Dead Or Alive - The Janus Project - Not Death But Life

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Description: The lord god of thunder Raiden normally has so little to do with the day-to-day affairs of mortals, a tournament like Dead or Alive would not raise his suspicion. However, the thunder god has sensed an imbalance in the energies of the world surrounding Ultratech's mysterious JANUS Project. Though Raiden's charge is to censure against the monstrous denizens behind the veil, humanity is not something so easily manipulated by science. The fomenting war has more sides to it than any one entity can see, and Raiden's journey will take him to the heart of the resistance: a diminutive trainee kunoichi, far out in the wilds. He must spread the warning about the forces at play in this tournament.

Thunder rolls.

In the grand calculus of the universe, the God of Thunder himself, Raiden, would normally not include himself in the everyday affairs of mortals. They manage well enough without the interference of the Elder Gods, yet...something has been off about this tournament. Too many things have been off-kilter, and now it threatens to unbalance the world, Ultratech's mysterious projects have seen to such things. Lo does the Thunderer find Mount Fuji in his sights, even as it begins to rain upon the mountain.

The waters strike grass, stone, and earth in equality. Nothing is left unscathed, except for perhaps the denizens of the shadow-folk that reside on this mighty stone. True to his charge, a lightning bolt strikes the ground with force, causing dust to rise into the air. What stands in it's stead?

An adult man, in robes of white and blue, with bits of hardened leather worn into his attire. A wide-brimmed harvester hat rests on his head, blocking his visage at the eye-level to prevent his face from being easily seen. His gaze searches - not just for anyone, but for someone specific.


The God says the name, his words whispering on the wind like an ill omen, or a bright prophecy.

The word whispered on the wind pricks at the edge of a young kunoichi's consciousness as she sits shivering beneath the branches of the trees that stretch above. Dressed in black hakama and tabi and a cropped turtleneck top, the girl is ill-equipped for the torrent that has been visited upon the alpine forest, some distance from the small, hidden village that is home to the practitioners of Edo-Ryuu ninjitsu.

The rain might obscure the fact that the ninja youth's face has already been wet for some time with her own tears - the reason that Raiza is to be found in the mountain forest at this moment. After all, there is little room elsewhere for them. She's an ocean away from the place she calls home and the family she could seek comfort from. The reason for her distress is too secret to explain to the people that she lives with, who remain oblivious to her double life as a ninja. One of her two close friends in Japan, Lucky Chloe, has enough on her plate as a pop idol without Raiza's waterworks, and Raiza's sure the singer would say something along those lines if she caught her crying at dance rehearsal. The other, Daisuke, is a school friend, and getting caught crying at school is without a doubt the worst thing a new girl can do to her social life.

As for the Edo-Ryuu clan?

They're the ones that the teenage kunoichi has failed.

As alone as she feels, the sound of her voice startles Raiza. Her voice, usually full of spirited but currently small and fearful, returns the address as she lifts her head up and peers into the rain and cold fog that fill the air.


The voice didn't sound quite like her master's, but it was hard to distinguish. She hopes and fears that it was the old man's, if it wasn't her imagination. There are rumours of vengeful ghosts living in these forests, after all, and Raiza is especially superstitious where Japanese folklore is concerned, especially after getting trounced by a kitsune.

She unwraps the dual-ended kusarigama from around her waist, just in case, even though it probably wouldn't help much against a Japanese ghost.

"Hisashi-san? Who's there?"

The wind blows harder. As if to threaten the young kunoichi out of hiding. Yet, the figure that approaches in the distance is not Masayoshi, Hisashi, Daisuke, or Lucky Chloe. It is someone else. It's something else. The steps upon the ground almost appear as if they were not touching at all. They leave no footprints. A ghost? Perhaps. Though a ghost suggests something that has died without fulfilling a purpose or with great need left in the heart. This being is not quite a ghost.

But something supernatural? Of that, there was no mistaking.

"Your master has not yet emerged." The voice was different then, like a rolling rumble, like thunder that danced to the wardrums of the heavens. "He rests." the sound ceasing from thunder, into a whisper, as if the colors of the wind played in her eardrums. The rain starts to lighten only slightly, and emerging is the Lord of Thunder's visage.


"You know my name."

As if by magic, his name appears in her mind's eye. Associations of mystics with the gods or lords of the sky. He is known by many names. Haokah, Lei Gong, Kamuy Kanna, potentially even the other deities of the world, such as Thor or Zeus or Indra? Who could know but Raiden himself, who keeps the matters of the Gods close to his vest?

"I come with a warning. Step forward, Raiza, and hear."

He stays where he is, and he awaits the kunoichi.

The God of Thunder is known by many more names, even in Japanese alone, and Raiza knows them all.

Well, not strictly. She's pretty sure that she could name at least four of them, and she could probably stumble her way through approximations of at least one or two more. She could hardly be blamed if she mispronounced 'Kamo-wakeikazuchi-no-kami,' could she? There's a reason that she personally prefers to invoke the Thunder God's name as 'Raijin' when she invokes the Thunder God's name at all - which is mostly a respectful 'once a fortnight' or so, on average, since she learned the 'Thunder God Hammer' technique from Master Masayoshi. The Edo clan, after all, revere the God of Thunder most amongst the kami, and the stormy chi that defines the clan's ninjitsu style is believed to be a blessing by the Kami of Thunder.


For Raiza, meeting the guardian worshipped by her ancestral lineage since time immemorial is, of course, kind of a big deal, even if she is a millennial. Her first instinct on realizing the gravitas of the situation is to panic, which makes deciding on a second instinct a challenge. She ends up settling on doing exactly what she's told ('step forward') and then some - staggering hesitantly a few feet before throwing herself prostrate.

"Gomennasai, Raiden-sama!" the kunoichi apologizes profusely into the earth at the Thunder God's feet. "I didn't mean to offend you!"

She's not sure what she did to offend the Thunder Kami, but judging by the tone of her voice, she's sincerely certain that she must have done. Perhaps it was her failure in her ninja missions. Perhaps it's her over-reliance on the Romansu no Hibana technique, which might or might not involve trying to convince the Thunder God to toss a lightning bolt her way. Or maybe it's because she can't pronounce Kamo-wakeikazuchi-no-kami.

"Please don't punish my family! It's not their fault I keep screwing up!"

Yet he answers to all of them. He possesses more titles than there are winds, more names than there are ways to die. He has not been deaf to the ways he has been honored by the Edo clan, he had given them his blessing in the distant past and they have never strayed from him.

Loyalty is to be rewarded, never punished.

Raiden bears witness to Raiza's plea, her wishes to spare her family from heaven's wrath. He lifts his head, his eyes glowed like the lightning at his command, his presence like staring at power personified. Yet, where she expects retribution, she finds only the smile of a man. Like that of a father watching his young play in the meadows and fields, Raider's voice becomes soft like a summers day.

"Arise, Raiza. None have honored me more than yourself, which is why I have come to speak with you. You perceive your mistakes as shameful, but all have made mistakes. You have offended none but yourself, and peace will find you when you free yourself." He chuckles then. "You are favored. Rise, and hear." He repeats.

'Heed the lessons of the Kami' reads the old scrolls, they may be in possession of the Edo. "A disorder has appeared that may threaten the balance of the world. It involves a deadly tournament, named 'Dead or Alive'. There is a shadow looking in the darkness. Left unchecked, it would leave the world in chaos."

Raiza's face lifts from the forest floor only when Raiden bids her to rise, her brown eyes turning hesitantly to glimpse the Thunder Kami's visage. It can certainly be said that this outcome exceeds Raiza's expectations. Kind words are much nicer than being smited Zeus-style. Despite the healthy sense of entitlement that she's cultivated during her upbringing as a member of the American middle class, she's still not sure at first why the Kami of Thunder is demonstrating such compassion, let alone going so far as to say she's favored. As she lifts herself up to a seated position on her knees, a breeze rustles the forest leaves, sweeping through Raiza's short ponytail, the braids dangling below it, and her loose clothing. Wrapping her arms around herself, Raiza is filled with a sudden sense of understanding.

This must be what hypothermia feels like.

Boy, would it be embarrassing if she wrote off an actual encounter with a Thunder God as a hypothermia-induced hallucination, though, so she decides to play along with the delusion of grandeur, just in case it isn't.

She reaches instinctively for her pocket, only to realise that she doesn't have pockets in her hakama, or the phone that she expects to be there.

"F-forgive me, Raiden-sama. I d-don't have anything to write your m-message on," she says apologetically. "But I'll t-try to remember!"

A glimmer of the hopeful spirit of determination that usually prevails in Raiza's demeanour starts to spark as she lifts her face up fully to meet the Thunder God's gaze - and only starts to tremble all the more at his presence.

Raiden had his reasons.

That could be what he tells anybody. Raiden keeps his purposes close to his vest, his knowledge at hand. Yet, he is no hallucination, no trick of the mind. The rain that continues to fall may make her sick and fall into a rest after this conversation, but this is no illusion. If it is? It is one of the soul, one that is real.

Raiden is many things. A trickster he is not.

"You need not write it." Raiden says with a bit of patience in his words. "In your heart is resistance. In your mind is defiance. Only you can spread this warning with me." Raiden informs her, his voice starting to outstretch like hurricane wind. "The energies of the world are disturbed by the JANUS Project. You must investigate Ultratech's secrets, for it holds the power to disrupt the very foundations."

Raiden's voice is serious, as if he is giving an ill-omen. "Some may not believe you. But you will go with my voice and you will tell them all. One is not enough. Only when the many are one and the one is many will you succeed."

Raiza really should be writing this down. She always makes a point of writing things down, because transferring information to the physical realm frees up data in Raiza's mental databanks, which are perpetually struggling for storage due to the bandwidth committed to downloading information related to Pokemon, anime, J-Pop, hiragana, katakana, and kusarigama. Trying to remember anything else makes Raiza nervous, because the last time she tried to store too much information in her head, she embarrassed herself in front of an entire audience of her peers.


"Sandslash, Hitmonlee, Psyduck, Arcanine!"

The red brim of young Raiza's ballcap obscured the sweat beading on her brow as she recited an impassioned rendition of the Pokemon rap into a microphone on stage in front of an audience of hundreds of spellbound convention-goers.

"Eevee, Exeggutor, Kabutops, Zapdos!

Dratini, Growlithe, Mr. Mime, Cubone!

Graveler, Voltorb, Gloom! We're almost home!"

Bouncing on the heels of her sneakers, she broke into the chorus.

"Gotta catch 'em all! Gotta catch 'em all! Yow!

Gotta catch 'em all! Gotta catch 'em all! Huh!

Gotta catch 'em all, Pokemon! Yeah!"

With the final verse of the song approaching, the child's confidence grew.

"Charmeleon! Wartortle!

Mewtwo, Tentacool, Aerodactyl!

Omanyte, Slowpoke!

Pidgeot - wait, I messed up!"

The music cut out as Raiza pushed her hands up against the sides of her rapidly reddening face.

"I-it's Tentacruel, not Tentacool! I'm sorry!"

Raiza's sobs resounded over the feedback from the microphone hitting the floor in the otherwise silent room as she fled the stage in tears.

==*== NOW ==*==

"Arbok," Raiza murmurs softly, her breath forming a cold mist in the air. With that thought expunged, she focuses attentively on the Thunder Kami's words. When he finishes:


The name of the company isn't unknown to the teenage ninja, especially since they contributed vital research to the video game DinoBot Heaven, which she rated a solid eight out of ten on PlayStation.

"Are you saying that they're... bad guys?"

Any chance for this kind of simplified categorization really gets Raiza's shounen motor going.

Ultratech. JANUS Project.

As much as Raiza's sense of personal fantasy is ready and willing to accept such a picture perfect Call to Adventure, there's one thing worrying her.

"But I'm kind of a noob."

Raiza thinks on this point for a moment.

"But I guess everyone's level one at the start of a game, right? Except Cecil and Kain on Final Fantasy Four, I guess, but I don't have a dark past to overcome or anything."

At least outside of a certain attempt to do the whole Pokemon rap at a convention when she was seven, anyway.

Raiza raises her head once again in blind determination.

"I'll do it, Raiden-sama! I'll tell Master Masayoshi, and I'll gather a party so we can investigate Ultratech together!"

She probably has at least two friends that are dumb or foolhardy enough for her to do it, even.


Ultratech. They run the JANUS project. What it is specifically? Raiden does not know - or perhaps he does, and recognizes that it's his place to guide, not to perform the service of those who can do it themselves. This is her quest. This is her purpose - for now. Though a question she asks him brings a sort of amusement to the deity's eyes. How they flash with lightning and thunder.

"No one is ever ready for the tasks that lie ahead of them. They can only decide whether to respond with confidence or meekness. Despite inexperience, the only way to gain experience is to experience." Raiden advises. Though as Raiza becomes determined to fulfil this task given unto her by the sky god, Raiden doesn't visibly react. "You possess time. None of it should be wasted. Fall as rain, strike as lightning, bellow as thunder - for thunder will go with you."

As if to symbolize it, a deafening roar of the heavens sounds like a battle horn into the vastness of the world.

"The fate of the balance rests in your hands, Raiza." Her perfectionism that seems to stem from her past is not ignored. "Your past will not define your future. Speak with your Master, speak with your allies. You must do this."

And so, soaked and shivering, Raiza accepts her quest from Raiden, Kami of Thunder. As the wind blows her ponytail to a nearly perfect horizontal position and inaudible chiptune music starts to play in her head, the young kunoichi can't help but feel that the tutorial phase of her adventure has come to an end. It's all starting to make sense. Her defeat at the hands of the kitsune must have just been a standard Hopeless Boss Fight that she was never meant to win anyway, like the start of Super Mario RPG, although she'd have trouble imagining Renka as the Big Bad unless she's packing some kind of serious One Winged Angel form. She wipes the tear streaks from her face with the back of her hand and smiles.

"Arigato, Raiden-sama," she thanks the Kami, placing her hands together and bowing her head in reverence. Energy starts to crackle from the kunoichi, resonating like a dim reflection of the Thunder God's own power as she allows the power of the storm to gather around her. It's only a spark in a thundercloud, but it's a bright one. "I promise I won't let you down."

She probably will.

It won't be for lack of trying.

"I know your soul, Raiza. I know your name and your past, potentially even your future."

Her aura is not unnoticed. She may have lost, she may be down, but she has never once been out. Raiden's eyes crackle with thunder as her aura is fed by divinity. "You are my messenger. Where you go, I will watch and I will listen. You will face great tests, but like the storm, you must not fear."

Elecriticy starts to crack and dance around Raiden's form as he starts to lift his hand. "Now go."

Lightning strikes Raiden's position, and he seems to disappear with it, as if returning to the realm of heaven or some other location. The sky rumbles for but a few seconds longer before the sky of black returns to skies of grays and blues, as if a storm had never occurred. The rain ceases with the thunderer's disappearance.

Now Raiza must answer Thunder's call, and go forth into the unknown.

Log created on 16:26:15 02/15/2022 by Raiza, and last modified on 23:39:34 03/09/2022.