Years ago, a young Japanese girl spars against one of her peers, a young boy. During their sparring, the girl is able to slice her opponent in the arm. When he falls down, the girl hesitates. Her master asks her what she is waiting for. Is she a ninja or not? Decide this second. The girl then jams her sword into the boy, killing him. Once she does, her master tells her that the next time she hesitates will be her last.
For 1,000 years, her family has been ninja. Phantom assassins. Masters of sword and shadow. Dark manipulators of emperors and kings. Faithful disciples of the Hand. She was trained since birth to subvert the self. To deny emotion. To never take a breath that wasn’t in service to the Hand. And never once had she questioned the way of life she’d been born into. Until the day her father came home in shame.
That day, her father and his small cadre of Hand ninjas arrive home. When they all kneel, the master orders them to tell everyone of their shame. The father replies that they were defeated. The master corrects him – they were humiliated. The father continues that they fought, but… but they were too strong. The master remarks that he says “they” like there was more than one of them, but there wasn’t, was there? Closing his eyes, the father replies that it was just one man. The master exclaims that it wasn’t even a man, it was a gaijin. Walking away from them, he tells the ninjas that the stench of their shame is nauseating. Salvage what little remains of their honor.
As the young girl watches on, her father and the other ninjas stab themselves in the stomach. She recalls that those who died that day were never to be spoken of again. Their possessions were buried, their names stricken from all scrolls. Forget them, they were told. Forget them or be doomed to suffer their fate. And she did her best. She forgot her father as well as she could. When thoughts of him would creep up, she’d whip herself in punishment. She would swallow sharp rocks for every day she could still recall his name. But the shame… that she never forgot. As her father lay dying, he begged her for forgiveness. It was not their fault; their opponent was “a thing from hell.” She would also never forget the man, Wolverine, who brought it upon her. Every night for years, she prayed to the dark god of the Hand that she would someday meet this man face-to-face. Some prayers, as she has since learned, are best left unanswered.
In present day, that young Japanese girl has grown into a woman. Standing in the control room of the Red Right Hand, she and the others present hear Wolverine yelling at them that he knows they’re here. He can smell them. Won’t be long now. The old man leader of the RRH remarks that he’s close. Turning to Gunhawk, he tells him that it appears he is now all that stands between them and those ghastly claws of his. Let’s hope he fares better than his dearly departed compatriots. Gunhawk replies that those kids deserved better. Smiling sadistically, the old man asks don’t they all. Gunhawk tells him no, not all, and leaves the control room.
Exiting the room, Gunhawk shortly comes face to face with Wolverine. Wolverine tells him that his friends all talked a big game. But that didn’t keep them from dyin’. What about him, what does he have to say? Saying nothing at all, Gunhawk draws his weapons and begins to fire upon Wolverine. Walking through the bullets, Wolverine attacks Gunhawk. Continuing to watch on the monitors, the Japanese woman states that she enjoys watching him suffer, although she knows it is fleeting. The real suffering… that is yet to come. If only she could live to see it.
She then recalls the time when her brother Takeo returned to the Hand complex, bleeding profusely. When she asked Takeo what happened to them and to their brothers, Takeo informed her they are dead. She asked all of them? That can’t be. Who did this? Slumping to the ground, Takeo starts to ask his sister for something but she cuts him off. She tells him that if he dies, he dies. He knows their ways. Now tell her… who was it? Takeo died before he could finish. But it didn’t matter. She already knew the answer when she saw the claw wounds in her brother’s chest.
As the woman dons her ninja gear, her pregnant mother asks her where she is going. She tells her that she is going to go kill someone. Her mother asks that she’s been made a warrior already? She did not know she had yet passed the trials. Where does the time go? The woman proceeds to inform her mother that Takeo, Kaemon and the others are all dead. When the mother asks Takeo and Kaemon, the woman says her sons, all of her sons, are dead. The mother asks if Takeo was the one with the curly hair. The woman says never mind and leaves. As she does, her mother asks about Yoshiro. Do they have a Yoshiro? She’s always loved that name.
Just then, the announcement is made that there is an intruder in the complex. Rushing out to join her brethren, the young woman recalls that her plan that day was to leave. To head out blindly into a world she had never known, searching for a man she could not even name. But things turned out much simpler. When she saw Wolverine, she knew it was him in a second. Pulling on her mask, she recalls that since she was old enough to walk, she had been trained to fight and kill in the spaces between seconds. She knew of wars fought in the span between one breath and the next. Massacres that happened in the time it took to blink. She knew all this and yet, she barely had time to draw her sword before he was past her. She was turning to go after him, when she noticed something on her shoe. It was the rice she had eaten for lunch. Despite what they say in songs and stories, there’s nothing peaceful or romantic about dying. There’s no gentle chill that comes over you. No comforting warmth. No peaceful whispers or soothing lights. There’s only an incredible amount of pain, and then…darkness…
A short time later, the young woman is resurrected by the Hand’s master. When he tells her welcome back, the woman states that she was dead. The master replied quite so. And he brought her back? The master says the power of the beast knows no bounds. The woman asks about the fight, the gaijin. The master informs her that the gaijin is gone. They finally stopped him? The master tells her no, he simply got bored with killing them. Then they go after him? The master says in time. For now they must regroup. Where’s her sword, she’ll kill him herself. The master tells her to forget her sword. That is not where her destiny lies. They have suffered great losses today. The Hand must be replenished. When the woman saw a number of other brainwashed Japanese women, all pregnant, her allegiance to the Hand died forever the night they returned her from the dead.
And so she left to serve a different master. That of vengeance. Holding her sword above the old man leader of the RRH, she tells him that, if he moves, he dies. The old man replies that she doesn’t want to kill her. They both know that. Put away the sword and they’ll talk about who she does want to kill. The woman remembered the American from when she was a girl. He had come to the complex of the Hand holding a picture of Wolverine and telling them that he’ll pay whatever they want. He just wants him killed, in the most agonizing way imaginable. The ninjas told him that they know the man he wanted killed. They have reason to hate him, same as him. But they will not kill him. He may yet be of use to them. Leaving the old man thanked them for wasting his time. Standing over the old man, the woman reminds him that he came years ago to hire the Hand. Does that offer still stand? Smiling, the old man answers that it does.
Showing the young woman five individuals, the young versions of what would end up being the Mongrels, the old man tells her to train them. The woman asks to what, to die more efficiently? Turning away from the five young people, the woman mentions to the old man that the gaijin, the one he tells her is called Wolverine, she has seen him cut down the greatest warriors she has ever known as if they were children. And he hopes to send actual children against him? She has fought him herself and died by his hand. No matter how much they train, these dregs of his will have no chance against them. The old man answers yes, he’s quite counting on that.
In present day, Wolverine and Gunhawk continue to do battle. Eventually, Wolverine gains the upper-hand and jams his claws into Gunhawk’s chest. As Gunhawk falls to the ground, dying, Wolverine asks him that who he’s looking for is right through the doors, aren’t they? Gunhawk weakly answers yes, but he shouldn’t go through it. Wolverine asks him why that is. Are there more like him on the other side? If so, he thinks he’ll take his chances. Gunhawk tells him no, there’s no one left for him to fight. There’s nothing now between him and them. Wolverine says good. He guesses their plan to kill him didn’t quite work out, did it. Gunhawk tells him that’s where he’s wrong. The plan was never to kill him.
Inside the control room, the old man is roused from his trance of watching the monitor by one of his followers who inform him that everything is in place. Turning to those gathered, the old man tells them that they need to get started. They want everything ready for their guest of honor.
Outside the door, Gunhawk tells Wolverine that the plan was only to make him hurt. And that’s all that’s waiting for him on the other side of that door. A whole lotta hurt. And he deserves every bit of it, doesn’t he? When Wolverine asks him if he knows him from somewhere, Gunhawk says no, he doesn’t know him at all. After watching Gunhawk die, Wolverine grabs hold of the handles to the door. He asks a whole lotta hurt, huh? Damn straight. And here it comes. With that, Wolverine barges into the room.