Disclaimer: Do not own anything of Naruto (manga or anime), Street Fighter, King of Fighter, Dead Or Alive game series. I'm only inspired by those series but I do not gain nor do I seek any form of profit. I do this on my own dime.


Chapter Two: Following The Path


Traveling along the path that lead to his destination, a man who was in a sense a warrior and a spiritual monk was in deep contemplation about what he chosen to do at this point in his life.

Gouken had often crossed paths with shinobi over the years of his life. Almost every kind imaginable and some that seemed to be unimaginable. For being fighters, there were some that he could call a challenge but more often than not of the shinobi he had encountered were no better than the proverbial dogs of war. Once given a bloody nose, they run with their tails between their legs.

There were some that would do more than what was asked of them but those particular shinobi were as rare as a summer blue moon.

It was because of that fact that Gouken had been discreetly asking around about the team of shinobi that was hired by the bridge builder Tazuna.

In a way, Gouken was actually glad when he learned a little about this kid that came to him a dream. From what his old friend Yo and others had told him, Naruto was the one that voiced his decision to continue protect the bridge builder while the rest of his team were of the general thought of backing out and returning home.

That spoke volumes in Gouken's opinion about the teenager.

Gouken had lived long enough to know that when someone voices their desire to continue despite whatever obstacles before them, they speak because their will is stronger than those of the people that person. Some people would say it was supreme arrogance or foolishness on that person's part but Gouken had seen enough to know the difference. The best examples Gouken had for that was of his pupils Ryu and Ken.

When he took those two as students to teach them the Shotokan arts, Gouken could tell they were as opposite as they were similar. Both strive to be the best they can be but going about it in their own ways. And from what else he heard about this Naruto, Gouken wondered if he would be like Ken or Ryu.

Gouken's reasoning for that was based what he had heard about Naruto Uzumaki, aside from his exploit in help saving a town from a tyrant.

Like Ryu, Naruto apparently had a drive to better himself almost greater than most people. Some would say it was borderline obsessive but that was only because those that say it can't see someone having that strength of a drive within those people and not themselves.

Like Ken, Naruto obviously cared for others and didn't hesitate to speak what was on his mind. Ryu was the same but of the two, Ken was the one who was clearly the more vocal but he always said the words that would matter in the situation.

Of all those qualities, that Naruto had which was a interesting mixture of both Ken and Ryu, there was one that Gouken heard of that both puzzled him and gave him hope about the teenager.

The quality that Gouken saw which made Naruto unique, more unique than most as it were, was the fact he genuinely cared. Especially those that had fallen who were previously hired to kill Tazuna. Of all the aspects a person can have, everyone would swear all throughout the day that crying for a former enemy is a sign of weakness. Compassion is never a weakness and Gouken was always surprised on how fast people would undermine it's value.

Once he had learned that of Naruto, Gouken was curious about the other people that Naruto was traveling with. However, when Gouken inquired about the others, the teenage girl, teenage boy, and their team leader, to say he wasn't surprised at the information was something of an understatement.

The other teenage boy, one called Sasuke Uchiha, obviously had potential and was quite skilled but Gouken could easily see the path he was walking on. Gouken would never say that he had seen all walks of life but he had seen enough to at least know what kind of path Sasuke was walking. It was a path that in Gouken's opinion, all Uchiha tended to walk as they lead a life of a shinobi.

Gouken had encountered several members of the Uchiha clan in his life and each one claimed that with their skills and the power of their clan's blood, no one not even Gouken would present no challenge to them. In retrospect, Gouken found it strange that whenever he sought out a fight, he would encounter warriors that he would never anticipate. But when he didn't seek battles, someone from a reputable clan like the Uchiha Clan would find him. What they all had in common, especially when Gouken saw the young Sasuke was that they relied on their eyes and various other blood born skills but never on what they could see and feel in the world around them.

A friend of his put it best to which Gouken found it very succinct. With their eyes becoming red and black, it's very easy for them to not see the pools of blood they leave in their wake.

It was still possible for the young Uchiha to leave the darkening path he was on but the point of no return was coming and it seemed to Gouken that no one else but Naruto was trying. That fact was what made Gouken rather curious about the pink haired girl.

The one called Sakura Haruno didn't show much skills or desire to learn any skills other than what she already knew. Instead, the girl was more set on being something other than a warrior which even Gouken knew wasn't the ideal mindset for being a kunoichi. Gouken could see that the girl cared for the Uchiha but couldn't tell if it was honest caring or some kind infatuation. Whatever it was, the girl was acting as a hindrance and sooner or later, it would create a very unfortunate outcome where all three teenagers were concerned.

Then there was the leader of the group and when Gouken learned of his name, couldn't help but shake his head at the situation as a whole. Kakashi Hatake was someone Gouken had encountered before years ago and on several occasions. Especially before and after he had lost his eye. Kakashi was a skilled warrior, there was never any doubt in Gouken's mind but his desire to fight, Gouken felt it was more like he was going through the motions if anything.

Like when Kakashi threw a punch or kick, he did so only because he could and not because of any drive behind it.

Plus, there was something else about the man that Gouken could see. A burden that was crippling him but to what kind of burden it was, Gouken couldn't say for certain. Actually, it was conflict of burdens that was crippling Kakashi if Gouken understood it right from what he saw of the individual.

Of the team of shinobi that came from one of the hidden villages, Gouken had to admit that this was quite possibly the most unique team he had ever seen and he had seen a lot.

It was at this chain of thoughts that Gouken considered the possibility that he probably wasn't meant to train solely Naruto. Or maybe help Naruto with his friends and comrades. Either way, Gouken knew his path would cross with not only Naruto but the others as well. Just how the paths would cross was the only real question Gouken had at the moment.

As each step brought him closer to his destination, Gouken had an idle thought about how the paths he had taken in his life. How one direction in life he walked intersected with so many others in ways he never imagined.

The best way to describe it was something his own master had said to him, about the Path of the Warrior. Master Gotetsu told both Gouken and his brother Akuma long ago that learning their Shotokan arts almost meant learning to walk a path that's both straight and not straight. A warrior will walk either straight to a fight or away to protect.

It was a bit of knowledge that was simplistic and yet confusing at the same time in Gouken's mind and even after all these years later, he knew he still had a lot to learn.

Gouken focused his mind on the present when he saw he had reached his destination: The Gate of Konoha.

"The Village Hidden in the Leaves. Strange how a village that says it's hidden is so easily seen even from a distance." Gouken said to himself while he walked up to the gate sentries.

It had been a while since Gouken had actually visited this village. Quite possibly a decade if his memory served him right. And if his memory continued to serve him, Gouken remembered hearing a story that came from this village. One that made Gouken lose a significant amount of respect for someone who reside in the village.

After signing in his name and the reason for his visit, which Gouken said it was to meet an old friend that lived in the village, the warrior monk headed to where he was told Gen's restaurant was at.

Walking down the streets, Gouken remembered the times when Gen spoke about opening up a restaurant. He had said that though he was a skilled fighter and proved his dedication into mastering his style of fighting on various occasions, Gen had wanted to do something more than just move from one fight to the next. Gouken and Yo both respected their friend's desire, especially the life they live isn't really the kind where peace in their old age was guaranteed.

Some battles are never over and some fighters never surrender even in death. That was a lesson Gouken, Yo, and Gen all learned the hard way and several times over in their travels.

In a way, knowing Gen was now living a dream he had made Gouken consider the idea of what he might do in the time to come. He found enjoyment in teaching the style of marital arts that he himself had dedicated his life to but there had been times he had wondered if all there was for him was the fight.

But Gouken kept his mind at the present. There would be time later to think about regrets and other paths not taken. For now, it was time talk with an old friend.

Following the directions he was given, as well as keeping an eye on some shinobi that had been following him since he first entered into the village but stayed out of direct sight, it took Gouken about ten minutes to reach his destination inside the village.

"Genhanten Restaurant." Gouken said to himself, reading the name on the building. "I wonder if he and the owner of Ichiraku Ramen Stand finally settled their culinary differences?"

Once inside and given a table to sit at, Gouken told his waiter to deliver a message to the owner. When asked what the message was, Gouken could only think of one thing that Gen would understand immediately.

"Tell him the most reckless monk in the world has stopped by."

The waiter didn't fully understood the message but said he would deliver it as requested as well as the small order of tang chicken with rice.

About five minutes later, Gouken saw Gen come walking over to his table with his meal order.

The man was about as old as Gouken was, maybe older if one were to take in the length of his white beard as a sign. Gouken had a bread himself but he had often wondered how Gen could keep his beard looking as though it was practically freshly washed all the time. Gen's outfit was that of a traditional kind, lavender in color as well as simple design that gave off the feel of this man being someone of tradition but not opposed to the world at large. One could say that Gen was like a monk in his own way from a visual point of view. But Gouken knew better of his old friend, both the good and the bad sides of him.

"I must say, I actually questioned my hearing when one of my waiters came up to me and told me something I had only said to one other person in the world." Gen said after setting down Gouken's meal and taking a seat opposite of his friend.

"If that's what you consider an 'old age' joke, then I must say that I was wrong in that you would never grow a sense of humor." Gouken replied.

"I've learned, ironically enough, that learning to have a humor isn't as easy as learning to throw a punch. But at least it shows that I can still learn something new even in our old age." Gen replied while drinking some tea he had brought with along with Gouken's order.

"Hey, we may not be any kind of spring chicken but we're not as old as your implying." Gouken replied with a little humor in his voice.

"Actually I'm more surprised that we have lived as long as we have considering all the nonsense that one can call the adventures we went through. I sometimes still have flashbacks from time to time about how we got chased by all the kunoichi of Nadeshiko."

"Oh, not that again." Gouken wasn't the kind of person that could be annoyed easily but he knew he should have known that Gen still hadn't forgiven him for that incident. "I told you as well as all of them as they chased us that it was an honest mistake. I seriously just tripped and that was why I fell face first..."

"Into the chest of the leader of that village at the time. Whether it was an accident or not, it didn't help matters when you said, and I quote, 'Wow, these are real and soft.' If you had seen how red you made that woman's face, I'm fairly sure you would have a better understanding of her position when she screamed out 'Kill them all!'."

"Hey, I tried to play it off but you know how some leaders are of any village. The very instant they are either embarrassed publicly or some kind of slight is made to them, their entire military is sent right after you no matter how fast or how much you apologize."

Gen sipped his tea again before he replied to his friend's statement. "The words you said might've been easily shrugged off but it didn't help matters when you groped her as well."

"Oh yeah, like whenever you trip and fall down, you don't stick your arms and hands out forward to try and break your fall." Gouken tried to feign being annoyed but having known Gen as long as he had, Gouken knew at the core it was all in good humor.

"I'll grant you that but the main reason why I remember that event from time to time is about a simple question and if it ever got answered." Gen said to which Gouken was curious what his friend wanted to know. "Did that rematch ever happen, the one that you proposed and somehow got her to agree to?"

"You mean the rematch between our apprentices?" Gouken scanned through his memories in regards to Ken and Ryu and so far, there was no mention of such events happening with them. "Well, at this point in time I can't say with any certainty that the agreement has been fulfilled. Ken and Ryu are aware of the agreement but so far they haven't had any fights from any kunoichi from Nadeshiko."

"Hmm." Gen stroked his long white beard, a sign of him being in deep thought. "You may have told them but I still say it was the most reckless thing for even a monk to agree to. There was no guarantee that you would have students. I'm at least grateful that only you had to agree to it. I don't think myself or Yo would be able to make good on that."

Gouken knew what Gen was really getting at by those words. Yo had often said to the two that he never really could be the kind of teacher of his martial arts, to convey the lessons he had learned to any students. Gen agreed to that but felt that he himself could teach some key lessons, to help any of his students down the path of being a martial artist.

"You did nothing wrong that day, Gen. I've faced my share of assassins as well and who's to say that he wouldn't have killed her first to get you off balance? Chun-Li is alive and from what I hear, she's quite the capable fighter as well."

"Still, for a child to lose their innocence is one thing. To be the cause of the such a loss is not something one should do." Gen's expression showed how remorseful he was for that event in his past but quickly changed it to his normal show. "But to the matters at hand, what is it that brings you to side of the world?"

As much as Gouken wanted to try and help his friend come to better terms with what happened between him and his former student, he knew that was for another time.

Over the next couple of minutes, Gouken explained to Gen why he had come to this village as well as how it pertained to his dream. Gen listened as intently as one could. He absorbed each of the details he was given. When it came to a certain blonde haired boy with whisker marks on his face, Gen definitely became more interested. Once Gouken finished his story, Gen stroked his beard before he replied. A sign to Gouken that his friend that he had some relevant information.

"My friend, this boy that you're looking for, I'm afraid to say he's more connected to this village than anyone here wants to admit. I myself know a lot but to even whisper such things is consider a crime." Gen replied.

Gouken was aware that each of the shinobi villages had their own respective laws and he always does his best to abide by them. But he got the feeling from his friend that there was something more to it than what was seen on the surface.

"What exactly is it that this village wants to hide in regards to the boy?" Gouken asked, trying to see what he might've overlooked before.

"Strangely enough, it what they want to hide from the people outside these village walls and as well as from the boy himself." Gen took another sip from his drink, knowing he had a lot to say to Gouken.

"Before you say anymore, are you sure you won't get into trouble with this village's authority?"

"Doubtful. Because of my abilities and reputation, and add the fact that I've made it clear any attempts against me of any kind will be met with considerable force, the Hokage is well aware I am no enemy to him or his village."

"Attempts? Some people in this village actually fought against you?' Gouken was surprised by this. He knew Gen would never be one to start a confrontation without a serious reason and that alone happened very rarely.

"When I first came here and started setting up shop, so to speak, one of the main clans that resides in his village started making claims that I was a spy from another village. Of course these claims came right after of the member from said clan got drunk and began making a scene. He was skilled, there was no denying that but when I rendered him unconscious, it quickly became the talk of the village that a Hyuuga was taken down by someone who wasn't from their clan but could use their techniques."

"You know, in my travels, I did hear of the Hyuuga clan's fighting abilities. From the stories, they sounded so close to your fighting style."

"Yes and no." Gen replied, again habitually stroking his beard. "The only key fact that makes it seem my techniques is similar to the Hyuuga's fighting style is pinpoint targeting but it ends right there. They rely solely on their Byakugan when employing their techniques."

Gouken quickly connected the dots once Gen had said that. "And I take it that people from that clan are upset with the fact that you've proven to be more efficient with such techniques than they are?"

"That would be a mild understatement but yes." Gen let a small smile momentarily form on his face while he replied. "But back the to the subject of information, it will have to be in the form of a hypothetical."

Gouken knew his friend was cunning, both on and off the field of battle. Both of the men knew that once your inside a shinobi village, you're easily followed by either seen or unseen shinobi. Even now in his restaurant, Gen subtly motioned to two areas where they were being watched. Gouken saw out of the corners of his eyes who they were before returning his attention back to his friend.

"Years ago as the story goes, the Fourth Hokage fought the most dangerous threat this village had ever face. It cost him his life but he managed to defeat the Nine Tailed Fox. Now that what was told to the public but sometimes I think that the story might've gone differently."

"How different? It couldn't be too drastically different because it would complicate things if no one was told the truth."

"Well, the difference of the two stories makes me wonder at times who would benefit from the changes. Since there's no one to confirm the authenticity of the details to either story, they are just that: stories."

Gouken was definitely intrigued since Gen had, in his own way, told him that what he was going to hear next was the truth.

"There was talk that before the attack of the Nine Tailed Fox, that Minato Namikaze was making preparations for his child to be born. His wife was Kushina Uzumaki who was expecting their first born. Minato feared that all the enemies that he had made in all the shinobi villages would jump at the chance to either kill or capture his first child. One would assume the couple would be at a secret location since his wife did not give birth in the hospital. Perhaps the famous Yellow Flash didn't trust those at the hospital or for some other completely different reason."

"Interesting. Probably that's why so many don't trust this story since that one detail doesn't fit with what is said about the famous Yellow Flash. I heard stories of his character that said he was a man of honor." Gouken said to his friend.

"In this village, of course. Though I'm sure in the Village Hidden In Stone would disagree with anyone saying something positive of Minato considering how many of their forces he killed." Gen mentioned while refilling his cup.

"Heard that too. Then again, those of us that are seen as street fighters, as such the world calls us, we're not given any real respect either except by those that truly know us." Gouken said.

"As it is said for shinobi being dogs of war." Gen said and Gouken immediately agreed with. "Now the stories stay the same, right up to the part where Minato sacrifices himself to save the village. But what troubles me is that there's a detail for the other story that the older generation in this village know it as the truth while they teach the younger generation something else as the truth."

"What truth is being twisted here?"

"It's been said, I do not know by who since it is whispered a lot, that Minato could not kill the monster but he could at least seal it away. The Nine Tailed Fox could be sealed away inside a person is what has been whispered by many. False whispers as they say."

It only took Gouken several moments for him to see how this other story played out. And he didn't have to hear Gen's words for it but he still listened.

"Every year since that time and on that day does this village celebrates the death of the demon. There has only been one person that dreads that day when it comes. But the rest of the village believes that those who don't celebrate it are not one of them."

Gouken thought on what he had just heard. "I heard that shinobi are taught to 'look underneath the underneath'. If these three pieces of information were true, it would be hard for someone not to draw the conclusion that I have just did."

"And what conclusion might that be?" Gen had already figured it out for himself a long time ago. It amazed him how others didn't seem to make the connection when it was so obvious.

"Like I said, IF it was true, then Naruto might be something akin to royalty." Gouken wanted to say openly that Naruto was Minato's son but stopped himself when he caught the very subtle nod from Gen to both as an affirmative as well as silence.

So far, Gouken only saw the boy's father's side heritage being denied, not his mother's side. He figured it might have to do with the 'unspoken' fact of the boy being bound to a demon, to being a jinchuriki. Stories of jinchurikis were few but all of them basically said the same thing, that those bound to a demon were view as weapons at best. Sometimes the reincarnation of the demon at worst.

"There are other Uzumakis out there in the world but if Kushina Uzumaki is who I believe to be then Naruto is a descendant to the ruling body of the clan before it was broken apart."

Gen nodded in reply as he was aware of this knowledge as well. "I surprised you haven't mentioned how easy such conclusions can be made and yet the people here haven't made them."

"This may sound jaded but we both know that people tend to see what they want to see. It goes with that old saying we learned right after the three of us traveled together for several years. When you hear hoof beats, you think horses and not zebras."

"Ah, the devil being within the details. But as I said before, the village knows the truth. What I just said…is only a story."

'Hmm, there is much more to this boy than I could have guessed. Things are certainly making much more sense and yet I can't help but wonder how many more pieces of the puzzle I'm still missing.' Gouken thought to himself.

Before their conversation could continue, both Gen and Gouken sensed something was different with their surroundings. To the plain eye, nothing was out of the ordinary inside the restaurant. But the veteran fighters knew better.

"Well, it seems our story time has had some unwanted effects. As much as I would like to continue, to catch up on old times, it seems my attention is needed elsewhere at the moment." Gouken said before pulling out some currency to pay for his meal.

Gen objected, saying that the payment should be restraint in not sending the people Gouken was about to face to the hospital for a month.

"I'm not against giving them a bloody nose. Just don't cause too much undue pain to them." Gen said to his friend.

"Oh, come now old friend. I've long since mastered the fine art of restraint." Gouken replied, trying to reassure Gen of his impending actions.

"Once a reckless monk, always a reckless monk." Gen said without a hint of hesitation.

Gouken couldn't help it that his left eye twitched at his friend's remark. Gen saw it and he couldn't help but have a small smile form on his face because of his friend's reaction. After letting out a deep sigh, Gouken mumbled under his breath as he left about how some people never change.

Gouken knew that if there was a confrontation about to happen, he knew it would be best to have it away from crowded areas. Once he was out of the restaurant, Gouken headed for the forest areas all the while keeping an 'eye' on his followers.

'Huh. Four of them. Not being too particularly minded of being stealth-like. Fighting spirit isn't all that impressive on each of them. Guess this is as good a time as any to see what passes for a fighter now in this village.' Gouken thought to himself as he walked into the village's forest.

Once Gouken was sure only he and his four followers were alone, he called out to them.

"Alright. How about you introduce yourself properly. Even shinobi should adhere to manners more often than they do now." Gouken had his arms crossed and a stern expression on his face. At the moment, Gouken was more annoyed because he felt it was going to be a typical encounter.

Right after he had said that was when the four shinobi made their appearance. Two appeared in front of him while the other two appeared from behind. From the two in front, Gouken saw one of them to be a man who looked a bit sickly. He looked sickly but even Gouken knew better that to make any assumptions by appearances alone.

His fight with Tung had taught him that long ago.

"My name is Gekko Hayate. We have been given orders to escort you to the Hokage Tower."

"What are the basis for these orders?" Gouken asked while taking note of the other three. Even though he couldn't really see the two behind him, Gouken could at least see that all four were ready for a possible fight.

"Lord Hokage has requested your presence. There are some…matters that he would wish to discuss with you about our village personally." Hayate replied.

"Hmm…answer this question first. Is this the same Lord Hokage that allowed the likes of the one known as Orochimaru to go free?"

Gouken had encountered the criminal in one of his travels. The snake-who-would-be-man, as Gouken saw him, challenged him to a fight. One of his followers against him to the death. Gouken remembered defeating the man easily enough but not before learning several things. One thing Gouken learned immediately was that Orochimaru showed no hesitation in what he viewed as sacrificing a pawn for his own personal goals. After he was defeated, Gouken watched as the Orochimaru's man somehow caught fire and burned until only a charred skeleton was all that remained. Orochimaru only expressed regret in that he hoped he had gotten what he called the 'formula' right this time.

Before Orochimaru left, Gouken also learned that this village was once his home and that he was one of the Sannin Gouken had heard about. The rest that Gouken had learned from Orochimaru made his blood boil because of how such a man could exist or worse yet, was allowed to go free.

If it was one of his students, either Ryu or Ken, that had fallen so far, Gouken would fulfill the obligation of a sensei with a student gone rogue.

"It is not our place to tell others what our Lord Hokage has done or not done with his life. Our current concern is fulfilling our duties as given to use by our Lord Hokage." Hayate replied.

Gouken noticed the subtle motion twitch in the man's eye when he said the name Orochimaru. Whether it was an acknowledgement or not, Gouken at least knew the man's name inspired a serious sense of infamy.

"Well, then your current duty will go uncompleted. I have no desire or intention to speak with him. If he wishes to speak to me, he may do so in person himself." Gouken said before he turned around in order to walk away.

He didn't make more than three steps before the two shinobi in front of Gouken positioned themselves to stop his movement.

"Look, old man, whether you like it or not, you're coming with us." the shinobi who wore sunglasses and carrying a sword on his back, similar to the one Gekko Hayate had on his back. Reaching up to and slightly unsheathing the sword, the shinobi spoke again. "Now, lets do this the easy way. I don't want to rough up someone whose advanced in years."

"Aye, 'advanced in years' would be a suitable term for someone like me. But it seems to me that you've forgotten the other half." Gouken said, sizing up his soon-to-be opponents.

"And what's that, old man?"

"Wisdom and patience come with age. It is the folly of the world that the youth who travel among the world more often than not forget that simple truth. I say this only once more: I am no enemy to you but I have no intention to meet with your leader. Do not force this."

Gouken could already tell three of the four were ready for either the first strike or retaliation. The fourth was still on the fence from what Gouken could tell.

Seeing as how the issue was going to go badly, Gouken decided to have a little fun while also testing the strength of the current generation of shinobi.

Before any of the others could speak, Gouken used his right foot to create a five-foot circle in the dirt with him at the center.

"How's about a test, in the genuine interest of fairness? If you can get me out this circle by any and all means available to you, I shall accompany you. If not…well, I'm sure you know the price for failure would be for you."

Gouken did his best to keep his facial expression neutral since it didn't take more than a couple of seconds before all four of them assumed a fighting stance. He didn't want to give it away that despite giving off the feeling of being trained shinobi, their collective fighting spirit was no better than that of a rookie street fighter. Still, Gouken wasn't going to underestimate his opponents.

In any fight, one slip of a move, even before it all started, and the fight can easily go against you.

The prime example of this life experience happened the very second Gouken assumed his fight stance. From the left, one of the Leaf shinobi produced a kunai in one of his hands and charged right at Gouken. Out of the corner of his eye, Gouken could see that his first opponent easily had the thoughts of how fast the fight was going to end in his eyes.

Gouken actually had to keep himself from letting out a sigh before easily dodging a lateral swipe of the kunai and then following up with a hard punch to his opponent's stomach. Gouken did keep his strength in check but he was fairly sure he might've broken a rib or two as well as knocking all the air out of the man. The man's forward momentum combined with Gouken's punch caused him to flip in the air and land right on his back with a hard thud.

The shinobi had landed inside of the circle but didn't stay long before Gouken grabbed his right leg and flung him out of the circle as easily as a broken branch from a tree.

"Next?" Gouken said to the remaining three opponents.

The next to make his move was the one that had made the 'advanced in years' comment. Gouken had fought others who wielded swords, among other various weapons in his travels. From all those fights, there was one truth Gouken had learned when dealing with fighters who relied on weapons and that was the fact they all relied on one-hit strikes whether they realized it or not. Especially in making their first move.

Again, a lateral strike was made but this time Gouken easily grabbed the man's main sword arm with one hand. This stopped the sword from getting near Gouken and lock the attacker long enough in place so Gouken could use his free hand to punch the man in the face. With his hand on the man's sword arm, Gouken twisted it enough to cause his opponent to drop the sword and then made it so he flipped onto his back with his sword arm twisted and locked.

"I've met respectable fighters who use weapons such as yours but the key difference between you and them is a simple fact." Gouken said while keeping the man's arm twisted at a painful angle.

"And...what's that?" the man replied in a pained voice while trying to break free.

"They made that weapon a part of their very being. An extension of themselves. If you don't do that, you insult the very art of combat you think you're employing." Gouken said.

Before the man could reply to Gouken's words, the warrior monk still kept the man's arm locked but also reached down and grabbed him by his vest. In a fluid motion, Gouken lifted him up high enough in the air while releasing his grip on the man's arm so as to essentially mule kick the man out of the circle. Gouken made sure the kick was strong enough to send the man flying into his first opponent who was starting to get up from the ground.

Gouken did smile when he saw the collision of the two shinobi but he was well aware of someone moving quickly from directly behind. The warrior monk decided to have a little fun since as he expected, his opponents weren't all that experienced or skilled in a fight.

Gouken timed it just right so as to flip into the air but not leave the circle while dodging the flying kick from the next opponent. Without wasting a moment, the Leaf shinobi quickly followed with a reverse kick with his left leg that was aim at Gouken's head who merely moved his head slightly back to avoid the kick.

"Air doesn't hit back so fighting it doesn't achieve anything." Gouken said while easily dodging another kick just by moving so subtly.

The taijutsu moves that the Leaf shinobi began to use were decent in Gouken's view. His punches and kicks definitely had some intent behind them but no power. Gouken did block each shot until he had a read on what style his opponent was using.

"Going through the motions is never a way to win a fight." Gouken said, still easily blocking each punch and kick. This clearly made Gouken's opponent angry but his increased efforts were still easily blocked.

"Keep that in mind the next time you enter into a fight unless you want it to be your last." Gouken said before he sent one of his punches against a punch his opponent threw. The two fists collided but Gouken's punch possibly broke his opponents hand entirely after the collisions. The Leaf shinobi recoiled in response to his injured hand which left him wide open long enough for Gouken to send him flying into the other two.

Seeing all three Leaf shinobi knocked back down, Gouken did briefly wonder if their defeats would actually make them strive to be better. To be so easily defeated in a situation that wasn't life-or-death kind, and against someone who wasn't a shinobi, did not bode well for their futures.

Looking back at his last opponent, Gouken carefully examined the man. On the surface, it looked like to Gouken that the one called Hayate was unsure of what his move was to be. But Gouken could tell by the look in the man's eyes was that he had just analyzed the fight between him and his three comrades. It was also possibly that the man was doing this the entire time, that he let the others fight first to gauge Gouken's skill set.

"Well, since it's down to you and me, care to save both of the trouble and just walk away?" Gouken asked but he already knew what the man's response was going to be anyways.

Hayate didn't respond other than unleash his sword. Gouken prepared himself for Hayate's attack and was somewhat disappointed when all he did was charge directly at him. However at the last moment, Gouken was surprised when the Leaf shinobi in front of him split into several copies and when into different directions.

Only for a moment was Gouken surprised by this for he quickly realized what Hayate had just done and knew what he was going to do.

"Shoryuken!" Gouken yelled out as he used one of his fighting discipline's techniques to send an uppercut straight up and into Hayate's face. It almost sounded like a loud crack when Gouken landed his attack but Gouken held back enough so as to not snap his head back and possibly break the man's neck.

When they both landed back onto the ground, Hayate was flat on his back while Gouken was still inside the circle. Gouken was surprised that Hayate was struggling to get back onto his feet.

"Huh. Guess I didn't held back as much as I thought." Gouken said outloud but only to himself while he looked at his four opponents and saw that all of them weren't so quick to get on their feet. "Or maybe most shinobi nowadays have glass jaws or lack the drive to better themselves."

Gouken contemplated several possibilities at the moment but decided that he had better resume his current objective.

"Since you've failed to get me to leave the circle, I will take my leave now. Also, I advise you not continue this pointless endeavor. If your leader wants to talk to me, tell him to do so himself."

With that said, Gouken began walking away from his defeated opponents. No sooner did he take three steps did the one Gouken just defeated got back on his shaky feet using his sword as means to steady himself.

"I'm not done with you." Hayate replied while steadying himself and then bringing his weapon to bear.

Gouken admired those that had the strength of will to continue the fight. A sign that said to him that those warriors were more than ready to break their limits.

But he had also encountered those whose will was more for show than actual. True this one's will was definitely strong but his will wasn't what driving him on. Gouken knew that most shinobi would rather die and than fail their Kage leaders in any aspect. In some respect, Gouken could understand that but only to a point and this fighter was passed it.

"The fight's done. To continue would be pointless. There is no shame in losing as long as you still have your life." Gouken hoped his words would reach Hayate but he already knew otherwise.

"The fight's not over." Hayate replied before mustering every bit of strength he had left to make one last charge at Gouken.

Gouken was surprised at Hayate's speed, especially considering his current situation. But the man's speed wasn't enough to overtake Gouken how already began making his counter move. After years of mastering this one technique, Gouken knew exactly how to employ it without causing serious harm. Sure, Gouken could destroy this man easily and maybe half a mountain if he put everything he could into it but now was not the time for such a display of strength.

Hayate figured that his speed was enough to get close enough to Gouken for a strike. But he quickly found out how wrong he was when Gouken moved at even faster speeds by bringing his hands to his side and form what looked like a ball of light.

"Hadouken!" Gouken yelled out at the exact moment Hayate was right in front of him, thrusting his hands forward and firing a blue ball of light directly at his opponent.

Hayate had hoped to cut the attack with his katana but in an instant, the attack Gouken launched easily shattered Hayate's weapon and then struck the man himself in his mid-section. Gouken had made the attack just strong enough to send Hayate flying backwards. But he quickly realized he made it too strong when Hayate went sailing right back into his comrades. Though they were on their feet, they were hit hard enough for all of them to crash to the ground in a heap of bodies.

Gouken observed them for a moment, to make sure he hadn't injured them too much. Hayate was clearly out cold with another one as well and the others were clearly in pain. Gouken knew that this wasn't a victory of any kind despite the fight between him and the others. If anything, it was going to put him at odds with both the Hokage and possibly the boy he was going to train.

"Hey, why don't you pick a fight with me?!"

Gouken was startled when he heard someone yelling that out. He knew right away it belong to a child at the very least but he was more surprised when he saw who it belonged to.

Facing the new challenger, Gouken was pleased that his search for the teenager was over. But he was now worried that the person he, essentially, is supposed to train was now going to fight him.

But it also presented a unique opportunity. Gouken knew that there few ways in the world that allow someone to truly know who people are and one of them was fighting them.

"Anyone who picks a fight with one Leaf shinobi, they pick a fight will all of us!"

"And who might you be?" Gouken said while turning to face his new challenger.

"My name is Naruto Uzumaki and your worst nightmare!"

Gouken could already tell this teenager had a strong will and spirit within him. Though he had seen him beforehand, this was a better impression than what Gouken had seen earlier. Or maybe a much more clearer impression.

"You roar like a tiger of the mountain. But as young as you are, do you have any fangs and claws?" Gouken said.

"Let's find out!" Naruto replied.

'Yes. Lets find out indeed.' Gouken thought to himself while preparing for one of the most interesting fights in his life.

Sorry about the delay. Too many things happened that made my muse and drive to write unusable. Now the story's back on track so read and review please.