First off, let me assure you all that my other works WILL still be updated. It's just I like to focus on new ideas as soon as they pop into my skull.
I'm most appreciative of all the responses to SPOILER, so here it is, the full first chapter.
Water fell in a tumultuous flood around the valley, slowly eating away at the surrounding rock. On either side of this mighty fall, two figures stood, features carved from the surrounding rock, eye to eye as if in combat.
Below them, two figures of flesh and blood glared at each other with a passion that could only be compared to those of the statues. They each stood upon the foot of one statue, facing across from the falls, one held in his hands a sphere of rotating blue light, enveloped in a fiery red aura that reeked of some inner, deeper evil. The other, his body warped into some grotesque monstrosity, held in his hands a crackling bolt of lightning.
Red slitted pupils locked onto red-tomoe encircled ones, as the two figures leapt across the chasm, driven more by what burned within them than by any rational thought.
Naruto: Konoha Shinken
Chapter 1: Successor
He awoke with a cry, sweating profusely, his heart thundering in his chest, blonde bangs trailing against his face. "The same dream again," he muttered, holding a palm to his eyes to try and calm himself, shaking sweat from his golden locks, "They've been coming more and more frequently…"
The figure stood from his bed and walked to the window, pushing the shutters open to gaze out at the moon shining down. There was something calming about the Sun's celestial companion, something that, for reasons unknown to him, brought to mind the faint memory of a timid, pale eyed figure with blue hair. But as soon as he reached to draw on the image, it blurred away like all the others.
"Just a dream," he whispered, rubbing the scar over his heart, a jagged patch of flesh that had healed to leave a spiral scar, like a whirlpool, "Just a dream…"
The sound of a shogi door pushing open alerted the teen to the arrival of a massive man with shoulder length brown hair. He stood dressed in a pair of training bottoms and shoes, and held a towel over his shoulder.
"You're awake?" the man asked, looking non-too-surprised, "The dreams again?"
The blonde nodded, subconsciously rubbing the scar as he looked back to the moon, sighing as it was hidden behind a passing cloud. "They've been coming increasingly more often." He admitted, looking up at the sky calmly, "And always seem to fade as quickly as they arrive."
It had been a steadily increasing problem for the man, his sleep constantly been disturbed by irregular flashes of unknown places, sounds and people. The most consistent being a village full of scowls and whispers, and the scene from the waterfall, where two beings clashed with phenomenal power.
The massive brunette nodded, understanding the smaller man's dilemma somewhat, before turning in the doorway and clearing his throat. "I'm heading for the training hall," he explained, "Wash up and join me for morning practice."
"Hai, Ryu-sensei," the blonde replied, bowing respectfully, before turning to the dresser to gather his clothes and bathing utensils.
Settled in the side of a mountain range, surrounded on all sides by rugged paths and forests, the temple was hidden from all eyes but those that knew how to find it. Many people had sought it, either to verify its existence or to wrest whatever treasures had been accumulated within, be they gold or scrolls. All who had attempted such had failed; either due to lack of information, courage or by falling victim to the numerous hazards that surrounded it, both natural and hidden.
Here it was that the two lived, trained and isolated themselves for the sole purpose of perfecting their art.
The scarred man exhaled as he shifted from pushups to a handstand, continuing his regiment with handstand pushups, sweat dripping from his frame onto the floor.
The hall echoed with the sounds of his regular breaths, the statues of wrathful deities gazing down at him in silent testimony of his progress. He recalled the first time he'd laid eyes on them, how he'd felt a shiver run up his spine at those cold, empty eyes, covered with the dust of centuries, looking down upon him. Now they gave silent witness to his progress, watching as he not only met their silent expectations, but surpassed them, as countless others had before.
The man grunted and flipped to his feet, lifting one leg and practiced kicking at his shadow. Sweat continued to fall in droplets, highlighting the toned muscles of his arms and flank. He grimly recalled the state he'd been in when he'd first set foot in the temple, and dimly tried to recall how many years it had been since Ryu-sensei had rescued him from the river.
He shivered at this grim memory, recalling all to well the cold, tumultuous waters that had seemed determined to claim him as their own. His body had been battered, bruised, and his mouth salty from the taste of blood he later realized was his own. He recalled desperate gasps for air, futile pawing with arms that seemed as dull and lifeless as lead, one shoulder absolutely refusing to work after being slammed against a jutting boulder.
Just as he had surrendered though, just as he prepared to sink beneath the unforgiving waters, a pair of massive hands punched through the water, grabbed the tattered remains of his clothes and bodily tore him from the water's grasp, into the light and air he'd so desperately sought but moments before.
Even to this day the blonde marveled at the sheer size and strength of his massive sensei, who stood a good four feet just sitting on the floor, legs crossed. The man claimed he got his physique from his father, if such were the case, then the younger man felt certain he'd never want to meet him.
He finished, exhaling slowly as he lowered his foot to the floor, feeling steam rise off him in small waves. He subconsciously reached up to his chest, wincing at the scar, tracing the ridges almost reverently, not for the first time. His sensei had no knowledge of any attack which could both burn and pierce the skin in such a manner, and so they never spoke of it, simply passing it off as fortunate the river had not claimed him.
'Koryu' his sensei had named him, after the river he'd been scooped out of, though once after training the giant had joked, claiming it also stood for 'Child of Ryu'. For the longest time, Koryu had wondered if there was some hidden meaning in the man's words, for both knew there were no ties of blood between them.
Regardless, Ryu had been master, friend and father to him since bringing him to the temple, had initiated him into the way of his art, and had passed unto him his most precious knowledge.
But recently, the master was growing strangely distant of late, disappearing for long periods of time down the mountain, where Koryu was strictly forbidden from setting foot. Every time he would return, he would resume his duties as master, but Koryu had long learned that any questioning would be ignored, the massive man merely falling silent.
He exhaled again, reaching down for a canteen and towel he'd brought with him, taking a long draught, before pouring a good dose over his head. Shaking his head to clear it somewhat, he dried himself off, rotating his neck to the sound of popping joints.
'Sensei wanted to see me in the main hall.' He recalled, toweling off and heading back to his room, 'I'd best not keep him waiting.'
Ryu eyed the smaller man as he kneeled before him respectfully. Gone were the layers of baby fat which had been prominent in his youth, gone was the look of weakness, a result of the river's harsh treatment.
All that remained of the fragile youth he'd pulled from the water were the blue eyes, the scar over his heart, and the strange, whisker-like birthmarks that graced the once rounded cheeks.
Ryu felt oddly intrigued by the marks, as they had given the youth an almost comical, if not fitting, vulpine appearance. Now full-grown, the markings gave him the air of a full-grown fox, crafty as hell, and ready to fight or flee as the situation arose.
'Not that he will ever need to flee.' The giant thought assuredly, 'Not with the level of skill he possesses.'
"Koryu," he spoke at last, "ten years have passed since I pulled a youth, half drowned and wounded, from the river below."
Koryu nodded, marveling at the sheer amount of time that had passed since that day so long ago.
"Since then, I have taken you in, raised you as both my pupil and son." A glimmer of emotion entered the man's eyes, as he gazed fondly at the blonde, "Your growth has been phenomenal, and I couldn't have felt prouder if you were my own son."
Koryu sat up straighter at this. Ryu was not one to give false praise, for the giant master to admit this much; he must be building up to something important. Ryu looked into the smaller man's eyes and nodded.
"Our art has stood firm for over 2000 years," the giant explained, "And in those 2000 years, each master has surpassed all who came before him." He frowned, climbing to his feet, "But the law of the school dictates that there can only be one master of the style, and that it be passed from master to student, father to child."
Koryu blinked, looking up at his sensei in confusion, earning a chuckle from the man.
"Did you ever wonder why I chose that particular name for you?" Ryu questioned, "I was, at one point, married." He looked saddened for a moment, "My wife was pregnant with our child when she fell in the river, and I was too far away to assist her."
The giant stood silently for a moment, before turning to the youth impassively, "It was no coincidence that I passed the river that day, I come their every day to pay my respects to their resting place." He turned and walked to the doors, massive wrought iron structures which nonetheless could be opened with effort. "Come."
Koryu eyed the surroundings warily, his mind buzzing with the knowledge of what he'd just been told. He had never even dreamed that Ryu had been a father, let alone married. The massive man was the sole constant in the blonde's life, like some immovable boulder in the rapids that had long ago sought his life. The mere thought of him being hurt or atoning for some past weakness seemed inconceivable to the blonde.
He blinked as he noticed that Ryu had come to a halt, noting that they were deep into the mountains which surrounded the temple. The path was littered with pebbles and coarse, thorny bushes, signifying that little more than the local goats frequented these treacherous paths. In front of them lay a pit, circular in nature and a good twenty feet deep.
Before the blonde could even think of questioning the giant, he felt one of the man's massive hands grabbed him by the shoulder, before being lifted off his feet and bodily tossed into the pit, only the blonde's training allowing him to land without injuring himself.
"This will be the final test I will ever give you." Ryu called out, looking down at the confused blonde with his arms crossed, eyes devoid of any emotion, "While I highly doubt you can't climb out of a pit this small, doing so without completing the test will result in failure, in which case, I've been wasting my time."
He stepped on a protruding rock, causing it to sink into the ground and heralding a strange clanking noise. Koryu spun round to witness steel bars dropping into the ground, baring a hole in the wall, from which the sound of low growling echoed. The blonde felt his hackles rise as something began padding towards him with sinewy grace.
Slowly, rumbling low in its throat, the massive Bengal tiger entered the pit, eyeing the blonde warily.
Koryu slowly shifted into a fighting stance, eyeing the tiger warily as it tried to circle him. The blonde refused to let the giant beast take the rear, and so turned to ensure their eyes were locked together.
The beast growled, low in it's throat and tried to break eye contact, only to find it's gaze drawn back to those blue orbs, a stark contrast to its own amber gaze. Letting out another small growl, the big cat changed directions abruptly, eyeing the teen cautiously, as if it were facing another tiger.
Koryu merely exhaled slowly, allowing his aura to slowly flow out with the breath, hands posed to defend himself as he retained a lock on the beast's eyes. Slowly, he allowed his aura to come off him in waves, washing against the sides of the pit like water as he maintained his position, never breaking his gaze away from the tiger's.
The great beast growled low in it's throat, before slowly lowering itself to the floor, placing it's head on it's paws and closing it's eyes, accepting the inevitable willingly and without a fight.
Koryu, still releasing his aura, approached the beast and kneeled next to its flank, running a hand across the striped hide. "Sumimasen." He whispered, before pressing a particular point on the tiger's flank, earning a low rumble from the beast that trailed off as it's heart slowly came to a peaceful stop.
Up on the lip of the pit, Ryu nodded as he watched his student stroke the beast's head, smoothing the fur almost reverently.
'It is never easy,' the giant acknowledged solmnly, watching as the blonde continued his ministrations to the beast's carcass, 'but in doing this, he has proven himself worthy.'
"Koryu." He called out, catching the smaller man's attention, "Climb out of that pit and meet me back at the temple."
And with that the giant sensei turned on his heel, making his way back down the path with the ease of long practice.
Koryu turned to face the wall, prepared to make his escape when something made him pause. Turning on his heel he eyed the peaceful form of the tiger, so calm in death it appeared to be sleeping, lying on the floor where he left it.
'It isn't right.' Koryu muttered, eyeing the once proud beast sadly, 'leaving it to rot here, just for the sake of training.'
Frowning in resolution, the blonde walked over to the corpse, grabbing a fistful of hide and, with a grunt, spun round, hurling the corpse out of the pit. That done, he proceeded to climb out himself, the pit being deep, but far from smooth, thus providing decent handholds to for those who knew where to look.
The corpse was waiting for him as he finally climbed over the edge, still warm but cooling slowly in the mountain air. Koryu grunted as he hefted the beast's massive frame over his shoulder, it's hind legs trailing in the dirt as he began to walk, carefully mindful of his footing, down the winding path.
"I'll see to it you receive a decent burial," Koryu promised, lugging the corpse round the path towards the temple, eyes focused, "Not even a beast deserves to lie forgotten."
"You're late." Ryu stated, frowning slightly as he eyed the man before him, "Don't tell me you had difficulty getting back?"
Koryu shook his head, but refused to elaborate, causing the giant to take in the blonde's frame carefully, before nodding.
"The first kill is always the hardest," he admitted, eyeing a smudge of dirt the blonde had failed to remove from his person, "And it should never become easy, lest you loose that most vital part of your being, your humanity."
Koryu followed his sensei's gaze and inwardly cursed as he noticed the telltale smudge of soil.
"Do not fret." Ryu stated as the younger man flinched, "While I am surprised you chose to bury it, I do not hold your respect for the tiger against you." He nodded, catching the blonde's blue orbs with his own, "In battle, you will face many opponents, some good, some evil, with each, there is always the potential for respect between you." He nodded, rubbing a scar that adorned his neck, a smile coming to his features, "Always recall such fights with care, for a respectful opponent should never be forgotten."
Koryu nodded, glad that he was in no trouble for what might have been considered a moment of weakness, only to blink as Ryu suddenly bowed before him.
"Koryu, with this last test, I have nothing further to teach you." The giant acknowledged, bowing with his head to the ground, "All that is left for you is to hone your skills in the world, carrying nothing but your name and the honor of our school above all else."
The giant raised his head and placed his hands on his knees, eyes solemn yet burning with some inner pride.
"On my honor as the current master of our school," Ryu recited, keeping his eyes on his pupil's, "I acknowledge you as the 66th successor of Hokuto Shinken." He smiled solemnly at the smaller man, a look of pride on his face, "I wish you well...my son."
Koryu bowed to his master, friend and father, and now apparent equal, accepting the title and the respect it carried gratefully and with appreciation. "I thank you for all you have shown me...Ryu-sensei." he lifted his head and smiled at the man, "I will not forget what I have learned."
Ryu nodded, before reaching behind him, pulling a wrapped bundle from behind his back. The material was plain cloth, and whatever lay within it couldn't have weighed much, as it was passed from master to pupil without either seeming surprised.
"Out of all the belongings you possessed when I fished you out of the river, these are all that seemed salvageable." he nodded as the youth began to unwrap the bundle, "They may provide a clue as to your past."
Koryu blinked as something fell out of the bundle, sliding onto the floor with a faint tinkle. Looking down revealed a necklace, composed of two silver lumps and a single green stone, shaped like a crystal. For a fleeting moment, the blonde's throat closed, as a vision of an oddly maternal figure hovered at the edge of sight, the ghost of lips alighting on his forehead, before vanishing as quickly as they came.
Shaking himself, the blonde gripped the necklace firmly in his hand, before turning his attention to the second of the items, tracing the metal that adorned with a stragne curiosity. It was a worn, tattered blue headband, the fabric long ruined by the rough treatment it had received from the river and poor treatment. The metal on the headband was edged with rust, dust and dents, but the symbol in the centre proved unblemished by time.
Koryu traced the spiral motif, edged by a semi-triangle, 'a leaf' he wondered breifly, before feeling his breath sweep away as yet another image flooded into his mind. This time it was of a man, relatively young, eyes closed and smiling as the sun rose behind him. A scar adorned the man's face, across the nose and under each eye, and his hair was done up in a ponytail. He felt ghostly fingers ruffle his blonde locks, the smile on the man's face both proud and warm, before both faded from memory.
"Koryu?" he heard his sensei ask tentatively, and became aware of the tears that rolled down his cheeks, blinking in awe as he tried to figure out what could have caused such a thing.
"I...remembered...something," Koryu admitted, shaking his head slightly as the familiar pain surfaced behind his eyes, "Faint images," he recalled, "one woman, one man."
"Your parents?" Ryu asked, looking at the youth in concern, hope and a small measure of unease, only to receive a shake of the head in reply, "You can't tell?"
Koryu covered his eyes with his free hand, the other still holding the necklace tightly, "I felt as though they were important to me...but I could barely make out their faces." he eyed the two articles of clothing carefully, before pulling the necklace over his head, feeling at ease with the stone around his neck.
Ryu nodded, before getting to his feet, "You will rest," he ordered, "Tomorrow you may set out on your journey," he smiled at the shorter man, "Perhaps you will learn of your origins on the way?"
Koryu looked at the headband again, and fingered the green gemstone around his neck, eyes focusing on the insignia with grim determination.
'I will discover what this means.' he vowed, 'And the names of the faces that haunt my dreams.'
Koryu sets out on his journey, with little else to his name but the blessings of his master, the clothes on his back, and the enigmatic articles he recieved the night before. Will he receive the answers he seeks? Or will a freak encounter with a pack of bandits cut the lates successor of the 2000 year legacy of Hokuto in his prime?
Koryu: Omae wa mo...Shindeiru.