Part 37: TENCHU: WRATH OF HEAVEN
TENCHU: WRATH OF HEAVEN
"Son, you're special. You were born to do great things."
My parents always used to tell me that. So, you want to know about me, huh? You want to know about the man behind the legend? You know what my parents said? They were right.
So I moved to Japan and became a goddamn ninja.
My name is Rikimaru and this is my story...
Part I: Prologue
I'd been a ninja as long as I could remember. My youth mostly consisted of sneaking around, stabbing things, and sneaking some more. There might have been a poison dart or two thrown in there. It might seem like a mundane way to grow up, but you'd be surprised at the amount of things out there to stab.
You had your run-of-the-mill average Joes, just trying to squeak out a meager, honest living while supporting a family of five. At least until you turned their upper torso into confetti. Those were always worth a chuckle.
You had your samurai. These guys were always a riot. Sometimes they'd have swords longer than a tree. Sometimes they'd be flailing about with two swords.
I remember this one time I came up against a guy with three swords. He stuck the third one in his mouth and made this ridiculous pose, like because he had a third sword stuck in his mouth he was now the biggest badass in the land. Now, there's two things I can't stand. One is undue cockiness due to your weapon. I could dual-wield my swords, tie a pair to the ends of my boots, and put a spinning blade on the top of my head. That doesn't mean I could kill anyone more effectively, if I was some peon sword-monkey. The other thing I can't stand?
Uneven numbers. They just get on my nerves, for some reason. I quickly corrected the problem there before moving on to fight wolves.
Those were just the common things that saw the business end of my blade. You still had your...
Nerds. Something about the glasses always gave me the willies. At least, they usually gave you a good target bull's-eye.
There were the fatties. I always had to sharpen my blade after dealing with the fatties. I remember this one guy. He must have weighed four-hundred pounds. You could house a family of four in his carcass, after I gutted him. The guy had a small armory tied to his back. Not only that, but I fought him at the top of a temple. Aside from the floor he was on, temples back in the day were always a good half mile of stairs trek to reach. Heaven must be jogger friendly. But, all that and this guy was still a mound of blubber. I couldn't figure it out? Did he roll everywhere? Would you lose pounds from rolling?
That's not ninja thinkin'. Anyway, they were always a pain, since there was so much to cut. But, they usually dropped a few pounds after you disemboweled them. I should start my own diet program.
Other than that, there was always the constant threat of the elderly. If they caught you off guard, you were finished. The average ninja would be a crumbling husk, by the time a motivated old fart had finished recounting his misbegotten youth, the changing times, how young people these days are so disrespectful, politics, and the like.
It was standard ninja operating procedure to go straight for the neck when attacking old people.
If it wasn't the elderly, then it was pirates you had to look out for. The only thing that can kill a ninja is another ninja, a pirate, or a Viking. Vikings had died out during the last ice age, so that just left the pirates. It was also argued by ninja scholars that cowboys might be able to do the task. But, after years of research, it was concluded that cowboys were pretty gay and the theory was abandoned.
Pirates were a dangerous stabbing query, to be sure.
But, nothing would get you some sweet kunoichi ass than a pirate's head mounted above your fireplace. Bonus points if you fought them on their ship, set the ship ablaze after the fact (or during it, if you were more daring), and the cargo hold was full of slaves. Slaves smelt like cabbage and ninja hate cabbage.
Zombies were always a challenge for stabbing too. Mostly because they never wore pants. You sneak up behind a zombie from behind to slit his throat and another ninja should happen to see you from the wrong angle? Next thing you know you're pegged for gay necrophilia. You might as well just commit seppuku right then and there, after burning down an orphanage...just for your final kicks.
Then, there were the Goths... Ergh... I'm rambling, here. I'm a stabber enthusiast, you see. I get carried away sometimes.
After a few years of aimlessly killing anything that looked at me funny... And some things that didn't but I killed anyway... And some things that didn't even know I was there before I killed... And some things that didn't even have eyes... Anyway, there was a lot of that going on, before I met this old geezer, 'Lord' Gohda.
I don't know what he was the lord of. He could have been Lord of Gumdrops and Candycanes for all I knew. But, the only thing that I knew was the prick was filthy rich.
I was finishing a busy afternoon of punishing an evil merchant for charging me for lunch at his establishment, when this saggy bag of tits, Gohda, was waiting for me as I left. He looked me over, nodded, and said that I'd 'do nicely'.
I was just getting ready to bisect him and maybe frame him for the death of the merchant, just so I could dishonor his family after the fact. Good times. Anyway, he stopped me short and threw down a bag of gold. It was more than I'd gotten in a month of 'liberating' wicked peasants' hordes across the countryside. As much as it pained me, you couldn't stab everything out there. Sure, you could stiff a merchant on a meal ticket by shoving his head into an oven. But, then you had nobody to cook for you and if you did, it tasted always would taste a hint like burnt merchant and it was never the same afterwards.
In this case, I asked for no mayo and I came to find it on my sandwich anyway. There are some things that are inexcusable.
"There's a lot more where that came from...if you came to work for me," he continued on.
Work for someone?! I was a goddamn ninja! I was a second away from tearing out his skull and throwing it at and old woman, before he continued on.
"How does Chief Assassin of Lord Gohda, sound? You come to work for me, I'll send you on the furthest, most exotic of places across Japan. Meet the most extraordinary people. And kill them. You'll be paid handsomely for your deeds. Not just with gold... But...well, I'll leave that to your imagination, mister..."
Gold? High profile assassinations? Tits? I liked this Gohda fellow's style.
"Rikimaru, of the Azuma Ninja," I told him. The Azuma Ninja had flipped out and annihilated one another a few years back over an argument involving a limited supply of cookies. But, he didn't need to know that. Besides, 'Rikimaru of Lower-Kyoto' didn't have the same ring to it.
The next few years were just like the years before it. Only, with twice as much stabbing, far more profit, and I got a sweet scar out of the deal. I was living the ninja high life. That was, until one assignment...
Lord Mei-oh. He was the King of the Underworld sauces or some non-sense. I think Gohda was just pissed someone was pulling the whole 'Lord' bit and the rest was a load of crap. Anyway, some jerks were trying to open a portal to bring back Lord Mayo. Probably for some usual eternal darkness encompassing all of Japan...the usual. Ketchup apparently didn't like to play nice, so he kidnapped Gohda's daughter, Princess Kiku.
If there's one thing I know about Princesses, it's that they get kidnapped all the fucking time. You might as well just substitute 'Princess' with 'Hostage'. It would streamline the whole process
So, this Mustard guy got his portal opened and returned to this 'realm'...whatever the hell that means. It was a plan that had probably taken him decades of planning, manipulation, and a horde of minions to bring to fruition. For me, it was just another Tuesday.
I kicked his ass back to the stone age before dropkicking him back into his land of condiments or wherever he came from. Meanwhile, my partner, Ayame had rescued the kid. I can't be expected to deal with children for more than one minute and forty-one seconds. I timed it once and that was my limit.
What? Ayame? Oh... Yeah, I had a partner for a while there. Well, less of a 'partner' and more of a 'there's two people to kill. If I kill one the other one will escape. You should kill that one.' She is a...long story. I'll get back to her later... Don't interrupt the narrative.
So anyway, Gohda's baggage was secured and Relish was dead...banished...whatever. He was thoroughly ass kicked. I'm not sure what sort of sorcery these demon villains employ, but every time I end up killing their big bad leader, their whole evil lair falls apart or explodes or what have you.
My theory is the architects have spies stalking about to know if the guy who paid them has bought the farm. I'm sure these dark fortresses take a while to pay off. Especially, if you factor in paying evil minions, equipping them, refitting the place for an invasion of darkness. The fees have to stack up quick. Once the big baddie is dead, the architect knows he and his crew are getting shafted with the building cost. So bam. His spies place few carefully placed sticks of dynamite at key structural weak points. The next thing you know, the whole place falls down on whatever demonic army is below deck playing cards.
So, not wanting to take up permanent residence in the living room of Lord Salsa, I grabbed the girl, started that 1:41 long timer, and sped toward the exit.
But, wouldn't you know it? Giant rock slammed in front of us. Now, Ayame and I, being ninja, would not see this as much of a problem. A short ninja spell later and the boulder would be blown to pebbles. Of course, the kid would be little more than a smear on stone if either of us tried it. I'm pretty sure liquefying your boss' daughter is grounds for termination and I wasn't about to lose my sweet gig.
The timer was already at one minute and the little brat was screeching 'Rikimaruuuuuuuuuuuuu!' every three seconds. My eye was starting to twitch already. I had to act fast.
I put my sword down and lifted the corner of the giant stone. I could have done it with my sword, but that thing chafes like crazy against rock. I motioned for Ayame to take it and the kid and to go.
I figured I'd be right behind them. It was just a big, dumb rock. I'd be out in a jiffy.
Ayame and Kiku slid beneath the stone and out of sight. Satisfied that I probably wouldn't crush them if I let it go, I dropped the thing. It was a good work out and the most manly thing I'd done all day, other than save the world from darkness and all that. I readied myself to make my escape.
Things didn't go quite as planned. To say the least...
That was one year ago...
The next thing I knew, I was in a cave and I smelt like Tartar Sauce. I'd never been so pissed off in my life.
I wandered out of the cave. My eyes strained at the sunlight. This did nothing to improve my mood. I was a goddamn ninja. Ninja don't get suntans.
I stalked through the nearby woods. I practiced my stealth skills for a bit. Go ahead, try to find me. But, something seemed out of place. I couldn't quite place my finger on it. It was as though I was missing a part of myself.
I gazed into the water's reflection. Nothing seemed out of place. I still had my ninja threads. I still had a stabbing tool. I still had a sweet scar. I still had a scowl that could make children cry and women faint from a hundred paces.
Then my eyes rose ahead. The silhouette of Gohda Castle towered silently above the treetops... My coin purse was empty. That bastard still owed me for the Wasabi guy. He was a year past due. I think some interest was in order.
There was only one obstacle barring my path from my pay day. I can't say it was a small one. It would take a normal man the better part of the day to climb around the rock face. It could take days to find a slope leading around the sheer cliff side. I was no normal man and I killed mountain hikers for sport.
I was a goddamn ninja.
The rushing air nipped at my face. I focused myself as the ground loomed ever closer. Remembering back to my ninja training, I threw out a high level ninja teleportation spell, just as heaven met earth.
Something occurred to me at that instant... It wasn't my coin purse that was lacking. Maybe... Just maybe... Being out of action for an entire year... Having gone for the longest period, since birth, without killing anyone...
It might have dulled my ninja skills slightly...
In retrospective, it probably wasn't the finest moment of my career.