Frigid waves lap against the shore.
And they splay themselves across the sand.
A bitter chill accompanies them, but the land pays no heed. It welcomes the water into its sleepy tranquillity; innocent and unsuspecting. With devilish footsteps, the chill eagerly takes the opportunity before it. It penetrates the island, the soles of its shoes scuffing across rock and root as it sneaks down a dirty track.
“Japan is many islands, mmhmm…” the chill speaks from out-of-view. The cold, coy crackle of Sensei Abe Lincoln. “We learn from early age to respect water, earth, air, and fire. Come, let me show you.”
His feet carry him forward, the black legs of his trousers scratching past low hanging reeds as the path extends upwards, away from the ocean. The tip of an embossed cane raps slowly on the ground next to them.
“Only one place in America has same level of respect for elements.” Lincoln’s voice hangs in the air. A warm, almost-courteous reflection lingers on its fringes. “It is unsurprising. The Hawaiian Islands had good relationship with Japan. That is, until America forced its way between, and made Japanese into second-class citizens.”
Whatever rare respect that had briefly skimmed Lincoln’s words retreats before the coldness as it surges once more.
“Bah!” A glob of spit flies past his scuttering legs and collides with the dirt like a small bomb. The wily sensei continues to cut through the jungle path as it climbs further and further into the sky.
He rounds a corner, and begins to chant through his rasping breath.
“U-S-A… U-S-A…” The letters aren’t spoken, they’re hissed. Derision drips from each syllable, but still they come in a steady rhythm rising faster than the gentle rock of the waves, and above even the tapping of his cane on the ground. “U-S-A… U-S-A…”
A sudden wind rushes through the vegetation, drowning out the cynical intruder. In its place the squawking of a couple of parrots takes its place. Back and forth they go.
Back and forth.
“Ignorance hidden behind blind patriotism,” Lincoln forces his way through nature’s rhythm, hijacking it as it rises towards a crest. “Like chattering birds. And who is focus of classic American hatred? Same as ever, mmhmm. As true now as it was then. Redneck pulls string and ugly puppets dance. Uncle Sam good. Rising Sun bad. This though… this is opportunity, yes. Opportunity to make up for centuries of American oppression. Opportunity to re-establish status quo.”
Another gust of wind, and the squawking becomes erratic. A blur of brilliant green and red swoops over Lincoln’s shoulder as one of the birds flits by. The treetops rustle in duress, and tiny stones rattle down the path towards the sensei as he keeps pressing uphill. The symphony of the island reaching a cacophonous crescendo just as Lincoln bursts onto the top of the mountain.
The panning vision of his body finally reaches his face, but at the peak, everything dies.
There is silence on the mountaintop.
On the edge of a cliff, overlooking the ocean vista, Shujin Yama sits cross-legged on a mat. Even Lincoln himself dare not guess what the behemoth contemplates.
“Look…” Lincoln says. Trying to keep his voice quiet but also clear, his words come out as a growl. “No man is island, but Shujin Yama is no mere man. Shujin Yama embodies soul of entire people. Holo-San looks to gods of past for guidance, but Shujin Yama is only link one needs. Shujin Yama is bridge from past to future. Shujin Yama is reminder of what you all can become.”
Careful not to wake the beast, Lincoln inches closer.
“If Holo-San is looking for enlightenment, in Shujin Yama it can be found,” he continues. “Tides move by Shujin Yama’s hand. Earth quakes under Shujin Yama’s foot. Wind blows by Shujin Yama’s breath. Fire itself burns from Shujin Yama’s heart. There is no room for Holo-San’s false gods. Here?
There is only Shujin Yama.”
Wrathful eyes open atop the world, casting their terrible gaze upon the new year.
Like the mountain itself, the Oni of Oblivion erupts!
The sounds of the world come screaming back in, and over top of it all the Premier American Champion roars. The elements themselves – old gods and new – take a knee before their new lord.
Yama looks down upon his kingdom.
The Pale Rider must kneel next.
Then… another smoky mountain will be conquered.