“I’m Wolverine. If you’re smart, you don’t want me for an enemy.”
Lurking in the shadows, Wolverine watches two men with briefcases making an exchange. The one offers his briefcase full of ten kilos to the other who in turn gives his briefcase full of money for it. Even though they are keeping their voices low, Wolverine can hear them just fine. He’s a mutant with enhanced physical senses and abilities. His main power is his body’s knack of healing virtually any injury. In addition, his skeleton is laced with adamantium, which makes his bones pretty near unbreakable. He also has claws. Razor-keen, forged of pure adamantium, retractable through the backs of his hands into bionic housings inside his forearms. They are nasty, just like him.
At the right moment, Wolverine pops his claws and slices through both briefcases simultaneously. The two men are shocked and dismayed, as their heroin and money go everywhere. Wolverine warns them to not even try it. The men are smart, as neither of them draw their gun from their holsters. Wolverine leaves them with a message for their boss. He wants them to tell Lord Shingen that Wolverine is coming for him!
In the next few hours, Wolverine works on ripping apart the same organization that took Shingen years building. All the way from the top of the heap to the bottom. All throughout Japan, he touches every base he has and leaves the same message. Some guys try to fight, some try to run. Nobody gets very far!!
The ancestral seat of clan Yashida is located in Miyago prefecture, roughly 300 kilometers north of Tokyo. It is also nestled in the hills overlooking the port city of Agarashima. On the roof, Lord Shingen is there with four of his associates. One of them is complaining about the gaijin who strikes with impunity, defying their best efforts to locate and neutralizing him. He also informs Shingen that his position is most grave and that Wolverine is making him look ridiculous and ineffectual. The gangs will not follow a leader they neither respect nor fear. If this situation is not dealt with - quickly - the damage will become irreparable.
Shingen turns to inform him that he has assigned the task to his finest ninja. Wolverine is as good as dead! At that point, Shingen is interrupted by another of his associates, who brings him a package. Shingen orders him to open it. Once it has been opened, Shingen sees it full of ninja hoods and a note. When he opens the note, it simply reads “Tonight.” Shingen angrily crumples up the note and declares that he has underestimated Wolverine. He then tells his associates to summon the Hand. He wants them to be informed that an ideal opportunity has arisen for them to avenge their fallen brethren and their honor as assassins!
As his associates leave, one of them asks Shingen if it is wise to stay. Shingen replies that it is necessary. His associate informs him that his life is too valuable to risk. Shingen discloses that his life is nothing without honor and that he must face him. He also informs him that there is no need for him to worry. He has defeated Wolverine in single combat before and he shall do it again. Only this time, he will kill him!!
The ninjas that Shingen sent after Wolverine came loaded for bear. After disposing of them, he left them stripped and cuffed at the local cop house. He kept their weapons for himself. Weapons such as throwing stars, spikes, nunchucks, various knives, and blades. Normally, he doesn’t use hardware, with his physical assets who needs any. For this caper, every little bit will help. The carpet of his hotel room is immaculate. There isn’t any sign that a man died there not too long ago. Or that his killer escaped through the window.
His good friend, Asano Kimura, chopped by his lover, Yukio. He reminisces that his life has taken some pretty hard shots lately. He flew out here to Japan chasing Mariko Yashida, the woman he loved, only to find her married. Then, in front of her, in a supposedly friendly duel, her father - Shingen - drugged him and beat him near to death. In the process, stripped him of his pride, self-respect, and honor. At this point, he’s not sure which hurt more. Shingen then threw him out to die in the mud. Yukio found him and nursed him back to health.
They became inseparable, and fell in love. Trouble was, his heart of hearts still belonged to Mariko. Then, too late, he learned Yukio worked for Shingen. She had been using him - she conned him into sneaking her through the defenses of Shingen’s sole rival for the top spot in the Japanese underworld, so she could kill him. Later, when Asano got in her way, she killed him too. When they fought, Shingen called him an animal and for a time, he believed him. They were both wrong. That mistake is going to cost him his life, and him the woman he loves.
In the family history room of Clan Yashida, deep within the ancestral stronghold, Mariko sits in solace. She is praying to her beloved and revered ancestors. She asks what is the path of duty, of truth? Are they the same? And, if not, which is paramount!?! She loves Wolverine. Yet, when her father returned as if from the dead, and bid her to marry another to satisfy an obligation her father had incurred, she did so - though it broke her heart. Her husband, Noburu-Hideki, is a cruel man. She knows that he is but a pale reflection of her father. The man she remembers from childhood is no more, if indeed he ever was.
Shingen’s ambition knows no bounds, and he will use any means - no matter how heinous - to achieve his goals! She asks what she is to do. How may honor be served? Shingen is evil! His very existence disgraces this house - and their most ancient name - yet he is her father!! By destroying him, she will destroy herself! She prays to her gods and ancestors to grant her both wisdom and strength! She is so afraid. She need help, she is begging - what is she to do?!?
Outside of the stronghold, a ninja happens upon the sentry dogs, only to find them all dead! Before he can alert anyone, he himself is struck in the back with three blades. All of them courtesy of Yukio! As she starts to scale the wall of the castle, several more ninjas notice her ascent. One of the ninjas points out that she is the “wild one” - Lord Shingen’s renegade assassin - Yukio! Many of their brethren have died at her hand - he asks if he should avenge them. Another of the ninjas informs him that he is not to. She should be allowed to enter the castle for Lord Shingen wishes her taken alive and unharmed. At that precise moment, a net is tossed onto Yukio and she calls out for she has been caught!! One of the ninjas informs her that of course she is caught - even for all of her vaunted skill, she is not match for the immortal Hand!!
Inside the compound, Mariko opens a door to a room because she heard a commotion. Before she can ask what caused the commotion, her father, Lord Shingen, instructs her to enter the room. He trusts that she will find this experience instructive. This woman he has captive and her have something in common. An unwholesome attraction for Wolverine. By morning she will be cured of that affliction permanently.
Yukio, hands bound, curses Shingen and asks him why he couldn’t have just well enough alone!! Wolverine cared nothing for him anymore or of his plan, or his daughter. He was no threat to him; he was content and happy! Shingen informs her that Wolverine’s state of mind was irrelevant. He had given Yukio a command to kill him and she disobeyed. He will not have his authority flouted. She had to be taught a lesson. Yukio responds that nobody owns her - she does what she pleases.
Shingen replies that those are brave words, but in the final analysis there are merely words. It obviously pleased her to try to kill him. He asks her why - was it a whim?? Yukio responds that she killed Logan’s friend. Shingen asks that she thought to balance the scales and to atone for her crime - with his death!?! He takes a swipe at her with his blade and Mariko gasps in fear. Yukio is unharmed and now is free of her bonds. Shingen points out that her plan is splendid, for she knows something about honor after all. He informs her that she is free and challenges her to come for him then - if she dares!!
He drives his fist into Yukio’s gut, doubling her in half. Shingen informs her that her technique is superb, her speed and power almost beyond compare. He levels her with a kick to her face and then stands on her back with all of his might. He continues that she is no match for him and neither is her paramour... Before he can finish, he is stopped by Mariko. He condones her for interfering. Mariko pleads with him to stop it - he is killing her!! Shingen responds that is his plan and informs Mariko that she should not tempt him, lest she...
At that moment, the radio is sounded with an announcement from post one. One of Shingen’s ninjas informs him that the radio has sounded. Shingen stops his assault on Yukio to pick up the radio. He asks post one to repeat their message for they were cut off. He repeats his message. Once, then twice, he wants an answer!!! No answer will come for all of his ninjas throughout the compound are dead!!!
Shingen, knowing what has happened, indicates that Wolverine has arrived! Mariko’s husband, Noburu-Hideki, tells Shingen that he can face him if he wishes but he prefers to live. He points out that his “last stand” should buy him enough time to reach the helicopter. He then grabs Mariko’s arm and leads her away. Mariko’s calls out to her father, but Noburu tells her to forget about him. She is coming with him. Mariko tells him NO to which Noburu responds that he is not in the mood to argue with her.
From the shadows, Wolverine appears and says to Noburu that he heard the lady - she wants to stay. Mariko recognizes him but Noburu pulls a gun out of his jacket and holds it up to Mariko’s head. He threatens Wolverine that, if he makes one false move, Mariko will die!!! He then instructs him to step into the light where he can see him. When Wolverine does, he takes a couple of shots at him. When he does, he is struck by three blades in his back, killing him instantly.
They are from Yukio who approaches Mariko and cuts her ornamental belt from her outfit. She grabs it and drapes Wolverine with it. She informs him that there is no need to worry. She didn’t cut Mariko, just her outfit. Wolverine indicates that she looks pretty spry all things considered. Yukio informs him that she is tough when she has to be. She also would like to stay, to fight by his side. Wolverine informs her that she can’t. Yukio kisses him and leaves without another word. Wolverine knows that he can’t forgive her for Asano and that he can never repay her for Mariko so he lets her go. Mariko is silent, as Wolverine leaves her to follow Shingen. She knows what is coming next.
It is as if they are all actors in a kabuki drama, playing their assigned roles to the bitter end. Regardless of the cost. When Shingen and him first dueled it was with Bokan - wooden practice swords. Then, he asked him why they weren’t using steel. Shingen responded that it was because he wasn’t worthy. In that fight, he proved it. Once Wolverine reaches Shingen he asks him if he is worthy now!?! Shingen unsheathes his sword from its case and replies that that remains to be seen.
They instantly move as one, blades hissing through the air as they pass each other. Wolverine cuts deep, but Shingen has cut deeper. Wolverine is hurt bad and he knows that Shingen knows it. But no quarter is asked, and none is given. Shingen strikes with Wolverine with slice to his back, and follows it up with one to his leg. When he goes to strike at his neck, Wolverine blocks it with his forearm. Another shot is blocked with both forearms. Wolverine finally gets a shot in by striking Shingen in the back. Shingen swings for his head, but Wolverine dodges it. Wolverine then swipes at him and cuts his tie. Shingen swipes again and connects with Wolverine’s side. Another swipe is blocked by Wolverine. His response attack misses when Shingen ducks. Shingen counter-attacks, driving his sword into Wolverine’s side. He pulls it out and goes again for Wolverine’s neck. Wolverine is able to catch this attack and grabs Shingen’s sword. He holds it still and puts his fist up against Shingen’s neck. He then pops his claws!!!
Mariko enters the room in which the battle has been fought. She calls out to Wolverine and then out to her father. Mariko is the woman that Wolverine loves and he has slain her father. Honor and duty demand that she become his enemy, that she will not rest until he has paid for Shingen’s life with his own or until she herself dies. He notices that Mariko’s hand trembles as she reaches for her father’s sword. Even wounded as he is, he knows that he could easily take it from her. He could kill her in a hundred different ways, so quickly she’d never know what hit her. However, he does nothing.
Mariko raises the sword and asks Wolverine if he remembered what this particular blade was. It is the “honor sword” of clan Yashida, forged 800 years ago by the supreme swordsmith, Masamune. He was a man of consummate nobility and grace. Each blade he crafted is said to possess a portion of his essential character, his soul. This represents all we were and are and wish to be. It is perfection - of form and function, of reality and spirit - to be worn, not by the lord of the clan, but by the samurai who best exemplifies those qualities.
She continues that her father brought shame to clan Yashida by his actions. He forfeited his right to touch the blade, much less wield it. She offers the sword to Logan. Logan informs her that he cannot, for his not worthy. Mariko responds that he fought for the good of others - for right and truth - Shingen for greed and ultimately for survival. He persevered, though he believed that such a course would cost him everything he holds dear. Thereby, Wolverine has proved that he is what Shingen could never hope to be. With that, the soulmates embrace.
Mariko tells him later that, had Shingen survived their duel, she would have slain him herself and then, if successful, taken her own life through seppuku, ritual suicide. It was tolerable for Noburu to act like a swine - almost expected - because he was without honor to begin with. But for Shingen to behave in such a manner was an unpardonable crime - the ultimate betrayal of the clan.
As heir to the domain, it was Mariko’s duty to mete out punishment. Fortunately for all involved, Wolverine beat her to it. He is impressed. In her own way, Mariko makes as formidable an adversary as him. They stay in the mountains while he heals. In the spring, he finally writes the X-Men to tell them what has happened and more importantly - what’s about to happen. He’d give anything to see their faces when they open it.
Back in Westchester, Colossus, Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler and Kitty Pryde open up the letter from Wolverine. In it, it has a picture of Mariko and Wolverine. The letter itself reads, “His imperial majesty, Hirohito, emperor of Japan requests the pleasure of your company at the wedding of Lady Mariko of Clan Yashida to Logan.“ Hand-written a note also says “Hey Elf - don’t forget the beer - W.”