The fight between Shiro, the Black Frost, and Beren has concluded. The ice wielder was defeated, but the battle revealed some hidden truths on Beren’s behalf. Seemingly possessing a presumed lost technique from the Crimson Phoenix, Mei Fong is determined to learn how he acquired it. For now, she must forget what she saw and face her next challenge: Jade Tiger, the tabaxi warrior representing the Verdant Conclave. Jade Tiger wished for an honest battle between them, Mei Fong replied with a determined gaze and her flaming blades. The elf moderator signaled the start of the fight to determine who faced Beren in the semifinals of the Chromo Gyamdre. Ready? Fight! 

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Mei Fong brandished her flaming blades as she stared down at her opponent, the tabaxi warrior, Jade Tiger. They had agreed to have an earnest match, she promised and pushed any lingering thoughts about Beren and the monastery out of her mind. There was the sole opponent before her, and to get those answers, she would need to claim victory against her newfound friend. The tournament had shaped Mei in more ways than she ever expected. She had learned that she had the will and determination to be a victor as she climbed the mountains toward the first monastery. Beren taught her that should, for the first time in years, rely on others and possibly have friends. But she felt betrayed, for she shared her darkest day, but he neglected having been taught techniques by the Crimson Phoenix. Not to mention, the fact that Beren was there the day her monastery was attacked and left in ruins. Too many questions but no matter how much she tried, the thoughts continued to resurface.

The start of the fight was signaled, Jade Tiger wasted no time and lunged at Mei Fong with sharp claws extended. Mei Fong jumped into the air and plunged her flaming blades down to strike the feline fighter, but he was seemed to predict the move and stopped short of his full stride in time. As she landed, a flash of black came into her view, but it was too late as a thick tail struck her across the face. There was a brief pause, Mei Fong’s right cheek had a noticeable red blemish, but that did not diminish her resolve.

Mei unleashed a barrage of fiery bolts at Jade Tiger from her ignited swords, though the oversized feline dodged them expertly, inching closer and closer. Once he was within arms reach, Mei slammed her blades into the ground to create a circle of crimson flames spreading outward with her at the center. A green glow encapsulated the tabaxi warrior, protecting him from the brunt of the fire.

“That must be your bestial aura, I have heard those who learned techniques from the Verdant Conclave are attuned to the natural elements, including animal spirits,” Mei remarked. A smirk stretched across her face, content that her opponent was as powerful as she hoped.

“Indeed. Prepare for more.”

Jade Tiger let out a thunderous roar, the emerald aura grew in size to resemble the shape of a large ethereal tiger. The two charged at each other again, Mei swung several fiery kicks while Jade Tiger seemed to have channeled lightning through his claw strikes. Beren silently watched their elegant dance of ferocity and will. He knew the potential of his future opponents well but even he could not foresee the outcome of this duel. The tabaxi charged his fist with lightning and sent a shockwave across the stone arena, causing a mixture of loose rock and electricity surging toward the Crimson Phoenix warrior.

I will not lose. Mei thought. She valued Jade Tiger for being a worthy opponent, perhaps on a typical day she may have lost to him. But there was a stronger fire burning within her, even though it was hidden away, it continued to burn like embers. The heat of her determination eventually gave rise to a greater flame, one burning not of necessity but absolute convictions. She looked to her tabaxi opponent, there was a similar belief within him. He’s wanted to fight Beren, for his own reasons. Well, I’m sorry my friend.

Mei closed her eyes, imagining the infinite darkness and a single flame. She willed it to grow and grow, becoming a greater and brighter flame. Her ki surged through her body and into the blades until the flames seemed like large bird-like wings. The heat and the fire’s ferocity made her hair rise with the air, the last bits of frost and snow around the edges of the room began to melt or fall. Jade Tiger admired the display and chose to answer it with a mighty roar that deafened the room and echoed even to the farthest edge of the magical tower.

The two clashed with fire and lightning, it was swift and effortless. Each landed on the opposite side of the cracked stone floor. Neither moved for several moments, until Jade Tiger kneeled on one knee, grunting in pain along his chest. The Emerald aura vanished, and the tabaxi silently tried to overcome the pain.

Flight of the Phoenix, Beren recognized.

Mei Fong glanced over Jade Tiger until she was declared the victor. She had won the fight, but the next one would prove to her greatest challenge yet. Looking over to Beren, he seemed to have regained his cheerful composure though she felt it was more like smugness than anything. It did not matter, she was going to get her answers from him, even if she had to beat it out of him. Years of hate, anger, and the desire for vengeance, those flames were kept away but now raged like a storm inside her.

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