Lessons of Experience
Chapter 1: School of hard knocks
Disclaimer: This is my best attempt to mesh anecdotes of training in Southeast Asian martial arts with the Naruto Universe. Naruto is not mine, but, if he were, I would run him ragged with my insane martial arts ideas.
Uzumaki Naruto had failed his academy exams a second time.
It had come down to a simple bunshin jutsu at the end.
Gods he hated the technique. His clone ended up emaciated and black-haired, struggling feebly before dispelling on its own.
It was so aggravating.
He had spent hours every day trying to perfect the basics on his own, but it was never good enough. Even after his second failure at the exam, he dashed into the woods to practice until he passed out.
If there was one thing that could be said about the blonde kid, it was that he was stubborn to the point of foolishness.
Upon waking covered in dew at the first light of dawn, Naruto prepared to start his unsuccessful training regimen again, but noticed another presence in the woods moving about in a small clearing.
It was an old man, even older than the Old Man Hokage if that were possible. He wore simple clothes of a white t-shirt, black pants, and black slippers, not minding the cold. The white-haired old man manipulated an almost plain looking one-handed sword with a deadly ease that appeared contrary to his years. His skin, tanned and leathery, held the faint tracery of numerous scars from countless battles. He was short and thin, but sinewy.
It was as if the old man had been pared down to the pure essence of a seasoned killer. It was reflected in his appearance and also his movements
Naruto had an uneasy feeling in his gut just watching the man practice, heedless of his eleven-year-old presence. Even though the man said nothing to him or even glanced in his direction, it was like being in the rare presence of an angry Sandaime.
Despite his young age and inexperience, the young boy shivered, not being able to help it.
When the old man stopped his movements, he asked aloud in a gravelly voice, "What do you want, Boy?"
The young jinchuuriki had reflected upon all the times before where he had asked strangers for a fair deal, or assistance, and had been ignored at best.
This would probably be no different, but he still had to try.
Naruto gathered up his courage and swallowed his pride replying, "Gramps, please teach me how to fight."
The old man laughed. It was like the sound of glass breaking.
Regarding the whiskered blonde with mirth, he looked at Naruto as if weighing his soul on an invisible scale. After a moment the old man muttered something to himself.
Smirking, he stated, "You've got a giant pair of balls to ask me that kid, but I've got no time for playground games. I don't fight, I kill, and I survive to keep on killing."
The statement was said with no hint of a boast, just simple, if not brutal fact. The honesty in the old man's words chilled Naruto to the bone.
Naruto stood at a precipice and instinctually knew it. He could jump one way or the other and have his life irrevocably changed. Some deep part of Naruto clicked. It was the same part that had survived all the loneliness, the apathy, and the unspoken hatred. Naruto wanted his life to change dramatically.
The boy decided, saying, "Whatever you want to teach, I'll learn."
The old man was tickled pink at the young boy's proclamation. From what he could sense the kid was one of the few that had his heart in the right place, time would only tell if he had the constitution to weather his type of training.
The old man smiled like a shark sensing blood in the water.
"It's not going to be that easy, boy. Unlike the styles of the lazy Hyuuga clan or the thieving Uchiha, my art has to be ingrained in the body and paid for with the flesh and blood of yourself and others. Are you prepared for that?"
Naruto nodded vigorously.
The old man continued, "I only have a few conditions. Do what I say when I tell you to do it, without complaint, and do not quit. If you fail on either count, your training will cease immediately. Lastly, if you abuse my teachings I will gut you like a fish, and I'll do so with the Hokage's blessing. You understand?"
Dumbstruck, Naruto still managed to answer in the affirmative.
"What is your name, boy?"
A wave of recognition passed over that man's face.
"That's a respectable name. Mine is San. Let's begin."
The old man's sword vanished and a small piece of paper appeared in his hands. He threw it at Naruto like a shuriken.
The academy student caught it, and stared at it in puzzlement.
"Trust me on this boy, and gather some chakra into it."
A look resembling constipation crossed the young boy's face as he gathered his energies. The paper suddenly split in half down the middle. It left small, stinging cuts across his fingers where the paper had been sliced cleanly.
Smiling, San said, "Very good. It's in your nature to cut. This will be perfect."
Naruto mentally questioned the old man's definition of perfection as two, razor sharp, single-edged knives appeared in San's weathered hands.
"Before I can teach you how to kill, Naruto, you've got to learn how to cheat death. Now, avoid getting cut or stabbed. This will teach you distance, timing, accuracy, and sensitivity"
The old man rushed at him, attacking fluidly. The knives switching grips and angles of attack were a nightmare to deal with. Naruto was soon covered in small cuts and pinprick stabs.
Naruto mainly dodged, but then he tried using a standard Academy taijutsu block to counter a knife strike. It earned him a deep cut above his upper lip and below his nose that had scraped against his gums. Tears ran down his face, but he continued to dodge.
The old man commented, "Don't try to resist my blows force to force. If you try to counter my fluidity with brute force, you will direct my knives to your weakest areas, and you will die."
Naruto grew increasingly fearful. San could kill him brutally, and had no compunctions against showing that.
A knife flashed out cutting Naruto's left cheek. The strike severed the elastic tissue causing the cheek to flap out, exposing the contents of his mouth to the world. The boy gripped his face in shock, feeling his tongue poking through the bloody muscles of his face.
The boy froze in shock.
One of San's knives found his belly, tearing savagely.
The old man stared at him coolly stating, "If you get distracted by your injuries, you will die."
San ripped his long knife out of Naruto's abdomen causing the young boy to empty out his bladder and bowels before being claimed by unconsciousness.
San quickly got to work muttering a prayer with his hands laid over Naruto's dying body, but not touching him. The grievous injuries that the boy endured quickly closed themselves fading to pale pink lines.
The old man did not know medical jutsu. He only had one method of miraculously healing injuries, but only ones that had been inflicted by his own energy and intent. It was the same technique his uncle used decades ago to train and heal him. It was sorely limited in its scope of healing, but it came in handy numerous times.
Almost tenderly, he cleaned up his young student, abandoning filthy rags and replacing them with newly summoned clothes of a simple black and gray.
San waited for his young student to regain consciousness, watching the small scars fading much faster than usual.
When Naruto's bright blue eyes snapped open to meet his intense black ones with horror and fear, San felt the urge to explain things.
"That is what it means to learn my art of killing. It will not get any easier. If you learn to the best of your ability, I will teach to the best of mine. I will never, ever harm you permanently unless you betray my teachings. I will not abandon you and I expect you to do the same."
San expected the kid to crap out like all the others. There were few with the proper heart to use these teachings and even less with the constitution to learn them. Instead, Naruto's eyes widened with understanding. The white-haired old man was not actually being mean, but was actually being nice. San was acknowledging him, it was just that his art couldn't be taught in a nice way.
"You've got yourself a deal gramps."
The young boy held out his hand, which the old man had grasped in surprise. This young boy would endure his training, and thrive. San trusted his instincts that had kept him alive for so many years on this.
"Let's go get some food. My treat."
The blonde cheered, before noticing his attire.
"Hey, what the hell happened to my clothes?"
The third Hokage watched these events through his crystal ball. He had a smile on his face that had not been seen for a good number of years.
Although he winced at the brutality of San's training, there was no questioning the results. San was a veteran of the great ninja wars for a good reason.
With no small degree of amusement, the Hokage quietly spoke, "So the Executioner finally has a new apprentice. Good luck, young Naruto."
End Chapter 1