The Stoneweavers temple was located on a mountain, but its area spawned widely from the only access midway the natural elevation until its very peak. The only entrance into the temple was through the main gate. Two huge wooden doors blocked the path to any who would venture to the mountain’s peak, a sacred place to the Stoneweavers and a crucial goal for a monk in training to prove his worth to the order. Walls with over four meters high and roof tiles on top of them extended themselves alongside the gate, leaving whatever ground left to be rather treacherous than steady to any who would try to pass around or find some steps that would allow passage into the temple. Past the entrance, there was an open area where the monks gathered for their training, meetings and routine chores. There was a small stream of water that ran down the mountain and passed through that area and then below the entrance’s wall before journeying down. The monks used the stream to wash their clothes, cooking utensils and themselves as well. Near the stream, there were about dozen wooden poles where the monks would then hang their clothes to dry in the sun. But besides some trees here and there, there wasn’t much to this space. Ahead of it, there were these huge stairs that led to various other levels of the temple. The library, the dorms and kitchens and finally, the stone core. The stone core was sculptured from a huge black rock by the founding members of the Stoneweavers, it had a hall and a room that only the masters of the order were allowed to enter, but generally, with the exception of Osamu, only the master could actually move the huge doors that led to the room. Far ahead of the stone core, and at the top of the mountain, was a simple shrine in memory of everyone that had followed the teachings of the Stoneweavers. It was merely visited once or twice a month since the trip would take at least one and a half day to the most experienced ones.
The Stoneweavers gathered daily at the open area near the entrance to their temple. Once the sun could be observed on the horizon, thus ending the night, the monks flocked to the training grounds to practice their art of combat. Master Kenkai was the first to arrive and soon after the rest of the Stoneweaver monks gathered in front of him for their morning practice. The other masters arrived as well, but stood some steps behind master Kenkai himself, as was usual. Master Kenkai glanced around his pupils and was bothered to notice that Osamu was not among them. “What a troublesome youth…” he thought. After a quick sigh, Kenkai turned to his fellow masters and superiors, bowing to them in honor of the knowledge transmitted to him. The other monks bowed as well, as a sign of respect towards the masters. Then, Kenkai turned around and faced his pupils, ready to lecture this morning’s lesson. As he was descending through the stairs and onto the grounds, something came flying by.
A piece of sculptured stone had crashed against the surface near his feet. Kenkai looked down to it and observed the semblance of his face sculptured in the rock. “A challenge?” Kenkai wondered, now looking at the student who had issued the duel. Osamu emerged from in between the students. His steps were hard on the stone floor as he advanced amidst his colleagues. The monks had split, distancing themselves from the challenger. Kenkai glared at Osamu. He had learned nothing from his last meeting with the masters. “I had taken you for a prodigy Osamu… And not someone with a wish to die young.” Kenkai’s voice was as firm as ever, but Osamu had accepted his destiny and wasn’t about to his master’s words shake his resolution. Osamu was wearing his most untouched outfit, a set of tight trousers combined with a white, sleeveless shirt, both white in color and barely with any use if any at all. It was his most prized possession, and if he was to die today in the glory of combat, that’s what he would be wearing before life could be snuck out of his body. “I have surpassed every obstacle and challenge ever since I was just a little boy. My path was always open and it won’t be blocked because you deem it to be so. Not you, nor anyone shall keep me from reach higher heights.” The crowd reacted to Osamu’s bold claims as he challenged master Kenkai who was the official representative of the Stoneweavers. He looked at Osamu and turned to his masters once more. “I will accept the challenge!” The other masters nodded, master Shunkan couldn’t contain himself and had a smirk drawn on his face, eager to watch the young rebel crumble beneath master Kenkai’s fists. “There is no turning back from this outrage Osamu. You shall be punished for your arrogance!” Master Shunkan shouted from above the stairs, the other masters could only confirm what their equal said, although somewhat surprised by his outburst.
Kenkai approached Osamu. His black and tattered clothes were similar to Osamu’s in fashion, the only exception being that he had sleeves on his shirt which remained tight in the arms but still allowing any physical movement as if he wasn’t wearing anything at all. “You have forced my hand, youngling.” If Osamu’s steps were already menacing, then Kenkai’s were definitely intimidating. He had fought for real before, and his aura of aggression could be sensed by everyone in the courtyard of the Stoneweavers. “There was so much more for you to learn, it’s a shame that you can only glimpse two steps ahead…” The students surrounded both Osamu and master Kenkai, eager to watch the two monsters fighting with one another, while the masters remained a little above the stairway. “A real shame would be to age in this forsaken corner of the world, rotting as I wait the time required for you to deem me worthy of what is already within my reach.” Both combatants were now within a couple of steps from each other. Master Kenkai sighed with a sign of disapproval on his face. “You have learned nothing then, Osamu!”
Kenkai stepped forward, the wooden sandal in his right foot cracked the stone where it landed as its wielder struck Osamu with both fists on the abdominal area. The impact was intense, but even though Kenkai was superior in strength and size, Osamu had barely moved from the attack as he defended it with both hands. The young disciple smiled with satisfaction. “I have learned a lot.” Osamu retorted with a tone of arrogance. “Humph… Humility was not included!” Kenkai continued the attack. He struck Osamu’s chest with left-hand palm and proceeded for a right hook– A feint! He rotated and raised his right leg. Kenkai’s foot stomped on his adversary’s chest, throwing him backward. The crowd retreated a little to make space. Osamu fell with his back on the ground but recovered immediately after. “Humility… Humility is not responsible for bringing me here…” Osamu answered while panting. “You talk too much for someone who was saved on from the verge of death!” Master Shunkan shouted, from the safety of the stairway, his tone indicating his dislike towards Osamu. The other masters, Genshin and Jakuren, even eyed his equal, showing the subtlest hint of their disapproval towards his intervention. Osamu glanced at master Shunkan, but did not derail in his thoughts. He was focused on the obstacle ahead of him, the tallest and widest that he had faced so far, and could very well turn out to be the last one of them.
Despite the heavy blow received by master Kenkai, Osamu still had a lot of stamina left and decided to go on the offensive. He charged his opponent and sidestepped for a horizontal kick, much like Kenkai had done to him. Contrary to what happened to Osamu, Kenkai parried the attack and prepared for what was coming next, an axe kick from Osamu’s other leg after he had spun. Kenkai had to step back and in doing so, Osamu followed him with a heavy stomp on the ground. Surely he could not have this kind of strength, Kenkai thought. But the truth was that he was shaken by that same stomp, thus giving the opportunity for Osamu to strike. He stepped in, aimed for the belly, although Keikai was not struck unaware, the blow still damaged him. Osamu did not wait for his adversary to recover and went for a left hook on the jaw. Barely in time, Kenkai blocked the attack by raising his right arm to cover his head. But Osamu was not done yet, he kicked Kenkai’s leg from the inside, destabilizing his stance to follow with an uppercut right in the chin. Osamu placed every bit of strength that he could must in this blow. Kenkai had his feet off the floor for a moment and then fell backward, stiff as a statue. The other masters looked incredulous and the monks around the combatants could not keep their jaws together.
“I forced myself to transcend… And through this challenge, I have earned my right to study the ancient texts!” Breathing heavily, Osamu made his intentions clear to the Stoneweavers. There was a trace of pride in his words. A feeling that was shunned upon in this clan of monks. “Always too rash… Always too impatient…” The voice of master Kenkai echoed in Osamu’s ears and he turned around to face his adversary once more. He struck Osamu with a double hand palm strike, forcing him to close his arms next to his belly, thus blocking the strike. But Kenkai was not done yet, he unleashed a massive flurry upon Osamu’s arms. He was too fast… Too strong. Osamu’s left forearm surely broke in consequence of this attack but he wouldn’t falter because of it. Kenkai paused for an instant and Osamu took the opportunity to deliver a deadly blow. He aimed for his master’s heart which was seemingly undefended. The youngling reached for his goal, but Kenkai deflected the attack, grabbed Osamu’s wrist, turned around and pushed him over his shoulder. Osamu fell flat on his back and then curled to a fetal position, coughing blood while protecting his head.
“Is this it Osamu?” Kenkai taunted his adversary lying on the surface. “Is this all the fury you can muster?” Some of the monks who were watching could certainly tell that Osamu’s eyes glowed unnaturally at that moment. He took a while to stand and Kenkai openly refused to finish an adversary on the ground, even with master Shunkan’s protests favoring that approach. “There’s no fury within my soul, master Kenkai. Only plain and bland coldness.” Osamu revealed two rocks, each in one of his hands. He then threw them upwards a little and punched them towards master Kenkai. Surprisingly as it was, the rocks were pulverized into dust and harmed Kenkai’s vision. Then he heard a commotion and heavy steps going towards him. He assumed that Osamu would think to have an advantage over him now that his vision was partially obscured, but Kenkai had trained and fought in the dark before.
It was time to put an end to Osamu’s ambition, and with it, his own life. Kenkai sidestepped backward and lunged forward with his right fist leading the way. He perforated the chest of his adversary, of that, he had no doubt. There was a gasp of surprise and the crowd roared. At first, Kenkai was a little ecstatic, who wouldn’t be after achieving victory in a life or death situation? But then he heard, the crowd was filled with rage and disgust. The words coming out of the monks were of a dishonorous nature and thus fell the realization upon Kenkai, that he had killed one of his pupils and not his opponent, who had thrown a monk over Kenkai’s path. The bitter taste of deceit left his throat dry just before Osamu had landed a kick on his master’s neck, breaking it in an instant. Despite the impact, Kenkai still stood, leaving the lifeless body of the monk to fall. Osamu rushed forward and punched Kenkai’s chest in a familiar way to the remaining masters of the Stoneweavers. His ribs were broken and Osamu carved a path into his opponent’s heart, shutting it down immediately after the shock.
The challenger retrieved his bloody fist from master Kenkai’s chest and had let the body hit the surface without any regard. “Sacrilege…” Master Genshin looked furiously in the eyes of his disciple. “You have wasted the potential of a Stoneweaver that had so much more to give! And for what?! For your own personal gain?! You couldn’t even beat your superior in a fair fight!” Genshin had the strength in his legs waning after witnessing what just happened. To him, this was a catastrophe not only because of Kenkai’s death, but what it meant for the future of the Stoneweavers. He chose to sit, clearly distressed, thus giving his turn for the other masters to speak. Master Shunkan rose to the opportunity right away, still perplexed how Osamu could outwit Kenkai, even though he used tactics of a common thief. “Stoneweavers!” Shunkan’s voice ordered the monks to prepare for combat right away. They knew Osamu was going to be sentenced to die. What he did goes against all the teachings of the Stoneweavers and every monk clan in general. Honor was at the base of Japanese society, without honor, you’re an outcast, someone who lives at the border of civilization rather than one who lives in it. “You’re a disgrace to the Stoneweavers, Osamu! Never an individual had caused such a loss to our clan.” Osamu remained silent, taking every second to recover before coming onslaught. “Osamu. You are branded as a scourge amidst the Stoneweavers, and you’re sentenced to die. I wish that having your blood flowing on this floor could cleanse the stain that you have left in our history, but that would be asking for too much.” Both master Shunkan and Jakuren began to descend the stairway while the other Stoneweavers advanced slowly upon Osamu, who even though he was hurt was still a formidable foe. “I saw great potential in you Osamu.” Master Jakuren said, his heart weighing heavy in his chest. “Grief overwhelms me now. The Stoneweavers have just lost two of their finest… Stoneweavers, clear this stain of corruption from our sacred grounds!” And the monks charged towards Osamu…