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Volume 4 -- Issue 79 -- The Lotus and the Warrior Part 2

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The Lotus and the Warrior Part 2
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Mutants face extraordinary challenges in a world that hates and fears them. Professor Charles Xavier and his the X-men seek to use their extraordinary powers to pursue peace and understanding. This struggle has led them to conflicts with the likes of Magneto, Sinister, and Cameron Hodge. Now their struggle has led them into the complicated world of politics where recently elected President Robert Kelly and General Nathan Grimshaw seek a new agenda.

After a fateful visit to the institute, General Grimshaw laid out a new plan for mutant affairs. He claims to want the X-men involved in a new government sponsored police force with the specific task of policing mutants. At least that’s how it is supposed to work. Xavier and the X-men are skeptical, but General Grimshaw is intent on earning their trust. So as a result he provided information on a devious plot unfolding in Japan involving Weapon X.

The plot involves the Yashida Clan, a powerful branch of the Japanese Yakuza. Led by Harada, the Silver Samurai, they seek to utilize stolen Weapon X technology for unknown purposes. They are preparing for a test run, even as the menacing Deathstrike is hunting them down. Now a team of X-men are on their way to investigate. But for Logan, he’s in more familiar territory than he realizes.


Osaka, Japan – Many Years Ago

The smell of cherry blossoms was such a soothing scent. No matter how much the world had gone to hell, their distinct smell could make even the worst of times seem more bearable. For Logan, who could smell the booze on a man’s breath from a mile away, such scents held profound meaning. He was a man of many demons and he spent a lifetime seeking some semblance of peace. The cherry blossoms certainly helped, but not nearly as much as a special woman walking next to him.

“Are you feeling better yet, Logan-san?” asked the tender voice of Mariko Yashida.

“You even gotta ask, darlin’? I ain’t cursed the world for a full two hours. That’s gotta be a personal record,” said Logan as he calmly inhaled deeply

“Just making sure,” said the smiling Japanese woman as she leaned in closer, “You know I like to push your limits at times.”

“Don’t I know it,” he snickered, “Between helping me with my training, getting me away from my past, and giving me a halfway decent home with the Yashida Clan I think all my old limits are officially dead. That doesn’t even begin to include the limits we pushed in the bedroom.”

“I did promise to stand by your side throughout your unique journey. That includes the more passionate moments as well.”

“You almost make it sound like a chore.”

“It can be a challenge at times, but the spiritual and physical rewards are more than worth it.”

Logan and Mariko Yashida shared a nice laugh as the elegant Japanese woman slipped into his warm. Logan held her closely as they walked through the Yashida shrine garden together. This was one of the most peaceful areas in Japan. This shrine was built by Mariko’s ancestors. It was a place where family members, Buddhists, and modern day warriors came to train and mediate. For Logan, it was the last place he expected to find himself after going through the horrors of Weapon X.

Logan hadn’t planned on setting up shop in Japan with the Yashida Clan, a powerful Yakzua family. He came to Japan to hunt down the surviving elements of Weapon X in hopes of recovering parts of his lost past. He ended up finding so much more and gained something far more precious than memories along the way

The Yashida Clan came from a long line of noble samurai who were displaced after Japan modernized at the turn of the century. During World War II, they asserted themselves in the shadowy underworld of the Yakuza. They actively opposed the Japanese militarist government and helped bring peace to the chaotic streets in the aftermath of the war. Since then, they had been an organization in flux. At the moment they were among the most powerful families in the Yakuza. They maintained order in a criminal underworld that was often filled with violence. It was a world where the former living weapon felt right at home.

‘Damn, how could a woman so elegant be so damn sexy? Guess passion and restraint don’t go hand-in-hand with the Yashidas. That’s one more reason I should thank Shingen Yashida. The guy didn’t just get me out of the hell Weapon X put me in. He let his own daughter show me the ropes and didn’t even blink when she told him she was in love with me. Either fate loves irony or I’m finally catching a break. Being a samurai in a family of Yakuza ain’t gonna make me a saint, but I’d much rather be an honorable  warrior than a cold-blooded killer. Throw Mariko into the mix and I’m officially at home.’

As Logan and Mariko walked together through the falling cherry blossoms, they settled at a small pond near the south end of the shrine. Still in a warm embrace, they admired the peaceful waters before them. Mariko snuck in a few more affectionate gestures, making the smile on his face grow even wider. But as peaceful their surroundings were, the former living weapon’s attention shifted towards a window on the east wall of the temple where another female figure was busy training. She was practicing some swordplay, grunting intently as she performed lethal swipes that would make even veteran assassins cringe. When her gaze briefly met his, Logan’s peaceful feelings were shaken.

“Your sister is still giving me that look,” muttered Logan.

“Half-sister,” Mariko reminded, “Please don’t tell me she’s getting to you. I know how persistent Yuriko can be.”

“If you’re worried about competition, you can save yourself the trouble, darlin’. You know I’ve only got eyes for you,” he assured her, giving Mariko a light kiss on the side of the head.

“Your sincerity is sweet, but your eyes are not what concerns me,” said Mariko as she looked towards her irritable half-sister, “Yuriko carried quite a flame for you. I don’t think she’s over it yet.”

“Seein’ as how she likes to drop in on me half-naked when I’m showering, I ain’t surprised. I just wish she would take a damn hint already!”

“Yuriko is frustratingly stubborn,” sighed Mariko, “She always has been, although I can’t say I blame her when so much of our family shuns her.”

“Her old man boned some random girl from a rival family to make her. That ain’t her fault.”

“Thta hasn’t stopped her from being bitter and spiteful. I’ve tried to be there for her. I’ve even nourished her desire to fight in the same way I have nourished yours. I hoped that being trained in the Way of the Warrior would help her find peace. Now I’m not sure I made the right decision.”

Mariko turned away to avoid Yuriko’s critical gaze. Logan turned with her, offering her another affectionate gesture. It was a gesture he knew Yuriko frowned upon. It showed in the way she aggressively gripped her sword and shredded her targets. They started walking away, not looking to revisit old wounds even as Yuriko’s grunts could still be heard.

It was a taboo subject in the Yashida Clan. Yuriko Oyama was technically one of them, but because of her father’s infidelity she was a pariah. That was one of the reasons why they connected for a times, but only to a point. Mariko was the only woman for him. Yuriko was something else entirely. He just wasn’t sure what she was turning into at times.

“You’re doing your best, Mariko. You take on challenges no one in your family even tries to take on,” said Logan as he affectionately cupped her chin, “Between loving me and being a good hal=fsister, you’re the most honorable human being this side of Asia.”

“That’s so kind of you, Logan-san. But there are times I wonder whether honor isn’t enough,” she said sadly as she cherished his embrace.

“It doesn’t have to be enough. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I started this whole spirit romp, it’s that doing the right thing is better than doing too much. I walked that path and it nearly destroyed me. Don’t let it destroy you too.”

“But Yuriko…”

“Has a long list of problems she’s gotta work out on her own. I care about her too, but I don’t want you to get dragged into those problems. You’re better than that. You do the right thing while guys like me have to beat ourselves up a million times over to learn from past mistakes. Yuriko has to find her path just like I did and the best you can do is not let her torture herself as much as I did.”

His words drew a smile from the conflicted woman. Looking up at her lover, Mariko saw a man with a harsh yet compassionate honesty she saw in far too few. He had the heart of a warrior who had done so much to reclaim his honor. In the process, he captured her heart.

“Promise me you won’t cross those lines, darlin’,” Logan went on as he caressed the side of her face, “Guys like me and girls like Yuriko have done it one time too many. At least one of us has gotta stay pure around here.”

“You’re placing an awful lot of trust on my shoulders, Logan-san,” said Mariko.

“I can’t think of anybody better to bear the load,” he said with a grin, “You and your family have given me so much. This is my home now. I want to protect it, but for once it ain’t something I can do alone.”

“Then I suppose there’s only one honorable thing to do,” she said, now smiling back, “Although I could use more incentive.”

“I think I can help with that.”

Logan gave this elegant woman his incentive, capturing her lips in a powerful kiss amidst a shower of cherry blossoms. It was a perfect setting for a perfect moment. Logan felt so many things for this woman. She helped fill a void in his heart that had been vacant for too long. Whether or not she was trutly the one for him was still in question. Howver, this was his home now. This was where his heart and his spirit resided.


Kansai International Airport - Present

‘I’m…home.’

“Logan? Logan, are you alright?” said the worried voice of Ororo Munroe.

Logan had to shake his head to clear his mind of jaded thoughts. The X-jet had just landed and he had just stepped out of the hanger. As soon as he saw the Osaka skyline he felt a rush of memories. He could smell cherry blossoms in the air as soon as they landed. They were bringing back all sorts of feelings and emotions. Some were peaceful, as if he had returned to a place where he knew he could be at peace. Others were not so pleasant, but he fought to keep those memories from rising to the surface. Ororo’s gentle touch helped keep him from living those memories and he was able to gather himself as the rest of the team caught up.

“What’s the matter, Stormy? Did we lose him?” joked Remy as he, Rogue, and Kitty met up with them.

“Shut up, Cajun! Don’t make me turn you into sushi!”

“He sounds fahne to me,” shrugged Rogue.

“Keep the attitude to a minimum, Stripes!” Logan barked, “We got a lot of road to cover and I’m getting a lot of mixed vibes here.”

“Mixed how? We haven’t even been into the city,” said Ororo more seriously.

“I don’t know, darlin’. Just being in Japan just feels…familiar.”

“Familiar as in bringing back some bad memories or familiar as in it just looks the part?” asked Kitty.

“A little of both,” answered Logan, “And I ain’t sure if that’s a good thing.”

“If it involves Wolvie’s past, that be a given,” said Remy under his breath.

This earned him another snarl from the feral mutant, but this time he spared him the threat. He was too busy trying to process these strange feelings. Gazing out over the city, his fists clenched. There was something out there…something he felt inclined to shred. He could sense it as strongly as he could sense the cherry blossoms.

With Logan being in such a conflicted state, Ororo took command. Staying close to her lover, she led him and the others towards the main terminal of the airport. Dressed in their civilian clothes with their uniforms underneath, they had a lot of ground to cover.

“So where do we begin?” asked Kitty, “Osaka is a big city. I doubt Weapon X is going to be listed in the phone book.”

“According to the file General Grimshaw gave us, Weapon X is somehow involved with some powerful elements of the Japanese Mafia. Namely through a group known as the Yashida Clan. We find them and we find Weapon X.”

“Somehow I doubt gangsters will be easier to find than Weapon X, Miss Munroe,” Kitty pointed out.

“You forget you be talking to two former criminals, petite. Trackin’ down other criminals ain’t as hard as you think,” said Remy with a cocky grin.

“Oh so now you’re an expert on Asian crime syndicates?” said Rogue dryly.

“Not exactly, but Remy does have some insight. And if you be countin’ this thing Remy had with a couple of Japanese twins…”

But before Remy could divulge any more lurid detail, Ororo cut him off in order to remain focused for this mission.

“Don’t be too full of yourself, Remy. Hard as it may be for you,” she said, “According to the reports General Grimshaw provided, the Yakuza have developed a sudden taste for advanced biotech equipment and exotic chemical shipments. All of the equipment and materials are consistent with what Weapon X uses in their barbaric procedures. He also appears to be utilizing the same sources that General Wraith used when he was trying to rebuild his operation. It’s safe to assume that this is not a coincidence.”

“When is it ever?” sighed Kitty.

“Don’t we also assume that assumptions always be dangerous? Especially when dealin’ with Weapon X?” Remy pointed out.

“Enough with the semantics, Gumbo,” muttered Logan, “We ain’t assuming anything. There’s a damn good reason why Weapon X would wanna set up shop in Japan.”

“I’m guessing it ain’t because they love sushi,” said Rogue.

“If Grimshaw’s reports ain’t bullshit, then a good chunk of Weapon X research came from Japan back in the day,” he said with a snarl, “I can’t remember the details, but I’m starting to get all sorts of crazy feelings just being here. And they’re the kind of feelings that makes me wanna stab shit so I’m already sure we’re onto something!”

“We’ll need more than that to take on the Yakuza, Logan. I know better than most that these people can be difficult and dangerous to deal with,” coaxed Ororo as they neared the main terminal, “The General’s report wasn’t clear just how these people became involved. If we’re going to focus on Weapon X, we must choose our battles carefully.”

“As if we ever have that choice to begin with,” muttered Kitty.

Ororo locked her arm with Logan’s, offering her warm touch to help keep him calm and focused. He was very tense just being in Japan. He walked around like he knew this place. Given the gaps in his memory, that may not be far from the truth. His past was a sensitive issue for their relationship. If their love was to grow, they had to confront this together.

They were near the entrance to the terminal. Once they checked in they could get a few rental cars and make their way into the city. But just as they were about to enter, the doors burst open and a middle-aged Japanese man in an officer’s suit stepped out surrounded by a half-dozen similarly dressed officers.

“Stop right there! Do not take a step further!” ordered the officer in fluent Japanese.

Ororo, Kitty, Rogue, and Remy weren’t sure what he said. Based on his tone it was pretty clear it was a threat.

“Uh…are we under arrest?” wondered Kitty warily.

“Don’t look at Remy! Them Japanese femmes was legal! I swear!” said the Cajun innocently.

“Somehow Ah doubt this is about that,” said Rogue as she anxiously looked at the officers, “Anybody know Japanese off the top of their heads?”

It didn’t look promising. The officer didn’t seem to understand what they were saying, indicating neither he nor any of his men spoke English. They quickly surrounded them in a menacing show of force. It looked like their investigation was going to stop before it even began.

Then to everybody’s surprise, Logan stepped forth and spoke to the officer in perfect Japanese.

“No need make a scene. My friends and I were just on our way to see the sights.”

“The mumblings of your associates seem to indicate otherwise. I have been tasked with detaining you for questioning. You presence here is of great concern.”

“Concern to who?” Logan questioned.

“That is not for me to say. If you care for the well-being of your friends you will surrender and cooperate.”

Logan snarled at this man’s words. Something in his tone didn’t sound right and it wasn’t just the sudden influx of Japanese speech that he magically seemed to pick up.

“Uh…I didn’t know you spoke Japanese, Logan,” said Rogue.

“That makes two of us,” the feral mutant grunted, “Don’t ask me how. I just…remembered.”

“I see,” said Ororo, worried about what the subtext may imply, “Well what did he say? Why are the police here?”

“They ain’t cops,” he grunted, “They ain’t here to arrest us either.”

“They got the uniforms and the guns. So who the hell are they?” asked Remy.

Logan didn’t bother speculating. His instinct told him these people weren’t what they seemed and his instincts usually served him well. In a threatening gesture, he drew his claws. This surprised some of the officer’s men and the rest of the X-men for that matter, but the officer himself was not daunted.

“Very well. Lord Harada said you would be difficult. I’m glad he was right.”

“Harada…” said Logan intently, that name sounding all too familiar.

Before Logan could ponder this name, the officer snapped his fingers and all his subordinates drew their weapons. In addition, a hoard of other dark figures emerged from behind within the terminal entrance and from various hidden spots around the area. They were all completely shrouded, dressed as ninjas and armed with katanas and hand-held blades. They moved swiftly and efficiently, reinforcing the other officers so that their targets were completely surrounded.

“Whoa…ninjas?” said Kitty, confused as she took a defensive stance.

“Ain’t you fellas supposed to be at one of those anime conventions?” scoffed Rogue.

“I don’t think they be anime fans, cherè,” said Remy as he took out a deck of cards.

Logan clenched his fists as he stared down the lead officer. Whatever tactics they were using, it only confirmed General Grimshaw’s intelligence wasn’t bogus.

“Is this man from Weapon X?” asked Ororo, preparing for an attack.

“I doubt it,” grunted Logan, “But he has an equally bad stench!”

“Attack! Bring Lord Harada the head of Shirori Akuma!”

The officers and ninjas attacked swiftly. The officers fired their guns while the ninjas took out sharpened shurikens and flung them directly towards the surrounded X-men. Rogue jumped in front of Remy and used her invulnerable form to protect him from incoming bullets while Kitty grabbed onto him and Ororo to phase them through the rest of the incoming danger. Only Logan was unprotected, but he didn’t need to be shielded. As soon as the bullets started flying, he attacked the main officer that confronted him.

“Hrrrrrrraaahhhhhhhh!” he roared as he pounced the uniformed man, tackling him into a crowd of ninjas and slashing relentlessly with his claws.

“Logan!” Ororo exclaimed as bullets flew through her thanks to Kitty.

“He can take it, cherè!” said Remy as he started charging cards, “Just do your thing and get us some cover! We need to even these here odds!”

Despite her concern for her lover, Ororo did what she and the X-men trained to do. She summoned her powers and kicked up a quick burst of wind. Within seconds, a dense fog formed around the area and covered the officers and the ninjas. This caused them to cease their assault. Some kept on going, accidentally hitting their comrades in the process.

“Stop shooting!” said one of the officers in Japanese, “They’re trying to flee! Corner them before they…”

He was abruptly cut off by a swift kick to the face from Kitty Pryde, who was able to begin attacking with the others through the cover of the fog.

“I’m not sure what you just said, but I’m pretty sure you deserved that!” said Kitty.

“Take them down! Hurry!” yelled one of the ninjas.

“What do you think they be saying?” wondered Remy as he charged a few cards.

“Does it matter?” said Rogue as she brushed off a few stray bullets, “Ah’ll can take the bullets! Ah’ll leave the rest to you, sugah!”

“Merci, mon cherè! Let’s do this dance!”

Rogue took to the air and flew right towards the source of the bullets, ramming the gunmen in the process and knocking them out of the fight along with a few ninjas. Remy followed close behind to avoid the bullets, unleashing waves of charged cards that burst brightly in the misty surroundings. This blew back some of the ninjas and another one of the gunmen, but it did little to dissuade them. Rather than waste their time with bullets and shurikens, they charged right into the fog with their katanas and attacked.

Upon seeing a new surge of attackers, Remy drew his bow staff and began using it to counter the incoming katana attacks. He was quickly surrounded, having to deflect slashes from four ninjas. He would have been overwhelmed had Kitty not re-emerged, using her phasing powers to disarm two of the ninjas. The others tried to stab her at first, but they went right through her and left them vulnerable to some swift take down kicks from her and Remy.

“These guys are an insult to every Bruce Lee movie ever made! Ninjitsu only works if you can touch what you’re attacking,” said Kitty as three katanas passed harmlessly through her.

“Good for you, ungh! But not all of us have that luxury petite!” grunted Remy as he endured a particularly nasty cut on his arm.

“Excuses excuses!” shrugged Kitty as she phased through more attacks.

“Ah still say being untouchable is overrated!” said Rogue from above.

As more ninjas closed in on Remy and Kitty, Rogue came flying in with the rest of the armed officers in hand. While flying through the fog, she focused specifically on those who were still armed and made sure they had no one left to shoot at them. Once disarmed, she gathered them up and literally threw them into the crowd of ninjas below. Some were nimble enough to avoid them. Others weren’t so lucky. She made sure the ones around Remy were hit extra hard. It was a sentiment the Cajun couldn’t help but smile at.

While Rogue, Remy, and Kitty drew small-scale battles, the bulk of the ninja force was thwarted by Ororo. She used the fog not only as cover, but as a means mounting a more forceful attack. To avoid some of the ninjas from attacking her, she rose up in the air just above a few shurikens that were aimed towards her. Once out of range, her eyes flashed and she summoned powerful streams of wind.

“Whoever sent you ninjas clearly didn’t know that Wolverine has some friends a girlfriend that doesn’t take kindly to such a lukewarm welcome!” she proclaimed.

Clenching her firsts, Ororo directed her winds around the edges and roof of the hanger and terminal to weed out the ninjas that had been hiding. She also sent smaller slipstreams behind crates and luggage vehicles to take out those trying to launch a sneak attack. Many were surprised by this sudden onslaught. Even the skilled ninjas couldn’t hold their ground against such winds. It even caused some of the airport staff to take notice and direct people and traffic away from the area. This kept civilians out of the crossfire while leveling the playing field.

With the ninjas being held at bay and the officers disarmed, it left Logan to focus on the chief officer and the ninjas that were trying to protect him. When he tackled him to the ground and held his claws to the man’s neck, he instinctively called for help. About a dozen cloaked ninjas came to his aid, swarming Logan and forcing him off the main officer. They pin him down, giving him little room to move so they could stab him with their daggers and katanas. This further bloodied the feral mutant, who already had a few bullet wounds from earlier. But it only kept him stunned while Ororo and the others pushed back the onslaught.

Such an attack felt familiar to Logan, further triggering flashes of memories. He had encountered this before, a swarm of ninjas trying to kill him before he learned the truth. More images of the garden and the cherry blossoms flashed through his mind, turning the pain from his wounds into an anger that quickly morphed into a berserker.

“Errrrrrrrrrrrr! I…HATE…NINJAS!” he roared.

In a burst of strength, he shoved the ninjas off him and unleashed a fury of attacks. He used his claws to slice their daggers to shreds and heavily wound them. Two ninjas that tried to grab him again ended up getting their arms chopped off and another who tried to jam a shuriken into his thigh got stabbed in the lower back. Cries of agony filled the area, but in his berserker state it didn’t affect Logan. The ninja attackers never begged for mercy. They kept attacking, only to be cut down or knocked out by the former living weapon.

It took only a few minutes for the enraged Wolverine to take out the dozen or so ninjas. Those that weren’t knocked out or bleeding to death were dragging away their wounded comrades. No reinforcements came because Ororo, Rogue, Remy, and Kitty were keeping the rest of the attack force busy. It left Logan free to pursue the main officer that initially confronted them.

“You!”he roared as he charged the stunned man.

“Get back, White Devil! Your bloodlust and treachery do not scare me!”

The officer had been stunned after being tackled to the hard pavement. He had a moderate wound on his forehead and had been trying to slip away. He tried to use his gun again, but it was jammed. One of Logan’s claws had pierced the trigger and it wouldn’t fire. He still pointed it at the menacing figure approaching him. In his berserker state, Logan literally sliced it to pieces and took a few chunks of his fingers in the process.

“Ahhhhhhhhhh!” the man cried in agony.

“Nowhere to run, bub!” growled Logan.

With murderous intent, Logan grabbed the man by the collar and held his claws to his neck. The man trembled, but showed bravery in the face of such threats. He was clearly no regular officer. He was trained like a Yakuza, standing fearless in the face of death. Logan would have been happy to send him on that path had Ororo not noticed his actions.

“Logan stop! We need him!” she called out from above as she unleashed more wind gusts against the ninja attackers.

Her voice was enough to get Logan out of his berserker rage. He stopped seething with rage, but his anger remained strong. Keeping his claws close to the man’s neck, the former living weapon pulled the man up so that he could look him in the eye with his burning hatred.

“You’re no cop! You have the same stench as the rest of these ninja rejects!” said Logan in fluent Japanese.

“If you think you can get me to talk you are sadly mistaken, White Devil!”

“You’re already short a few fingers! You want to lose some more?” threatened Logan, holding the claws closer to his neck.

“Cut off whatever you want! Our brethren know about you! The stories of the White Devil are well known! It was said you were banished forever! You left our country in disgrace!  Your very presence is a great dishonor to our people and to yourself!”

Logan’s expression contorted with greater anger. He remembered so little of his life in Japan, but it was becoming very clear that something important happened to him. He remembered walking with a beautiful Japanese woman in a garden and talking to her about family, inner peace, and a new life that ended up going horribly wrong. If this thug knew some details then there had to be plenty of people who knew more.

‘White devil…cherry blossoms…a woman. What the hell does it mean?! What did I do to dishonor myself?’

Logan tightened his grip on the man, now practically choking him.

“So my presence sickens you people that much? Good! That means you know more than the average Yakuza thug!”

“I know only as much as I have sworn not to tell!” said the man fearlessly.

“If your so called brethren know, then why hide it? I’m assuming the White Devil is me so tell me more! I’m all for a good story!”

“You of all people should remember! If for whatever reason you cannot, then you are even less deserving! I will only warn you that our people have an endless army! We’ll keep coming at you until you and those you care about are DEAD!”

“Is that a no?” snarled Logan with growing frustration.

“Go back to hell where you belong, White Devil! Destiny will NEVER lead you back into our sacred domain!”

Logan pressed his claw against his neck even harder, causing a sizable cut to form. But the man did not falter. He really wasn’t going to tell him. No one could fault the Yakuza for not being dedicated, especially those of the Yashida Clan. It left Logan at a dead end.

He was about start cutting into this man to vent his frustrations. Then he felt a sudden pain in his neck.

“Ack!” he grunted, causing him to lose his grip on the man.

“You see, White Devil? Fate is conspiring against you!” yelled the officer as he slipped out from Logan’s grip.

Logan remained on his knees and stunned for a moment. Someone managed to fire a small projectile through Ororo’s fog and it struck him perfectly. Only this wasn’t a shuriken or a bullet. It was a small arrow. It didn’t puncture any major arteries, but it still hurt like hell. He managed to remove it without much trouble. That’s when he noticed something different.

“The hell?” he said as he looked at the arrow.

This was no ordinary attack. This arrow brought more than just a nasty wound to his neck. There was a slip of paper tied to the shaft, indicating it was meant to inform and not kill him.

“Is this your sick way of leading me on?” said Logan to the officer, holding up the arrow.

“What are you talking about? My men use no such tactics!” said the man, now on his feet and ready to attack.

Curious, Logan smelled around the arrow. When he took in the scent, it confirmed one suspicion while raising another.

‘Lotus flowers? Could it be…Mariko?’

More memories flashed before his eye. He saw that woman again in the cherry blossoms. Then he saw the other woman with a sword surrounded by lotus flowers. It all took a very bloody turn. He remembered pain, tears, and anger. He saw one woman crying and another woman screaming with rage, charging toward him with murder in her eyes. That’s when another name came to him.

‘Deathstrike!’

Clutching the arrow, Logan turned away from the officer.

“You’re right. This didn’t come from you,” said the feral mutant, “Someone else is giving me the answers you won’t. Which means I don’t need you anymore!”

“What?! That’s not impossible! The Yashida Clan won’t allow it!”

The man grabbed a bloodied katana one of the ninjas had dropped. Gripping it firmly, he set his sights on the White Devil and prepared to slay him. Before he could attack, the menacing figure delivered a fateful command.

“Storm! We got what we need! Get us out of here! Hit ‘em with a blizzard!” he ordered.

“Coming right up!” said the African woman, her eyes flashing brighter.

“Ooh boy, Remy never gets tired of this!” grinned Remy, who was still fighting off ninjas with Kitty and Rogue.

The fog started to thicken and the air grew colder. Soon it became so thick the ninja attackers couldn’t even see two feet in front of them. The lead officer watched as the White Devil disappeared into the mist. It was a cowardly move. It showed just how dishonorable this monster was.

“They’re trying to escape! Do not let them! Smoke screen NOW!”

Every able-bodied ninja within shouting distance heard the command and immediately complied. To make sure their adversaries didn’t get away, they took out small spherical grenades filled with knock-out gas and threw them to the ground. In a series of sharp bursts, the gas mixed with the winds and mist. It quickly carried all throughout the area. The ninjas were immune, their masks containing a special filter. The lead officer stole one from a ninja that had been knocked out and covered his face with it, bracing himself as more cold winds swept through the area.

This tactic surprised the X-men. They were not going to let them leave so long as they were still breathing. It gave them an ominous hint of what they were up against, prompting Ororo to work a little faster.

“Augh! Better speed it up, Storm! That gas is…” coughed Kitty, who was on the verge of passing out along with Remy.

“Don’t choke on us now, sugah! Ah’ll take care of it!” said Rogue, who was still hovering nearby.

“Hurry Stripes! These ninja wannbes ain’t gonna do us any favors!” grunted Logan as he rushed to rejoin the others.

Holding his breath, Logan braced himself along with Remy and Kitty as Rogue swooped in through the gaseous mist and grabbed them. Under the cover of Storm’s winds, they ascended through the thick mist. They all had to fight the effects of the potent gas while sensing the ninja attackers trying to fight their way through the mayhem. A half-dozen ninjas managed to make it. Through the blistering cold they slashed their katanas, looking to stab anything in their way. They ended up hitting nothing. Through a trail of wind, the X-men disappeared.

“White Devil has escaped!” said one of the ninjas.

“We must follow them! They could not have gone far!” said the other as he pointed up at the cloudy wind that was whisking their enemies away.

“Wrong! They have already gone too far for us to stop!” said the officer, who still had a mask over his face to protect from the gas,.

Before any of the ninjas could argue, a round of sirens rang out in the distance. The officer and his ninja associates looked out across the runway to see an army of police and airport security heading their way. They could also see some commotion from within the terminal. Their fight and the spectacle from the winds had not gone unnoticed. As important as it was to pursue a target, it was more important to stay away from the authorities.

“Yashida Clan, we must disappear!” said the officer, “Take the wounded and the dead and return to the shadows!”

“What about White Devil?”

“There appear to be other forces conspiring against us! The White Devil may find his way to our base sooner than we thought! Lord Harada will know what to do!”

With little time to further ponder, the officer and the ninja army swiftly disappeared. All the other disguised officers as well as the ninjas that had been killed or injured were gathered up and taken away. A few other ninjas used some smoke grenades to cover their escape, making sure it mixed with the lingering mist so it didn’t look suspicious. By the time the authorities arrived the Yashida Clan had disappeared and so had the X-men. Nobody could claim victory, but Logan could claim yet another clue to his past. What or who was behind it was a mystery. However, there appeared to be other forces drawing him to his past.


Rinku Industrial District – Building X-10

Elizabeth Braddock pulled up to the security checkpoint at Building X-10 not knowing what to expect. Every investigation into the Yakuza carried with it a certain mystery. Her father once told her that there were certain elements in the criminal underworld that were too fantastic to believe. If she was going to confront these sinister forces for a living, then she had to confront them. It might as well be now on her first real case.

As soon as she pulled up to the gateway, she parked her car and got out. There was no security guard, but there was a clear barrier surrounding the building. It didn’t look all that different from the other buildings in the Rinku Industrial District. It seemed slightly less active, but judging by the cars and trucks parked along the west side there was clearly something going on inside.

‘Why on Earth with Uncle Tsurayaba want me to meet him here? I know the Yakuza love exotic hide-outs, but this just seems a little out of place. With someone like Deathstrike running around, I would hope they practiced a little discretion.’

Her suspicion grew as walked up to the security post that controlled the gate. It was hard to tell if anybody was there. She sensed some minds active, but something was interfering.

‘Hmm…getting some psychic static. Is someone shutting me out? Why would my uncle do that? What could he be…no, don’t think like that! He’s your uncle for crying out loud! He’s never kept a secret that wasn’t necessary. There must be a good reason. There has to…’

Her train of thought was interrupted when the heavy gates unexpectedly opened. Startled, Betsy took a cautious step back. As the gates parted, they revealed a familiar figure that quickly set her mind at ease.

“Uncle Tsurayaba!” said Betsy with a sigh of relief.

“Hello Betsy,” he said in a flat tone, “It’s a pleasure to see you again.”

“I want to say the same, but I’m more than a little jet-lagged,” she said as she approached her godfather, “You call me out of the blue in England, fly me across the world, and bring me into a case involving the Yakuza and Deathstrike. This is serious business for a college student, even if I am your goddaughter.”

“I’ve been dealing with the Yakuza all my life. You don’t need to tell me how serious this is.”

“Serious doesn’t even begin to cover it. You must be grasping at straws if you’re enlisting a psychic. Either retirement has finally gotten to you or you’re caught up in something that goes way beyond counterfeit Hello Kitty merchandise.”

“Your father imparted some uncanny deductive skills to you, Betsy,” the older man said, still bearing a very hardened expression, “I know you have questions. I promise I will answer them. There is one complicated matter we must take care of first.”

Betsy looked at her uncle in confusion.He almost sounded sad, as if he had done something he deeply regretted. She was about to probe deeper when she realized they were not alone.

A series of ominous shadows started swirling around her. A myriad of new minds filled area, closing in on her and her uncle quickly. In what seemed like an unfolding nightmare, dozens of cloaked figures emerged from atop of the barrier, from behind various crates and barrels, and around the nearby entry road. They were all dressed as ninjas and armed with a sharpened katana. It bore all the signs of an ambush mixed with some old-world Yakuza theatrics.

“What in the bloody hell?!” Betsy exclaimed.

“My dear Betsy…I’m so sorry,” said Matsu’o Tsurayaba.

Betsy watched as the ninjas closed in on her. She turned toward her uncle, who wouldn’t even look at her anymore. Angered and confused, she scanned his mind and uncovered the horrible truth.

“You…you’re working for the Yashida Clan now?!” she exclaimed.

“It…it’s far more complicated than you think,” he said, still not looking at her.

“Bullocks! You know these people better than anyone who doesn’t dress like a ninja on Halloween!” she barked.

“Then you know how much I regret what I’m about to do.”

“All I know is you’ve gone back on everything my father ever stood for! You’re a fraud and bloody coward!”

Matsu’o cringed at her words. He was about to respond when a new voice from behind took over.

“Don’t be so quick to dismiss your uncle, Miss Braddock. He speaks the truth.”

“Who the hell are you?!” she demanded, unable to make out the figure from behind the hoard of ninjas.

“Someone your father was very familiar with as well,” he said.

A line of ninjas parted, allowing the presence to approach. When Betsy saw him her eyes widened with disgust. He was a tall, imposing man wearing what appeared to be samurai armor covered in silvery patterns. It was a style distinct to only one person in the Japanese underworld. If she didn’t hate her uncle before, she utterly despised him now.

“You…” she seethed.

“Harada Yashdia, Lord of the Yashdia Clan,” said the armored figure with a respectful bow, “I appreciate you gracing us with your presence.”

“Appreciate this!”

In her anger she focused her telepathy and launched a psychic attack. She wasn’t the most advanced telepath in the world, but she had alpha level ability and she could still put someone in a world of hurt.

Unfortunately, her attack did nothing. It didn’t even phase the ominous crime lord. She tried pushing herself harder, but it was no use.

‘Damn it! He’s blocking me out!’

“Trying to knock me out with that mind of yours?” he said snidely, “Don’t waste your time. The Yashida’s have invested heavily in psychic dampening technology. You would be surprised how popular it is on the black market ever since Cameron Hodge was deposed.”

“Are you trying to intimidate me?” spat Betsy, “I warn you I’m not your typical ditzy college girl! My father taught me how to fight!”

“I’m sure he did, but I doubt he taught you to handle an army of ninjas trained in the art of ninjitsu. Allow me to demonstrate.”

With a simple hand gesture, Harada ordered the ninjas to attack. They did so without mercy, descending on Betsy like an all consuming shadow.

Two ninjas tried to seize her right off the bat. Betsy tried to defend herself by hitting the first with a right cross and shoving the second one off her with a solid kick. It stunned the two men, but did little to stop the onslaught. On the next attack she was overwhelemed. Six fully trained ninjitsu warriors boxed her in on all sides and tackled her to the ground. They struck her hard on the shoulders, neck, and head. She had little chance of defending herself and was forcibly pushed onto her knees where she was held in a submissive bind by five ninjas.

“Ahhhhhhhhh!” she cried out.

“NO!” exclaimed her uncle as he turned to Harada, “Stop this! You promised not to hurt her!”

“I promised to do my best. It’s not my fault she’s a stubborn bitch,” scorned Harada as he approached the beaten woman.

“Ungh! What do you want with me?” groaned Betsy, her face now bruised and bleeding, “You think beating me up will get you any favors from Interpol?”

“Oh please, this has nothing to do with Interpol or your father for that matter,” he scoffed as he grabbed her roughly by the face, “You see, the Yashida Clan is preparing a little science experiment. We recently acquired some amazing technology courtesy of a family member who has long since passed. The problem is we don’t have access to all the necessary materials. To compensate, we need a psychic of a certain caliber. And as it just so happens, the distinguished goddaughter of Matsu’o Tsurayaba fits the bill perfectly.”

“So you blackmailed him into luring me here?!” said Betsy in disgust.

“On the contrary…he came to us. I could go into greater detail, but time is of the essence. If your report on Deathstrike is accurate, then we must proceed quickly.”

“Why? Are you scared of her?” Betsy taunted, “You think you blokes are so honorable! But I don’t need to read your mind to know the truth! You’re a coward! You deserve whatever Deathstrike does to you!”

Harada’s expression hardened as he stepped back slightly from Betsy, who was still being held firmly by five ninjas. With a burning hatred, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a syringe loaded with light green fluid.

“You know, I was going to just give you some sedative to knock you out. But since you insist on having such an attitude…”

With the syringe still in hand, Harada lunged forward and slugged the young woman right across the face with a punishing haymaker. He even used his powers to charge the metal in his armor to add some extra impact. As soon as Betsy was struck, she was knocked out instantly. Much of her face was mangled in the process, causing blood and some teeth to come spurting out. It did the job of the sedative, albeit much messier.

“Betsy! Damn you, Harada!” exclaimed Mr. Tsurayaba, lunging forward at the samurai clad figure in a rage.

“Oh calm yourself. It’s nothing a band-aid and some plastic surgery won’t fix,” said Harada as his men grabbed the angry figure and restrained him.

“You’re pushing the limits of our deal!” he yelled from the firm grip of Harada’s ninja warriors.

“This is the price you must pay sometimes, Tsurayaba-san. You cannot expect to get your daughter back without making the necessary sacrifices. It’s the very creed of the Yashida Clan. Everything worth striving for requires sacrifice.”

Matsu’o Tsurayaba tensed at such words. The longer this went on, the more he seemed to sacrifice. Even with the promise of saving his daughter, his spirit was heavy with sorrow and he could barely hold himself up under the grip of Harada’s men.

While Matsu’o sulked, Harada knelt over the unconscoius Betsy and injected the syringe into a vain in her neck. He then reached into his ears and took out two metal ear-pieces. These high tech wonders were the special psychic blocking technology that allowed him and his men to avoid Betsy’s telepathy.

“She’s sedated now. There is no further need for these pesky psionic resistors,” said Harada as he put the ear pieces away, “She’ll be out for hours, but this sedative will make sure her psychic abilities remain active. We’ll need to hurry if we’re to use them successfully in the experiment.”

“How long?” was all Matsu’o could ask in his sad state.

“An hour. Two at the most,” said Harada as he signaled his ninja army to take Betsy and head back inside, “With Deathstrike and Shiroi Akuma trying to oppose us, we must push forward! There is more than just the blood of your family at stake. On this day, the honor of the Yashida Clan will forever belong to the Silver Samurai!”


Xavier Institute – Cerebrum Chamber

The high tech chamber of Cerebrum buzzed with activity as Jean Grey used her telepathy to sift through millions of minds all over the world. Usually, it was Professor Xavier who handled the strain. Jean had a hard enough time matching the Professor’s skill before the recent upgrades. Thanks to the Phoenix, she had the extra edge she needed to keep up. The Professor had been training her for years to use Cerebro effectively. It was still a work-in-progress so working on this scale without his supervision was a bit of a pain.

That’s where her lover, Scott Summers, fit into the picture. It was his coaxing that got her to do this. In any serious relationship, there was always a certain level of give and take. Theirs was no different despite surviving such challenges as cosmic entities and death. Even so, there were times when they didn’t see eye-to-eye when it came to returning favors

“Almost there…I think I found him!” said Jean as she hovered over the Cerebrum console with the helmet covering her head, “He’s not exactly hiding, but he’s not broadcasting his location either. I should still be able to extract the necessary coordinates.”

“Go ahead and forward it to the GPS on the Velocity,” said Scott, who was standing behind her, “I want to fly out as soon as possible.”

“Already? Scott, the guy just left a few hours ago. Shouldn’t you give him time to cool off before you confront him again?”

“Captain Jack Freeman is a unique breed of soldier. He doesn’t cool off in the same way we do,” said the X-leader, “If I’m going to get through to him, I need to catch up before he completely shuts us out.”

Jean didn’t follow his logic. Never-the-less, she did as her lover asked. She completed the scan for Captain Jack Freeman and forwarded his location to the computer in the Velocity. This was quite an endeavor on which Scott was embarking. He was intent on catching up with the mutant soldier and making him a friend of sorts for the X-men. She could certainly see the benefit of having a friend like Jack Freeman in the military, but based on what she sensed from this guy it was sure to be a tough sell.

“I’m still not entirely sold on this idea, Scott,” she told him as she removed the helmet and powered down Cerebrum, “Not that I’m against making friends with people in the government, but I sense Captain Freeman will be a tough guy to befriend.”

“So says the woman who managed to reach Wolverine when he was in his full I-hate-the-world mindset,” Scott pointed out.

“That was different. Logan was bitter, confused, and angry. This guy is way much more focused with his angst. In my experience it’s the most focused minds that are the most stubborn.”

“All the more reason for me to talk to him,” Scott concluded, “You know as well as I do that when it comes to stubbornness, I’m a first ballot hall-of-famer.”

“Your humility never ceases to astound me,” said Jean with a wry grin, “But there’s a difference between your stubbornness and the kind I sensed in Jack. At least you and Logan don’t completely cut yourself off. You always leave a few doors open even if they’re hard to find.”

“Are you telling me that this guy doesn’t have any doors?”

“If he does, they’re well-hidden. And to be perfectly honest with you, Scott, I don’t know if you’re equipped to find them.”

Scott gave his girlfriend a slight scold as they made their way out of the chamber. She did have a point though. Reaching out to hardened souls was her expertise. She had a talent similar to Professor Xavier that allowed her to connect someone who wanted nothing more than to ignore their very existence. If Jean thought reaching Jack Freeman was a long shot, then that did not bode well for what he had planned.

Since confronting Jack Freeman about his mutant abilities, the X-leader was intrigued by this man. Here was a guy who saw himself as nothing more than a soldier, but didn’t get the respect he wanted because he was a mutant. Having grown up around soldiers, he felt a certain level of empathy for him. Few things were more important to a soldier than being accepted as one. Scott understood this better than most and because of this understanding he felt he could make Jack Freeman an important figure for the X-men.

“You may be right, Jean. I’m probably the last person on the team who is equipped to handle something like this. Unfortunately, I’m the only person on the team who understand Jack Freeman the soldier as opposed to Jack Freeman the guy who hates the X-men with a passion. So I really don’t have a choice,” he said.

“There’s always a choice. I could come along with you. Or maybe we can talk to the Professor about working with him more closely. Why do you have to go it alone?”

“Because I know how he’ll react,” Scott pointed out, “He’ll see it as the X-men ganging up on him, trying to get him in line with our cause. He’s already shown he doesn’t like that. If you saw the dent he left in the wall, that should give you a pretty good idea of what we’re dealing with.”

“And you think talking to him one-on-one will be more productive?”

“I need him to see me as Scott Summers, not Cyclops of the X-men. I need to talk to him man-to-man without politics or superhero teams getting in the way. It’s the only way he’ll listen.”

“How can you be sure?” asked Jean, still showing a touch of skepticism.

“Who said I was sure?” retorted Scott, “I’m not saying this is a good idea, but there’s more than just a dedicated soldier to this guy and I don’t think we should ignore it. If anyone is going to take this chance on Captain Freeman, I should be the one to do it.”

That didn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but Scott made his point. He understood the mind of a soldier. Even as a powerful psychic, there were just some aspects to the human mind that Jean could not relate to. Yet still, she worried.

“Not that I’m questioning your insight, but as your girlfriend (and at times the common sense portion of your brain) I’m compelled to point out the circumstances here,” said Jean, “The Professor just finished setting up a very fragile partnership with General Grimshaw. Reaching out to someone like Jack Freeman could be taken many different ways. Some might suspect we’re trying to enlist a mole within the government.”

“They’ll suspect that regardless of what we do,” said Scott as he opened the Cerebrum chamber, “With President Kelly in office and a league of anti-mutant agencies looking to influence his administration, we can’t afford to have no genuine connections.”

“So General Grimshaw and this giant hunk of psychic augmentation tech isn’t enough?” Jean pointed out.

“Cerebrum has it’s limits and General Grimshaw, as reasonable as he seems, is still human and a shrewd one at that,” said Scott, “It’s like the Professor always taught us. When people don’t have an emotional stake in something, they tend not to be as dedicated as they need to be. I saw in Jack someone who is trying very hard not to be dedicated. If he’s going to be a part of this, then I don’t see much good coming from that attitude.”

“I won’t argue with your logic, Scott. It’s your timing that has me worried. If we send the wrong message…”

“We won’t,” he assured her, “In the end it’s up to him, but he can’t decide if we don’t give him that choice. That’s why I need to ask you to do another favor for me.”

“Oh boy, another one?” Jean groaned.

“It’s nothing terribly unreasonable. It just involves convincing the Professor to let me handle Jack Freeman personally.”

“Two favors within the span of an hour?” said Jean, “You know there isn’t much I won’t do for you, Scott. But I can’t see the Professor staying out of the loop, especially when you’re running the risk of upsetting this new partnership.”

“So convince him otherwise. Give him those puppy-dog eyes that always seem to work so well,” said Scott.

“Now you’re really pushing it,” she said more seriously, “You do know that too many favors will earn you a few nights on the couch, don’t you?”

“If that’s the price I have to pay, so be it,” shrugged Scott, “Just remember though, that’ll officially make you the bad guy.”

“Oh? And how do you figure?”

“I’m just trying to do something extra. It may involve taking the chance that Jack Freeman (and the military for that matter) will have more reasons to despise us, but I’m willing to risk it. That’s what X-men are supposed to do when we have a chance to do some extra good. If you’re going to prevent that, then who might I ask deserves to be on the couch more?”

Jean folded her arms over her chest and gave her lover an annoyed look. Scott wasn’t overt or snide with his reasoning, but having a powerful link with this man allowed her to sense the subtext and it wasn’t very flattering. Worst of all, she couldn’t reply in a way that would prove him wrong.

“I’ll leave you some time to ponder that question,” said the X-leader as he leaned in and gave his lover a quick kiss on the forehead, “I have to get going if I’m going to catch Captain Freeman. You should catch up with the Professor before he turns in. I’ll keep in touch.”

“You better,” she said with a pouting look, “You’re still going to owe me after this.”

“That’s my girl,” he said with another wry smile, “Take as much time as you need to be mad at me. Once it passes, we’ll discuss the merits of couch banishment.”

The smile never left the X-leader’s face as he made his way to the hanger. Jean lingered a bit, still flustered by her lover’s demands. As strong as their relationship was, they weren’t above annoyed each other at times. A big problem with being annoyed by Scott Summers was that his heart was always in the right place and it was hard to stay angry at him. That didn’t mean he was above pushing her buttons in the wrong ways. Rolling her eyes, Jean closed the chamber and made her way back to the upper levels.

‘You’re not really going to make him sleep on the couch are you?’

‘That remains to be seen, Phoenix. Relationships on any level are going to have moments like this. You can love someone with all your heart, but they can still annoy the hell out of you at times.’

‘I…don’t understand.’

‘Join the club. It still boggles my mind that of all the men I had to fall in love with, I had to fall for such a smart ass.’


Rinku Industrial District

The scent of cherry blossoms and lotus flowers lingering for Wolverine even as they arrived at the Rinku Industrial District. They landed on top of a building about a block away from where the message told them to go. They didn’t bother hailing a cab or renting a car. Storm’s winds provided all the transportation they needed. It was a rough ride, but Wolverine didn’t have the patience to sit in traffic.

“Did we really have to take the Stormy express to this here place? The subway would have been a lot easier on Remy’s lunch!” groaned Gambit as he, Shadowcat, Rogue, and Wolverine touched down on the roof.

“That’s what you get for drowning every meal in hot sauce,” said Shadowcat, who was somewhat dazed as well.

“The clock is already ticking and rush-hour traffic in Osaka ain’t known for being fast!” growled Wolverine, who showed no little signs of dizziness or fatigue, “That attack at the airport shows someone knows we’re here! If they hit us that hard, we gotta hit ‘em back!”

“Then explain it to meh again, Logan. How do we know Weapon X is holding up in this part of town? Those ninjas didn’t seem very talkative,” said Rogue, who was a lot less woozy since she flew most of the way.

This is how I know!” barked the feral mutant, holding up the arrow that had struck him during the battle with the Yashidas, “Someone decided to send a little air mail into my neck and it says in plain Japanese that this is where we need to be!”

“Not to question your sudden fluency in Japanese, but ain’t that just a little too convenient?” Rogue pointed out.

“Well we won’t know until we find out, won’t we?” quipped Wolverine as he made his way to the edge of the roof.

“Wait Logan!” said Storm as she landed behind him, “Rogue is right. This doesn’t make sense. Why would those ninjas go through the trouble of attacking us only to provide us with the exact information they seemed so determined to guarding?”

“And before you say they’re just screwing with us, try and remember this is Weapon X we’re dealing with,” Shadowcat added, “They’re a lot of things, but they’re not stupid.”

Storm had a point and so did Shadowcat. It was too convenient. Weapon X wouldn’t just give them their location so he could hunt them all down. These Yakuza seemed just as intent. If they wanted him to find them, they wouldn’t have attacked in the first place. His fragmented memory only reinforced this notion. The Yashida Clan never attacked unless they were certain the first attack was the only attack.

Looking back down at the arrow with the message, Wolverine took a deep whiff of the arrow. The scent of cherry blossoms and lotus flowers still resonated strongly. They reminded him of two distinct memories, both of them women. One brought out feelings of peace while the other brought out feelings of rage. These scents were ingrained into his memory even if he couldn’t make the connections. This was one of those rare cases where instinct and reason came together.

“You’re both right. It doesn’t make sense,” he said in a gruff tone, “At least it wouldn’t if you assume those ninja dirtbacks were the ones that sent this message.”

“Ain’t that a reasonable assumption?” shrugged Gambit, “Who else could it be?”

“For once, you make a point that doesn’t make me wanna punch you, Gumbo. I don’t have an answer, but I do have a scent to follow.”

“Wait…do you mean to tell meh the only reason we’re here in factory land because we’ve been following your nose?!” said Rogue incredulously.

“Stripes, I can smell the booze on a man’s breath from a mile away! Don’t be making light of scents! It’s the strongest scent tied to memory and in this case it’s all I have to go on.”

“No one here doubts you’re tracking abilities, Logan. But if you have some idea of what we’re getting into, we need to know,” said Ororo calmly.

“The nose doesn’t lie, Ro,” said Wolverine as he took another whiff of the arrow, “This letter has a very special scent to it…a scent none of those ninjas had on them. Someone else was watching. Someone else has a stake in this battle.”

“So then why didn’t they show themselves?” asked Gambit.

“Maybe we’re not the only ones looking to take down Weapon X,” suggested Shadowcat, “Maybe someone knows we’re here and wants us to help them.”

“Somehow Ah doubt that’s possible. Weapon X ain’t the kind of folks that leave too many enemies sane enough to team up against ‘em,” scoffed Rogue.

“Trust me, Rogue. It’s possible! I can feel it!” snarled Wolverine.

The feral mutant clenched the arrow even harder. His expression tensed in a way not unlike he did before he entered a berserker rage. Storm tried to placate him, it did little to calm the former living weapon. He carried himself like a predator that knew he was being stalked. It was as if he could smell Weapon X close by.

These scents clearly had a great deal of personal significance. Storm promised early on in their relationship that she would face the mysteries of his past with him. When it put him in a state like this, it was much more difficult.

“The scent…it’s getting stronger!” he seethed as he kept inhaling the air around him.

“I know what you’re thinking, Logan,” said the African woman, “You want to jump right off this building and leave us behind while you take on your past by yourself.”

“The thought had crossed my mind,” muttered Wolverine.

“Well Try and resist it this time! I came along to be by your side. We all did,” she said, gesturing towards the rest of the team.

“Speak for yourself. You’re the one sleeping with him,” muttered Shadowcat under her breath.

“You once tried to describe to me the pain Weapon X put you through,” Ororo went on, “Nobody wants you to go through that again…especially someone who loves you. Like it or not, the best way to do that is to trust your friends and the woman currently sharing your bed.”

Her grip on him tightened, which kept Wolverine from escaping. That was something Storm did that Jeannie never managed. Storm would hold onto him, braving his temper in ways no sane woman would dare. It was part of why he was so drawn to her. Even though he wanted to just claw his way to his answers, he couldn’t push his lover away to do so.

“Ten bucks says Wolverine wings it anyways,” whispered Gambit.

“No deal,” said Shadowcat, scolding his words, “Storm’s got this.”

“She knows how to work her man, that’s for sure!” grinned Rogue.

Storm and Wolverine ignored their comments. The feral mutant finally turned back to face his lover. He was still seething, but he managed to maintain his focus. Storm smiled, offering him a tender gesture. She was about to lead him away from the edge so they could regroup. That’s when another unexpected message arrive.

Suddenly, they heard a distinct snikt. Only this time, it didn’t come from Wolverine.  In a split second, ten metal digits were thrust up from below and shot through the roof. They came within inches of striking Wolverine and Storm. Wolverine reacted swiftly, pushing his lover away from the menacing claws.

“Ro!” he exclaimed, instinctively getting out in front of her.

“Whoa! What was that?!” exclaimed Shadowcat as she, Gambit, and Rogue fell back as well.

“Someone’s here!” seethed Wolverine.

He was about to draw his claws. ThentThose same ten metal digits thrust up through the roof again, this time behind where Wolverine and Storm were standing. Again, they narrowly avoided them, but it further damaged the rooftop. Concrete and steel shattered as if it were made of wet clay. Within seconds a chunk of the roof crumbled, opening a gaping hole just wide enough for Wolverine and Storm to fall into.

“Wolverine! Stormy!” exclaimed Gambit.

“Too bad Ah didn’t take that bet,” muttered Rogue as she and the others rushed to the aid of their fellow teammates.

While the X-men gathered around the opening, Storm and Wolverine landed with a hard thud on the floor below the rooftop. It appeared they were in a utility bay just above the elevator shafts. Wolverine instinctively covered his lover with his body, shielding her from the falling debris. At the same time, he drew his claws. As soon as the debris stopped falling, he shook off the lingering chunks and took on a battle-ready stance.

“Stand back, darlin’! I got this!” he exclaimed.

“Ugh! Got what?” groaned Storm.

“Not what…who!” grunted Wolverine as he sniffed the air, “That scent…it was you! You’re the one that sent that message!”

In the darkened utility bay, it was hard to see who the feral mutant was addressing. Storm looked around. She definitely felt a presence nearby. It was menacing and ominous, lingering within the shadows.

“So you figured it out. You haven’t lost your touch, Wolverine,” said a dark, feminine voice with a thick Japanese accent, “Or should I call you Logan? Or maybe James?”

“Errrrrrr! Call me anything and I’ll call you dead!” spat Wolverine into the shadows.

“Oh come now. Is that anyway to treat family?”

“Lady, if you’re gonna tease me I prefer lap dances and tequila shots!” spat the feral mutant, “You went through the trouble to get me and my friends here! Now show yourself so I can decide how to cut you up!”

There was a brief, but tense silence. Wolverine sensed the presence move from the surrounding shadows. Whoever this was, they were nimble and quick. It was similar to the ninjas they faced back at the airport, but this one was much more skilled. He and Storm remained just under the hole in the roof, which offered the only source of light. The former living weapon followed the scent, scanning the area as he stood protectively over Storm. Finally, the mystery presence emerged from the shadows.

When Wolverine laid eyes on her, a sea of dormant memories came rushing back to him. She was a tall, toned Japanese woman with a hardened face that looked scarred from many battles. She was wearing a mix of yellow samurai armor and a red skin-tight ninja outfit. What was most defining was her arms. They looked freakishly elongated, having more tone than one would expect of a woman of her stature. Her hands were even more distinct. Instead of fingers, she had long metal claws that looked similar to his. His memory didn’t recall these features. He only recalled a name.

“Yuriko…” he said distantly.

“So you do remember!” she seethed, “Too bad Yuriko Oyama is gone. There is only Deathstrike now! That is all there has ever been since you took everything from me!”

“What the hell did I take? Your fashion sense?” said Wolverine in a fit of confusion.

“Don’t pretend like you’ve forgotten! My father…my sister…my whole family! They all suffered because of you!”

“Like I haven’t heard that before,” the feral mutant muttered, “Lady, you’ll have to be specific!”

“Then allow me to jar your memory! Hyyyaaaaaa!”

With a menacing screech, Deathstrike lunged towards Wolverine with murder in her eyes. The former living weapon took a defensive stance and tried to deflect her blow, only to be overwhelmed by her unexpected strength. It was as if her arms were couple of mini-cranes pushing back at him. He was shoved away from Storm and slammed right into a pile of old machine tools. As soon as she had him pinned, she tried to stab him with her claw-like fingers. Wolverine instinctively defended himself. But when her claws clashed with his they sparked instead of sheering, leaving them in an unexpected grapple.

“Errrrr…adamantium!” Wolverine surmised.

“You’re not the only one who has undergone upgrades!” spat Deathstrike, “I have also mastered my craft since our last battle!”

“Last battle…”

Deathstrike broke the grapple and attacked with a fury of acrobatic punches and kicks. Her speed and agility surprised Wolverine. He took a couple hard kicks to the face and was gashed severely along his face with her claw. Ignoring the blood that shot out from the wound, he countered by blocking the next claw swipe and getting in a solid kick. This slowed Deathstrike down, but only briefly. She pulled off an acrobatic back flip to regain her poise and attacked again, pulling off an impressive fury of spin moves. The only way Wolverine could counter this was to block the attacks with his own claws, but because she was so fast she got in a few gashes in his arm. More blood flowed, making him even woozier. As he fought off her attacks, something else happened that he didn’t expect.

More memories came coursing back to him. In a brief flash he no longer saw himself fighting a metal clawed woman in this darkened utility area. He saw himself back in that mysterious temple he remembered earlier. There was no Mariko this time. Instead it was just him and Yuriko, only she looked much younger and much more innocent. She was actually smiling, but showing every bit the toughness she was showing now.

“I am getting better, aren’t I Logan-san?”

“You’re on your way, Yuki. You actually landed a few blows this time. My jaw is still throbbing.”

“Just because you’re my sister’s lover doesn’t mean I’ll go easy on you. I need to be tough if I’m going to stand by my father’s side when the time comes.”

“The rate you’re going he would be crazy not to. Before I heal up, why don’t we go through it again? It’s only fair.”

“Do not use your healing as an excuse, Logan-san. Perhaps one day I’ll find a way to counter it. Now stand tall and face me again! Hyyyaaaaa!”

That menacing yell echoed both in the past and present as Wolverine endured a particularly harsh swipe to the shoulder. This time Deathstrike hit some arteries. More blood gushed out and he was really starting to feel it now.

“Ungh…Yurkio!” he seethed, “You’re making a mistake!”

“Are you really that oblivious?!” she exclaimed, “Do you think I will show you any mercy for ignorance?! Deathstrike knows no mercy!”

She launched another attack, showing off even more acrobatics as she skillfully leapedover Wolverine as he tried to defend himself. As soon as she landed, she dug her claws right into his back. This put Wolverine in a new world of pain. He let out a deafening howl as more memories came rushing back to him.

This time they were more vivid. He remembered running from something. He was back in his old Weapon X gear. He wasn’t sure where he was. This may not even be a memory. It felt more like a dream, running through a dark corridor forged in the depths of his own madness. But as he ran he came across something ominous. Just up in front of him were three distinct figures. One was a young woman who appeared to be hovering over an older man and another young woman who looked to be about her age. The woman was crying while the man and the other woman lay deathly still. The man was covered in blood, his body covered in distinct claw marks. The woman was equally still, her eyes still open but vacant of any signs of life.

When he saw this, Wolverine stopped running and looked upon he ghastly scene. He recognized both figures. One belonged to a man from Weapon X. The other belonged to the woman he had been walking with in the cherry blossoms. It was Mariko, a woman he used to love. Looking down at his claws he saw that they were dripping with blood. It was the blood of these victims and in that moment he felt a wave of regret. Then the other woman looked up at him with a mix of sorrow and hatred. It was Yuriko. What she said echoed through his memory in a way that few things could.

“YOU KILLED THEM! YOU KILLED MY SISTER! YOU KILLED MY FATHER! YOU’RE A MONSTER, LOGAN! YOU WILL DIE FOR THIS!”

When Wolverine came crashing back into the present, it all made sense. The pain of his memories now matched the pain of his body. Yuriko was right. He had taken everything from her.

As these ominous memories haunted him, Deathstrike twisted her claws which were still dug into his back. This caused more blood to shoot out. The pain he was in brought a supreme satisfaction to the enraged woman. It was just a fraction of the pain this man deserved.

“Do you remember now, Wolverine? The treachery that makes you so deserving of this agony?” she whispered into his ear as she twisted her claws.

“Yeah…I remember,” grunted Wolverine through the pain, “I also remember…you got lousy grip!”

Gritting his teeth, the feral mutant ignored the pain and roughly reached behind to grab Deathstrike by the head. As soon as he had her in his grip, he roughly threw her with all his strength over his head and into a pile of heavy utility equipment. This removed Deathstrike’s claws in the process, but not without leaving some bloody wounds. Even with his healing factor, they were going to take some time to recover. Clutching his bloody torso, Wolverine fell to his knees.

While he was stunned, Deathstrike landed awkwardly on the heavy equipment and caused some moderate bruises. But she was completely oblivious to pain at this point. Her focus was solely on vengeance. With her claws still dripping with his blood, she prepared another attack.

“You haven’t lost your touch, Wolverine,” she sneered, “But you cannot defeat me! I know your every weakness! So long as there is a breath in my body, I will see to it that you die by my hands!”

“Hnn…get in line,” groaned a woozy Wolverine.

Deathstrike charged her wounded foe at full speed. She raised her claws, preparing the drive it right into his head. Only this time, she did not reach him. Just as she was about to strike him, two glowing playing cards struck right at her elbow. As soon as they hit they exploded, literally blowing her arm right off. Only it didn’t blow off flesh and bone. It blew the cybernetic machinery that made up her arm.

“Ahhhhhhhhhh!” she yelled as she clutched the exposed wires around her shoulder.

“A cyborg femme?” said Gambit, who had thrown the card, “Can’t say Remy was expecting that.”

“Don’t tell meh you’re surprised, sugah,” said Rogue, who was standing next to him.

“When it comes to pretty femmes, there ain’t too many things that surprise Remy.”

Stunned, Deathstrike turned to face a new series of foes. While she and Wolverine were fighting, the X-men had caught up with her. Rogue, Gambit, and Shadowcat descended through the hole Deathstrike created and met up with the still dazed Storm. Shadowcat and Rogue helped her up while Gambit took in the fight unfolding before them. As soon as it turned against Wolverine, he made his move. Unfortunately, losing an arm wasn’t enough to stop Deathstrike.

“Errrrrrr! You dare help this monster?!” she seethed.

“Do not call my boyfriend a monster!” said a dazed and angry Storm, “Not unless you’re prepared to deal with me!”

Shaking off help from Rogue and Shadowcat, Storm summoned formed a small cloud above her and unleashed a powerful lightning bolt right at Deathstrike. Thanks to her metal cybernetics there was no avoiding it. She was struck right in the arm, sending a surge of electricity through her body. Her face contorted in pain as she fell to the floor next to Wolverine.

“Whoa…I never thought Storm could be so badass!” commented Shadowcat.

“Sugah, never underestimate a woman ready to defend her man,” grinned Rogue.

“That a warning or an offer?” quipped Remy, which earned him a bemused look.

Keeping a close eye on Deathstrike, Storm and the others rushed towards Wolverine’s aid. He was still bleeding, but his healing was already kicking in. He soon had the strength to draw his claws and confront the angry woman before him.

“Logan wait…” urged Storm as he shook off her support.

“No darlin’! This can’t wait!” he said as he knelt down and grabbed Deathstrike by the neck, “I remember now! Yuriko Oyama…daughter of Kenji Oyama.”

“Don’t you dare utter those names!” spat Deathstrike, “That life ended long ago for both of us!”

“What life?! Tell me! I need to know!”

“The fact you don’t remember only adds to your dishonor! I’ll never give you the satisfaction by revealing the truth!”

“So why go through all the trouble to lure me here? There are easier ways to kill a man!” spat Wolverine.

“Who said I wanted to kill you?” she said with an ominous grin.

Wolverine looked at her strangely. Then to his surprise, she reached into a small pocket on her waist with her remaining arm and pulled out a small remote control. It looked like a detonator of sorts, which could only have so many uses in a place like this.

“Oh no, that better not be what I think it is!” dreaded Shadowcat.

“Don’t even think about running!” she warned, “I packed the top level of this building with enough explosives to level the whole block!”

“Sneaky bitch! I should’ve known you were gonna fight extra dirty!” yelled Wolverine, gripping her neck harder.

“Yes…you should have,” she said snidely, “You and I can heal. We may yet survive the blast. But are you willing to risk the well being of your friends and your new fuck toy?”

Wolverine snarled as he looked angrily at Deathstrike and then back up at Storm, Shadowcat, Rogue, and Gambit. She had a point. Storm and Rogue may be able to get away while Shadowcat could phase Gambit to safety, but if the blast was big enough that wasn’t a guaranteed. His old self may have been willing to take that risk. As an X-man, however, he couldn’t go through with it.

“Don’t call her bluff, homme! We can take it!” said Gambit.

“If you’re tryin’ to be macho, a bomb threat ain’t the time, sugah!” said Rogue.

“Shut up, you two! We don’t need bombs going off…Not yet anyways,” said Wolverine as he turned his attention back to Deathstrike, “So you weren’t trying to kill me. You were just looking to put me in a world of hurt for fun, eh?”

“I have my reasons, but some acts could be considered bonuses,” she grinned.

“Cut the bullshit, Yuriko! I remember you being arrogant, not stupid! Now tell us what this is about so I know how many more limbs I’ll need to cut!”

“As if you could,” scoffed Deathstrike.

The Japanese woman watched as Wolverine seethed over her. She saw in him a man as confused as he was angry. He was quite different from the man she remembered, but he was still the same monster. She had her fun with him, but this ordeal involved far more than just causing this man pain. It was time he learned the cold truth behind his dishonor.

“Mmy goal is and always has been vengeance,” she said, “Vengeance against you…vengeance against all those who destroyed my family! That is why what I’m about to do has been a long time coming! And you, the one they call Shiroi Akuma, are going to be part of it!”

Next Issue: The Lotus and the Warrior Part 3

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