Awww, shit son! Look who's back in Kingverse! Onward~!

The Kyokugen School of Karate was unusually quiet, noted the famous idol singer and quasi-psychic, Athena Asamiya, who, despite feeling a healthy amount of jet lag after a ten hour flight from Japan to the US, decided that she would drop in and surprise her good friend, Yuri Sakazaki, whom she hadn't seen in person for several months.

With a huge yawn, Athena stood in the school's entryway for just a moment, confused by the lack of life. These were normal operating hours, but no one was around and it was a little strange. However, if she listened closely she could hear the sounds of what she guessed was a punching bag swinging back and forth: clinking metal alternating with the sound of hard thuds issued from somewhere above her.

And, so, curiosity piqued, Athena cautiously krept up the stairs leading up to the actual workout area and peered through the doorway to see Yuri's brother, Ryo, beating the holy hell out of a punching bag, his left hand held close to his body. Upon further inspection Athena could see that two of his fingers were splinted and bandaged together, but, despite the injury, he was clearly hyper-focused on his task (hitting the bag with his good hand), his eyes narrowed and full of something that, despite her ability to feel things, Athena couldn't really place. Was it determination? Anger?

Nevertheless, Athena stood in the doorway for another eighteen seconds before the older Sakazaki took his eyes away from the bag and noticed her. He appeared momentarily startled, but his expression instantly changed from one of consternation to one that was open and friendly.

"Athena! Hey! I didn't know you were coming to town?"
"Hi, Ryo! Press tour," she asserted with a shrug before asking, "How are you?"

At that, Ryo made a face. He took a deep breath and raised his eyebrows.

"I'm good. Hey, listen, Yuri's not here — I think she's running around with Mai or something, I dunno."
"...Oh," Athena said. She squinted up at Ryo, thoughtful, as she placed her hand on her chin. "Forgive me, but you don't seem good."
"It's fine," Ryo told her while lowering himself onto a nearby floor mat. "Really. Just a… very… eventful day."
"You know, even without my powers I can tell that something's on your mind," Athena stated.
"Well, yeah, but it's really not for you to get involved with."
"Are you sure? Maybe I could help?"
"Probably not."
"You're not even going to let me try, are you?"
"It's just… kind of… complicated."
"How so?"

Ryo didn't say anything; instead, he fidgeted with the tape over his bandaged fingers and winced.

"Are they broken?" Athena asked.
"Yeah, but the breaks aren't bad. They're just enough to fuck up my shit," Ryo explained. He grimaced and quickly added, "Excuse my language."
"No, no, you're fine. And I can try to heal them if you want. If the breaks aren't bad it'll be a piece of cake. Besides, I've fixed more complex problems in the past."
"Well, I mean —"

Athena closed her eyes before Ryo could finish his sentence and focused her energy on his two fingers for just a brief second; a faint purple glow enveloped his entire hand, and then immediately dissipated, as if it hadn't even been there in the first place.

"There. Good as new," Athena declared. "Try to move them."

Puzzled, Ryo slowly removed the wrapping and the splints from his fingers. He flexed them several times with the appearance of someone who had literally had their mind blown.

"You're welcome!" Athena beamed. She paused and then asked, "How'd you break them?"
"I had a run-in with the law."
"Oh, no! Is everything okay?"
"You know what?" Ryo took a deep breath. "It's not."
"If you don't mind my asking... why isn't everything okay?"

Ryo ran his hands through his hair and let out a sort of frustrated grunt that turned into a defeated sigh.

"I recently found out something about somebody… and… I dunno. It makes me… it changes things."
"Do I know this somebody?" Athena prodded innocently as she took a seat on the raised platform near Ryo, though, thanks to her intuition, she already had a pretty good idea of who "somebody" was.

"Not… very well… I don't think," Ryo answered. He glanced at Athena, and it was clear that something very important occurred to him. She quirked a brow when he muttered, "...before Asamiya went and pulled this shit straight out of my head…"

There was a very brief pause before Ryo's eyes went wide — very wide — and he did a double take.

"You know!" he exclaimed.
"Eh? Know what?!"
"About King! About what happened to her!" Ryo crowed. "Don't you?!"

Athena's expression changed from curious to pained. Yes, she did know about what happened to King; hell, she had seen it (or at least part of it) thanks to a burgeoning ability she didn't fully understand. She was privy to all of the sadness, and anger, and pain that came with the secret King had been keeping, not only through that single glance into her psyche, but through actually talking with her at length. Months earlier she told Athena that she wasn't ready to own her assault, and, sadly, it looked like she might have had to do it once again anyway.

"I, uhh…" Athena faltered, unsure of what to say in case Ryo didn't know the whole story.
"She said you 'pulled' something out of her head," he continued. "That she was fine before you did that…"
"Well, I mean… uhh… I don't… have… that kind of ability… per se."
"But she told you."

It wasn't a question.

"She never would have told me if I hadn't… I mean… I kind of… saw something," Athena admitted with a sigh.
"'Saw' something? As in you read her mind?"
"I… kinda…?"
"But I thought you couldn't read minds."
"I can't," Athena answered. "Not… not usually, but something just… happened. Master has been trying to help me understand and control it, but, so far, no dice."

Ryo didn't say anything — just looked at Athena very carefully. She met his gaze and instantly honed in on just how perturbed he actually was.

"So… what changed?" she ventured.
"I don't know if I should get into it. I think it's probably pretty personal stuff..."
"I just told you that I kindasortabutnotreally 'witnessed' a rape. I think that if it's something personal about her, I should be fine because it doesn't really get any more personal than that. And if I'm not, I'll deal with that later. If it's about you, well… you don't have to say anymore."

Ryo sighed while Athena placed her hands in her lap and looked at him expectantly. Which one was it?

"She's… done things," Ryo finally divulged.
"Yeah — things. Things that I don't really agree with. And not only is she upset about it, but a lot of other people are, too."
"I don't understand," Athena remarked. She furrowed her brow, curious about what kind of things King could have done that Ryo didn't agree with. Maybe it had something to do with her past working in the mob? Or maybe it had something to do with that other memory she saw: King and Vanessa kissing. Surely that's something Ryo wouldn't agree with, either…?

"Tell me something," Ryo said, interrupting Athena's thoughts.
"You and Kensou… don't laugh, but let's say Kensou was with a few girls before you. How do you think you'd feel knowing that?"

Athena couldn't help but laugh: Sie? With a few girls? She almost couldn't process it. She continued to giggle almost uncontrollably but stopped herself when she saw how serious Ryo's expression was.

"Sorry," she apologized. "It's just… the thought of Sie with… a bunch of other girls is just… funny! I'm so sorry!"
"Okay, yeah, I'm not gonna lie, it is kinda funny… But, seriously, though — how would you feel?"
"To be honest I never thought about it…"
"Well think about it now."
"...I guess… it would be a little weird? I dunno… it's not like he's ever been some sort of Cassanova in the first place, so I can't really answer that question."

Ryo set his jaw as he fidgeted uncomfortably. He looked down and exhaled.

"You know what, though?" He started after a moment of silence, "I feel that people should be… selective when it comes to… those things. Not just… willing to go all over the place with whoever whenever."
"I guess… what I'm trying to say is… there's a certain… integrity… that should be upheld."
"'Integrity?' You mean, like… having standards…?"
"Something like that."
"So… you're saying Miss King doesn't have standards?"

Athena watched as Ryo furrowed his brow. He was visibly struggling to reconcile whatever was bouncing around in his head with what he actually wanted to say.

"It's not that she doesn't… but… our beliefs about certain topics just don't line up. I think that women should try to be with as few men as possible. They should stay… as... 'innocent' as they can until they find that special someone."
"Ummm… Miss King is a reformed criminal. Of course she's not innocent."
"That's not what… I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about… her… ummm… other choices."
"'Other choices.'"
"You mean…"

Athena trailed off as realization metaphorically smacked her upside the head, making her feel very stupid for not processing Ryo's words and phrasing correctly. Innocence, standards, choices… things. Those things.

...Things that really shouldn't be talked about like this.

"I just… don't understand how someone like King could just —" Ryo gesticulated wildly — "go with people. For her to do those things with several others is just… off-putting."

Athena wrinkled her nose: Sure, the idea of someone sleeping around was off-putting, and it was something that she personally could never do herself. However, who did what in their bed really wasn't her business to begin with. Aside from that, she knew in her heart of hearts that King wasn't the type to just do those kinds of things, so for Ryo to feel like this — after finding out about the assault could only mean...

"Ryo," Athena stated very seriously. "Are you counting… that? As… as her…?"
"Not… exactly? I mean… there were others… before..."
"'Others?' And what do you mean 'not exactly?' Either you do you don't!"
"Okay… I do."
"Does Miss King know that?"

Ryo didn't say anything — just nodded his head.

At that, Athena's eyes went wide and she thought back to her own experience: If she hadn't been able to stop the man who attacked her… and it got out of control… and then Sie considered him as somebody she was just… with? That would be devastating! Hearing that Ryo felt that way about King made Athena feel like she had been punched in the gut — which was probably nothing compared to what King herself must have felt. What she must have been feeling. Insulted, and hurt, and... insulted!

"That wasn't her fault, though!" Athena cried in disbelief. "As her friend — as a person — you can't hold such a thing against her!"
"And I don't!"
"So then why are you put off?! Do you really feel that that… monster… was someone she just… went with?!"

Ryo didn't answer, which was actually kind of horrifying and Athena really hoped it was because he was simply trying to find the right words. When he didn't respond she went on.

"I think you need a little perspective…"
"How do you mean?"
"There's nothing wrong with having your beliefs, but to look down on her for something that she didn't… you mentioned her other choices. But she didn't have a choice, Ryo! Surely you can understand that!"
"And I do. But it doesn't change the fact that it happened. It happened, and she's different now. She's…"
"But she's not different! At her core she's still the same person, regardless of who did what to her or what she's done — willingly — in her bedroom! You really need to apologize for telling her something so terrible!"
"I was being honest, though!"
"Maybe so but it was very insensitive! And I bet it made her feel shitty! Not a little bad, or sad, or crappy, but shitty! You need to apologize to her ayy-sap, and maybe rethink how you look at such things in general because there's no black and white here, Ryo! This is a gray area and if you're really her friend? You'll see that. Now —" Athena stood and picked up her purse — "if Yuri's not here then I should go."

Ryo looked up at her, a frown on his face.

"You look like you have something more to say," Athena observed.
"It's just… I don't know if I can truly see it the way everyone wants me to," Ryo maintained.
"You mean the way that it is? That, yes, even though he was technically another body she didn't do it willingly and, therefore, holding her accountable for it is wrong?"
"No, I know she didn't do it willingly, but it's still —"
"Why do you even care who she sleeps with?" Athena interrupted. "She doesn't have to answer to you — or anyone — when it comes to that."
"Yeah, I know. But it just kinda… freaks me out, I guess."

Athena stared down at Ryo, pensive, as she thought about the situation, and how mystifying his stance on his friend's personal life actually was. He was being so judgy toward King, and for what? Why? Something occurred to her then — something important; something that would maybe make him see, and, hopefully, shut this whole thing down.

"You know what?" she contended. "Now it's time for you to tell me something."
"...What?" Ryo asked cautiously.
"What if it was Yuri?"
"Come again?"
"Yuri went through her own ordeal but was lucky enough to come out of it unharmed. What if she hadn't? Would you think of her the same way you're thinking of Miss King? That she was just... with someone?"

A loaded, uncomfortable silence set in while Ryo thought about it. When he didn't say anything Athena closed her eyes and let out a loud sigh.

"Ryo Sakazaki," she exacted, her tone despondent, "You have a lot to learn."

With that, Athena turned on her heel and walked away, the feel of Ryo's conflicted emotions, his stubbornness, and his actual words leaving her completely demoralized.

Alright, where to start...? Because we just got some insight into Ryo's thoughts and feels... from Ryo himself! Was Robert right about him being a Puritanical ass? You tell me. Anyway:

* I called Athena a "quasi-psychic" because being a true psychic entails abilities she doesn't have: seeing the future, for example. When you break it down she's a super empath with telekinetic abilities. Plus healing and healing factor.
* If you look at the Kyokugen stage in KOF XIII it's obvious that the training room isn't ground level, as you can see the tops of buildings outside the window
* More "complex problems" Athena has healed in the past were her broken bones in Hurt (this included her spine)
* The "flash" Athena is referring to (when she saw King's memories) occurred in Hurt, but was also seen in the KOF: Kyo graphic novel, when she unwittingly taps into Iori's psyche.
* Athena accidentally pulled several memories from King's head (as you know if you've been going here awhile) but the two referred to here are the rape (derp) and a little bit of her time with Vanessa (Red Chapter 2).
* In this continuity Athena and Kensou are actually together. Fight me. (Also, she calls him by his first name whereas everyone else calls him Kensou.)
* The experience Athena is thinking/referring to is from Rex Madison's fic, Power, in which she's kidnapped by the Yakuza and tortured. She was able to stop her attacker though, in a very... well, go read it if you haven't.

Okay, that puts a lid on this chapter. One more to go, unless I have some weird, hypomanic rush of "WHAT ABOUT THIS PERSON AND THIS PERSON AND..."

Tell me what's on your mind! Cheers~