"He's waking up!"
Alerting Ryu and calling her over to her side, Chun-Li watched as the purple-haired young man finally opened his violet eyes and let out a load groan. "Uuuuh…I just woke up, but I've never felt so tired in my life. Every part of my body hurts like I just did an hour's worth of boxing," the youth grumbled as he turned his head to see Chun-Li kneeling next to him. "Oh…sinjorina! What are you doing here?"
"You don't remember what happened?" Chun-Li asked with a raised eyebrow.
"I…no," the young man called Xaeraph shook his head after a pause. "I just remember that masked man in Hong Kong approaching us, and then my head started hurting before things went black. When I woke up, I'm somehow here in the rain in what looks like…," Xaeraph turned his head to see the charred exterior of Suzaku Castle. "…when I blacked out, I was in Hong Kong! How did I get to Japan!"
"…I don't sense any murderous intent emanating from him," Ryu leaned down as whispered in Chun-Li's ear. "He's telling the truth: he doesn't remember a thing."
Though the young man didn't seem very intimidating now, two hours ago he had been possessed by the murderous ghost of the dreaded Bison, returning from beyond the grave to wreak his unholy vengeance on those that led to his fall from dominance. Having slain his killer Akuma after the renegade warrior had been defeated by Ryu, Bison turned his attentions to Ryu and Chun-Li who contributed greatly to the fall of Shadaloo. Despite Bison's wrath, and his new youthful body, Chun-Li overcame the incredible odds stacked against her and not only returned Bison's soul to hell, but his rescued unwilling host from forever being trapped inside his own mind.
"Xaeraph," Chun-Li said as she took Xaeraph's arm and helped him back onto his feet. "Why did you come to Hong Kong? What business did you have there?"
"I was told to come here," Xaeraph explained as he ran his fingers through his hair and realized that he was soaking wet. "About six months ago, my parents revealed to me that they weren't my birth parents, and I became determined to see just who my real parents were. By using the money I've gained from fortune telling, I've been traveling the world since then looking for information about where I'm from. My search led me all over until I got to India, where a yogi monk told me that I should go to Hong Kong, and the answers would be made clear."
"Dhalsim," Chun-Li said.
"You know him?"
"He's a good friend of ours," Ryu added as he stepped forward. "If he told you to Hong Kong, then it was for a purpose." Putting a his hand on Xaeraph's shoulder, Ryu leaned in so that he was next to the young man's ear. "You did us a huge favor by telling Chun-Li to go to Japan and find me. If she wasn't here to support me, I probably wouldn't be standing here. Now it's my turn to do something for you…do you remember anything at all from after you blacked out?"
"…I remember having a terrible nightmare," Xaeraph said after a pause and a shudder. "This man in a cape kept telling me that I was weak and worthless, and that everything about me belonged to him. Everything after that is a blur: I just kept fighting him with everything I had while he continued to talk about how he owned me." The young man's eyes widened as those words escaped his lips. "Did something happen?"
"You were possessed by a terrible darkness that everyone must one day come to grips with," Ryu said as he backed away from Xaeraph and spoke loud enough for Chun-Li to hear. "Every living thing possessed the potential for both good and evil, and there comes a time when we must decide on a path to take. When I was a little older than you are now, I had to come to grips with this struggle and decide on whether or not I should choose the light or the darkness." Turning to the woman next to him, Ryu smiled. "Thanks to my friends, I was able to make the right decision. I'm sure that you will make the right choice, as well."
"…thank you very much for that, sir," Xaeraph said gratefully as he bowed his head. Lifting it back up to look at his surroundings, the young man let out a sigh and once again brushed back his wet hair. "Now, if it isn't too much trouble…is there any chance you could tell me how I could find a way back into civilization? I honestly have no idea how I entered the country, much less found this place."
"We'll lead you back into town after I finish one last bit of business," Ryu said as he turned around. "I need to pay my respects and-AGH!" The wandering warrior let out a shout of pain as he gripped his midsection and grit his teeth. When Chun-Li went to his side and helped him straighten himself out with a look of concern, however, Ryu smiled weakly and said, "I guess my ribs are still in pretty bad shape…heh."
"I'll help you over to where you need to be," Chun-Li said as she put Ryu's arm around her shoulder and propped him up so that he wasn't putting all of his weight on his ribcage. Turning her head to see the confused Xaeraph, Chun-Li gave the young man a simple order. "You stay here for a bit: I can only imagine that you're not in very good shape, either."
Blinking in confusion as Ryu and Chun-Li walked away, Xaeraph folded his arms only to feel a sharp pain run across his body that could only come from bruises. "Agh…it feels like someone attacked me a sledgehammer," he said out loud as he unzipped his jacket to look at the welts across his chest and abdomen. "Whatever that man was talking about with fighting a dark side…I didn't think he meant the fighting being physical!"
"Why didn't you tell him about Bison possessing him?" Chun-Li said once she and Ryu were well out of earshot from the young man that had nearly killed them. "Wouldn't it have been easier to tell him the truth?"
"It's something he'll have to discover for himself, when he's ready," Ryu replied as the two approached a freshly-covered grave lying in front of large prayer beads held up by a wooden stake. "Besides, from what Bison's rambling told us, it sounds like his awakening is triggered by the memories he implanted into that young man. I didn't want to risk that monster taking control of that poor kid again, because then we'd all be in serious trouble."
"Yeah…" Chun-Li nodded her head in agreement as Ryu pulled away from her and knelt down in front of the fresh grave. "It took everything I had just to snap him out of his trance…but at least everything turned out OK in the end. I finally managed to defeat Bison and avenge everyone he's hurt…and you finally avenged the death of your master by defeating Akuma. I just wish I had your kindness of digging a grave for him…I don't think I could bring myself to do the same if it was Bison."
"If it makes you feel any better, Chun-Li," Ryu said with a grin, "if it were Bison, I wouldn't have dug a grave for him, either." Lifting his head to look at the prayer beads acting as the grave marker of the Master of Fists, the wandering warrior's expression hardened. "I need to say something to Akuma in private, Chun-Li. Could you…um…"
"I understand, Ryu," Chun-Li folded her arms and watched Ryu close his eyes silently, making sure not to say anything and disrupt the moment between Ryu and his most powerful nemesis, Akuma.
I'm not sure what I can possibly say to you that hasn't already been said with my fists, but I think the first order of business is to thank you for being such a worthy opponent for all of these years. When I first learned that you had killed Master Gouken, I was filled with rage and anger, and that almost caused me to follow in your footsteps as a murderous fighter using the Satsui no Hadou. I would have done anything at that time to take you down and avenge my master's death.
As my journey for strength continued, however, I started seeing some of my opponents not as rivals for me to surpass, but as friends that I had to protect. I'm not arrogant enough to think that I'm the strongest fighter out there, even after defeating you, but even back then I knew that I had power that were often times greater than that of my peers. That was when I decided to completely forsake the Satsui no Hadou and become strong enough to defeat you using a fist clean of blood. I was no longer fighting just for myself, but for the ideals and morals that my friends instilled upon me on my travels.
The years passed by, and my desire for revenge against you dwindled. I don't think it was until I had that nightmare about you killing Chun-Li that I decided that I had waited long enough and that I had to defeat you. During our battle today, I felt the temptation to call upon the Satsui no Hadou to defeat you several times, as you instilled a deep fear in my heart that even my years and years of preparation couldn't overcome. The only thing that kept me from doing so was because of the friends that helped me conquer this evil part of me…and the gorgeous woman behind me that became even more than a friend.
No one deserves to die before their time: there was no reason that you couldn't have walked away from our fight and become stronger so that we could face each other again. As hard as you might find it to believe, I am sad to see you go: even if our ideals were as different as night and day, you brought out the very best of my abilities and you pushed me to exceed my limits. However, even though I've defeated you, there is still one last obstacle I have to overcome in order to truly consider myself ready to move on with my life.
Goodbye, Akuma…I can only hope that wherever you are, you've finally found a measure of peace.
Carefully standing back up and bowing his head in respect, Ryu turned back to the waiting Chun-Li and said what he had been meaning to say ever since that wonderful time in the park where they bore their souls to one another with their fists. "Chun-Li…when I came to Hong Kong to visit my friends, I didn't expect to be invited into your home. I was worried that I was intruding on the life that you had made for yourself as a teacher, and I prepared to leave as soon as I felt like I wasn't welcome anymore."
"Well, I hope I didn't give off a bad impression," Chun-Li replied with a mischievous smirk.
"You did the exact opposite," Ryu replied as he reached into his bag that he had left next to the grave while burying Akuma's body and pulled out what remained of the t-shirt that Bison had ripped off of his body. "I had been wondering where the path of the warrior was leading me up to that point, and whether or not it was time for me to put the life of the vagabond aside. When I stayed with you in Hong Kong, however…all of that doubt was put aside. Suddenly, I knew exactly where I had to be, and that was with you. That's why I decided it was time to fight Akuma: because I wanted to stay by your side in Hong Kong and move on from the world that Akuma lived in."
Steeling his nerves as to get to the point, Ryu took a deep breath and went for broke. "I love you, Chun-Li…and I'm ashamed of myself for not realizing it much sooner. And…and now that I've defeated Akuma, it's time for me to move past the life of a traveler and begin the next phase of my life as a martial artist, which is taking care of those around me and helping the next generation. Chun-Li…I want to you to be a part of that life, so that I will never have to leave your side again."
"Ryu…," Chun-Li said as she felt her heart racing, though she maintained a façade of calmness. "If I didn't know any better…I'd say you just proposed to me."
"…yeah," Ryu felt his cheeks go hot as he rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment. "I guess…I guess I did, didn't I?"
There was a long silence between the two warriors as they looked at each other expectantly. Now both of their cheeks were flushed with their hearts just about ready to burst out of their sockets. The two of them had seen so many battles in their lifetimes, and fought alongside one another countless times. Now, years after their first meeting, Ryu had asked Chun-Li to be his wife…a request that Chun-Li answered accordingly.
"You'll have to pull your weight around the household, tough guy," she said with a grin, though her cocky exterior did nothing to hide the joy she was feeling. "You might be able to scrape with pennies as a vagabond, but if I'm going to be married to you, you're going to have to find some stable work. There's nothing worse than a useless guy who lets the woman do all the work."
"Is that…a yes?"
Slowly wrapping her arms around Ryu and pulling him close, Chun-Li looked into his eyes and smiled. "Of course it's a yes, dummy. I came all the way out here to Japan because I had to see you again: I wouldn't have bothered making the trip if I didn't love you back. Now…" leaning in closer to Ryu's face, Chun-Li's voice went down into a hushed whisper, "…how about you kiss me like you should have done earlier…"
As Ryu's lips pressed against his now-fiancé's lips and started a long-overdue kiss, he felt the pain in his body melt away in favor of a warm, soothing sensation. You've come and gone from my life so many times over the years, Ryu thought as he embraced Chun-Li as the kiss deepened, and every time I told myself that someday I would see you again. This time, I'm not going to let you leave my life again. Just as you were there for me in my darkest hour, I'll be here for you…forever.
Hearing the sound of loud footsteps running towards them, the two lovers broke their kiss and turned their head to see the hulking frame of Alex running towards them. "That fight was incredible, brother," Alex said as he stopped in front of the two and turned his head to Chun-Li, "and you even got a total babe at the end of it! Is this that special someone you were telling me about earlier?"
"That's right," Ryu nodded his head as he parted the embrace and introduced Chun-Li to the blonde-haired fighter. "Chun-Li, this is Alex, the winner of the third Street Fighter tournament."
"Pleasure to meet you, ma'am," Alex said with a smile before turning around and pointing at a humvee parked several meters away, with Xaeraph already sitting inside. "I ran back into town and rented out that piece of work so I could take you to a hospital where you could get patched up. You took a real nasty beating, and it wouldn't be fair if I let my rival just walk around all banged up, brother!"
Master, Ryu thought as he followed Alex and Chun-Li to the vehicle that would lead him back into town. I know you're watching over me, and you'll continue to watch over me as I start this next part of life. I just want to tell you…thank you for keeping me on the correct path even when you couldn't be there to guide me along personally. Now I must ask you…continue watching over me as I spend the rest of my days as a married man helping the next generation of street fighters develop into true martial artists just my friends helped me.
Author's Note: It's never easy to end to these chapter stories that you've grown so attached to. At least, it's difficult for me as every single time I write the final entry to these things, I seem to be at a loss for words, as the final chapter is ALWAYS shorter than every chapter before it. I guess that isn't really a bad thing, but it's just something for me to think about and overanalyze.
The creation of a Ryu/Chun-Li story has been a long-time intention of mine since the days of my youth. I think I was about 12 or 13 when I read my first Ryu/Chun-Li story from Iwa's RCL Lair, and after that I was completely hooked on the pairing. This is my ultimate pairing in all of video games, and possibly all of fiction. This is my equivalent of Randy Savage x Elizabeth: it just seems so right to me and that's why I created this story. I want to make it seem right to you, as well.
Many years and fanfics later, I have done just that, and I think it's time to list the people to be thanked.
Iwa, for truly getting me hooked onto the idea of Ryu x Chun-Li way, way back when.
Night, for creating "Hero of Heroes," which has long been considered the pinnacle of Ryu x Chun-Li fiction. Go look for it, true believers: it predates Fanfiction(dot)net!
The-Pooper, for listening to my ideas and reminding that Ryu x Chun-Li hasn't been forgotten about. Words can't describe how grateful I am that an amazing artist such as yourself said that you wouldn't mind creating a cover for this story, and I look forward with great anticipation what you decide to deliver with.
MMRichter, for being supportive as always. I'm sure we're going to have a lot to talk about over PMs now that The Miz is WWE Champion.
FeLo Llop, for contributing with the concept for Xaeraph and allowing me to use him in this story. I hope this is enough of a head start for you to figure out what Xaeraph will do in your MUGEN project!
Capcom, for creating this wonderful, wonderful franchise that has been with me since late 1992, predating even my love for Power Rangers and sticking with me just as prominently. I waited a long time for you guys to create Street Fighter 4, and now that you have, you've reminded me of why you're so awesome.
And you, the reader, for reading this far.
Thanks for taking your time to read this story, and I'll see you next time, whenever that may be!