The lights shone down on the arena. Ibuki stood there, centre stage, eyeing her opponent, making mental notes of weak points. He stood across from her, doing the same thing. Foot sliding slightly across the mats, black studded boots shining, he reached his hand back and grasped the handle of his baseball bat. As he did so, Ibuki rushed in, sliding across the floor, and with one fell swoop, knocked him off his feet.
He bounced back up, eyes narrowed in an angry rage, and threw a baseball up from his belt into the air, grasped his bat, and swung. The ball flew off the bat, hurtling towards Ibukim who narrowly dodged it but wasn't fast enough to dodge another one he had just hit. It burrowed deep into her stomach, knocking the air out of her lungs and forcing her to crouch on the ground gasping for breath like a fish out of water.
She didn't know what to do, suddenly realizing the crowd and how noisy it was. She looked around; the faces blurred. She couldn't even see her opponent. She continued to glance around, thinking desperately of what to do and at the same time trying hard to breathe...and then she saw him, the same strange one-armed man who had been in the bath and couple of days before.
He was on the edge of the arena, looking straight at her, his small eyes glowing in the back of his wrinkled old head. Then she had breath again. She stood up. Her opponent had been waiting for her, looking thoroughly disappointed that she had wasted valuable fighting time.
Ibuki gave a small bow of recognition to her opponent before looking about for the one-armed man, but he had disappeared again.
She bent low and flung herself in the air, spinning gracefully over the head of her opponent and stealing the white baseball cap off his head, revealing messy spikes of black hair.
He clenched his fists and bared his teeth, then ran at Ibuki in an angry rage. She sidestepped and as he fell past her she grabbed one of the baseballs attached to his belt then threw it as hard as she could at him.
With the ball speeding to him, the bared teeth turned to an angry smirk. Grabbing his bat, he stepped forward and smashed the ball right back to Ibuki, who was now wearing the white baseball cap on back to front, just as her opponent had been. She stepped out of the way, then jumped once again in the air and aimed a few daggers.
Just as she had suspected, the baseball bat again came out and all three daggers nailed themselves into the wood. As he looked inquisitively at them, Ibuki silently ran in for the final blow, turning back then furiously spinning around, delivering a hefty bombardment of spinning kicks, and ending in a high jump kick. She then saw her opponent fall unconsciously to the floor, his button up baseball uniform spotlessly white except for a dozen dusty foot marks around the torso, and the bat coming down a few moments later.
When he awakened shortly after, Ibuki returned the cap. He silently took it back, running his fingers through his black spiky fringe and placing the cap strategically on back to front.
The noise calmed again inside Ibuki's head. Her next opponent stood only a few paces from her. Tall for a Japanese girl but probably the same age as Ibuki, with long, slender legs that curved up to a small but muscular physique, she rested a volleyball on her open palm with fingers heavily taped.
The ball bounced and then rested back in her palm. She bounced it again then flung it high into the air. Ibuki, whose eyes were momentarily watching the ball, wasn't fast enough to see the open palm that pushed her back then trapped the ball.
It began bouncing again, high into the air, then it's master followed, smacking the ball down with an open palm some distance above Ibuki's head.
Countering the volleyball that had just made an imprint on the floor, Ibuki attacked with her trademark aerial kicks, only her opponent did roughly the same thing. The higher Ibuki jumped, the higher her opponent jumped out of the way, countering with fast and furious hand movements.
Back on the sidelines, heads angled upwards to see where most of the fighting was taking place, were Benimaru and Chun-Li.
"I know her." Said Benimaru. "Her name is Natsu Ayuhara. Played in the National High School Volleyball Championship last year."
"And why were you at a high school volleyball competition? Aren't the girls a little young for you there?" asked Chun-Li inquisitively, finally taking her eyes off the fight to give Benimaru a dirty look.
"Well it wasn't me who couldn't keep my eyes and hands off the girls, it was more the other way around."
Chun-Li gave him an even dirtier, more suspicious glare.
"Okay, okay, I was there because Shingo was there, eyeing off the girls."
Chun-Li's facial expression didn't change.
"I swear I didn't do anything!"
Their focus then went back to the fight, just in time to see Ibuki take her last blow and Natsu standing above her, the volleyball being casually bounced in the left hand. Her red uniform was slightly torn and one of her kneepads had fallen off, but she bowed politely as Ibuki limped down to sit near to Benimaru. In passing Chun-Li, she whispered to her, "Bring her back to Earth."
Chun-Li knew what Ibuki had meant. She was going to play this one defensively. Sitting lightly on the ground, her hands outstretched and legs delicately resting in flexible positions, she looked just like a lotus flower sitting on top of still water.
Natsu examined her, slightly taken back at why her opponent would choose to lounge about during a fight.
'Well if this is the way she's going to play it, then I'm not holding back!' She thought to herself. The ball bounced once, lifted into the air and then came plummeting back down from a smack that echoed in the large arena.
Extending her right leg, Chun-Li stopped the speeding projectile with the tip of her toe. She arched her back, placed her hands on the floor behind her and gracefully handstanded, resting the volleyball on the ball of her foot.
Natsu stared back in sheer disbelief.
'How... did she... that was my strongest spike!'
Chun-Li smiled, standing back on her own two feet, juggling the ball so it came to rest on top of one outstretched finger before casually passing it back to Natsu so it rolled along the floor.
Natsu picked up the ball. Disbelieving what had just happened, she bounced the ball again, flung it high into the air and came crashing down on it with her most forceful palm. Once again it hurtled down towards Chun-Li, but this time she just stepped out of the way. The ball glided past her, causing her hair ribbons to flail madly around then rolled off the fighting stage entirely.
This had been what Chun-Li was waiting for and narrowed in on Natsu. She ducked a few uppercuts, lined Natsu up and released her lightning kicks. The white blur of her leg left Natsu spinning to the ground, no longer able to fight.
The breeze blew gently across the quiet suburbs of Tenri. It lifted Kyoshiro's fiery locks across his shoulders and ruffled Rose's scarf.
The jet journey had been a fast and silent one and Kyoshiro was wondering why he had come here. It had been a strange few days. He had felt something coming but was having seconds thoughts.
A few minutes later, a vehicle pulled up beside them. Not the black limousines that had been ushering them about all day, but a large black family car. It blended in better than a limousine but still stood out against the modest buildings, with their old tiled roofs and worn looking roads.
The car weaved around the suburban maze, past a small convenience store, past the building labelled Nanki dormitory, and onto the busier main road.
Fast moving soccer boots crashed into Chun-Li. Her opponent was a tricky one. He adjusted his blue visor, gleaming in the artificial light, so it covered his eyes. He ran at Chun-Li, side stepped and rolled into a bicycle kick that crashed onto her shoulder.
She recovered and aimed a roundhouse kick, but he countered again, sliding across the floor, going for her feet. She jumped just in time, and heel stomped but before her foot could make contact her ankle had been tightly griped and she was thrown down.
She plummeted to earth fast, unable to turn or land safely and crashing onto her side.
The full force of the throw shattering a few ribs on the landing continued to crack as she steadily got back to her feet.
Chun-li focused on her opponent and flung her hands out beside her. He fingers began to tingle, slowly becoming clenched fists then back to outstretched palms, a wave of blue light surging from her fingers tips, her opponents foot steps grew faster but somehow quieter, he was right in front of her and...
A great ball of blue light had engulfed the ring. Through it's semi transparent glow the figures of someone standing and someone crumpled on the ground could be made out.
As the blue light slowly faded into starlight dust, Chun-Li was left standing; her light and delicate blue clothing tattered around the edges and her knuckles left red and bloody.
Kyoshiro no longer knew where he was. He had never been in these parts of rural Japan. The rice fields here were taller and quieter. No farmers and no people in general. The clouds went past all looking the same from the car window. On the left were woods, daunting and black, but silent like the rice fields.
He impatiently cracked his knuckles.
Bao, sitting next to him threw a quick glance at him from under his cap. Kyoshiro could tell that this silence was getting to Bao more than himself.
Athena and Rose on the other hand still didn't care. Rose occasionally murmured to the driver and Athena just sat patiently, hands folded and looking polite.
And from the monotonous surroundings the tip of torii appeared peeking over the black treetops.
They pulled up in front of it. A dark entrance cut out from the growth revealed stone steps that seemed wet although the weather at the current time was dry.
"Follow us." Said Athena and Rose in unison.
Kyoshiro followed, this day was not one in which stopping and asking questions would benefit him. Instead he just shuffled along, into the cool shadows of the trees and onto the moist steps.
A strong gust of wind blew through the stairway. It grabbed Rose's scarf and carried down back from where they came.
"Leave it." She said.
The wind had ruffled Kyoshiro's clothes and he now realised that he was carrying his naginata, which he could have sworn he had not been carrying before.
The steps never seemed to end. They had been climbing them for some time and as it seemed to only get darker they finally reached where the tunnel of trees finally opened up at the base of the torii and into the light again where a handsome looking shrine was built on the flat of the ground. The clouds which aloud-small spots of flying light to be visible shaded its entrance. They were fireflies. Small little flames hanging in the air, glowing in such brilliance Kyoshiro stood for a moment just watching them play.
They whirred fast for a moment, ceased and seemed to be suspended in time then whirred fast again, coming together and creating a blanket of small spots of fire before shooting of into different directions and onto their lives again leaving behind an old one-armed man.