Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Street Fighter. Hah. Akira's in Street Fighter V's latest DLC. I'm a prophet; Clairvoyant, like Nostradamus. Now, put Batsu in, you cowards!

Chapter 64: A Personal Matter

Sakura had thought about Naruto a lot since he'd left, so it wasn't a surprise when she found herself in a dream with him. Granted, she hadn't had one involving just him in quite some time, and they were usually in more comfortable, intimate surroundings than an empty void when she did dream of only him, but seeing as how she hadn't seen the real deal in some time, it was still welcome.

"Holy shit, it actually worked!" Naruto said in no small measure of surprise. An odd way for a dream to start, but alright, "Heh. That creepy old hermit wasn't pulling my leg after all!"

Sakura couldn't help but smile. Even in a dream, it was nice to hear his voice again, "God, I miss you, Naruto," She said to herself.

It was odd though. She could see him, but he looked like she remembered he did before he'd left. She knew for a fact, if he had been staying in the jungle and training as hard as she expected him to be, there was no way the clothes he left with would still be in any kind of pristine condition. Also, his hair would be shaggier and more unkempt, if such a thing was possible for him.

And as she thought this, Naruto's appearance changed to coincide more with her expectations. Odd. Then again, none of this was real.

Naruto stopped marveling at his surroundings and sent a warm smile Sakura's way, "Same here. It's why I tried this astral projection thing in the first place."

Wait, what?

"Astral projection," Sakura repeated in disbelief, "So, this isn't a dream?"

"Nah, I did this," Naruto said with a big, proud grin, sounding very pleased with himself, "Oro has had me working on all kinds of stuff since he said I was starting to get Senjutsu down properly. Some of it is really weird."

"Right. Like astral projection," Sakura muttered before finding herself curious about this particular aspect of Naruto's training, "How does this even work?"

To Naruto's credit, he seemed eager to share what he'd been doing since he'd left Japan. He'd spent so much time and effort working on it, with only Oro to talk about it with, to share it with someone else was encouraging, "I can sense life, all over the place. For signatures I'm really familiar with, I can try to connect with them."

Signatures he was familiar with. Meaning, people he was close enough to that he could feel them from half a world away. The thought made Sakura's heart swell. Of course, he would be good at something that let him remain as close as he could to his loved ones. Such a thing was right on brand for Naruto.

"So, you reached out to me first?" Sakura asked, cheeks going red.

Naruto nodded, "You're the first one I could get a strong enough feel for to reach out to," Naruto told her before stopping to think, "Wait. If you thought this was a dream, are you asleep?"

Sakura's blush brightened, but for a different kind of embarrassment this time, "W-What? So, what if I am?"

Naruto squinted, wracking his brain to crunch numbers and time zones,"I'm asleep. I went to sleep at, like, 10," After a moment of silence, a smug expression slowly spread across his face, "It's a 12-hour difference between here and there. Sakura-chan, are you skipping school?"

"Give me a break! I'm tired!" Sakura exclaimed, "I've been training so hard to try and master the Satsui no Hadou and the Kyomu no Chikara!"

Her mom was supposed to wake her up whenever she slept through her alarm. She must have figured Sakura could do with the extra rest that day. Considerate, but in this case, it gave Naruto the petty high ground in this particular conversation.

"I just think it's funny that you're so gung-ho about me always going to school, and you-," He burst into laughter when Sakura lunged for him and passed harmlessly through his astral form, "Hey, I'm messing with you! You think I care about that?"

Sakura tried and failed to maintain a scowl. It was impossible to even fake being angry, "I'm so happy to hear from you... even though this is kind of weird. It really does kinda feels like I'm dreaming or something."

Naruto fully understood the sentiment, "Right? I wish I could prove this is legit."

In the end, Sakura decided that she would just go with it. After all, stranger things had happened around her, "Well, I never have the same dream twice, so if this happens again, I'll know it's real," She said, "I'm not sure you'll ever catch me sleeping at noon again though."

With that, they lingered into a silence, but it was comfortable. They had been together so long before that they didn't need to fill every moment together with idle conversation. Just one another's presence was enough for them to feel comfortable. The only thing Sakura wished was that she could actually touch him; hold his hand, give him a hug, kiss him. Something. But he was still physically thousands of miles away, and he hadn't come up with a trick to make that work.

At least not yet. If Naruto somehow did come up with such a thing, at this point she could likely say it wouldn't even surprise her that much.

"I miss you," Sakura eventually said, "I mean, we all do."

She didn't want to rush him back. Training was what it was. He would be done when he was finished, and not a moment before. She knew that. Even so, thinking about anyone waiting on him left Naruto feeling bad.

"Ah, I'm picking things up way faster than Oro thought I would," Naruto said, trying to keep a pleasant smile on his face, "He said it would take me years to learn what he's teaching me, but nope."

He was learning quick. Which meant he would have to fight the thing that was supposed to be threatening the world soon.

Sakura had been set to make Naruto promise that he would come and get her whenever he eventually set out to do battle, when she missed her chance; and not through any fault of her own.


Suddenly, Naruto was gone. Sakura was back in her room, staring at the ceiling with her friends looking down at her. Sitting up with a start, the others jumped out of the way, lest they be hit by Sakura's head.

"Finally," Karin remarked, arms crossed sternly over her chest as she looked down at her former rival, "Such a deep slumber. Have you not been getting enough rest?"

Ibuki leaned down by Sakura's bed, poking at her friend's messy bedhead, "Seriously, Sakura-chan. You were sawing all of the logs over here," When Sakura turned to stare at her, she had a momentary flashback to when Sakura assailed her in the school gym under the influence of the Satsui no Hadou, "W-What's wrong?"

Sakura took a deep breath and squared her testy dark side away. There were better reasons to get angry than missing out on quality time with her loved one. That she'd gotten any time with Naruto at all had been more than she'd counted on in his absence, "Nothing. Nothing's wrong," She said, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, "What are you guys even doing here?"

Ibuki stood and punched forcefully into her own palm, "Picking you up so we can go crush my enemies, see them driven before me, and hear the lamentation of their... menfolk?" She tilted her head before frowning to herself, "I tried to flip the quote from 'women'. Not sure it worked."

Karin ignored the kunoichi in exchange for keeping her eye on the ball, "We are to pursue Illuminati. We could use your strength. We will likely require it when push comes to shove."

"Cammy and Chun-Li are outside too," Ibuki pointed out, "Come with us. Just consider it a day off from school and your training. We'll travel a bit... beat the absolute FUCK out of the people who destroyed my village... maybe get a bite to eat on the way home. A nice girl's day out kind of trip."

A wry smile came to Sakura's face, "Let me get ready."


(With Naruto – Brazil – Isolated Mountainside)

Naruto quickly jolted conscious from his trance. It was an abrupt ending to a nice time that he had been having. The disruption had to have come from Sakura's end, because the cave Naruto used for peace and quiet to focus in remained just as tranquil as it had been moments before.

Too bad. He'd been enjoying speaking with her again; enjoyed feeling that close to her again. He would have to spend more time training on that technique. It wasn't really combat applicable, but it was more supplementary. A creature comfort, if anything.

With a sigh, Naruto stood up and ventured outside into the lush jungle. It didn't take him long to find Oro sitting by a river a distance away. The ancient hermit seemed to know he was coming before he ever got close, as he always did. This was never a surprise. What he happened to say upon Naruto's arrival, however, was.

Turning to Naruto, Oro offered as bright as smile as he could with his weathered features, "It looks like our time together is at an end, my boy."

The impact of Oro's words nearly knocked Naruto off of his feet, "Whu-?" The young man stammered, confused, "B-But you haven't even taught me any techniques. Just the Senjutsu."

Was Oro letting him leave? Just like that? Oro hadn't ever indicated to him that they were anywhere near being finished with the training.

Oro frowned at Naruto's choice of words, "'Just the Senjutsu,' he says," The old man mocked, shaking his head, "It should have taken you at least 15 years to learn what I had to teach you. You picked it up in two months. But when I say that I have nothing else to teach you, it doesn't mean you've mastered Senjutsu; just that from this point on, it's up to you to take it as far as you can."

Naruto was the type to do his best improvement with guidelines, as opposed to rigid step-by-step instruction. As long as a framework was set, he would push his limits on his own. After all, he had come as far as he had without proper teaching for years.

In any event, Senjutsu was now Naruto's to do with as he saw fit. He had earned that much.

"Use the Senjutsu I've taught you to push the limits of that within you," Oro had been distinctly aware that Naruto had always refrained from identifying just what that power was in front of Oro, even though it had been established that he already knew about it, "Your body and mind should be fully capable of bearing the strain that comes with fully exercising that power now. I would still be wary of throwing such power around - wouldn't want to destroy an entire town by accident or anything."

Right. Just because he could do something didn't mean that he should. It was a lesson Oro tended to repeat often; so much so that it stuck in Naruto's head, "...So now I can go home? Just like that?"

Oro nodded his consent, "Just like that."

Naruto stared at Oro, trying to pry free some hidden truth. Part of him wondered if this was some kind of test. Yet, he could find no deception from the man... which confounded him more, "But what about Akuma, or whatever he is now? Isn't that why you trained me? So I could fight him?"

Oro reached out and flicked his protege on the forehead, "Naruto, you've been alone in the jungle with an old man and a bunch of animals for the last two months. You're telling me there's nothing else you want to do with your newfound freedom right now other than fight a monster?"

Naruto stopped and thought about it. He had a sense of duty for the task he'd agreed to undertake. However, there were so many things he actually wanted to do back in civilization.

After sleeping on rocks and in trees for weeks, he wanted to sleep in his own bed again. After surviving off of nuts, berries, and fish for weeks, he wanted to gorge himself on as many bowls of ramen as he could get his hands on. And after speaking with Sakura, it really hit him just how much he missed her and all of the girls. All of his friends, in fact.

If Oro was telling him to take some time and go home before doing anything else, it was probably a good idea to do so.

Oro reached out and rested his hand on Naruto's shoulder, "Go home," He directed, "You'll need rest and preparation for what's to come."

"Hey," Naruto said as Oro started walking away, in a direction away from the cave they had been residing in, "Where are you going now?"

Oro declined to pause and turn as he addressed his student, "Much like you, I have my own affairs to tend to," He said, waving farewell without turning around, "It was a pleasure training you, Naruto. Don't slack off, and never stop improving."

For some time, Naruto remained in place, waiting for something else to happen. Nothing ever did, however. When the other shoe failed to drop, and he couldn't consider a reason that Oro would try to deceive him on this matter, he let himself laugh a bit.

He was done. His training was over.



One of the best things about being close with Karin was that she had no problem jetting off from one end of the planet to the other on a moment's notice. Even Chun-Li, who worked for Interpol, had to admit, it was extremely useful. If she'd been required to instead use her own resources to travel, she'd have still been on the ground in Japan waiting for her transportation to be okay'ed. As it stood, as long as they had Karin on their side, there was nowhere on earth they couldn't travel to on a whim.

Being disgustingly wealthy had its benefits. Who knew?

This was how Chun-Li, Sakura, Karin, Ibuki, and Cammy found themselves hurtling through the skies in one of Karin's private planes.

The tracker that Cammy had placed on the creature she'd fought in the library stopped deep in the heart of the Russian mainland.

Ibuki stared out the window at the seemingly endless clouds above the vast Russian region. She could only imagine having to reach their destination on foot. Woe be to them if they crashed. Without the satellite guidance capabilities of the aircraft, she wouldn't have had any idea of how to get her bearings.

"It's going to be so cold," Ibuki commented, her breath fogging up the glass from the inside, "It's turning spring! Does it ever get warm in Siberia?"

Chun-Li rolled her eyes and nudged the younger girl with her foot chidingly, "No. It's Siberia. This is close to as good as it gets. I told you to dress appropriately. I don't see why you're complaining anyway. Cammy isn't even wearing pants."

Sakura, as an observer, saw this as a poor comparison, "Cammy never wears pants. Years with Naruto; I figured he would have solved that problem by now," As long as she was comfortable when she was in the field, that was all that mattered. She wore real clothes when she went out, at least.

In fact, all the girls were dressed warmly. If it had been winter, there would be nothing in their usual wardrobes capable of protecting them from the weather, but given that it was starting to warm up, that left Siberia as cold as the winters that they were more accustomed to.

Cammy looked down at her attire and frowned, feeling attacked, "I'm wearing a coat like the rest of you."

"-But not pants, dear!" Ibuki replied, focusing on her specific point, "If I have to choose between a coat or pants, I'm taking pants! You don't even need to choose! You could have worn both!"

Cammy crossed her arms, pouting at the fixation over her choice of attire, "I don't see why this is such an issue. Master brings it up sometimes too. I've explained it before, I don't feel comfortable fighting in pants or skirts. Too restrictive."

"You know what else is uncomfortable and restrictive?" Ibuki offered baitingly, "Frostbite and hypothermia. And why did you paint your camo blotches on them? For style?"

"...For stealth," Cammy replied, blinking owlishly as she wondered why Ibuki was confused, "I don't understand. You're a ninja. You should know about this," She tilted her head curiously when Ibuki started softly banging her head on the side of the helicopter, "Are you okay?"

Ibuki paused with a sigh, keeping her forehead against the wall, "I will be when we land, and I can focus on my simmering rage. If Urien is there, he's mine."

Karin rolled her eyes, internally admonishing Ibuki for falling into the cliche trappings of vengeance, "No, we'll fight him together."

If Urien was powerful enough to kill Ibuki's master on his own, it was probably prudent to fight him together if the situation allowed such an edge. Karin wouldn't allow an advantage like that to be squandered so readily.

"But I will be killing him," Ibuki insisted, glancing around the cabin, silently daring anyone to dispute her on this.

Noticing that Ibuki's gaze stopped on her in particular, Chun-Li shrugged it off, "Hey, I won't cry over it. Probably couldn't happen to a nicer guy."

As long as the threat the man posed was dealt with. While it would have been valuable to arrest Urien, if she needed to take someone in, there would likely be no shortage of viable suspects. Besides, Chun-Li herself had joined Interpol in the first place with the intention of hunting down M. Bison for killing her father. It would be quite hypocritical of her to admonish Ibuki for feeling the same way she had - especially when her emotions were still raw.

Try as she might to hide things behind a veil of normality, she was still a 17-year-old girl. No matter how she had learned to deal with hardship, the cracks in the facade were there. They weren't even difficult to spot. Just from the most recent cordial interaction, Ibuki was a little too antagonistic. Even if she hadn't really been serious with Cammy, there had been enough irritability in the way she spoke to her that usually wasn't present.

More importantly, Ibuki was resolute about taking Urien's head, one way or another. Woe be to any of them had they considered for a moment trying to talk her down from it.

...Not that any of them would. They were perfectly willing to allow Ibuki to go on a bit of a revenge tour, just as long as they could keep it from getting self-destructive.



It was a long trek for Gouken to reach the source of the overwhelming Satsui no Hadou, and the entire way, all he could do was contemplate just what it would be like to first lay eyes upon Ryu, bathing himself in a power that was now consuming him.

The atmosphere grew more smothering the closer he got. As he approached, the amount of wildlife he found nearby became scarcer and scarcer – a bad sign if ever there was one. Nature itself seemed reluctant to stray anywhere near the malevolent force.

In his heart, Gouken hoped there was enough of the boy he had raised left inside that he could bring him back without a fight. But the pragmatic side of him knew that this was simply wishful thinking.

Eventually coming upon an old shrine that had fallen into ruin, Gouken waited outside, a short distance away, mustering the resolve to venture inside. A distant boom of thunder, signifying an approaching storm prompted him to move forward. Gathering himself, he eventually reached the doors of the shrine and pulled them open.

Inside, it was dark, with only the dim light of the cloudy sky outside lighting the interior through the doorway. Sitting with his back turned away from Gouken was the hunched figure of Ryu.

Without turning around, Ryu slowly stood from the ground. As he did, his body began radiating dark red ki, "What took you so long, master?" Ryu said in a harsh growl, an unnatural red glow to his eyes, "I've been calling out to you."

Sensing the Satsui no Hadou was one thing, but seeing Ryu engulfed in it was something else entirely. His skin was darker than the complexion Gouken had grown used to seeing, and there was an orange glow underneath the skin and muscle in his breast.

So, it was real after all. The dam of self-restraint had broken.

"Oh, my boy," Gouken bemoaned, "...What has become of you?"

Ryu scoffed, looking down at one of his hands, "All this time, this is what you wanted to keep from me," He clenched his fist tightly, reveling in the strength flowing through him, "Power like this, strength of this magnitude, and you wanted to keep it out of my hands?"

He'd gone as far as he could through his own efforts. In Ryu's mind, he had long since reached the level to where he could wield the Satsui no Hadou. That he had been the one to defeat Akuma with it in the end, despite Naruto putting out obscene amounts of power in his own right, only confirmed that he'd made the right choice. And he had only become more adept in its use in the months that had followed.

They had been the best months of his life. He had advanced in leaps and bounds. He could see and feel the difference from how he was.

Gouken shook his head pitifully, "Power at what cost, Ryu?" He asked.

Ryu grit his teeth angrily at what he felt was a foolish question, "I've spent my entire life working to be the strongest! Fighting is my life! What cost is too great for a true martial artist?" He snapped, "Feh. You can't even call yourself a martial artist if you're afraid of sacrificing for power."

And what had he lost in the end that wasn't worth it? He had no family; no home. No material possessions to call his own. He had traveled the world training and fighting to push himself ever further, keeping to himself for the most part. He hadn't lost that, and when had he ever needed anything else?

"These aren't lessons I taught you," Gouken replied.

"No, you didn't," Ryu said, agreeing with his master, "It was one I had to learn for myself. Isn't that why you sent Ken and I out into the world? To discover things for ourselves? I discovered that truth does not lie in the heart of battle. The truth is that power – not faith, not hope, not friends, not God – is the only thing you can rely on in this world."

"And now what?" Gouken pushed further, trying to pry deeper into Ryu's head. He needed to understand, "Now that you know this 'truth', what do you plan to do with it?"

For Ryu, the answer to this was simple, "I will prove myself correct. Validate my beliefs," After all, what else was there? When you had strength, it was only natural to find outlets to use it, "The most powerful warriors in the world – I will crush them all under my fist."

The plan was the same as ever, only just taken another step toward its natural conclusion. All would fall, no matter who stood against him. With the power of the Satsui no Hadou bringing his strength to new heights, there was no limit to how far he could go.

Anything that ran the risk of keeping him from increasing his strength was expendable, to say the least.

Gouken closed his eyes and breathed out a heavy sigh of resignation. So, that was it. He felt the Kyomu no Chikara swell through him, taking the emotion out of him and steeling his resolve to do what was needed.

"If that is what you desire, you will have to begin with me," Gouken said sternly.

For a moment, it seemed as though there was a moment of remorse in Ryu's expression, "Master Gouken..." Just as quickly, it hardened over into steel, "I was going to save you for after Ken, but if you're so eager, fine. You won't cheat death twice. The grave will welcome you with a cold embrace."

With that, Ryu launched himself forward, attacking with the abandon of a man who had chosen to act in order to take the possibility of reconsidering his actions off of the table. It was a rash, aggressive move, completely at odds with who Ryu had been in the past. Yet, due to his experience with Satsui no Hadou users, it wasn't one that Gouken hadn't seen coming.

The moment Ryu, moved, Gouken took on a strong stance, his feet planted firmly on the ground. Ryu's attack came from underneath, as he lunged upward for an uppercut, likely meant to chain into a Shoryuuken. It never got that far.

"Kongoushin (Diamond Body)!"

Protecting himself from below, Gouken waited until the last possible moment to lift his foot and stomp the ground with oppressive force.

The strength of the counter was enough that the floor buckled and rippled, tearing apart as a shockwave rippled through it. Ryu was flung away, feet landing on the wall of the shrine. He glared hatefully, baring his teeth in a snarl before again launching himself forward. Instead of going right at Gouken again and running the risk of being subsequently countered, he rocketed just past his shoulder, landing on the wall just behind him.

The moment Ryu moved past him, Gouken pressed the bottoms of his palms together to charge ki. In an instant, he turned to fire, given the split-second opening that Ryu's landing on the wall provided him, "Gouhadouken (Great Surge Fist)!"

The force of the great blast blew away everything in a ninety-degree angle from the point of fire. Entire walls and most of the shrine's ceiling, obliterated. But not Ryu, for he had managed to avoid it altogether.

Behind Gouken, crouched in his shadow from his blind spot, Ryu rose and assaulted his former master. He grabbed his long, white ponytail and lashed out with a quick onslaught of punches, culminating with a strong front kick, thrust forward aimed at Gouken's liver. The stiff final strike sent the older martial artist flying out into the open field. He recovered in midair and flipped through, landing on his feet.

With a wince, Gouken touched at the offended area, but he didn't have long to survey the damage done to him. From the remains of the now ruined shrine, Ryu stalked forward slowly, brow lowered, eyes focused solely on the target ahead of him.

Defensive-minded in his approach, Gouken retook his stance as he waited for Ryu to attack once more. At the sight of this, Ryu let out a growl of annoyance, "This is what is so disappointing about your philosophy. If it were up to you, master, we would both just stand in place like statues. Whoever died of old age first would be considered the victor in your view."

Gouken's lips momentarily quirked in amusement, "Were that the nature of our confrontation, I would say you would have the advantage," He joked, "If only you had the patience to exploit it."

At one time, he would have believed that Ryu possessed that kind of patience and control, but the smoldering anger behind the man's eyes showed that those days were in the past.

"While time does weaken even the strongest of walls..." Ryu said, the dark ki of his Satsui no Hadou charging around him, "Most still require some kind of push to crumble!"

Dashing in, Ryu and Gouken traded strikes, counters, and parries in close. A wave of nostalgia rolled through Gouken as he deftly avoided the sharp, precise punches and kicks of his first and arguably finest student.

Trading hand-to-hand in such a manner reminded him of the old days; the days when he would gauge Ryu's growth through hard sparring. He remembered the joy in his heart, seeing the constant progress of the diligent, dedicated boy. He remembered the pride he felt whenever Ryu advanced into pushing him further and further.

The young man Ryu became was one that Gouken gladly acknowledged as his apprentice. So how had things come to this? When did things turn so sour? What had been the catalyst that led to Ryu failing in his struggle against the Satsui no Hadou?

Either way, it left Ryu a dangerous, violent version of what had already been a top-notch martial artist; a world champion.

Blocking a closed-fist blow aimed at his face, Gouken could feel it in Ryu's punch. There was no doubt in his mindset. There was no restraint. The intent to maim and kill was behind every strike sent his way, and the pressure was beginning to wear on Gouken. But his approach to the fight had not been without reason.

Gouken's fighting style was representative of the martial arts concept of katsujinken, focusing on reading the opponent, being able to react and counter accordingly to their actions, and to react appropriately to an opponent's openings to unleash as powerful an attack as needed to win. He was frugal in his methods, efficient in his expenditure of energy and effort, only doing what was needed to neutralize threats against him. 'Waste not, want not,' as it were.

Ryu's current 'go for broke' approach chipped away at Gouken's energy and strength, but as it stood, he wouldn't manage to take him out entirely before Gouken fully figured out what he needed to of Ryu to counter and crush him. Given his familiarity with what had once been his student, it was almost assured that he would manage this eventually.

However, Ryu wasn't ignorant to this aspect of Gouken's combat methods. He knew that the longer the fight went on, the more chance there was that he would make some kind of mistake for Gouken to exploit. He had to take a risk and play on Gouken's expectations to create a decisive opening for himself.

Gouken threw a hard punch that knocked Ryu back several feet; just far enough to get him out of Gouken's reach. With the newfound distance between them, Ryu quickly charged a Hadoken.

Sensing that his moment had arrived, Gouken glided forward, seemingly on the air, his arms poised to unleash an underhand palm strike. Just before getting into range to strike, Ryu canceled his Hadoken before firing it, and transferred his motion into a spin kick that smashed his heel into Gouken's jaw.

Gouken's head and upper body whipped to the side, blood spraying from his mouth across the ground. Red stained his lips and his great white beard. Ryu had baited him in – a calculated gamble that had paid off.

Refusing to relinquish the initiative, Ryu pressed his hands into the position for one of his signature techniques and blasted Gouken from close range, "Shakunetsu Hadoken (Scorching Heat Surge Fist)!"

A flaming red Hadoken flew from Ryu's hands. Upon making contact with Gouken's body, it burst into flames, scorching Gouken and setting his immediate surroundings ablaze. The tattered remains of his gi top burned away, revealing horrid, angry burns on the flesh and muscle underneath.

Ryu had caught him while he was staggered and delivered crushing damage as a result. Gouken had been completely open, unable to protect himself.

Even from his place on the ground, with the field around him beginning to burn wildly, when the wincing Gouken opened his eyes enough to peer through the flames, he could see the red eyes of Ryu staring back at his handiwork, marching forward to finish the job.

His prey surrounded by the growing inferno, Ryu leapt high into the air, set on crushing Gouken before he could recover and find a way out of his predicament. Channeling as much of the Satsui no Hadou as he could to his right fist, Ryu planned to shatter Gouken's skull the way he had Akuma's.

With great effort, Gouken pulled his knees to his chest and used every muscle in his body to kip directly upward into the air to meet Ryu's descent. Despite being positioned upside-down, Gouken managed a counterattack.

"Tatsumaki Gourasen (Tornado Strong Spiral)!"

Spinning his body as hard as he could, Gouken's legs lashed out with tornado kicks. First contact with Ryu swatted his falling punch away at the arm. Subsequent kicks impacted off of his head and body time and time again.

As the final kick sent Ryu flying, he cursed to himself. Too overzealous. Even a badly injured Gouken was still an extremely dangerous man.

Ryu landed on his feet with a stumble, bruised and battered, one eye closed from the last barrage, courtesy of his old master. Gouken's landing was even less graceful, dropping to a knee the moment he touched down.

It was no good. While Gouken knew how Ryu fought back from the days where he'd trained him, it was clear that while the fundamentals were the same, this was a different man. Meanwhile, Ryu was just as familiar with Gouken, and there hadn't been enough variance in Gouken's training to compensate against that knowledge.

Ryu was younger, faster, and had as much if not more raw power at his disposal. Gouken had wanted to seal the Satsui no Hadou away, but the longer the fight carried on, the less possible that seemed to be. In fact, the longer the fight carried on, the more it seemed he might not win at all.

His last attack had been out of the blue; a one-time opportunity to even the score, so to speak, and bring Ryu to an even playing field. It had connected but had not had the effect Gouken had desired. He wouldn't get a similar chance again.

Planting his feet into the earth, Ryu took up his stance for the Hadoken and began charging it up, channeling the full extent of the Satsui no Hadou into it. Black and dark purple ki formed the makeup of the attack, aimed directly at Gouken.

"Time to die! Metsu Hadoken (Perish Surge Fist)!"

Ryu released the blast, sending an evil mass of energy the size of a building hurtling at his former master.

Gouken stood as the Metsu Hadoken was fired, rooting himself similarly into the ground. He had been at a speed disadvantage before Ryu had crippled that particular attribute further with damage sustained in combat. He wouldn't be able to avoid it; thus, his only chance was to take it head-on.

Calming himself as he embraced the Power of Nothingness, Gouken was able to recognize an area in the Hadoken where the purple and black energies mixed. A place where it could be split. This, he decided, would be his next move. But his aim and timing had to be precise, otherwise it would be his last move.

Launching himself headlong toward the Metsu Hadoken, Gouken waited for the last possible moment to act. Despite the stakes, despite his wounds, despite the overall situation, he remained calm and patient, until finally reaching the optimal position.

"Not today!" Gouken shouted, "Kinjite Shoryuuken (Forbidden Hand Rising Dragon Fist)!"

Launching himself from the ground, Gouken leapt upward, meeting the Metsu Hadoken from where it had been carving a trench into the ground. Leading with his fist, he sliced through the black and purple ki of the energy mass, a large white silhouette of a dragon forming in his wake.

"GRAAAAAAAH!" Gouken roared as he tore through the Hadoken, continuing his ascent into the sky even after he finished cutting his way through. The clouds overhead parted as the ki he had released rose ever higher.

The newly separated black and purple sections of the Hadoken were unable to exist stably when taken apart and burst apart in an earth-rattling explosion. Dust and debris obscured Gouken's view of anything underneath him.

This altering of the battlefield served to be a fatal change. Even keeping as close an eye as he could on the ground for any movement, Gouken was caught in the air. By the time he saw a dark purple flash from the ground, it was too late to react.

Ryu tore into the air, his fist slicing Gouken's chest wide open. The old man's eyes went wide with shock as the pain quickly set in.

Hanging in the air above Gouken, Ryu put everything he had behind his fist for a follow-up that would end everything, "If only you'd used a Shoryuuken of that magnitude on me while you still could!" He shouted, spittle flying as he descended, crashing a punch into the base of Gouken's skull, "Messatsu Gou Shoryuu (Annihilating Great Rising Dragon)!"

Both fighters plunged to the ground as one, like a black and purple meteor falling from space. Much like a meteor, they created a great crater upon their crash landing. In the middle, Ryu stood hunched over Gouken's motionless body, his fist still connected to Gouken's cranium.

The sound of thunder rolling ever closer prompted Ryu to stand straight up and remove his fist, giving him a look at the bloody dent in Gouken's skull that his final attack had left behind.

A thrill ran through Ryu at the sight of the bloodied, cooling corpse before him. Gouken had been one of the most powerful men he had ever known; a martial artist worth pursuing, worth trying to live up to. And yet, with the power of the Satsui no Hadou, he had crushed him.

"RUUUUAAAAAAGH!" Ryu let out a guttural scream of victory, his fists raised to the sky.

He hadn't felt a rush like this since doing the same thing to Gouken's brother Akuma. And yet, this was so much better. So much more complete.

And yet, it wasn't enough. There had to be stronger people out there. Someone who could push him into tapping further into the Satsui no Hadou. Someone who could force him into extending his newfound mastery over his dark powers.

Mind swimming with the possibilities that lay before him, Ryu staggered out of the crater, set on heading elsewhere to continue his training and search for his next opponent.

Momentarily stopping, he spared a glance back at Gouken's dead body. He remembered the last time he thought he had seen the man die. He buried him and mourned him. Gouken would receive no such sentiment this time. Instead, his grave would be the hole Ryu left him in. It was more than the weak deserved.

"I no longer have use for you," Ryu disrespectfully declared, "Goodbye, master."

Gouken would not cheat death this time. Ryu had not bothered trying to eradicate his soul the way Akuma had. He had been willing to settle for destroying his body. Victory was victory, after all.



Sakura, Chun-Li, Ibuki, Cammy, and Karin were no strangers to dealing with enemy bases. Each of them had been closely involved with all-out assaults on at least two major strongholds at one point or another. They all had expectations in mind of what they would face once they landed.

After all, bases had to be manned by staff. And a base in the middle of nowhere like Siberia had to cost a fortune just to keep resupplied.

What they hadn't expected was the complete lack of personnel on-site once they'd reached their destination. A destination that was nothing more than a re-purposed missile complex built into seemingly endlessly flat terrain. Underwhelming, but effective and more useful in keeping clandestine activities under wraps.

"This is eerie..." Ibuki pointed out as she and her cohorts approached the missile platform, completely unmolested, "Is this really the right place?" There was nothing elsewhere as far as the eye could see.

"This is where the tracker Cammy set stopped moving," Chun-Li said, trusting in the little soldier's capabilities, "If it's a wild goose chase, I'm guessing we'll find out soon enough. We're here now, after all. Might as well go inside and make sure."

Karin nodded in accord, "Agreed. If nothing else, it provides an opportunity to learn something that can potentially be used in our favor."

They had parachuted out of Karin's jet a safe distance away and ventured the rest of the way on foot after landing. Once they were done, she would call for it to pick them up. Hopefully there would be no need for an emergency extraction. Even by aircraft, it would take them quite a while to return to anywhere that could be considered safe.

Tentatively descending down into the nearest opening into the silo, the distinct lack of any resistance to their progress started unnerving them more and more.

No guards. No automated guns. No drones. No alarms, cameras, or security lasers. No massive enemy mech suits. Nothing to hinder their progress into the bowels of the base. The farther in they went, the less it resembled a missile facility and took on the dressings of a research facility.

"This has to be a lab," Chun-Li said, taking note of all of the isolated installations they walked past. There were windows for observation, but it was too dark inside for them to make out just what was contained within, "But... they're not making weapons or any kind of machines."

The only thing they could see was a faint glow from multiple containers. Chemicals, perhaps? But if it was a lab, where were the scientists? They hadn't come across a single living soul.

As they explored, Cammy brought the group to a sudden stop, her head suddenly turning toward an open corridor, "There's someone else here."

Sakura took note of Cammy's choice of words, "Just one person?" She asked, getting a nod.

The rest of the girls had no reason to doubt her, and started down that path, set on confronting the individual in question.

What they found in the isolated installation that Cammy led them to was not an enemy combatant. It was a short man in a yellow suit. His head was massive and bald, except for a small tuft of black hair just above his forehead.

He noticed the girls approach, and instead of cowering, smiled at them in a welcoming, disarming manner, "Oh my. It's been so long since I've had a visitor aside from the President."

Chun-Li was the only one of them familiar with this man's profile, and readily identified him, "Dr. Woo?"

"Yes?" The man replied, nodding as he walked up to them, "Have you ladies come all this way looking for me? How flattering."

For someone who had been taken captive, Dr. Woo didn't seem to be in any distress. He looked as healthy as a man his age could look. He even had company in the form of a small robotic dog following his every move.

All the same, Chun-Li respectfully bowed at the waist, "You were taken years ago. I'm sorry it's taken so long to find you."

Dr. Woo waved off Chun-Li's attempt at an apology, "The Illuminati hid me away here to make it as difficult to reach me, or to escape, as possible," He shrugged, "Eventually, they realized that there was no need to allocate resources to guard me. I have no desire to leave. I quite enjoy the work given to me."

"The Illuminati has had you working on projects for them?" Karin interjected, "To what ends?"

Dr. Woo smiled widely, seemingly excited at having more people to show his work to, "Various ends, dear. Now come. Please. You've come so far."

He gestured with the cane in his hand for them to follow him. With that, he walked past the group, back down the corridor they had come from, intending to lead them around. Chun-Li, Sakura, Ibuki, and Karin remained behind momentarily to have a quick word between themselves.

Ibuki nudged Sakura and spoke under her breath so that her voice didn't carry to Dr. Woo, "You're in tune with sensing malice and stuff. What do you think?"

From the moment they'd laid eyes on Dr. Woo, Sakura had been feeling him out, "I don't feel a hint of malice from him," She said, "He wasn't lying about anything either."

Karin scowled at what that information, along with Dr. Woo's words themselves told her, "So, that man is content staying here working for them, because their tasks intrigue him."

"Stockholm syndrome?" Chun-Li offered.

Karin quickly shot the theory down, "That implies that there are captors around for the victim to bond with," She said snarkily, starting after Dr. Woo before he could wonder what was taking them so long, "Unless that robot he keeps with him comes with automated defenses to keep him here, I do not believe it counts."

Sakura reached out and put a hand on Karin's shoulder, a frown on her face, "Hey, are you alright?"

Karin closed her eyes and took a deep breath before smiling over at her longtime rival and friend, "It is just that being in places like this remind me of my time in the tender mercies of Seth and S.I.N.," She said, "It... was not that long ago, all things considered."

The re-purposed missile base wasn't exactly like the place her friends had rescued her from once upon a time ago, but there were enough similarities that it drummed up certain memories. Needless to say, the proud young woman didn't like being reminded of her weakest, most desperate moment.

A soft gasp from Cammy roused Karin from her thoughts and Sakura from her concerns for Karin.

Dr. Woo stood in front of a tank containing the white, humanoid being she had fought and killed weeks ago in Japan. It was still torn into two major segments, from how Cammy had defeated it, but there were other parts missing off of it as well.

Upon hearing Cammy gasp, Dr. Woo turned to address the girls, "I'm sorry, I was lost in thought on something involving this creature," He noticed Cammy's rapt attention on the tank and shook his head, "Never you mind this one. It's far from impressive to look at right now."

"What is it?" Cammy asked, finding her voice.

Dr. Woo let out a hum and turned to regard, "Perhaps the perfect soldier. At least, as far as science will allow for at this point."

Cammy walked forward and put her hand on the tank, her eyes unblinking as she stared, "You made this thing to fight for the Illuminati?"

Dr. Woo regarded the girl strangely, but answered the question amiably, "Yes. They've yet to be deployed, however. I've requested and been granted more time. A rarity in an industry like mine."

"To work out the bugs?" Chun-Li asked, hopeful that quality control would delay the treacherous venture.

Dr. Woo chuckled at the insinuation that his work was unfinished or in need of such corrections, "Oh, heavens no."

In her curiosity, Ibuki had wandered off to take a glance back at the installations they hadn't been able to see inside of before. The faintly glowing tanks they'd spotted inside seemed very similar to the one that held the remains of the creature Cammy had destroyed. Only, the hard-to-see silhouettes inside seemed complete.

Eyes widening, she hurriedly marched back over to Dr. Woo, getting uncomfortably close to the man, so much so that he stumbled a few steps into the tank behind him.

The kunoichi pressed her hands to the glass on both sides of Dr. Woo, trapping him between her arms, "Doctor..." She started lowly, "How many of these things are you keeping here?"

Dr. Woo's brow furrowed in confusion, "You're mistaken. This is where they are made. This place is not for storage. At least, not for very long."

"Where are they stored?"

Dr. Woo shook his head, "I'm not privy to that information," Of course. Even if he did like the work the Illuminati had him do, he was still their captive. There was no need to tell him anything more than what he needed to do his job, "...I can tell you, however, the number that currently exist."

Any information was good, and Ibuki would take what they could get, "How many?"

"Counting the twenty units that are stored here: 500."

Cammy sharply inhaled. Fighting one of those things had been bad enough. That there were so many more just like it didn't sit easily with her. And that they were elsewhere, presumably stored at other Illuminati hideaways scattered around the world... it didn't bode well.

"So," Chun-Li said, summing up the situation aloud, "Hundreds of these... whatever you call them, killing machines, dispatched all over the world. Great."

"Hyper-Adaptation Weapon: Mark XII."

All of the girls paused before Sakura voiced their collective thought, "...What?"

"This being," Dr. Woo clarified, "Hyper-Adaptation Weapon: Mark XII."

Ibuki gave him a deadpan stare, "Yeah, no. I'm not saying that every time."

Dr. Woo rolled his eyes in return, "If you must, the secretary of the Emperor refers to them informally as 'Twelve'."

"That's not much better," Ibuki said, before realizing they were dwelling on something unimportant, "Fine. In lieu of a better name on short notice, that's what we're going with for now."

Sakura looked around at her present company, wondering to herself where they went from there with no enemy to fight and with Dr. Woo lacking any intel to squeeze out of him, "Speaking of now – now what?"

"What else?" Chun-Li replied, "Scour the place for anything worth taking with us, then destroy it."

There had to be something there they could use against the Illuminati. If not, they at least would be able to leave with Dr. Woo himself. That had to be worth something.


(With Naruto – Brasília, Brazil – International Airport of Brasília)

No stranger to traveling the globe, Naruto was able to make it back to civilization with no issues. From there, he got his hands on a plane ticket back to Japan.

With a sigh, Naruto looked at his temporarily useless brick of a phone. It had run out of juice while he'd been in the mountains with Oro, and it wasn't like there were any options to charge it in the wilderness. He'd only brought one bag, packing light for what was ostensibly a training trip. So light, he hadn't brought a cord or a charger.

"They're gonna be so mad when I turn up without calling first," Naruto said to himself. Despite this, he couldn't help but smile. He couldn't wait to get home.

As he waited in the general terminal of the airport, Naruto started to recognize the number of people in business around him. This was far from a foreign sight in an airport, but they all seemed to be focused on him, even if they tried remaining inconspicuous, making it seem like they were going about their business and ignoring him.

Newly in-tuned with the world around him, Naruto could feel that he was the center of attention. It wasn't simple paranoia. Even so, he wouldn't make a move until someone else did first. Not quite as hotheaded as he would have been in the recent past, he wanted to know what they wanted from him before he did something rash.

Getting into a fight in the airport without Karin's connections to smooth things over would make it very difficult to get home. If the authorities got involved, he couldn't even speak Portuguese to explain himself.

The atmosphere in the terminal changed entirely upon the appearance of a massive man wearing expensive, ornate robes. Again, Naruto waited as the man approached him. Once he felt he was close enough, he pulled his hood back, revealing long blond hair and skin color of red and blue, split between his body.

Naruto stood to face the man, despite the fact that the man towered over him by more than a full foot of height. Size wasn't everything, however, and Naruto was used to dealing with hulking adversaries.

Not that a fight was guaranteed, just likely, given his track record.

Even so, Naruto took a deep breath and greeted the new arrival with the winningest smile he could present, "Hi there, nice to meet you! Naruto Uzumaki: Best Ninja in the World," He extended his hand in a friendly gesture.

The man chuckled and nodded in acceptance, "Yes. I've wanted to meet you for many years. I've been watching your career with great interest."

Naruto blinked up at the massive multi-colored man, "Huh. That's a first," He muttered before speaking up "Most people didn't even know I existed until the Second World Warrior Tournament."

"I assure you, I am not most people," The man said, a small amount of enmity at being compared to anyone else in the world as an equal. With a wry smirk as he took hold of Naruto's hand and shook it, "My name is Gill."

The moment Gill touched him, killing intent weighed heavy on Naruto, but not from Gill. It was from the numerous suited individuals around the airport terminal. Hobnobbing with what was more than likely their leader must have ruffled their feathers. Too bad for them, because Gill didn't seem bothered by the cordiality at all.

"You're not here to fight," Naruto said knowingly as the handshake ended.

Gill replied pleasantly, "I promise you, I do not hold the enmity for you that my brother does."

Naruto squinted his eyes up at Gill, "Your... brother?" He parroted, at a loss.

"Urien," Gill offered before giving a more complete description, "White hair, bronze skin? Beady eyes and a murderously poor disposition."

Naruto snapped his fingers in sudden recognition, "Oh! That guy!" He had almost completely forgotten about the very unpleasant man he had clashed with shortly before going on his trip, "That was your brother? I'm so sorry."

Gill tried to wave off Naruto's apology, "There's no need to express regret for proving yourself his superior in fair combat."

Naruto shook his head, "No... I mean, that's your brother? I'm so sorry you're related to him."

"I will accept your sympathies for that, however," Gill said, "Regardless, rest assured, I am not here to harm or hinder you in the slightest."

'Even though you come off as really ominous?' Naruto thought to himself. If Gill was Urien's brother, that meant he was with the Illuminati, which made him a bad guy, "Hey, if you know who I am... aren't you afraid of me screwing up your plans?"

Gill laughed, amused at the mere concept, "You can't thwart my plans, because my plans are not proactive, they're reactive," He explained, "In a month's time, the world as we know it will end. All of this?" He gestured to their surroundings, "Gone."

Naruto had fought his share of bad guys in the past, but never had he dealt with someone warning him of a catastrophe that they themselves weren't behind.

"And you're saying you're not the one that's going to do it," Naruto led, his voice filled with skepticism.

"No. I and my organization hold no responsibility over what is to come. We will merely rebuild the world from the ashes of what is left," Gill disclosed unconditionally, "A utopia is coming, Naruto Uzumaki. I hope you are around to see it. To help us. I know that you could."

While Gill was being so forthcoming with information, Naruto wondered how much he really knew. Oro had also told him that something terribly destructive was coming, and that something had a name. At least, it had at one time.

"Do you know what's going to happen?" Naruto asked, "In a month, I mean. What's gonna destroy the world?"

Gill placed his hand over his heart and closed his eyes, beginning to recite the passage from the Illuminati's Book of Miraha by memory, "'When the sun sets on the Soliton Mountain, the black moon will break into seven pieces and fall on the people - 'Ultania'. Nothing can prevent this. Death and destruction will violate the land. Misery and suffering will assault the people. Then, after 130 days of nothingness, a boy who controls the elements will come to save the people.'"

Naruto heard him out until the end. He didn't need to be told the fact that 'the boy who controlled the elements' was supposed to be Gill. The way he carried himself, he seemed far too aloof. Even though he seemed friendly enough, it was a pleasant demeanor that seemed derived from a sense of superiority.

It felt like the tone of this conversation, though not disrespectful, was humoring Naruto.

"That is the prophecy passed down for millenia," Gill continued, "The world's state of conflict and change has grown in the last century to a peak never seen before. The time is near."

He wasn't entirely wrong. The time was near, if Oro was to be believed. Though the threat wouldn't be from the stars. It would come from the earth itself.

Gill shook his head, bemoaning some kind of great loss, "Had you qualified, you would be guaranteed to see what the future holds. You would be guaranteed safety from Ultania. But you were defeated. As tainted as that outcome was, there can be no exceptions made."

In his books, Naruto defeated Urien, even if according to the rules of the tournament, Naruto 'abandoned' the fight. The footage Gill saw hadn't lied. Naruto had dominated his foolish younger brother, and the fight had been all but decided until outside forces intervened.

And now, Gill could feel that Naruto was leaps and bounds stronger than he had been even then. The boy was worthy of consideration, undoubtedly. Alas, rules were rules. And in the establishment of a new world order, it was important that these rules were established. No exceptions.

Naruto, to his credit, didn't seem too terribly broken up about what Gill perceived as a loss of an all-important opportunity.

"Eh, don't worry about me," Naruto said, "I've got my own problems to deal with, but once that's done, I think I'll be fine."

A wide smile spread across Gill's face, "I think you will be too," He confided in the young man, "Unfortunately, this is all the time I can spare for my own whims. Farewell, Naruto Uzumaki. If you survive the fallout from Ultania, please, seek me out."

Naruto tilted his head curiously as Gill turned to depart, "Why?"

Gill threw his hood back over his head as he and his followers all left the airport terminal, "As I said, I believe you could help in the New World. Also, selfishly... I wish to test your abilities for myself."

Naruto watched Gill leave. Once he and his Illuminati underlings departed, the terminal repopulated with regular people once again. Things carried on as though nothing had ever happened. The only thing out of place was a confused shinobi.

"Every time," Naruto said to himself, "Every time I leave Japan, stuff gets weird."

To be fair, things got weird when he was in Japan as well.



Destroying the Twelve clones had been a matter of overriding the system that controlled their containment pods. This was good, because the other option would have been to manually destroy the pods, which ran the risk of waking them up.

According to Cammy, the last thing they would have wanted was to fight dozens of the creatures. Just one was difficult enough for her to defeat.

Dr. Woo had looked on disapprovingly as all of his hard work was disposed of, but he was ill-equipped (to say the least) to take on four super-powered martial artists. He was only able to watch, and then follow as they escorted him out of the underground lab.

By the time they made it outside, Karin's jet had found a place to land. With no anti-aircraft defenses, there was no danger in landing right there, which meant no need to trek to a safe distance just to get picked up.

The engine was still running as Karin's steward waited diligently for them, "Kanzuki-sama. We're ready to take off at any time."

"Thank you, Shibazaki," Karin said, turning to her friends with a smile, "Everyone, I believe it is time we return to civilization."

Sakura grinned, taking the chance to needle her old rival, "Having trouble with the concept of roughing it, are we?"

"There are literally nothing but empty plains for hundreds of kilometers around us," Karin deadpanned, "I have 'roughed it', as you so put it, before. I would qualify remaining out here as something far beyond that."

At least in a forest or jungle, there were things to use to help one survive. The plains the missile base had been built on were harsh, unforgiving, and vacant.

It was this vacancy and dead silence that alerted them in advance to the sound of another incoming aircraft. Despite the running plane engine that sat hundreds of feet away, there was another distant engine roar, especially distinct to Cammy's ears.

Before she could voice her concerns, a missile impacted off of Karin's grounded jet, blowing it apart. As the others covered up from the blast, Cammy looked up, where she could see a combat aircraft swooping down to confront them.

Expertly, the pilot maneuvered into a smooth landing where the jet hovered just off of the ground, the nose pointed their way. The nose, and the rotary cannon set near the left wing.

"Inside!" Cammy shouted, prompting everyone to pile back into the bunker just as the cannon began to open fire. 25 mm rounds blistered the sturdy walls of the bunker entrance, a few managing to burst inside through the still open door as the girls all took cover, "Stay out of the open!"

"This is NOT the first time something has shot at us, Cam! We know!" Ibuki shouted back over the sounds of a jet engine, gunfire, and bullets impacting.

Chun-Li didn't dare try to take a peek outside, lest she lose her head in the process, "Okay, so, any ideas? Anyone?"

"Wait until it runs out of bullets?" Sakura offered as a solution.

Cammy shook her head in the negative, "But then it still has missiles," Suddenly, her eyes went wide, realizing the implication of what she'd just said, "...Oh no, it still has missiles."

If the plane had a halfway decent pilot, he could put one right through the open bunker doors. Before she could point this out, Sakura stepped up, just as a missile was loosed in their direction. Planting her feet, Sakura steeled her emotions to face down the flying weapon, "Tengyou Hadoken (Heaven-Seeking Surge Fist)!"

Emotions clear, and focus clearer than ever, Sakura's aim was true, enabling her to blast the missile mid-flight.

Having gotten the best view of anyone, and possessing the sharpest eyes, Ibuki had managed to pick up on something strange, "Did that... Hadoken just move?"

Cammy nodded, "Yes. They all move. That's how they get to their target."

Ibuki fixed the little soldier with an exasperated look, "No, Cam. Ugh," Moving past it, she decided to make her point, "That thing didn't fly in a straight line. It, like, changed course in the air and flew towards the missile."

Was that possible? None of them had seen ki attacks work like that before. When fired, they always went in a straight line. As for Sakura herself, she had been bathed in a white aura when she'd been charging her Hadoken

Things to consider for later, as there was still a threat against them.

The jet lowered itself to the ground and the cockpit popped open, revealing the pilot. He hopped out and started advancing on the bunker, fearless in his stride.

One did not walk into a fight against a group of people capable of comfortably taking on combat aircraft with their bare hands. Not unless you believed you could handle it regardless.

Chun-Li stared the approaching man down and issued requests to her friends, "Karin, see if you can call another ride for us. Ibuki, Sakura, can you watch over the doctor?"

Sakura checked out of the Kyomu no Chikara and stepped back, "Sure. But I have a really bad feeling for some reason," She frowned, not knowing how to explain herself better, "I can tell that he's strong... just not how strong."

"That's why Cammy is coming with me," Chun-Li said, gesturing for Cammy to catch up with her, "I guess we'll both find out together."

Cammy adjusted the gauntlets on her hands as the walked ahead to confront the pilot, "Do you want him restrained?"

"If we can," Chun-Li said, "I want to see what kind of answers this guy has for us."

"And if we can't restrain him?" Cammy asked, her blue eyes gazing inquisitively at the detective next to her.

Chun-Li winked back at her in return, "Everyone is easier to restrain when they're out cold, Cam."

A small smile came to Cammy's lips, "That sounds like something master might say."

With that, the two women squared off with the pilot. Despite the numbers disadvantage, there had been no hesitance in his approach. From what they could see, he wasn't armed with an obvious weapon. He planned on coming right at them.

The pilot wore a tight green bodysuit and black body armor and boots over it. As he approached he pulled off his helmet and tossed it aside.

Chun-Li froze midstep upon seeing the pilot's face and hair - specifically, the long blond forelock that fell down into his face, "Charlie?"

He looked so much like the Charlie that Chun-Li remembered working beside. However, his body appeared to have been patched back together, covered as it was in grotesque staples. Patches of his skin were discolored - with his right hand and the front-right portion of his skull, including his eye, crudely replaced with transplanted dark-skinned body parts.

It had to be him. It looked just like him; a dead ringer. Yet, it was impossible. Charlie had been caught in the heart of the blast that had destroyed Shadaloo's Thailand base years ago. No one on the planet could have managed to survive such a thing.

Completely shell-shocked, Chun-Li stepped back, hands over her mouth, "Oh my God..."

Charlie slowly shook his head, "No," He said, voice cold, yet holding an underlying tone of malice, "God has nothing to do with it."

And that's the chapter.

Holy crap. It's been a year. That was... not intentional. It's been the longest year ever, and somehow the shortest. But that's neither here nor there.

This concludes your time with me and my ramblings. Now please, hit that 'x' in the corner, go out there, and be somebody!

Or... don't, I guess. It's whatever you want. My influence over how you spend your time ended when we got to the bottom of this page. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed.

Kenchi out.