Chun Li awoke the next morning alone in the bed. "Ryu?" she called out.
"Sorry, Sweetheart. Hate to disappoint you, but it's only me." She looked over to see Guile sitting on the sofa with his combat boots propped up on the coffee table, his arms behind his head.
"When did you get back?" She rubbed the remains of last night's sleep from her eyes.
Guile twirled his dog tags between his fingers. "Not too long ago." He grinned. "Your boyfriend was all apologies. In fact, I don't think I need to worry about him taking advantage of you if you didn't want it – he's so damn respectful and apologetic."
For some reason, the comment grated on her. "So what was it that you had to do last night?"
"High priority shit. Ran out of hair gel and had to do some serious recon to find more."
He feigned a look of innocence and ran his hands over his flattop. "What? You don't think it was worth it?" Chun Li couldn't help laughing. Guile shrugged his enormous shoulders and put his arms behind his head again. "Well, I think it looks pretty damn sexy. I don't know what your problem is." He allowed himself a smile, as Chun Li laughed even harder. He became serious for a moment and took his feet off the table. "Did you enjoy yourself last night?"
She stopped laughing. Seeing him sitting there looking at her so earnestly, she felt an admixture of sadness and love for him. She knew all too well how he truly felt about her and if she could have willed herself to reciprocate, she would have done so without hesitation. Nowhere else in her experience had she met anyone so constant and dedicated yet whatever the reason was, she could not return his affections. And yet, despite the fact that he knew she was attracted to another, he still acted only in the interests of her happiness. I don't deserve you, Guile, she thought regretfully to herself.
"Okay, based on how long it's taking you to answer my question, either you had a great time or it was boring as hell."
She had forgotten that he had asked her a question. "It was very nice," she volunteered, not wanting him to feel that she was inconsiderate of his feelings.
"Good." Guile shrugged his shoulders in mock disdain and rolled his eyes. "Not that I know what you see in that little shrimp, but I guess there's no accounting for taste." Grabbing one of the pillows, Chun Li lobbed it at his head. "Hey! Watch the hair! You have no idea what I had to go through to look this good!"
That set off another bout of giggles. Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she held out her arms to him like a little girl. "Help me walk to the bathroom?"
"Alright." Guile crossed his arms in front of his chest. "But don't expect me to hold you up while you pee."
"Actually I was thinking number two."
"I'd put you in a diaper first."
"Ryu? Ryu! You butt-munch! Are you even listening to me?"
Ken's voice snapped Ryu out of his reverie. "Nani?"
"What the hell is the matter with you, man? I don't think you've heard a word I've said in the last fifteen minutes."
Ken sighed and turned to Eliza. "What are we going to do with him? I've never seen him so out of it."
She had to admit, she had never seen Ryu as preoccupied as he was today. "Are you alright, Ryu?"
"Mm." He picked aimlessly at his breakfast, still lost in thought.
"…and then Chun Li got in the car with him-"
"Eh?" Ryu looked up at the mention of her name.
Ken had a triumphant smile plastered across his face. "Ha! Finally got your attention. Yo, are you blushing?" His sentence was cut short by a lightning fast slap to the back of his head by Eliza. "What are you, my mom?" She shot him a sideways warning glance and Ken decided to quit while he was ahead. He turned back to Ryu. "Anyway, so now we know Bison is here. Should have figured as much after Vega turned up. But why would he be interested in you? He knows you have like zero interest in working for him or Shadowlaw."
Ryu's brow furrowed. "I do not know what he wants with me."
"Maybe he wants to try another one of his little brainwashing schemes. Something tells me it wouldn't work on you though."
"Perhaps." He pushed back his chair and bowed to the both of them. "Please excuse me, I must train now." Ken and Eliza watched his retreating figure with concern.
The sakura blossoms had begun to fall from the trees, carpeting the ground in a soft pink blanket. It felt rather pleasant under Ryu's bare feet. After centering his mind, he began to go through his forms, his movements causing a flurry of petals around him. Despite trying to remain focused on his exercises, Ryu's thoughts kept straying back to Chun Li. It was difficult to leave her this morning, and come to think of it, it was becoming harder and harder not to think of her or spending time with her. Suddenly he could not remember which sequence of movements he had been working on. Annoyed, he willed himself to focus on his training, but the memories of lying next to her came unbidden into his thoughts. For a moment, he could have sworn he smelled her clean scent.
Whipping around, he saw her walking slowly towards him. Immediately he was flooded by a myriad of emotions. Joy at seeing her stronger, concern for her wellbeing, wonder at how the mere sight of her now made his heart race. The number of emotions he was experiencing, as well as their intensity were overwhelming, and he struggled to maintain his composure.
"Ohaiyo." His tone was more stern than he intended.
Her smile faded slightly as she noticed his impassive face. "Are you alright?"
"I am fine, thank you," was the flat reply.
The change in his demeanor was all too palpable and Chun Li wondered what she had done to make him act this way. Hoping to put him at ease, she pulled a cherry blossom off a branch near him. "In China this is a symbol of beauty."
Ryu looked at the flower and then at Chun Li's face. Her smile was so open and inviting that he felt himself relax his guard a bit. "In my country, it symbolizes the fragile and fleeting nature of life. It is delicate and beautiful, but it cannot last."
"What a sad way to look at something so beautiful."
"But that is the reality of the situation. They blossom and within days they are trodden on, their beauty forgotten." He gestured to the petals that littered the ground.
Chun Li's voice was sad. "That sounds so cold." Taking one of his hands, she placed the flower in his palm and closed his fingers lightly over it. "Things are forgotten only when they are allowed to be forgotten." Her fingers lingered on his for a moment before she walked away.
For an instant, Ryu contemplated calling her back until he saw Guile's unmistakable form making its way towards Chun Li. Waving to her, Ryu watched him engulf her small body in a gentle hug that belied his formidable appearance. The way he looked at her and the smile she gave him caused a strange sensation in him. When he heard her laughing at something he said, he had the sickening realization that what he was experiencing was in fact jealousy. He was completely unaware of it, but he had clenched his fists while watching them. Opening his hand, he saw that he had crushed the sakura blossom that she had given him and he could not understand why it suddenly made him quite sad to see the ruined remains of the flower in his palm. Looking up again, the two of them were gone.
Anger welled up inside him. Desperate to dispel the aggression within himself, he punched the nearest cherry tree, uprooting it. It fell with a loud crash and sent up a cloud of petals that lazily drifted to the ground. Ryu tried to calm his ragged breathing, but he felt as if he were choking from the inside. He grabbed at his sides, feeling as though he would explode. From inside his head, he heard a menacing voice rumble, "Ryu…" Screaming in agony, he grabbed both sides of his head and fell forward unconscious.
Ryu awoke to find that he was naked in his bed, but could not remember how he gotten back to the hotel or how he had managed to get undressed. A cold compress had been placed on his head and his red hachimaki hung on the bedpost. He heard footsteps and looked up as Ken walked into the room with a glass of water. "You're finally awake," he said with relief. Sitting next to Ryu, he handed him the glass.
After taking a few sips, Ryu asked, "How long was I asleep?"
"Nani?!" Ryu coughed on a mouthful of water.
Ken nodded. "Yeah. When you didn't come back to the hotel, Eliza got worried so she told me to go look for you. I found you in the park, lying face down, and I don't know what you were doing but the area looked like it had been hit by lightning."
"What do you mean?" Ryu was utterly confused.
"You were lying in the middle of this crater," Ken said incredulously. The whole thing was all black and scorched looking. You were actually still smoking when I found you. What the hell were you doing?"
"I don't know," Ryu said haltingly. "I do not remember."
"Hello?" Chun Li peered into the room. "May I come in?" Ryu felt himself bristle at the sound of her voice.
"Oh, hey, Chun," Ken greeted her. "Come on in." He lowered his voice before saying, "She's been worried sick about you, man, so be nice to her, okay?" His voice resumed its normal tone. "I'll give you two kids some privacy."
Chun Li sat on the spot that Ken had vacated, a tentative smile on her face. "How are you?"
"I am not sure," Ryu admitted. "Something happened to me. Something is happening to me."
She played with the edge of the blanket, unable to look at him. "I was so worried." Her voice shook slightly.
"I am sorry that I have caused you concern."
Her wounds must have healed for the most part because she suddenly leapt forward and hugged him fiercely. "I thought I would never see you again," she said, crying softly. "I was so afraid for you." He was so caught off guard by her reaction that for a moment he just sat frozen in place while she clung to him, but as he recovered from the shock, he felt himself slowly warp his arms around her. She hugged him even harder. "I'm so glad you're alright."
He wiped her tear-stained face with his hands. "Please, do not cry." She smiled at him and rested her head on his chest, still hugging him. He became acutely aware of how close she was to him. The combination of her pressing herself to him as well as her emotional display of concern began to manifest their effects on him and he was both surprised and somewhat horrified that his body was involuntarily responding. Overcome with embarrassment, he flipped over onto his stomach so fast he nearly threw her off the bed. His back safely turned to her, he prayed silently that she hadn't seen it.
Not realizing that this was an attempt to hide his arousal, Chun Li felt a stab of rejection seeing him turn away from her. "I'm sorry, Ryu." Her tone was dejected. "I didn't mean to invade your space like that."
"No, no," he spoke through the pillow he had buried his face in. He didn't even want to imagine the shades of red he was turning. "My stomach hurts - that is all," was his muffled explanation.
Realizing that he was not in fact shunning her, she smiled again. "Here, let me take a look at i-"
"NO!" Both of them were startled by how loud his reaction was, even through the pillow. "That is, uh, I am sure it will be fine. I am probably just hungry."
She inched closer to him and put a consoling hand on his back, which did nothing to improve his situation. "Would you like me to bring you something?"
"No, no, I uh…I also have a headache. I think I just need some rest."
"Oh…alright." She reluctantly stood up. "I'll come back when you feel better."
Ryu was so intent on trying to meditate away his erection that he didn't even notice her leave. A few minutes later he heard the door again. Annoyed, he shouted, "I said I am fine!"
"Okay, man. No need to friggin' yell." Ken's voice sounded every bit as annoyed his. "Dude, why are you suffocating yourself?"
"Uruse! Leave me alone."
"Well, that's gratitude for ya. So what did Chun Li have to say?" From deep within the pillow, Ken heard a loud, frustrated sigh escape. "What?"
gomen: sorry (informal)
ohaiyo: good morning
uruse: shut up