Hanami (flower viewing)
Shotoken Dojo, Japan 
Springtime Late April 1996 
  

The blue sky was filled with gentle puffy white clouds rolling along with gentle breeze. Upon the mountains where once a uniform dark green canopy was, it is now overtaken in patches by the delicate light pink flowers that occasionally flutter in a slow gentle dance towards the ground when the trees quiver in the wind. 

Gouken came out to the porch, instead of wearing his gi he was wearing a black coloured hakama (loose pants - the type wore by practitioners of Akido) over a black kimono. 

There was pride in his eyes as he watched the group of travellers trekking up the path. The blond American and dark hair Japanese hurried towards him. Though the two have their families in tow. To Gouken the two men will always be his fledglings and his two fledglings had return to visit him. 
  

The rest of the group had finally arrived as well. Ken’s wife - Eliza and their young son - Mel in tow. Ryu’s wife - ChunLi and a seventeen year old girl named Iwa. He had given up trying to figure out the girl’s somewhat complicated relationship to the couple. But he let it rest that she was disciple and family to the couple. 

Gouken beamed with pride as his watch the group heading towards their quarters. In some ways he had not let his brother( Si Heng type) down. He felt that he had done his best in raising Ryu. 

< I had not let you down at all Sho. > he thought to himself. 
  

Moments later they group reappear all dressed and ready. Ken was in a grey yukata and Eliza was wearing a peach short sleeve kimono with the motifs of sprigs of red sakuras embroidered on it. Young Mel was wearing a black hakama over his black kimono. 
  

Ryu was wearing a dark blue kimono and hakama. For once he had not tore off the sleeves but rolled them up to his shoulders instead. ChunLi was in a kimono of the same colour as that of her husband’s. Her sleeves were short as it indicated that she is a married woman. The motif on her kimono was that of bamboo leaves. 
  

And as for Iwa, she was the odd one out as she wore a white polo t-shirt with loose dark blue pants and a dark blue vest of many pockets. On her head was grey raccoon pelt. It seems that any encouragement of wearing a kimono to the Asian-Chinese girl with the jet-black hair was treated as a suicidal invitation to an open bloodbath. 

On her shoulder clinging onto her camera strapped was a slightly drunken rust-brown squirrel who would not for its life miss the opportunity for more sake when the opportunity arises. 
  

Together the group headed out of the dojo via the back gate, heading up a little forest trail till they reached a gentle stream that was surrounded by grooves of Cherry blossom trees in full bloom. The ground in general was lightly carpeted by the delicate pink flowers as well. Before they unpack Iwa took the opportunity for a group photo. 

Moments later when the tatami was led on the ground Iwa removed the long black leather sling bag she had slung across her shoulders. Ignoring the sword that was within she took out a few rods with which she assembled into a fishing rod while Mel wondered off. 

It wasn’t long when the men and Iwa were sitting quietly by the stream as they cast their rods into the stream. 
  

“When did you start wearing fur? I had thought that your kind was against that? young one?” Gouken broke the silence as he reeled in a trout. 
“Since this ball of fur clung onto my head a week ago while we were at the Kusanagis’ Hanami party. It seems that it’s an acquaintance to that squirrel I found in the barrel of sake.” Iwa said with no change in her expression while Gouken was unsure if it was meant to be a joke. 
  

Upon the stream as it floated pass Ryu, his eyes suddenly gain a light of recognition as a thought hit him. He handed his fishing rod to Mel who had just returned. He headed over to ChunLi who was trying to keep the squirrel from invading the basket where the bottles of sake were. 

“Li. I just remember that there was something I wanted to show you.” He said as he held out his hand to help her up. 
“Excuse us a moment sensei.” Ryu said as he led his across the little bridge further upstream. 

“What the big secrecy about?” ChunLi asked as she carefully threaded the path with her geta (wooden clogs). 
“You’ll understand when you see it Li.” Ryu smiled hiding his secret. 
  

It wasn’t long when they reached a clearing that ends at a high ledge over a field of wild flowers. Blue, red and yellow, a riot of colours at full bloom as far as the eye can see. Little petals of pink spiralling slowly down towards that field of flowers. ChunLi recognised and remember this place. 

It was the place where she had nearly endangered Ryu’s life all because of the fact that she was a silly little girl who had taken a liking to the lily. It is the same place from where Ryu had taken that same lily with a blue tint from its heart and transplanted it into a pot and presented it to her a few years back. That same flower now thrives at Summerlodge and five other places. 

There was another thing she noticed as well. The lilies now grow further in from the edge of the ledge whereas the original plant was suppose to be on the cliff face. 
  

“Oh that.” Ryu said scratching his head with a grin on his face. He knew what she wanted to ask. 

“When I took transplanted that one for you those years back. I took the liberty of planting some along this plot further inland. No sense falling off the ledge the next time I have to pick up some lilies for you. Heh.” He grinned. 
“Kidding!! I was careful. Oww!” he yelp as ChunLi hit him playfully on the arm. 

“A moment.” He said, heading towards the ledge. 
Balancing carefully on the ledge, Ryu reached out and pluck a lily from the original bush on the face of the cliff. And thus accomplishing the oath he had swore to when he was a boy hanging on for dear life upon the ledge where his only lifeline was the girl who is now married to him. 

“Easier third time around.” He grinned as he carefully placed the flower into ChunLi’s hair. His reward was a kiss and embrace from her. They stood there in embrace oblivious to the hobbyist amateur photographer who had sensed an excellent photo opportunity. 
  
  

Some time later when the couple return to join the main group to be greeted by the smell of grilled fish. Along with that there was a spread of sushi, yakitori(meat kebabs somewhat like satay). 

Sitting down Ken handed them two little cups and poured the sake in. By now the grey racoon that was on Iwa’s head was already up and was fighting with the squirrel over a bottle of sake. The others look at them and back at Iwa. 
  

“Don’t look at me. All I know is that there are only five creatures out of the fifty within the Inner Circle who are addicted to alcohol. We are still trying to find a way so that they won’t be found swimming in barrels of sake.” Iwa answered holding her hands up. Mel and her are the only ones not allow to drink sake so they were given green tea instead. 
  

“To good health.” Gouken said as he raise the cup of sake. 
“To good health.” The rest begun as they took a deep breath. 

“KAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNN….” They started dragging on the cheer as long as their lungs could hold. What seem like an eternity of a minute passed. 
“PAI!!!!!!!” their breath finally exploded with relief. Then they drowned the little cup of sake. 
  

To the whoops of the crowd the slightly tipsy Ryu started a little Japanese song as the rest clapped along. The racoon and squirrel reconciled their differences and danced along to entertain. 

The trees quivered and rain petals of cherry blossom around them. ChunLi and Ryu lovingly fed each other onagiri(rice cakes), Ken and his family was chatting away with Gouken. 

While Iwa who still has yet to expire from the overdose of figurative saccharine was dipping the chicken yakitori into a lightly spiced peanut gravy brought from a stall in her hometown. She was making the mental note to go back home and visit her parents when the festivities end. 
  
  

Near evening the festivities still continued but Gouken excused Ryu and ChunLi who took a basket of food and drinks with them and crossed the little bridge. 
  

They were under a cherry tree and gazing out towards the field of flowers. ChunLi lying on Ryu lap tapping his nose with a sprig of cherry blossom. Ryu took a piece of apple and fed his wife. 

A rain of cherry blossom petal began to fall up them as the breeze caress the trees, there were a few perfect flowers that land on ChunLi’s hair. Ryu smiled as he kissed his wife on the lips. 

She smiled back at him as they watched the reddish rays of light slowly fade from eastern sky towards the west. The first clutch of stars began to twinkle in the night sky as the trees rain petals upon them once again. 
  

“Aren’t the stars pretty tonight?” she whispered, tapping Ryu’s nose with the sprig of flowers in hand. 
“Very.” He said ads he strokes her face, gently brushing off the stray petals, Ryu lowered himself till he was lying side by. side with ChunLi on a bed of petals. The scent of flowers was strong in the air. 
  

One can be forgiven into thinking that they were spirits of the forest having a tryst under the rain of delicate cherry blossom petals. Iwa stuck her tongue at the sense of overdosing in saccharine that was trying to overwhelm her. She felt that her quota of holiday photographs were reached. And the fact that she had received the signal for privacy. 

Gathering the racoon and the squirrel she headed to back to the dojo as sleep begins to teased her eyelids. She couldn’t help but feel that there was a strange sense of irony going on as the season of cherry blossoms was here and the person who’s namesake was that of the flower wasn’t. Iwa couldn’t help but laugh inwardly. 

Taking a glance at the couple whispering sweet nothings to each other. Iwa smiled in private as she left the couple with privacy they deserved.

 
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