From his slumber, Wolverine hears someone telling him to wake up, wake up. It’s a woman’s voice and it’s familiar but he can’t quite place it. He wakes slowly, a sure sign that he is hurting. Not knowing where he is or what happened to him. The woman sounds frantic, terrified. Once he finally opens his eyes, he can see why. They are surrounded by ninjas with swords. Their intentions are obvious.
Wolverine decides to treat them accordingly by bull rushing through the lot and smashing them through the second story window of the building they are in. The only trouble is, they didn’t come alone. On the other building rooftops are a number of other ninjas. Some equipped with swords, others equipped with bows and arrows. Hanging outside the window, Wolverine and the woman are being barraged by hundreds of arrows. Wolverine quips to her that she sure knows how to pick her enemies and then proceeds to ask her who they are. The answer he gets is that they are the Hand and they are professional assassins. Wolverine responds that he thinks that he could have guessed that part. He then asks her if they have met. The woman introduces herself as Yukio, and Wolverine owes her his life. To that, Wolverine responds that if that is the case, she better hold on. This is where he returns the compliment.
At that very instance, Wolverine leaps out of the window with Yukio in tow. As he moves, adrenaline pumps through his system and his skull finally kicks into gear. He recognizes the city he is in as being Tokyo. He’d come there looking for the woman he loved - Mariko Yashida. He found her married to another man. For his troubles, he was nearly beaten to death by her father, Shingen. Shingen meant to kill him be hadn’t reckoned with his body’s mutant ability to heal itself. Thanks to that, Wolverine can survive pretty much injury. He also has enhanced physical senses. He’s fast strong, and mean - hell on wheels. Some people are never satisfied. They love to tinker to improve on nature. In his case, some bright boys decided to lace his skeleton with adamantium making his bones virtually unbreakable. Punching him is like hitting solid steel. Likewise, the other way around. This all serves him well as he uses all of these enhancements to take out the ninjas. He takes out one of them with a solid shot to the gut. He barely misses being kicked by another until he moves out of the way at the last second and then responds with a boot to the base of his attackers neck.
In the melee, Wolverine and Yukio become separated. A bunch of assassins converge on her. One of them slices her left arm with his sword and draws blood. Wolverine notices that she doesn’t cry out; she’s tough. He likes that. Even still, he recognizes that she’s in trouble. She goes down. Her left arm is useless, as the Hand moves in for the kill. He then remembers one other thing. In addition to his adamantium bones, he also has claws. They’re retractable and forged of adamantium. They cut armor plate as easily as rice paper. He also knows how to use them. He leaps towards where Yukio is and hits the ninjas. As he does, they tumble off the rooftop, exactly how he wanted. He makes sure that he lands on top. He figures the rest of them will come running to save their buddies. He’s right as more ninjas converge on Wolverine!!
Yukio is able to hide behind a building to watch the brawl. She expected only a few assassins, not an entire cadre. She also knows that the Hand is comprised of the finest killers on Earth, each the equal of a dozen ordinary men. She doesn’t think Wolverine stands a chance. She then notices some of the ninjas fall not that far from where she is. Up ahead, she sees Wolverine, claws extended, standing on a pile of dead ninjas, triumphant! Wolverine thinks to himself that the ninjas were good, but he’s the best. When he was an agent for Canadian intelligence, scraps like this came with the territory. With a smile coming across his face, he forgot how much he missed them. He took a few heavy hits, but nothing he can’t handle.
As he looks around for Yukio, he finds her. She looks fine, real fine. Sirens and screeching tires herald the arrival of Tokyo’s finest. Wolverine hears them coming long before they arrive and figures that it would be better for all concerned if Yukio and him weren’t around to greet him. Cops and him don’t get along. They can’t abide scrappers and he hates cages. Besides, he has questions for the lady so he gathers her up and scoots away.
Later that evening in his apartment, Wolverine is lying on a couch with Yukio kneeling next to him. She goes to check his dressings, but Wolverine indicates to her that there is no need to do so. Yukio can’t believe it until she sees his wounds. They have closed, now they are just scars. As Wolverine lights up a cigarette, he informs her that he heals fast. Yukio responds that is no answer, to which Wolverine responds that it’s the truth. Yukio retorts that is a useful talent for a warrior especially when combined with unbreakable bones and those magnificent claws. She asks how she could acquire them for she would give her soul to be like him!
Wolverine responds that he’s one of a kind, besides what would she want them for anyway? Yukio answers so that she could defend herself and slay her enemies. Wolverine asks if she means the Hand. Yukio answers yes, and the butcher who sent them. Wolverine asks her what all of this is about. Yukio explains that their master is a crime lord of awesome power and insatiable ambition. He desires to expand his influence from crime to politics. He believes his ultimate goal is to rule Nihon, to become the power behind the throne. She adds that she fears him. Wolverine puts his hand on her shoulder and lets her know that there is no need to worry. As long as he’s around, she’s safe.
Yukio spins around with one of her blades and shoots back that she can defend herself. Wolverine tells her to be careful with that and grabs her wrist, and without meaning to, hurts her. He notices that she doesn’t wince, only half-smiles like he has passed some test. He also notices that she was serious and if he hadn’t stopped her, she would have stabbed him. There was a faint scent on the blade as well and it was familiar. He can’t quite place it, but he’ll file it away for future reference. Wolverine then tells Yukio that she is very good - stronger and faster that she lets on.
Yukio gets on top of Wolverine, whom she calls Logan, and indicates to him that she is a tigress and, if he thinks she is skilled in the art of war, wait until he sees her perform those of love. Wolverine responds that she is a woman after his own heart. The answer he gets is yes, among other things. Wolverine realizes that the chemistry is perfect but that he can’t, won’t respond. His eyes see Yukio’s face but his brain transforms the image into Mariko’s. He gets up and leaves Yukio there, informing her that he needs some sleep. Yukio responds that he wants her and he can’t deny it. They are kindred spirits, her and him. She asks him not to leave, practically begging. Wolverine continues to walk away, realizing that Yukio has pride, yet for him she chucks it. Even still, he walks away. As Yukio watches him leave, she thinks to herself that he will not do so again. Shingen’s daughter is not worthy of him. She will not have him, for he is hers!!!
In a skyscraper located in Tokyo’s upper-class Meguro district, Mariko Yashida and her husband are attempting to get into see Lord Shingen. Mariko’s husband is starting to get impatient for they have been waiting to see him for quite some time. Shingen’s receptionist indicates to him again that Shingen is indeed aware of their presence, however he is in conference and cannot be disturbed.
At that moment, a lady arrives in a long trench coat, and a hat. Upon arrival she tells the receptionist that she wants to see Shingen now. Mariko’s husband pipes up and offers to assist her, for he is Lord Shingen’s associate, Noburu-Hideki. And that charming woman over there is his wife, Mariko. The receptionist asks if this strange lady has an appointment. The stranger grabs the receptionist by the tie and informs him simply “no” and walks on past. As she walks past, Shingen’s receptionist calls him and informs him that he could not stop her, she was most insistent.
In Shingen’s darkened office, the lady enters and asks him why there are no lights on and that this is quite intimate. It’s a pity this isn’t a social call. Shingen responds that she did not summon her. He will not tolerate such intrusions. He then orders her to leave while she is still able. The lady, now revealed to be Yukio asks who’s going to throw her out, him? Shingen replies so be it. She has chosen her path, now she must walk it. From behind the sliding panel, Yukio hears one of the Hand approaching. She pulls out one of her knives just as the ninja goes to slash her. She is able to dodge his attack and connects with a punch to the back of the ninja’s head. She then gets on top of him, pinning him down. She has subdued him.
Shingen asks why she doesn’t kill him. Were their positions reversed, her soul would have long since departed to join the goddess Amaterasu in Heaven. Yukio agrees but now her attacker has to live with the memory that she beat him. Death for him would be a merciful release. She continues to address Shingen. She has served him faithfully, yet he sent the Hand to kill her tonight. That was supposed to be a deception - to win her Wolverine’s sympathy and his aid - but the Hand was playing for real! She then warns Shingen that she is a very dangerous lady, and he wouldn’t like her for an enemy.
Shingen grabs her arm and condones her for addressing him in such a manner!! She is lord of Clan Yashida and she is but a servant of his will, to be used as he sees fit. First, Wolverine would have known the difference between sham and reality. For their deception to be convincing, the threat had to be legitimate. Secondly, although she is his premier assassin, her next target is protected by bodyguards of such superlative skill that even the Hand has been unable to kill him. He had to be certain she was ready, and worthy of this task.
Yukio complains that Shingen is hurting her, but Shingen doesn’t care. He continues with his plan. He has arranged a “peace conference” with Katsuyori. His representatives will be Mariko and Noburu. Katsuyori believes that he will not place his daughter in jeopardy. He will think himself safe. Then and there, Yukio will strike. Yukio asks what will happen if something goes wrong. Shingen grabs Yukio by the throat and informs her that, if Mariko comes to the slightest harm, she will die. Once Katsuyori has been dealt with, she is informed to eliminate Wolverine as well. He will have served her purpose. Yukio replies that both men are... are... as good as dead.
Wolverine has been able to sleep around the clock and awakes as good as new. He realizes something has happened during the night, however. Yukio is edgy and shaken. Wolverine pries into what is wrong. Yukio informs him that she met with the crime lord and tried to settle things between them. It didn’t work and now there’s only one sure way to save her. That’s for the crime lord, Katsuyori to suffer a sudden and untimely demise. Wolverine suggest an alternative: he’ll make the creep and offer he can’t refuse. Convince him that staying on Yukio’s case will prove a whole lot more trouble than it’s worth. Yukio indicates that he’s tough and mean. He doesn’t scare easily. Wolverine will see about that. Good news is Yukio has a line on where he will be.
To get there, they swim in the reservoir towards the castle where he will be. Once they arrive, they find the place is filled with guards with guns. Wolverine takes them out with no problem at all. As they climb up the roof, Yukio tells him Wolverine that he should have slain them. Wolverine responds that there was no need to do so. They’re tucked away where no one will find them and they’ll be out of there long before they recover. Besides, they didn’t see them so they can’t identify who zapped them. Killing them serves no useful purpose. Yukio replies that they are enemies, they deserve no less. Wolverine thinks to himself that she is a bloodthirsty lady who reminds him of himself. Maybe that’s why he likes her.
Wolverine notices that Katsuyori is a cautious bird. As he soon discovers. This kabuki theatre, a remodeled castle in a park on the outskirts of Tokyo, is laced with ultra-sophisticated electronic and mechanical security systems, in addition to a small army of goons. He takes them all out in stride, one in particular by punching his claws through the beam above the guard and landing on him, killing him instantly. Even though he makes it look easier than it is, he doubts anyone but him could have penetrated the castle undetected.
The farther he goes, the warier he becomes. He continues to look for Katsuyori’s ace in the hole, the defense, the trap he figures no one will spot until it’s too late. He sees the audience for tonight’s performance consists of four people. He recognizes two of them. Down below Noburu and Mariko greet Katsuyori and his wife. Katsuyori indicates to Noburu that he hopes he will find this an appropriate setting for their discussions. They should be seated now; the play is about to begin.
Wolverine recognizes Mariko, he wonders what she is doing here!! Noburu asks Katsuyori if he wants to discuss business now. Katsuyori replies that it can wait until after the play. He is also amazed that Shingen - who professes to revere their ancient ways - would send an emissary so lacking in even elementary school graces. Wolverine recognizes that Noburu bridles under the pressure but masters his temper. He then wonders what he did for Shingen to prompt the old man to marry Mariko to him. Before he can ponder that thought any further, the play begins.
Wolverine knows the play - Chushingura, the 47 Ronin. It is a story of the retainers of a lord who avenged his death by slaying the man responsible for it, knowing that such an act would mean their own certain execution by ritual suicide. It’s a tale of honor, of loyalty, of the samurai determination to see a course through to its end. Regardless of the cost. It embodies all the qualities the Japanese revere most in their national character and heritage. The performance itself is superb. This is one of the finest kabuki troupes he has ever seen.
Just then, during the climactic lion dance, which is the high point of the show, the lead actor draws his katana. At that moment, the pieces fall into place. Katsuyori’s playing his ace against Mariko and her husband!!! Wolverine counters the attack. The actor is obviously a pro, a master of his craft. Without missing a beat, he shifts targets from Mariko to him. They pass in mid-air, stage lights flashing off sword and claws. The assassins cut draws Wolverine’s blood, but so does his!! The assassin lands, dead, on top of a frightened Mariko.
Wolverine lands on the stage and faces the rest of the stage company. They’re as ready to fight as their leader. Their leader took a gamble and paid the price. That will make his colleagues not as flamboyant. Wolverine wants to spare Mariko a glance, to see if she’s okay, but he doesn’t dare. Facing the troupe, Wolverine informs them that if they wish to have Mariko’s life, they will have to get past him to take it. The answer he gets is that they shall!! Wolverine responds that that is okay; it’s their funeral. With that, he rushes through the lot of them, gutting them as he goes.
In the pandemonium, Katsuyori slaps Noburu. He commends him for anticipating his ambush. His foresight will avail him naught for his retainers will deal with his assassin, and then with him. At that moment, as Katsuyori’s wife goes out the door, she informs her husband that their guards are all dead. They all have knives in their backs. Katsuyori grabs his wife arm and informs her to get into the car quickly!! Once they reach their estate they will be safe!! Once they are inside, a figure from behind the wall presses a detonator, exploding the car into a million pieces. That figure is Yukio and she is pleased, now that phase one of her job is complete.
Back in the theatre, Wolverine has been able to confine the scrap mainly on the stage. That works in his favor, as do the odds. The actors have to be careful they don’t chop one of their own by mistake, while he can hit anyone he pleases. He does recognize they are good, on par with the Hand, and trained to fight like a team. Wolverine is able to hold his own, slashing his way through the fighters. Eventually, his attackers skill catches up with him when one them connects with a perfect slice between his neck and shoulder. It’s a perfect cut. If it wasn’t for his adamantium bones, Wolverine would’ve been sliced in half. That was a bad mover for them; it drives him berserk. In a matter of minutes, the battle is over and Wolverine is the only one standing. His attackers - most of them dead!! Wolverine lost control, he feels sick, he feels great. He then sees Mariko.
Up until now, she has never seen him as a berserker. It’s a side of him he never wanted her to see. Now, she is shocked, dismayed, and disgusted by what she has just seen. She turns and leaves without a word. Without a backward glance. Wolverine lets her go and realizes whatever they had, whatever they might have had, is finished now. Wolverine is a broken man, dead inside. From behind the curtain, Yukio is pleased with herself for she has just completed phase two of her task!!