Toramitsu: A Warrior Needs a Sword
CHAPTER 2: A Warrior Needs a Sword...
It was now morning, but the only evidence of this was the occasional digital clock display at a hallway corner. Apparently, it wasn't uncommon for Manji to lose track of time in this underground maze. A hissing sound preceded the sliding open of another metal door, through which stepped Yoshimitsu, followed by Toramitsu. "Were you a less experienced fighter," said Yoshimitsu, as he led his latest recruit down another winding hallway in the Manji Clan base, "you would begin training in Manji-style ninjutsu. However, I can tell that you are already a master of martial arts, though I cannot determine your exact style." Even with his robotic voice, these last statements carried a decidedly inquisitive tone.
"I fight with the style of the Tiger," replied Toramitsu, his voice gaining a slight reverberant quality as he spoke through his mask. "It is an art handed down through many generations." He still spoke vaguely of himself, not wishing to make known any more than need be. Although he trusted Yoshimitsu, he had learned that secrets were safest.
Even so, Yoshimitsu was not to be fooled, and he knew the young warrior was hiding much from him. Hrm, he thought to himself, I must continue to ask questions, and better questions, for I sense there is much to know about this mysterious young man. "You fight well with open hand," he said aloud, with a great sense of drama in his voice, "but a warrior needs a sword, for not all your opponents will be weaponless." He placed his hand on a flat, glowing panel before the next door, and it slid open for him, revealing an elliptical training room with a floor of compressed sand and racks of weapons standing in various corners about the room. He allowed Toramitsu to enter in first, following in afterward to find the young warrior standing in the middle of the room, hands held out at his sides.
Toramitsu's gaze travelled about the room. A training room, surely, he thought to himself. Yoshimitsu must mean to test me further; I must prove myself worthy. "The sword and I are well acquainted," he said in a low tone of voice, solemn yet eager. Turning around to face Yoshimitsu, he brought up his hands, crossed at the wrists and held open loosely with palms toward his face, a motion which caused his cape to stir suddenly. Bringing up his elbows so that his arms were parallel to each other, he then snapped his hands apart, back down at his sides. Now, however, his left hand held a two-edged sword, its blade reflecting the artificial light in the room with a glassy sheen. Yoshimitsu examined the blade with his mechanically enhanced eyes, and to his surprise, it was apparent that the sword was made all of one piece of wood, probably highly polished, the crossbar short and notched on each side. Set in the pommel was what appeared to be a large tiger's-eye stone. But what truly made it stand out was its blade. Typically, wooden swords like this were thicker in the blade to stand repeated clashes, but the blade of this sword was thin, as it would be were it made of steel. How Toramitsu had been hiding it did give some measure of curiosity to Yoshimitsu, but, more to the point, he wondered what the young warrior meant by bringing out this strange weapon.
"Wooden swords are good for practice, Toramitsu," he said, drawing his own sword with his left hand, "but such toys will not fare well against steel." He held out his blade in front of him as he said this, tracing his right fingers down the blade as he held out his arms perpendicular to his body. To his further surprise, Toramitsu raised his sword in a defensive position, sliding into a fighting stance similar to the one he had used when fighting the other Manji.
"Never take a blade for what it appears," said the young warrior, raising his hood over his head. Two blue flames looked out of the eye-holes of his mask as he held his stance firm. "Attack me, if you think my sword a mere toy." Yoshimitsu must come to trust me as a warrior, he thought to himself. I must show myself ready and capable.
Yoshimitsu was not sure what Toramitsu was trying to prove, but he raised his sword anyway, taking a few steps with his arm held up high before bringing his sword down in a quick downward strike, hoping Toramitsu would dodge it. His arm was stopped however, by something which both blocked his blade and caused his arm to rebound slightly, from the force with which he had hit it. Stumbling backward, put slightly off balance by the unexpected rebound, he looked up to see Toramitsu holding his sword above him, just as he had raised it to block the downward strike. The wooden sword in his hand did not seem to have sustained any damage, and Toramitsu quickly regained his defensive stance. Looking down at his own sword, Yoshimitsu saw, to his utter amazement, that where his sword had made contact with Toramitsu's the blade was slightly dulled, as if he had struck it into a granite rock.
"A warrior needs a sword, and here you see one," Toramitsu said, seeing the robotic ninja's astonishment. "This sword is made with a skill known only to few." Toramitsu did not wish to reveal too much, but he felt it necessary to give at least some explanation. He stood up, running the first two fingers of his right hand down the flat of the blade, holding it up to the light. "The blade will not dull or break," he continued, "even under the strain of a thousand swords. For this reason, it must be wielded by one who is worthy, one who has a pure soul."
At these words, Yoshimitsu seemed to start, involuntarily, and Toramitsu guessed that the cause was more than being impressed. The cyborg ninja's eyes remained fixed on Toramitsu's blade. "Does this sword have a name?" was the first thing he said after a long silence.
Toramitsu nodded. "It is called Tiger Sword," he answered. He did not elaborate further, still wanting to hear more of what Yoshimitsu had to say.
"I see," said Yoshimitsu gravely. "Then you will not mind if I test your skills with that sword? As you said, one who wields it must be worthy." He stepped back into a fighting stance, sword held up in front of him Toramitsu nodded and resumed his own stance. "It has been long since I fought one who wielded a sword with his left hand," the young warrior grinned. "Whenever you are ready."
Yoshimitsu ran up to Toramitsu, lunging at the last minute with a knee bash, which Toramitsu duly sidestepped, pulling himself to Yoshimitsu's left side, facing the ninja so that his sword was in front of him at all times. Pivoting quickly, Toramitsu leaped in the air to deliver a back spinning heel kick as Yoshimitsu turned around. The cyborg ninja crouched under the kick and came up with a rising knee attack, popping Toramitsu up into the air. Regaining himself in midair, Toramitsu saw Yoshimitsu's blade-wielding hand coming at him with a jab, so he brought up his own sword to block it as he made a safe landing, avoiding a juggle attack. Immediately upon getting his footing, he dropped low and aimed a spinning slash to Yoshimitsu's legs, just above his shin armor. With a robotic cry of surprise, Yoshimitsu jumped back in pain as Tiger Sword slashed through the cloth of his pants and drew a small amount of blood. He had only time to raise his sword before Toramitsu swiped at him with an upward vertical slash, which only just deflected off his blade. The mechanized ninja then did a backflip to escape Toramitsu's next attack, a neck-level horizontal slash which passed just over Yoshimitsu's belt buckle. After landing the backflip, Yoshimitsu jumped into the air, and to Toramitsu's surprise his left hand began to swivel about, causing his blade to whirl like a helicopter blade, keeping him aloft high in the air.
"That must be useful," commented the tiger ninja, just before Yoshimitsu fell from the air with a downward slash from which Toramitsu only just had time to roll aside and counter with a low sweeping slash and lunge. The slash cut into Yoshimitsu's right arm, though not too deeply, but Yoshimitsu was already rolling forward at that time, so the stab missed him completely. Seeing his blade stab only air, Toramitsu turned so that his back was to the direction Yoshimitsu was rolling and flipped backwards onto the cyborg's back, kicking with both feet at once before launching himself into another backflip in that direction, this time ending on the wall in the corner of the room, his feet and right arm keeping him in place near the ceiling.
Yoshimitsu, bleeding somewhat, managed to get to his feet; from within his armor came a faint mechanical sound which Toramitsu was only just able to hear. "Are you all right?" called the tiger ninja as he kept his high ground. "I did not mean to cut so deep."
The robotic ninja turned around, and the whirring stopped. Toramitsu saw that the bleeding from his arm had stopped, and the slash on his leg did not seem to be hurting him either. He was holding back during that whole fight, mused Toramitsu silently. Yoshimitsu stretched his fingers. "The Doctor has outfitted me with a self-regeneration system," he explained, "for times when I really need it." He sheathed his sword before brushing off his clothing, which was by this point covered in sand. "You fight well, Toramitsu. I can see already that you need little training from me. Come down; I have something to show you."
Toramitsu leaped down from the wall, landing lightly on the balls of his feet, his hands crossed in front of each other touching the ground in front of him. When he stood up, his sword was again hidden, and even Yoshimitsu could not detect where it was worn. He followed Yoshimitsu back through the door by which they had entered, emerging again into the long hallway. "You have not told me all that you might about yourself, warrior," declared Yoshimitsu as they walked through another passageway, this time climbing down a few flights of stairs. "Who you are is not important, now that you have joined the Manji, but perhaps what I have to show you may be of interest, enough that you will trust me with more than you have told already." Toramitsu remained silent at this, wondering what Yoshimitsu was about to show him.
Back in the city, Hwoarang had staggered back to his hotel room, his wounds still hurting. Some time later, which he presumed was the next morning, he was awoken with the sound of the landlady banging on his door, asking him whether or not he needed the room cleaned.
"I'll clean it myself if it needs it!" he shouted, still laying face up on top of the covers, his clothes still unchanged from the night before. He had simply collapsed on his bed on entering the room, a small space with only the bed, a nightstand with a radio, and a two-drawer dresser. The nearest bathroom with a shower was at the other end of the hallway. "One of these days, when I get a job, I'll be thankful for not having to sleep in places like this every night," he grumbled to himself before pushing himself upright, now sitting on the edge of the bed.
"Why do I always get dragged into these messes?" he asked himself, rubbing his face and arms, which were bruised and scraped. "Perhaps the better question is, "When am I going to learn to shut my big mouth?' What was I thinking, pushing that guy out of my way, when he had his whole gang to back him up?" He swiveled a quarter turn, banging his knee off the wall in the process, and, cursing himself, reached for the radio switch. A voice crackled into audibility, apparently a weather report.
"And, the weather forecast for today, Sunday, June 15th, is sunny with a chance of clouds in the afternoon, not bad if you're going to the park..."
Hwoarang froze. It had been Friday night, the last he remembered. He must have slept all through Saturday. No wonder the landlady was so irritable this morning. Hwoarang sniffed his slightly tattered clothing. Shaking himself to his feet, he grabbed a towel from the top of the dresser and headed down the hall to shower. "I should have known better," he growled, "than to mess with fate on Friday the 13th."
After descending seven flights of stairs, Yoshimitsu and Toramitsu came to what looked like the end of that hallway, though no door could be seen. Toramitsu was not surprised, however, when Yoshimitsu placed his hand on a seemingly ordinary section of the rock wall and said again, "Shiki soku ze kuu," the same words he had used to enter the base. The outline of a door appeared in the wall, a line of red light cutting through the bare rock. The door slid up into a slot in the wall above it, and the space beyond it was revealed: A wide cavern, lit from below by an open lava-filled chasm. Toramitsu realized that this mountain must be a fairly active volcano. "Is it not dangerous to build your base inside a mountain of fire?" he asked, as Yoshimitsu preceded him inside, onto a narrow bridge of stone which led to a wide platform some distance away. "What happens if it erupts, and you are still within?" Yoshimitsu laughed. "We are well aware of the danger," he said, "but the base has been protected against such an event; the Doctor is a master of sciences and has designed barriers to keep us safe should the mountain erupt. Now follow me, Toramitsu, and keep your mind pure. This is a special place."
Toramitsu did as Yoshimitsu instructed, and the two of them walked single-file across the stone bridge until they reached the platform, whose sides were sheer and almost inward-sloping in some places. The heat from the lava flowing below made Toramitsu cautious, if nothing else. At the far end of the platform, where it joined to the walls of the cavern, was a shrine of some sort, and he and Yoshimitsu approached it. The shrine was constructed as an arched hollow in the wall, beginning maybe ten feet up from the floor of the platform and ending at waist level with a clear glass case, like one might find in a museum. A scroll was unfurled in the empty space of the hollow, depicting scenes of battle, all centered on a drawing of a particularly large and malicious-looking sword, clearly designed to be wielded with both hands. Near the base of the blade was what looked to be an evil eye, wreathed in flames.
"What is this, Yoshimitsu?" asked Toramitsu in wonder. It seemed familiar to him, somehow, like a memory out of his past, but he could not place it.
"This depicts the weapon known as Soul Edge, an evil blade for which many sought, centuries ago, for it was said to have the power to defeat an army of adversaries and even, depending on who told the story, to grant eternal life." He directed Toramitsu's attention down to the glass case, which held several pieces of metal of various sizes. "The sword was finally destroyed, but to ensure that it would never again be reformed, our clan has been collecting shards of the evil sword; it will never again be complete, able to cause the destruction it unleashed upon the world in those times. When you spoke of your sword's wielder needing a pure soul, it reminded me of the tales of the destruction of Soul Edge handed down from leaders past. When an old leader of the Manji passes into the next life, his successor takes his sword, and his name. It was the Yoshimitsu who founded the Manji who finally broke the sword into pieces, though the evil spirit within the sword tainted his own sword, until he learned how to purify it." Looking over to Toramitsu, Yoshimitsu saw, despite the mask, that something other than pure wonder was rushing through his mind. "Do you have any further questions?" he asked.
"No," said Toramitsu. "They have been answered." His left fist clenched, as if around a phantom blade, as he spoke. "I remember this blade," he declared, "for I have fought it before, while it was still intact."
Back in his room once again, Hwoarang threw on some clean clothes. That is, some cleaner clothes; he hadn't made it to the laundromat in a few weeks. The only pair of jeans worth wearing still was slightly baggy, but fit anyway, so long as he had a belt to keep it from falling down. Tucked into that was a tight sleeveless shirt, half in red and half in blue, with a Korean ohm yang in the middle. Over top of that, he wore a rather worn-in blue denim jacket with "Hwoarang" sewn in wide red Hangul characters across the top of the back. He wasn't ashamed of being a Korean in Japan. It might have gotten him into a few fights now and again, but that was another matter. His hands still wore his trademark fingerless gloves with metal studs for extra pain infliction. After lacing up his tennis shoes, he was ready to go. But go where?
"I might as well go down to the do jang down the street, to work the kinks out of my body." It wasn't easy for him to find a Taekwondo school in a Japanese city, but he had found one, and a hotel not far from it. Until he got the plane money to get back to his master's school, this was the best he was going to get for training. Picking up the bag containing his uniform, he headed out the door.
The do jang was neither very large nor very visibly located, stuck in between a Pan-Asian restaurant and a Japanese grocery, the smells from both of which drifted into the building now and again, to the dismay of students who usually needed a whole extra meal after classes. As Hwoarang opened the glass door, causing a bell to tinkle in response, he noticed that the master was not present. In fact, once he took off his shoes and socks and left the waiting room for the do jang proper, he found that there was only one student inside, and not one he recognized, sitting still on the floor in meditation, his back to the door.
The stranger wore a do bok similar to the one Hwoarang wore when training in Taekwondo, but it was all white, save for the navy blue trim around the collar and sleeves which matched his belt. On one end of the belt were two white stripes, strips of tape wound around the belt. An e-dan, Hwoarang recognized. On the back of the uniform was a yellow fist between two green branches, each bearing three red berries. Below the two branches were a star in a blue circle and an ohm yang, clearly representing the United States and Korea, respectively, and in between these two symbols were three Hangul characters: tang soo do.
"Hey," called Hwoarang to the stranger in Korean. "Does sa bom nim know you're here?"
The stranger stood up slowly and turned around to face Hwoarang. He looked about Hwoarang's age. By his features, he was clearly an American, though his dark hair had at first obscured this fact. He wore thin wire-frame glasses on his freckled nose, somewhat fogged up by the humidity of the room. His face was framed by two wide, straight sideburns which extended all the way down to the bottom of his jaw. Although his stance was steady, his expression showed that he was rather nervous. Probably, Hwoarang guessed, he didn't know Korean. No good using Japanese, either. He waited for a reply.
"I'm here for practice," said the stranger, slowly and in English, clearly repeating something he'd been preparing to say in just such an occasion. "My name is David Sin. The sa bom nim left to take home some groceries a few minutes ago. There are no Tang Soo Do schools in the city, so he said I could train here."
Hwoarang knew enough English to keep up with David's explanation, so he decided to make it easy on the foreigner, forgetting that he, too, was a foreigner here. "My name is Hwoarang," he said in English. "What are you doing in Japan?"
Looking relieved that he'd met someone with whom he could converse easily, David replied, "I'm an exchange student, here for a semester, maybe two. I know some Japanese, but you startled me when you came in here speaking something else. Korean?"
Hwoarang nodded. "This is a Taekwondo school, so most of the people here are Korean. Not many Americans come this way. So, why did you choose to come to Japan, if you knew there probably wouldn't be any Tang Soo Do schools for training?"
David shrugged. "I was hoping that there would be at least one; guess I was wrong. And anyway, my university wasn't offering any financial aid for Korea. My worst case scenario would have been having to practice in my hotel room, or out in a park somewhere."
Hwoarang laughed. "Well, it turns out you had some luck, then. I don't know how different our martial arts are, but you'll get some tough training nonetheless."
Nodding, David agreed. "I've already been through a workout; I was here at six o'clock this morning, and sa bom nim trained me until nine. For a non-traditional art, you have some tough training."
Hwoarang seemed to take some offense to that. "Traditional means nothing. You Tang Soo Do people keep bragging about tradition, but tradition isn't what wins fights. It's skill."
Raising an eyebrow, David replied, "Skills are best passed down through traditional training, where they don't sacrifice power for flashiness."
"Is that so?" asked Hwoarang, dropping his bag and stepping toward David confrontationally. "Then how about we test that right here, right now?"
Noticing the bruises on Hwoarang's face, David stepped back a bit. "You look like you've had a beating already," he said. "And I've just been through a morning of training. Maybe some other time."
"Hrmph," said Hwoarang dismissively. "Some other time is now." Stepping back into a fighting stance, he threw a few kicks past David's head, just for show. "Let's go!"
"You are young," Yoshimitsu said to Toramitsu in an amazed tone. "How is it that you have fought against Soul Edge?" This now brought more confirmation to his suspicions about the young warrior, that there was more to be told of him than was apparent. He waited, however, for an explanation from the young warrior himself.
Toramitsu stepped forward, now leaning directly over the Soul Edge fragments, which emitted, he now saw, a faint aura which glowed up at him through the glass. "I am young," he replied, "but I have lived in many times. I am a traveler, Yoshimitsu, from another reality, who has been passing from reality to reality, universe to universe, so that time has little meaning on the passage of my life. I age only when I stay in one reality for a length of time, and those times have been precious few."
Yoshimitsu pondered this for a moment before asking, "Why do you travel so? What do you seek?" He guessed that the young warrior must have some quest to fulfill, to live such a life. "Or from what do you run?"
"I run from nothing, Yoshimitsu," came the reply. "I am the pursuer. My adversary is a demon, a powerful force of evil which tormented my world in days of old and now has sought to spread his darkness in other realms. It is my task to follow him, and to destroy him utterly, so that he can cause no more pain. This demon is known to us by many names, none pleasant. In your tongue, perhaps, the most common of these would translate as ?Dragon,' for so it was translated when last I visited this realm, when last I heard the name Yoshimitsu." He went to rest his left hand on the glass, but drew it back as if burned, perhaps by some memory now restored. "When I leave a reality, the memory of it fades in my mind, as all trace of my existence vanishes behind me, so that healing can begin."
Yoshimitsu sensed that Toramitsu was speaking the truth, though he could hardly believe it. His mechanical eyes looked up at the scroll one more time. One scene in particular caught his attention; it showed the Yoshimitsu of that age in combat with the wielder of Soul Edge, depicted with a raging dragon at its side. Aiding Yoshimitsu in battle was a large tiger, its hands and feet wreathed in flame. "I always thought that meant he fought with the strength of a tiger," Yoshimitsu said aloud, though quietly. "So it was always explained to me; how quickly memory fades." Toramitsu made note of the direction of Yoshimitsu's gaze, and his eyes fell on the same scene. Taking a step back, he turned around and looked about him, as if the ceiling of the cavern were his memory on display.
"My own memory fades too quickly indeed," he said. "And the Dragon will have been counting on that. I remember now that he came last to this world in search of the power of Soul Edge. That must be his purpose here once again."
Yoshimitsu turned around and approached Toramitsu, arms folded across his chest. "That shade has passed into legend," he said, "and out of memory, almost. The power of Soul Edge is gone from the world, and these few shards are the only surviving remnants. That evil sword will never again rise to cause destruction."
Toramitsu turned around sharply. "Then what, Yoshimitsu? What can the Dragon be seeking here again?"
With a grave note in his voice, Yoshimitsu replied, "The old shades have dispersed, but new powers of evil have grown in this world. Toramitsu, it is time I told you more of the Mishima family, and its curse."