Akihiro Minase was a war criminal.
At least in the eyes of certain people he was. Beneath his facade of being an honorable doctor in Japan, caring for the various homeless denizens of the slums of Tokyo, and donating his time and efforts to cures for various diseases; he was a calculating individual. It was 1965, and while he now cured diseases, in the past, he distributed them with frightening aplomb. During the war, he was stationed in Harbin in the northeast region of China.
His actions in the past decades have now been swept under the rug. A clean slate for him, but a convenient getaway for others, a whitewash covering the sinful stains that should be plaguing the walls of his mind. For him, life moved on. However, for the upcoming days, he was about to find out that others still had the proverbial bone to pick.
The sun beat down on Minase. His wide-brimmed hat gave no comfort as the never-ending rays of the sun herself continued to slap his already red-tinged skin. The cicadas sang their summer song, chirping and chortling as if mocking him of his vulnerability. The rays today seemed particularly relentless, as his body pleaded with him to find some form of relief. He was on his way to meet up with a patient, a housecall for a pregnant mother. He was early, but the heat was slowing him down.
After walking for a few blocks, he made the decision to stop at one of his local stomping grounds. A quaint and tucked away cafe that served mostly sweets. Minase had quite the sweet tooth, a trait that his colleagues would chide him in jest about. It was not very manly for a fifty-something-year-old to enjoy confectionery of any kind, but Minase just gave a chuckle at their childish actions and indulged anyway. He stopped in front of the cafe, mouth-watering at the anticipation. For a day as hot as this one, there could be no compromise, no substitution for Kakigori: the syrupy, sugar-sweet, shaved ice that has become a staple of the Japanese summer. It wouldn't hurt to stop in the cafe for a little time, would it? Just enough to raise his already drooping, sun-baked, spirits.
Minase, opening the door, was greeted with the bell of his arrival and the smile of a beautiful young foreign woman; her hair, bright and blonde like the yellow and golden glow of the sun outside. She was chipper and, albeit a bit clumsily, spoke a greeting in Japanese. Minase was charmed by the effort. He could feel his spirits (and his nether region) raise entirely when she took a bow, exposing a slight bit of cleavage for him. A proverbial peep show masked with the modesty of a greeting. He wondered what the rest of her terrain looked like.
Was she Russian? Swedish? German? American? Minase shuddered at the thought of the last one. Dirty Americans turning Japan into a neutered and defeated kitten when it was once a proud, fanged tiger that had all of Asia in its grasp! The sudden jingoism that marched within his mind was halted when he caught the view of the foreign woman bending over, revealing her rotund backside.
Lewd thoughts began to fill his mind, reminding him of the "fun" he was able to partake while he was station in China. He began to wonder if he could have a little bit of the same fun with the golden-haired, blue-eyed beauty that was in front of him. He had no problem with having a roll in the hay with a foreigner, especially if she could be a German; they were exceptional people and useful allies during the war.
The door opened, the clang of the bell in juxtaposing with the sudden parching power of the heat, snapped Minase back from his erotic daydream. The foreign woman stood upright and gave a smile.
Minase turned to see who it was and was met with a rather stern-looking young man. He was an Asian gentleman, but not Japanese. Korean? Chinese? Taiwanese? It was hard to say at the time, but it was of little matter right now. Minase was more intrigued by his visage. He had Jet black hair that was impeccably slicked down to the right side and was wearing a button-up white shirt, tucked into a pair of beige chinos.
His face, however, was where the crux of Minase's attention was placed. He was an exceptionally handsome man. But the feature that grabbed Minase's gaze the most was a distinctly placed black eye patch that, instead of marring his beauty, only seemed to enhance it. Why was he wearing that patch? There were no other visible scars on his face; it was as pristine as a face could be.
The man took a seat next to Minase. "Kakigori, orange flavor, please."
The man took a seat next to Minase. "Kakigori, orange flavor, please."
Minase gave a slight grin. The man stared forward with an icy stare. "Quite the hot day we're having, no?" Minase, striking up the conversation, nodded to the foreign woman. "I'll have what he's having." She smiled back, and Minase still wondered what she was doing here but then drew his attention back to the eye-patched man in question. The man paused and turned to Minase, almost seeming, imposing for a second.
The small trepidation that was brewing within Minase abated rather quickly as the man gave a winning and toothy grin to him. Taking out a fan, he began to cool himself.
"Why yes, yes it is! Hottest I've seen in a while."
The lovely foreigner woman set down two orange kakigori in front of the gentlemen and gave her own version of a bow. Minase made haste and began devouring the icy dessert, rather sloppily. The eye-patched man gave her a nod, and she replied in kind, followed by moving to the backroom of the cafe.
The eye-patched man set aside his dessert, and while Minase continued to devour his, he began pulling a card from his trousers. Turning to Minase, he made a slight bow and offered an egg-shelled white business card to him.
"Allow me to introduce myself, I am Kim-Park-Dae. I'm from South Korea."
Minase took the business card from Kim and gave it a glance over. "Lawyer," Minase said, followed with a slight air of hesitation drifting from his voice. Minase placed the card on the tabletop beside him and placed his attention back to the handsome Korean man.
"Minase Akihiro. Doctor." He responded with an icy tone.
"So, Kim-san, what kind of law do you practice?" Minase's eyes zoning in on Kim's face with a hint of suspicion, as if the lawyer could see his past transgressions. He was always jumpy around lawyers but was resolute to play the game of one by cross-examining him.
There was preciseness to the man's response that put Minase into a deeper state of unease. Minase scanned Kim even further, hoping to figure out the man more so, trying not to pay close attention to the eye patch.
"I specialize in-"
"And war crime-"
Minase was jolted back into the current state by the last two words that Kim spoke. 'war' and 'crime.' Goodness, gracious, was he after him? Minase removed this self-prosecution from his mind and tried even harder to remain calm and collected. And not focus on the eye patch. Kim continued his explanation of his law career, but it was not long until the words rolling out of his mouth became a droning to Minase.
EYE PATCH, EYE PATCH, EYE patch, patch eye, eYe PaTcH, Paeyecht, Eeeeeye. Paaaaatch.
Minase began to feel a slowly building surge of light-headedness. Rather daintily, Minase began to sway, the pendulum of his consciousness seeming to rock back and forth.
Kim stopped his one-sided discussion with Minase.
"Minase-san. Is everything alright?"
Minase's swaying became more prominent, and he spoke only two words in response.
"Eye...Patch..." Minase's balance betrayed him as he fell to the floor with a resounding, ker-thunk! Kim stood up from his stool and took his business card from the table and placed it back in his wallet. The blonde woman came from the kitchen and gave Kim a playful smirk. "I just love watching you work, Kimmy."
Minase, drifting in and out of existence was brought back to his senses. He made several blinks and then was shocked to find where he was. The room he was in was far from the inviting parlor of the sweets cafe and was now a cold and bleak room. It was cold, dank, and damp. Beneath him was a wet and dark gray, cemented floor with a series of cracks. Above him was not the azure glory of a Japanese summer sky but more gray, drab and uninviting. Pipes intertwined on the ceiling, and a rickety old ceiling fan danced in whirling fury right above his head. The fan swirled the musty and dank scents of mildew and sewage all about the chamber. Minase recognized where he was, no; knew where he was, and immediately began to call for help.
"Hey! Hey! Is anyone out there? Let me out! Help!" He began to panic, even more, trying to flail his arms but in vain. He looked down to realize that his arms were bound and that he was in a wheelchair no less. His feet, pulled together with stinging pain, were chaffing as a dusty old rope was firmly grasping the two appendages. Sweat, intermingled with the various scratches, was stinging like little insects all over his body, keeping him from passing out again. But as his mind began to force him into the reaches of sleep once more, a cold splash of icy water woke him back up.
The clang of a bucket hit the floor as he gasped for air. An attractive woman in a military uniform walked towards him after tossing the tin bucket. Wait for a second, it was the same woman from the cafe! Equal parts appealing and terrifying, she sauntered over to Minase and rashly grabbed a lock of the hair near his forehead, prying his attention to her. She had a cigarette in her right hand. After taking a long drag, a puff of invasive smoke was hurled into Minase's face.
She grinned at his coughing.
"We've been expecting you, Akihiro-san." She chuckled, her beautiful white teeth being the only bright thing in the bleak chamber. She took the half-smoked cigarette and, rather sadistically, pushed the brightly burning ember into his cheek. Minase howled as it melted a tiny patch of skin on his face. As he hung his head down, panting in pain, she got behind him and wheeled him away to their next destination.
"W-where are you taking me? W-what is all this?"
He asked as he grasped and groped for answers, all in vain while she remained silent. The creaking echo of the old wheelchair being pushed through desolate halls. They approached some double doors, guarded by two men who were tremendous in stature, wearing pinstripe suits. Minase began to feel even less well, pondering if whether or not he was hallucinating. He could have sworn he saw razor-sharp teeth, jutting out of the bottom of the mouths of the two men. And on top of their heads were some perfectly placed horns. No, this had to have been some sort of fever dream, human beings do not have sharp teeth or horns.
The two men opened the double doors and gave a bow as the blonde woman pushed Minase through. What was beyond the door was a stunning contrast to Minase's chambers. The room was dark and musty, a windswept chill danced in the atmosphere, making the smell of smoke more apparent. Smoke? Why was smoke so present in the room? Suddenly, Minase saw a flicker of light. A candle was set aflame like a small beacon of hope, hope that he would wake up from this dream. He clung to whatever meager amount of the minimization of menace he could muster up within his delusional mind. He could not explain the candle or why it gave him a sense of well-being. As the common colloquialism stated, hope floats, and as candle after candle flickered into being; he felt as if he was a buoy.
One candle, after the other. Another one. Once more. As the large room became awash with the revelation of illumination, his hopes were dashed. And what was once a flicker of faith was now a relentless torrent of shock and terror. Minase was awash with the emotions of flabberghast and fearful awe. The cold and dank hallway he was being wheeled down was a striking juxtaposition to the almost regal courtroom he was in, lit up by a thousand candles. He was ushered to his stand in the court, his eyes still adjusting to the harsh flickering light of a myriad of candles. The candles made him feel as if a countless number of eyes were mocking him, judging him with their crimson presence.
As his eyes adjusted, he began to notice the yammering whispers that filled the room. He looked to his left, imposing ogres stood, their imposing strength showcased by muscles that no mortal man could ever hope to achieve. They snarled, as if ready to send him asunder with their jaws, hoping to taste his succulent human blood. The blonde foreign woman locked his wheels into place, and before he could realize that she had done so, she whispered in his ear: "Mmmm, they seem a little hungry, don't they?" as she then walked to the opposite side of the court.
In spite of her insanity, she was still one fine woman. Minase thought, not losing his libido despite the difficult circumstances. He was indeed a letch. Whip-lashed back into reality, he paid heed to the opposite side where she now stood. Horrifying could not describe the sight he was beholding. The jury, if a man could even use such a word, was sitting in fierce attention. It was even more ghastly than any of the things he could ever see in his former unit during the war.
One man in the group was holding his own head while his body was still twitching and moving. Atop the body was a bloody stump. While detached, the head was spitting drops of blood and glaring at Minase with blood-soaked teeth. Gnashing.
Another person had their chest cavity, open and exposed, their organs a sickly color, and still pushing vital fluids through as if they were again moving and functioning as that of a living being.
A man, with no arms and legs, sat with a bag next to him. The bag zipped and closed twitched and moved as if something alive resided within. Indescribable anger painted across his face.
Many more gruesome and inhumane persons filled the seats, replete with visages of rage.
Minase's eyes widened with the earth-shattering realization. He knew. He knew who these 'people' were. He recognized these abominations, and within his mind, flooded the harsh and indignified cruelty of war. Patterns of the barbarity of his own hand began their relentless march into his memory.
A beheading, experimentation with a virus' and toxins, dismemberment, rape. All allowed and-or done by his hand. His mind began to weigh heavily on him. A cold sweat, feeling like a million icy daggers, covered his very skin. His heart, a palpitating drum, beat in his chest as if it were about to explode. His hands gripping, pleading and groping the chair, clenched and choked the armrest of the chair until the bones in his hands began to crack. His anxiety was reaching a breaking point. His face was becoming flush and drenched with the perspiration of fear.
"All rise for the honorable Lord of Hell, Yanluo Wang!" The sharp, piercing tone of the blonde woman hushed all competing whispers. Two of the formidable ogres opened an adjacent set of giant double doors. The jury and ogres stood at attention, mangled bodies and all.
Minase, brow still oppressed with sweat, wanted to scream. But a voiceless whimper escaped his lips in a pathetic attempt. What was worse was the distant sound. Booming. One after the other. The calling card of something that was quite literally larger than life itself. More booming. It, or he, was drawing closer.
The darkness of the hall from whence the sound came was darker than any abyss.
And from that darkness arose a large man. His beard was long, being carried by two imps who cackled in gleeful service to their lord. His skin was weathered and wrinkled; a radiant hue of crimson beat down on all who were present, like a glowing sun. His visage, frightening, as he growled in displeasure, showcasing dagger-sharp teeth. Yanluo Wang had eyes of a man of much insight, and all of the madness that came with it.
Despite his fearsome appearance, he was dressed in the finest of robes. Dressed as a man of the highest regality of an ancient Chinese court. His robes, long and glorious, were made of the finest of silk, shining with a brilliant ebony hue and laced with gold. He was a radiant being to behold! And for a moment, Minase was more awestruck than terrified. As the lordship of hell made his entrance, he let out a bellow of a sigh, hot smoke escaping from the sides of his mouth. His long robes, held by the clenching claws of four imps, prevented further dragging. In one of his large hands, he clenched his fist in restrained fury. His long, black fingernails dug into the palm of his hand. In the other was a large skull that came from a creature that Minase could not pinpoint. How every strange, Minase was aware of anatomy, but the head was from no human nor animal he knew of.
Yanluo Wang snapped his finger, and the room began to shake. All in attendance began to clap, uproariously. The ground which the lord of hell stood began to shake and open. Minase, stunned by disbelief, saw a series of skulls rise from the very ground, swirling and dancing together, molding and conforming to create what was a series of stairs, leading to a throne. As Yanluo Wang made his way up, the applause intensified as the ogres then began their chant.
"All hail the lord of hell!"
As Yanluo Wang sat in his throne, he motioned for the crowd to be silent. The hollers and hurrah were put to rest. Two imps, carrying a scroll, scurried their way to the top and handed it over to him. Upon placing it to his side, he grabbed the skull, which Minase could not identify and struck it twice against his throne. The strikes reverberated across the room.
"Now, mere mortal," his voice shaking the very room and the soul of Minase in the process, "Your judgment awaits!"