Part One: Dreaming of Electric Sheep
Something stirred within the Holy Terror, as he heard the laughter of a child – a female child – and felt light pressure on his face. Slowly, his awareness increased, and he became fully aware of his environment. He saw, peripherally, that a little girl – a human little girl – was laughing and poking at his face, as if to see if he would react. Trying not to alarm the girl, he very slowly turned his head to get a better look at her. Startled, she jumped back, hesitant and looking as if she might bolt at any moment. But the child’s curiosity got the better of her, and she decided to stay, smiling and staring at him… unsure of what to make of the metal-plated giant whom she had found. “Hanae!” came a high-pitched voice from the distance. The girl perked up and looked away toward the voice. “Ha-na-ae” repeated the Holy Terror in his partially modulated voice, slowly, as if speaking for the first time in… wait, how long had he been here? Quite disoriented, he wasn't even sure how he got where he was.
The girl looked at him when she heard her name and giggled. He guessed that she was somewhere around six or seven years old. Then, very matter-of-factly, she quickly rattled off a lengthy exposition (for a young girl) in a language he had never heard before. Confused, he spoke back in American, “I am sorry young lady, I do not understand you.” The girl giggled again, and said (in a very broken American accent), “You come… we go… Hakaku up stairs.”
The Holy Terror slowly sat up and took in his surroundings. A deserted beach. Sand. Water as far as the eye could see. “Hanae!” the voice came again, more strongly this time. “Come, you come!” the girl beckoned, walking a few feet and then turning around, waving her hand to him impatiently. As he slowly rose to his feet, Hanae stared with wide-eyed wonder at his immense size. Suddenly she burst out in laughter and pointed at his feet. His seven-ton mass had caused his legs to sink ankle deep in the sand! She then beckoned him again and turned, running toward the direction of the voice calling to her.
Still disoriented and confused as to his whereabouts, he nevertheless did not want to lose the only friendly person he knew to be present, so he followed the girl, hilariously trudging across the sandy beach as his feet sank into the sand a few feet deep with each step – roughly about as deep as the girl’s legs were long – and then, as he pulled them out and took another step forward, sinking yet again. Even so, he quickly caught up with her, and they arrived together at a stone stairway leading up a small hill and beyond – an entrance to the beach they were on.
Hanae began to walk up the steps, but stopped for a moment. She shouted a single word toward the top of the stairs - “Hakaku!”- and then proceeded up the stairs as quickly as her legs would carry her. The Holy Terror carefully tested the first step, unsure of how stable the stairs would be under him. Fortunately for him, they seemed able to support his immense weight, and he stepped up on them, deliberately slowing to keep pace with the young girl’s (relatively) short steps.
Another child’s head – this time, that of a boy – appeared at the top of the stairs. His eyes widened in fear as he froze at the sight of the hulking colossus slowly following his sister up the stairs. Hanau called out to him, and the Terror heard the same word again, “Hakaku”. Surmising that, perhaps Hakaku was the boy’s name, he repeated it loudly: “Ha-ka-ku”. The boy nervously smiled, as if unsure whether the metallic juggernaut was friend or foe, but gave a very short and stiff bow. “He brother! Come!” said Hanae helpfully, and when they arrived at the top, the two children began excitedly talking in their peculiar language. After a moment, the boy turned and addressed him directly: “Hallo. I am Hakaku. My sister want you to come with us. Ok?” he said, still in broken American, but more easily understood than his sister. He looks about the same age... crossed the Holy Terror's mind, and he nodded silently and motioned toward the path ahead.
As the comically matched trio – a pair of human children, hardly a third of the size of the 10 foot, walking armored behemoth flanking them - continued down a graveled path, his feet audibly crushing the rocks outright with distinct popping sound. The children were delighted, and alternately laughed and pointed or looked at the Holy Terror with eyes in awe. Meanwhile, his confusion and bewilderment began to ease, and he relaxed a bit and allowed himself to enjoy the peaceful, outdoor walk, taking in the sights and sounds around him.
Half an hour later, they arrived at a medium-sized home, with a distinct angular architecture. No other homes were within eye-shot, and they had passed none on the way. As the children lead, a man's loud, commanding voice barked out at them from the inside. As soon as the children heard it, they glanced at each other and ran ahead at top speed. Not knowing why the children were running, the Holy Terror hesitated for a moment, but started to run after them.
Realizing suddenly that he might appear aggressive and intimidating – especially when chasing after the children – he stopped in his tracks to observe and wait. A man suddenly appeared in the doorway, dressed in a strange kind of armor – one the Terror had never seen before, and this man had one hand resting on what looked to be the hilt of a sword tucked in his waist, with another, smaller sword tucked just underneath. The figure had a certain dignity to his stature, and a stern look on his face. In his other hand, he held what looked to be a rifle of some sort – it was hard to tell exactly, as he was still at least a hundred feet away. The apparent weapon was not raised or aimed at him, but warriors have a way of recognizing each other when they meet. When he saw one, the Terror froze and awaited the stranger’s next move. The thought flashed in his mind: this might be their guardian or father.
The children arrived and began excitedly talking to the man, pointing back at the armored being while jumping up and down and apparently describing what had transpired when he was “discovered”. The man in the doorway – who never once took his eyes off the Holy Terror – raised his hand for a moment, and the children immediately were silent. He then said something inaudible to the children, who nodded, bowed, and went into the house with no delay, shutting the door behind them as the man stepped outside. The mysterious man stared hard at the Holy Terror, and then - again, without looking away - slowly and gently put the rifle-looking object down. The man then slowly reached into a pouch and pulled out a small black box. He slowly and methodically approached the Holy Terror, who remained motionless.
Stopping about 20 feet before they would be face to – well, the solar plexus area, roughly – the man dressed in armor looked at the being that was armor and held the box up, speaking aloud – only this time, the words heard were in near-flawless American, and emanated from the box! “My children tell me you are their friend, but I do not know you. Who are you? Who sent you and why are you here?” he asked warily, keeping one hand on the hilt of the larger sword, but not drawing it.
Part Two: When in Rome…
Yojimbo, as he now called himself, struggled with the paintbrush. For all his incredible might, for all his demon-and-vampire-annihilating prowess, despite possessing indomitable toughness – his biggest challenge yet was mastering the subtle flourishes and “soul” of calligraphy. Hakaku, who preferred his Go lessons to calligraphy, was absent at the time. Despite Yojimbo's awkward lack of skill, he was fascinated by the arts, and appreciated the meditative quality of calligraphy practice. Next to him sat Hanae, whose flowing, smooth strokes resulted in praise from their tutor… praise that was noticeably absent for her towering schoolmate, even after months of relentless practice. “Nevertheless, he persisted…”
The Holy Terror had been allowed to stay with the family of three – so long as he stayed within 5 minutes’ walk of the home and did not make his presence known to anyone else other than the live-in nanny/tutor. The children's father had once been an influential samurai who served a powerful Daimyo by the name of Nakamoto. He had served the Daimyo so well, in fact, that he and his wife became regular guests of Nakamoto, who enjoyed fine food and drink. The samurai was uncomfortable with such lavish conditions, but he hid his feelings and dared not object – his place was to serve without question, even if it meant death or he were ordered to commit suicide. Such was the way of the samurai.
One night, the sake flowed a bit too freely at Nakamoto's palace, and the Daimyo leered at and began a series of advances toward one of the female servants. While the girl was technically not in any position to resist her Daimyo, Nakamoto’s lecherous advances made the samurai’s wife visibly uncomfortable – especially in light of the fact that Nakamoto’s wife had already excused herself and retired for the evening. The Daimyo, noticing the woman’s discomfort, ordered everyone else out of the room.
The samurai never knew precisely what happened or was said in that room, but as his wife soon exited in tears, clutching her torn robe, and with the Daimyo laughing loudly in the room, he did not need to hear it directly from her. Incensed, it took all his discipline and self-control not to charge into the room and strike down the Daimyo on the spot! Instead, he stormed furiously out of Nakamoto’s palace with his wife in tow, angered and ashamed at the libidinous Daimyo’s actions.
Adding to the dramatic turn of events, his wife told him that same evening that she was with child. While joyous news, it also put the samurai in a difficult position, for he knew that to openly oppose the Daimyo would bring dishonor upon them all – and how could the samurai provide for his wife (and soon to be child) if he were dead? He knew that if he openly confronted Nakamoto, he could be killed or ordered to commit seppuku (ritual suicide), and the order would be considered both legal and one he would be honor-bound to fulfill. However, that was not the issue – what would happen to his wife and future child was. Traditionally, they would be “cared for,” and their disposition determined, by the Daimyo – the very man he wished would never lay a finger upon them! The thought sickened him and, though a samurai’s first obligation was always to his lord and master, this samurai was torn. How could he resolve this conundrum? His wife – indeed, their entire little family – would be jeopardized if he showed disapproval to his lord. But, he reasoned, Nakamoto had already dishonored himself and the samurai’s family by his drunken and lecherous actions that evening! After agonizing for most of the night, the samurai decided he could no longer, in good conscience, serve such an immoral and corrupt person, and – with great sorrow and shame, turned his back on everything he knew as he packed whatever belongings they could carry and immediately departed his home with his wife, never to return again.
The samurai and his wife fled far away, where they settled on a remote piece of land in a modest home he was able to rent in exchange for service as a “yojimbo”, or bodyguard, to a local, wealthy merchant in need of protection. In truth, he was fortunate that even this was available to him, because as a ronin – a samurai without a master – he was shunned by almost all who met him. It was a hard existence, with the ronin struggling to provide for them both, and they sold nearly all of their worldly possessions, keeping only his armor, daisho (pair of “samurai” swords), and the essentials, and working as a “sword for hire”. Somehow, they scraped by during the next few months as his wife’s pregnancy grew closer to term.
As sometimes happens, the pregnancy resulted in complications during delivery. Their remote location precluded quality medical care, and tragedy struck when the ronin’s wife died during childbirth. Stricken with grief at her loss, and carrying a nearly unbearable load of guilt - after all, it was he who moved the family into a remote location, far away from doctors - he found himself unable to constructively deal with it at the time due to his being thrust into the position of a single father. His wife had left them a final gift – that of twins – one boy, and one girl, and between raising his children and working as a “sword for hire” when he could, the ronin found himself so busy that he hardly had time to eat and sleep, much less grieve for his missing wife. Instead, he silently buried his wife in the yard, and forced all the emotion down inside, where it remained - for now.
The ronin threw himself wholeheartedly into his occupation. He worked incredibly hard and, with few expenses other than the children, he was able to scrounge out a decent living. Due to this work ethic, and an unexpected inheritance bestowed upon him when a dear family member passed away, he was able to eventually upgrade the home they lived in and acquire a live-in nanny and tutor for the children, as well as few other valuables (including a universal language translator he had acquired on his travels – a curiosity that eventually paid off). As they grew, he made sure to instruct the twins in the most important arts and the tenets of morality, thinking that one day, they might be able to restore the family name to glory. He also knew that, at any time, Nakamato could send other samurai to come for them in order to eliminate any “loose ends” that could one day come back to haunt the Daimyo – if he could find them. So far, it seemed that either Nakamoto did not consider the ronin a threat worth pursuing, or that he had successfully evaded the Daimyo.
Yojimbo got his name during the first week with the family when Hanae informed him, in her characteristic matter-of-fact tone, that he was to be her personal bodyguard. He immediately took to the idea, finding the strong sense of duty and devotion in this culture to be inspiring, and he greatly desired to stay and learn more. His disorientation gone and his memory of his former life returning, he realized that all he had known before meeting these children and their father was endless conflict and struggle against the forces of darkness on Wormwood. While he was more than happy to dispatch his evil foes, the Holy Terror had always desired more – a meaning to his existence other than the monotony of “destroy evil wherever you find it” – and he had finally found it with this man and his children. Wormwood and the horrors he had battled in the past seemed more distant now, fading into the his past.
Learning that he was in a remote part of what was left of modern-day Japan on Earth, Yojimbo absorbed everything he was taught like a sponge. Since Holy Terrors do not eat, sleep, or rest, he was able to advance in his knowledge and skills at a much faster pace than even the eager minds of young children, progressing rapidly subjects such as the Japanese language, the classic and traditionally respected strategy game of Go, painting, origami, carving and sculpting, and – of course – calligraphy. He even became fascinated with the poetry of Japan, immersing himself and trying his hand at Haiku. The ronin was pleased, and felt safer when away on his travels with the armored giant there to protect his family. So pleased and impressed was he, in fact, that he decided to teach Yojimbo the way of the samurai, and began instructing him in the Goji (Samurai Ethics) and martial arts. Outwardly, all seemed well with the ronin and his family, but in fact, the ronin remained wary of his past and still struggled with the grief, rage, and guilt he had repressed for all these years after his wife's death, believing himself responsible for much of the tragedy.
Yojimbo, in contrast, had found joy and contentment for the first time that he could remember. He had found a family of his own in this peaceful and beautiful land, and fully expected to remain there for the rest of his days, sharing them willingly with the twins and their father as they watched the children grow. He had immersed himself for three full years in his studies of this culture, and had fully embraced his newfound purpose. He had even restyled much of his living armored body in a samurai-looking mold, indicating his fondness for the culture with which he now closely identified.
Part Three: Paradise Lost
One day, after an afternoon excursion to the beach with the twins for their tenth birthdays, the Holy Terror came upon an unexpected sight on their return path home: the nanny rushed toward the three and intercepted them on the path, telling them frantically that the ronin, stumbling drunk and shouting incoherently, had apparently flown into a rage. The nanny told them he was destroying furniture and had even summoned his landlord who, exasperated and frustrated, stood by helplessly, trying in vain to talk the man down. Yojimbo started to run toward the home, but was urged to wait as the nanny explained. "This is the ten year anniversary of his wife’s death", she said, and all the repressed grief, guilt, rage, and shame had finally exploded to the surface. The ronin, seeking to drown his sorrows with drink, was instead unable to contain the tidal wave any longer as his inner turmoil overflowed and affected all around him.
The nanny also told Yojimbo that the inebriated man was spilling his guts to his landlord, venting a decade plus of frustrations, grief, and anger at his old Daimyo for putting him in this situation, and lamenting how he wished his wife could be here to see the children he was now so proud of. Recognizing that, in his intoxicated state, the man could be putting them all at risk by divulging too much, Yojimbo knew he had to act.
Because Yojimbo was uncertain of what might happen if they were all in proximity to the ronin's drunken rage, he told the nanny and children to wait there as he rushed ahead alone, seeking to calm the ronin and prevent more shameful events from occurring. He saw the landlord, who was busy listening to the ronin’s story as they stood near his wife’s gravestone in the back yard, look up at Yojimbo’s noisy approach (a seven-ton running suit of armor is hardly quiet). As he did so, the color drained from his face. Having never seen Yojimbo before, the man did not know what to think when he saw and heard the metallic goliath approaching - so he did what any sane person would do in his situation - he panicked, and fled as fast and far as his legs would carry him.
Yojimbo knew that the secret of his existence was now out, and that the ronin's drunken revelations threatened them all, but he did not know where to go or what to do. The ronin, in his drunken stupor, finally passed out and was carried inside and laid gently on his bed. Yojimbo returned to the nanny and children, and brought them all back to the house, which, despite some broken furniture and newfound clutter, was still mostly intact. He then stood outside the home stoically, waiting for the hangover and aftermath to come, and knowing that they would likely need to uproot and relocate the very next day.
It happened without warning, and in the dead of night. Yojimbo was surprised by multiple humanoids in black, form-fitting suits with swords and strange powers, and they beset upon from all sides. Though he dispatched his attackers with his immense strength and powerful abilities, as he struck the last one down, he heard a woman’s cry from inside the house. Rushing to the family's aid and breaking down the door, he discovered – to his utter horror – that the ronin and children had been killed, apparently in their sleep, while he (Yojimbo) had been dealing with the commotion outside. The nanny was cornered and pleading for her life with one of the assassins, who had turned to face the armored warrior. With a modulated roar, Yojimbo blasted the masked attacker into oblivion and blew a hole clear through the side of the house in the process, which the other assassin promptly fled through. After he was able to console the traumatized nanny, he pieced together, with her help, what had happened.
The landlord, in his panic, had likely contacted the local authorities to inform them that, while consoling a drunken madman who claimed to formerly be one of Nakamoto’s most trusted samurai, he was beset upon by a giant ‘borg or robot, the likes of which he had never seen. The authorities had naturally notified Nakamoto, who had sent a group of despicable ninja to “tie up loose ends”, just as the ronin had feared might come to pass one day. Disgusted that Nakamoto had resorted to such dishonorable tactics, but knowing he had no real recourse given the laws they were governed by, Yojimbo reluctantly told the nanny to pack her things, and that he would escort her to safety away from the accursed home. He quickly dug graves and gently buried the children and their father next to their mother – the family now reunited in death. He then burned the home to the ground, taking only the ronin’s swords – which he knew radiated powerful magic, but which he could not risk falling into the wrong hands.
Part Four: The Train of Consequences... Derailed?
Stealing away in what remained of the night, the pair hugged the coastline and avoided attention. He watched over her ceaselessly while she slept, and she helped them navigate toward the only solution she knew: a sorcerer, who owed the ronin an old life-debt, could help them leave Japan behind – their only hope for survival, as Nakamoto would surely spare no resource to hunt down and destroy them now that they knew what he was capable of.
Fate seemed to smile upon them the next three days, and they arrived undetected at the a large cave set into the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean. The nanny told Yojimbo that this was where the sorcerer lived and, almost as if on cue, the sorcerer appeared and greeted them hesitantly, unsure who was visiting his secluded abode or why. After some initial trepidation from the sorcerer, who eyed Yojimbo warily as he questioned them, the sorcerer seemed satisfied with their answers. When Yojimbo revealed that he had the ronin’s blades, the sorcerer informed them that he had a possible solution, but it would require a ritual ceremony and the permanent destruction of the ronin’s swords. All three then agreed that this would be a fitting tribute to the ronin, as no one else they knew was worthy to carry and use the blades anyway.
The next afternoon, the sorcerer fulfilled his life-debt to the ronin by ushering in a wizened old man. Yojimbo, initially unimpressed by the unkempt old man, was soon amazed as the sorcerer and old man worked in conjunction, performing a strange ritual and chanting over the diasho in unison. The nanny whispered that this old man must be one of the “Living Legend” sword makers, a rare master of the art of Japanese sword-making who held the secrets to crafting such fabled and powerful blades.
The duo chanted louder and louder, their voices rising in a crescendo of mystic power and, at the height of the ritual, the old man grasped both swords together and cracked them in two with his bare hands, withdrawing all of their energy and power at once! The sorcerer simultaneously completed his own incantation, and – with the old man’s sudden surge of energy lent to his own, an ear-splitting boom echoed throughout the cave as a rift appeared! “Quickly, we haven’t much time!” said the sorcerer as he and the old man, hardly strong enough to stand after their respective ordeals, motioned for Yojimbo to walk through.
Holy terrors do not breathe, but if Yojimbo did, he would have taken a deep breath as he steadied himself. His newfound home of Japan – one he had briefly experienced, but which had filled him with more awe, wonder, and happiness in three short years than had all his previous existence combined - was left behind as he steadied himself and walked through the Rift to the great unknown beyond. He appeared in another land during the dead of night, and turned to await the nanny's arrival through the rift. But – to his surprise – the Rift closed suddenly behind him before she came through! Uncertain of what had transpired, but with no way of returning nor contacting them, Yojimbo began wandering, finding his way through this new place. He soon discovered that he was in the western part of North America and, making his way across the wilderness and, during his travels, discovered a strange, alien blade. He soon found that the blade had the personality of a legendary swordsman and Samurai bound inside of it - however, as it was a technological and alien marvel, and did not contain a true soul, Yojimbo did not feel as though using it presented any sort of ethical dilemma. Alternately acting as a "sword for hire" and salvaging what he could for money to support his cultural practices and studies, he slowly began to learn the ways of this new land, eventually arriving at the gates of Merctown almost a year after arriving in North America. The Holy Terror known as Yojimbo was about to embark upon the latest chapter in his existence, resolving to continue on in search of his place in the vast, open Megaverse…
Last edited by Yojimbo
on Fri Dec 27, 2019 12:12 pm, edited 9 times in total.