Around November 1992
ChunLi’s penthouse apartment in Osaka
It was barely seven in the morning when ChunLi was packing her bags. The morning sun had brightened up the light green walls of her apartment. The wind chimes tinkling as the breeze blew in. But there was no cheer in her eyes as she packed her bags.
She couldn’t help but feel that a delightful, almost carefree part of her life is coming to an end. Because of late, she kept seeing people whom she termed as the Messengers appearing as a silent reminder that the time that was allocated to her to attend to a ‘personal matter’ was coming to an end and that it was time for her to go back home.
ChunLi sighed, the last two days these Messengers had left her alone to sort out her feelings and thoughts. She looked around her flat.
< Almost nothing of sentimental values
except > she thought the herself as she left it hanging.
She knew she could have asked for more time to be given to her, but what would that accomplished except to drag things on.
< If it was meant to be, then it was meant to be. > she sighed once more.
It’s easy for her to let go of what she built here for she didn’t bring that much material things with her. But the only thing that she couldn’t let go was him. For she had met him and lost him twice. Once in childhood and the second in adolescence.
She had only found him the third time about two years ago in a tournament and seriously got in touch with him barely a year ago. And that had sort put their relationship in limbo. They are sort of friends but something else is hidden beneath as well. So much so that they weren’t sure whether to move forward or backwards.
But ever since she let gave him the keys to her apartments in Hong Kong and Osaka telling him that he could have a roof over his head if he should ever be in town. What she was doing held two meanings.
The one that she was willing to explain to him was that what she was doing was similar to Ken or Guile letting Ryu stayed over while he was in their part of the neighborhood. This little act had sort of made him open up a little. And within the year he had dropped a few times while she was ‘home’.
She looked at the clock again, knowing that she had finish packing. Although her flight is still a few hours away her heart sank not knowing if by chance he would come by. For it was almost impossible to contact him while he was on the road.
< If it was meant to be. Then it was meant to be. > She thought as she took down the wind
chimes, remembering that it was a little something he made. She thought that leaving on a Monday morning was appropriate for it would allow her to find things to tide her over during the other days.
And maybe. Just maybe there could be some sort of excuse that lets her stay on.
Downstairs Ryu stood outside the staircase leaning against the wall. He was wearing a white sleeveless T-shirt under a black jacket and a pair of blue jeans. His fighting attire was in his duffel bag. His right hand in his pocket holding onto something while he was deep in thought.
He couldn’t help but feel that he had put off something for too long and the second time was a chance to allow him to get use to the idea of things. Although he thought he was young the second time around and didn’t get the idea into his head. But at the third time he thought he could get used to idea but it didn’t seem to work out.
He tried walking away from the third time on but he kept returning, he tried staying with Ken or Guile instead but seeing their families, he sort of return again. And it had always seems to him that when he did return she was always there.
< Why was I training so hard for? So what if I can control my dark side. What am I doing anyway? What am I looking for? What do I see beyond my fists? > Questions he had a lot but answers he had none.
But then he wondered again. Could he pay the price? Is he even ready? He had always thought that he had learnt to be detached from emotions. Yet there was a fact that had hit him in the face and let him see what it was that was hanging by a thin silken spider thread. Seemingly fragile yet strong.
It had become an anchor that made he seek another way of understanding his dark side instead of using the answers the demon had found. But is he willing to risk exposing her to the dangers of his dark side again? Is he willing to let her lead the kind of life he has? All he knew that he would rather harm himself than let her come to harm.
But one thing he knew. That she was on his mind when he left that day. It could be destiny or fate or whatever, but it would take a strong, strong man to ever let her go and he does not have that kind of strength. But the demon would say that he is useless let himself be weaken by such a transient emotion. And that was what makes him seek his own answers.
To him the one undeniable truth was that she had become a part of his life ever since they first laid eyes on each other, even though it wasn’t obvious in the first place since everything has its own place and time. And now not only was he unable to get her out of his thoughts, he wants her to remain in his life till the end of days.
< If it was meant to be. Then it was meant to be. >
< Nothing of sentimental values . > ChunLi thought looking her apartment once more. She sighed as she took out a dog eared photograph that she always carried with her. It was taken a few months ago.
She thought she had taken him completely by surprise by suddenly hugging him at the last minute. Although by now she was aware that he was not really surprise at all. For the embrace that he returned was strong and real. The camera had picked that up along with the smile in his eyes but miss the smile that had appeared on his face moments later. She knew they were going somewhere then but it seems to just stop there now.
ChunLi sighed and wrote a note.
"Hey there tough guy. Urgent family business demands my full attention. I’m returning this house. Sorry about not informing you before for I’m not sure when the letter would reach you. Would appreciate it much if you could leave the keys with the landlady.
Bye" she ended her note and put the vase on top of the paper.
Somehow she felt rather bad about making he leave the keys. She had wanted to give him the idea that his friends will always welcome him to stay over when he drops by and that he will always be welcome to call on her. But then even the best laid plans of mice and men don’t always go as plan. But still she looked for any excuse at all to stay. But apparently he’s not helping much by not coming.
Ryu took the keys to ChunLi’s apartment out of his pocket. Home now that’s a funny notion considering for him home had always being a cave, an oil drum, the occasional big hole in a tree and a large cardboard box on some occasions. Home was hardly ever a place where someone was waiting for him.
He had stayed with friends whenever he traveled yet there was something missing for deep down the only sense of home he ever had was here.
< No wait. The only sense of belonging I had had was with her. >
For that brought about a feeling that even he was not sure of what it was.
Opening the door, Ryu’s heart soared as he came face to face with her. There and then he decided not to let the feeling go. In some strange sense of the word he couldn’t help but feel that he was coming back to her.
Seeing him, ChunLi dropped her bags as mixed emotions and thoughts flooded her. Leaving a note was easy for her but it seemed unfair to him. In a strange sense of the word she couldn’t help but feel that she was waiting for him to return home. Funny how her home was miles away in another country.
"We need to talk." They said at the same time.
"You go first." It had happened again.
"No. You go first. Assignment?" Ryu asked pointing at the bags as he entered and shut the door behind him. He felt that something was missing from the house. Little things like the knick-knacks she had around the house. It was like her presence around the house was missing. And he didn’t like that feeling. It felt wrong somehow.
ChunLi sat down choosing not hurry. Maybe just maybe there would be a good excuse somewhere that could make her stay.
"I have to return home. Family business demands my full attention." A lie. A well-rehearsed lie she thought.
"When would you be back." Ryu asked, sounding hopeful. He was right that he always felt better on seeing her.
"I’m not. I’m returning this house too. Sorry about that though, I would like to have the keys back please."
"Oh…… How do I find you then?" he handed the keys over to her. It seems to ChunLi that Ryu does not seem to comprehend what she just said.
To Ryu what had went on was like saying that ChunLi would not be reached easily. But he had always managed to find her and he wants to keep it that way. He wants to know where exactly he can reached her. All he wanted was to be able reach her as and when possible. For it seems that she was the only one who could give him of ease in times of the turmoils in his head.
< Think Ryu
.. Well its now or never….. > he thought to himself. For if its meant to be. Then its meant to be.
"Li. Can I call you Li?"
Ryu got a nod. He then took her hand in his. A slight shock on her face from his sudden forwardness.
"Li For the past few years I had being avoiding some facts. And I feel that I have to face them now."
"For the past few years that I had spent wandering. I had questions that I had no answers for. Why was I training so hard for? So what if I can control my dark side. What am I doing anyway? What am I looking for? What do I see beyond my fists? And Why was I using Gouki’s answers instead of finding my own?" He stopped for a while allowing her to digest what he had said. And this may be the first and the last time he ever said so much.
"I know I may not be able to offer you a comfortable life like some others intend to. I cannot promise you that the possibility of dying by the hands of some stronger opponent is remote. And I cannot promise you that my dark side won’t return. But sometimes if its meant to be. Then its meant to be."
Ryu placed two fingers on her lips to signal he was not finish yet. It seems to him that she had caught on in terms of what he wish to say. But he wants to let her hear all he has to say first.
. I don’t want to expose you to my darkness. I don’t want to hurt you physically or with empty promises. I know I was selfish not to return you the proper affections for I was unsure of where I was heading. And it would break my heart to hurt you unknowingly." He drew up the hair by the side of her face and pinned it behind her left ear.
"I cannot promise you a good life and that’s the truth. But I can work hard for you. I am willing to do anything for you. You give me a reason to achieve. But all I can say that some days you are the answers to all those questions. All I can offer you are these two fists, my heart, my soul and my life. My life will not be the same without you." He took a deep breath before continuing. This is going to be the longest hour of his life. For the outcome would affect his life.
"All I wish for is spend the rest of my life with you. To spar and train with you. To watch the rising and setting sun with you. To have you as the first person I greet when I wake and to hold you in my arms till sleep overtakes us at night. Li
. Will you allow me the honor to be your husband. Li
. Will you marry me?" he took out a ring from the little velvet box in his pocket. Both had tears welling in their eyes.
There was an uncomfortable silence in the air as ChunLi took the time to think of a proper way to answer him. The excuse she seeks had been found. But there was something bothering her as well. Something she had kept for so long that it endangers those who knew her secret. Yet the secret would empower those who knew of it. Would Ryu be able to accept the answer? She don’t know but if it was meant to be then it was meant to be.
As for Ryu every second of silence that pass was a long and tedious eternity. Any negativity in her answer would break his heart and soul. And the silence was what drove him almost crazy.
Ryu." She gently touched his cheek.
"The path we both walk has it risks that I am aware of that We all have our obligations and responiblities. I feel the same way too… But .." she left it hanging as she considers carefully how she was to phrase her words. This is hardest part for she wants him to understand her decision.
Ryu nearly choked when ChunLi mentioned the word ‘but’, for it was like his worst fears were confirmed. But another touch of her hand on his cheek drew his attention back to her.
"It’s not you, its me. Had circumstances being different. I would gladly accept the honor of becoming your wife. But there is something you have to know. I don’t want you to ask what it is now but come with me first before you judge. Are you willing to take a trip with me?" she asked.
"Yes. Where to."
"Outskirts of the city."
"Now." She stood up.
Ryu followed her. He couldn’t care about the ‘Why’ part because all he knows is that whatever the challenge is he’ll face it.
"Ryu Just know that I won’t blame you if you choose to be angry."
"Why should I be?"
She smiled but didn’t answer him.
They took a train out of Osaka towards the outskirts of the city. ChunLi treasured the moments she spent with Ryu at the same time she was preparing for the worst case scenarios. For the stark reality could rip him away from her. In every sense of the word this was what she wanted but is she ready to pay the price?
As for Ryu, he was determined that whatever it is he won’t give up his ChunLi. Too much had gone on and there is no going back. Whatever it is he will not lose this precious gem of a woman.
Around late afternoon
By now they are now at grassy plain that was far from questioning eyes. The VTOL parked on the field looked familiar. Especially the winged skull crest. There was a tent in the shade nearby that was heavily guarded by soldiers.
Ryu finally understand what ChunLi wanted him to do. To prove his love for her it seems that he must bring her the head of her enemy.
"I won’t be long." He whispered to her and started to move out. ChunLi pulled him back instead.
"Come. You will know why now." She said walking towards the tent. On seeing her, the soldiers saluted her. One of them headed into the tent.
< A spy? > Ryu thought. his emotion remained masked.
They were then ushered into the tent where the dreadful man in red sat by a small fire with a kettle of water boiling upon it.
"You have arrive. I did not expect you to follow though." He said without looking up. All he did was took the kettle of boiling water and pour it in to the earthenware teapot with tealeaves of Tie Kwan Yim within.
"Sit." He said.
Pouring the tea into little cups then emptying the tea from the cups in to an earthenware container where a few more earthenware cups are. He then refreshed the teapot with warm water and let it simmer for a while before pouring it out to the cups in a circular clockwise motion. He then offered the cups tea to Ryu and ChunLi.
"Thank you father." ChunLi replied softly as she accepts the tea.
Ryu’s eyebrows were raised, he looked towards ChunLi who looked away from him. She didn’t want to cloud his judgement. Now he understood her what she meant earlier by saying that it was okay for him to be angry with her. She had feared the worst. She had expected him to be in an outrage by now.
"Father!!? You’re her father?!" Ryu finnally found his voice. Moments ago he thought his woman wanted to him to kill the man that sat before him. And then he thought she was one of the spies working for him. Now she addresses him as ‘Father’?
"Yes Dragon. She is my flesh and blood daughter."
"But the man who died those years ago?"
"I impersonated him and took his identity. The body was his. His should never had tried to kidnap my daughter in the first place." Vega(Bison) said as he poured more tea.
"Then the time you took me prisoner and had ChunLi freed me?!"
"Her idea entirely to free you without consulting me. The choice is yours, dragon. Will you give my daughter up because of her connections?" he asked coolly
"You realize that you know a secret that could endanger her life. You have various paths to choose, but know that my heir is giving up an empire because of you. A word from you and she might inherit her empire again. Know that she hid almost nothing from you."
< Now. Let us see what kind of a man you are. > Vega smirked, he would have given an arm and a leg to see the look on Ryu’s face. To know that the woman he loves is the daughter of his enemy. He has plans for the lad, should he choose the wrong path.
"What do you want then?"
"Nothing but the best for my heir. But what do you want?" Vega turned the tables back to Ryu.
"You and I may have our differences but I will not let that get in the way of my relationship with Li." Ryu drank from his cup.
"Excellent. Then will you face the challenge?" A cold smile on his face.
< Every bit the warrior. Ha Ha. Two birds with one stone. > Vega chuckled inwardly.
"You will go to Hong Kong and await more instructions. Li walk with me." Vega got up and headed outside. ChunLi tagged behind.
"You took a big risk letting him know the truth."
"I had to try."
Ever try eloping with the lad? If he suggest that?
The thought cross my mind father. But where can we hide? Your spies are many and those Shadow Warriors are relentless.
"There’s always some cave, mountain, valley or the middle of a forest."
"Uh huh. And you suggest the place where we might choose to hide. What are we? Stupid?" ChunLi answered in mock anger.
"I see you have considered the different paths that are available. Were you willing to retake the empire if he refuse to accept you?"
"I had no wish to live like I had should my heart be broken. Was I wrong?"
"We’re all responsible for our own decisions. Li. Though remember that I support you in your decision." Vega said patting her head.
"Thank you father." she smiled.
"Know that unofficially I give you my blessings. Officially you know the rules."
"What must I do now?"
"Spend some time in Hong Kong with the lad. Then head down to Singapore in mid December. You will find her waiting for both of you. She is likely to give you a week before she fights him. And after that bring her back to Shadowlaw. Its time to run a few test on her again." he rest a hand on his daughter’s shoulder. It was no surprise to that she was the Gem of Shadowlaw.
"Fight her? But
.It seem so unevenly matched."
"Have faith in both of them Li. If its meant to be. Then its meant to be." With that Vega boarded the VTOL. Leaving ChunLi with Ryu.
Going back to tent she sat quietly away from Ryu. But he sat down beside her.
"For you. I will not fail." He said as he held her in his arms. Nothing is going to make him give
her up. Even if he has to lose his life in the process