A mysterious warrior traversed through the harsh cliffs and crags of the Pilgrim mountainside until finally reaching the top to find a large structure waiting for daring individuals to enter. Upon entry, the cloaked figure became attacked by five assailants. Through a blinding display of flames and swordplay, the attackers were defeated but not slain. A loud clap greeted the now unveiled warrior, a woman with dark hair and red armor. The mysterious man dressed in a tunic and saffron sash introduced himself as Beren, and invited the woman to spar with him. 

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The shifting shadows from the clouds in the night sky danced along the moonlight, the wind continue to blow through the flattened plateau on the edge of the Pilgrim mountains. A lone female warrior stood with two blades at each of her sides, clad beneath a tough exterior of scale mail and leather armor. Surrounding her, unconscious warriors clad in dark leather laid spread across a circle. The beaten warriors moaned in pain, while the woman surveyed her work, she became attuned to the claps emanating further down the courtyard that faced the large structure.

“Who are you?” The female warrior demanded.

The young man wore traveling clothes but a long yellow sash remained wrapped around his waist and wrists. The young man looked to be in his mid-twenties with short cropped dark hair, and blue eyes. He was of medium build, there was definitely a measure of training and skill involved, there was an air of competency flowing through his postures and stance.

“My name is Beren, what’s yours?” He replied, smiling with a toothy grin even across the veil of night.

The woman remained silent, studying Beren with an inquisitive stare.

“You’re not going to learn anything by staring at him, trust me.” A voice echoed behind the woman.

She carefully turned and saw a feline creature with spotted fur, the creature was wearing a green tunic with gold trimming. It wasn’t the tail that occasionally flicked by, it was the fact the cat creature was standing on one hand upside-down at the top of the stone wall. After a moment, the cat-like creature propped itself atop the wall, sitting and waiting patiently.

“It’s rude for a challenger to not at least declare their name before initiating combat.” The cat-like creature continued.

The female warrior turned to the cat-like creature with a scowl before turning over to Beren for a moment. “My name is Mei Feng, from the Crimson Rose clan,” she sighed.

“Pleased to you meet you.” Beren replied. “You seem pretty strong, care to test that out with a contest?”

Mei looked at Beren for a while, judging her foe before nodding calmly. The air shifted once again, the two warriors stared each other down, their grips tightened and their bodies tensed. There was an odd aura around Beren, Mei realized. His composure was far different from before, realizing that even when he was being cheerful and inviting, there were no blind spots or openings in his defense. She knew that Beren was far more than his appearances and should be underestimated.

The moon began to peak out of the clouds once more, and in a flash Beren phased through the courtyard and threw a fast right hook at Mei. Mei managed to dodge the strike but not before seeing the warrior’s knee come straight at her chest. The hit struck true at her chest, almost knocking her breath out. Her vision turned white for a short moment before being dealt two sharp jolts to her right clavicle. Mei returned with a swift counter of her own, sweeping her blades as a feint before sliding underneath to low kick Beren. The warrior was swift and agile, jumping up right at the moment she struck. Beren deflected her blades by parrying using the flat sides and the palm of his hands.

He was very skilled, Mei thought. The two broke contact and stood almost eight feet from each other, more than enough room for either to close the gap. Mei stood her ground, though the pain from the previous hit still left her a little winded but she did her best to not show it. She knew not to reveal any of her techniques, but such a competent foe required more drastic effort. Her breathing slowed, easing the tension in her shoulders and faded into dark ether. She became the wind, the stone in the courtyard, and one with her blades. When she opened her eyes again, she raised her blades parallel to the ground with one of them above her shoulder. Beren took the cue and positioned himself accordingly, he could feel the murderous intent and he returned the favor.

A final press from the wind, Mei flared her blades with elemental fire and surged toward Beren, closing the gap within an instant. Beren could bare react to the array of blade swings, feeling the heat from the flames with each strike, even when parried. The blades combined to form a large column of fire, Mei unleashed its elemental fury onto Beren, causing a thunderous explosion that broke the mountain’s silence. When the smoke cleared, there was no sign of Beren or his yellow sash. Mei felt discontent with the results, she knew it was not over, this contest was far from it.

“Not bad, that was the Crimson Rose’s technique, Rage of the Flaming Petals, yes?” A familiar voice spoke from behind her.

Mei turned and gazed at the untouched form of Beren, there were some burn marks on his forearms from deflecting the flaming blades but overall no other exterior damage. She tightened the grip of her blades and leaped forward to continue her assault.

“ENOUGH!”

Mei stopped short of her charge and turned toward the doorway of the large structure situated within the stone-walled courtyard. Beren sighed and crossed his arms, almost disappointed. A procession of armored warriors traversed down through the steps, flanking an old man dressed in purple robes. Mei instantly recognized the man and bowed at him as he approached, while Beren remained nonchalant.

“Sorry for the ruckus,” Beren apologized.

“There was no need to agitate any of the guests, you are also one and should respect the sanctity of others being here.” The old man growled.

“Again, I’m sorry.” Beren apologized, seemingly annoyed at the whole conversation.

“I shall deal with you later, now please,” the old man brushed off Beren and approached Mei. “Please raise your head, what is your name?”

Mei straightened herself up and gave a short bow this time. “My name is Mei Wu Feng, I hail from the Crimson Rose clan. I have journeyed far to participate as the representative of my clan and its people.”

“Greetings, Mei Wu Feng of the Crimson Rose. I apologize for our other guest’s intrusion. You have proven you have skills, we shall see more about them in time. Please, let us welcome you to this place and offer you a bed to rest from your long journey.” He smiled and gestured Mei toward the large structure. Mei gently smiled and collected her things. She gave a sharp look at Beren before walking the rest of the courtyard and following an aide that appeared.

“You took your antics to far,” the old man complained to Beren.

“Sorry, she seemed quite strong and I wanted to test her skills out.” Beren remarked.

“You all will have a chance to test your skills, the tournament begins in three more days. I ask you be patient and respect the other guests.”

Beren sighed, “very well.”


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