CHAPTER 01: Rebirth...
The moon that had shone brightly last night was this night concealed by vast clouds, their edges refracting a chilling silver as their prisoner struggled to break free. But even with that small amount of light escaping, darkness still spread across the midnight landscape as Yoshimitsu led the warrior known as Tora through an easily lost forest trail, some distance up the side of Mt. Fuji. Yoshimitsu and Tora had walked, or run, all this way, not having waited for morning before leaving the city. The trail was hard to follow, and in many places the two had to climb over rocks or jump from tree branch to tree branch. Tora made sure to keep his bearings, however, so that he might be able to come this way again without getting lost. Looking up, he could still see appeared to be lights coming from within a cluster of large buildings, just visible at the edge of the mountain's opposite side.
"I saw a brightly lit compound as we were approaching, Yoshimitsu," Tora whispered, deciding that the time was right to ask. "Is that our destination?" They had come onto a relatively level section of the path, though it still wound through tightly woven trees.
"No," came the mechanical reply. "It would be of little use to have such a visible base of operations. That place belongs to the Mishima Zaibatsu. If only they knew how close we were." Yoshimitsu's voice trailed off into what might have been a laugh.
Sensing that there was more to be understood, Tora asked, "And this 'Mishima Zaibatsu'...what is that? Or, perhaps, who are they?"
With a note of surprise, Yoshimitsu replied, "They are a conglomerate, a business group, with worldwide operations. I am surprised you have not heard of them, for their name has spread across the earth, what with the Tournaments."
After a pause, Tora responded, "I see. Perhaps I have heard of them before, and had forgotten. But what do you mean, the Tournaments?"
Instead of answering, Yoshimitsu stopped abruptly, and Tora turned his eyes to the sky briefly, scanning for possible danger. "Relax yourself," said the cyborg ninja. "We have arrived." Stretching out his arm and resting his hand on a large stone which jutted out of the ground, remnant of some rockslide perhaps, he muttered the words "Shiki soku ze kuu", as if speaking to the rock itself. Those words appeared to be some sort of passphrase, for immediately afterward the "rock" rippled under his hand, and part of its face became a metal door. Where Yoshimitsu's hand rested was a small, square, black panel with the outline of a hand traced on it in red. The door swung open, and Tora saw that it was more than a hand's breadth thick, nearly impenetrable. He followed Yoshimitsu inside the rock, which was otherwise hollow and empty.
When the door closed, a distorted voice came from somewhere, saying, "Welcome back, Yoshimitsu. The Doctor is waiting for you." Tora looked around for the source of the voice, but he could not find it."I will go to him when I can, Ichimitsu," Yoshimitsu replied to the disembodied voice. "But first, we have a new recruit who must be shown the base." There seemed to be a note of satisfaction in Yoshimitsu's voice as he said this, and also something of a sense of foreboding. Tora could not understand, but trusted that he would, in time. But first, they must get out of this rock. The warrior wondered when, and how, that would occur. He did not have to wait long.
"Yes, sir," came the reply from the one called Ichimitsu. Immediately, the floor on which Tora and Yoshimitsu stood began to vibrate, and a hiss proceeded steam emanating from a circular crack which ringed them. In the next moment, the ground beneath them fell, and they descended through the ground, through some sort of cylindrical mine shaft. Tora guessed that this was typical, as Yoshimitsu made no move.
"Be ready, warrior," said Yoshimitsu in the best approximation of a whisper he could manage with his mechanical voicebox. Tora pondered this as the floor beneath them slowed in its descent, stopping before another metal door. Heeding Yoshimitsu's words, Tora set his body at alert, wondering what would come next. Was Yoshimitsu warning him of danger?
` His uncertainty was put to rest as the door before them slid open, and light poured onto the two of them, blocked slightly by three figures in silhouette, all in fighting stances. Yoshimitsu walked forward calmly, and the figures, whose features became more distinct as Tora's eyes adjusted to the light, allowed him to pass. Once Yoshimitsu was beyond them, the ninjas turned toward Tora menacingly. Behind them was a room whose walls appeared half bare rock and half metal. The figures themselves kept their faces cast downward, though Tora could see that they were all wearing some sort of mask. He did not have time to further examine their appearance before they leaped toward him in attack.
In fact, Tora barely had time to assume a fighting stance before the first ninja came at him with a punch aimed at his face. Ducking down to avoid the attack, Tora lunged forward with his left foot and, cupping his left hand around the back of his opponent's knee, unbalanced him, causing his attacker to fall flat on his back as Tora continued his sweeping motion while keeping his hold on his opponent's leg. Tora dragged the ninja forwards a short distance before pivoting and delivering a crushing back spinning crescent kick to his chest. It was at this point that the other two ninjas reached him, one aiming a flying kick to the face and the other a spinning back kick to the gut from the other side. Leaping up quickly, Tora passed over the flying kick, so that the two ninjas collided. Tora landed behind them and turned around as they picked themselves up off the ground.
"Is this a test of my abilities?" he asked aloud. "I would have expected better. Where is Yoshimitsu?" The ninjas did not answer, but instead resumed their fighting stances and rushed at him again. This time, Tora had time to assume a proper fighting stance, his hands held open in front of his face and at his belt level and his weight shifted to his back foot while his front foot faced forward, ready to move. Staff in guard position. The first ninja again tried a punch, this time aimed at his solar plexus. Tora blocked the punch, pivoting both his hands so that the right, in back, grabbed his opponent's wrist while his left slid up past the elbow on the underside, locking it into place with a twist of his right hand while he pulled back. Staff blocks and counters. In this motion, he ducked under the high roundhouse kick aimed at him by the second ninja before sliding into a front stance and delivering a sharp front snap kick with his back foot to the first ninja's solar plexus. Seeing the third ninja diving with a sliding kick, Tora leaped up a short distance, still holding on to the first ninja's arm. The staff pins its target. The sliding kick went wide, and Tora landed with the first ninja's arm twisted painfully as Tora, keeping the arm straight, pushed it into the ground, against the shoulder joint before kicking the wrong side of the elbow, making a loud cracking sound. It would be difficult to explain the yell of pain that came from the downed ninja without calling up images of dying animals and shattering glass. Not wishing to cause any more pain than necessary, Tora released the arm and took a few steps backward into another fighting stance.
Hearing their fellow clan member scream in pain, the other ninjas, after looking at each other indecisively, decided to give up the fight. Tora relaxed his stance as they helped their comrade to his feet, as he had no reason to keep fighting them. He took this time to examine their appearance in detail. They all wore loose-fitting martial arts uniforms, their feet and arms also protected by metal armor. Of their faces, he could tell nothing, for they all wore masks in the guise of demons, though each was different. The ninjas bowed to him, and he returned the gesture. "Forgive me for causing undue pain; I was not sure how far you meant to fight," said Tora, hoping to sound respectful. He was not, after all, but lately acquainted with the language he was speaking. The one with the injured arm bowed again, still holding his elbow, and replied, "You fought well; we must train more. I can see why Yoshimitsu has chosen you, warrior. My name is Ichimitsu." Tora recognized the voice, now, as the same one he had heard coming down the entrance shaft. Ichimitsu went on, "These two are Niimitsu and Sanmitsu. Yoshimitsu is with the Doctor at the moment; he will see you later."
"Yoshimitsu will see him now," came a mechanical voice from the shadows, with the sound of another door sliding open. A moment later, Yoshimitsu stepped into the light which beamed down, Tora saw, from the ceiling. They were not torches, but some other source of light that he'd seen before, using the power of lightning. "I agree with Ichimitsu," continued the ninja leader. "You fight as well as any I could hope to have in this clan. Follow me." Tora did as he was commanded, and followed Yoshimitsu through the same door through which he had come a minute ago. Tora noticed Niimitsu and Sanmitsu carrying Ichimitsu off somewhere else as he and Yoshimitsu exited.When the door had closed behind the two of them, Tora said, "I trust this 'Doctor' will see that Ichimitsu's arm is repaired?" With a mechanical laugh, Yoshimitsu replied. "You do not think I would leave him like that, do you? But, for the moment, there are other matters which concern you. To these we shall attend."
Leading Tora through a series of passageways and doors, the locations and orders of which Tora took special notice, Yoshmitsu said, "The Manji Clan, this clan, requires some degree of anonymity; once you join us, we become part of your identity. You will, I hope, have noticed our similarity of names, and that we all wear masks." Tora nodded, those suspicions of his confirmed. "All your names end in Mitsu," he replied. "They all end in 'Light.' I sense there is a reason." Opening another door and allowing Tora precede him, Yoshimitsu answered, "Ninjas are often seen as walkers in darkness, doers of evil. It is true, we do some things of which the law would not approve, but our fight is for justice, our paths in light." That is a comforting thought, thought Tora. I have walked in darkness for too many nights. Yoshimitsu continued, "We wear masks as a sign that we live not for ourselves but for the Manji, so that our faces are not of importance. Thus vanity is also avoided." Tora smiled at that, though he had never considered vanity one of his faults.
"Before we came in, Yoshimitsu," inquired Tora, "you spoke of the Mishima Zaibatsu, and something about tournaments. While we are walking, perhaps you could explain further?"
Yoshimitsu nodded as he continued walking. "You speak with a Korean accent, like Hwoarang, whom you saved back in the city. Are you from that country, then?"
Tora shook his head. "I am from...farther away than that, but I learned to speak this language from a Korean," he replied, careful to keep his statements truthful, while revealing as little as possible. "But what does this have to do with tournaments?"
"I was merely wondering why you had not heard of the Tournament," answered Yoshimitsu dismissively. "The Mishima Zaibatsu sponsors a martial arts tournament every so often, the King of Iron Fist Tournament. The winner is offered the greater part of the Zaibatsu, if not the whole conglomerate, depending on who is running the tournament. Hwoarang, in fact, has been a competitor in that tournament more than once."
"I see," said Tora, pensively. "When was the last tournament? And who sponsored it?" He could not always tell precisely what Yoshimitsu was thinking directly from his gestures, since the ninja was so mechanical and obscure. But he watched his every move, all the same.
"The last tournament was concluded some months ago," Yoshimitsu replied. "I am not altogether certain of its sponsor, for I did not make it to the finals." Tora sensed that Yoshimitsu was hiding something, from the tone of his mechanical voice, but he allowed him to continue. "Yes, I competed," Yoshimitsu explained, "but my goals did not require that I win. But that is another matter. The Mishima family is traditionally the sponsor, as you might presume. A man named Heihachi Mishima started the tournaments, though one year his son, Kazuya, was its sponsor."
"Was Heihachi ill that year?" Tora inquired.
"No," laughed Yoshimitsu, though the laughter was somewhat bitter. "Kazuya won the tournament before that. You should know that the generations of the Mishima family are all bitter rivals, even Heihachi's adopted son, Lee Chaolan. Their feuding has always played a large role in the outcomes of the tournaments. Now, however, the man who runs the Zaibatsu is Kazuya's son, Jin Kazama. Let us pray he runs it better than his father or grandfather." Yoshimitsu ended this sentence in somewhat of a sour note.
"Is he like them?" asked Tora, now suspecting he was in for a rather long and complicated story, which came to Yoshimitsu's knowledge by some means. The fact that this Jin Kazama did not share the Mishima name gave him cause for curiosity.
"In some ways, yes, unfortunately, but he has enough of his mother in him that he retains the capability for good. Still, bitter resentment over a father who abandoned him and a grandfather who...well, who tried to kill him...perhaps we should not go too far into this right now." Tora agreed, half-reluctantly, though his senses were alerted by this story; perhaps somewhere in it was the key to his mission here. Yoshimitsu, for his part, now had the question of Tora's true origins in his mind, about which, he decided, he would have to give further thought before probing deeper with questions.
They finally came to the room which Tora sensed was their destination, one which, like all the rest, was half cave and half metal box. There were long benches along two opposite walls, and mounted on the far wall was a wooden rack with several levels of segmented shelves, something like a section of square honeycomb. Something was resting in each of the square compartments, but Tora could not make out what they were from his angle.Yoshimitsu went up and, taking the object from the center shelf, brought it over to Tora. It appeared to be a blank mask, smooth and round, like a shallow bowl with eye holes.Yoshimitsu held it out, and Tora took it in his hands, wondering of what material it was made. It was pure white, but by its texture it was neither ivory, nor painted wood, nor metal. "This is the mask you will wear," said Yoshimitsu, pointing to his temple, or where his temple would be, beneath his mask. "It will form to the design you give it in your mind. Choose carefully, for it will become your identity." There was little doubt in Tora's mind, however, what shape it should take.
As soon as he had a picture in mind, the material began to ripple and deform in his hand, stretching out until it had the shape of a roaring tiger's face, fangs exposed. Black stripes now marked the otherwise white surface, and the eye holes had enlongated to the shape of cat's eyes. "Good," said Yoshimitsu. "It appears you chose wisely. Now put on your new self, warrior." Tora noticed that there was no strap in the back to hold it on, or at least none visible, but he pressed it to his face anyway. There was a brief tingling sensation, and when Tora took away his hand, the mask stayed where it was, though Tora could not feel any suction or anything else keeping it there. He looked over at Yoshimitsu, whose robotic eyes were beaming with pride. Turning toward his new clan leader, he saluted him with left hand held flat and vertical, palm facing to the right and thumb against his chest.
"Welcome to the Manji Clan, Toramitsu," Yoshimitsu said in a dramatic tone of voice.
Toramitsu bowed. "I am honored," he declared.