Volume 7, Interlude B: Clash of Blades

“Feng, it’s never good when you ask for a practice session,” Zhang remarked, pulling on a pair of black gloves.

“I could say the same for you, my dear pupil. It’s serious when you decide to wear those,” Feng said, giving a slight grin.

Zhang headed toward the bus stop after work, only to find Feng waiting for him in the parking lot. She waved at him from her car, requesting an exhibition battle. Knowing she would not take no for an answer, the man agreed. Besides, he didn’t have any excuses, especially since he was just planning to play Monster Slayer after arriving home.

“These have always been an excuse for you to show off something new or criticize whatever I’m doing wrong. Which one is it this time?” Zhang questioned, materializing his sword.

“So very talkative today, Zhang. If only you weren’t as shy when there are more people around, Feng observed.

“Feng, really?” Zhang asked.

“I’m just saying how it is, Zhang. We’ve done enough talking. I know you want to get started as much as I do,” Feng stated, shrugging her shoulders.

She pulled out a sword, different than the usual one. Zhang recognized the dragon hilt immediately. After all, it was the blade Long used when he still possessed his Dragon’s Mandate power. Once he switched over to his current one, he transferred ownership of it over to Feng. The man suspected the number two ranked hero did this on purpose.

“That look. You know this weapon well. But, what happens if I’m the one wielding it instead of Long? Let’s find out, Zhang,” Feng said.

Zhang said nothing, waiting for her to make the first move. Feng did the same, willing to wait it out. They circled each other, swords drawn, neither willing to attack. Finally, Zhang took one step forward, hoping to bait the woman. She didn’t flinch, not falling for it. Knowing it would be dangerous to drag it out any further, the man accelerated forward using his electrical elemental.

Feng smiled, ready for his attack. She leaped back, already predicting where Zhang would strike. She met his blade with her own. They exchanged sword strikes, evenly matched. She noticed that his sword strikes didn’t contain any special charges. No electrical field was set-up either. Feng grinned, approving of his strategy. It never was good to reveal one’s hand too early.

Suddenly, the swordswoman felt a shift in Zhang’s demeanor. He pulled back on their last sword exchange, leaving tiny magic particles behind. Feng dove to her left, rolling away from the rapid lightning strikes raining down upon her. As soon as she avoided one, another followed, almost striking her. Zhang ran into the lightning strikes, raising his blade in the air, charging his weapon up via the electrical discharge produced. His blade glowed orange and he swung downward at the woman.

Feng spun around, and an ethereal peacock tail hovered in the air, blocking the swing. Zhang flicked his weapon back up, pointing at Feng with a small smile. An explosive streak of lightning followed, obliterating the tail. It protected Feng from severe damage, but still struck her in the chest, knocking her down to the ground.

As Zhang came in for another sword stab, the woman snapped her fingers. A flaming vortex engulfed the dual elemental user, cutting him off from Feng. She then directed the lingering magic left behind from Zhang’s lightning into her flames, increasing the damage. Unable to convert her fire into a power-up for his blade, he took continuous damage. It finally vanished after a minute, leaving him collapsed on the ground.

“My flames aren’t for everyone to understand, Zhang,” Feng said, giving a smirk.

He didn’t respond, standing back up. A pulsating light emanated from his right hand, which bathed his sword in a yellow tint. Feng taunted the man, challenging him to come straight at her. Zhang sprung forward, leaping into the air with the aid of his electrical powers. Feng followed his lead, heading airborne as well. Their blades clashed once more, but this time with different results. The yellow tint transformed into a dark blue, coinciding with the morphing of his katana blade. Zhang now wielded a dadao, pushing back the woman with his new weapon once they landed on the ground. He sidestepped to his left, readying his Chinese great sword for a massive chop. Now bathed in a red glow, the man unleashed one of his charged sword attacks. She parried but couldn’t maintain it, disarmed of her weapon. His blade slashed across her chest, triggering a mini explosion too. She grasped her chest, nodding in approval.

Zhang charged his blade once more. The woman grinned, wagging her finger at him. His glowing blade lost its brightness, reduced back to a normal sword. He sighed, predicting she would pull something like this. He glanced downward at his gloved hands, testing something out. As he expected, no electrical sparks appeared. Time for a change.

Pillars of flame shot up from the ground, trapping Feng within them. She touched the flames, nullifying them with ease. That bought Zhang enough time to get into close range, swinging a flaming right fist at her face. Feng caught his fist and then attempted a choking submission. Zhang produced a coil of wire in his left hand, unrolling it with a flick of his wrist. He wrapped it around her neck, choking her as well. She released the short man, rubbing her neck. Zhang fell to his knees, coughing.

“Versatile as always, Zhang. What do you have in store for me next?” Feng praised, burning away the wire around her neck.

He shot another wire at her, aiming for her leg, but Feng sliced at it. As she raised her sword up, she realized Zhang’s ploy too late. Zhang’s wire was now wrapped around her blade. He pulled back, stripping her of the blade and gaining possession of it. White flames sprouted from his right hand, encircling Zhuyu’s sword.

Feng nodded, her phoenix sword now in hand. Red, blue, yellow, black, and white flames wrapped around her weapon. She arrived at Zhang’s location within a second, swinging her sword downward at him. He blocked, their swords’ flames intermingling. Her flames proved too powerful, devouring Zhang’s, snuffing them out. Zhang dropped his sword, sliding toward Feng’s legs. He wrapped wires around her legs, tripping her.

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As Feng fell, she unleashed her multi-color flames through Zhang’s wire. He attempted to release his hold, but the wires remain stuck in his hand. Her flames struck him in the hands, burning through his gloves. They continued upward toward his chest, detonating there with a tremendous force.  Zhang fell face first onto the ground, knocked out.

Ten minutes later, Zhang regained consciousness, feeling a slight chest pain. He was in the training facility infirmary, lying down in one of the beds. He pulled his shirt up, discovering a wet piece of gauze applied near his left nipple. A familiar smell emanated from it. Not pleasant per say, but one he knew well. After all, it was the typical Chinese medicinal mix used for various injuries.

“Took you long enough to wake up,” Feng remarked, standing next to his bed.

“Did you really have to use that attack on me?” Zhang questioned, sitting upright.

“It was a serious fight, Zhang. Are enemies going to go easy on you?” she retorted.

“You know that’s not what I meant. You’re pulling the same s**t Long does whenever I talk to him about stuff like this,” Zhang replied.

“What ever do you mean, Zhang?” Feng feigned innocence.

“Whatever. Can I leave now?” Zhang asked.

“Yeah, you’ve been cleared by my expert opinion. Do you want a ride back home?” Feng offered.

“Uh, no thanks. You’ll end up just telling me what I could do better. Not that I don’t think your advice is bad, just not feeling it after getting f**ked by that attack,” Zhang refused.

Feng smiled, not pursuing the issue any further. Zhang stayed for five more minutes before leaving. She walked back out into the battle area, standing in the center. She could tell Zhang was getting back into shape, able to wield both his elementals without any issues. And it looked like he was comfortable morphing his blade too. All good signs, especially once they faced tougher enemies.

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