The final tournament has begun, of the eight contestants, one has already been defeated. Shiro, the Black Frost beat Lao Jiu, the warrior priest of the White Swan clan in an icy display of mystical craft and skill. The ice master already secured his slot in the quarterfinals, the remaining six held their anticipation to discover who among them was stronger. 

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As the fog settled and the frozen form of Lao Jiu revealed the apparent victor. The elf moderator approached the frozen shard and inspected it, tapping on the ice and waiting for a reaction. After several moments, the elf raised his arm into the air and declared the Shiro, the Black Frost as the victor. The crowd remained silent as the dark-hair man stepped off the windswept arena. The frozen priest was extracted with magical aid, whisked away by some powerful spell. The next match was about to start.

Beren looked over at his Goliath adversary with a grin. He patiently waited for his chance to spar with the many warriors since the beginning. Beren cracked his knuckles and began to stretch his limbs, readying himself for the anticipated clash. The Goliath looked over at Beren with a stern glare before drawing his large broadsword from behind him. The blade was black with jagged edges, almost like a piece of earth carved from possibly many duels and fights.

“Name’s Beren. What’s yours?”

The Goliath looked at the smaller human for a moment before he replied in a deep, bellowing voice. “I am Rend of the Adamantine Dragon clan.”

“Pleasure to meet you, may we have a glorious fight ahead.” Beren bowed.

The stone-faced Goliath chuckled and slammed his blade onto the stone arena, leaving significant impacts on its surface, this only fueled Beren’s anticipation and excitement. The elf promptly raised his arm and declared the start of the fight. In a blind flash, Rend slammed his behemoth-sized blade on where Beren stood. Rock and dust flew into a small cloud of debris. Beren leaped forward with his fist hitting the giant-sized warrior square in the forehead. The strike was deafening; an ordinary man would have died from a crushed skull. A small trickle of blood dripped down the Goliath’s brow, but his smile widened. The two separated, with Rend laughing out loud which echoed across the chilling mountaintops.

“Excellent,” he bellowed. “It has been years since I’ve fought a worthy foe. Now, I can unleash the dragon.”

“Look, I’m happy that you’re happy, but please we don’t want to see that.” Beren joked.

The Goliath roared into the wind, his gray and scarred skin began to turn black like obsidian and smooth like metal. So this is their fabled technique, Beren thought. The Goliath charged with reckless abandon, swinging his blade chaotically across the arena. Beren narrowly dodged the blow but did not see the fist that came on his face. He blocked the blow with both his arms. The impact sounded like thunder; any ordinary man would’ve had their arms broken in that instant. The crowd seemed to expect some grievous injury. Instead, Beren stood his ground but now emanating a yellow glow.

“I’m impressed. You had to make me use some of my techniques before even the semi-finals. I guess it was too arrogant of me.” Beren’s demeanor shifted from a joyful appearance to a serious tone. Almost murderous.

Beren loosened the wrappings around his arms; the yellow aura began to oscillate from moments of calm to vibrant energy. The light converged into his right arm, into a single solid point. Almost, like a spear. Mei’s eyes widened once she realized the technique before her. A technique from the Golden Spear clan, she concluded. Beren continued to focus on the energy, never taking his eyes off Rend. The Goliath licked his lips in anticipation for the impending clash.

“It’s been a while since I’ve had to use this technique, you should be honored.” Beren praised.

“Come on!” Rend shouted.

“School of the Golden Spear, first secret technique. Golden Sunrise.” Beren whispered, his eyes now consumed by the brilliant yellow light.

The two charged with all their might, Rend swung his blade for a downward cut, and Beren’s right fist extended at his opponent, like a spear of light. The two became consumed in bright light, mostly from Beren’s technique. Another ring of thunder echoed across the mountain peaks. The force cracked the stage, even the central platform where it stood began to wobble and shake. The dust settled, the ringing stopped, and the visions stopped blurring. The two figures remained entangled with each other, but once the light in their eyes returned, the crowd saw the apparent victor. A large blast-shaped scar appeared on the Goliath’s chest. After a few more moments, the behemoth fighter collapsed to the ground. The elf moderator rose from his supposed hiding spot to start the countdown, to which Beren was declared the victor. The young man returned to his playful smile once he left the arena with the fallen warrior, offering a larger one to Mei Fong and Jade Tiger.

Clean up was simply a magical chore, as the Goliath faded away like stardust. Due to the shattered state of the arena, the audience were escorted back through the hallway and exited to find a marshland. Another stone arena waited for the warriors, this time, Jade Tiger and the little kenku from the Twilight Gale approached. The short kenku wore dark leathers with some dark purple cloth over it. Mei assumed that the little creature most have possessed an assortment of arms underneath their armor. The Twilight Gale were warriors of the shadows, striking quick and fierce, leaving little trace of their work. While she believed that Jade Tiger was a capable fighter, one should never underestimate the cunning of the Twilight Gale.

Jade Tiger stood opposite of his opponent, the tabaxi warrior studied the minuscule adversary. The kenku kept its arms at their side, the little cloth hood never lifted with only its beak peeking through. Upon further analysis, the feline fighter realized that the Twilight Gale assassin had no openings. Each weak point was sturdy or ready for action, this was no ordinary cutthroat. Interesting, Jade thought.

The elf raised his arm again and declared the start of the fight.

Jade Tiger unleashed his bestial aura, emulating the ferocity of the tiger, and charged forward at the little kenku. It dodged the tabaxi with a vertical jump, but not before realizing that it fell for Jade’s follow through with an uppercut claw strike. A sudden turn narrowly avoided the blow before landing on the opposite end of the arena.

“Wow, for its size, it’s not bad” Beren commented.

Mei and the rest of the group watched the rest of the contest unfold in silence.

The kenku revealed a small ball from underneath the cloth wrapping before smashing it into the ground. A dark, black cloud filled half of the arena, but Jade Tiger was not going to give it the opportunity. A loud roar and sweeping kick with such force that it caused a small gale to erupt from his foot. The wind dispersed the smoke quickly, but the assassin was nowhere to be seen. Jade Tiger surveyed the arena, using his acute senses to find his foe.

Suddenly, Jade felt a tiny prick on the back of his neck. He reached and pulled a small needle, his vision blurred and his balance swayed, but he managed to remain standing. The kenku reappeared not far from the tabaxi, an illusion spell not doubt. It paid off, it granted the small-sized creature time to dart around and fire a possibly poisoned needle. Jade’s focus faltered, but his determination prevented him from succumbing to the needle’s effects.

“Impressive, the poison seems to have a delayed effect on you. Few stand as long as you have, but that will change now.”

The kenku pulled a wide, short blade with a grip, a Katar, from what Mei Fong could recall about the weapon. The assassin rushed forward toward Jade Tiger with its Katar trailing closely, even with his poisoned condition, the tabaxi defensively swept his leg and tail at the small bird. His attempts kept the kenku at bay, but he knew that sooner or later the poison would prevail. Jade Tiger closed his eyes and meditated on the aspect of the serpent, channeling his energy to neutralize the poison. After half a moment, he regained his posture and opened his eyes to glare back at the kenku. With a roar, Jade Tiger channeled his primal energy to his fist, striking the ground and sending a blast of broken stone at the assassin. The kenku dodged some of the rock bits, only to be at the receiving end of the tabaxi’s claws. A swirling wind engulfed the Twilight Gale assassin, sending it flying off into the murky marsh waters. The assassin did not emerge, the moderator counted down, and announced Jade Tiger the victor.

Jade Tiger retreated back to the group, Beren approached and gave his friend a gentle pat on his shoulder.

“Great fight, friend. Will you be alright?” He questioned.

“I’ll survive, though I’ll need some rest to fight off the rest of this toxin.”

Beren gave a wide grin and walked off with the remainder of the group. Some of the poison wore off, but it definitely left the tabaxi exhausted. He hoped the gap between now and his next fight would provide him time to recover.

The crowd returned back to the central room within the foreboding tower. The group grew smaller, the lack of presence was evident. Mei glanced at Jade Tiger and looked at Beren worried. He knew it was not out of concern for their feline friend’s injuries, but rather the inevitable fate that waited for them all. Finally, the group passed through another corridor and arrived another raised arena. It was a large stone room, it was dark except for a large circular grate nearly fifty feet high. The light above illuminated the circular stage and many noted the chains that dangled from the ceiling. The elf called Mei Fong and Hangul to step onto the arena. The tall, masked man lurched over to one side while Mei went for the opposite side. Before she stepped up, Beren pressed his hand on her shoulder, she turned to look at him. Unlike the many previous immature faces he had presented since she had known him, instead, she met a confident face. Not a worried one. She smiled and gently brushed his hand away. With a swift motion, her twinned blades became unsheathed and blazed with orange flames. The final fight was about to begin.

“Ready? Fight!”

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