The screen above the bell flickered on and it was a few seconds before the blurry lines settled to reveal a face.
'Hello? Who's there?' asked the friendly face. He had a sweet Russian accent.
'Is that you? Is it really you Dr. Boskonovitch? Wow! This is awesome.' I smiled as sweetly as I could.
'Can I ask who you are?'
'Yeah, I'm Jemma!' I announced like I'd done something good just by being me, swaying on the spot proudly and grinning. 'Is Yoshimitsu there?'
'I can't tell you that?'
'Aha!' I jumped in, 'So he MUST be there! If he weren't you'd have just said no! For a genius you're a crap liar!'
'Ha ha, Very observant of you. But I wasn't trying to lie. I was merely being honest while keeping my promise to Yoshimitsu.'
'You mean, you promised not to let me in didn't you?'
'Well he seemed pretty determined not to see you. What did a sweet little lady such as your self do to upset him anyway?'
I began to blush and looked at me feet,
'In that case, I can't possibly let you in.'
'Well, at least ask Yoshi to come and speak to me over the telecom.' I pleaded, 'I'll wait here in the soaking wet weather, catching my death...'
'I'll make a deal with you,' the doctor interrupted, 'you tell me why he's so mad with you and I'll try to get him to speak with you in person.'
That was a fair deal. I took a deep breath and considered how best to word it. In the smallest voice possible I muttered,
'I tried to peep at him in a hot spring.'
I was met with complete silence and the screen suddenly went blank.
'Dr. B...? Dr. B? Are you still there?' I started thumping the buzzer again but then there was a loud 'clunk' sound and the door sprung open.
I was a bit confused, but started to walk slowly into the warm, dry building.
Once I was in the hall, the door closed behind me and I was temporarily plunged into darkness. A light flickered on and I discovered that I was standing before a wide staircase. At the top of the stairs stood an aged balding man, with the whitest hair, wearing a lab coat and a smile!
'Now that was the most amusing thing I have heard in a long time.' exclaimed the doctor, 'come on up and I'll get you a towel and a cup of tea.'
'But... What about Yoshi? Won't he be mad at you for letting me in?'
'Yoshimitsu? Ha, I can handle him. Come on, hurry yourself up girl.'
'So then little Jemma...' said the doctor sweetly as I dried my hair with a towel, 'do you make a habit of spying on people as they bathe or is it a privilege you reserve only for Yoshimitsu?'
I put down the towel and ran my fingers through my hair to try to straighten it. I don't think it worked as my hair is usually half way down my back but it only appeared to reach my shoulders, the rest of it was obviously bundled up in knots. I gave up and popped the cat ears back on.
'It's not anything I've ever even considered doing before. I don't know what came over me. I just sort of got curious. I have a terrible crush on him you see.'
Dr, Boskonovitch grinned like a pixie.
'I see... Now that's... odd. I didn't realise he still had it in him. I mean not since...' he paused.
'Ha ha, never mind. It's not that important anyway.'
'Oh tell me, I want to know EVERYTHING about him.'
'I don't think he would appreciate that, he's a very private man. Anyway, how do you like your tea? The kettle has just boiled.' he said, quickly driving the conversation into a u-turn.
'Do you have green tea? I take it strong!'
'No problem. I'll be right back. Can you entertain yourself for a few moments? I'd leave you with embarrassing baby photos of Yoshi to flick through but alas, there aren't any. However, should you get 'curious' again, the bathroom is at the top of the stairs on the right. It's a white door! You might fit in the cupboard next to the sink.' he added a wink.
'That's not funny!' I huffed.
'It isn't? Oh, I used to have such a sharp wit in my youth. Perhaps this is a sign I'm finally slowing down.' he then left the room chuckling to himself. Clearly, Dr. B was an unnaturally cheerful man.
The room I was in didn't look much like a lab at all. In fact, it looked nothing like a lab at all. If I had to compare it to anything I would say it was like a teacher's staff room in a high school. It was a large room with a beige and red tilled floor and about 20 chairs and sofa's in it. The seats were all different designs and very few of them matched. Some of them looked old and in desperate need of re-stuffing while others were pristine and looked exceptionally expensive. All of them, I was sure, had been 'borrowed' on a long term bases without the permission of their owners. They were all arranged in a neat horseshoe shape with a TV at the open end. There was a metal spiral staircase in the corner on the right, almost right behind where I was sitting but not quite. Within reasonable distance of each seat, there was a coffee table; again, the tables were all different designs and conditions.
I stood up and began to walk around the strange room. There were loads of weird things on the walls. Random posters, adverts for video games, gyms, alcoholic drinks or robotic dogs that really pee on the floor and eat all your best shoes, fliers for bars with drinks promotions, pages ripped out from magazines or newspapers, hand drawn sketches of people with speech bubbles coming out of their mouths framing obscenities. Photographs that had been on the wall a while and were starting to curl up around the edges and in some places, people had drawn directly onto the wall!
There was a calendar on the wall to; it was open on February 2005. That was three years ago and I had no idea what was so important about that date, if anything. In the corner of the room there was a magnificent large white cabinet built into the wall. The workmanship bore a surprising resemblance to the wardrobe in Yoshimitsu's bedroom in Magpie Manor. The back of the cabinet was plastered with photos of people, this time, they were all in frames. There were fresh flowers in vases on the shelf and numerous white tea-lit candles in little glass holders that had recently been lit. It didn't take a Pagan to recognise the purpose of the shrine.
I then walked over to the bookshelf. Books always have a way of attracting me. Seriously, no matter what they are about, I will pick them up and start flicking through. The titles on the shelf were all very odd and unrelated. I picked one at random and read the title 'The Endless fall; true stories from an early skydiver. Mike Swain.' That was odd so I put it back and chose anther. 'Ice Fishing; Methods and Magic, Steven Griffin'. I decided to go for a 'best of three' approach and picked one last book at random, 'The Last of the Mohicans, hardback, by J.Fenimore Cooper'. That was when I decided just to give up.
There was a photograph in a frame on the bookshelf too. It caught my eye as it had Yoshimitsu on it. He was with the doc and a very pretty young lady. She looked about my age but that really doesn't help narrow it down much. Her hair was pink and she had a perfect figure and a lovely smile. She was between the two men with an arm around each but her head was tilted towards Yoshi's shoulder. She looked so happy and so alive. I couldn't help but wonder if she know how lucky she was to be there?
The scene seemed to be taking place in front of an old temple and it looked quite a lot like Cyprus. Though I have never been there, I have a fascination with other countries and cultures and whenever I see pictures of places from upon our beautiful planet, they seem to stick in my memory -because I want to know it all I guess. I was lost in the picture.
'Oh, I see you really do have a bad obsession with Yoshimitsu. You've been staring at his photograph for the past five minutes!'
I turned around with a start to see Dr. Boskonovitch had returned and was sitting on a soft, comfortable looking chair, sipping a hot cup of tea. My green tea was on the table next to him.
'You could have told me that you'd come back in.'
'Why? You looked so engrossed in that picture and I thought I should encourage it since it's a lot better than staring at him in the bath!'
I sat back down next to the doctor, picked up my o-cha and took a sip.
'Will you let that drop please? It was a stupid mistake and not one I plan on repeating. Anyway, who's the girl in that picture?'
'Ah,' the doctor stood up, 'That's my daughter. She's beautiful isn't she?' he picked up the picture then came and sat back down, examining it in his hands.
'Yeah,' it pained me to agree, 'Was Yoshi close to her?' I asked, indirectly trying to find out if they had been some kind of item.
'You mean, 'were they a couple'?' clearly Dr. Boskonovitch was a great reader of people. I made a mental note to never lie in front of him.
I chose not to answer either way so just sipped some more of my o-cha.
'Well then...' continued the doctor, 'They were close friends but I don't think there was anything more than friendship between them. They only knew each other a very short while. When that picture was taken, we had only known Yoshimitsu for three months and he had only just really started to get the hang of his new arm. Whenever he was around she was never far away. He was like an uncle to her. Only a year after that picture was taken, my daughter became very unwell.
'What was she called?' I asked.
'Her name was Alisa.'
'I'm sorry to bring it up.'
'It's okay, but maybe a change in the conversation would be a good idea.' said the doctor brightly, placing the photo on the table. He had such a nice manner. 'Let us return to the conversation to the purpose of your visit. You want to apologise to Yoshimitsu. Am I right?'
'Yeah, you're right. I also want to try to get our friendship back on track.'
'Well, a few things you should know first. It takes months to earn Yoshimitsu's trust and less than a second to lose it and he really won't be impressed that you want to know all his deepest darkest secrets. He is a fiercely private man. I can't express that enough. If you want my advice on how to get along with him then it is this... Pretend you have no interest in him whatsoever. If that doesn't work, then I'm afraid you've pretty much blown it.'
'Oh I see. Well, just supposing that he does forgive me, what can I do to encourage him to like me? I mean, fancy me?'
Dr. Boskonovitch laughed and patted me on the head.
'Aw, you really are adorable. Absolutely nothing at all I'm afraid. Relationships just aren't his thing. Trust me, you wouldn't really want him as your lover anyway.'
'You don't know that I wouldn't. It takes a lot to put me off!'
'Believe me, I have a far better idea than you do my little cherub.'
We both turned around to see Yoshimitsu standing half way down the spiral staircase. His eyes were blazing red and his voice deep and threatening.
'Naze kanojo ga koko ni iru n'darou?'
'I just wanted to talk to you!' I cut in before the doctor could answer.
'Hanashitakunai, kaere!!' he snapped.
'Don't talk to our guest like that.' said the doctor as though he were talking to a naughty child.
I spoke next. 'I have come all this way to see you because I couldn't stand the thought that you were mad at me. I believe I have a right to apologise and make it up to you. You can't just stop speaking to someone over one stupid mistake. I mean, it's not as though you're always an angel is it?' I pleaded.
Yoshi walked down the metal steps, slowly and silently. When he reached the bottom he moved right up to the back of the seat I was on. I turned around so I was kneeling on the cushion with my hands on the back-rest. There was less than a meter between our eyes.
'Chigau zo! Kimi ga shibotokute wagamama na onnanoko kara koko ni kita! Heya ni aru no tegami o yonda ka?'
'Yes I read the letter and how dare you say I'm stubborn? You're being just as selfish and stubborn as I am.' I argued, getting more animated by the syllable. 'I mean what's the big idea just leaving like that? You're just a big kid who goes in a petty little huff at the slightest thing.' I was shocked at my self for speaking to my idol like that.
'Anno koto wa chisakunakatta zo!'
The doctor opened a packet of peanuts noisily and we both turned to look at him.
'Oh don't mind me, carry on. Really, this is most amusing. It would appear Yoshi-kun, that you have finally met your match!'
Yoshi did not respond but just stood completely still, the only movement being his very slow breathing.
I decided to do something radical, something I often do when I run out of argument. I started to sing the first song that came into my head. Luckily, I'm not too dreadful a singer. I can hold a tune at least.
'Where is the moment we needed the most? You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost...'
Yoshi just stood there letting me sing. His eyes didn't seem such a harsh shade of red so maybe music really can soothe a savage beast!
'Oh, Daniel Powter?' enquired the doctor, saving me from the embarrassment of reaching the part where I run out of lyrics.
'The singer of that song, it's Daniel Powter isn't it?'
'What? Nah, don't be silly. It's Alvin and Chipmunks!' I said incredulously. Man, it's a good job I'm around to keep everyone right really.
'If I could say a few words on the matter?' began Dr. B changing the subject and turning towards Yoshi, 'I think you are being exceptionally and uncharacteristically unkind to the poor girl Yoshimitsu. After all, she's clearly dreadfully sorry for what she did, I doubt she meant you any harm and the only thing she's really guilty of is being in love with someone she could never be with and who probably doesn't deserve her anyway. But there is a middle ground. She could still have your friendship. Would you really deny her that? Would you really throw all that love back in her face?'
'Saa, boku ni ayamatakereba ima douzo!' Yoshi finally said to me with a deep sigh and also finally moving away from my chair. Well, he moved a few paces away at least.
'You already know I'm really sorry Yoshi. If I could erase the past then I would but I can't so all I can do is promise to never do anything like that again. I am very sorry Yoshimitsu. If it helps, I never actually saw anything anyway...'
'Anno toki de fuku o nuganakatta.'
'WHAAT? You have the gall to get all upset with me when...' I began losing my temper again, but quickly remembered I was meant to be patching things up with him so let it slide. 'I guess... it was the whole betrayal thing huh?' I blushed and smiled bashfully.
'Shou ga nai darou.' he shrugged.
'Does that mean you forgive me?' I asked, reading into the fact that Yoshi had gone from being very angry at what I had done to referring to it as something like 'no big deal' albeit rather uncommitted.
He just nodded and then walked moved around to the open end of the horseshoe of seats and sat down next to the doctor on the other side to me.
'Well then!' I beamed, 'if that's the case, I think we should make a promise to each other. You promise to be my friend and I'll promise to stop stalking you! Yubikiri?' I held my little finger up in front of Dr. B's face and when Yoshimitsu reached over and hooked his little finger around mine I began to sing.
'Yubikiri genman...' I stopped, 'Yoshi, you're not singing. It won't work if you don't sing too.'
I tried again. 'Yubikiri genman... Yoshimitsu! You MUST know the words, you're Japanese after all.'
'Shite'ru kedo bakana.'
'It may be silly and childish to you but it matters to me. Now SING.'
He chuckled and then sighed 'hai'.
'Yubikiri genman uso tsuritara hari senbon nomasu!' we finally sang together, though Yoshi didn't so much sing as just say it in time with me and when we pulled our fingers apart he added 'Yubi kitta' at the end. I guess he knew a version I didn't!
The doctor laughed.
'So does that mean if either of you breaks your promise you have to drink a thousand needles?'
'Yeah, and cut off a finger!' I smiled.
'Well if you're going to do that, you're probably in the best place for it.'
The doctor and I laughed and then Yoshi stood up again.
'Ji-chan...' (I giggled when I realised he referred to the doctor 'gramps'), 'sorosoro hajimeyou ka?' he said, sounding serious.
'Begin what?' I asked.
'Can I tell her Yoshimitsu?'
Yoshi nodded then walked towards the spiral staircase.
'Well, Yoshimitsu didn't really come here because you upset him. He was upset with you but he has another agenda. You see...' he stood up too, 'You had better follow us.' he added as they both walked towards the spiral staircase which I noticed also reached downwards.
Doing as asked, I followed them and the doctor continued to talk to me.
'Well... Yoshimitsu is an extraordinarily complex guy. He has what I like to call a 'supra-personality'...'
'Is that like a supra-organism?' I joked.
'Very good little Jemma, I guess you could say it's a lot like that.'
I didn't expect him to say that. We took the stairs downwards, Yoshi first, then the doctor, then little old me at the end.
'Just like a supra-organism is many individuals working together to create one greater complex organism, Yoshimitsu's mind is made up of many individuals all thinking together as one personality.'
He stopped when we reached the bottom of the staircase. The room we had arrived in did look like a lab. It looked exactly like a lab. I would describe it but it looked like a lab, what more do you need? It was very large though and very neat. At least at the end we were at. I could see that the far end was extremely cluttered. It didn't have the chemical burns on the ceiling that the lab I used to work in had (it was this one time, when I was working with Shaun... oh you don't need to know that story) but it had the familiar laboratory smell that I had so missed.
'Welcome to my laboratory Jemma!' announced Dr. B proudly.
Yoshimitsu strolled ahead of us towards a large computer that looked like something out of Star Trek. In a totally anti-climatic way, he switched on the computer at the mains, just like you would any PC or mac. The computer whirred into life and the buttons started to light up (that was more like it). Yoshi then sat on the floor in front of it with his sword resting on his lap.
'So Dr. Boskonovitch, how come Yoshi has so many personalities? Is he like...' I leaned in close and whispered, 'crazy?'
'Crazy? I'm not sure about that, the jury's out on that one I'm afraid but as for his personality, he only has one I promise.'
'But you said he had lots of people's personalities...'
'No, I meant his personality is an amalgamation of many. It is the sum of the parts, not the parts themselves. He's still an individual with his own thoughts, feelings and opinions, only his are slightly better informed than those of the average human being.
'You've lost me.'
'Then why don't you pull up a stool, sit back, and watch.' he said, grabbing a narrow stool on tall legs and placing it near the computer.
He patted the seat and smiled at me, encouraging me to sit. He then opened a metal cupboard and pulled out a beanbag-chair. It had Spiderman on it and looked completely out of place in the futuristic laboratory. He flung it on the floor next to Yoshi who just starred at it.
'I got that for you so you didn't have to sit on the hard floor like last time. Aren't you going to use it?' said Dr. B with a frown.
I was getting more and more confused by the second. I opened my mouth to speak but just gave up when I couldn't find the right words to express my confusion. Instead, I watched as Yoshi slid himself onto the beanbag and placed his sword back upon his lap. The doctor then knelt down in front of Yoshi and placed his hand on his shoulder.
'Ready my friend?'
'Then I'll need your sword please.'
Yoshimitsu handed his sword gently but firmly to Dr. B who took it with great care. He carried it over to the computer and then, like a reckless vandal he raised the sword and plunged it into the machine. I gasped but then when I looked closer, I realised that there was actually a slot for it to go into.
'Right Yoshimitsu, speak to you later. I promise to tell you everything they say.' Said the doctor as Yoshimitsu's eyes went dark and his chin dropped to his chest as though he were sleeping.
'What the F**k?' I yelled in horrified panic, 'is he okay?'
'Don't worry; your precious Yoshimitsu is absolutely fine. I wouldn't do anything to harm him.'
'Taisetsu na Yoshimitsu desu ka?'
A voice suddenly boomed out from the computer. The screen was blank yet the voice was loud and clear and I almost fell of my stool with fright.
'O hisashiburi, Bosukonobichi-sensei. Ano hito wa donata desu ka?' it continued.
'Oh this is Jemma. Jemma, let me introduce you to the first ever Yoshimitsu, leader of the Manji Clan...'
'Umm... nice to meet you...'
'Hajimemashite, Jemma-san wa kirei desu ne. O-hitori deshou ka?'
I was temporarily speechless. I had no idea what was going on except that the man I was in love with was currently unconscious on a beanbag while a voice that sounds nothing like his, but has the same name, was chatting me up despite having no body.
'I'm single on this side of reality' I answered sort of honestly.
'Oh careful Yoshimitsu, she's a bit of a pervert, she spies on people in hot springs.'
'Sou ka. Jemma-chan, boku wa itsudemo onsen ni haireba mitte mo yoi desu yo. Jitsu wa, isshou ni haitte mo yoi. Hehehehehe.'
You could have parked a bus in my mouth, it had fallen open so wide. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The first ever Yoshimitsu was bloomin' depraved!
'Hey, Dr. B. Is he going to start using old man Japanese cos' if he is I'll never understand him. My Japanese sucks at the best of times! I said, realising that I could get lost pretty soon.
'Good point. Okay, I'll change the settings to English.' He pressed a few buttons, 'there now, 21st century English'.
'So my friend, it has been three years since last we spoke...' the voice continued as though oblivious to the language switch, 'am I right to assume you have a question for me?'
'We do indeed Yoshimitsu.'
'Will my opinion matter this time? I still stand by what I said three years ago, vengeance is never the answer.'
'And yet you were greatly out numbered by the opinions of your descendants...'
'Then the true spirit of the Manjitou died with me. Ask your question.' The voice suddenly hissed.
I leaned in to see what was going to happen.
'Yoshimitsu, I mean, my Yoshimitsu...' (he called him 'his' how cute!) 'has been invited to become part of a new world. It could mean the end of the Manji Clan if he were to accept...'
'Tell me Doctor Boskonovitch, in the three years since most of the clan members were murdered, how many new members have been found?'
'Well, none really, but we have been looking...'
'and how many of those murdered had the blood of the clan's original ancestors in their veins?'
'Again, I'd have to say none, except Yoshimitsu himself.'
'Then the decision is easy. The Clan died when Yoshimitsu chose to kill the last male and female of the bloodline. He may do as he wishes so long as he does it honourably. Goodbye, Dr. Boskonovitch and so long, sweet Jemma.'
And with that, the voice was gone and the room went silent. I turned to the doctor as I had a head full of questions. Not knowing what to ask first I just opened my mouth and hoped words would come out.
'What's going on please!' I demanded.
'How much do you know about the Manji Clan?' the doctor asked.
'Bits and pieces. Just what I can find on the Internet really. There's not much though.'
'No, there won't be. That's video game designers for you. They just create a vague, confused story and leave it for the egregore reality to wind intricately around the mess, making sense of nonsense. It chooses the path of least resistance, but because the stories are such a jumbled mess, even that path leads to a rather crazy flow of events.' he explained. 'Anyway, I don't suppose you read on your magical infallible Internet that each Manji leader must ritually sacrifice himself with the sword before it is passed on to the next leader?'
'Yeah, I didn't think too much on it though. It was all a bit pointlessly gory for my liking.' I said.
'Gory it may be but pointless it isn't...'
'I know all this, are you going to talk to that girl all night or can I have a moment of your attention?' came a new voice from the computer.
'Ah, Kiyoshi, is that you?' the doctor said, hastily, um Jemma, meet the second Manji leader...'
'I thought all Manji had names ending in ~mitsu!' I said, confused.
'Oh, because of Kunimitsu and Yoshimitsu?' the doctor enquired, 'You see Jemma, in science we don't draw conclusions from a test sample of only two subjects...'
'You sarcastic bast...'
'You are almost correct...' said the voice from the computer, 'our names were often based on the kanji of the Clan leader at the time of our birth, 'mitsu' is a kanji that came up a lot. As is 'yoshi, as my name demonstrates.'
'and the 'ki' in your name? Which kanji do you use for that?' I enquired,
'No I use the kanji for spirit'.
'Not chest? Table? Raw... Oh, raw would be a good kanji, your name would read, 'raw luck'.'
'You can shut up any time you like you know.' said Kiyoshi 'But as you're so interested in how we chose names, you might like to know this. We sometimes played on words with our names. For example, I had a friend called Himitsu. He wrote his name as 'avoid+light' but with different kanji the word himitsu means 'secret'.'
I was actually very impressed and I wanted more examples but it was not what we were meant to be doing so I shut up and let the doctor ask his question.
'Absolutely not.' was Manji leader number 2's answer, 'As Clan leader he should never give up.'
'Even when he's the only one left?' the doctor asked.
'Especially then. There is no honour in quitting, even when all is lost, a warrior must continue the fight until he draws his last breath. Only those who do not try are the true failures. I am insulted that he would even consider allowing the Manji Clan to end like that.'
'How can you say that?' I demanded. 'You think he should just walk into a fight and allow himself to be killed?'
'He's gone Jemma.' explained Dr. B as he scribbled notes from the conversation on a note pad.
I looked at the living Yoshimitsu. He was as still as death and barely breathing. I stepped down from my stool and walked over to him.
'Can he be woken?' I asked in a whisper as I knelt down beside him.
'Not until I unplug the sword. He really is fine though Jemma. He's done this before you know.'
'Three years ago you mean? In February, when the Clan members were murdered?' I said, having started to piece things together.
'Yes, but how did you know it was February?' asked the doctor, sounding at least a little bit impressed.
'I noticed the calendar upstairs was for 2005 and open on February. I didn't realise the significance until you spoke to Yoshi number 1.
'February 25th 2005 was the release date of Tekken 5. On that day, the Tekken egragore world was plunged into a new state of being. Our fates were moulded to fit in line with the new stories and we could do little other than ride it out until completion.'
I stroked Yoshi's bionic left hand which was resting on his knee and considered him closely.
'No wonder he's thinking about becoming part of Rotokia.' I sighed, 'I have another question. What did Yoshimitsu the First mean when he said this Yoshi killed the last male and female of the bloodline? I mean, I guess the female was Kunimitsu but who was the male he killed?'
Another voice came out from the computer.
'Yoshimitsu himself.' it announced.
'What? He's DEAD? Yoshimitsu is actually dead?'
'Nice to meet you. I am the second Yoshimitsu, leader of the Manji Clan.' Said the voice sarcastically.
'Another Yoshimitsu? How many were there?' I asked.
'Including the living magnet over there? There have been 7.'
I didn't say anything but I was pretty impressed. 7 is a very auspicious number and for my friend, 'the living magnet' (ha ha), to be the 7th Yoshimitsu, it was a pretty cool thing. Yet I had something far more pressing on my mind.
'What did you mean about Yoshi being dead?' I asked the computer screen.
'Which one? Nah, only kidding I know who you mean. I never said he was dead, you said that. I merely answered that he had killed himself.'
I opened my mouth to speak but the doctor knew what I was going to ask and saved me the trouble.
'He killed himself to pacify the sword and to combine his skills and knowledge with that of the previous Clan leaders.' he explained, taking my hand off Yoshi's and pulling me to my feet, 'But there was no one to pass on the sword to, so I brought him back.'
'So that's why he has a 'supra-personality' as you call it? It's because his consciousness merged with those stored in the sword?'
Dr. B nodded, looking impressed and now we needed to get the next clan member's answer.
'Hmm, well, I partly agree with Kiyoshi. The honourable thing to do would have been to ritually take his own life but he has already done that and there is no one to pass the sword on to. On the other hand, with no Clan but still the will to fight, perhaps he can still be of use to the world, as part of the Night Travellers...'
'You know about them?' I asked surprised.
'Technically, I was there.'
'So your answer then?' the doctor cut in.
'I vote for him to stay in Rotokia.'
It was getting late and I was beginning to feel cold. The doctor told me to help myself to a blanket from the metal cabinet from which he had taken the beanbag. I took out two, put one on my stool, and then wrapped the other around Yoshi, tucking it in tightly so it would stay in place. The doctor gave me a sweet smile. I got the feeling he approved of my love for Yoshimitsu despite it being unrequited. Taking up my own blanket and passing it over my shoulders, I climbed back onto my stool, feeling much warmer.
'How many more Manji leaders are there?' I asked with a yawn.
'There were 22 in total but there are 4 of them that we never speak to because they were cruel and corrupt in life, cheated their way into power and were kicked from the position very quickly. Then there were 3 who died before they could carry out the ritual, so only 19 of those former leaders are within the sword. There is also one individual who was made Clan leader when he was sick and dying, sort of a gesture of love from the Clan members.'
'That's a lot of personalities for one mind to carry!!' I said, still pretending to believe that Yoshi had multiple personalities, 'So how many years has it been since the first Yoshi?'
'Around 600, since the Sengoku period. But you know Jemma, he wasn't really the very first Clan leader. There was a Clan before he got the sword, but as they were all killed, he was left with the sword and had to start from scratch. He was only 17 at the time.'
'Is that why he behaved like a sex-starved teenager?' I joked.
'He was actually an amazingly skilled man. Yes, he was very young when the sword came into his possession but he was already in line to receive it and he did an incredible job of reforming the Manjitou, developing and strengthening their values and objectives. He had an amazing sense of humour and compassion too. His optimism was infectious, even in the darkest of times. It was something that his descendants always tried to emulate.'
'Wow, and to think he had a crush on me!' I beamed, 'Shame Yoshimitsu 7 doesn't feel the same.'
'But at least you know that one 19th of his personality thinks you're hot.'
I yawned again and rubbed my eyes.
'I'll hold onto that thought.' I said sleepily stepping down from the stool and laying myself on the floor beside Yoshimitsu. I curled up with the blanket still around me, and closed my eyes.
The next voice came from the computer, it was another Yoshimitsu. I didn't get to talk to him. Everything around me seemed to be slipping further and further away...
'Yoshi?' I said opening my eyes. The room appeared to be moving. I could see Yoshimitsu's masked face above me and I realised I was being carried. 'You're okay.' I added, relieved.
'Kimi ga nechatta'
'I mean about the Clan leaders. What did they decide?'
Yoshimitsu put me down since I was awake and capable of walking by myself. We were back in the room that reminded me of a staff room.
'Rotokia ni tometakattara daijoubu!' he announced, still sounding a bit indecisive about the whole thing.
'I'm glad about that. For a moment there I thought they were going to make you commit harakiri.'
Yoshi just laughed so I continued. 'So... will you be staying in Rotokia then?'
'Well, when you make up your mind, do let me know won't you?'
'Sugu kimi ni oshieru!' he said before climbing into a hammock and pulling a blanket over himself.
I looked around the room and noticed a distinct lack of places to sleep.
'Where am I supposed to sleep?'
'Isha-kun ni kitemite kureru!'
I ignored his suggestion, after all, the doc was still all the way down those steps in his lab and I was really tired. Instead, I pushed a chair over to the hammock and stepped on it. I took hold of the side and was just about to climb in...
'Nani o suru no?'
'I'm going to sleep here with you!' I sang out brightly.
'Oh, go on! It's not like I'll try anything dodgy! We made a 'pinky promise' remember!
'Zettai dame.' he said, forcibly and pushing my arm away so I had to let go of the hammock.
I rocked backwards and almost fell off the chair.
'Pleeeeeaaaaseeee Yoshi!' I said, grabbing the hammock again, 'just for tonight! Then I'll never bother you again. Honestly.'
'Uso ja nai yo!' I snapped, accidentally switching to Japanese for no good reason. 'I mean, it's not a lie!'
'Yoshimitsu!' shouted the doctor from below us, 'Let the poor girl share your hammock. You can't let her sleep on the floor with the mice now can you?'
I smiled at Yoshi with satisfaction.
'See, mice! I can't sleep on the floor if there are mice!'
With a very deep, submissive sigh, Yoshimitsu leaned over and grabbed me under my arms with both hands. He then tugged me onto the hammock in one smooth movement and laid the blanket over both of us.
'Thank you Yoshimitsu. I really appreciate this you know. I would have been so cold and uncomfortable and scared on the floor. I...'
'Oh, yeah, sorry, you're trying to sleep. Okay, I'll be quiet. I mean, after all, it's been a long day and you did all that trance stuff and I should really...'
I opened my mouth to apologise again but instead I just whispered, 'good night' and then fell asleep.
The preceding days had been challenging and arduous. Mitsurugi had followed the advice of the Green Isis of Rotokia and headed deep into the centre of the Shinto Dreamworlds. He believed with conviction that beyond the fairy-tales, the video games, manga and anime, Japan still remembered the old ways. Somewhere, kept alive by the stories, the old gods, O-kami, were preserved. But his journey had not been easy. He had been ambushed by foxes that had shape-shifted into samurai, swallowed by a giant skeleton (though he simply walked straight out through its ribs), chased by a tiger and attacked by thousands of tiny wooden tooth-pick people, to mention just a few from the myriad of Japanese spiritual beings he had encountered.
Both man and beast were exhausted, and growing weary. The hope and determination that had once driven Mitsurugi on, had faded from his heart. He had thought that by this point in his quest he should have acquired at least one of the lost shards of Amaterasu, but he did not even know what they would look like or if indeed he would know them when he saw them.
It became increasingly cold the deeper the warrior travelled. The snow fell down in blizzardous sheets and Chikara was struggling to step out of the knee-high snow with the extra weight of his master. Mitsurugi dismounted and led his horse by the bridle. They walked to the sound of traditional Japanese drumming, tapped out by unseen hands. When the wind stopped, the eerie sound of a female voice humming out a tune was audible. The voice was dampened by the stinging howl of the gale. Mitsurugi's face was throbbing from the cold and he began to feel his heart slowing. If he did not find shelter soon he would not endure the conditions for long.
He reached a small brick structure at the side of the path that reached only to his waist. Inside was a stone statue of the three wise monkeys. He knelt down beside them to pray in the hopes that they would guide him through his ordeal.
'How do you like my winter?' came a shrill, cruel voice behind him.
The samurai looked round and see a beautiful lady with milky skin and long black hair. She was clad in the finest white kimono with a black obi and her eyes where black with hate.
'Yuki-onna!' gasped Mitsurugi, drawing his sword. 'This is your doing?'
The youkai laughed menacingly and leaned closer.
'Yes, it was I. I am afraid, I cannot allow you to succeed in your quest, samurai.'
'Then I cannot allow you to LIVE!'
He lunged forward and made to slash her with his sword. The snow queen glided fluidly aside.
'Is that the best you can do? Oh poor, foolish samurai, you make this so easy for me.' she croaked, waving her hand over the snow.
Seven long shards of ice rose from the ground all around Yuki-onna and hovered several feet in the air.
'You have only one blade? Then I suppose you will be no match for seven?'
She casually waved her hand and the ice blades flew one by one towards Mitsurugi. When he managed to dodge each and every one, smashing those which came too close with his sword, his opponent looked angered.
'Very well then, we can do this the hard way.' she smirked, walking over to one of the ice-blades that was standing almost up-right in the snow where it had pierced. As she lowered her hand towards it, it re-formed to take the shape of a sword.
Seizing the sword, the lady turned towards Mitsurugi and made the first swipe. He blocked it with his own blade and quickly stepped to the side, knocking the ice sword away with a sweeping motion as he did so. She moved quickly to retaliate but not quickly enough. With three fluid, rapid slashes Mitsurugi brought the demon to her knees.
'Okamisama, forgive me.' he called out as he delivered the final blow.
The snow began to melt almost as soon as Yuki-onna had taken her last breath. Mitsurugi glanced towards the statue of the three wise monkeys; they had gone.
He mounted his horse again out of sheer fatigue and they proceeded with their journey. As the snow continued to melt and the air became warmer, Mitsurugi observed that there were strange succulent plants, like fleshy vines, growing beneath the rich green trees. There was soon no evidence that the landscape had ever been a icy wilderness. The air began to fill with the melody of cicadas and Mitsurugi's heart re-focused upon his quest.
A movement caught Mitsurugi's attention out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head and scanned the greenery but there was nothing there. After a few more moments he thought he noticed a movement again. This time he halted his horse and jumped down. He walked over to the fleshy vines and nudged them with his toes. Nothing happened although he was sure something had been hiding there. He tried again a little further along but there was still nothing.
Chikara cried out and Mitsurugi quickly turned around. His horse was struggling where he stood, trying to kick his legs. He was unable to do so as many long vines and grabbed his feet, reaching out across the clearing. Mitsurugi ran forwards and began to slash at the vines to free his horse. More began to appear and wrapped around the horse's body and neck. The horse screamed and thrashed about frantically as the vines started to latch onto Mitsurugi too. He cut them away with his sword but more came. He then noticed the ground ahead was swelling up where the vines appeared to be growing from. With great effort he moved towards it, cutting the vines away as they grabbed his body. Once he reached the moving mound of earth Mitsurugi plunged his sword deep into it. The vines did not release their grip so he repeated the attack several times more.
The creature had been slain and he returned to his horse. Chikara was buried beneath a tangled knot of green vines and there was no movement. The vines came away easily at the touch of Mitsurugi's hand and revealed the animals head. His eyes and mouth were open.
He took hold of the cheek-piece of the bridle and tugged on it. The horse did not move. Although he knew in his heart that his horse was dead, Mitsurugi began to remove the rest of the vines in the hope that they were simply restricting Chikara's movements. The horse remained perfectly still. Mitsurugi was lost, alone, tired and now, without a horse.