“I’m Wolverine. I’m the best there is at what I do. But what I do best isn’t very nice.”
Climbing up a mountainside in the Canadian Rockies, this is home to Wolverine. The land is as stark and elemental as his soul. He’s here on business. To hunt and kill. Like he said, what he does best. Once he reaches the top of the mountain, he thinks back that he picked up the trail yesterday and just before dawn, found the latest examples of his handiwork. Two Mounties, or what was left of them anyway. They were good men. Experienced, well armed, careful. They never had a chance.
At that point, Wolverine notices that the wind has shifted during his climb. His prey knows he’s coming and he’s confused, probably a little scared. He’s not used to being challenged on his own turf. Wolverine figures that he’ll wait for him to make the first move. If he walks by, he’ll charge out after him. He doesn’t want that, there’s too much risk of him escaping again. He may be mad, but he isn’t stupid.
Wolverine gets to the opening of the cave and realizes that there’re no other exits and these signs are hours old. His prey is most likely sleeping off his last meal. Wolverine takes the time to look, listen, smell and wait. Unfortunately he can’t pinpoint him the caves too deep with too many branch passages. It’s perfect for an ambush. It’s better if he lets him come to him. Just then, he hears a roar - a challenge. Wolverine smiles as it won’t be long now.
It doesn’t take long at all, as he looks up to see yellow eyes peering at him through the darkness. He now sees his prey - a big and mean grizzly bear. There’s no more fearsome or deadly creature on Earth, save for Wolverine. The bear’s claws gleam in the half-light but so do his. They’re forged of pure adamantium. The strongest metal known. Unbreakable and razor-sharp, they cut through steel like paper. His skeleton is laced with the same stuff, which means it can withstand virtually any amount of punishment. It’s an asset in his line of work. By birth, he’s a mutant, by profession for a time he was a secret agent. Now by choice, he’s a super hero, one of the uncanny X-Men.
Wolverine pops his claws and lops one of the bear’s arms off at the elbow. It is a crippling blow, mortally wounding him. Wolverine wants this over quickly but dying is a long way from being dead. The bear howls. It’s more rage than pain. It lunges at Wolverine. Wolverine hits him again, this time slashing the bear in the stomach. The bear doesn’t seem to realize how badly he is hurt. Because of that he’s becoming a true berserker, his fury giving him a terrible, almost irresistible power and endurance. Wolverine wishes there was another way, but there isn’t. He leaps onto the bear and drives his claws into the bear’s neck, killing him instantly.
Once he is dead, Wolverine notices there is an arrow in his back. It has an illegal barbed point that is coated with poison. The dosage didn’t kill, though. Instead, it drove the bear insane. The hunter could have kept after him, finishing him off. But the creep couldn’t be bothered. He figured his gunk would do the job for him. He was wrong. Seven men, three women, and five kids paid the price for his stupidity. He as much as murdered him. Now’s the time to balance the books.
Some time later, Wolverine arrives at Josie’s bar ‘n’ grill in the town of Coalspur, fifty-seven miles away in a straight line from the bear’s den. He followed the hunter the same way he did the bear: by scent. There was a residue left on the arrow. He back-trailed the bear to where he’d been shot and then followed the hunter from there. It wasn’t easy, even for his enhanced senses. He’s been on the road for days but the grief is worth it, he’s struck pay dirt.
Wolverine approaches a man at the bar and places his hand on his shoulder. The hunter asks Wolverine what he wants. Wolverine informs him that they’re going to have a talk, the hunter, Wolverine and the Mounties about a bear he shot a fortnight ago. The hunter, seemingly not to be bothered, indicates that he doesn’t think Wolverine will be talking to anybody, especially after he’s finished stomping his face. He then smacks Wolverine in the face with his beer glass, knocking him to the ground. As Wolverine pulls himself up, he tells the guy that he was hoping he would do something like that. Even though the bear lasted longer, he let this guy live.
Mariko Yashida is the daughter of one of the noblest, richest, most powerful families in Japan. She can trace her lineage back almost 2,000 years. Wolverine knows his father, that’s as far as it goes. From the moment they met, he lover her and she loved him. Isn’t like a crock??? In Canada, Wolverine gave his deposition and saw the hunter bound over for trial before heading stateside to the X-Men’s secret headquarters near New York. Once there, he found a pile of mail waiting for him - all of the letters he had sent Mariko were returned unopened. He phoned her embassy and they said she’d been summoned back to Japan weeks ago. He called her home and they hung up on him - bad move. Japan airlines 007 leaves Kennedy airport the following morning for Anchorage, Alaska, and Tokyo. He’s on it.
Once in Japan, Logan plans on handling this on his own. The local spooks have other ideas. He got nailed at immigration by Asano Kimura, one of their top people and a friend of Wolverine’s. Back then, they ran more than their share of dirty missions together before he quit the trade. They owe each other their lives more than a couple of times over.
In a lavish apartment Asano informs Logan that his presence in Tokyo is making a number of very august personages very nervous and as always his reputation precedes him. Logan responds that that is tough. He calls again to try to reach Mariko. Once he gets nowhere, he tells Asano that he is being stonewalled. Asano indicates that of course he is. While Logan is more truly Japanese than any westerner he has ever known, even he doubt that Logan can really understand Mariko’s actions. He continues that, if Logan remembers, she is heir to traditions of duty and loyalty that are as old as the islands.
Logan asks if she is in trouble. Asano replies that if she is, she is beyond his help. To that, Logan responds - bull. Asano then informs Logan that Mariko is married. Asano tells Logan about what happened. Mariko’s father disappeared years ago during her childhood and was believed dead. He recently surfaced and reclaimed his rightful place as head of her family and clan. Evidently, he incurred some great obligation, the payment of which was Mariko’s hand in marriage. Logan angrily breaks a lamp with his fist and asks if she agreed just like that. Besides, she loves him.
Asano responds that they speak of giri, of obligation, duty, honor. To deny that would mean denying her essential self. She would rather die. Logan responds that he can’t live without her. Asano replies that he must learn that she is lost to him. Undeterred, Logan informs him that he has to see her. Asano asks him why? To hurt her all the more? She will answer neither his letters or his telephone calls. He recommends Logan to respect her silence and leave her be. If she feels for him as he says she does, then this marriage has broken her heart too. Confronting her will only make things worse.
Logan, having none of this, changes into his brown and tan costume. What Asano said is maybe the case, but it’s something he has to do. Asano informs Logan that he no longer has official status or special privileges as agent or X-Man. Should he step outside the law, he cannot help him. He may be forced to hunt him down. Storming out of the apartment, Logan informs him that he’s welcome to try and he will be seeing him around.
The Yashida ancestral stronghold stands in the hills overlooking the port city of Agarashima, in Miyago Prefecture, roughly 300 clicks up the road from Tokyo. Wolverine arrives there by midnight. Once there, he encounters some dogs. They are new and don’t know his scent. They’re killers, but so is he. They lock eyes and wills, communicating on levels far more comprehensive and subtle than speech. They’re mean but they aren’t stupid. They let him pass. Which is good, Wolverine doesn’t have the stomach for gutting animals. People, though, is another matter. As Wolverine scales the wall, he thinks to himself that the night is too quiet, too still. He doesn’t like it. As he enters the house, he thinks of the bear’s den. The settings have a lot in common. He looks for a trap but no luck. The place is clean. That only makes him more wary.
In the garden, beneath a giant statue of Buddha, Wolverine finds Mariko. He calls out to her and Mariko responds that he has come at last but it is too late. Wolverine informs her that he came as soon as he heard and calls her Mariko-chan. Mariko informs him that he is not to call her by that, he has no right. She then asks whey he is there. She hoped and prayed never to see him again. Wolverine tells her that she owes him an explanation. Mariko responds that she is married and what was once between them is no more. Wolverine tells her that he won’t accept that. Mariko responds that he must. Like her, he has no choice.
Wolverine tells her to at least turn around and face him. She can at least have the courage to face him. Mariko turns around and the left side of her face is bruised and battered. She asks Wolverine if he is satisfied now. She then tells him to go before he shames her any further. When Wolverine asks who did this, the answer he gets is that it is none of his concern. Hearing this, Wolverine starts to go into a rage, the blood is boiling from within him. He only starts to calm down a little when Mariko touches his hand. Wolverine asks Mariko to come with him. The response he gets is that she cannot. He continues that any court in the land will grant her a divorce. Mariko responds that she will not ask for one. Wolverine tells her that he loves her. Mariko indicates that she loves him but she is also bound by far more important obligations.
Mariko leads Wolverine into a room where she shows him some swords. She informs him that these blades were crafted by the supreme sword smith, Masamune, and are as keen, as strong, as deadly today as when he forged them over 800 years ago. They are the soul of her family. All that they were and are yet to be are represented by those two swords. They are a tradition of duty and honor. Her commitment to him was made when she was free. He father’s return changed that. Wolverine asks her if she is his property, to be used in payment of a debt? He then tells her that she is a human being!!! Mariko agrees but says that if her father in honor gave his solemn word, then she as his daughter am honor-bound to not forswear him. She continues that if Wolverine cannot comprehend and accept that, he does not truly know her at all. Or Nippon.
As she is talking, Wolverine hears footsteps and a scent he’s never smelt before tonight yet it is one he recognizes instantly. It clings to Mariko, tainting the jasmine that he loves. It is a man, her husband. The man walks into the room to find Wolverine and Mariko talking. He angrily asks what Mariko what she is doing there!?! She was told to await for him in their apartment. If she is determined to defy him, she leaves him no choice but to continue to chastise her until she learns, once and for all, her proper place. With that, Wolverine grabs the man by the throat and lifts him into the air. On the other hand, he pops his claws. He then informs this “man” that he has just signed his death warrant!!! <>
Mariko calls out to him to stop!!!! She tells him that, for the love he bears her, he should not harm him. Wolverine responds that he deserves it and, if he doesn’t put a stop to it, he’ll keep on doing it. Mariko indicates that that is his right. With that, Wolverine drops the man and walks away. As he does, he thinks to himself that he shouldn’t have listened but Mariko knows he can deny her nothing. Not even the life of a man he hates.
There’s a 10 a.m. JAL flight out of Narita for New York and he intends to be on it. At that very moment, he gets struck with a bunch of throwing stars. The shuriken were poisoned, designed to kill him. What makes him a mutant is his body’s ability to heal virtually any wound. To counter-act any disease. It’s a nifty talent, especially in his line of work, and it’s saved him more than once. Even so, when he finally wakes he is hurting like blazes. The stuff they used was potent; he barely made it.
He wakes to see a man sitting on a stage. On one side, Mariko. The other, her husband. In front of them are two sumo wrestler bodyguards. In Japanese, the man greets Logan and indicates that he is pleased to meet him. Wolverine responds in Japanese that he knows who he is. He is Lord Shingen. He is lord of the manor, lord of clan Yashida, and Mariko’s father.
In English, Shingen responds to Wolverine that his Japanese is as flawless as his English and he also knows who and what he is. He continues by saying that Wolverine’s tone is rude and his manner is disrespectful. Wolverine agrees that it is. Wolverine thinks to himself that the poison's after effects have scrambled his senses. All he’s sure about is of what he can see. The two sumos are no problem but what worries him is who is waiting outside. That and he can’t start anything with Mariko present; it is too risky. She could get hurt. He’ll have to stall, time is on his side. Until it runs out. Shingen continues that Wolverine aspires to his daughter’s hand but his arrogance is beyond belief. Their family is as old as the emperor’s with as legitimate to claim a throne. However, he forgets they live in an age, in a nation where such precepts have become as ephemeral as the morning dew.
As Shingen unsheathes one of the swords, Mariko begs of him to stop. Shingen tells her to be silent and tosses a sword to Wolverine. He tells him that she thinks the world of him. He then wants to see him prove it by facing an old man in single combat. Wolverine rises to catch the sword tossed to him. He recognizes it as a bokan, a wooden practice sword. He asks Shingen why not the real thing? Shingen replies that Wolverine is not worthy of a true sword.
As Wolverine and Shingen face off, Wolverine is impressed by his grace. It belies his age. He’s in perfect condition, while Wolverine is not. He figures that makes them even. It’s been years since he has held a sword. He was good, but Shingen is an expert. With every thrust of Wolverine’s sword, Shingen is able to block it easily. That and he cheats with kicks to Wolverine’s gut. So much for honor. Wolverine rolls with the kick, cursing the poison for slowing down his reflexes. He’s vulnerable for a whole three seconds, which is plenty of time for Shingen to connect the nerve clusters on Wolverine’s neck with his sword.
As Shingen continues to connect with the crucial pressure points, where a blow can either instantly paralyze someone or kill them. Wolverine decides that it’s too late to figure out which of them Shingen is going for. At that point, Wolverine surprises him. Either one of those blows would have finished an ordinary man. Only thing is he’s not ordinary. He tosses away his sword and pops his claws. He hears Mariko gasp and sees Shingen smile. He’s played directly into his hands. Mariko saw the duel, without understanding what his strikes were doing to him. Shingen challenged him to mock “friendly” combat. She thought his attacks were meant to humiliate him. Now when he appears to be losing, he turns the fight into the real thing. He couldn’t dishonor himself more in her eyes if he tried.
Shingen attacks but Wolverine’s heart and head aren’t into this fight. All Wolverine does is cut cloth, and not flesh. Shingen is able to connect with Wolverine’s spine, nearly snapping it. Even though it doesn’t hurt much, it still makes his legs go numb. Shingen follows up with a tsuki strike to the throat, one that connects straight into the windpipe. Wolverine tries to breath, but spits up blood instead. From there things get worse. Shingen is able to connect with hack after hack against Wolverine’s face. Even when Wolverine is able to graze Shingen’s forehead with his claws, it’s obvious to all concerned that the outcome is never in doubt. Shingen is able to bounce back with a jab to Wolverine’s gut and then another to his throat, putting him down on the ground. Once there, Shingen leaps high into the air and brings his foot down directly on Wolverine’s face.
Lying there battered and beaten, struggling to hold off oblivion, Wolverine hears Shingen talking with Mariko. “Behold daughter” he begins. “The ’man’ you profess to love, except that he is no man at all, but an animal cast in a semblance of human form.” He continues. “Gaze upon him, witness his true nature, his true self. Here is the thing to which you have given your heart. Answer me truthfully - is he worthy of such a prize?” Mariko’s answer is no.
When he awakes, Wolverine is in Tokyo in an alley off the Ginza. He can still see her face, the sorrow in her eyes, her voice, as he condemned him. He didn’t know it was possible to feel such shame, to feel so sick in the heart. He’s lost inside, his soul, all that he thought he was, is, and ever will be - shattered, cast to the winds. Compared to this, death is a mercy. From his stupor, Wolverine hears some local thugs speaking in Japanese. They are condemning him for being a foreigner. Possibly he had a bit too much to drink. Either way, this is their country and they prefer to keep it neat and clean - pure! They don’t want it spoiled with filth.
Wolverine meekly responds that he doesn’t want any trouble. The response he gets is not a good one, they do want trouble. As the thugs lift up their knives, clubs, and pipes, they suddenly drop them. They are dead instantly, without a sound. It was a professional job. Wolverine assumes it was Asano. He’s wrong. It’s a woman and she is strong. That’s a good thing because if she lets go, he’ll drop in a heap. His body is a lump of clay. Nothing works. He’s helpless and she knows it. That seems to be turning her on. This strange lady lifts Wolverine up and informs him that he is now hers, now and forever!