YAMI Headquarters (Currently moved to a floating yacht in the Pacific Ocean)
There were ten of them in total.
Ten of the greatest martial artists in the world.
All of them, powerful beyond imagination.
Three of the ten were over eighty years old, indeed while the rest were all relatively young; regardless of age, every one of them was at the pinnacle of physical perfection. The entry into this council was strictly conditional and absolutely rigid on meritocracy. Another thing that they had in common was the fact that all of them hailed from the various nationalities of the world. Four of them were the representatives of the legendary martial arts societies of Asia, ranging from India to China, and from Thailand to Russia, while three were representatives from the three core martial arts styles of Japan.
There were no national leaders or government officials within this council – since the members of this council knew that the power of these individuals was the lowest form of power – transient power. Politicians came and went – but the council endured as always, even government heads were appointed only after this council ratified their appointment, even if the head in question never realized the fact that his position had been predetermined and chosen specifically for him.
The council usually met only twice a year, but this year, they had met nine times. A rarity even in their hallowed history.
While the council was somewhat of a secretive group, the individuals who made up the council were not so easily camouflaged. Many of them held highly respectable positions in public life, and secret meetings between such powerful people always attracted attention. It had always been the council's opinion that the best kept secrets existed out in the open, witnessed, but never actually seen. As such, they always gathered in social gatherings, which were numerous and held occasionally by the rich and bourgeoisie to flaunt their wealth and opulence.
"Well … this is a surprise, to see the one shadow nine fists gathered completely so many times in a year is truly remarkable," muttered one of the men in the chamber, even as the rest remained silent. The speaker was a young man, with a phenomenally developed physique, and lengthy silver colored hair. He was wearing a white ensemble complete with combat boots, camouflage pants, and a white cloak, with a hood covering his face, while revealing his bare torso. He was the newest and youngest master to join the group, Isshinsai Ogata, and he held the title of the saint fist, a.k.a, Kensei.
"We have an unexpected problem," the voice of their leader, the one shadow came out, even as the aforementioned man stilled, not wanting to risk angering him by joking around. As powerful a grand master as he was, there was a reason why all of them followed the lead of this man, who was one of the three legendary masters within their council. Seeing as the remaining two legendary masters were amongst the oldest members of their council, who did not care much for titles or leadership rights, that left this man as the unquestioned leader of the group, although the fact that he was possibly capable of beating those two legendary masters was never spoken of amongst them all.
"A very unknown and unpredictable person has entered Japan," another of the members spoke out. He was a tall, lithe man, with wavy blond hair, wearing an old soviet era issued military trench coat, and was the head of their intelligence wing. He spoke with a thick Russian accent, and looked pensive. He was the Grand Master of Command Sambo of YAMI, and bore the title of the fist of destruction, Col. Alexander Gaidar.
"Oh… for a person to warrant your interest, he must be someone special, who is it?" came the voice of the sole woman of the group. She was one of the three legendary masters of YAMI, Mikumo Kushinada, the sole master of the legendary Kushinada style of Jujitsu. Mikumo appeared as a curvaceous and very well-endowed woman in her mid 20's to early 30's, despite the fact that she was over eighty years old, which was most likely due to her family's experimentation on their bodies to slow down their aging process. She had long waist length black hair, wore an open Kimono to show off her very ample bosom and wore a bead necklace around her neck.
"The next inheritor of Wudangquan has left China, and has entered Japan," Alexander replied in a soft tone, even as his reply elicited an instant reaction.
"Ho … that is truly magnificent news," Kensei spoke out, and the gleam of anticipation in his eyes was unmistakable.
"Indeed, is it confirmed that this boy is the next inheritor of the art of nèi jìng?" Kushinada asked with a hint of a smile on her face.
"More than that …," came the voice of another member, this one a giant of a man, with a thick beard, sitting at the end of the table. This was Ma Sougetsu, the Grand Master of Chinese Kenpo of Yami, who held the title of the fierce-fist god. "I have heard only rumors about his talent, but one thing is beyond certain. The council of elders of Wudangquan, have already bestowed upon him the title of legendary master, and that too at the age of 17, which was two years ago."
"Impossible," Kensei shot up to his feet, shock coursing in every single vein of his body, nor was he the only one. "We of Yami, would not, could not, have missed the emergence of talent of this kind. Nothing happens in the martial arts world, without our knowledge."
"If he was from anywhere else, I would agree with you," Mikumo spoke out, "but Wudangquan has always been insulated from the war between the practitioners of Katsujinken and Satsujinken. They have ferociously defended their rejection to take sides in this war for over two millennia and are closed to the rest of the martial arts world. It is no wonder that we missed the emergence of a talent of this caliber," she shook her head in reluctance.
"So, for him to have achieved this kind of talent, is he descended of the Kuremisago?" Kensei asked quietly, as everyone stilled.
"I do not know …," Sougetsu replied.
"What has brought him here?" their leader, the one shadow asked, to which Sougetsu shrugged.
"It is said that he has decided to come over and evaluate the next generation of Katsujinken and Satsujinken practitioners, and see what the new generation is capable of, before returning to Wudan and taking over his responsibilities. I believe he has entered here in secret, and has disguised his true capabilities. He must be masquerading as a journey man or high disciple if my information is correct."
"This is a golden opportunity," their leader spoke out after a few minutes of deliberation. "If he is truly here, far away from the confines of Wudan, we have a fair prospect to recruit him, and finally eradicate the neutrals from this conflict," he paused, even as he looked at Sougetsu. "If he is truly hiding, seek him out, and assess him. Try to recruit him, and if that is not possible, at least ensure that he continues Wudan's tradition of neutrality. At no cost, can we allow someone of this caliber to join forces with Ryouzanpaku, at least not yet."
"So be it," Sougetsu replied, and with that the meeting was over.
Meanwhile, at Ryouzanpaku,
"Achooo…" Naruto sneezed out loudly, even as he sat in front of the masters of Ryouzanpaku, who were all looking at him with an evaluative gaze.
"Man, quite a few people must be talking about me," he snidely muttered, before he composed himself, and took the cup of tea that was offered to him, and looked at the master's sitting in front of him, and was very impressed with what he saw.
The man who had offered him tea, Akisame Koetsuji, was a recognized grand master of the art of Jujitsu, and was known worldwide as one the greatest proponents of that art. He also was a man of many other talents, amongst which were skills like Calligraphy, Sculpting, Medicine, Linguistics and other esoteric skills. He was without a doubt, a kage-level fighter, and one in whom; Naruto could see shades of Kakashi himself, reborn.
The man next to him was undoubtedly the other half of the equation. Sakaki Shio, who held the title of hundred-Dan fighter, and was known unofficially as one of the greatest masters of Karate in the whole world. With one of the most robust physiques he had ever seen amongst other martial artists since his return, it was clear to him that this man had taken his physical training and endurance to the maximum and beyond. A pure master of hand-to-hand combat, almost on par with Maito Gai himself, although thankfully, he had none of the man's mannerisms. In fact, his mannerisms were a polar opposite to that of Gai's.
The next person in the dojo was the giant bronze skinned Thai fighter, Apachai Hopachai, who held the title of 'the death god of the Muay Thai Underworld'. Around 2 meters tall, with a very imposing physique on par with that of Sakaki's, he was a very impressive man. But, Naruto could see that the man was an absolutely gentle being, and possessed a very kind heart on par with his old friend Choji.
That brought him to the other three masters sitting at the opposite end of the room. The first was a tall and extremely gorgeous young lady several years older than his current form, very well-endowed in Naruto's opinion with emotionless purple eyes. Her dark hair trailed down her back in one long ponytail tied with pink string ribbon. She had purple stockings that travelled halfway up her thighs and simple sandals to go with a pink loose-sleeved kimono, with a very long nodachi in her hand, bandages covering the hilt. Kousaka Shigure: The Prodigy of Sword and the Mistress of all Weaponry. If he didn't know better, he would have sworn that she was his old friend Tenten reincarnated.
The next was the second oldest master in the dojo, and also from what he could sense, the second strongest master amongst them all. A short old man, with a thick black mustache and black hair jutting out from underneath his black derby hat. The rest of his clothing looked like a stereotypical Chinese martial artist's apparel in the color of green. Ma Kensei, one of the only two known masters of all forms of the martial arts practiced in China. The renowned leader of the legendary Phoenix Alliance faction of martial artists, which comprised of more than 10,000 practitioners, who were his subordinates. Naruto was very, and awfully strongly reminded of Jiraiya when he looked at the man. He could see a lot of wisdom in those silent but mischievous eyes, and could tell that they were going to be very good friends in the future. It also helped that he was a pervert just like his old master.
And that left the best for the last. The master of the dojo, and the grand master of the Katsujinken sect, Fuurinji Hayato, who held the nickname of 'The invincible superman'. The man had long blond hair and some age in his face to go with the blond beard and mustache on it and his strong-looking eyebrows. He wore a very long robe with a black belt tied around his waist and simple sandals on his feet. The length and size of the robe did nothing to hide the fact that he was one great mass of muscle, and underneath his sleeves on his hands he wore some kind of fist-guards. He was recognized by all major martial arts factions as the most powerful martial artist in the world, and as the most powerful human being currently in existence. Looking at him, Naruto could understand why. This was the one man, who had come close to achieving the level of skill that had been possessed by the ninja of old. Looking at him, the immortal ninja could see traces of the old 4th Raikage, 'A' within this man. Had he known how to utilize chakra, and had been trained in the ancient ninja arts, Naruto swore that Hayato would have been able to go toe to toe with the Raikage himself.
Just as he was evaluating them, he too had been under evaluation from the masters of Ryouzanpaku. But they were careful enough, to not let their observations reflect in their eyes, and Naruto appreciated the fact that they could hide something like that from him.
"So … a young journeyman from Wudan, my my, it is truly a rare event when a martial artist from Wudan arrives in the outside world, it is truly an honor to have you here," Hayato spoke with a booming laugh, while Naruto graciously nodded accepting the compliment.
Kenichi and Miu, who were sitting on the sidelines were shocked at the admission. To hear something to a compliment like that from the elder towards an unknown stranger had surprised the two youngsters.
"So," Kensei began to speak, as he looked at the young man, "You said that my uncle had a message for me, what is it?"
"Ma-dono, Uncle Hakubi has asked me to inform you that your brother is arriving in China Town in the near future," Naruto replied, at which all the masters of Ryouzanpaku became alert.
"My … that is a rather disconcerting development," Akisame spoke out, even as all the masters became pensive. Ma Sougetsu had that kind of effect wherever he went, after all.
"Do you know the exact date of his arrival?" Kensei asked quietly, while Naruto shook his head.
"Uncle Hakubi will let us know, when he arrives, that much I know. All he asked of me was to alert you, in advance."
"I see, I thank you for your assistance, Naruto-don," Kensei nodded respectfully, even as he stood up.
"Are you going?" Akisame asked quietly, at which Kensei nodded, and looked around, before his eyes fell on Kenichi. Seeing the look of curiosity in his young student's eyes, Kensei chuckled.
"Naruto-don, I have a favor to ask of you, if you would be kind enough to consent?" he asked with a light tone, even as he looked at Naruto, who was caught off-guard with the unexpected request.
"While I go to Chinatown to handle the business of my family as it is, young Ken-chan over there will miss out on his training on Chinese Kenpo until I return. So, would you be kind enough to stay here and train him in my absence until I return?" he asked glibly, while Naruto chuckled.
"Ehh … Ma-sifu, what are you talking about?" Kenichi panicked and blurted out, even as he vividly recalled the terrifying visage of Naruto thrashing the goons from Ragnarok, and was duly ignored by the masters.
"Well, it makes sense I suppose," the elder nodded in agreement, "Kensei will be away for some time, and we cannot let Ken-chan's training suffer in his absence. And you are arguably, an expert in Chinese martial arts, and know more about it than us, so, what do you say, young Naruto? Besides, Ryouzanpaku always welcomes new martial artists in its fold."
"Hmm…," Naruto nodded, even as he looked at Kensei. It was rather early, but it was well within the scope of his plans. "Very well, but there are certain conditions. You are of course, I presume, aware of the stance of Wudan, with regards to the martial arts world, are you not?" he asked even as he looked at the masters, who recognizing what he was talking about, became serious, while the elder nodded.
"I am neither Katsujinken, nor Satsujinken. We of Wudan have always, and I mean always … maintained absolute neutrality. If I am to train your student, what I will teach him will fall between the borders of the two disciplines. The boy will learn techniques that do not fall under either discipline, and how he utilizes them will depend upon his own mind set. If you are willing to accept this, then I will stay and teach him."
"Well, it is about time that he was initiated into the deeper aspects of martial arts, so, I guess that it is acceptable, as long as your training does not influence him arbitrarily," the elder spoke out, at which Naruto nodded.
"Well, it is settled then, welcome to Ryouzanpaku, substitute teacher, Uzumaki Naruto," Hayato spoke with a loud laugh, while everyone congratulated.
Kenichi quietly approached Kensei, who was leaving, and asked him, "Aah… Ma-sifu, how long will you be gone?"
Sensing the desperation in the boy's voice, Kensei chuckled. "Oh, it shouldn't take me more than 3 months at best," he spoke casually, while Kenichi freaked out.
Seeing that the boy was really freaked out, Kensei decided that the teasing had gone too far, and decided to lend a hand. "Kenichi, you are receiving a golden opportunity here," he spoke out with a kind voice, even as Kenichi looked at the old master in surprise.
"I could have finished my family business in a day, if I wanted to, but I am simply extending it for so long, so that Uzumaki-don can stay here and train you for some time. The arts of Wudan are legendary, and are taught only to their students. In two thousand years, there has not been a single outsider, who has been granted the right to learn their arts. Not even I, who has mastered all forms of Chinese Kenpo know a thing about them, or what they can do. Even the elder was refused, because he did not agree to join them. Masters worldwide would kill for the honor to learn the arts of Wudan, and it is being handed to you on a silver platter. This is not a joking matter. What you can learn from him, can determine your life as a martial artist."
"Are you serious?" Kenichi whispered with awe in his voice, even as he looked at the young man who was sitting at the far end of the room, busy chatting with his other masters.
"Wait, he said he was a senior disciple or something, then, how can he teach me if he is not a master?"
Kensei chuckled, "You are right, he said he is a journeyman, by which he means to say that he is no longer a disciple, but not yet a master. But the truth is, Wudan does not allow anyone except its masters to go out of its borders. Not even journeymen. This is just a ruse, used by their martial artists to ensure that nobody knows that they are moving in the normal world. Usually, they go to extreme lengths to ensure that nobody realizes who they are. For him to declare his allegiance so openly, it means that he is without a doubt, a master, even though he has reined in his powers severely. Hmph … If he is a journeyman, then I am a disciple," the Kenpo master chuckled, while Kenichi looked at Naruto in trepidation.
"Do not worry, Kenichi-kun, learn everything he teaches you. It is well worth the effort. With what he teaches you, you will become strong enough to protect all whom you care about."
That phrase hit the mark as intended, and Kenichi immediately brightened, while his gaze reflexively moved over to Miu who was talking animatedly with Naruto, even as he composed himself. "Aah … young love," Kensei muttered whimsically, even as he moved to pack for his trip. It had been a while since he had seen his daughter, and he was eager to see her again.
It had been nearly three days, since Kensei had left, and Naruto had consented to join Ryouzanpaku temporarily. During those days, he had requested Akisame to allow him to use his carpentry shed, and had asked that he be not disturbed. For three days and nights, he had then returned from that room only for food and bathroom breaks. Now, after three days, he had finally come out and announced that his preparations were ready and requested Kenichi to prepare himself for training, which had left all the members of the dojo curious.
In the morning, all the members of the dojo were at the gardens in the compound, to watch Naruto begin his instruction of Kenichi. As martial artists of the highest caliber, even they were curious to see what the legendary arts of Wudan looked like.
In the middle of the lawn, Naruto stood in front of Kenichi, who was looking at him with a pensive and hopeful look.
"Kenichi-kun, never before in the history of Wudan has someone been trained in its arts outside the walls of its monastery. For the first time in two thousand years, that tradition is to be broken. For it to be broken, the person for whom it is being broken should prove himself worthy beyond all doubts that he is deserving of that honor. Are you willing to shoulder this responsibility and dedicate yourself to learning what I am about to teach you?"
"Hai … Sensei," Kenichi nodded enthusiastically, while Naruto nodded in agreement.
"Good, then I hereby accept and name you as an initiate of Wudan, and will begin your training."
Pausing for a moment, Naruto continued, "We have three months in which I will endeavor to teach you one of the most ancient and most powerful styles of hand-to-hand combat ever devised. It is known as Kawazu Kumite, or as jokingly referred to by the students of Wudan, Frog-fu."
"Well, this should be interesting," Akisame noted, even as all the masters watched eagerly for a demonstration from Naruto.
"Frog-fu?" Kenichi asked in confusion while Naruto smiled.
"That is just a nickname that is given to it, because the creators of this style watched toads in their natural habitats, and observed their movements and reactions in nature, and devised this technique to mimic the steps which they used to avoid any dangers. Amongst the many creatures in this world, toads have an amazing survival sense, which cannot be matched by anyone. So, this technique was devised to mimic that, and over the years it has evolved into a martial arts style, and is now the pinnacle of defensive styles. Historical records indicate that long ago, a user of this style, single handedly managed to hold his own against a thousand enemies and escaped unscathed while defeating all of them", he concluded with a chuckle even as Kenichi's eyes glazed over with his hyper-active imaginations, and he is standing in front of you, but you don't need to know that.
"So, do only Wudan users know of this style ?" Sakaki asked in curiosity, to which Naruto shrugged.
"No, even amongst the users of Wudan, only a handful knows this skill, and I am luckily, one of them. However, I think that the martial arts world outside of Wudan, utilizes a comparable skill, which is not as complete or as refined as this and is a weaker version of this technique. I believe it is called as 'Seikuuken'."
Here the elder's eyes narrowed for a bit, even as he looked at the young man with a contemplative gaze. "And what is the difference between the two?"
"From what I understand, the Seikuuken restricts the mobility of the user very severely, and does not allow for long range combat. It is devised exclusively for short-range only. Of course, there have been instances of some martial artists, who have refined and improved that technique, but if that is so, I don't think they have shared it with anyone."
"In that case, Naruto-kun," the elder continued in the same lighter vein of tone, "what would happen if a user of this Kawazu Kumite were to learn the Seikuuken?"
"That would be a remarkable achievement, and could possibly lead to the development of a skill, that comprises the best of both, and would give birth of a whole new martial art style in itself, which would take the strengths of both styles and leave out all the weaknesses. But, that is something to be seen for the future, I suppose," Naruto shrugged, even as he calculatively looked at the old man, who was determinedly gazing at something else.
Chuckling to himself, Naruto turned towards Kenichi who was looking at him with determination in his eyes. Something told him, that after three months, Kenichi Shirahama would be learning the Seikuuken, whether he wanted to or not.
"This skill, Kenichi can act as an extension of your body, and cannot be sensed by anyone else, unless they too have been trained in this art. It activates the body in ways you can't imagine, by enhancing the user's speed, reflexes, strength, stamina and durability. This allows a user who has mastered this skill to achieve incredible feats which include leaping great distances, shattering sharp materials with their bare hands, as well as lifting objects several times their size."
"Now, for a small demonstration," Naruto muttered, even as he walked towards a large tree at the end, aware that the eyes of all the masters were following him. As he approached the tree, he made a show of flexing his wrist, before grasping a side of the tree, and then casually uprooted the entire tree, with his other hand in his pocket.
"Woooaahh…," Kenichi freaked out and stepped back with terror in his eyes … while the masters gazed speculatively at the scene, and conceded the point. After seeing that his point had gotten across, Naruto casually dumped the tree again within the ground, and ensured that it had taken root again, before approaching Kenichi.
"Well then … shall we begin?"
"Aaah … save me," Kenichi screamed, even as he ran away from the area, while Akisame sighed in despair, "Not again", even as the other masters laughed loudly.
A lot has been mentioned about Naruto's ties with Wudan. Suffice to know that, in this story, Wudan is the place in which the descendants of the old ninja world live, and even amongst them, Naruto's existence is the most heavily guarded secret of all, known only to two or three people.
His ruse of being trained in Wudan, and achieving the title of legendary master and all of it, is true in a sense, as after his hibernation, he again took the guise of a ten year old child, and spent the next nine years over there to retrain his body while re-acclimatizing himself to the new world, with some assistance from those who know his secret. More will be revealed about it in later chapters.