered energetically.
"Then let's get started with a basic kata," Chun-Li said with a smile as she stood at attention and tucked her fists to her hips, causing the other students to do the same. "We'll get things started with Kata number 7. Let's do it!" With her palms shooting out in front of her while her foot stomped on the ground, Chun-Li let out a shout while her students mimicked her movements, collectively creating a shouting sound that echoed throughout the courtyard. "And…breathe."
What followed was a steady, flowing motion of the arms and legs, as natural and as peaceful as a gentle breeze. Taking what her father taught her about martial arts and mixing it with whatever other martial arts she could learn from others, Chun-Li had created a style of Kung Fu that combined power and impact with speed and grace. It was every bit as effective for fierce combat as it was for enhancing one's inner tranquility. While in the early parts of her fighting career, Chun-Li fought recklessly and was headstrong, she had modified her method of combat based on something that one of her closest friends she made in her journey told her:
Through strength, learn gentleness…and through gentleness, strength would prevail.
Ryu, Chun-Li thought as she returned to a standing position and exhaled deeply, ending the kata and watching her students do the same. What are you up to right now? Are you in battle, trying to soak in as much experience as you can? Are you traveling, wondering if the next battle will bring you any closer to enlightenment? Maybe you're training, thinking about all of the fighters you've met. Wherever you are, I can only hope that you're getting closer to finding the answers you're looking for…being that you helped me find mine.
"Now that we're all stretched out, let's review what I was talking about yesterday," Chun-Li said out loud, putting aside her thoughts of old friends in favor of the present. "Yesterday I said that I was going to show you the 'HazanShu:' the falling splits kick. The idea of this attack is to jump into the air, extend your leg, and have it fall down onto your opponent's head. It's an unpredictable attack that can catch your enemy off-guard if you do it right."
"But Miss Li," one of the voices of the children called out, causing Chun-Li to look out to where the voice came from. Once she identified the source of the voice, a young girl who couldn't have been older than eight, Chun-Li listened to what her student had to say. "What if you land on your head when you try the move?"
"If you listen to what I have to say, Pai, then you won't have to worry about that," the young woman explained before taking a few steps back and planting her feet. "When you attempt this move, the first thing you should do is make sure you have stable ground. If you take off and you can't spring off the ground correctly, it can mess up your balance and you could land awkwardly." After taking a sharp breath, Chun-Li leapt into the air and performed a forward flip, moving as gracefully and naturally as if the technique was something as natural to her as breathing. With both her legs shooting in opposite directings at the zenith of her height, Chun-Li came back down to Earth with her left leg fully extended, making a loud "thud" and kicking up a large cloud of dust.
Rising back to her feet, not at all bothered by the full splits she performed, Chun-Li dusted off her thickly-muscled legs and returned to attention. "While I might have made that look easy, this is a very difficult move: it took me years to perfect it and make it more efficient. Originally it was called the 'Sen'enShu,' but-…but…"
Chun-Li's voice trailed off as she looked out into the distance and saw someone standing at the entrance of the school. While it was not uncommon for her to get visitors, especially given her fame and reputation as a street fighter, the particular figure standing several meters away was someone that she most certainly did not expect to be there. "Ryu…" she said to herself quietly, causing the other students to turn around and follow her gaze.
After a moment to collect herself, Chun-Li looked back at her students. "Class, we're going to be taking a quick break. Take the next few minutes to think about what I just showed you, and don't try doing it without my supervision, OK?" Walking briskly past her students and to the entrance, Chun-Li approached the Wandering Warrior even as he did the same with her. Once they had reached each other, Chun-Li flashed a bright smile to help contain her surprise at seeing him there. "It's been a long time, Ryu! How have you been?"
"I've been just fine," Ryu returned the smile with one of his own, though his was not quite as bright as Chun-Li's. "I just flew in from Hawaii today, and I thought that I would catch up with all of my friends I have in Hong Kong." Looking past Chun-Li and to the students that were shifting about the courtyard patiently waiting for their teacher to return, Ryu's smile decreased ever so slightly. "So…are all of these students yours?"
"Yes indeed they are," Chun-Li answered with a nod, following Ryu's gaze to the students. "After Shadaloo was destroyed, I decided that I would pass on what I've learned from my travels to the next generation." Chun's smile faded as her eyes shifted to one particular student: the girl that she had rescued from Urien's clutches. "As much as we might try to deny it, there are some very bad people in this world: people who would take advantage of these children and manipulate them for their own selfish gains."
"…I heard about what you did to Urien," Ryu replied quietly as he followed Chun-Li's eyes to the girl, even as Chun-Li turned back to him in surprise. "I had the unfortunate honor of running into both him and his brother Gill during the third tournament. It makes me sick sometimes that street fighters like us are sometimes lumped into the same category as monsters like them…"
"…speaking of the third tournament," Chun-Li changed the subject, reminding herself that the life of a crime fighter was behind her, "I actually got to watch you fight: you seemed more powerful than ever! I was surprised that you didn't actually win the tournament. Did something happen?"
"I ran into someone stronger than me," Ryu said with a shrug. "I think we both know that no matter how strong we become, there's always a bigger fish." Placing his duffel bag on the ground, Ryu opened it to pull out what appeared to be a wallet, though it was obvious to Chun-Li that it was a far cry from fresh, making it obvious to her that Ryu has probably had it for years. Pulling out a small picture from the wallet, Ryu showed Chun-Li a picture of him getting forcefully slammed into the ground by a very old man in a brown sash, possibly well over one-hundred years old. "I learned a very important lesson that day: never let your guard down when someone challenges you, no matter who they may be."
"Heh…how did you get this picture?" Chun-Li said with a light chuckle, finding amusement in the shock on Ryu's face as he was slammed into the ground with one arm by what appeared to be an exhumed corpse: ominous glowing eyes and all.
"A bystander at the tournament gave it to me after I lost," Ryu said with a slightly embarrassed smile as Chun-Li returned the picture to him and he put it back in his wallet, which in turn was returned to his duffel bag. "It's weird, but it seems like every time I'm training alone, I can hear that old man's voice calling out to me, telling me to improve…"
"…hey, Ryu," Chun-Li said after a couple of seconds of silence, causing Ryu's eyes to light up and return the present. "How long do you intend on staying in Hong Kong?"
"I'm not really sure, Chun-Li. I guess I'll stay until it's time for me to move on, like always," Ryu answered truthfully, though there was some uncertainty in his voice. "It's been like that for as long as I've been a street fighter: arrive in one place, see if there's anything new I can learn, and then figure out where to go next." Noticing the slightly distant expression in Chun-Li's face, Ryu asked a question of his own. "Is something wrong, Chun-Li?"
"Hm? Oh, not really," Chun-Li said with a smile. "I was just wondering if you had a place to stay, that's all! It's so rare nowadays that I get to talk to old friends that I met during the tournaments that it would be nice for us to hang out together and catch up on old-GASP!" Realizing what she was saying, Chun-Li quickly covered her mouth as if to keep in what she was about to say. What in the world am I saying? She thought to herself as Ryu looked at her with a hint of confusion. We haven't seen each other for quite some time and I just indirectly asked him out. Talk about awkward!
"Actually, Chun…" Ryu said to break the awkward silence that came between them, "…I haven't decided where I'm going to stay. Usually when I'm in the city, I get a sleeping bag and sleep in the lobby of a hotel using the money I get from street fights…but if you have a place where I could stay for a few days, then I would really appreciate it!"
Chun-Li looked at Ryu's honest expression, completely devoid of any embarrassment or awkwardness that would normally come from being "asked out" from out nowhere, and composed herself back to the calm, level-headed woman she had become since the last time they spoke. Of course…it's Ryu. It's always business with him, she thought. "I have a spare room in the school, in case visitors like you come along. Come on, I'll show you!"
The room in question was modest to the casual eye: a chest and drawers for clothing, a bed for sleeping, and a dresser with a cheap alarm clock. For Ryu, however, it was the equivalent of a luxury suite, especially since he was so used to sleeping on the ground or the on the floor of whatever place was kind enough to take him in. "This is more than enough, Chun-Li," Ryu said as he looked around the room and planted his duffel bag down next to the door: a sign that he had found a place to stay. "I can't possibly thank you enough."
"It's no problem, Ryu," Chun-Li responded, clearly pleased with herself that the room was to Ryu's liking. "We've helped each other so much over the years that letting you stay here isn't a problem at all. Again, you don't know how good it is to have friends from the tournament come over and…and…"
Chun-Li's voice trailed off as she took a whiff of the air around her, identifying the smell as sweat. Turning her head and following the smell to the man next to her, it didn't take a detective such as herself to figure out where it originated from. "Hey, Ryu, when was the last time you took a bath?"
"Heh…about two days ago in Hawaii, before I went on the plane here," Ryu rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment before looking out to the hallway. "Chun-Li, I am sorry to be such a burden to you so soon, but is there any chance you have a place where I could wash up, as well?"
Chun-Li sighed as she took Ryu by his hand and led him down the hallway to another door that revealed a moderate-sized bathroom with a toilet, sink, mirror, bathtub and shower nozzle, complete with curtains covering the bathtub. "If you have to spend a long time in there so that you're presentable, I won't hold it against you," Chun-Li said bluntly as she shoved Ryu into the bathroom and prepared to close the door. "I need to teach class anyway: when I get back, I expect you to be able to smell nice enough to a point where you won't attract attention to yourself!"
"Heh…hehehe," Ryu started to laugh softly, causing Chun-Li to raise an eyebrow in curiosity. "When we first met years ago, right after the first tournament…you said almost the exact same thing to me when you washed my gi. I was complaining about how it was disrespectful to wash the smell of battle off of it, and you pretty much said, 'too bad!'"
"Oh yeah…heh," Chun-Li smiled as she remembered what Ryu was talking about. "That was back when I ran into you going crazy with all of that Satsui no Hadou craziness. I was so impulsive back then…"
"We both were…but you were also very brave and kind to take your time to help me get over that," Ryu smiled as he bowed his head. "Thank you for that…and for all of this, too…"
Feeling warmth in her cheeks, Chun-Li cleared her throat and pushed Ryu further into the bathroom before closing the door. "I'll check in on you after my class is finished. See you in a bit!" That Ryu, she mumbled to herself as she realized that she was blushing. He always says things that throw me off-guard. Hard to believe someone like him earns his keep in the world by fighting strangers on the street…