Kimiyo Hoshi awoke, still troubled but determined to get to the bottom of the mystery she had found upon her return home. She went about her morning absolutions, dressing in her spare costume as she prepared to take on the new day.
Across the country, Takeo Sato did the same as best that he could. Stream water splashed on his face awoke a need to move on from his refuge. The sun shone down brightly, restoring him in a way he had not imagined possible. It was time to head back to Tokyo, he decided, and straighten out the mess that his renewed life threatened to become.
The former owner of the swords of Morimoto walked calmly to the first day of his trial. He took his place, counseling patience to himself. It was almost time for the Shadow Swordsman to start settling scores.
The swords were brought forward, marked as evidence for the prosecution. They were laid on the table in front of the assemblage in the courtroom.
The Swordsman smiled thinly, just feet away from the most important things in the world. He hoped his sister enjoyed the show.
He saw his chance when the prosecutor picked up the katana to show the court and identify it for the record. He stared at the sword as the man circled to display it. The air ripped thinly, spilling its black blood on the nearby people as the man turned. Some fell on the attorney, rotting his flesh where it touched, and he screamed, dropping the blade into the floor, point first.
The Shadow Swordsman laughed as he rolled over the table, chains jangling against the wooden top. He landed on his feet, pulling the blade from the floor as bailiffs ran forward to keep him away from the thing he held in his hands.
He cut the air, spilling the acidic substance across the men’s legs. They dropped to the floor with shocked screams as he cut the chains loose from his body. Police officers tried to take aim as he grabbed the other sword from the table. The audience had surged to their feet, inadvertently shielding the Swordsman, who sliced the air and escaped into the blackness.
Doctor Light flew over downtown Tokyo, trying to think of a way to catch up to the false Sunburst. She paused, spotting small police cars converge on the main courthouse. She descended to ground level.
“What’s going on?” she asked a bystander fleeing the building.
“The swords of Morimoto were taken by that crazy man on trial!” the pale woman said, fearfully pointing back to the courthouse.
“Thank you,” Doctor Light said.
The woman watched the new heroine float forward to offer assistance in recapturing her brother. She smiled as she made her way through the crowd toward the train station; she had to return to the family home before her brother arrived. Her father was alone and unable to defend himself against her sibling.
She didn’t notice the man who followed her to the station, boarding the train after her. The Shadow Swordsman kept his pale face and dark eyes averted as he took a place at the end of her car. His clothes seemed made for a larger man, but he had rolled up the cuffs of his pants and shirt to help him blend in with the other commuters.
He wondered when the headless body would be discovered.
The two riders got off their station, the man avoiding his sister’s notice as he well as he could. He used one of his swords to keep one step ahead of her.
Both were unaware of another man who joined their party as they went about their business. He had gotten off a train going the other way when he had seen the Swordsman at the window of the other train, but he had thought he had been mistaken at first. Now he knew he had been right.
Takeo Sato followed the lady at a distance, wondering why she looked so familiar to him. He felt he had seen that pale face before — in a picture, or on some kind of video, perhaps. She was as famous as he used to be, he realized. He just couldn’t remember where he had seen that face. He did know it had something to do with the weather, somehow. Something to do with snow.
The strange parade ascended out of the town, heading into some foothills that led into picturesque mountains. Sunburst kept his distance, aware that his intrusion could be discovered, and then he would lose this chance to find out what was going on.
A house in a wooden fence sprang out from behind a grove of trees. Small stones lined the path leading to the house’s squat front porch. A pole holding a pennant over the grassy lawn swayed slightly in the small breeze that had begun to dog the walkers.
Doctor Light waited on Inspector Hiro to play the tape from the cell block. The inspector had made it clear that this was his show, and if she didn’t like it, she could go home and stew. Kimiyo Hoshi held her sharp tongue in check as he placed the tape in a VCR.
She gasped when she recognized the Shadow Swordsman’s only visitor while he was incarcerated. It was the woman from outside the courthouse.
“Do you know her?” Inspector Hiro asked.
“I saw her outside the courthouse when I arrived,” the doctor admitted.
“She has never been identified, but we call her Yuki-Onna, the Snow Woman,” said Hiro. “She can generate extreme cold. Plus, she has helpers she calls oni.”
“I have heard of her,” said Kimiyo, rubbing her chin. “She battled Rising Sun at the technology expo a few years ago.”
“She also tried to help kill the Global Guardians and Superman,” said Hiro. (*) “I wonder what she wanted with our prisoner?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Wizard Who Wouldn’t Stay Dead,” DC Comics Presents #46 (June, 1982).]
“She wanted to gloat,” said Doctor Light. “Too bad there is no sound on this, but I am sure that’s why she was here. She wanted to gloat about his arrest, and she didn’t like it when he escaped.”
“Allies or enemies?” Hiro asked, watching the tape thoughtfully.
“Enemies,” decided Kimiyo. “If we find one, we will find the other. Any ideas where to start looking?”
“Yes,” said the inspector. “I do.”
Takeo Sato looked at the darkened house. The lady went up to the door, a pale ghost in the waning light of the day. He knew that his enemy was around, watching the place as he was.
He knew he only had two choices now. He could go and introduce himself and ask questions about the Shadow Swordsman and his interest in the woman. That didn’t seem bright to him.
The other choice was to wait and be ready for something to happen. That didn’t seem a good solution to him, either.
The man’s ability to teleport through that rotten blackness he called allowed him access to the house, which Sunburst could only match if he was prepared to blast his way inside. He was prepared to do that, but only with cause.
Something shifted in the shadowy light. It was big, furry, and white, with ram-like horns. It moved, vanishing in the shadow cast by the porch’s eaves. It seemed to freeze in place, becoming invisible. Still, its appearance on the scene told the hero enough about the woman he had followed from the train.
He cursed himself for not recognizing Yuki-Onna. Rising Sun’s enemy had appeared on the national news several times threatening the country.
Takeo changed, placing his normal clothes in a bundle under some bushes. Pulling his mask down over his face with a frown, he wondered when the Swordsman would strike and how.
He was not disappointed, as the shrouding darkness took on shape and substance and cut the oni guard down before it could react to the intrusion. The Shadow Swordsman then sliced his way through the door easily.
Sunburst waited before he approached the broken wood. After all, there could be more oni lurking in the trees. He slowly stepped inside the house, feeling a moment of dread. He wondered what he was getting himself into as he followed the sound of cutting from beyond the paper walls on the inside of the house.
Who was he helping here? These two, or himself and the mystery of his return.
They stood at the bedside of an old man, one on each side. The old man was wired to monitors to prolong his already long life. Sunburst stood at the door, unnoticed by the threesome.
“So, sister, we finally have a chance to talk without a partition between us,” he said quietly.
“What do you want?” the Snow Woman asked. “I believe that our business can be taken outside away from Father.”
“Do you, now?” the Shadow Swordsman asked, raising one of his swords.
“Don’t!” cried his sister, raising her hand and summoning cold to her side.
A bolt of fire cut across the room, drawing their attention to the door.
“I agree with the lady,” said Sunburst. “Let’s take this outside.”
The two of them smiled at the hero.
“Let’s,” said the Swordsman, sending a wave of darkness across the room.
Sunburst leaped in the air, heading for a nearby window. He burst through the glass with a laugh. “Let’s,” the siblings heard mockingly.
“This isn’t over between us,” Yuki-Onna warned her brother.
“It will be,” said the Swordsman, stepping into dark air.
Sunburst hovered above the house. Feeling his energy dropping, he knew he had to seize the offensive against his two foes. He should not have issued a challenge until the sun had risen. Now it was time to pay the price for his mistake.
The Shadow Swordsman appeared, hurling blackness at the hero. Sunburst let the fluid kill the trees as it fell back to earth. He circled, wary of the Snow Woman’s allies and ice powers.
Beams of cold swept through the sky, trying to catch Sunburst off-guard. He looped over it, firing a blast at the Swordsman to keep the man off-balance. The man leaped out of the way, creating a shield from the substance he unleashed.
Takeo frowned, trying to come up with a tactic that would work against these two with his dwindling reserve of power.
Sunburst headed straight up, summoning all of his remaining power into his hands as he then accelerated straight down. His hands glowed as he took aim at the house.
“Father!” shouted Yuki-Onna, creating a shield in front of the place.
Sunburst unleashed a narrow beam, shattering the shield and throwing dirt and grass from the ground. The blast wrapped around the super-villainess, knocking the woman against the wall of the intact building. She slipped down, eyes rolling back in her head.
The Shadow Swordsman created a hole to throw himself against the hero. Both men went down. The super-villain leaped to his feet first, swinging both blades up to strike. Sunburst took aim, releasing his energy all at once into his opponent. Smoke filled the air as something snapped inside the hero’s chest.
Takeo Sato dragged himself to the base of a tree, light leaking from his chest. He closed his eyes, feeling tired and worn down. He felt a cold chill as everything went black once more.
Later, when Doctor Light arrived, she found Yuki-Onna the Snow Woman still laying against the house. The swords of Morimoto stuck in the ground point first, their bearer laying between them, as pale in death as he was in life. Sunburst lay against a tree, a hole melted in his chest.
Kimiyo Hoshi gritted her teeth and held back tears. She would be able to cry later. Now she still had a job to do until Inspector Hiro and his men arrived to take over for her.