Zero
Chapter 11
Day 8  
5.45 am  
  
On waking up the first thing she did was to climb quietly and carefully onto her Ryu-occupied bed. The thought that they were sharing a bed again amuses her somewhat but she had to suppressed a giggle or risk waking the loud mouth Ken (in the couch by the window just on the other side of the bed) or worse Ryu himself.  

Her sleeping prince looks much more serene now, she wondered how long had it being since he had a good night’s sleep. Touching his forehead once again to check his temperature, she smiled on finding it normal. Her palm linger on his face.  

She smiled as she traced his cheekbone, The boy like features that she was so familiar with is now almost that of a man. Her heart skipped a beat, for a mere moment she thought she saw what a powerful warrior he would become. And she was guarding his back.  

It made her leave her bed for a moment to clear her temporary bedding, again she found herself drawn back to the sleeping Ryu. The thought of Ryu at rest just seem so rare for some reason, she had always known him to be in motion and almost never see him asleep and unguarded.  

She wondered what he was dreaming about as he slept. Maybe of the fight or maybe it was a dream about her? Unable to resist temptation she lean down close to his face, her lips gently touching his, claiming from her beautiful sleeping prince the kiss  that was her unnamed price.  

She thought that it was ironic that he would never know this first kiss. As she held his lip with hers a warm feeling enveloped her. She blushed deeply thinking that he had responded to her.  

Did he really respond to her? Was he awake? Or was he dreaming of her? Reluctantly tearing herself away in fear of him waking and her having to come up with some sort of excuse. It would not do if her father found out.  

“I was wondering when you’ll do that.” A mischievous laugh broke the beautiful spell she was in.  
She shot a hateful glare at the voice. There he was sitting in the couch with a camera in hand!  

“Give me that!!” she hissed at him.  
“Whoa! Witchy Princess! Witchy Princess! Our dragon warrior just got ensorcelled. Alas who will save us now?!!” Ken slowly back towards the window.  
“I’m gonna stomp you flat if you don’t give that back!” Chun-Li warned.  
“HA!” And Ken climbed out the window and up the fire escape with ChunLi in hot pursuit.  

 
Later  

When Ryu woke, he realized that he had overslept, a rare occurrence for him. A strange little dream had led him into oversleeping and his face still felt somewhat flushed by the sweetness that lingers.  

Looking around he noted that Ken had already abandoned the comfortable couch by the window. And as for the girl in his dreams, her temporary bed of two mattresses on a foldout bed had already being kept in an unobtrusive corner of the room.  

It obviously took an incredible act of will on noisy duo’s part to leave Ryu sleeping quietly, peacefully and mostly undisturbed  on Chun-Li’s bed. But still it felt all too real, he touched his lips at the thought of the vague dream.  

He hoped he had not dishonored his host in anyway. If either one of the noisy duo find out about his dream. They will tease him no end.  
  

Ryu got out bed and stretched. It was pretty quiet without the duo. Taking out a new set of gi from the new duffel bag he frowned on seeing the sleeves. Taking a pair of scissors he made a little nip just under the armpits of the sleeves. And then he ripped the sleeves from gi, snipping off any long thread, he judged his handiwork, it will do for now.  

After changing into his new gi, his stomach started to complain when a rather delightful aroma whiffed in. Following it he found her father in the kitchen busy with a pot of porridge, within were bits of minced pork and a century egg or two.  

On the table along with a plate of preserved lettuce and cucumbers, yao zha gui (fried dough sticks), some manner of dace fish dish were bowls of warm pudding, milky white in colour and covering with sugar water. (soya bean curd)  
   
Ryu resisted the temptation to eat and headed towards the bathroom to attend to his morning rituals, wondering where the duo had gone.  

"They're sparring on the roof. Go get them. You can use the fire escape outside ChunLi's room." Her father had said, not even looking at him.  
   

Climbing the fire escape Ryu had the feeling that he was being watched, reaching the rooftop. He found a mini training ground of wooden dummies and punching bags slung on high post along one length of the place.  

Clearly this is ChunLi's private training ground. There was a shed of sorts at the far end, perhaps to hold other equipment. A marble table with marble stools near the shed. And a few potted plants along the opposite length of the building. The center makes a perfect sparring ground.  
   

Ryu looked across the rooftop to other buildings, some windows were already lighted and the smell of cooking had already begun nobody seem to care that a young man was standing so dangerously high. Standing there high on the parapet, Ryu just let morning breeze caress his skin, letting his senses wandered.  

He shuddered and turn around, Burning Red eyes smiled darkly at him from one of the wooden dummies. Ryu leapt down and approached his doppelganger  who vanished before his host's fist even touch his immaterial body. The wooden dummy caught his attack, spinning in answer forcing Ryu to block off a low attack. Ryu then caught the dummy with both hands forcing it to stillness. Something in the air made his body tense and alert, he could feel the hostile intent.  

He spun round with a roundhouse kick smashing his foot into his attacker sending him reeling across the rooftop. Ryu rolled away from another who had leapt down from the shed's roof towards him in an attempt to kick his head off .  

The two had caught him between them. And they advanced raining fists and feet upon him.  
"Tatsumaki.." he drew his qi. His smaller attacker sensed it and defended  
"Senpukyaku!!" The bigger one was caught in the vacuum, earning himself a beating and eventually flung to the side. The smaller one took the opening as Ryu began to land.  

"Tensho kyaku!!!!" she screamed smashing her foot into his mid section as she ascend and he descend. He had luck on his side when the following hits missed him. As she lands he grabbed her forcing her to the ground, straddling her with one fist looming in attack . He then smashed his fist into the ground by her head.  

"Game over." He said to her, patting the side of her face playfully. There was a weird  look in her eyes that made him raise an eyebrow in question. But then he assumed what trick she was trying to pull.  

"Shoryuken!!" he ascended the air, catching the leaping attacker's shirt front in the process. On reaching ground, Ryu rapped his blond brother on the side of his head and tossed him to the floor beside ChunLi.  

"Dang it Chunny. He might not be much as a lover but he's still the better fighter." Ken huffed and raised a fist in the air. Ryu slapped the fist down and sprawled on the floor, the three of them forming a 'Y' with their heads touching.  

"Hahaha. Great fighters at work ." She laughed reaching up to ruffle both boys' hair. Ken made a weak attempt to swat her hand off.  

"You know with my resources we should make a movie." Ken raised both arms in the air, making a rectangular symbol of a camera with his thumbs and index fingers.  

"The three of us. Ryu can be that wandering warrior, roaming the world in search of his missing si-dai (younger brother in training). Along the way the dark practitioner of his discipline and other tough as nail challengers harass him. And one of em turns out to be the all-powerful mad uncle who wants to make him the most powerful fighter ever." Ken punched the air before him and laughed maniacally.  

"Wasn't there already a David Carradine movie about this?"  

"Nuh-uh Chunny. Ours will be different. What with our hero getting a pretty tough gal fighter type love interest and she turns out to be the daughter of the big bad evil guy who kidnapped his bro and brainwashed him. And after the couple jumped off a cliff to escape capture they come across a really powerful sword that hides a really powerful martial arts manual and most of all he had to fight off a giant lizard in some cave. You shall not pass!!!" Ken roared, once again punching the air  

"Of course there are folks who are against the leads from forming a union on account of the fact that their offspring is gonna be so powerful that it brings the entire jianghu down on its knees.  Like the guy who dies hard and turns out to be a god type guy of sorts, some psycho dude in drag, her even more evil mom, a mystical crone, an alien guy and a jealous martial artist."  

"Eh Blondie? You mixing Yi Tian Tu Long Ji and some freaky B-Grade movie or Sci Fi comic?"  
"Hmmph! You have no imagination Chunny." Ken tugged the ribbons that held her braids, earning himself a pull of his ponytail.  
"That reminds me, you guys should get clean up. I'm taking you guys to my dojo."  
"I thought you wanna show Ryu off when the hot babes come back."  
"Well we should thank Master Gen for helping Ryu. Don't we?" she patted Ryu on the shoulder.  

"Ah yes! Breakfast! Your father told me the get you two." Ryu sat up with one finger pointing in the air, his stomach incited a riot. The duo also sat up on hearing the word breakfast. Ryu got up first and offered his hand to ChunLi, which she gladly took and led the boys down the fire escape back into her apartment for breakfast.  


After a hearty breakfast the trio along with ChunLi’s father headed off to the dojo. The moment they arrive, quite a number of cats approached ChunLi who squatted down a greeted each by name.  

“Hey I guess he likes you.” ChunLi said as a rather large grey cat sidles up to Ryu.  
“Why are there so many of them?” Ryu had to asked, picking off a young black cat that somehow managed to clamber onto his back.  
“Less rats this way. As some saying once said – A place without cats makes you wonder about the rats.”  

Some time later they made it through the courtyard and into the reception hall. Taking the time Ryu and Ken were looking at the notice board while ChunLi’s father headed off to look for Gen, leaving ChunLi to accompany the boys.  

Even though neither had any schooling in mandarin, both were trying to get away with using what they knew about kanji and the way certain photographs were placed. They figured out the hierarchy of the dojo. Gen being the senior sifu, ChunLi herself being one of the higher-ranking students even though she’s rather young. Her father it seems was in the advisory board.  
  

Wandering to the opposite side Ryu found a large shelf full of trophies and framed documents – achievements and participation of events throughout the years that the dojo had being around.  

A couple of trophies, photographs and newspaper cuttings caught his attention. Evidence of her earning her high ranks, junior wushu champion, under 16 wushu champion, the recent national school wushu champion and some other events. There’s a team photograph as well, there was no mistaking who the dojo’s poster girl is. All she needs now is an international win to be on par with Ken’s karate standing.  

“All that so that I can be stronger and kick your butt.” She said wistfully, standing beside him.  
“Yeah. Something you and I still have a long way to go.” Ken sighed.  
“And you know why?”  
“Why?”  
“Because when we’re strong it gives him the challenge. And in turn he becomes stronger and that forces us to improve in order to beat him.”  

“Such vicious cycle. And we have ourselves to blame. When would it be that we shall overcome the big bad Ryu.” Ken said in mock despair.  
“King of Muay Thai in the tournaments of all tournaments without so much as bothering to build up a proper portfolio….. We’re so not worthy.” And then both Ken and ChunLi dropped to their knees kowtowing before Ryu.  

“We’re not worthy. We’re not worthy.” They kept repeating  
“Stop that.” Even though he was amused by their antics.  
“Oh great Ryu!. Take me. Train me oh great Ryu. I’m your number 1 fan!! I’ll do anything for you!!” ChunLi squealed as she hugged his leg, her eyes were sparkling in earnest admiration. Ryu rolled his eyes and made an annoyed sound.  
“No great master!! Train me instead. I came a long way to find you. I will not get up until you be my sensei.” And Ken wailed as he grabbed Ryu’s leg as well.  

“Guys….” Ryu warned, caught between being annoyed and embarrassed. Moving awkwardly to the marble table, dragging the noisy duo along with him. Even hitting the duo on the upside of their heads hadn’t gotten them into behaving, all it did was fuel them on.  
  

“Ahem…” An awkward cough stopped the duo’s antics. ChunLi sprang up, adjusting her hair and attire. Her playfulness replaced by a respectable air. She winked an apology to Ryu. Ken too stood at attention, eventually Ryu stood between them bracing himself for a long lecture on being the role model and setting a good example to the duo.  

“Gen went to the market, he’ll be back in a while. You three stay out of trouble until then. I got some paperwork to attend to.” Her father turned and headed towards the office, shaking his head at the same time.  

Breathing a sigh of relief the duo turned to Ryu, he turned his back, crossed his arms and refused to look at them. Ken gestured to ChunLi  who sidled up to the older boy.  

“I’m sorry.” She whispered, looking coyly at him. Ryu refused to acknowledge her. Crestfallen she turned to Ken who was a little worried by Ryu’s angry silent sulking, they thrived on his attention and a sulking Ryu is always a prelude to severe punishments, that Ken had learnt a long time ago. He stood beside his stoic brother apologetically.  

Suddenly Ryu grabbed them both in a headlock forcing the duo down to their knees as arms started flailing left and right. The duo was grateful for some kind of outburst that signaled that he decided it was not that serious a matter after all.  
“Two can play this game. Some day you two would be the death of me.” He hissed at them. Why he let them bully him so, he could never figure it out. 

 
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