Trials of Thunder - Chapter 2 - SSM_MeapLe - Mortal Kombat (2024)

Chapter Text

The night air was still in the spartan room where Raiden lay, a tenebrous silence enveloping him like a shroud. A lone figure in white, he rested on his bed, his trademark straw hat perched on a nearby stand, the blue vest and amulet discarded for the night. He closed his eyes, seeking the solace of sleep, but peace proved elusive. Within the shadowy recesses of his mind, a voice slithered, insidious and mocking.

"Raiden," it hissed, and the Earthrealm's Chosen One tossed in his bed, a frown etching his brow as he sought to escape its clutches. His predecessor's voice bore the weight of centuries, dripping with disdain. "You'll fail them, just as you are failing now to find rest."

He envisioned stuffing cotton in his ears, imagining it expanding within his head, silencing the taunts. When that failed, he conjured up the most ludicrous songs from Johnny's past films, humming them under his breath, though they clashed discordantly against the haunting whispers.

"Pathetic," the voice sneered, relentless. "You cannot even defend your own sleep. How will you save your friends?"

With a sharp gesture, Raiden pointed towards Johnny Cage, who lay blissfully unaware, soft snores escaping his lips. "Silence," Raiden muttered. "Johnny trusts me. I won't let him down." But even as he spoke, doubt gnawed at him, a persistent worm wriggling through his resolve.

The ghostly chuckle of the voice crescendoed into a cackle that echoed in the caverns of Raiden's psyche. It was then that his mind's eye was cruelly assaulted by a vision that seized his heart – Johnny, bound and helpless, D’Vorah standing over him with her sinister smile, her hands weaving an intricate dance as swarms of flesh-eating bugs descended upon his friend.

"Stop!" Raiden gasped, his voice a choked plea, but the nightmare only tightened its grip, the buzzing of the insects filling his ears, the sight of Johnny's peril searing into his retinas.

A scream, shrill and piercing, rent the air, and Raiden's eyes flew open, his breath coming in ragged gasps. Across the room, Johnny jolted awake, his body springing upright, eyes wide with alarm. "Wha—what the hell, Raiden?" he stammered, the comical bewilderment on his face a stark contrast to Raiden's horror.

"Nothing," Raiden managed, his voice barely a whisper as he turned away, bile rising in his throat. He leaned over the side of the bed, his body convulsing with the force of his retching, the vestiges of the vision still clawing at his mind.

"Hey, hey," Johnny murmured, concern etching his features as he shuffled closer, his usual bravado slipping away in the face of Raiden's distress. "It's just a dream, man."

But for Raiden, caught in the throes of fear and powerlessness, it felt like anything but.

Johnny's fingers were surprisingly gentle as they wiped Raiden's mouth, a damp cloth tenderly brushing away the evidence of his distress. The room was shrouded in semi-darkness, save for the moonlight that trickled through the slats of the window shutters. It cast an ethereal glow on Johnny's face, softening the lines of worry that had etched themselves there.

"Shh, it's okay," Johnny murmured, his voice low and soothing, though Raiden could still detect the undercurrent of concern that laced each word.

Raiden's body trembled uncontrollably, fear still echoing through his veins like residual thunder from a storm long passed. He clung to Johnny, seeking solace in the solid warmth of his friend. His eyes darted across Johnny's features, inspecting, reassuring himself that all was well, that the nightmare hadn't leached into reality.

"Hey, look at me," Johnny said, tipping Raiden's chin up to meet his gaze. "You're cold as ice, man. You're scaring me here." He pressed the back of his hand against Raiden's forehead, a mock-serious expression on his face. "No fever... just pure terror, huh?"

"Johnny..." Raiden's voice faltered, the strength of his predecessor's taunts still lingering in the shadows of his mind.

"Remember when I told you I'd be there for you in your nightmares?" Johnny teased, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth despite the gravity of the situation. "Didn't think you'd take it literally."

Raiden managed a weak chuckle, but it was drowned by a fresh wave of vulnerability. Without waiting for permission, Johnny scooped him up, cradling Raiden against his chest with surprising ease.

"Hey, I said I'm fine," Raiden protested half-heartedly, but there was no real fight left in him.

"Sure you are," Johnny replied, the corner of his lips quirking up. "And this isn't the first time we've been in bed together, tough guy. Remember New Orleans?"

Raiden grunted, a blush creeping up his neck, but he didn't pull away. Instead, he allowed himself to be settled onto Johnny's bed, the mattress dipping under their combined weight. As Johnny lay down beside him, Raiden found his ear pressed against the steady thump-thump of Johnny's heartbeat. A grounding rhythm amidst the chaos. With each beat, Raiden silently vowed to himself, to the pulse beneath his ear, to get stronger—for them, for all his friends.

At the break of dawn, the sacred grounds of Liu Kang's temple were silent, save for the rhythmic sounds of flesh striking wood and the soft whisper of cloth against skin. Raiden was a solitary figure against the morning light, his body moving with precision and determination.

Each kick was a strike against his own doubts, every punch a defiance against his inner demons. The air crackled with the energy of his resolve, the subdued power of lightning simmering beneath his skin, ready to be unleashed.

The training regimen was brutal, designed to push limits, to mold flesh and spirit into something unbreakable. And Raiden submitted to it wholly, his movements growing sharper with the rising sun, his muscles screaming in protest, his breathing labored but unwavering.

He was Earthrealm's Chosen One, but in these moments of self-inflicted rigor, he was simply a man—a man driven by the need to protect, to prove himself worthy of the trust placed upon him. The ache in his bones was a testament to his commitment, each drop of sweat that kissed the earth a silent oath to never falter, to never again feel the paralyzing grip of helplessness that had seized him in the dead of night.

The relentless sun ascended, casting elongated shadows across the stone-laden courtyard of Liu Kang's temple. With each rising degree, Raiden's shadow danced upon the ground, a fleeting partner to his unwavering dedication. He shifted from stance to stance, muscles coiling and releasing with the smoothness of silk yet the impact of iron. His fists cut through the humid air, each motion a testament to his resolve—yet with each execution, a sliver of his strength waned, unnoticed by his conscious mind but evident in the tremble that began to claim his limbs.

The fabric of his white garb clung to his skin, drenched in perspiration that mapped the contours of his exertion. His body was an instrument of war, fine-tuned yet pushed to its resonant edge, threatening to snap under the strain of his relentless drive. With every disciplined movement, there was a silent cry from his sinews, a plea for respite lost amid the chorus of his indomitable will.

Raiden's breathing grew ragged, a symphony of weariness disguised as rhythmic breaths. His face, once calm and collected, now bore the etchings of fatigue—eyes hollowed, skin drawn taut over high cheekbones, lips parted to draw in the scant mercy of the air. The amulet at his hip, a gift from Liu Kang, pulsed against him, a constant reminder of the power coursing through his veins and the expectations it carried. It was both anchor and albatross, grounding him in purpose yet weighing upon his spirit like the chains of fate.

From the shade of the temple's archway, Liu Kang watched, his expression carved from concern and wisdom hard-earned. The Fire Lord observed Raiden's diminishing vigour, reading the signs of exhaustion that marred his protégé's form—a testament to the physical toll extracted by such tenacity. Liu Kang's brow furrowed as he noted the subtle stutters in Raiden's movements, the slight sway in his balance, indicators that only one who knew the dance of combat could discern.

Liu Kang's eyes, white pools reflecting a history of battle and brotherhood, were fixed on the young warrior before him. He saw not just Raiden's struggle against the limitations of flesh, but also the internal conflict raging beneath the surface—a battle against unseen adversaries, memories that haunted and drove him with the same fervor as any tangible foe. There was a beauty in Raiden's commitment, a dark allure in his submission to the demands he placed upon himself, yet Liu Kang foresaw the peril in such enthralling torment.

In silence, Liu Kang stepped forward, his presence commanding yet unobtrusive, a guardian spectre born of fire and empathy. He knew the weight of expectation, the burn of eyes upon one's back, the whispers of legacy that echoed through halls and hearts alike. But where Raiden sought to forge his own path through sheer force of will, Liu Kang understood the necessity of balance—the harmony between flame and ash, the ebb and flow of power and restraint.

As Raiden's pace slackened and his strikes lost their earlier precision, Liu Kang's concern deepened into a fathomless well. The Chosen One's body swayed dangerously close to collapse, a reed in the tempest of his own making. And though Liu Kang stood ready to catch him, to offer solace and sanctuary, the lingering question remained: would Raiden allow himself to be saved, or would he shatter against the unyielding anvil of his own pride?

The day wore on, the sun reaching its zenith, and with it, Raiden's silhouette grew less distinct, a blur of motion and determination, spiralling ever closer to the precipice of his own limits. The toll was clear, etched into every fibre of his being, and the silent observer felt the twinge of impending consequence, a thread pulled taut, ready to unravel the tapestry of their intertwined destinies.

Liu Kang's approach was silent, his presence a comforting shadow as he came to stand beside the weary form of Raiden. The Earthrealm's Chosen One's breaths were laboured, his body glistening with the sheen of exertion. His fists clenched and unclenched rhythmically, as if to hold on to the remnants of energy that threatened to dissipate with each passing moment.

"Raiden," Liu Kang intoned, his voice low and tinged with an edge of solemnity that seemed to resonate with the thrum of the temple around them. He placed a hand, firm yet undemanding, upon the young champion's trembling shoulder. "You must rest."

The words hung in the air, weighted with an intimacy borne of shared battles and quiet moments of understanding. Liu Kang's eyes, endless pools of concern, locked onto Raiden's, searching for a sign of acquiescence, for the flicker of trust that might allow him to lead Raiden away from the brink.

"Your spirit is indomitable," Liu Kang continued, his fingertips tracing the line of tension that ran down Raiden's arm, "but even the fiercest warrior must heed the needs of flesh and blood. You push too far; you must yield, if only to rise stronger."

"Yield?" Raiden's whisper was a crackle of defiance, a spark threatening to ignite. His gaze dropped to the amulet at his hip, the source of his power and the symbol of his burden. "I cannot. There is no strength in yielding."

"Strength," Liu Kang murmured, stepping closer, the heat of his body a counterpoint to the coolness of the temple stone, "lies not in relentless force, but in knowing when to embrace the shadows that offer respite. I have seen warriors fall, not to their enemies, but to their own unchecked fervour. Do not become a cautionary tale whispered in the winds of realms."

A tremor ran through Raiden's frame, a silent battle raging within—a clash between the yearning to submit to the wisdom before him and the desire to conquer the doubts that plagued his mind.

"Let me be your sanctuary," Liu Kang said softly, his hand now cradling Raiden's jaw, guiding his face upwards, compelling him to meet the Fire Lord's earnest gaze. "Trust in me, as I trust in your destiny. This path you carve with such fervent zeal need not be walked alone, nor without pause."

Raiden's resistance ebbed, the intensity of his mentor's gaze unravelling the knots of obstinacy that bound him. In the depth of Liu Kang's eyes, he found a mirror to his soul's turmoil—a reflection of the fears he seldom voiced, the insecurities that danced like shadows around the edges of his resolve.

"Rest now, my friend," Liu Kang whispered, his thumb brushing against Raiden's cheek in a gesture that spoke of protection, of an unspoken vow to shield him from the darkness that sought to claim him. "Let go, and let the stillness heal what fire and determination have wrought."

In that moment, Raiden felt the weight of his own expectations lift, if only slightly, as he leaned into the touch that promised solace, the promise of strength renewed through surrender. And as the day waned, giving way to the encroaching embrace of night, the Fire Lord led the Chosen One from the training grounds, his presence a bastion against the whispers of doubt that lingered in the air.

As the moon rose high in the sky, he tossed and turned in his bed, sweat-soaked sheets tangled around his legs. The haunting images of Kenshi being violently attacked by a disabled Shokan replayed in his mind, causing him to thrash and scream into his pillow.

Exhausted but determined, he finally managed to quiet his cries and slipped out of bed, careful not to wake his sleeping companions. In the darkness, he vowed to train harder and become stronger so that he could protect those he cared about from any future nightmares.

Beneath the looming statues of ancient warriors, Raiden's fists cut through the predawn air with the precision of a storm carving its path across the sky. His muscles screamed for respite, but he pushed on, each strike an act of defiance against his own limitations. The skin of his knuckles was raw, a testament to his relentless training, and sweat clung to his body like dew on morning grass.

"Enough, Raiden," Liu Kang's voice broke through the rhythmic thud of fists against leather. "You have nothing left to prove today."

Raiden paused mid-strike, chest heaving as he turned to face his mentor. The weariness in his bones begged him to yield, but he couldn't—wouldn't—allow himself that luxury. "I must be stronger," he rasped, the words laced with a stubborn edge that had become all too familiar to Liu Kang.

"Your strength lies not only in your flesh and bone," Liu Kang admonished, stepping closer. The red and gold of his attire caught the dim light, a fire that seemed to burn steadily even in the absence of flame. "There is power in restraint, in knowing when to rest."

"Rest is a luxury we cannot afford," Raiden countered, feeling the pull of his amulet against his hip—a constant reminder of the electricity within, craving release. He ignored the throbbing pain in his limbs, the silent plea from his body to succumb to Liu Kang's wisdom.

The Fire Lord’s gaze held a smoldering intensity, one that could ignite or soothe depending on his will. It was this control that Raiden both revered and resisted, a dynamic tension that mirrored their current impasse.

"Even the mightiest storm must eventually quell," Liu Kang said softly, moving within arm's reach. "Or it risks destroying all in its path, including itself."

But Raiden shook his head, locks of hair sticking to his damp forehead. "No," he breathed out, a defiant whisper. "I can endure more.”

Liu Kang's hand reached out, fingers brushing against Raiden's shoulder in a gesture that was both a command and an offering. Yet Raiden stepped back, out of reach, eyes narrowing with a determination that bordered on recklessness.

"Must I remind you of what is at stake?" Liu Kang's tone sharpened, the weight of his authority palpable between them. "Of the trust I've placed in you?"

"Trust that I will not squander," Raiden assured, voice thick with unspoken emotion. "But I must push beyond my limits if I am to safeguard all we hold dear."

The tension hung heavy, a shroud woven from their clashing convictions. Liu Kang, the protector, seeking to shield Raiden from his own zealous drive; Raiden, the chosen one, yearning to rise to an ideal he alone had envisioned.

"Very well," Liu Kang conceded, though his words were cloaked in a quiet sorrow. "But remember, Raiden, there is no honour in victory if it claims your spirit as its price."

With that, Liu Kang retreated, leaving Raiden amidst the shadows and echoes of his own resolve. In the stillness that followed, Raiden centred himself once more, drawing upon the energy coursing through his veins—a tempest contained only by sheer force of will.

As the first rays of dawn crept over the horizon, Raiden resumed his training, each movement a silent vow to become the storm that would protect Earthrealm, whatever the cost.

Raiden's muscles trembled with exertion, his fists slicing through the cool morning air as he executed a relentless sequence of strikes. Each blow was a silent testament to his desperate need to harness the wild tempest within him, to refine it into an unstoppable force.

The damp earth beneath his feet bore witness to his unyielding drive, darkened by the sweat that dripped from his brow, each drop a sacrifice to the gods of war. He had long since ignored the grumbling of his stomach; assuring a suspicious Kenshi that he had an early breakfast and wouldn’t be joining them.

"That is enough, Raiden," came Liu Kang's voice, a distant plea that struggled to pierce the veil of focus shrouding Raiden's consciousness. "You must rest."

But Raiden could not—he would not—allow himself the luxury of reprieve. With a low growl that rose from the depths of his chest, he unleashed a flurry of electrically charged punches against the phantom enemies that danced in his mind's eye.

"Your spirit bleeds for Earthrealm, but your body falters," Liu Kang persisted, his words laced with a concern that bordered on desperation. Yet Raiden remained deaf to all but the call of his own merciless ambition, moving with a grace that belied the agony wracking his form.

The sun climbed higher, its rays casting a warm glow upon Raiden's weary frame. His movements began to slow, each step heavy as if he were wading through the very fabric of reality. His skin glistened, not just with perspiration, but with the sheer intensity of his effort—the raw, unbridled essence of a warrior who sought to transcend mortality.

"Raiden," Liu Kang implored again, the heat of his gaze a palpable force upon the young champion's back. But Raiden's response was only a sharp intake of breath as he summoned a surge of lightning to his fingertips, the energy crackling with a hunger that mirrored his own.

His body was a canvas of bruises and fatigue, painted by countless hours of self-inflicted discipline. He could feel the pull of his sinews, the protest of his bones, yet he pushed forward, driven by a resolve that bordered on obsession.

"Please," Liu Kang whispered, his voice a shadow that flickered in the edges of Raiden's fraying senses. "Do not lose yourself to this darkness."

The words echoed in Raiden's skull, mingling with the taunts of his predecessor, forming a cacophony that threatened to drown out all reason. A spasm of pain shot through him, a stark reminder of his mortality, yet still, he persisted, each movement a lash against the confines of his human limitations.

Twilight yielded to the encroaching night, and with it came the spectre of doubt, clawing at Raiden's heart. Was he chasing a ghost of greatness, one that would vanish like mist at the touch?

His breaths were ragged, torn from lungs that burned with the fire of exertion. No food had been touched, no water drank as he practiced from dusk till dawn, urged by the incessant whisperings in his head.

"Raiden," Liu Kang's voice cut through once more, this time tinged with a sadness that resonated deep within the young champion’s soul. "Do not forsake the trust I have bestowed upon you for this reckless pursuit."

For a moment, the world stood still, and Raiden teetered on the precipice between light and darkness, between power and submission. The balance tipped, and his knees buckled, sending him crashing to the ground in a heap of spent strength and wounded pride.

As he lay there, his chest heaving with shallow breaths, Raiden could feel the weight of his mentor's gaze—a silent plea to surrender to the refuge of rest. But even as his body cried out for mercy, Raiden's spirit rebelled, whispering promises of newfound might if only he could endure.

He would rise, he vowed silently, he would rise again and again until the power coursing through him bowed to his indomitable will. For Earthrealm, for his friends, for the sacred mantle of Chosen One that rested upon his shoulders, Raiden would bear any torment.

And so, beneath the watchful eyes of stars and gods alike, Raiden steeled himself for another ascent, ready to climb until either victory or oblivion claimed him.

Liu Kang's silhouette loomed over the stone parapet of the temple, his gaze fixed on the figure below. The Fire Lord's fists clenched at his sides, a vain attempt to control the tempest of frustration churning within him. With the night cloaking Liu Kang in shadow, he watched Raiden—Earthrealm's Chosen One—invoke tempests with every fibre of his being, his body an instrument of relentless determination.

"Concede, Raiden," Liu Kang murmured, though he knew his words were lost amidst the crackling symphony of lightning that danced around the younger god. The scent of ozone filled the air, and the very earth seemed to thrum with Raiden's unyielding spirit.

Raiden's voice rang out, hoarse yet defiant, "I must be ready, I cannot fail them." His form was drenched in sweat, muscles outlined by sporadic flashes of electric blue that illuminated the courtyard like a scene from some foreboding opera.

The Fire Lord descended the steps, his red and gold attire catching the flicker of torches as he approached his pupil. "This obsession will consume you," he uttered, his voice resounding with a gravity that could quell fires.

"Let it," Raiden shot back, his eyes blazing brighter than any flame Liu Kang could conjure. He summoned another surge of power, the energy coursing through his amulet and into his sinews.

Liu Kang reached out, his hand hovering just shy of Raiden's trembling shoulder. "You are more than your strength, more than this trial," he pleaded, the warmth of his concern stark against the chill of night.

But Raiden was caught in the throes of his own battle, one where surrender spelled defeat not just for himself but for all those who relied upon him. "I can't," he gasped, the strain evident in the way his voice broke, "I won't."

The dynamic between mentor and protégé had always been charged, a dance of wisdom and willfulness. Yet now, as Raiden pushed beyond the limits of flesh and bone, it was as if he sought not just to master his power but to be mastered by it, to submit wholly to the call of destiny that whispered seductively in his ear.

"Raiden," Liu Kang's tone held an edge, a sharpness born of fearful anticipation. "Hear me, you tread a perilous path—one that could lead us both to ruin."

But Raiden was deaf to the warnings, his every motion an act of defiance—a silent declaration that he would bow to no fate save the one he forged with his own hands. As the first light of dawn crept across the sky, it cast a glow that seemed to ignite the very air around Raiden, painting him as a warrior ablaze with unfathomable purpose.

The tension stretched taut between them, a gossamer thread threatening to snap and forever alter the fabric of their bond. Liu Kang stood sentinel, his heart heavy with the knowledge that the rift widening between them might never be bridged, that in seeking to shield Raiden from darkness, he might instead cast him headlong into its depths. And as Raiden's silhouette hardened against the burgeoning light, it became clear that the dawn would bring no respite, only the promise of battles yet to come.

Raiden's fists cleaved the thick, humid air of dawn with a ferocity that left trails of electric blue in their wake. His every strike was punctuated with the hiss and crackle of contained storms, the raw power that surged through his veins not just an extension of his will, but a manifestation of it.

"Enough," Liu Kang pleaded, the words barely audible over the tempestuous dance of lightning. But Raiden moved as if entranced, muscles glistening with sweat, his eyes dark pools reflecting a tumultuous sky.

"Can you not see, Lord Liu Kang?" Raiden's voice was a whisper lost in thunder, each word heavy with the burden of unspoken fears. "There is no enough until I am certain...until they are safe."

Raiden's body arched, a conduit for celestial fury, and for a fleeting moment, he seemed more myth than man—untouchable, unfathomable. Yet Liu Kang saw the tremor in those outstretched hands, the silent scream of sinew and bone pushed beyond mortal limits.

"Raiden!" The urgency in Liu Kang's shout cut through the cacophony. He took a step forward, intent on halting this self-inflicted crucible.

But as he reached out, something stirred within Raiden—a defiance born of desperation. With a sudden, explosive discharge, Raiden repelled Liu Kang's advance, sending him staggering back. The charged air sizzled with tension, the distance between them now a chasm filled with the echoes of unsaid truths.

"Forgive me." Raiden's gaze never wavered from the horizon, the coming storm mirroring the one raging inside him. "But I must walk this path alone."

The skies above churned ominously, a prelude to the chaos that awaited in the Mortal Kombat tournament. As Raiden turned back to his relentless training, Liu Kang could only watch, his heart constricting with a dread too profound to name.

Would Raiden's quest for strength lead to triumph or tragedy? Would his fierce need to protect forge him into a champion or shatter him against the anvil of fate?

With a final, resounding boom that seemed to shake the very foundations of Liu Kang's temple, Raiden summoned a bolt of lightning that struck the ground before him, leaving a scorched testament to his resolve.

Trials of Thunder - Chapter 2 - SSM_MeapLe - Mortal Kombat (2024)
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