by Mark Patraw
Homepage: Mark's Art Page
Three, long weeks had passed since Galford had faced his evil twin in deadly combat, and he was growing restless; they all were. Hanzo claimed that he had a plan to counter his mirror image's elemental powers, but thus far, he had not deigned to share it with Galford or anyone else.
"Samurai Shodown Forever" is a non-profit fan site. Samurai Shodown, Samurai Showdown, Samurai Spirits are Copyrights of SNK. Most of the images here are taken from SNK homepage. No part of this webpage may be reproduced in any form or by any
means, without permission from C.K. Gan. This page is best view with I.E. 5 or Netscape 4 at
No one had heard anything of the evil one's activities or whereabouts either. He had simply vanished. No more murders, no storms, nothing. It was frustrating to say the least.
On the upside, the uneasy waiting game had given them all time to heal. He was still sore and there were scars, but Galford was close to a hundred percent again. Nakoruru, Rimururu and Poppy had made much speedier recoveries, although Nakoruru was more withdrawn than she had ever been before…something that troubled Galford greatly as of late. He felt like she was hiding something from him, which wasn't like her at all.
The same could not be said for Mamahaha. They all hoped the badly burned eagle would make a full recovery, but it was still very uncertain. Nakoruru periodically tried to use her healing skills to mend the bird, but they didn't have much effect. "Her insides are burned more than her outsides, Galford, and I don't know how to fix them." She would tell him, tears glistening at the corners of her eyes.
Three weeks had passed, but his thirst for justice had not waned a bit. If Hanzo didn't tip his hand soon, Galford would begin his quest for that bastard "brother" of his without the Iga master's secret plan to aid him.
What's going through that crafty mind of yours, Hanzo? I wish I knew.
As usual, the Iga Lord was motionless, betraying no emotion or any sign that he was even alive. The only thing that set him apart from being mistaken for a black statue of stone were his eyes, always alive and piercing like knives; they saw everything.
Galford sat bare-chested and cross-legged next to Hanzo in the sandy dirt nestled around the frozen-gray hillside. Poppy had wanted to join them, but Galford sensed that Hanzo had wanted him, and him alone, for company today, so he had ordered her to stay with Nakoruru. The two, gai-jin ninja and ninja master, silently watched the young Iga trainees before them being put through their paces by Ruoh and another mature Iga, Yuzo.
Again and again the young men meticulously followed the commands of Ruoh and Yuzo flawlessly. They were like a well-oiled machine, each movement simultaneously executed in tune with their brother's. It was a graceful dance and Galford's mind began to lose itself in the heavy mid-day heat and the hypnotic movements of the Iga initiates.
And then one of the youngest faltered and executed the incorrect fighting stance. Ruoh and Yuzo fell upon him instantly, berating him loudly in front of the other students and sending him off to perform a most unpleasant task as punishment.
Galford's heart went out to the young ninja hopeful as the boy slunk away in embarrassment. He had felt that burning shame himself many times during the harsh early years of his training as well, but the discipline paid off in the long run…if you survived. There were always a few boys who couldn't cut it, and failure was not well tolerated in Japan…
"Enough of this. Galford, come." Hanzo commanded as he instantly rose and began to stride purposefully towards the inner passages and walkways that lead to the heart of the Iga's great fortress. The whole structure really was a marvel; half of it had painstakingly been dug into the small mountain's southern side. It had taken many generations to complete the labor, or so Hanzo told him. The other, exposed half of the Iga's base-of-operations, was a "false" town. To the casual observer, the whole settlement appeared to be nothing more than a small, mountain village, which was exactly what Hattori Hanzo and his forefathers wanted strangers to think.
They passed many other Iga as they marched deeper into the mountain. Most of them bowed their heads slightly as Hanzo passed and gave Galford dirty looks as soon as the ninja master's back was to them. Few of the other Iga trusted him; he was a foreigner and always would be to them. In fact, without Hanzo's protection, Galford was certain he would have woken with a dagger in his throat years ago… None of the ninja who hated him dared to touch him while the fearsome Hanzo lived; his response would be immediate and fatal, and they all knew it.
At last the obsidian one stopped and turned to face Galford.
It was the blacksmith's armory. Galford was glad his chest was bare; he knew from experience just how hot it got inside a smithery.
Hanzo pushed aside the heavy, leather curtain covering the door and was bathed in flickering, red-yellow light as he entered. Galford followed.
He choked on smoke as he peered through the red-veiled dimness. Metal clanked, and water hissed. All of the Iga here had stripped to their loincloths, even the women, there was no other way to work in the heat. Blades and other metal fabrications hung on the walls and lay on the benches in different states of completion. There were enough weapons here to arm an entire fiefdom of samurai, but still the Iga toiled, creating even more.
Hanzo pointed to a barely visible door far in the back. Carefully, they made their way to it amidst the steam and sweaty bodies.
The ninja master deftly performed a series of knocks on the door, and a panel slid open, revealing a pair of bloodshot eyes, which scrutinized them anxiously.
"Who's there? If that's you again, Miko, I'll… Oh! A thousand apologies! Come in, Master Hanzo, come in! I'm finally finished!"
The door slid open noiselessly; it was well oiled. Hanzo and Galford stepped into the small chamber and the gate slid shut again behind them. The air was amazingly cool in the cluttered shop, a great relief compared to the boiling inferno outside.
"This is Old Jung, a master weapons-smith from China." Hanzo gestured at the short, portly fellow who had let them in. Jung smiled cautiously at Galford with his toothless mouth. "He served my father well during his time, and now he does the same for me. His talented eyes and hands have few equals in all of Japan."
Old Jung bowed deeply, first to Hanzo and then to Galford.
"You honor me, master Hanzo! But I fear you make too much of my humble talents."
A faint glimmer of understanding began to form in Galford's mind. Hanzo must have had a special weapon created, but what kind of weapon? He scanned the jumbled heaps and unfamiliar shapes that lay about, trying to discover it.
The ninja lord seemed to sense Galford's unspoken questions.
"Do you remember the savages, Tam Tam and Cham Cham, Galford?"
Galford did. A strange duo, the elder brother, Tam Tam, had been huge and always wore a fearsome, red, demon's mask; Galford had never seen his true face. The younger sister, Cham Cham, had spiky, green hair that shot out everywhere and catlike attributes and reflexes. Despite their wild appearances, they had both been very friendly and a great asset in battle.
"After you, Nakoruru, Rimururu and their Grandmother told me your stories, I began to think about your dilemma. And then, the answer came to me, at least partly. I spent several evenings talking to Tam Tam and Cham Cham when they were here in Japan years ago, questioning them about the place they come from, Green Hell. One night, Tam Tam mentioned a special type of tree that grows in their homeland. This tree yields a sticky sap that has interesting physical properties. The sap is extremely flexible and it can stretch to terrific lengths and shapes. Their people call it Rub-bhar. It has one other magical attribute..."
"And what's that?" Galford asked, curious to know where this story was leading.
"It protects against the fire of the gods!!!" Old Jung blurted out enthusiastically. He immediately wilted under Hanzo's stern gaze; the ninja was not fond of being interrupted.
"Yes…thank you Jung…but to what extent, we don't know. The girl, Cham Cham, has a strange…um…hobby, I guess you'd say. She likes to catch electric eels for fun. Frequently, these eels would give her a shocking burn similar to what you experienced, although much weaker. Her father had a pair of special gloves created made out of this Rub-bhar substance to guard her during her "games". They completely protected Cham Cham from the unpleasant effects of touching the eels, at least for awhile…"
"What happened?" Galford wondered. If what Hanzo said about this sap was true…
"She intentionally "lost" them soon after. It seems the real reason she loves hunting the eels is that she actually likes the sensation that their attacks bring… A very strange girl indeed, I don't envy her father…" Hanzo shook his head in disbelief.
And the Japanese thought he was strange? Geez, Cham Cham was crazier than he thought. Ah well, different people had different notions of fun, and Cham Cham was definitely different, Galford chuckled to himself.
"That's all well and good, Hanzo, but what good is this sap going to do us if it's half way around the world? It'll take me months to sail there and back, if I can even find it."
"Ah, but I already have a barrel of the sap. I've had it for some time. After hearing about all the strange and wonderful things in Green Hell, I had to see it for myself. A little more than two years ago, a small contingent of Iga and myself sailed back to Tam Tam and Cham Cham's country with them when they departed Japan. It was a wondrous place, and I wish I could have stayed longer. But anyway, we took many things from Green Hell back with us to study, including a barrel of that sap."
Galford was impressed. He had not even known Hanzo was gone. Hey, wait a minute! He'd seen Hanzo many times during the period in which his supposed "voyage" had taken place; the ninja was lying, he had to be.
Hanzo chuckled, again knowing Galford's thoughts before he even had time to think them.
"It is a simple thing to dress up another Iga of my size and stature to take my place when I am away, Galford. It is easy to play me. You just walk around, head straight and standing tall, and grunt a lot without saying anything of importance."
Galford smiled and laughed as well.
"Well, you, or whoever was pretending to be you, certainly had me fooled!"
The old Chinese smith coughed, interrupting them.
"Oh, yes, sorry. Jung will take over from here." Hanzo said, composing himself, all business again.
"Yes, well, thank you, master Hanzo. The first thing we did was to construct a kite out of this Rub-bhar material and send it up into a storm to test its power. The kite was struck by a blast of the gods' fire, and it blackened and burned some, but was not destroyed. I had never seen the likes of it! Anyway, I think it will defend you from this enemy of yours, but not from a direct bolt of lightning itself. So, you must be careful. It will afford you some protection, but not complete invulnerability against this creature. Eels are one thing, the power of the storm itself, something else entirely."
Galford nodded to show he understood. At last, he had the tools to exact justice. All he had to do now was find the fiend…
"So, do I just rub this stuff on, or what?"
"Oh, no! No!" Jung and Hanzo laughed together. The old man quickly hobbled to the back of the room and pulled away a dusty curtain. There were three stone figures, shaped like men, behind it. Each was covered with a pale, brownish/pink sheath.
"See? I have constructed three suits of the stuff! Just wear it under your clothes or armor, and you'll be all set. A word of warning though, it gets bastardly hot with one of those things on…" Jung grinned impishly, proud of his handy work.
"Alright!!! Now, we're talking." Galford smiled, rubbing his hands together satisfactorily. Three suits, one for him…and two others, but for whom? He turned to Hanzo.
"Yes, I will be accompanying you on this hunt, Galford-san. The third party I will leave up to you, Nakoruru perhaps?"
"I don't know, maybe. I'll ask her, but I'm not sure she'll want to confront HIM again."
"I understand. There is yet one other matter, Galford."
"Oh, and what's that?"
A chill ran up Galford's spine for no reason. He intuitively knew he wasn't going to like what the ninja master had to say.
"We cannot kill your evil doppelganger, we must capture him alive, at all costs."
"Why?" Galford asked incredulously. He wasn't a big fan of killing himself, but they couldn't let this…thing live. HE was just too dangerous.
"Because, I fear the creature spoke the truth. You are both shadows of the same sun, Galford. You're half a man, you both are. If he dies, so will you. Not at first, but you will slowly fade away without him, and he without you…"
"WHAT?! That's garbage! We're nothing alike! He's not connected to me in any way!"
Galford couldn't even believe what he was hearing, and coming from Hanzo's mouth no less!
"Listen to me, Galford, he is. Do you remember? He told you he was the part of you that you didn't want anymore, which confirmed my suspicions."
"How do you know that? What suspicions? You've never even seen or met the devil! I'm telling you, Hanzo, you're wrong!"
"No, Galford, I'm not. Listen to me and mark my words well. Most men come to terms with their inner demons, or they let those demons consume them. You have done neither in your life. You became so obsessed with the concepts of good and justice that you suppressed any and all inklings of the darker side of your spirit. Over the years, you've pushed them farther and farther down into your soul, burying them until you couldn't feel them anymore. But you can't kill what won't die, Galford. Those feelings are a vital part of you; they're a part of all of us, no matter how much we may dislike it. You wouldn't let them live, so now they've taken on a life of their own. I'm sorry, Galford. I have no idea how this dark side of you gained a foothold in the real world, but it did, and we have to put it back where it belongs."
"In me, right?"
"NO!!! I don't believe it! I won't believe it! That isn't me! I wouldn't do those things. You know it! I know it!"
"Yes, you wouldn't, but HE would. And HE isn't inside of you anymore where you can temper and control HIM. If only you had possessed the courage to confront…"
"So, I'm a coward now?"
"In the respect that you would not face and accept the darkness within you, yes."
Galford couldn't take it anymore. Hanzo just stood there, calm as the sea, telling him that everything that had transpired was his fault, even if only indirectly.
"What's wrong with you, Hanzo? All the time that I've known you, you've always been so wise. And now, when I really need you, you feed me a load of dung! Well, I don't need you! I'll deal with HIM by myself, and I'll do it without your crazy tree sap too!!!"
Galford stormed out of the room, the heat and red light momentarily illuminating Hanzo and Jung as the door slid open and closed with a slam.
"That didn't go well, did it?" Jung whispered, scratching the gray stubble on his chin thoughtfully, as he studied the stone ceiling, avoiding Hanzo's gaze.
"No, it did not. But, that's to be expected. I doubt you or I would deal with the situation any better. Galford's angry right now, but he's a good lad, he'll see the truth of my words soon enough."
At least you'd better, Galford, Hanzo thought darkly to himself. It will pain me greatly to do it, but if I must, I will personally destroy both of you to end this madness, once and for all…before it's too late.