By C. L. Werner
Wargod of Japan
Part: Act 1 - Act 2 (coming soon) - Act 3 (coming soon)
Hideki Nomura was home. How bitter that word was to him now. He’d dreamed of it for so long,
for so many years. Visions of his family, of his sister’s smiling face, of his
mother’s cooking, his father’s wise, sagely advice. That last kiss from Naoko
had kept him alive through four years fighting his way through the stinking,
steaming hell of Burma and French Indo-China, had kept him going even when
devotion to his homeland and faith in the emperor had threatened to falter.
He’d endured so much, given so much, done so much. Now he was home and he could
only wish he was back there, back in the jungle. Everything he had done, it was
not enough. He had failed his nation in its time of need.
The soldier could hear steps echoing through the deserted museum, walking in his direction.
Hideki turned away from the ancient painting of samurai warriors he had been
staring at, moving into the next cavernous exhibit room. The museum was almost
always empty, one of the few places he could go to and be alone with his
thoughts. After years living, sleeping and fighting beside his squad, Hideki
found a strange comfort in being alone. In Burma, he’d never backed down from anything, not British
soldiers or Ghurka commandos. Now that he was home, something as ordinary as a
soft footfall was enough to make him turn tail and retreat. But, then, his days
of fighting were over. The Americans had seen to that.
He found no peace in the next room, for the footsteps continued. Hideki sighed in
annoyance, proceeding into the next exhibit hall. Why couldn’t whoever that was
just find something to look at and leave him in peace? Yet the footsteps
persisted, chasing Hideki through the vast, echoing chambers. The soldier knew
now that whoever it was, they were looking for him. The realization only made
him redouble his efforts to avoid them. There was no one he wanted to talk to.
He just wanted to be alone.
Turning a corner, Hideki crushed his body behind a display of ancient armor, sinking into
the narrow space between the lacquered mail and the stone wall. He was pleased
when he heard the footsteps pause at the threshold of the room, then continue
on in the other direction. The soldier slowly extracted himself from his hiding
place. Whoever it was, they might be back, but for the moment, at least, he was
alone. Hideki turned his eyes toward the exhibits in the room, trying to find
something to capture his attention, something to keep other thoughts from his
The exhibits in this room were different, though it took Hideki a moment to understand
exactly what that difference was. He was no student, no scholar. He was the son
of a laborer, who had been the son of a laborer. Strong backs ran in his
family, not book smarts. Still, he could see that the armor and weapons were
different. They were not Japanese at all, but Chinese and Mongolian. Examining
some of the plates set before the exhibits, Hideki learned that they were
relics from the failed invasion of Japan by the Mongol horde in 1281. It had been a glorious moment
in Japan’s history, when the gods themselves had intervened to save the island
nation from invasion, bringing down a monstrous storm to drive the Mongol
Now Japan was facing invasion once more. The radio and papers did not report it, of course,
according to them the mighty Imperial Army was poised to strike the decisive
blow and bring about victory. But the frequency of American planes dropping
bombs across the length and breadth of the land told Hideki otherwise. As he
had failed Japan, so too was the Imperial Navy. If the Americans had
control of the skies, then it would not bee much longer before they had control
of the sea as well. And once they did, it would only be a matter of time before
the shores of Japan became a battlefield.
Hideki suddenly snapped from his troubled ruminations, focusing his gaze on an object
that seemed somehow incongruous with the other artifacts in the exhibit. He
walked across the room to get a closer look at it. The object towered over him,
staring back at him with sightless eyes of stone. Hideki somehow felt uneasy
meeting that gaze, yet at the same time unable to look away.
It was a statue, a massive statue perhaps eight feet tall and constructed of some
pitted, black volcanic stone the likes of which Hideki had never seen before.
The carving was grotesque, a great horned demon of some kind, some ghastly oni
from legend. Its hands were massive paws, each stubby digit ending in a curved
claw. Sword-like fangs dripped from its wide, gash-like mouth. Horns curled
away from its head, like the points of spears. A long, clubbed tail curled
about the statue’s short, massive legs. There was an almost tangible aura of
malevolence about the thing, almost as though it were more than mere stone and
The plaque set before the thing identified it as ‘Kyrith’, a household god peculiar to the
Tangu Clan which once ruled parts of Hizen in western Japan. The
history went on that the Tangu Clan were wiped out in the Mongolian invasion
after betraying the other Japanese defenders. Kyrith, the plaque went on, had
been some malefic god of war that the Tangu Clan had worshipped for centuries.
The Tangu had perfected the art of war to such a degree that they were
unstoppable upon the field of battle. But their skills had not come without a
price, and the Tangu had become bloodthirsty, finding no solace in peace but
living only for battle until they came to be regarded as little more than
murderous, wild beasts by the other great houses of Hizen.
It was commonly known that the great invasion fleet had been driven back by the
prayers of a Buddhist monk, Il Yun, who had caused the gods to send a mighty
storm to smash the war fleet of Kublai Khan. Now Hideki found the legend of the
kamikaze, the divine wind, repeated. There had been another monk praying for
deliverance in Hizen, following the example of Il Yun. The Tangu had tried to
silence the holy man’s prayers. They wanted the Mongol fleet to land, for in
the 300,000 strong army of Mongols and their Sung and Koryo conscripts the Tangu
saw an unending supply of foes, saw the promise of a war that would rage until
the heavens cracked and the seas boiled. The legend was strangely reticent as
to how the Tangu had tried to do this, or how they had been stopped. It only
said that in the aftermath of their treachery, samurai from many of the great
houses banded together in hunting down and wiping out the Tangu line. The
statue of Kyrith had once stood within the household shrine of the Tangu and
was recovered in an excavation of that site in 1924.
The history concluded strangely, with what seemed to Hideki almost a prayer:
Victory is not always honor
Defeat is not always shame
As Hideki read the words, he felt a strange sense of peace fill him, the first he had
felt since returning home. He was moved to tears by the quiet, somber poetry.
He reached forward to touch the quiet letters on the plaque. It was only then
that he remembered the empty sleeve hanging at his side. The sense of peace
drained away and the restrained fury and rage inside him rose to the fore.
Hideki growled in anguish, smashing the fist of his left hand, his only hand,
against the unyielding forehead of the statue. He felt the fragile bones in his
fist crack beneath the blow, could see his torn knuckles seeping crimson across
the leering, gargoyle face.
A sharp cry caused Hideki to turn around. The footsteps had caught up to him. Naoko came
running to his side, her face ridden with concern. She tried to take Hideki’s
battered hand, to wrap a hasty bandage about his bleeding knuckles. At first,
Hideki allowed her to do so, then her face looked into his once more. Hideki
felt himself die inside. When he’d left, when he’d gone to serve his emperor
and his nation, those eyes had been filled with love. Now they were filled with
something that stung his very soul. Now they were filled with pity. Pity for
the mangled cripple, pity for the battered shell of a man who had returned in
shame and dishonor to his home.
Hideki pulled away from Naoko, cradling his injured hand to his breast. As he did so, the
motion caused something long and sharp and metal to fall to the floor, ringing
from the stone. Automatically Naoko bowed down to recover it, then she saw what
her hands reached toward and she recoiled from it as though it were a serpent.
‘No,’ was all she could say. The tears streaming from her eyes hurt Hideki almost as much as
the pity he had seen there before. But only almost.
‘You can’t, you won’t,’ Naoko gasped, a pleading quality in her voice. Hideki laughed, a
sound as hollow and cheerless as an open grave.
‘I can’t,’ he replied, lifting his broken hand. ‘Not now. Perhaps not even before. I’ve
carried it with me for three weeks now and haven’t found the courage.’ Hideki
choked back the despair that strangled him, trying to will his voice to remain
his own. ‘If I’d had that kind of courage, I would never have come back here. I
would have died out there, out where my death would have served some purpose,
would have done some good.’
‘You are an honourable man,’ Naoko told him. ‘You fought for our emporer and our home, fought until
you could fight no more. Where is your dishnour?’
Hideki didn’t meet her gaze, instead kneeling to the floor. With his single hand, he
awkwardly recovered the long, slender knife and stuffed it back inside his
clothes. ‘My dishonour is in every breath I take. It is in the accusing, angry
faces of my dead comrades, of those who gave their lives to fight our enemies.’
Hideki stepped slowly past Naoko, keeping his eyes from her weeping face. ‘Find
yourself a whole man, Naoko, a man worthy of your love. A man who does not need
She did not follow him from the museum, remaining in the exhibit hall, crying quietly in
the musty darkness. Naoko had always been bright and intelligent, she understood
when the power of words were at an end. She understood that she could not
dispel the demon of despair that had settled upon the bitter wreckage of the
man she loved.
Only once did Hideki turn back, intending to fix his gaze upon Naoko, to burn her memory into
his mind. Instead, he found his gaze locking upon the hideous visage of the Tangu
statue, on the blood slowly dripping from its reptilian visage into its fanged
and gaping mouth. Horror suddenly gripped him, horror such as he had never
known even upon the infernal jungle battlefields of Burma. It was
a cold, nebulous feeling, a cold prick upon the back of his skull, a chill
whisper crawling across his soul. As he turned and fled, Hideki wondered if he
would have had the courage to face such horror, even when he had been whole.
The museum and Naoko were far behind him before he stopped running. Hideki leaned against
the wall of a noodle shop, panting as he tried to suck breath back into his
lungs. What had caused such terror he wondered? How could anything cause such
terror in a man who was ready to die? He felt the knife in his pocket. The cold
steel seemed to beckon him, to beckon him with all the warmth and cheer of an
old friend. It would end all his misery and torment, it would restore his honour.
If he only had the courage. But he would need to make his choice quickly. Honour
would not wait forever.
Hideki looked skyward as the air raid sirens began to sound. He almost chuckled to himself.
There was little for the Americans to bomb here that was of any great
There were people in the street now, shielding their eyes against the sun and pointing
excitedly at the plane gliding across the azure sky. A single bomber, probably
lost from its squadron or else damaged by what few anti-aircraft batteries and
fighter planes the Japanese could still muster. Hideki breathed a sigh of
relief. There was little damage a lone bomber could do to a city the size of Hiroshima.
Hideki Nomura shuffled along through the teeming streets of Tokyo, his heavy coat tightly
closed against the elements, his collar raised to obscure as much of his face
as it could. The burns never really healed, never would really heal, just as
the poison running through his body would never leave him. Even his bones would
be blighted by its taint. It had taken the doctors eight years to accept the
fact that there was nothing they could do for him, eight years for them to at
last acknowledge that Hideki was a dying man and that science could do nothing
to forestall that death. When they had at last accepted that fact, Hideki had
been released from the clinic, to find whatever pleasure and joy he could in
what little time was left to him.
Radiation. Invisible death. An intangible killer that had left a legacy behind it even more
terrifying than the awesome destructive power of the Atomic bomb itself.
Science was scrambling to understand it, to make sense of this malevolent force
that had been thrust into the world. Governments struggled to control this
force, understanding for the first time, perhaps, the absolute destruction
another war would bring. And the people, the people laughed nervously and tried
to ignore, tried to forget the awful specter which now hovered above their
Hideki was a walking reminder of that terror. Technically, his poisoned body had survived
the bombing of Hiroshima, but in reality, he was little more than a ghost, a
wraith prowling the streets of Tokyo, shunned by those who feared to consider what he was,
who cringed in horror lest somehow the poison inside him should contaminate
them as well. But it mattered little to Hideki, he was already dead inside.
Everything he had ever cared about, everyone he had ever loved, had been lost
in the radioactive doom that had obliterated Hiroshima. Now, slowly but
surely, the poison running through his flesh was causing his body to catch up
with his soul.
The crippled Japanese stopped outside a dingy-looking bar, bright neon letters glowing in
the light drizzle that slowly drifted down upon Tokyo. The letters were
English, proclaiming the bar to be one frequented by the American soldiers who
yet occupied Japan, overseeing its reconstruction and supervising its
fledgling government. For a moment, Hideki considered turning away, finding
another place in which to quench his thirst, someplace without foreign words
burning in its windows. Then a dim flicker, the faintest ember of emotion began
to glow inside him. He was Japanese and the bar was on Japanese soil. He had
more right to be here than any invading gaijin.
The atmosphere within the bar was a grey murk of cigarette smoke and alcohol fumes.
Not the sharp scent of saki, but the pungent reek of imported beer. Hideki
crinkled his nose at the foreign smell, then walked slowly toward the
leather-lined counter. He deliberately made certain not to glance at the green
uniformed men who sat at the tiny tables or stood around the bulk of a
velvet-topped billiard table. Trying not to notice the whispers was more
difficult, but Hideki tried anyway.
‘Saki,’ he said as he seated himself on one of the brass-legged stools. The barkeep, a fat-faced
Japanese with a craven, cowardly cheer about him grinned a bit more widely and
shook his head.
‘I think maybe you are in the wrong place,’ the bartender said.
‘Saki,’ Hideki repeated, hearing the sound of chairs being pushed across the wooden floor as
green uniformed men rose from their tables.
‘Look, I serve Americans here,’ the bartender explained. ‘They look at this place as a
home away from home. They don’t like to share it with civilians.’
‘Saki,’ Hideki said again, his voice the same weary monotone. The bartender shrugged
his shoulders and turned to retrieve a clay bottle from the shelves behind him.
Hideki focused on the man’s labors, ignoring the two soldiers who now stood to
either side of him, examining him with a stern, scrutinizing gaze.
‘I give up, Miller,’ one of the soldiers said at last. ‘I can’t decide if it’s a Jap or a
piece of bacon that gussied itself up and went for a walk!’ The rude joke
brought a chuckle from the other soldier. Hideki didn’t turn, keeping his eyes
on the bartender’s back.
‘At least he has the sense to come out at night,’ the second GI said. ‘Wouldn’t want to be
scaring little children, after all!’ The cruel joke brought another round of
laughter from both men. The smile faltered on the bartender’s face as he set
the bottle of saki down. Hideki nodded gratefully and reached for the tiny clay
‘It’s a Jap alright.’ A third voice joined the cruel mockery of the other soldiers, deeper
and older than those of the others, more slurred and twisted by alcohol. Hideki
could hear the uneven pattern of the soldier’s steps as his boots slapped
against the floor and he made his way toward the counter. He could smell the
stagnant beer-ridden breath of the soldier wash across his face as the GI
leaned towards him.
‘Some Nip caverat,’ the drunken soldier spat. ‘Just like those bastards on Saipan and Iwo! Crawling
under the ground like stinkin’ maggots til the sun sets and they can sink ten
inches of steel in yer best friend’s guts!’ The soldier reached forward,
slapping Hideki’s arm and causing him to spill saki across his clothes. ‘Bastards’d
make you go in ta get them too! Make ya crawl down inta the dirt ta get them!
But we fixed ‘em! We fixed ‘em! Didn’t play their game, didn’t go down inta
their rat nests!’ The soldier grabbed Hideki’s shoulder, spinning him around.
Hideki could see that his antagonist was a big man, broad-shouldered and tall.
His face was harsh and weathered, his eyes old and dead, the eyes of a man who
has been in the company of death too long to know anything else. The old
veteran seemed to see the same sickly light in Hideki’s face, but there could
never be any kinship between two such men as they. ‘We’d pour gasoline down in
there, set it ta burnin’ with a grenade! Use flamethrowers on ‘em as they came scramblin’
‘Sarge, I think that’s enough,’ came the voice of the GI called Miller, concern in his
words. But his sergeant was far beyond the reach of quiet appeals.
‘Tell me, caverat, where’d you get burned? Okinawa? Pelu? Maybe you were one of the scum stickin’
bayonets in my pals on Coregidor? Where’d we get you, you stinkin’ craven rat?’
Then the sergeant’s words were silenced. Hideki had endured much pain, much loss and
much tragedy, but for some reason, he could not endure the scorn of this
foreign soldier in a dingy little bar in a squalid corner of Tokyo. The
quiet, unquestioning acceptance that had so long deadened his soul cracked and
shattered and surging into its place was a red firestorm of rage. With one
smooth motion, Hideki broke the clay saki bottle against the brass leg of his
stool and ground the jagged remnant into his antagonist’s face.
The American soldiers watched in shocked horror as the scarred Japanese attacked their
sergeant, as bright crimson jetted from a severed artery in the man’s neck.
Then they were on him, fists smashing into his withered body, pounding him to
the floor. Hideki’s burned cheek slapped into the pooling blood from his victim
as strong hands closed about his wrists and held him. He could hear voices
screaming alternately for an ambulance and for the MPs. He could hear the last
death rattle wheezing its way from the dying man’s torn throat.
Black horror filled Hideki. It was not horror at what he had done, for he could find not the
slightest trace of remorse for the brutal murder. It was not horror for what
would happen to himself, a Japanese man who had butchered a sergeant of the
American army which yet governed his country in all but name. It was not even
horror at the shame of such a savage and unthinking act. No, it was a horror
born somewhere beyond Hideki’s mind and soul.
Even as he watched the blood gurgling from his victim’s mangled face, Hideki’s eyes did
not see it. Instead, unaccountably, he saw again the leering, grinning demon’s
face of Kyrith, that strange idol of the vanquished Tangu clan. He saw again
the tiny trickle of blood dripping into the stone mouth. Somehow, Hideki seemed
to feel that there had indeed been a spirit, a force within that idol. A force
that had waited, inhumanly silent, inhumanly patient. Waited who could say how
many centuries for the moment it would be set free once more.
As Hideki felt the sergeant’s blood pooling about his cheek, he could not shake the
impression that what that force had been waiting for had finally come to pass.
It was this thought, and no other, which filled him with dread and horror.
To be continued in Act 2, Coming Soon.
Wargod of Japan
Part: Act 1 - Act 2 (coming soon) - Act 3 (coming soon)