In an ancient time, a legend was written; a legend that told the story of a hero that would come to claim guardianship over the Land of the Rising Sun. In the year 1894, that legend was fulfilled when a healthy baby boy was born to a prostitute that lived in the outskirts of the city of Osaka. The mother scared, and unable to properly take care of her child, went into the woods and left him there to die. Night came and the newborn's cries were heard all over the forest. A middle aged hermit who lived in a lonley cvcabin in the forest heard the cries. At first he tried to ignore them, assuring himself that it was none of his business, that he had no part in the child's well being, but as hours passed, the cries of the young boy grew louder and louder until the man was compelled to do something. Venturing into the dangerous and dark forest, the man, Yotogi Shinpou, looked far and wide for the source of the cries. Suddenly the crying stopped, for a moment, Shinpou decided to stop and rest, but a strange force compelled him to get back up and look, more frantically than ever. Thoughts raced through his mind..was the child dead? Had he been eaten by wolves? Taken by bandits to be sold into slavery?
Shinpou raced through the forest. Along the way he encountered wolves, bears, and mountain lions, taking them out rather easily. Day came and still no sign of the boy, until Shinpou caught the whiff of a familiar scent in the air. The smell of blood. Shinpou knelt down and cried, feeling in his heart, that he had failed. The boy was dead, and it was partially his fault. He felt that if he had gotten up at the first sound of the child's cry, the boy would've still been alive and well. As the tears rolled down the strong man's cheeks, he was startled to hear a faint laughter. Raising his head, he saw the newborn lying on a rock above him, to his side the carcasses of two dead wolves. The sun rays were illuminating the boy's body and revealing the blood on his hands and arms. Shinpou was shocked, realizing that this young boy had killed those two wolves. He felt that destiny had brought him here, that he was in the presence of the hero of a future generation. With that he took the boy, wrapped him in the hide of the predators he had killed, and took him home.
Hizashi and Shinpou
Several years passed and Shinpou trained and taught the mysterious young boy who he named Hizashi. Hizashi learned at a pace never before seen by Shinpou. At the age of nine, he had mastered most of the known martial arts, but that wasn't enough. For nine more years, Hizaashi trained and became stronger. He and and his adoptive father became closer than ever and developed an unbreakable bond. On the eve of Hizashi's eighteenth birthday (1912), Shinpou gave him a surprise unlike any other. It was an entry ticket to the Asia Tournament of Martial Arts being held in Korea. The ATMA was one of the most prized and prestigious fighting tournaments in Asia. Fighters came from all around the world and from different backgrounds to participate in this tournament and gain the Golden Crown (and the substantial prize money that came with it).
Hizashi grew nervous, for the only place he had ever ventured to was the city of Osaka to buy supplies with his father. Seeing Rakurai's growing anxiety at the prospect of going somewhere foreign and fighting on the big stage, Shinpou took him to a shed that he had forbade him to ever go into. "Hizashi, as I've told you many times before, the circumstances of your birth are totally foreign to my knowledge, i know nothing of it. However, what I do know is that you are meant for great things. You are meant to bring pride to the great nation of Japan, to guard it with steel resolve."
Shinpou opened the door of the cabin and what Hizashi saw rtruly shocked him. On every wall there were photos, medals, trophies, and in the middle of the room, on a table covered by a glass casing sat three golden crowns, glimmering in the sunlight that creeped in through the roof. "Hizashi, a long time ago, I had the chance to do great things. I won many awards, many accolades, I gained fame and fortune. But for what? What difference did I make in this world? With this entry ticket I have handed you a chance to be better than me, to do what I, a lowly coward never could do. Gain fame, gain fortune, but never forget your past, never forget that the world needs you, that you are truly meant for something great. Never forget it, my son. If you win you will be elevated to a position of great honor. The people of Japan, Asia, and the world will look up to you. You have the chance to show the world the strength of our nation. Good luck son."
With that, Shinpou gave Hizashi his final blessing and sent his adoptive son on his way. A ship will be waiting for you to take you to the island of Korea, there you will be taken by carriage to the arena. You have no time to waste.
With a final embrace, Hizashi left Shinpou and made his way to the ports where the ship was waiting for him.
As the ship sailed into the open ocean, he looked back at land one more time and felt an eerie feeling course through his body. We must go back! Hizashi yelled, My father! I must go back! The old captain of the ship smiled and looked at the boy. Ol' Shinpou said you'd do this. Hey, I'm Tebiki, an ol' friend of 'is. Don't worry, kid, what you're feeling is normal. This is the first time you've been away from home, you'll get over it. He instructed me to not go back until you've fought your last match. He mad me promise, I will stay wih you throughout the tounrament and be there to bring you back home. For now, enjoy the on-board meal service, courtesy of Ichiwa over there. A growing boy like you needs all the nourishment he can get.
As night fell, Hizashi slowly fell asleep, and when he woke up, Tebiki and Ichiwa were staring at him with smiles on their faces. Iciwa was holding up a cake with eighteen candles on it. Happy birthday, kid
, Tebiki quickly said, and welcome to Korea
. Hizashi looked up and saw in amazement the sheer number of ships that were docked in the port. Many colors, many flags, it was a sight unlike any other he had ever seen. The three ate and drank their morning tea before getting on the carriage that would take them to the arena.
Honor, Glory, and Unity
Upon arriving to the arena, Hizashi was taken into a room with all of the other fighters for briefing. The proctor, a well respected leader and former champion explained the rules. Look around, men. These fighters, together with you, could very well be the 32 best unarmed combatants in all of Asia. The goal of every fighter in this tournament is to represent his country, his home; to show honor, to gain glory, and above all to build unity with his fellow fighters. Before each match you will shake your oppenents hand and bow to him, showing him your respect. You win when you're opponent is no longer able to continue fighting. In the ring, anything goes. You can use any and all forms of martial arts you wish as long as it is performed with your body, and no foreign objects such as weapons or venoms. In battle, either combatant can ask for a respite, or give up. Killing your opponent, although largely frowned upon by the elder keepers of the ATMA emblem, is allowed. If you break a rule in any way, you will be automatically kicked out of the competition, and the elders will decide on who to allow back into the competition from those who have already lost. As you all know, the prize of this tournament is the prestigous golden crown. Crafted from the purest gold in Asia, and studded with fine diamonds and stones, this beauty is the pride of our land and the reason we have our tournament. Nineteen people have had the honor to wear a crown this glorious. Will you be the twentieth?
With that ATMA XXII was underway. The fighters rushed to their private quarters where geishas waited for them with hot baths and decadent feasts. For Hizashi , though, there was no such treat, only Tebiki and Ichiwa met him. Ichiwa stood with a smile on his face and a basket of fresh fruit in his arms. Eat up, Hiz, You got a tough week ahead of you.
Hizashi looked around the room contemplatively. I was told there'd be something different waiting for me...
Old man Tebiki quickly stood up and sauntered over to Hizashi. The geishas? The feasts? Distractions, I say! Do you think that you're father ever indulged in those carnal desires before something as important as this? You look ready physically, but are you ready mentally? Hizashi, these men, that is exactly what they are...men. You, you are still a young boy...underdeveloped, naive, raw. By the end of your first match you will know what it is to be a man.
Immediately the three began to meditate and talked well into the night.
A bell suddenly rung in the morning. It was time for opening ceremony.
More to come....