By C. L. Werner
Koumajutsu: The Coming of Bagan
Prologue - [Chapter 1] -
A Tale of Darkness
The Imperial Palace. Domain of Japan's royal family, the long line of Emperors. A regal place of fabulous art treasures, astounding architecture and exotic finery. But amidst all the splendor, amongst the pomp and circumstance, there could be found a small, dark, barren chamber. No electric light had ever been wired into this small room and the dancing light of the golden braziers that lurked in each corner of the room did little to dispel the gloom. A large ornate throne stood against the far wall. It was the only furnishing aside from the blazing braziers. The Emperor of Japan sat in that throne, staring down at the small man sat before him on his knees, head bowed in deference to the Emperor's rank and position.
This room had last been used by the previous Emperor, early in his reign. Not since 1927 had the chamber been opened. On that occasion, it had been as a postscript to the defeat of a terrible enemy and the salvation of a great city. Now that enemy had returned and the great city was once again in peril.
'My father spoke of this place only once,' the Emperor said, his voice even and measured, his tone hushed and reverent. 'Upon his deathbed, he spoke of this place and the many guardians who watch over Japan. He told me the true role of tradition and superstition, told me some small measure of the unbelievable truths which fables conceal.' The Emperor edged forward in his seat. 'But I must ask myself if what he said was true. Can it really be him, after all these years?'
Hoichi stared upwards; looking at the Emperor's feet, not daring to look upon the face of the man he called master and worshipped as a living god. Most of Japan still treated the Emperor with the respect and honor of a leader, but only a few truly thought of the Imperial household as gods. Hoichi and his clan were such tradition bound men.
'There is a saying in the Western world that the greatest trick the Devil ever accomplished was to convince mankind that he did not exist.' Hoichi sighed, tiredly. 'It is true, noble sovereign. With my own eyes, I saw him. With my own lips I challenged him. With my own magic, I drove him away. It was Kato Yasunori.'
'But how?' the Emperor asked. 'After all of these years, how can he still be alive?'
'His soul is darkness. Where men have hearts, he has only shadow. It is wrong to think of Kato Yasunori as a mortal being. He is more demon than human. What humanity there was in Kato Yasunori has long since passed into the night.' Hoichi paused, remembering what his own father had told him of their terrible enemy.
'Kato Yasunori was born in the province of Kishuyu. In those days it was an abandoned accursed place. Kishuyu had once been the most prosperous land in all of Japan, blessed by the dead ancestors lying within the hallowed ground.' Bitterness entered Hoichi's normally calm, moderated voice. 'The people forgot their ancestors, over time, and began to take credit for their own prosperity. The ancient rituals for tending and honoring the dead were forgotten, the dead left without prayers of remembrance and gratitude. So the land became poisoned, cursed by the dead. Kishuyu became a haunted place, where men dared not live. It is in this blighted place that Masakado Taira was born long ago. So too, was it the spawning ground of Kato Yasunori.'
'Kato Yasunori served in the Imperial army, rising to the rank of lieutenant before he was supposedly killed in the Chinese city of Dairen. That was in 1892.' Hoichi licked his lips. 'But Kato did not die. He is the living embodiment of the vengeance of Kishuyu's forgotten dead. It is not within the power of mortals to destroy such a creature.'
'He seeks to destroy Tokyo,' the Emperor stated. 'Why? Why seek the destruction of a city for the better part of a century?'
'Kato believes the ground Tokyo is built upon to be holy, hallowed by the centuries of dead buried beneath the city. He believes it to be an affront that men have built a living city upon the graves of so many noble dead. He claims vengeance for them and would destroy the city to restore it to holy ground.' Hoichi stared upwards, daring to again gaze upon the feet of the Emperor.
'If this is so, why has Kato waited for so very long to again try to destroy Tokyo?'
'I do not believe he has,' Hoichi answered. 'Tokyo has been plagued by more disasters than any city. Time and again horrible monsters have trampled portions of Tokyo into the dust. Why should Tokyo be so accursed? There are no nuclear reactors here, yet Godzilla has time and again been drawn to the city. The coincidence that resulted in the freeing of the creatures that became the monster Destroyah; can you not see a sinister thread in such an occurrence? King Kong's pursuit of Godzilla into the city, the madness of Colonel Nomura that lead him to turn Gigan into a weapon of destruction, or even the renegade Dr. Mafune sending not one but all four of his creations to trample the city, how many of these events did not have their origin in the intricate plots and dark sorcery of Kato Yasunori?'
'Yet it is only now that he shows himself,' the Emperor pointed out.
'Yes, which leads me all the more to believe that he had a hand in the last attack upon Tokyo,' Hoichi replied. 'Now he shows himself. He again tries to stir Lord Masakado's spirit to do his bidding.'
'But the guardian spirit of Tokyo will not obey him,' the Emperor stated.
'True, but the demon swore to find another instrument of his vengeance.'
'If he had such a weapon, he would have used it long ago,' the Emperor said.
'No, Kato Yasunori is not one to threaten. He has such a resource. What it is, I do not know, but it will be terrible beyond anything we have yet seen. It will be a sacrilege that gives even Kato pause to commit.' Hoichi looked into the flickering light on the walls. 'The demon has found a horror such as the world has never known.'
'You think he is desperate enough to use such a thing?'
'His soul has been damned ten times over,' Hoichi solemnly responded. 'What does it matter to such a being if all the world burns to achieve his goal?'
The group of people gathered around the meeting table sat down as the aged American general entered the room. General Goodhue shook hands with Commander Aso and Colonel Breen, British representative of Europe's Monster Defiance Headquarters. The trio of officers took their own seats at a smaller table facing the group assembled at the larger table. It was Commander Aso who addressed the group first. From the sidelines, Dr. Otani, director of the Ogasawara Project looked on.
'Following the recent events involving Dr. Mafune and his so-called 'super-saurs', it has been decided by the governments of the United Nations to create a multi-national task force to investigate all new kaiju appearances, determine their cause and determine the best way of neutralizing the creatures.' Commander Aso locked eyes with one of the men seated at the table, the young Colonel Sho Kuroki. The Colonel smiled back at the UNGCC commander, causing Aso to flush slightly.
'The United States has taken it upon itself to smash international terrorism,' General Goodhue stated, rising from his seat and taking the floor from Commander Aso. 'We are not limiting our efforts to Islamic extremism, either. In the past, kaiju have been employed as pawns by terrorists. Terrorists threatened Japan by releasing the old Godzilla from the volcanic crater of Mt. Mihara. A group calling itself the 'Industrial Mafia' tried to gain control of Godzilla for terrorist purposes. More recently, a Japanese communist group gained control of the cyborg Gigan and used it to ravage Tokyo. Then, of course, there were the recent events involving Dr. Mafune and his vendetta against the MARS corporation. The fact that giant monsters have been used for such purposes in the past makes the United States very concerned that they may be so used in the future.'
General Goodhue seated himself and the floor was taken over by Colonel Breen. Wearing a starched uniform and wielding a riding crop, the moustached British officer was as straight as a ramrod and every inch the professional soldier of Her Majesty.
'The European nations were hardest hit by the recent attacks by Mafune's creations. Our governments are treating the possibility of monster attacks directed by unscrupulous persons with the utmost seriousness. For this reason, the MDH formulated the concept of this task force. The Kaiju Neutralization and Interception Force Elite will be answerable only to the United Nations Security Council, not to any individual government or agency. It will be the function of this agency to investigate possible monster sightings, determine their reality and discover what has caused the new monster to appear. It will also be KNIFE's role to study such beasts in the field, as it were, and determine what measures should be taken to contain or destroy such monsters.'
'KNIFE will be based here at Ogasawara, for the time being. The entire research of Dr. Otani's people will be readily available and the islands provide a good strike point for any location in the Pacific region.' Commander Aso turned and looked at his fellow officers from GARD and the MDH. 'I might add that measures are underway to make the KNIFE force completely mobile, allowing them to reach any point on the globe in a matter of hours.'
'Then I suppose it is a matter of introducing you people to one another,' General Goodhue stated.
'Colonel Sho Kuroki of the JSDF will be in command of KNIFE.' Commander Aso introduced his former rival. 'Colonel Kuroki has successfully commanded all of the Super X-3 missions and was instrumental in felling Godzilla by use of the ANB and Thunder Control System.'
The young woman seated next to Kuroki rose and smiled nervously at the other people in the room. 'Miss Miki Saegusa is well known to all here, I am sure,' Commander Aso stated. 'She enjoys an amazing psychic ability, a talent which has even allowed her to develop a startling rapport with Godzilla. She has been gracious enough to put her considerable talents at the disposal of KNIFE.'
The man seated next to Miki was a young, handsome Japanese soldier. 'Lieutenant Koji Shinjo is a veteran of the UNGCC. In addition to his work with the T-project, he was part of the strike force that thwarted the Industrial Mafia's plans to control Godzilla and was part of MOGUERA's crew.' Shinjo gave Miki's hand a slight, reassuring squeeze as Commander Aso introduced him.
So it progressed, as Commander Aso introduced the other members of the Japanese element of the team. The young kaiju biologist Kenichi Yamane. The UNGCC veteran Lieutenant Kiyoshi Sato. Lastly, the elderly Professor Noriko Yoshiwara, a survivor of the first Godzilla's 1954 attack and one of the foremost specialists on Godzilla in the world.
General Goodhue took the floor and introduced the American team members. First was the eye-patch wearing CIA agent Peter Daxton. Paleobiologist Gerald Balinger, an awkward, geeky man, obviously ill at ease in his new situation. The hulking mass of Junji Kenoshita, an Eskimo and decorated Green Beret of the United States Army. Colonel John Pike, another of the US military's best and most tactical minds, this time drawn from the Delta Force strike team. Lastly, General Goodhue introduced Captain Vince Elliot, one of the US Navy's elite SEALs.
The approach of the European MDH was a less military one. From the United Kingdome came Dr. Jill Llewellyn, one of that country's top scientists specializing in radioactivity and its effects on living matter, a middle-aged, but still attractive woman. Aaron Vaught was the eccentric monster legend and lore writer who had forsaken a prosperous career writing horror novels to put his considerable knowledge of mythology at the disposal of his country. From France was one of their top Foreign Legion commandos, Philippe Roache. Not to be outdone, the Germans provided their own military representative, Kaptain Erich Ramas, lately of the German Abwehr. It was obvious that the giant German and the thin Frenchman had a deep resentment for one another.
Dr. Otani watched as the introductions were made. He could not help but wonder what real impact these people could have if another giant monster appeared. He had seen firsthand what some of these people could do, the remarkable feats they could achieve. But he also knew what tremendous beasts kaiju were. Indeed he had only to journey to the facility's control room to see firsthand some of these creatures. He had to wonder, what could any man really do to stop a thing like Godzilla or Rodan? He hoped that he would never again need to find out.
Commander Aso walked the length of the massive gantry. He had only just returned from Ogasawara and the founding of KNIFE. He needed to reassure himself that he had not just been present at the founding of the UNGCC's successor. Walking the length of the enormous hangar, Commander Aso was reassured. He stared with pride at the humongous shape of metal that rested on the gantry. Dr. Asimov had certainly redeemed himself in the eyes of the UNGCC commander. The weapon was marvelous. Aso had seen its combat specks, computer simulations of the machine in action. It was truly the most powerful conventional weapon in the world.
Commander Aso smiled. He almost wished that a new monster would present itself. To unleash this machine upon it, to launch a third great steel leviathan from this facility. But this time not to defeat, but to certain victory. When the time came, Commander Aso knew that the failures of Mechagodzilla and MOGUERA would be forgotten, blasted from Japan's memory by this glistening armored giant.
Yes, Commander Aso wished another monster would show its ugly head.
The temple was dark, lit only by a single bed of smoldering coals. All the same, the monk rose from his crouch before the altar and challenged the shadows.
'You may not enter this holy place,' the monk called out. 'I shall not allow you to profane this place with your evil. Leave now, while you still can.' The monk's words were met by a peal of sinister laughter.
'I leave when I have what I have come for,' a deep, malevolent voice stated, its tone mocking. 'It is you who should know fear, Shaolin.'
The monk cast aside his heavy outer robe, slinking into a combat stance. 'You shall not enter the shrine, demon,' the Chinese monk declared. The sound of naked feet rushing through the corridors and halls of the temple echoed around in the darkness. The monk's lip slid into a slight smile. 'And now it is too late for you to leave.'
The shape in the darkness laughed again. The monk could detect the motion of the unseen man looking from side to side at the armed Shaolin monks who now surrounded him. Again, the demon laughed. More monks arrived, this time carrying lanterns. The light revealed the shadowy figure. It was a tall Japanese soldier. His eyes burned with an unnatural light.
'Who are you?' the suddenly alarmed monk shuddered.
'I am Kato Yasunori,' the demon replied. 'And I have been in Dairen before.' At a gesture from the sorcerer, the ornamental carvings that covered the walls of the temple began to writhe and pull themselves from the adorned walls. A menagerie of phoenixes, lions and dragons fell upon the startled monks, rending and slashing at them with teakwood fangs and wooden claws. The monks screamed in horror and pain as the sorcerously animated carvings attacked them. Kato dismissed the besieged men from his mind and stalked across the temple floor.
A determined Shaolin monk broke from the melee, his leg almost completely shredded by the claws of a wooden lion. The man shouted as he struck the necromancer in the head with his quarterstaff. Kato turned, favoring the doomed monk with a fanged snarl. The necromancer muttered a loathsome word and pointed with his finger. The monk exploded into a bright crimson mist. The demon did not wait for that mist to settle before turning and resuming his trek across the temple.
Kato paused before the altar and began to recite ancient words, an invocation to the darkest devils and most ancient demons. The litany continued, drowned out from all mortal ears by the screams of the Chinese monks. At last, the heavy stone altar cracked, though no visible hand struck it, and the separate halves flew to either side of the temple, as though swatted away by an unseen ogre. A dark recess was uncovered and Kato smiled as something rose from that opening.
It was an object the size of a man's head, an object seemingly carved from a single massive sapphire. It was shaped like a dragon and as Kato reached out for it, the object began to pulse and throb. Only the necromancer could have likened the feeling of the object in his hand to what it in the truest sense was. The object in his hand was not merely throbbing. It was beating. Beating like a disembodied yet still living heart.
Hoichi was deep in his prayers when the strange looking white bird fluttered into his chambers. It was just before dawn, the darkest part of the night. There was blood on the bird and as Hoichi walked towards it, the creature wilted back into a parchment of paper. Hoichi looked at the symbol inscribed on the paper, recognizing it as that of the Shaolin temple in Dairen. The shape-shifter had come from there. Hoichi knelt and retrieved the other piece of paper, the one the bird had been carrying in its beak.
It was a scrap of ancient parchment and as Hoichi read, he was struck with horror. Kato had shown his hand, but the nature of the demon's scheme was beyond even Hoichi's darkest imaginings.
The paper was a page torn from a collection of Chinese poetry that dated back a thousand years. Hoichi read again the infamous lines:
Before there is life, there is death
For the grass to grow, the tree must fall
For the land to rise, the mountain must crumble
For the river to flow, the snow must die
For there to be courage, there must be fear
Night must ever follow upon the day
I am the bringer of death
I am the eater of forests
I am the destroyer of mountains
I am the devourer of the waters
I am the terror that consumes honor
I am the darkness that devours the light
I am the destiny that awaits the wise
I am the reward that awaits the good
I am the justice that awaits the evil
The name given to fate
The name given to doom
Remember the name of Bagan
And curse the thousand tomorrows of my sleep