Shadow Knight: Mystery of the Blue Lotus
Chapter 6: Return to Yomi
Mt. Kisokoma, Chubu Region/ Japan: February 4, 2017: 8:07 AM
Ancient protectors, concubines, and trained assassins that served a genocidal warlord from the feudal era of Japan's history.
Shogun Emperor Orochi Osamu-Ryuu.
All were either indoctrinated at birth or brainwashed into being The Shogun's private army of deadly women warriors and lovers.
So devoted were they, and indoctrinated into servitude…they would die before betraying the Shogun.
Swallowing hidden poison on their person, Seppuku, jumping off a cliff…they weren't monogamous in how they'd honor their commitment to The Shogun.
They were the special forces for the Shogun's army as well as his "Oniwaban", his secret police and they were infamous for infiltrating and seduction.
In a manner, this made them no different than what Spectress herself had been made into by the Brain of Crime before Shadow Knight had broken his hold on her mind.
Though, compared to The Shogun, the Brain was an amateur.
All the Brain had managed to do was conquer an entire city through its criminal underworld and government.
The Shogun had done and was capable of doing far worse.
Coming into the annals of both history and myth during the second Mongol Invasion of Japan where he and his army of Ninja warrior women helped retake Tsushima Island, his island of birth.
The man known as 'The Shogun' had in his lifetime during the feudal era managed to conquer his country by eliminating all the other feudal lords and usurping the Emperor…and like all conquerors and tyrants, that wasn't enough to satisfy him.
While revisionists who liked to whitewash such events in any given country's history, even more so in modern Japan, painted him as a hero of the people akin to a warrior of myth who drove off the Mongol invaders…History records outside of Japan, the accounts of the citizens of Yomi and Shadow Knight's own experience with the man himself confirmed him to be a psychotic bloodthirsty tyrant with a genocidal hatred of people outside of Japan's native populace.
His reign of terror and death in Japan mirrored that of Hitler, and in his unique way…he was and had the potential to be or do far worse.
Obsessed with conquering the world and eliminating the threat of all 'foreign devils' to Japan as well as the weak, the corrupt, and the unworthy who he blamed for the repeated succession of invasions on his homeland and people, The Shogun had attempted to accomplish this using the immortality granting power of an ancient tree of life located in the mythical city of Yomi before he was sealed away in an underground prison near the entrance to the city he sought to exploit…only to be unleashed on the modern world.
Once unleashed, he attempted to finish what he started and had allied with the international terrorism and espionage cabal known as FEIND to do so by way of assassinating all the world leaders…save for the Japanese leader who would become his puppet ruler.
FEIND would get the world, he would get Japan…but being immortal, he had more than enough time to wait out FEIND to plan his conquest of the rest of the world.
Shadow Knight had hoped to have seen the last of those assassins during the incident regarding the attempted kidnapping of his sister Rachel and the attempted massacre of the leaders of the world at the secret mobile UN summit building…and also when he sent The Shogun plummeting to the depths of the Pacific Ocean.
He should have known he wasn't lucky enough to place any hope towards fate finding new ways to screw him over.
Now the Ninjazons were back, and that possibly meant that The Shogun had survived.
After draining the information from those Ninjazon's head when he had captured them before leaving them powerless and poison-less for the SLEET authorities to be able to cure them of their brainwashing.
He and Spectress had made a beeline to Japan, to the Chubu Region at the base of Mt. Kisokoma where the Shogun had been unleashed onto the modern world…the tunnel entrance to the lost city of Yomi.
After the archaeologists had finished up examining the surrounding village ruins, and giving the news reports the cover story that SLEET had given them, Yomi had been left behind by the rest of the world while kept under surveillance by SLEET.
Being who they were, SLEET was very good at setting up borders or surveillance posts in places that no one would notice…so now here Spectress and he was at the mouth of the cave entrance to Yomi in the middle of the SLEET Yomi outpost.
Hidden from outside eyes by one of SLEET's mirage domes, outside it looked like a forest on the side of a mountainside, inside…not so much.
Inside the surveillance bunker, Shadow Knight eyed the cave mouth to Yomi a small distance up the hill overlooking the ruined village.
Beside him stood Spectress, who was also looking at the cave entrance, having been briefed on the city of Yomi on the way over.
It all sounded so incredible, an ancient underground city sustained by glowing trees and granted longevity by an ancient life tree?
Yet she knew Shadow Knight wasn't one for tall tales, and SLEET wasn't an organization that took legends and folklore seriously unless it was proven to be reality.
So it had to be real.
She wouldn't admit it, but the little girl inside her that Shadow Knight knew as a kid secretly was giddy about possibly exploring and seeing such a place….with him.
It would be like old times again.
God, she missed that.
She then looked at Shadow Knight with her eyes, noticing that he wasn't paying any attention to her but the cave entrance in the distance.
Then she felt worse.
She remembered the boy he had once been, her best friend as a child.
Happy, braver than he knew, a big heart.
Now…now she wasn't so sure that Kagae wore that hat and cloak to be able to always use his shadow powers when he needed them.
A boy playing dress-up hero like when they were kids, he would be the hero trying to rescue the princess…only to find that she had rescued herself but she appreciated his efforts.
Even that happy memory couldn't make her ignore why looking at him made her feel sad.
That coat and costume was no mere headless horseman outfit for him.
It seemed more like a medium between the two halves of the broken man of the boy she once knew.
What Dorian and that bastard Blackie Nelson had done to him had split him in two…divided between light and dark, good and evil.
The caring, intelligent man that was Kagae, and the vengeful, near-psychotic vigilante that was Shadow Knight.
She couldn't help but miss who he was and dislike and in a manner fear his dark side…then again, who was she to talk to about such things.
Even with her mind being hers again, free to choose her own story, she still had this battlesuit and a bunch of knowledge on how to kill a person, interrogate, and seduce…so she had a dark side as well.
They were both damaged goods, ripped down the middle.
He never seemed to hold that against her, so why was she holding that against him?
Why did she even care?
It was a rhetorical question to herself.
She knew why she cared.
"Get a grip of yourself Gwen and focus on the mission," she told herself, "once it's over you and Kagae go back to being vigilante detective of Lunar City and super-spy for SLEET. Don't make this personal. Making it personal in the business will get you killed."
That was when the door to the observation room opened.
The SLEET commander in charge of the outpost came in and greeted them.
"Agent 12 and Agent 13," he said to them, "I've been briefed on the reason for your being here, you came to see if anyone has come into Yomi because you encountered Ninjazons."
"Has anyone?" Spectress asked.
"No" the SLEET outpost commander answered, "And the people of Yomi inside the cave below haven't seen any either."
"No, they wouldn't, and neither would you" Shadow Knight admonished, "They wear cloaking tech similar to the kind SLEET's infantry uses. They could walk in and out of here and not be noticed."
"Not true, a fly couldn't fly into that cave mouth without being seen or detected by us" the Sleet outpost commander insisted, "we have the best surveillance and detection equipment money can buy looking over that cave entrance."
"Regardless, we found a kill squad of Ninjazons at a base in America, who hijacked one of SLEET's newest weaponry and I want to know why they are back when all of the Shogun's forces were captured upon his death."
"Couldn't you just have interrogated them back in America and found out what their purpose was with those memory and hypnosis powers of yours instead of coming here?" the SLEET commander asked snidely.
"Don't be a smart ass with me" Shadow Knight warned, and then looked back at the gate to the city of Yomi, "no, they were drugged with the same substance that The Shogun later used to brainwash women into becoming the Ninjazons originally, they had no memories for me to see, no information about what had been done to them I could extract through hypnosis. But the fact that that substance had been found in their bloodstream made me think to come here and check on things."
"What substance was that?" Spectress asked.
"A mind-control drug made from Tree Sap" Shadow Knight answered, "Tree sap that comes from only one type of tree…the one found under that mountain."
Both Spectress and the SLEET outpost commander looked out at the window towards the entrance to Yomi upon hearing this.
"Impossible, the inhabitants of that city burned down the ancient tree of life as a measure of good faith while we placed our guards around the entrance to their city to keep anyone out" the SLEET outpost commander gawked in disbelief, "The saplings that light up their city cant provide immortality or mind-control drugs to anyone, they won't be as strong as the original tree until sometime in the next century. So then…where could that tree sap juice have come from? This is most disconcerting."
"Indeed…" Shadow Knight agreed, "I've read the transcription report on the deal SLEET made with Yomi, that's why I need to go back down there and talk with the woman in charge about this matter."
"Well then…" the SLEET outpost commander said in resignation, "You have my permission to go, but I warn you, the traps are still active since the last time you went down that tunnel."
"Thank's for the warning…" Shadow Knight said to him, before surprising Spectress by grabbing her around her waist and pulling her close against his body, "But we'll take the shortcut."
Both Spectress and Shadow Knight vanished before the SLEET outpost commander's eyes in a flash of light and a puff of purple smoke.
The Sleet Outpost commander choked a bit on the smoke.
"Metahumans…." He said in exasperation, "They always like to show off!"
City of Yomi, Mt. Kisokoma: February 4, 2017: 8:07 AM
Spectress coughed on the smoke, "Must you Always do that!?"
"I had no desire to go through that gauntlet of booby traps again," Shadow Knight said indifferently, "Besides… since I know where the city is, I can safely transport us there and back."
"You could have warned me" Spectress scolded.
"As I recall…" Shadow Knight said, almost playfully "You used to like it when I surprised you."
Spectress stopped coughing and gave him a cold stare.
"We're not kids anymore Kagae" she reminded him.
"Believe me, I know that," Shadow Knight said to her, and smiled cheekily behind his mask "You didn't have that sexy figure when you were a kid."
"Kagae!" she declared in shock, but then to her surprise found herself smiling at his, admittedly juvenile compliment.
That was when the cloud of smoke finally faded away enough for her to see…her jaw dropped in awe at what she saw.
An underground city that was built within a massive cave, with strange glowing trees lining the streets and homes like street lights.
The city of Yomi!
"Oh wow…" she said in stunned awe before an astonished smile crept across her face at the sight of the thriving lost city.
"Now there is the Gwen I remember" Shadow Knight smiled.
Hearing this, Spectress composed herself "Do we have a reason for coming down here?"
"Intruders! Yokai!" one of the villagers said, finally taking notice of the two of them.
Suddenly the villagers got up in arms and aimed their weapons at the two of them.
Adopting a battle stance, Spectress got ready for a fight.
Shadow Knight placed a hand on her left shoulder, "There won't be any need for that. They are no threat to us and we are not their enemy. I'll speak to them. Clear things up. Tell them why we have come down here without an invitation."
"What makes you think that will work?" Spectress asked.
"Because they hate and fear The Shogun more than anything" Shadow Knight answered.
He then faced the villagers and spoke to them in Japanese.
Spectress wasn't that well versed in the language, but she knew enough to know he was telling the villagers that he was the same 'Yokai' that had visited them before and that he needed to talk to Sakura.
The villager's disposition turned from fear to recognition and calm, one of them spoke and began to walk away towards the center of the city.
"He said for us to follow him" Shadow Knight translated.
"Yeah…I kind of figured that out for myself" Spectress said snarkily.
The two of them followed the villager to a massive pagoda house built into the far side of the cave, after being told to wait in the main room, the villager brought with him a young woman.
The woman took one look at Shadow Knight, and then smiled amicably at him, and said something in Japanese that sounded a little like 'Nice to see you again, you handsome devil' although that could have been her misinterpreting.
Then again, that type of smile, she might not be imagining things.
"Who is that? One of your girls in every port?" Spectress jabbed with an impish grin.
"Do I look like 'James Bond'?" Shadow Knight responded, "That's Sakura Kenshin, she's the leader and ruler of this city."
"A woman chief?" Spectress said in amazement, "That's…surprising. I wasn't aware such a thing was possible in Fuedal Japan."
"Oh sure, women were not given the same privileges as men then. But there were such things as female samurai, Onna-Mussha, members of the bushi class, they were trained in the use of weaponry to defend their homes, family, and honor during times of war. They would even fight alongside the Samurai in times of need…sort of 'Anti-Ninjazons' in a sense" Shadow Knight whispered aside to her "and there was even a female Shogun: Hojo Masako, a Buddhist nun, and wife of the first Shogun of Japan."
"Well…" Spectress said impressed, "You learn something new every day."
"Welcome back to Yomi, it's been a while Yokai" Sakura greeted in plain English.
"She speaks English?" Spectress said in shocked surprise.
"The professor and his wife who discovered us came back here under our permission by way of your SLEET lords and taught us the English language" Sakura Kenshin explained, and smirked "They didn't have to work hard, we are fast learners. What brings you back Yokai?"
"Yokai? Why do they keep calling you Yokai?" Spectress asked Shadow Knight.
"My powers, they think I'm a Japanese demon" Shadow Knight explained, and then stepped forward "I've come to ask you some questions, I fear that the danger of The Shogun has not been fully vanquished."
The expression on Sakura's face turned to sour dread, and she beckoned them to sit at her table "Come, we'd best discuss this over tea. A strong batch of it."
Sitting cross-legged beside one another, Shadow Knight and Spectress sat before Kagura Kenshin who was pouring tea from an old clay teapot into ancient-looking Japanese teacups.
She briefly turned her eyes away from her task to look at Shadow Knight and Spectress.
"I see you bring a friend with you Yokai," Sakura said, "Your wife?"
Both Spectress and Shadow Knight paused for a moment, subconsciously looked at one another, before becoming flustered.
"What? Oh, no, she's…she's my companion" Shadow Knight said difficulty, swallowing down his nervous embarrassment.
"Oh, so she's your Onna-Musha?" Sakura asked inquisitively.
Shadow Knight unsure of what to say about that, turned to look at Spectress who also had an unsure look on her face.
"Yes…" Shadow Knight answered truthfully, "She's my Onna-Musha."
Spectress couldn't help but smile at that, knowing the context behind what Shadow Knight was saying.
She was his friend, a companion he could count on in battle, a female warrior.
Sakura, knowingly smirking as well, handed Shadow Knight a tea, before offering Spectress one who graciously accepted.
"Now…Tell me what matters occur in the surface world that makes you suspect The Shogun is involved" Sakura Kenshin asked, "I was under the impression that he had perished in a battle with you and all Ninjazons restored to the women they once were."
"So was I…" Shadow Knight responded, taking a sip of tea "the last I saw him, he was falling to his death at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. But…there was a murder in a military installation in my country, and it was the work of Ninjazons."
"A murder?" Sakura said thoughtfully, "Ninjazons are trained warriors and assassins, but they are also skilled thieves, did they take something from that military outpost?"
"Yes…" Shadow Knight answered, "a powerful weapon, one that flies faster than a bird and hides like a ghost, and worst of all, can transport itself to anywhere on the planet to deliver death."
"…Yes, that does sound like something The Shogun would be after. A perfect weapon for his genocidal conquest of the world outside of his homeland" Sakura Kenshin nodded in understanding.
"But he's dead, isn't he?" Spectress asked concerned.
"The tree of longevity's fruit granted us near invincibility level healing and near immortality. We can still get hurt and eventually die, but it's hard to tell what in this world can still kill us. The same is true with The Shogun" Sakura Kenshin explained, "If the crushing depths of the ocean wasn't enough to kill him, or the lack of air for that matter, all he had to do was walk across the floor until he reached his homeland. If he's come back and he's out there somewhere, he could be more dangerous than ever…but without the sap of the ancient trees, he won't be able to brainwash anyone to his side, male or female. We burned it to ashes. The saplings that light up our city and their sap and fruit won't give the same effects as the original tree. Not for a thousand or more years."
"That's why I came here…" Shadow Knight explained, "The Ninjazons we encountered, they had that same sap in their blood. I'm wondering if it's possible that the tree of longevity… isn't the only ancient tree of its kind. The Shogun had to have gotten it from somewhere, if there is another tree somewhere and he has possession of it, we are all in danger."
Sakura Kenshin thought about this and then beckoned the two of them to follow her out of her house, down the street, and into the depths of the archives of the temple located near the tunnel entrance to where the tree of Longevity used to be.
The three of them stood amidst shelves full of papyrus and scrolls, with tapestry's detailing the history of Yomi's history lined on the bare walls.
Sakura Kenshin scanned the shelves, as she did, she began to explain her reason for bringing them here "The complete history of this city from the discovery of the tree to the current age is recorded here, if there is anything about there being another tree, it should be in here. The Shogun was at least merciful to leave our records unscathed when he occupied this place. He was very through with this place, wanting to know and own its secrets."
"A dictator against book burning and preserving his country's history instead of rewriting it and the history of others with his own?" Shadow Knight scoffed, "that's a first."
Sakura Kenshin continued looking through the archives, her fingers scraped against the identification tags of the scroll tubes before stopping at a jade-colored one, "Here it is."
She pulled it off the shelves and took it over to a reading table, Shadow Knight and Spectress followed.
Sakura pointed to the identification tag, "It say's 'The second tree and Exodus of the Blue Lotus".
Intrigued, both Shadow Knight and Spectress stood on different sides of Sakura and eyed the papyrus scroll full of ancient kanji as she translated the story for them.
"It is said here, a full decade after founding the city, there was this separatist order that formed within the city's populace known as 'The order of the Blue Lotus' who, upon wanting to expand Yomi's borders, defied the will of the founders to isolate to protect the tree from being abused, split away from the rest of Yomi, took a sapling and several carts worth of fruit and livestock and then set out into the surface world to find another place to set up a colony…the city of Tsuin. While it was expected to be a failure, reportedly a second city was indeed made, and it did thrive, becoming the twin city for Yomi. There was no contact made between the two cities for over a decade until one summer day disaster struck. Only one of the settlers made it back alive. The cave system they had chosen for the second colony had collapsed under a landslide caused by an earthquake and he was the sole survivor in the escape attempt. The city of Tsuin…and the supposed second tree… were lost. But before he died a century later, the last survivor said on his deathbed 'the Blue Lotus marks the path to Tsuin, and the second tree'…if that tree survived being crushed and has thrived in that cave all these centuries…"
"Then there is a second Tree of Longevity with immortality granting fruit and mind control sap" Shadow Knight concluded.
"You think that's where The Shogun got the tree sap drug from? You think he discovered Tsuin?" Spectress asked Shadow Knight.
"maybe, but if it was, then why didn't the Shogun take advantage of it already" Shadow Knight scratched his masked chin in thought, "none of the Ninjazons in the past or present have his nigh invulnerability, and the previous batch was found to have been brainwashed with the sap he collected during his escape from Yomi when the seal was broken. No, I don't think he's found it, but he's no doubt looking for it. What does that mean 'The Blue Lotus marks the path'? A blue lotus is a flower, a water Lilly that predominantly grows in Egypt and other parts of Asia, if it's not here in Japan that's a lot of ground to cover. Unless…unless 'blue lotus' means something else. Does it say anything?"
"Hmmm…." Sakura Kenshin said examing the scroll further, "Ah, here…it says that the survivor described the Blue Lotus as a jeweled flower pendant that holds the secret to the location of Yomi's twin city inside it that can only be deciphered by those who are wise enough to learn it's secrets and therefore be trusted with the location of the city and the second tree."
"Do you think The Shogun has this pendant?" Spectress asked.
"No, I don't think so, it says here that the survivor lost it in a river while traversing it and it floated away never to be seen again… it might have been eventually picked up by a peasant or a farmer and eventually ended up in some vault or a museum somewhere up top today." Sakura Kenshin said, pointing to a line of reference on the scroll.
"Does it have a sketch or something showing us what the Blue Lotus pendant looks like?" Shadow Knight proposed.
Sakura Kenshin examined the scroll further, then she turned it around to view the other side, "Here it is, right there! The recorder had a good imagination, he sketched a drawing of it based on the survivor's accounts. Now I don't know how accurate it is, but take a look."
She pointed at the sketch on the other side of the scroll, and both Shadow Knight and Spectress eyed the sketch picture of the Blue lotus pendant.
Spectress had to admit, even for a rough sketch, the pendant looked beautiful.
A blue-colored, jeweled flower shape with symbols and silhouettes on its petals.
But while she was staring at the picture in admiration of the pendant's beauty, Shadow Knight was looking at the picture in shocked disbelief.
He had seen that exact lotus flower pendant before, many times!
It had been in the family on his mother's side for centuries, and it had been passed down through the women in his family… to Rachel Kishi!
She had been wearing it the last time he had seen her, at the party, before he had gone on this little adventure and she…she was headed here to Japan for a business trip.
No, she was right NOW in Japan on a business trip.
The Shogun was a relic of the past, but he was a fast learner and adaptable to modern times if his previous encounter with him and his Ninjazons was anything to go by.
If the Shogun was still alive, and he remembered reading this scroll during his occupation of Yomi and maybe upon seeing that Yomi was now inaccessible to him then decided to track the pendant down to its current location or worse, managed to find out who possessed it now…oh shit!
"We have to go now, damn!" Shadow Knight cursed.
"Why, what's wrong?" Spectress asked, she was greatly concerned, Shadow Knight sounded terrified about something…and hardly anything ever terrified him.
"Orpheus!" Shadow Knight said into his mask's communicator, "Activate the tracker on Rachel, feed me its location, and send instructions to Mariko-17 to meet me at Yomi. Rachel's in danger!"
Before Spectress could say anything, Shadow Knight grabbed her around the waist and the two of them vanished before a startled and surprised Sakura Kenshin.
She didn't know what was going on, but she hoped that whatever it was that The Shogun was up to, the Yokai and his Onna-musha could stop it.