In one the remotest parts of Japan, nestled in mountains untouched by modern influence, is a forbidding fortress of dark stone. Local folklore has long held that demonic and evil creatures inhabit the treacherous slopes below this outpost. However such accounts are generally agreed to be simply the stuff of superstition.
No-one ever scales those peaks, and those living nearby avoid even the shadow of the mountain, muttering about curses and death to the unwary, even if they are only the stuff of local legends. Yet in those tales is some shred of truth, for at the highest summit is that unwelcoming fortress, shrouded by the most ancient and powerful of devilish magic.
In the caves and hollows littering the mountainside, oni prowl; hideous, gigantic creatures with razor-sharp claws, wild manes of hair, and long horns growing from their fore-heads. They have formed a pact with the other denizens of this mountain, those ensconced in the citadel above. Their oni magic has concealed that edifice for centuries. In return blood ties have been formed between the oni and those living in the stronghold; as the world has moved on, the oni have managed to stay hidden from view under the aegis of those with whom they have made their pact.
Within the implacable walls of the fortress is an austere and drab settlement. Activity is evident throughout, but this is no noisy and bustling outpost. Far from it, as an eerie near-silence pervades all. Buildings are maintained, provisions distributed and martial skills practiced – all tasks conducted under the same chilling quiet.
Banners flutter in a cold breeze that passes over the bastion. Under those standards emblazoned with a green dragon motif, those who toil and train have all have sworn allegiance to one purpose alone; servitude to their master and an oath made to him to sweep clean Japan of all invaders. All in the citadel are instruments of his war, the precise and silent blade of the Green Emperor. They are the ninjas of the Jade Cult and they are his legion of assassins.
The Jade Cult network is an all-encompassing web across Japan. It is through this network that new members – assets –are acquired. Local intelligence is used to identify possible inductees who will follow the tenets of the Green Emperor while providing useful skills, from research scientists to potential killers. Thus, the Jade Cult’s assassins form just one branch of a vast and very secretive organization. Nonetheless the ninjas of the Jade Cult have become a powerful tool, sowing fear and murder on behalf of their master.
The Jade Cult has grown in the shadows, just as the power of the Green Emperor has grown, the two inextricably linked, and the Jade Cult ninjas have prospered through the links forged with the monstrous oni. Half-bloods have been carefully bred with human and oni parents. These offspring would be freaks or fiends in any other place, but in the castle of the Jade Cult assassins they are revered. They train harder, push themselves further and are more naturally adept with the skills of darkness and death than their human allies. The most able become sensei of the Jade Cult, instructing the next generation of the willing in the ancient arts of ninjutsu, while serving to enact the edicts of the Green Emperor.
Wild reports have been exchanged among a few within the Supreme community of a small band of ninjas that have broken with the Jade Cult. With what little is known of the Jade Cult and its iron-fisted master, this seems beyond credulity, but still those sporadic rumors persist.
As the gaze of the Green Emperor has turned to the west, to Pulp City, so too have his agents have been dispatched. Encounters with ‘ninjas’ are increasingly being reported in Pulp City; stories of silent killers often led by more bestial-looking assassins. Heavy Metal, the Blood Watch and the other Heroes of Pulp City recognize that a new force is on the rise in the city; although what the ultimate purpose of these implacable executioners is they do not yet know. And of course, there are other secret citadels where such assassins are trained…