Toramitsu: Enter the Tiger
Only pale moonlight filtered down through the trees, the sun having long given up for the evening and gone to bed. Quiet was broken in the stillness here only by the occasional faint cry heard from somewhere off, bearing no sure token either of good news or of bad news, too distant to be distinguished. In this isolation, the air began to ripple, and the ground began to vibrate gently in a small area around the rippling. Slowly, a form faded into view amidst the disruption; The Tiger had arrived. As stillness gradually returned, a dark figure rose to his feet and looked up at the sky with clenched fists held down by his waist. The left fist held in its grasp the hilt of a sword. Casting his eyes earthward once again, the mysterious figure crossed his hands in front of his face, and as his cape settled, the sword was no longer there.
Seen only, perhaps, by the creatures hiding among the leaves and bushes of this city park, this man, cloaked and hooded in deep blue, began to ask himself where he now was. It seemed familiar, for he had been to similar places and similar times, but each new world was a new painting into which he had to paint himself. Crossing his arms over his chest, his cloak parted enough to show that he was simply dressed underneath: a short-sleeved shirt, its sleeves cut on either side of his arm, over top of a long-sleeved shirt of similar design; loose-fitting pants of some material that was not cotton and certainly not denim; a cord belt wrapped several times about his waist; another cord tied about his left knee which in brighter light might appear golden; leather-covered wooden shoes, whose insides were perhaps padded for travel, and whose soles were thick leather slabs; and everything but the shoes and cords in the same midnight blue as his cloak, so that he was almost invisible as he made his way along the path through the small grove of trees, out into the open.
Looking up at the tall city structures around him, he recollected only a handful of experiences like this before, so that it was all new again, all somewhat disorienting, especially the bright lights which reflected in his eyes - more of the same midnight blue. In fact, his face was somewhat striking; from his features and bearing, he looked a man of twenty years at the least, yet his eyes were somewhat larger than one would expect, though not in a youthful way, and a light of their own seemed to flicker within them, like twin blue flames in crystal spheres. As he made his way through the streets, keeping to the shadows and corners where he would be least likely observed, those eyes darted about from under his hood, uncertain yet resolute. "This is the place," he whispered to himself as he fell back into an alley to avoid the notice of a gang of youths.
"He is somewhere here."
Keeping himself calm yet alert, he rested his back against the wall. The signs and voices around him were in an unfamiliar language, one he could not yet understand. But the technology that brought him here was only an aid to his own abilities. His forbearers of ancient legacy all had the ability of Tiger Sight, to look into another's mind. He himself had used it before, but in other worlds. Would it still work here? He focused his will, and continued recovering from his trans-dimensional trip.
He did not get to rest long there, unfortunately. Within a few moments of the youths' passing, he heard shouting from their direction, and the sound of blows landing. Leaping up onto a nearby emergency escape scaffold, he almost seemed to fly to an obscured landing some thirty feet from ground level, where he could see the scene on the street below him, where that same group which had passed was now engaged in combat of some kind.
There were more down below than he had counted passing him; one more, at least. It was this extra who was the target of attack for a few of the others. The one under attack was a young man, not a few years younger than him, perhaps, with reddish-orange hair held back by what appeared to be goggles. His fists were wrapped in fingerless riding gloves. From his attire, the watching shadow surmised that he was certainly not unused to combat. From the way the young man fought, his observer was certain of it. He defended himself with fast kicks to the head and stomach, keeping his oppressors at foot's distance away at least. One, two, three, and four kicks went into the head of one of his assailants, knocking him into the air on the last hit. The young man then leaped into the air and kicked him twice before they both landed, one on his feet and the other on his face.
The one watching from above was not sure whether or not he ought interfere on behalf of the one assailed by many foes; he seemed to be handling them well, at least. That, and any fight would bring attention, unnecessary attention. Harmful attention, perhaps. So the shadowy figure simply watched as the combat moved, the young fighter drawing his opponents down to the next alley purposefully, so that the situation would be more controlled, and less public. He dodged an opponent's knife thrust and, countering with a swift side kick, knocked his assailant into the space between two buildings, following after to keep the fight moving that way.
At this point, the shadow moved swiftly, leaping from balcony to balcony so that he might get around to the other side and continue watching, in case he really would be needed. By the time he made it there, he saw that it was almost too late. One of the aggressors had managed to find an opening in his target's defense and winded him, apparently, so that the young fighter was slumped against a trash can, being kicked mercilessly. Given that at least one of the attackers had a knife, the watching shadow knew that this was beyond the point where he could simply watch and not act.
Leaping down quietly in several steps, from landing to exit to window-ledge, he descended upon the gang almost unbeknownst to them. Their first warning of his arrival was the collapse of their rear guard, two youths knocked unconscious from kicks to the temple in a matter of seconds. Against the lights from the street, the shadowy figure made a somewhat impressive silhouette, and the rest of the gang hesitated before going after him. The red- haired fighter coughing up blood against the wall looked on with what consciousness he had left as the stranger defeated them all, one by two by three, dodging their attacks and grabbing their arms to position them for brutal foot strikes to the head or gut. He did not throw a single punch, but whenever his foot struck, the sound of bones snapping was heard. When it was over, his rescuer advanced toward him, left hand outstretched. The downed fighter had enough strength to reach up his arm, and was pulled to his feet.
"Thanks, I guess," the red-haired fighter stammered out, coughing still and unsteady on his feet. "Though I really could have taken them all out, if you'd given me the chance." He coughed again, struggling a bit to remain standing.
His rescuer did not react immediately, silent as if he did not understand the words spoken to him. After a few moments, however, the hooded face made direct eye contact, and two blue flames looked out from the darkness as the stranger nodded. For the next second or two, the injured fighter found he could not look away as the shadow's eyes fixed on him, and the red-haired youth felt a strange sensation, as if his mind were being searched like a book, subjected to wordless questions. After this, however, the stranger again nodded, replying, "You're welcome," in understandable Japanese, the language the youth had been speaking, though with the same foreign accent. The stranger's voice was that of a young man, though perhaps lower in pitch.
Recovering from the invasion of his mind, the shaken youth almost fell to his knees. "Whoa, buddy, what's with you?" he coughed out in the form of a question, backing up so that he could support himself against the wall. He sensed something mysterious about this stranger, almost as if there were some unspoken threat, some danger waiting to strike from behind that midnight cloak. "You don't have to be so dramatic, is all. What's your name, anyway? I'm Hwoarang."
The figure hesitated, beginning to shake his head. Then he reconsidered. From what he could tell of this Hwoarang, he was worthy of at least some measure of trust. So, weighing the options of possible pseudonyms in his mind, he found one in the language he had just somehow acquired. His eyes still fixed on Hwoarang, looking for any sign of deception, he said the word meaning 'tiger' in that language. "Tora. Call me Tora." With that, the stranger was gone, as if he had never been there in the first place, leaving the injured Hwoarang to limp away, muttering curses under his breath about the weirdos in this city nowadays.
As for Tora himself, he reappeared on a nearby rooftop, looking up at the pale moon with a strange burning anger as he weighed his present situation in his mind. Detecting a faint movement behind him, he said, "Do not think you are hidden. Come out if you wish to live," in a low voice, but one which he knew could be heard by its intended target. Not turning around, he waited for whoever had followed him to emerge.A faint clinking of metal preceeded the figure which emerged from the shadows and walked slowly around to stand before Tora.
He was a spectral figure, his face hidden beneath both a skull-like face mask and a large, wide, round hat, on top of which was written a character which Tora could not read. The figure wore metal armor on his body, and worn at his side was a strange curved sword, of a type Tora dimly recalled. "You heard my name," Tora said accusatorily, "now give yours, demon."
From within the grim warrior who stood before him came a mechanical laughter, as if he were no living man. "You fight well, one who calls himself 'Tiger.' I am Yoshimitsu, the avenger of justice."
"I can assure you, Yoshimitsu," said Tora, "you do not need to avenge justice by following me."
"That is obvious," replied Yoshimitsu. "I see in you a warrior of the light, one who has a noble calling to fight against darkness. Do I near the mark?"
After a pause, Tora returned, "You are near enough," a vague enough answer that it said nothing in fact. "What, then, do you want of me, if you be no demon?" He lowered his midnight blue hood, revealing in addition to a clear view of his face a head of short-trimmed hair that, in daylight, would be a rich chestnut-brown. He was still unsure of this grim swordsman, but he was not afraid.
It seemed to Tora that the mechanical swordsman's skull mask smile more than normal at this before he responded, "My ninja clan was dealt a serious blow by a traitor and enemy, and we must rebuild our numbers. We fight against those who deal out injustice, that their evil may be stopped and innocent lives avenged. I would like to train you, so that you might help us in our efforts. Does this seem agreeable to you?"
The young warrior's fiery blue eyes closed for a minute as he considered these things; he did not yet feel the time right to reveal his mission to any of this world, not until he was sure of loyalties. Yet perhaps this grim swordsman would be a useful ally. After all, he said to himself, he has as much of a stake in these matters as any in this world. If he is telling the truth, as I sense, we share common objectives, at any rate.
Sensing the internal battle within his prospective recruit, Yoshimitsu asked, "Have you decided, warrior?
Tora nodded. He stepped forward, kneeling cautiously but respectfully, saying, "I will join you, Yoshimitsu, in the fight against evil."