This is not where he went to sleep. He got to his feet groggily and began to look around. The whole world seemed to be moving, hurtling downwards. Takeshi shook his head. I should not have drunk that strange brew, he thought. But only a fool says no to free saké! Even if it is a violent shade of green. Pleased with this reasoning, Takeshi looked around, surveying the small room he was in. It was the size of a closet, with odd, luminescent markings on the wall that he could not interpret. His stomach felt as if it had been thrown off a mountaintop. This was an entirely new state of hungover to Takeshi, which is no minor feat as Takeshi had spent a considerable portion of his life in a state of hungover. He did his best not to vomit all over the floor. He failed. Suddenly, the whole world came to a grinding halt, and a disembodied chime filled the tiny compartment. The doors in front of Takeshi slid open, and skirting around the fresh puddle he had made on the floor, he slowly entered an enormous domed chamber, with high ceilings made of glass reaching to the heavens. It was segregated into a series of smaller rooms, in which Takeshi found himself now. A labyrinth! What is this place? he thought. I’m being punished again. Takeshi was frequently being punished, mostly due to his penchant for getting drunk and stealing horses. There is no honour in being blind-drunk, some said to him. This usually resulted in them losing an eye or two, the irony of which was not lost on Takeshi. He noticed his reflection on the walls of the steel compartment and was relieved to that he still had his weapons and armour. That was fortunate. He tended to lose his things. Walking through a narrow corridor, Takeshi tried to remember how he got to this strange place. He could not. Waking up drunk in a completely unfamiliar environment was not a new experience for him, but he had never been anywhere quite so alien. “It is possible,” he said aloud. “That I have a drinking problem.”
From around the corner, Takeshi spotted a tall man standing against a gate, his body covered in dark tribal markings that Takeshi did not recognize. He had decorative glass on his face and a curious device in his ear.
“You! Peasant!” Takeshi shouted. “What is my location?!”
The man looked at him with vague disinterest.
“Yeah, hilarious, bro. You weirdos take this too damn seriously.” He looked Takeshi up and down. “Entrance is down the hall. Sweet costume, by the way.”
Takeshi glared. “Costume? This is imperial kusari gusoku! Your insolence will be chastized!”
He took to one knee, his hand reflexively reaching for the sword strung by his waist.
The man started to frown.
“Yeah, look, bud, I’m very convinced, but can you go work your routine on someone who gives a damn?” His gaze drifted to Takeshi’s hand. “Wait. Is that actual steel? Bro, you can’t bring real weapons in here!” He attempted to reach for it.
A flash. The man slowly fell forwards. His head disagreed, rolling backwards. Takeshi wiped the freshly glistening blood off his blade and stepped over the headless corpse, a crimson pool forming under his boots.
“Fool,” Takeshi muttered, under his breath. “Too talkative.”
Takeshi could hear a low hum filling the air, an unfamiliar collection of sounds. He thought he was able to make out voices, but could see no source. He continued down the hall, examining the artwork adorning the walls. It was, predominately, paintings of barely clothed women with highly disproportionate physiques. Takeshi had never seen anything so beautiful, even if he thought that their armour was highly impractical. Looking around discretely, Takeshi grabbed a fistful of the drawings and stuffed them into his pocket. “Gathering intelligence,” he justified aloud. He noticed the voices were growing louder.
Takeshi rounded a corner and almost tripped over himself. The greatest lesson he had ever learnt at the bar, apart from always secure your horse, was to not always trust in your eyes. He was doubting them at this second.
At end of a short corridor was a pair of towering creatures, terrifying beasts from some dark underworld. Takeshi had heard tales of these monsters from his mother when he was a boy. The nearest one was a huge, hulking figure that was completely green from head to toe. Next to him, a strange, mechanical creature, with glowing eyes and iron skin, was laughing maniacally. They had surrounded a small, helpless yellow rodent. Toying with their food! Takeshi would not stand for this. “Back away, demons!” he shouted, rolling forward in what he hoped would be an intimidating gesture. However, still groggy and with dulled reflexes, he tumbled - painfully slowly - into the nearest wall. The creatures looked up and grinned. Concealing their fear! Takeshi thought, assuming a battle stance.
“Woah! Are you a samurai? That’s awesome!” the metal monster shrieked in a high-pitched whine that sounded like a kettle boiling over. It began to drool. “Which anime are you from? Or is it a game? I love Hanzo, he’s my favourite character. Hey, how did you make that swo-“
The beast was silenced with a sharp gurgling noise, as Takeshi had lodged his katana directly inside of its mouth.
“Foul, drooling creature!” he yelled gloriously. “Go back to whence you came!”
The green giant screamed and ran back through the corridor past Takeshi. The small yellow rodent, however, remained. It looked at Takeshi with a mix of awe and incredulity.
“Did you just fucking stab that guy in the throat? Dude, that’s badass.”
Takeshi looked at the rodent. It did not appear to be wounded.
“I will protect you, little squirrel,” he said soothingly. The tiny rodent looked up at him with disdain.
“Squirrel? I’m Pikachu, you moron.” It looked at the body on the floor, blood now streaming freely from it like a fountain of red cordial. “You can’t just go around stabbing people. They’ll take your ticket.”
Takeshi did not really understand this creature but was starting to get thirsty.
“Squirrel,” he said, his expression suddenly grave. “Do you know where I can find some saké?” The yellow critter seemed to think and grabbed Takeshi’s hand.
“You’re coming with me. You seem fun, and I’m bored.”
Takeshi followed, feeling a sudden bond with this strange young animal. They passed through a door and for the first time, Takeshi had a full view of the giant domed room. He gasped. The room was filled with an assortment of fiends the likes of which Takeshi had never seen. Grotesque beings of every colour imaginable, covered in an array of bizarre clothing, spikes and weapons. An army of monsters. A 7-foot-tall beast sauntered past, covered in a layer of thick, flowing hair. It looked at Takeshi menacingly and made a feral gargling sound that sounded like metal beams scraping together. Takeshi screamed. He could not take on this many at once! He began to pray out loud to the Gods. Nobody seemed to notice.
“Yo, pull yourself together or they’re gonna find out you shanked a dude,” said Yellow. “Or worse, that you got in for free.”
Takeshi composed himself. They began walking through the crowd, Takeshi clenching his teeth, his eyes darting around nervously, his hand on the hilt of his katana. The rodent was whistling. After a few minutes, he pointed up.
“There, an open bar. I’d go in, but, you know. 14. Go get your damn saké.”
Takeshi was visibly moved. He knelt and looked at the child, a single tear flowing down his cheek.
“I cannot thank you enough, squirrel, for helping me in my quest.”
Yellow rolled his eyes. “You’re a super weird dude. Keep on keeping on.” He bounced away into the crowd. “And hey!” he called, over his shoulder. “Stop stabbing people!”
Takeshi walked up to the bar. This, at least, was familiar. He could get used to it here. He was beginning to tire of the military life, anyway. So many rules and regulations. A man should be entitled to any horse he finds. He thought. Maybe he’d start a new life here. Fresh beginnings. The girl behind the bar interrupted his thoughts.
“Hey, buddy, wake up. What are you having?”
Smiling for the first time, Takeshi stood tall. “One bottle of saké, barkeep.”
The girl looked at him, her face blank. “Saké? Are you kidding me? God damn weeaboos. We have beer. That’s it. Beer.”
Takeshi bellowed and drew his sword.