It was late in the year and the weather was still. The life of the animals were asleep. Bare trees and shrivelled earth surounded their hut. The little house was barely large enough to nourish the three warriors, let alone shelter them from winter. But every year, the shack would prove them wrong.
Outside in the forest, Sensei Gouken uprooted a few twigs that were burried in the crumpled leaves, and plucked a few sticky pine cones from a tree. He then washed his hands, and neatly pulled a branch of full and still moistened needles into his large pile.
Ryu blinked his right eye a few times to get back into focus. He rubbed the dripping blood out and binked again. While he struggled to maintain his vision, a russling sound behind him was heightening.
At the last second, Ryu ducked to his side and heard a loud thud against the packed dirt. Ken held his arm grunting in pain. Ryu grinned at the sight. Surprised, Ken grinned back. The two boys sat up across from each other and mended their wounds.
"Dammit Ryu! I thought I told you not to hit my face!" Ken whined angrily as he pressed his palm against his bruised cheek.
"Hey, that was only because you hit mine!"
"That was only because you have no one to impress! I do have a rep you know."
Ryu rolled his eyes and turned his face away from his friends' arrogance. Rubbing his eyes some more, he hazily spotted Gouken carrying a package to the streams edge. Curiously, Ryu followed him, ignoring the pouting Ken.
Near the waters' edge, there was a matted patch of weed with a prepared pile of plant tubes. Gouken calmly sat in this isolated space and watched the water flow.
Ryu came close to Gouken to sit beside him. The two focused no attention on each other. Just the water. The stream was strong and stiff in some areas, as if they were rooted to the waters bed. In other places, the stream was swift and flowing, obliviously welling forth.
Gouken turned up the corner of his lips; the reflected mysteriously in his eyes. It was his own way of smiling, and it made Ryu somewhat at ease.
Calmly, the man picked some berries and tied them into groups of three. He then used thee plant tubes and weaved them into the branches he had collected earlier. Gouken silently handed Ryu a small pile of branches and plant tubes. He looked at him questioningly, but he only looked right back. Ryu gave a muffled sigh and grabbed the supplies.
Looking back at Goukens, Ryu could see that his creation was taking form. A familiar shape that he had seen before. He held the branches and tubes in his hand and sniffed them. Suddeny his memory started to jog back. Ryu combined the mixture with the berries, and he remembered.
"Wreathe." Ryu blurted.
Gouken looked at him, just as bemused as he had looked at him.
"How did you know that?" He asked sternly.
Ryu stared at the branches and continued to weave. Nervously he told him, "I..I just I remembered. That's all."
Gouken looked at him in surprise. And in awkwardness, Ryu felt somewhat ashamed.
Out in the bushes, leaves were being crumpled on and stickes cracked underneath the feet of a clumbsy intruder. Ken smiled in embarressment as he lifted himself off of the floor.
"Whatcha doin'?" Ken asked taking the attention off of Ryu and himelf. No one answers.
"Hey," Ken rudely grabs the work Gouken had just completed, "These look like Christmas wrethes!"
"Christmas?" Ryu asks.
"God, Ryu you are such an a-", Ken looks at Gouken who is looking at him, "ahem, I mean you're sadly lacking in the field of tradition my friend."
"Ryu doesn't know about your holidays. He doesn'tneed to. Are you two finished training already? If you are, then I have more work for you to do."
"Finished? Us? Naw, we still have lots and lots of more sparring to do. Right Ryu?" Ken elbows the aoof Ryu in the stomach and repeats, "Right??".
"Right." He said lumberl