The sun blazed over Youkai Mountain. Fairies flew over the sky, pestering the crow tengu that flew to and fro. High up the mountain lied a small clearing in the forest, connected only by an ancient stone staircase. In this clearing sat a small wooden building, and in front a large stone circle, encircled by a short wooden fence. At the end of this arena was Momiji Inubashiri, sitting atop a small rock. As she watched the staircase, a new figure slowly climbed it. Hong Meiling approached, a determined expression on her face and clothes stained with sweat. Momiji smiled, and stood up as Hong approached.
“There’s no need for you to handicap yourself before the match Hong!” The tengu barked.
“Please.” Hong grinned, wiping sweat from her forehead. “You know what they say about not warming up before a match?”
Momiji smiled back, her opponent hopping the small fence and walking to the center of the arena. As Momiji headed towards the center, she noticed something over Hong’s shoulders. A few fairy maids flew up, settling themselves far from the barrier. Momiji sneered. “Those your cheerleaders?”
“A little support doesn’t hurt now?” She pointed behind her, Momiji turning around to notice a few other wolf tengu had appeared, observing over the barrier.
“Well it’s not like I invited them. They’re just here to watch a good old-fashioned danmakuless fight.”
“Same here. The mansion does get pretty boring with Sakuya doing all the work.” Hong cracked her knuckles. “I’m all set. Fighting until knockout?”
Momiji punched her fist into her palm. “Is there any other proper way?”
The two walked to opposite ends of the arena. They turned around, locking eyes. Momiji pulled a small baton from her pocket.
“Once this hits the ground, we begin.”
Hong silently nodded as she tossed it high into the air. From the moment she tossed it, Momiji kept her eyes locked on the baton, whie Hong kept her eyes locked on Momiji. She braced herself, keeping her fists up.
The exact moment the baton touched the ground, Momiji bolted forward, closing the distance between her and Hong in mere seconds. Hong was quick to raise her guard as the wolf clawed and battered her with a flurry of blows. She flinched and winced from the onslaught and took a few steps back, still enduring rapid-fire swipes and jabs from the wolf. Hong took notice of a small break in the attacks, and quickly dropped her guard to throw a few jabs towards her chest and head. Momiji attempted to dodge each one, but still took a few to the chest without even reacting. She wasted no time in returning to the offensive, Hong reacting likewise to return to holding her guard. It wasn’t long until she was pushed back to the very edge of the arena’s fence.
“You do realize you’re actually supposed to hit back, right?” Taunted the tengu.
Hong held fast, feeling her arms sting from the unrelenting scratches and hits, but willed herself to hold on. Her patience soon came to fruition, as she felt the intensity of the blows wane. Hong quickly shifted from blocking, taking some scratches to the face to counter with a hard, well-placed jab to Momiji’s stomach. She slid back from the blow, coughing. Hong seized the initiative, sprinting forward and kicking her in the chest, sending her sliding backwards even further. She ran forward rearing back her fist and throwing a punch, but Momiji quickly ducked beneath the blow, swiping at her stomach. She winced, trying to retaliate by elbowing the tengu in the back, but she quickly slipped away, lurching forward quickly to slash again. Hong brought her guard back once more, blocking her strikes, and retaliated with a few more well placed jabs to the chest and stomach. Momiji coughed a few times and leapt back, locking eyes with the gatekeeper. She growled as she observed how Hong only bore multiple scratches on her arm, and her uniform was barely torn near the chest. Hong smiled, practically reading the tengu’s thoughts. She took a defensive stance.
“You wanted me to hit back, didn’t you?” She beckoned the tengu with her hand tauntingly. Momiji sneered and lurched forward, her hand sprawled ready to swipe. Hong dropped her guard, preparing to evade and counterattack. As she dodged, however, instead of swiping, Momiji clenched her fist and launched a powerful jab to Hong’s stomach. She wheezed, stepping back and clutching her stomach. Momiji lurched forward, swiping and scratching at the guard. Hong tried to back away while dodging, but took a few slashes, leaving her face marked by the tengu’s claws. Hong leapt back and Momiji lurched forward, her fist balled up and reared back. Hong quickly reacted with a roundhouse kick, slamming into the side of the wolf. She flew away to the side but landed right back on her feet, skidding to a halt. Hong sprinted forward, leaping into the air attempting to land another kick. Momiji quickly rolled out of the way as Hong slammed into the ground, and the wolf swiped at her back as she recovered from the miss. Hong spun around, throwing a few jabs and striking the wolf tengu, but she quickly retreated. The two stared each other down, waiting and carefully observing each other. Hong returned to her defensive stance as Momiji slowly circled her.
“What’s the matter?” Spoke Hong between breaths. “Your bite isn’t matching your bark at all! And you wolves really call yourselves the guards of Youkai Mountain?”
She growled in response, still continuing to circle. Hong observed carefully, taking utmost care not to show her fatigue and pain from all the tengu’s assaults. Without any indication, Momiji leapt forward, her fist reared back. Hong quickly blocked, but still winced at the intensity of the blow. She raised her leg to quickly kick in retaliation, but before she could even hit the wolf, she had already retreated to a safe distance. Hong smirked and scoffed.
“Again, you really call yourself a guardian of the mountain?”
“Most troublemakers of the mountain don’t have time to complain about my tactics.” Growled Momiji. She lurched forward again, Hong this time dodging her powerful blow. She landed a few jabs on the tengu, but Momiji was quick to respond with a few more powerful punches of her own. Hong winced with each hit from the tengu, trying to retaliate, but Momiji had retreated to a safe distance once more. Hong was covered in sweat, clothes badly scratched, and deeply panting. She was aware of this herself, if Momiji’s expression didn’t already completely give it away. She lurched forward for what she hoped would be the final time, but Hong suddenly dropped her guard, leaping forward and kicking in retaliation. While the tengu still managed to land a powerful hit on Hong’s shoulder, she took an even more brutal kick to the stomach, sending her flying away and crashing into the opposite end of the arena. Hong gripped tightly onto her shoulder, wincing. Psyching herself up, she did her best to purge her mind of the pain, and focus on winning the fight. Momiji groaned as she stumbled up from the ground, but caught the slight moment of Hong’s weakness. She took a deep breath and charged forward at full speed. Before Hong could react, she took another strong blow to her already weak arm. She audibly yelped and leapt back, but Momiji dashed forward, prepared to deliver another blow. Hong ducked and dodged, but Momiji continued to attack. She intermixed punching and swiping faster than she had before, knowing she was too exhausted to dodge them all. Hong kept backing away, retaliating whenever she could with her good arm, but the tengu simply tanked each and every blow. She kept approaching, giving Hong no respite from her assault. For the first time in the fight, Hong was growing concerned. The tengu barely looked like she had been phased by any of her previous blows, and certainly had stamina to spare. Hong poured every ounce of willpower she could to trying to dodge and block the endless flurry of blows from her. Amidst the flurry, Hong still hatched a final plan to counter the onslaught. As much as she tired out, she could see the tengu was slowing down her assault as well. Taking advantage of how out of breath the tengu likely was, took a step forward amidst the assault and used her good arm to throw a devastating punch to her chest. Momiji completely froze from the blow, unable to take another breath. She glared at Hong with the slightest speck of fear as the gatekeeper smiled. She took another step forward, kneeing Momiji in the stomach. She keeled over, staring as hong took a step back and delivered a powerful kick right under her jaw. The tengu flew away from the blow, literally howling in pain, and eventually crashed into the ground. Hong gasped and panted, staring at the body of the tengu carefully. No movement. She hobbled over, holding tight to her injured arm, looking closer. Suddenly, Momiji coughed and groaned. She opened her eyes, and she only saw a blurry sight of Hong.
“I think that counts as a knockout.” Hong smiled, offering a hand to her opponent. Momiji grabbed hold of it as Hong tugged her to her feet. The tengu stumbled, and the gatekeeper offered her shoulder as support.
“If my head weren’t spinning right now, you’d be finished Hong…”
She burst out laughing. “Yeah, and I’m assuming you could beat me with only one arm as well?”
She groaned, knowing she had used that to taunt Hong into the duel with her.
“Let’s just get our injuries treated, all right? You did do a number to the shoulder you’re leaning on you know.”
The two had taken rest inside the small wooden building, which was in actuality a small barracks for the tengu guards. Momiji had bandaged her chest, lying down in bed. Meanwhile, Hong had her uniform tossed to the side, as she was busy still treating and wrapping her wounds. Hands, arms, chest, stomach, back; Had she bandadged herself any more, she would look close to a mummy. Momiji looked over, slightly amused by the sight.
“Sheesh. I had you on the ropes, right?”
The guard chuckled. “If you believe so, yes.”
Momiji grumbled. “It certainly isn’t a belief, it was downright a fact! Still…” She rolled over, staring at the ceiling. “To think you even got me at my fiercist…”
“There’s an old reading from where I come from. ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.’”
She turned her head to Hong. “So what, you were able to mind-read me and know when to strike?”
Hong smiled. “You were a bit too haughty, and you made that very clear with your challenge in the first place. Maybe instead of trying to overwhelm me, you could have thought of a better approach than being too easy to read.”
The tengu huffed. “Probably…”
“I still admire your sheer self-discipline. To hide your exhaust all the way throughout that entire match? Outright amazing.”
Momiji smiled, closing her eyes. “I told you, we gotta be the best of the best to guard the mountain.”
Hong stood up, putting back on her damaged uniform. She turned to Momiji.
“Once we’re both better, I want a round two. Especially since now we both know what we’re capable of.”
The tengu sat up, smiling and giving a thumbs up. “Till next time Hong!”