Zero
Chapter 1
Day 4 
The village near the Shotoken dojo 

It was almost evening as Ken finished his bit of work at the little noodle shop that he and Dan were apprenticed to. It was a ruling in their dojo that all disciples must take up some form of apprenticeship in the village so that their lives would be more than just training, eating, sleeping and more training. 

While he has a fondness for all types of noodles, his buddy has an apprenticeship in carpentry. In particular he noticed that Ryu specializes in boxes of which the sizes range from small jewelry boxes to large clothes chests. The results of his works Ken is very much familiar with as he had sent a few such boxes back to his mother as birthday gifts. And not only that, quite a few village girls had queued up for a piece of his works although he wonders if they were after his works or him. 

Collecting the daily mail from the postal office he began checking through the stack while he waited for Dan to load up some fresh grocery onto the cart. 
"My fan mail, my fan mail, a letter from mom, more fan mail, a parcel for me….hmmm this smells nice." Ken mumbled 
"What?" Dan asked he loaded the last food parcel up the cart. 
"This letter here. The way it smells kinda says that it's writer is a cute girl near my age." 
"And that's suppose to be new? Get off the cart." 
"No. Its part of your training. So push." 

"What? Again?! Its an uphill task!!" Dan exclaimed, pointing at the way back to the dojo and then at the cart on which Ken is sitting on." 
"If you don't like my basic training, you could always be transfered to Ryu." 
"Ryu? No way man. He'll make me do ten rounds around the mountain, fish, chop wood and gather mushrooms all that on top of my apprenticeship. Besides he's acting a little freaky these days. I've seen him just sitting there and staring at his fists. " 
"Then shut up and push. I still have to cook our dinner." He snapped and returns his attention back to the letter. 

"So. What does it say?" Dan shifted the subject back to the letter. 
"Wouldn't know. Its addressed to Ryu." Ken shrugged taking in another whiff. 
"Ryu?! After his stint in Thailand. I wouldn't be too surprise." 
"Wanna read it?" Ken grinned 
"Wouldn't he notice?" 
"Nahh. He wouldn't notice that it was read if the girl personally handed it to him with a marching band to announce its arrival. But its still his first fan mail." Ken shrugged keeping the letter as he makes a mental list of what to cook for tonight. 
 

As they leave the village gate, Ken caught a familiar scent that made his head turn. 
"What are the odds that Ryu's cute little fan girl made her way here?" he mumbled to himself. 
It was obvious that she caught his stare and turn towards him. Ken smiled noticing that he was right about the cute girl with the bun-up, braided hair. 
"All this way for Ryu? For an obsessed fan girl, she is rather cute." Dan commented. 
"If you don't push, we'll be late! If Ryu gets the feeling we're late he'll do the cooking!" Ken snapped at a panicking Dan. 

"Its not like he's a bad cook." Dan defended. 
"But do you want to eat his same old fish dish or do you want my fish surprise?" 
"And that's?" 
"I'll be surprise that's its not Ryu's fish dish if we're late." With that the duo continue constantly squabbling on their way back to the dojo. 
 
 

Dinner went on well with Ken getting back in time to take over the kitchen as it seems like Ryu was still in the meditation room at that time. It was only after dinner that Ken gave Ryu his letter. 

"So who is she? How is it that I had never seen her before? When did you start dating anyway? Is she cute? When are you gonna introduce us?" Ken started his interrogations to break the silence. And at the same time he sensed that Ryu was not clouded by that depressing aura he had since returning from Thailand. 

Even if that aura comes and goes he felt that to be able to brightened Ryu somewhat she must be someone special and his curiosity was eating him up from inside, especially since he noted a faint smile upon his stoic brother. 

"She a childhood friend who left before you came to the dojo. I had not seen her since then." 
"So that's who she is. She's a whole lot cuter that girls at the village. You lucky dog you." 
"She's here?" Ryu looks up and caught Ken's huge grin. 
"Yeah. At the village. I guess you'll get to see her tomorrow." Ken shrugged 
"She's too much like you to wait for tomorrow." Ryu sighed and headed out of the room, leaving Ken to ponder. 


Ryu wondered to himself as he carefully made his way downhill with the aid of a lantern. Of all times she chose to come she had to pick now when he's so unsure of himself. After his fight with the Muay Thai giant, he realised that not only he can't remember much of the fight but something strange had awoken in him that day and the feeling had frightened him. 

From what he learnt from Sensei it seems this Satsui no Hadou is a test of which one result would be to end up like Gouki. Who as far as Ryu knows shuffles between bouts of sanity and days in which he was known to rampage in the forest at the other side of the dojo. 

It made Ryu wonder if he would turned into that as he has this fear that he might end up hurting those close to him and worse still now that ChunLi has joined the list, as if he does not have enough to worry about. 
 

Ducking an attacker, Ryu almost fall off the path. He had not the time to retrieve his lantern as he fended of his attacker. Quick jabs prevented him from getting his bearings and just when he taught he had a lock on where his attacker is, the assailant leaps over his head kneeing him in the back. 

Ryu turns but stopped dead in his tracks as something burn within his mind, the shadows he felt during his fight in Thailand. The shadows that haunt him after, burning red eyes on a face that resembles his trying to take over his senses. He shook himself loose from that spell only to come face to face the sole of someone's boot that had stop an inch from his nose. 

"What? Afraid to fight me? Pulling your punches now. I can't kick your butt if you don't fight back." The boot lowered and reveal its owner. A young girl near his age, dark brown hair braided and bun up at the side of her head. Sparkling brown eyes and a smile that infects him even as he was recovering a foreboding. 

"Ryu!" The girl squealed and flung herself into Ryu and hugged him so tightly that it almost choked him. Ryu had accepted the hug without so much as a whimper and even return it. She had kept her word about being stronger and coming back to fight him. 

The feeling came back again, burning red eyes watching him from the mist within his head, he thought that it was studying her, calculating and the most disturbing sight was that it broke into a huge toothy grin. 

"What's wrong?" ChunLi asked, deciding to release Ryu upon sensing his unease. 
"Nothing. Let's go. You'll get a cold if we stay out here too long." He picked up her bags and led the way. At the same time he thought he heard laughter, laughter coming out of the shadowy confines of his mind. Burning red eyes had taken noticed of ChunLi and had understood. The stakes had just went up. 

 
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