Three Hwoarang-based vignettes combined. It's been quite a while so I hope you'll enjoy. If not, concrit's always welcome with me :)
Disclaimer: Tekken and its respective characters belong to Namco.
There's a sea-front bar in Busan he and the other guys from the squad frequent on their training-free days; fatigues exchanged for jeans and khakis, discipline for debauchery. They're noisy, brassy, stupid, and they remind him too much of himself which really pisses him off.
One of them pitches face-first into the bottle-green waves. Last time Hwoarang checked, the fool was dangling with his feet swung over the railings, and he was hoping he would fall in anyway, just for kicks. There's a tune about the water that'd suck those hyena laughs hollow enough for them to crackle down to static.
Oh it's a song all right. It's catchy enough for the rest of his group to cackle and think 'hey, here's somethin' catchy' and dive right in after the first fall guy. The sea's now full of them, their heads bobbing black and brown against the current while he sulks on the pier and feels like running a heel across the next mouth that yells for him to join them.
Depth was never his thing, especially if it got darker the further he went. He lingers awhile, then returns to his bottle, knocking back swig after swig until the sky looms like a blanket over his head and there are no stars to guide the ships from the storm, no stars to see…
"Yo hoy! 'Rang? You alive yet? Tch, did you at least find some tits to rest that red head of yours on?"
He could've gotten used to this voice, along with the rest of them. If he'd wanted to.
"Ne, Hwarang, you think you're hot shit and all that?" There's a poke to his side, a nudge to his head. "You were famous 'round Seoul sometime back, yeah? Now you're right under my foot. Piece of – "
The teasing's not new and neither is Hwoarang's reply.
Someone squeals and he's brought in for questioning at the barracks. Breaking a fellow soldier's nose and wrist earns him thirty-six hours of menial chores which he slips away from the morning the punishment is set to begin.
It doesn't take long to catch a train back to Seoul. Settling into his old hunting grounds doesn't run as smoothly.
He hangs around bars and alley-ways like a piece of graffiti too awkward to look at. Catch him in the corner of your eye, that tall, lean figure with his fists clenched in his pockets as acquaintances surround him, but no friends. He drinks coffee and beer to while away the nights so he can sleep through the mornings when the sky is miserably blue and cheered free of clouds. He rips up lonely streets on that bike of his when he's too awake to want to think and he forgets how to be a phony when he's this lonesome.
Then there comes a night when he does let himself down.
It's a bad one.
Fettered, chained to a mountain wall, so that he sees, hears, and tastes nothing but sky, but he's not allowed to feel it, no. He thinks the pain comes from his heart beating until he looks down and notices the vultures pecking at his exposed innards.
It's another morning when he runs off again. That rising sun is enough to remind him of another time and place stained red and gold from the light in the sky and blood on the ground. Anything – demons that don't only exist in his head, another crazy tournament he's heard rumors of, another rematch, another chance – is better than that night.
Seoul disappears in a whirlwind of leaked sounds and suppressed rage.
He doesn't stop to check if he's alive.
Somewhere out there, there's a pit with your grave-stone heading it, says Hawk.
He's known Hawk since the earlier days, before he knew how to hop on a bike and roar away, before he knew that he had his own wings to spread. Hawk's one of few he knows, the only ones who know which part of him they hatched from. But he likes to think Hawk gets him just right, at the beginning. Hawk soars above his troubles with a tic in his eye that gleams like a passing bullet. Hawk is the one he chases when he sees no other roads, unless he counts the dirt-tracks and by-gones of his past.
Seriously, you should slow down, the bird taunts him from farther ahead. You should get used to this waiting-game.
Thanks, but no thanks. He knows Hawk better. They are one, until he changes course and just misses the impending wall that juts ahead all of a sudden. He sometimes jokes to himself that he's more eel than bird, more cold blood and scales than talons and feathers. Subterfuge would have been his thing, had it not been for a loose tongue and fast feet. Besides, the recruiting officers figured that if someone's had to go down first, it'd better be the wiseass, gun in hand and smirk bent to fit with the combat fatigues. Special Ops it is. Wipe him down clean through blood and sweat.
He won't stop until he can hold it in his arms, broken and finite and absolute, not until he can bite into it and say he caught it. Almosts, there are only ever almost there's strung through the chain on his neck and it's only when he's everything loud, lost, fast and loose off his tether, chasing Kestrels and Harpies, that he can feel the heavy links whip back away from his collar-bone so that he believes he's nothing but free.
The game is as old as the day he was born: Hawk takes flight, his hopes and fears tied to its feet, and Hwoarang hunts them down, tongue clenched with teeth, fists with building shame as he follows straight ahead to plummet tail-first into another dead end. Hawk recovers, swerves at the last minute, and he will follow, faithfully, begrudging.
Hawk asks Why bother? What the hell, really?
In return, he glares. If looks could leave a man staggering, he'd have a hundred dead birds at his feet.
A hundred little dreams, he thinks. A hundred fucking dreams he killed and now that he honestly dwells on it, it's a miserable scene of fading colors, wings flaking off by the feather, down to the bare skeleton beneath, the talons blunted from neglect.
The eyes are the worst. The eyes always get him.
He looks into Hawk's and sees himself. The truth, at last.
Questions strike him, lightning-bolt shots to the skull: why do you keep running, son? Where do you have to be but here? You know I only want what's best for you, do you, Hwoarang?
What do you have to prove?
He raises his eyes to the picture in the dank alcove he'd cleared just for that purpose: the candles on either side of his teacher's face flicker with concern.
"I guess I should've asked you sooner, sa bum nim."
Sa bum nim (Korean) - master