Alias: Kamikaze - His training in the martial arts allows him to switch stances to adapt to whatever situation presents itself.
The air was icy this morning, as it always ways on the peaks of Mt. Hiuchigatake in Northern Japan. The boy blocked out the cold, but still, subconsciously, pulled his robes a little tighter around himself. His sensei would often scoff at such practices, telling the boy to ‘worry not of the comfort of your surroundings. Be warmed by the fire in your heart. Be cooled by the water of your spirit.’ Such were the teachings drilled into young Toshihiro Takeda every day for the past five years. And though he had once viewed the old man with a sense of disdain, thinking his teachings a way of asserting his own superiority, the boy had developed a deep sense of respect, almost reverence, for the old man and his wisdom.
The sun had yet to rise when Toshihiro began his morning exercises. He started with the same set of stretches and breathing exercises he had attempted on his first day at the temple so long ago. After balancing and regulating his breathing and warming his muscles up through stretching, he began some light calisthenics. These turned to strikes and kicks, and then to full fledged kata, before the boy concluded his physical endeavors. Then, his brow covered with sweat, and panting from the lack of oxygen, Toshihiro sat down to meditate.
It was three hours after the sun had risen when the boy softly pushed aside the straw mat barring entrance to his sensei’s room. He had struggled during the end of his meditation, his sense of nervousness increasing until he couldn’t take it anymore. He had to talk to the man who now sat cross legged on the floor, his back to Toshihiro. Without turning around, without even moving a muscle, his sensei spoke:
“Surely, it is too early for you to have finished your duties for the day?” The man’s voice was airy – wizened, yet stern. Every letter, every syllable was spoken clearly and concisely, and every word carried an almost supernatural weight behind it.
“No, certainly not, sensei,” Toshihiro stammered, remembering to bow low despite his nerves, “I found myself wanting to speak with you.”
“I know,” remarked the old man casually “but I was hoping you could keep your patience until tea time this evening. You have always been a headstrong boy, Toshihiro-san, no matter my efforts to teach you how to wait.”
“I am sorry, sensei, and I am mindful of your teachings.” The boy was genuine. His lack of patience and ability to calm himself had always been his biggest barrier in learning The Way. “And I have improved, I know I have. But this was too much for me.”
“Too much only in your mind, Toshihiro-san. You put too much emphasis on it. If you were only to see everything as it truly is, then your mind would not be clouded by nerves and doubt. Now, what is it you wanted to speak to me about?”
“I was…thinking about my future here. About everything you’ve taught me.”
“I see, and what conclusion is it you have reached?”
“I cannot bring myself to understand why we keep our secrets from the world, why everyone does not have access to these teachings.”
“We hide these things from a world that is not yet ready for them, Toshihiro-san. There are those out there who would use our knowledge for great evil.”
“And is that why you hide yourself on a mountain, only taking in one student – me – in the last fifty years?”
“You had a natural gift, and a pure heart. And, I admit, I am growing old. I needed to reach out for an heir, so that these lessons could be preserved for when mankind matures enough to use them.”
“I see, sensei.” Toshihiro replied, bowing his head, “and so, I too am exiled here with you.” He could not stop the tears from streaming down his face.
“I know you,” his sensei reached out an hand to lift the boys face. “Toshi, is your yearning to go to the West so great?” His tone was that of a concerned father, caring for his child.
Toshihiro blinked through his tears, trying to stifle them, before nodding once. “Master, the people here are closer to following the Way than you think. If I am to make a true impact, I need to journey to a land untouched by such practices.”
“And what if all you find there is a great evil, Toshi? What will you do if they turn their backs to you?” Despite his great wisdom, the boy found his master’s only fears reflected back on him.
“I do not hope to inflict great change, I only hope to be the spark that starts a fire.”
His sensei pondered this for a moment, his eyes closed in thoughtful consideration. Finally, he spoke. “I do not believe the world is ready, Toshihiro,” he said with finality. The boy’s head fell to his chest, deflated. “But,” his sensei continued, “perhaps all these years of solitude have blinded me. If I am wrong, you possess within you the capacity for great good. And even if I am right, it will be good of you to see mankind’s darkness for yourself.”
“So is that a yes!?” Toshihiro exclaimed, unable to contain his excitement.
“You should make ready your things. I have taught you all that I can for now, you
should return here once you have completed this lesson. Even if you decide to stay there, and carve out a new destiny for yourself, I…” his sensei’s face flickered at once with longing, perhaps even bitterness “…would still like to see you."
“I won’t let you down, sensei!” Toshihiro stood quickly, rushing towards the door – before stopping. He hadn’t missed the sadness in his sensei’s face, and he felt a sudden upwelling of emotion. “Sensei…”
The voice behind him took it’s time. “Yes, Toshi?”
“…Thank you.” And with that, Toshihiro Takeda left to begin preparations for his journey.
The journey north towards Cape Ohma was a difficult one, but it gave Toshihiro time to reflect on his decision, and gain a new sense of determination. He neglected, however, to stop by his home village of Kazamaura on the way. Though his longing to see his parents again was great, he decided that he was on his way to starting his new life, and that nothing could be gained from dwelling in the past.
It took the boy a full week to reach the airport at Cape Ohma, during which time he survived on rations he had packed back at the temple, as well as any small animals he encountered on his journey down the mountain. Indeed, it felt as if the boy gained vitality as the elevation increased. The increase of oxygen not only acted to boost the boys already incredible natural vitality, but also slightly drugged him as well – causing him to walk around with a perpetual smile on his face, and perform unnecessary aerial acrobatics and tumbles in his elation. Indeed, he could feel his Chi inside him swell up much greater than it had been on the mountain top. He took sufficient liberty in testing out his newfound abilities. Whereas a 6 inch board had been a challenge, down here, at the foot of the mountain, a tree posed no more issue than a twig. And so Toshihiro found himself breaking rocks and jumping from tree to tree, or running faster than he had ever run before.
The noise and bustle of the Cape Ohma airport was a severe culture shock to Toshihiro. Never before – not even in his youth in Kazamaura – had the boy seen so many people, and in such a hurry. No longer feeling elated, he walked around clueless, looking for a sign of where – he imagined – he could fly too. It was not until a concerned attendant walked up to him to help that Toshihiro made any progress. She said the only flight to the West was to a city in Maryland called Freedom City. When the girl translated the words to Japanese to better clarify, the boys face lit up, and he immediately asked to go there. The city sounded to Toshihiro like his intentions and dreams given name. The girl pointed him towards a dock about 100 feet away, where she said he could buy tickets.
The attendant there fixed him with an expression of curiosity, then later shock when the boy pulled out a gold nugget the size of a baseball to pay for the tickets. After calling several managers, and debating for the better part of an hour, Toshihiro had one first class ticket to Freedom City, as well as anything from the gift shop he wanted. Mindful of his sensei’s lessons against excess, Toshihiro only accepted the most modest and practical items. But it was in the first class coach where the boy got his lesson on excess first hand.
Never before had so many things been offered to the boy before, or had so many people been overly willing to cater to his every need. Word in the airport had spread like wildfire, and it seemed everyone aboard the plane was looking to score even a small tip from the boy who paid with gold. Toshihiro was so taken aback by this sudden onslaught that he found himself fleeing to the restroom just to escape. Imagine his shock then, when the plane took off. The roaring of the engine was louder than anything Toshihiro had ever heard before, and threw him into such a shock that he almost regretted leaving.
Two months later and Toshihiro’s mood had significantly changed. Gone was the excitement, and the thrill of seeing new places and interacting with new people. Instead, it had been replaced with the somberess of reality, and a realization that maybe his teacher was right. What had awaited him in Freedom City wasn’t exactly the rosy colored atmosphere full of good people and opportunity that Toshihiro had hoped for. He had seen more evil in the past two months than he had ever seen in his life. People getting mugged on the street, or shot down in drive by’s between rival gangs. Houses being robbed or people being outright murdered because of their differences. Even Toshihiro had been attacked, being called out for his different skin color, accent, and behaviors. The remainder of his money, save for a few slivers he carried on his person, had long ago been swindled from him by some street salesman who sold him a broken watch. He had quickly found someone to change his remaining to paper, though he was certain they had cheated him as well.
His only remaining hope glimmered in the kindness of a stranger, and old man by the name of Tom who had taken him in off the street and given him a place to stay, asking nothing in return. Toshihiro did all he could to assist the old man around the house, and in return, the man tried to teach him English. Toshihiro was a quick study, and in addition to learning this new language, made great strides in his personal training. The harshness of this new reality had focused him, and he was convinced he had to be strong to survive. He found himself meditating more and more, not only to gain a better understanding of himself and the world around him, but also to calm his ever increasing nerves, and, to a point, preserve the hope he still held for the future.
This hope almost died on the night Tom’s house was attacked. A member of one of Freedom City’s street gangs had seen Toshihiro out buying manga from a kiosk (the boy loved the fanciful images and characters, as they were both a reminder of his home and a bolster to his idea that any obstacle could be overcome.) and followed him home. They stood outside, threatening to open fire unless the old man turned the boy over. Tom was reluctant, but Toshihiro assured him he would handle the situation. Fueled by an ever growing anger against these sort of people, Toshihiro rushed outside. The sound of gunfire was brief to say the least. In a matter of minutes those that weren’t disarmed or running away badly injured lay broken on the ground. In a dark lit alley, a man who had seen the incident made the call.
And so now, here Toshihiro was, in the very same airport he had arrived in, standing next to a man in a suit to join some type of school for superhero types. The idea seemed good to him simply because it would protect Tom from any more harm (though his antics had more than taken care of that). Still, it was good to be sure. The idea of the school sounded promising as well. Here, finally perhaps, was a leg up towards the dream Toshihiro hoped to accomplish.
It wasn’t long before the second person arrived.
See [[Issue #1 | Issue #1]] “Arrivals”