Full Name: Unknown
Allegiance: Jade Cult
A secret high-tech lab in Japan, years ago; a young girl watched as a killer wiped blood from his sword-blade, the blood of her brave father who had vainly tried to protect her, and her mother and sister, their lives brutally ended. The implacable killer proceeded to manipulate controls for the test-chamber that the young girl was trapped inside. Leaving the girl to die as the chamber activated, as it filled with a peculiar liquid, the swordsman set to depart.
However, something very strange happened then. Time for the sword-wielding killer stretched out to seeming infinity, his body reacting ever so slowly to his surroundings. He saw then the young dark-eyed girl with burning hatred in her heart. With time slowed to an almost standstill he was able to see the spray of blood fly from his own neck glide impossibly slowly outwards as the vengeful girl took his own sword and cleaved his head from his body with a single blow. The life of Shadow Mask was snuffed out in an instant as time resumed its normal flow. Shadow Mask was dead, and his sword, the symbol of Shadow Masks across innumerable generations, taken by his own killer.
Years passed, and far away in a remote mountain fortress in Japan, a feral thing brooded alone in a Spartan cell. The creature was something less than a man and at the same time so much more. Simple clothes adorned the savage man-thing’s frame as a small reflection of the creature’s limited needs. The creature wore a mask that resembled nothing so much as an ornate muzzle, a stark contrast to its simple vestments, its beastly nature defined and displayed through that adornment. The thing’s cell was not locked, since its occupant lived only to serve its master, and would not seek to be elsewhere unless commanded. A cold stone corridor led from the cell into one of the meeting chambers of the man-creature’s master, the Green Emperor.
Following a discrete signal, the brute left its cell arrived in the meeting chamber. His master was there, regal and shrouded in cloak and armor. A cadre of Ninjas stood motionless against one wall, and before them stood the Green Serpent, deadly and beautiful in the eyes of all those who saw her, except perhaps for this brute. His thoughts were governed only by servitude to his master and the violence that he would unleash in fulfilling his tasks.
“There are those who think this beast is unworthy of your attention, father, that it is unworthy of the Shadow Mask mantle.” An almost imperceptible shake of the Green Emperor’s head signaled to her that she should say no more.
The Green Emperor stood impassively for several minutes. He stared to who knew where, his face hidden behind his ceremonial mask, his contemplations his own. Finally he turned on his heel and walked up to the one he called ‘daughter’, that those others who knew of her called Green Serpent, heir to the empire of the Jade Cult.
“You see only what you want, what you desire. You see the Jade Cult. You see the shijin totems. You see steps to power. You see the steps to usurp my power. And I applaud all of that. But I see more. I see that a child, half human, half oni, and born as lowly as one can be within my empire can become something to be feared. A child born with nothing has the potential to fight for anything. By taking that potential, honing it and sharpening it a great instrument is created.”
The Green Emperor paused, and gazed along the cadre of Ninjas standing stock still against the wall.
“Anyone can kill, daughter. But those who can are ultimately distracted by other things. And any of these Jade Cult Ninjas could rise to the mantle of Shadow Mask, as the pinnacle of their skills, as those who did so before them,” he waved nonchalantly at the ranked assassins, “But that is pride. It is a pride in their own abilities, but pride nonetheless. And your weakness is avarice. It was weakness that was the failure of the previous Shadow Masks. But my new Shadow Mask is a killer without distraction, without such weakness. Already he is one again with thoughts that race bloodily as he seeks only to serve me and to mete out death at my command. He has a singular purpose and in that he is magnificent, my perfect instrument. If you are correct to dismiss my new Shadow Mask, then that will be tested and proven. I asked that you bring your most promising Ninjas to me now, and here they are. I propose a test then. If your Ninjas defeat the Shadow Mask, then he dies as the dog you feel he is. If your Ninjas fail, then he has truly earned his name and rank. Or if I willed it, he would stand and face their attack and not attack back, reining in every instinct within him to do so.”
The savage Supreme breathed darkness out from his own muzzling mask. The darkness coalesced around Shadow Mask. The inky darkness twisted and formed a shape, and the shape drifted away from Shadow Mask to form a shadowy copy of its creator. In that moment more than half a dozen Ninjas, expert assassins all, drew weapons to face a snarling wild man-thing and his shadow double.
Minutes had passed. The chamber was awash with blood. Shadow Mask’s claws dripped red to the stone floor. Bloodied but unbeaten, Shadow Mask stood across the bodies of those the Green Emperor had set before him. The Emperor approached, and put a fatherly hand on his shoulder. Green Serpent looked on as impassively as she could manage, but noticeably chagrined in the eyes of her father.
“I have a task for you, one worthy of you. There is a city, in the west. I bid that you go there and enact my will, and reclaim that which has been taken. Find the sword. Pulp City and its protectors shall feel the power of the Green Emperor, and you will lead the way for the Jade Cult in that accursed place.”