23 Years Ago
Ohinata Industries' corporate headquarters, a monolith of glass and steel, rose into the pre-dawn Tokyo skyline. Moonlight reflecting off the waters of Tokyo Bay shined into the high-rise. The executive boardroom on the building's top floor opened into a flourishing botanical haven at the center of which rested a helicopter landing pad. Tomino Ohinata, the CEO and namesake of his company, sat at the head of the long, oak conference table.
The signs of age—thinning, white hair and wrinkling skin—on Ohinata didn't identify weakness. Instead, they accentuated the wisdom emanating from the man's eyes. Dim light illuminated the table where Ohinata rested his folded hands. Men—bodyguards—in suits lined along the wall in the surrounding darkness. Directly behind and to Ohinata's left stood another, an American, whose face stayed cold and impassive.
The elevator chimed and its big doors slid open to reveal a lone occupant whose presence belied a menacing fury. In his right hand, he held a sheathed katana—the weapon of samurai—and strands of black hair stuck to his sweaty forehead. He breathed laboriously, clearly fatigued.
"I've been expecting you, Kaneda-san," stated Ohinata's gravelly voice. If he felt any fear, it could not be evidenced in his speech.
The man called Kaneda stepped out of the elevator slowly and with deliberate intent. His thumb rested against the sword's hand guard. He surveyed the entire conference room and the armed bodyguards in the shadows, yet his eyes seemed to never deviate from Ohinata.
His sword was drawn before Ohinata's bodyguards could react. And by the time they'd readied their weapons, the first of them was on his knees, hands at his neck in an attempt to stop the jets of blood shooting from his jugular vein. One by one, he cut them down, proving nigh impossible to shoot in the conference room's darkened areas.
After killing the first, Kaneda scavenged his victim's loaded pistol firing in a wide, sweeping arc. Muzzle flashes lit the room's shadowy corners and displayed Kaneda's propensity for dealing death. Two body guards ate rounds of semi-automatic lead and another cried out in agony as his arm, severed just below the shoulder, falls to the ground.
Ohinata remained unfazed, flinching not once as Kaneda cut a swathe through his guards. The man at Ohinata's flank, too, remained still and silent as the assassin killed and killed and killed.
The gunfire ceased and splotches of red stained the room.
Kaneda stepped over the corpse of one of his victims and flicked their blood from the edge of his katana before returning it to its sheath. He stalked toward Ohinata, his sheathed weapon gripped loosely in his right hand.
Ohinata looked at the killer in front of him, the expression on his face unchanging.
"I know why you are here, Kaneda-san. You must know it will not succeed."
The elder gentleman motioned back to the American behind him with his eyes.
"And you, Ohinata-sama," Kaneda began, his voice deep and reverent, "know that I have no choice."
In the blink of an eye, Kaneda drew his blade with the intention of beheading his target with one deft attack. His sword met steel—the long, narrow barrel of an old six-shooter, the Colt Single Action Army. And his eyes met another pair of eyes; these belonged the American.
"I can't let you do this, Kaneda," the American said in English through clinched teeth, the barrel of his pistol the only deterrent between Kaneda's blood-thirsty blade and the neck of an old man. Kaneda regarded the American with a narrow stare.
"Nani desu ka?" What are you doing?
The American, Flinders, responded in English, "The same thing you would do if you were asked to sit idly while your Oyabun is assassinated.
A smirk traced itself on Kaneda's lips as he pressured down against Flinders' gun.
"Flinders-san, a warrior cannot serve two masters."
"No. He can only stay true to his sense of honor."
Kaneda's grip on his katana tightened. "The only place for warriors such as we to maintain honor is in the realm of combat. Show me your honor, brother."
Flinders parried the blade away, forcing Kaneda back. He squeezed the trigger on his pistol in his right hand while his left hand found the gun's hammer and cocked it back in quick succession, unloading the .45 caliber rounds in a simulated fully-automatic burst. Kaneda was already on the defensive, batting away two rounds with an upward slice of his Katana and then vanishing into the room's darkness.
Flinders discarded the Single Action Army and pulled an M1911 from its holster. He took aim at a stationary silhouette and his index finger tensed on the trigger.
Two shots. Two misses.
Kaneda and Flinders quickly leapt up on to the conference room table Kaneda's blade and Flinders' gun clashed. Scored with sporadic gunfire and the grating of metal on metal, a deadly ballet—move and counter, attack and parry—raged on the large table.
The pace drew frantic and the ballet faltered as a stray round grazed Kaneda across the cheek. Kaneda stepped back and resumed his attack, slicing downward and cutting Flinders' thigh. Ignoring the pain, Flinders charged, meeting Kaneda's sword with his own gun. Kaneda countered, batting Flinders' right arm back with a vicious cross slice knocking both his own weapon and Flinders' away.
Not allowing the duel into a lull, Flinders slid a throwing knife from his sleeve and flicked it with a jerk of his wrist. Kaneda batted it down and stalked toward his opponent, unloading on him with a furious barrage of punches that penetrated Flinders' defensive shell. Flinders, now dazed, couldn't see the high kick coming from his blind side.
Unable to maintain his balance, Flinders fell from the table. Kaneda flipped off the table after him. Without any warning, Flinders shot to his feet, cutting upward with Kaneda's fallen blade.
A deep incision—from his cheek, through his eye, to his scalp—on the left side of Kaneda's face filled with a river of liquid crimson. He staggered back, placing a hand on the dripping wound. With only one eye, he could not hope to win this fight.
Flinders pointed the bloodied tip of the katana at the retreating Kaneda. "Go," he said, his voice cold. "I will allow you to keep your life, brother. Go, and report your failure. Tell them what happened here. Tell them you were bested by me."
Kaneda remained quiet as he stumbled back into the elevator, never taking his good eye off of the American who had just handed him his defeat. With a chime, the elevator had begun its descent.
Flinders dropped to one knee, propping himself up with the katana. He looked over his shoulder back at Ohinata who had finally risen from his seat at the head of the table. Fighting back to his feet, the American turned to face the approaching elder whose expression belied sincere anguish. He could not meet Ohinata's glare, for he knew his dishonor to have been far too great.
Flinders hung his head low in shame and knelt before his benefactor, the man whom he, too, had been expected to betray. Bowing solemnly and with the sword resting in both hands, Flinders offered the older man the weapon. Not bearing to gaze up at him, the younger man spoke, sadness in his words.
"If you believe me to be an enemy, command me. And I will take my life."
A single tear traced down Ohinata's cheek and he nodded once.
Only now did Flinders bring his head up, both hands holding the sword's grip. He stabbed down and into his stomach and with his last act, pulled to the right. Flinders' body fell forward lifelessly and into a pool of his own blood.
"Your honor," Ohinata began, "has now been restored, my son."