Like a newborn phoenix, Mei Fong’s rage was renewed. The flames of vengeance that had slowly quelled throughout the Chromo Gyamdre has returned, spiteful and frenzied. The Crimson Phoenix warrior had defeated Jade Tiger, though the tabaxi proved to a worthy opponent. Once the elf moderator announced the winner, she awaited Beren to step forward and face her. She will finally have her answers of that tragic day, or she’ll beat it out of the mysterious warrior if necessary.

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Jade Tiger rose up and gave a bow, admitting defeat against Mei Fong. The two locked eyes for a moment, Mei did not show resentment or bitterness towards the tabaxi warrior, they were all here for the tournament long ago, each knew of the potential outcome and chose to march forward. The elf announcer declared a ten-minute recess to allow the finalists to prepare themselves. The five Chromatic Lords remained silent in their foreboding thrones, unphased by the events that transpired.

Jade walked over to Beren, who stopped him part way.

“She needs a friend right now, I’ll be okay on my own. You did well in your fight, all that training really paid off.” Beren grinned.

The tabaxi looked at his human traveling companion for a while before silently crossing to Mei Fong. The Crimson Phoenix warrior was in the midst of meditation, concentrating on the phoenix flames within her heart. She molded the years of solitude, hardships, oaths, and vengeance into a single light in the void – a single, pure determination. When Mei opened her eyes again, she found the tabaxi sitting across from her also in a meditative pose.

“I understand you have many questions, Beren was not ways to reveal much of himself. I’m sure you are beginning to understand a little of why.  I’m confident that he did not wish harm to you for not mentioning your shared history together. Forgive him, he can sometimes be a dense one.” the tabaxi spoke with his eyes still shut.

Mei Fong rose and retrieved her twinned swords, preparing to return back to the arena.

She stopped momentarily next to Jade Tiger. “I will face him and learn the answers from our fight. It’s the only way real warriors can communicate with each other. When we cross fists and blades, I’ll hear the answers from his soul.”

“Does your heart know what questions to ask though?”

She thought for a moment to herself, recalling the dark imagery of broken bodies, charred exteriors, and lost hopes. Her grip tightened, her resolve would not allow doubt now, especially since her goal was within her grasp. You’re not that little girl anymore, she told herself and approached the arena. A shift in the air sparked and danced upon her approach, the bits of loose snow and dust encircled by a warm current as a blaze would move.

In front of her, Beren stood with a soft smile on his face. It wasn’t of malice or deceit, it felt bittersweet. His pale blue eyes were focused on her, sharing that same bittersweet sentiment as well. Indeed, for Mei, she had grown to at least tolerate the young warrior and his antics, even respect his capabilities even. Though now, there they stood, as adversaries again. This time, there was more at stake, answers to her past that only Beren could answer. He tugged on his yellow sash on his waist and stood ready.

The stoic elf moderator looked at both the combatants before declaring the start of the final match. The empty silence drummed through the hall, Mei could help but give a half smile; for Beren stood as plain as ever but like when they first met, his defense was impeccable. The sashed warrior crossed the arena in a blur, swinging with a fast right hook which Mei dodged, though not before Beren jumped forward with a knee lunge toward her chest. She blocked the attack the flat parts of her blades and the two separated. Just like when we first met, she thought. But I’m not as naive as back then.

The two laughed for a moment, even Jade Tiger felt the energy from them. The tabaxi could always swear that even the statue-like Chromatic Lords seemed amused by the display.

“I guess I have to be more serious if I want to win this tournament,” Beren joked.

“I’m afraid so.”

Beren slowed his breath and channeled his ki, willing his internal spiritual energies into the shape of a glowing mantle that covered his body. A battle aura, of sorts. Mei gazed in wonder to his ever growing ability to surprise her, the veil was beautiful. The Crimson Phoenix warrior prepared herself, as the blades became ignited in orange flames and began her swords dance. Mei struck first with a dazzling flurry of blades and sharp kicks, Beren met each blow for blow, surprising the swordswoman with a few techniques from the other clans. A claw-like strike from the Verdant Conclave, a block from the Adamantine Dragon, a flourish from the Twilight Gale. She persisted, letting the momentum of her attacks carried her forward, pushing the golden aura closer and closer to the edge.

She flung bits of flame at him, which he easily dodged but were part of a feint that had her up close for a deadly blow. He countered with swift low kicks that emitted a wave of flames that encircled him, like an angry mother defending its nest. In fact, the technique was notably called the Phoenix Nest Strike. But Mei knew how to counter it, she channeled more flames into her blades and pointed them forward, dividing the waves of fire. Beren quickly switched to another counterattack, sending a column of flames towards her from a drop kick. The column was deflected with ease, and she struck with her elongated blades. The sparks and embers danced from the arena, the entire field became heated from their attacks.

Once the flames died, a roaring column of flames charged at her. Roar of the Dragon King, she recognized. Mei waited until the last moment before jumping high above the arena, a feat that few could accomplish even with years of training but she recalled her lessons from the monastery well. Using the momentum of the jump, she angled herself toward the source and spun into a whirlwind of steel and fire. Falling Star, eh? Beren smirked and summoned his ki to create short-term apparitions to confuse her, a technique from the Twilight Gale. Mei landed her attack, but it did not find its target, Beren took his yellow sash and infused it with ki to become as hefty as a flail. The sash wrapped around the twinned blades and were pulled out of Mei’s hands, the Crimson Phoenix warrior knew better than to maintain her grip. Once disarmed, Beren closed the gap between them unleashed another flurry of blows. Mei may have used her swords often, but she was trained by the Crimson Phoenix masters to handle any contingency. A few blocked punches, three more parried and deflected with buffets of hot air and flames between each strike.

The two separated after their exchange, Mei took the opportunity to regain some of her stamina as she assessed her opponent. Beren was still at peak performance, he did not seem to have overextended himself in their fight so far. Though Mei felt uneasy since the start of their match, there was almost a sense of reluctance with Beren. Yes, he indeed struck first a few times, there was a feeling of uncertainty from him. Mei could not tolerate such insecurity, especially from a warrior who seemed to always fight earnestly. Even without her swords, she wouldn’t falter and give her best. She closed her eyes and thought back to the image of the small flame in the dark void, the flame was small but would rise in brillance and size until once again she was enveloped in flames with an edge made of white flames in her hand. Beren seemed aware of her challenge, encased in a true mantle of flames with a spear made of radiant energy.

This was their final decisive blow.

“Are you sure?” Beren asked.

Mei looked at the warrior for a moment, recalling their first meeting, their adventures through the entire tournament, all the struggles they underwent together.

She lifted the white-hot blade with its ethereal point at him and a silent nod. The two charged forward, their strike left a blinding light that filled the entire chamber and arena. Jade Tiger recoiled at the intensity of energy, the tabaxi felt he stared into the very sun itself. He knew once the light rescinded, the victor would be made clear.

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