This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
The summer night lay heavy upon all it touched; a faint dampness could be detected on every plant, every tree that you touched. The only illumination in the sky came from the stars that shimmered in their eternal constellations. The air was still, unbroken by even the slightest breeze that might offer some comfort or relief to the people who lived at this tiny Shinto shrine.
No big deal; according to Dr. Indiana Jones’ research, the sole resident was the shrine’s priest, an old man named Katsuhito Masaki. He wouldn’t be a problem. Indy crept carefully through the woods that surrounded the ancient site, taking his time going the long away around. While it might be nice to visit the place some other time, his business at the moment was to the north—to be precise, the cave that overlooked the shrine.
It took Indy about an hour to get there. He paused beside the rocks to catch his breath—he wasn’t quite as young as he used to be--and review his notes. Ever since he’d first heard about the legend from the group of American soldiers who’d been stationed in Okayama—thank God for the G.I. Bill—Indy had been doing a great deal of digging through more Japanese reference volumes than he cared to think about. It hadn’t been easy—the stories varied from era to era, at times seeming to be deliberately contradictory—but if he was right, there were two incredible artifacts to be discovered inside this cave. With any luck, they’d both be on display in the museum by the end of the month.
The old, rusty padlock offered no resistance to the butt of his trusty gun. Indy carefully swung the door open and crept inside, almost sighing audibly as the cooler air brushed against his sweat-soaked skin. He reached into his pack and retrieved a flashlight. The harsh yellow light played eerily on the stones and shimenawa draped around them. Indy’s neck hairs bristled; the entire cave, once cool, was now clammy and oppressive. He had the distinct feeling he wasn’t wanted here.
His breathing echoed oddly in his ears as he closed in on the tiny little shrine that was supposed to house the first artifact. Sure enough, once he worked the doors open he spotted the hilt of the ancient sword that according to legend had conquered a vicious demon that had been laying waste to the land. Indy lifted his flashlight; the light struck three beautiful red gems that sparkled in the beams. “Bingo,” he whispered.
Another quick rummage through his pack produced a pair of heavy insulated gloves. Indy had found an old journal from a long-forgotten relic hunter that had talked about the powerful electrical charge the sword had generated. He slipped the gloves on, reached inside, and with a long, mighty tug pulled the sword free.
His glee at having outwitted the thing lasted right up to the point where an incredible shot of pure lightning went straight up his arm and all along his spinal cord. Indy shouted a long string of vulgarities as he threw and released the sword in one quick motion; it struck a nearby rock and to his shock sliced it neatly in two.
Seconds later, his surprise was tripled when a huge boulder ascended nearby, and a wall previously appearing to be one big rock slowly slid apart. Indy removed the gloves and put them back in the pack, then rummaged around the floor for the dropped flashlight. His foot hit something metallic; to his horror, whatever it was rolled through the gap between the rocks and went clink clink clink downhill. Indy muttered something foul under his breath and continued looking against hope for the flashlight.
He found it a moment or two later, which meant the stupid sword had gone down that slope. Indy slowly made his way to the gap between the rocks and peered down. It was a fairly steep incline, but what caught his attention was the strange geometric pattern of the surface. Icy cold water was trickling through the paths, apparently flowing down to whatever was waiting below. “Huh,” he said quietly to himself. He pulled his notebook out and slipped on his reading glasses, flipping through the pages until he found the appropriate section. According to one old legend, the demon lay sleeping far beneath the surface. This was most likely the path leading to it. Indy smiled grimly and carefully made his way down.
Down at the foot of the incline, three gems embedded in the hilt of a certain sword flickered into life, radiating a bizarre aura that flowed straight to the center of a maze of geometric patterns. The water that flowed within the maze began to glow with a soft blue light.
Seconds later…something yawned.
Back on the surface, a tree that for whatever reason sat in the middle of a lake began to shake gently. Suddenly a soft reddish-yellow beam shot from a branch toward the shrine. It passed effortlessly through the walls until it found its target—the soundly sleeping form of Katsuhito Masaki.
“What…?” Katsuhito slowly rose into a sitting position. He fumbled around for his glasses and tilted his head, listening intently to a message only he could hear or understand. “Oh no,” he muttered under his breath as he rose to his feet. “Not another one.” With a heavy sigh he reached for his garments and quickly dressed, then headed for the cave.
“Ground floor,” Indy said, grinning to himself. He looked around the cavern, impressed despite himself. The weird geometric pattern continued down here, creating a strange circular network that focused in a large hole dead center. A faint blue aura radiated from the water in the pathways, giving him plenty of light. Sure enough, the sword was lying close to the edge of the incline. It didn’t look any the worse for the fall, but when he saw the three gems were glowing, Indy reconsidered trying to claim the artifact.
A soft, very feminine yawn echoed through the cavern. Indy almost jumped a few feet in the air, but quickly recovered enough to retrieve his gun from its holster. He slowly turned toward the center of the cavern…and froze.
If that was a demon, Indiana Jones wanted a one-way ticket to Hell. She was slowly ascending from her watery prison, her soft cyan-colored hair pouring down her back like a wintery waterfall. She yawned again and stretched like a lazy cat, giving him a full view of her amply-curved body. “Wow,” he said to no one in particular, but his voice was enough to catch her attention.
A pair of yellowish cat-like eyes slowly peeked through heavy lids. She regarded Indy for a long time, then yawned again and smiled. “Hi.”
“Hi,” Indy said, utterly stumped for words.
The demon stretched again, sighing happily as her arms and legs went out as far as they could. “Ahhhh…”
“RYOKO!” came a new voice; Indy whirled around to find an older Japanese gentlemen dressed in priestly robes standing behind him. The old man looked down at Indy’s gun, then at him. Indiana grinned sheepishly and holstered his weapon.
“Ryoko!” the old man called again. The demon grunted and turned toward the old man. “Ryoko,” he said in a stern but not unkind voice. “It’s not time for you to wake up. Go back to sleep.”
“Don’t wanna,” the demon pouted sleepily. “I’m not sleepy now, Yosho.”
“Ryoko. Get back in there and go to sleep.”
“I gotta go, Yosho. Please?” The old man grunted and pointed to a far corner; the demon floated slowly toward it, absently scratching her butt as she drifted out of sight. The old man—Yosho? Indy vaguely remembered the name from somewhere, but this wasn’t the time to go referencing his notes—turned to glare at his unwelcome visitor. His hard gaze remained fixed on Indy until the demon had returned.
“All right, Ryoko. Back to sleep,” Yosho ordered.
“Do I have to?” the demon whined.
“Yes, you do. It’s not time for you to wake up yet. Now get back down there.”
“Oh, all right.” The demon started to descend, then hesitated. “Can I have a drink of water first?”
“No, you may not. It’ll only make you have to go again, twenty years from now. Get going, Ryoko.” The demon made a soft noise of disgust but obeyed, slowly lowering herself back into her watery bed. But just before her head sank under the surface, she paused again.
“Yosho? Will you read me a story?”
“No, I will not. Go back to sleep, Ryoko!”
“I can’t find Mr. Pookie.”
Yosho closed his eyes and apparently counted to ten in Japanese. “Ryoko. Go. Back. To. Sleep. Now.”
The demon’s head vanished; seconds later, a steady stream of bubbles shot up from where she’d gone. Indy could think of two possible causes, and he decided to go with the idea that she’d given her captor a big raspberry as the more preferable option.
Yosho turned toward Indiana. “Doctor Jones,” he said in that same firm voice, “I believe it’s time you were leaving.” He nodded toward the incline. Indy took the hint and started climbing back up to the cave.
He didn’t see Yosho retrieve the sword, nor did he hear the old man’s final admonition to the demon before he too ascended the incline:
“Now stay in there until I tell you it’s time to wake up, Ryoko!”
Indiana watched with a heavy heart as Yosho returned the sword to its resting place, reset the split rock, and guided him firmly out of the cave. The old man retrieved a brand new padlock from a sleeve pocket and replaced the old one with a hard click. Only then did he turn his attention to the archeologist. “Doctor Jones…”
“Look,” Indy said. “I know I was trespassing, but that sword belongs in a museum, not in this old shrine…”
“That’s not the sword you were looking for,” Yosho said firmly.
“What?” Indy’s vision was suddenly swimming, his thoughts adrift.
“That’s not the sword you were looking for, Doctor Jones, and this isn’t the shrine you wanted.”
“I’m…terribly sorry,” Indy found himself saying. “I’m at…the wrong shrine. That isn’t the…sword I was looking for.”
“The shrine you want,” continued Yosho, “is many miles to the north of here.”
“I need…to head north,” Indy agreed. “The shrine I’m looking for is many miles from here.”
“Move along, then.”
“I’d…better move along, then.” Indy nodded to the old man. “Sorry for the trouble.” He stumbled along the worn path leading to the shrine, sure but not sure of where he was going. He’d get back in the car and head back to town, get a good night’s sleep, and head north. Sooner or later he’d find the right shrine. He was sure of it.
Yosho sighed heavily and shook his head, waiting until he was quite sure the American was gone. “Damned archeologists,” he muttered as he headed back to the shrine and his bed. “Fifth one this century…I’m getting too old for this.”