Heyo. I've been out of the writing game for a while due to major burnout and other crappy life factors, so I thought it'd be fun to ease back into it by taking a crack at the KOFtober prompts Helsic on Twitter did up. Lots of visual artists have created some awesome stuff, so I thought I'd toss my hat into the ring too with a written medium, since that's what I'm more comfortable with skill-wise. I don't know if I can keep up and do all of the prompts, but I'd certainly like to push myself to try.

Though it's short, please enjoy, and please don't be shy telling me your thoughts on this piece!

KOFtober prompt 1: Fire and Ice

A piercing scream bounced around the concrete room, cutting through the roar and snap of flame. He swore, dousing his fire. Even before the familiar stench of cooked flesh hit his nostrils, K' knew he had messed up royally and the day's training was officially put to a screeching halt.

"Shit... Oi, are you okay?" He reached for Kula, wanting to assess the damage to gauge which supplies he'd need to treat it.

The reaction was immediate. She flinched away from his hands, scrambling backwards and pressing herself into the furthest possible corner like a terrified animal. She whimpered at the sight of him, shaking her head vigorously and shrinking away further. Whenever the dull red metal fingers of his right hand approached she was seized by fits of manic energy. She would shriek and resort to slapping his hands away frantically. It didn't matter whether she was still wearing her gauntlets, the harsh slap of metal against metal slicing the air, or if her hands were bare like they were now, uncaringly bruising alabaster pale skin with the ferocity of her strikes; she just wanted it and the reminder of its scalding touch gone. The tears also became worse when she spotted his gauntlet. She curled in on herself further, cradling her arm, weeping and whimpering. The massive red blotch marring her perfect skin glared at him accusingly, parts of the mottled red, pink and white already beginning to swell into blisters.

K' hated the sight of her when she was like this. The uncontrollable hitched breaths that shook her entire body, the flushed face leaking tears and snot everywhere, the pure fear etched in every inch of her face from watery eyes to wobbling lower lip... It all itched at the hazier parts of his brain; at the fragmented things locked away or lost. It was that pure, visceral, weakness that made him uncomfortable. She seemed so small and pathetic in this state... It harkened back to that foggy once upon a time when he had a name that wasn't a serial number and the blood in his body didn't set his veins aflame. And it was all his fault she was in this state.

Whip had once tried to tell him his powers weren't inherently bad. His fire could be used for healing instead, she'd insisted. He'd scoffed at her then, and seeing the aftermath of this training session, he could only continue to think she had been too naïve. It didn't matter how much she felt she owed it to him to be a good big sister in Seirah's stead, her words had been nothing more than a pretty delusion. And as Maxima ushered him away from Kula, trying to give her breathing room to calm down, he could only recall his bitter response to Whip that day.

Don't be absurd. All this power is good for is hurting and killing.

K' stared at the battered red metal wrapped around his hand. Armoured fingers curled over dinged and scratched palm plates, forming a fist. Here was the proof in the pudding, yet again. It didn't matter what anybody said, NESTS had made him a weapon and destruction was clearly all he was good for. He shoved both hands into his pockets, turning away from the sight of Maxima pulling Kula against his massive chest. Her blubbering became muffled, hands reaching up to white-knuckle the back of his flannel. K''s chest twinged, mouth twisting into a wince.

"... I'm getting some air," he mumbled, already moving for the exit and uncaring if either of them could hear him or not.

It was best to just leave the hideout for now. No good would come of him hanging around right now. Not when Kula was still in such a raw state. In a few hours he'd come back; ample enough time for Maxima to smooth things over, tend to her burn, and get her calm again. Enough time for him to deal with the thickening storm cloud of emotions brewing inside, too. Maybe if he had enough spare change he should swing by the convenience store and bring back a cheap tub of ice cream as a peace offering...

The way the frost coated his lashes was pretty. It was the same soft white as his hair. Kula thought his face also looked pretty when he was so still, with none of the usual scowl lines in sight. Like this, K' reminded her of a doll. The pallor of his skin wasn't very nice, however. The usual rich brown was washed out to a kind of grey and looked faintly waxy. Even with his face so slack, that colour didn't make it very pleasant to look at. The colour of his lips was also strange... almost blue. Moreover, shouldn't he have been breathing a little deeper? She could barely see his chest rising and falling through the gap in his jacket.

Uncle barged past her while she was still transfixed. He looked alarmed, crouching amongst the powdered ice to slap K''s cheek several times and shake his shoulder. His urging at K' to wake up tickled at something — some old thought, or perhaps a memory? The scenery was vague, but a man in a block of ice stood out in sharp clarity. He looked like an action figure with the way he was frozen in his attempt to run away. A little girl's sobs for her daddy to wake up were also clear. As were her screams of "monster!" Kula didn't like this memory. The sight of the waxy texture and colour of the girl's skin, stray permafrost glittering on her dress like tiny diamonds, was equal parts vindicating and uncomfortable.

Weak coughing snapped Kula from her reverie. She was relieved to see that Uncle had managed to coax K' into moving now. She flounced over, ready to gloat about today's victory, but peering over Maxima's shoulder gave her pause. K' looked like he was still super groggy, like on those rare occasions where he managed to sleep all night without waking up to chronic pain or nightmares. He'd managed to pry his eyes open partway, the frost on his lashes falling away. What she could see of the steely blues wasn't sharp and keen, but marble dull and unfocused. Now that his eyes were open he was moving again. But there was no coordination whatsoever in his movements. K' at his best moved with controlled poise and fluidity, almost like a cat. But there was no grace in the way his entire body shuddered, limbs occasionally jerking on their own as though shocked by a brief electric current. If she listened closely enough, she could hear faint clicking and an occasional muffled moan.

Uncertainty began creeping into Kula's heart. This didn't seem right. Was he hurt? But she hadn't punched or kicked him that hard... In fact, she'd actively held her strength back because he always got sulky when he had to wait for broken bones to heal, even though he liked sitting around doing nothing.

"—a. Kula!"

Uncle's sharp bark startled her. Her eyes flicked from K', shivering and struggling to stay awake, to Maxima's serious expression.

"We need blankets," he ordered. The tone of his voice made her stomach drop. The brusque, firm tenor meant they were dealing with trouble of the worst kind. The sort of trouble when one of them was hurt very, very badly. "Lots of them. The warmer, the better. Bring them to his room quickly."

"Blankets?" she parroted, confused. If K' was hurt then wouldn't the medical kit be better?

"Yes. Quickly." Lips pressed into a thin line, Uncle scooped up K'. He was already taking massive strides out of the training area. In his arms, K' continued to shiver, body rigid, limbs twitching. His eyes had fluttered back shut at some point. They didn't open again no matter how much he was jostled. Uncle's thick brows were knotted with stress. "He needs to be warmed up. Please hurry, Kula."

"O-okay." Even if the request seemed strange to her, she trusted his judgement; he was the group brainiac who knew everything.

It felt like she was moving through syrup, her movements clumsy as she went in the opposite direction, seeking out their meagre supply closet. Time was simultaneously too fast and too slow, the short walk seemed to take forever, yet was over in the blink of an eye. This entire situation felt unreal. It was like a strange dream she was waiting to wake up from.

She rifled through the closet's contents. A few things tumbled out, accidentally knocked over by her shaking hands. Something shattered — medicine, maybe? — but she ignored it, tiptoeing around the leaking liquid and glass fragments to search deeper. Her gut sank at her findings; only two spare blankets, and one was thin. Maybe she should grab the blanket from her room too? Yes. That one was snuggly and warm.

With a few awkward hops and skips, she dodged the broken glass and hurried down the dark cement halls. K''s room was right next to hers, so she could clearly hear Maxima moving around. It sounded like he was rifling through all of K''s clothes drawers, hissing bad words under his breath the entire time. Kula was pensive as she gathered her blanket in one big wad with one hand, tossing it haphazardly atop the two neatly folded ones nestled in her other hand. They felt like bundles of lead in her arms as she hurried towards K''s room.

K' had endured knife wounds, gunshots, and many shades of blunt force trauma, among other injuries. And he'd survived them all; even the most deadly wounds. Despite being a pure human rather than a test tube product, he was amazingly resilient. She would even dare to say he might be invincible. So surely a little bit of cold wouldn't kill him.

... Right?

For the record, these are seperate training incidents, and both times they were able to recover and reconcile. In terms of timeline, these mishaps are probably between 2003 and XIII in the timeline, before K' Team were able to find a stable living arrangement.

Finally, I'd like to close this off by thanking Helsic for creating the prompt list for KOFtober and spurring so many talented artists — themself amongst them — to participate in something so fun. And to thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to give this piece a peep. Look forward to potentially seeing you when/if I do more prompts from the list!