Crocus sure felt odd to Zhao. But that might be due to the fact that Crocus was a city, compared to the villages he had been visiting. And then there is Era, slightly smaller.

Zhao decided to take a walk around city, trying to find out what was happening that caused to strange itch he had been feeling. During this walk, he had come across some kind of boxing ring, occupied by all sorts of mages. Zhao decided to investigate. It might not have been the smartest idea, as Zhao was still new in town, in Fiore altogether. While approaching the construct, Zhao got greeted by a man, slightly younger than Zhao himself. The man introduced himself as Newt. He was one of the people that trained daily in the battle ring.  Mages from all over Crocus knew of this place, and knew that a proper combat could be held here. At the moment that Newt explained the principles of the ring to Zhao, a battle was happening between a fire mage and a lightning mage. Although it looked very interesting, it was not Zhao’s cup of tea. Battles and wars are not for recreation. He could know. War was a bitter thing, and was something one should not do for pleasure. It was, however, a good way to learn the elements. Zhao had learned Fire and Lightning already, but that was not reason to not at least check it out. Zhao was doubting whether it was a good idea to enter though. Newt saw the doubt, but kind-of pushed Zhao into it. He sought a friend of his. “These two are next!”, Newt shouted, raising the friends arm and Zhao’s. This was bound to be trouble.

A moment later, Zhao stood there, in the ring. Opposing him was a tall, broad man with a darker complexion. He looked fierce, and not someone to fickle with. A referee was positioned at the border of the ring, and he explained to rules. There were two ways to win: knock the opponent out, or knocking him out of the ring. Magic was only allowed from within the ring and had to stay in the ring, and one was allowed to surrender. Lastly, to serious injuries were allowed. This was bound to end up badly.

The referee rang the bell, and the man opposing Zhao in the ring was already moving. Zhao decided to take a defensive approach, first waiting to see what the man’s magic was. Right away, Zhao felt a rumble through the ground. Earth, Zhao thought. He reacted quickly, activating the Aspect Host of Air. Silver blades of winds came out of Zhao’s arms and legs, and Zhao felt the breeze and ease of movement. Right after, just as Zhao prepared for a leap, he saw something familiar. A layer of magic covered the opponent, something he had seen once before. Nathaniel’s magic had the same look and feel. Definitely the same feel: odd and very forced. Not touching him was the smart idea. The Aspect Host of Air was a good option for this. Zhao leaped using the Joyful Leap flipping himself over the man, and tried something new. He directed the energy of the Aspect Host directly into his feet. The winds on his legs concentrated, and midway in his flip, Zhao kicked the energy off him, creating a streak of concentrated air. The air, looking like a silver crescent, flew towards the man and wrapped itself around him: Triumph Crescent. Zhao landed, facing the back of the man. He could see a massive cut through him. The wind had become a blade and slashing into his skin. The aura around him looked grey and dull, as if it had stopped working. Zhao saw the moment, and took it. He dashed towards the man, dealing a fistful of damage to the man. Following this, he kicked with his left foot. While kicking, he noticed he had grip onto the man. Zhao decided to take this opportunity, and used it to leap off the man. He pushed off, making a backflip, landing three meters away from the scary looking man. The man was in pain; that was visible. Zhao heard the cringes and grunts the man gave off. The man turned around while Zhao was leaping. He, too, saw an opportunity and immediately activated a spell that surrounded his hand. He dashed in for a punch, while Zhao had just landed. Zhao looked up, but noticed the man too late, as he took the fist into his chest. Zhao let out a grunt, but recovered quickly. Quicker than that the man could punch again with his other hand. It wouldn’t be smart to use the other hand now, as the spell was bound to the hand he just punched with. This would take longer than he could realize, and Zhao took that moment. The man was standing broadly on his feet, with just enough space to allow Zhao to go through. Zhao went to his knees, and took a slight moment to take in the position of the man. He was almost done retracting his arm, so a punch would hit any moment now. Zhao set himself off through the man’s legs and switched over to the Aspect Host of Fire. With his left hand, he held onto the man’s right leg. The momentum of the slide between the man’s legs enable Zhao to use this move to turn around, already standing on a hand and two feet, but his body still stretched. He let go of the man’s scourged leg, as the fire on Zhao’s arm was burning brightly while holding his leg. The momentum wasn’t gone, so Zhao now had to take some of that onto his legs. The momentum forced Zhao to kneel, but he was now well positioned, ready to jump and head for the man’s head. The man turned with his hindered leg, and his face was now facing Zhao. Zhao pushed off, one fist next to his head, burning brightly as the manes of a lion. Zhao gave out the punch, hitting the man right between the eyes. The blazes surrounded his face for a moment, and Zhao had now set foot onto the man. He used this to push himself up, jumping slight above the man. The man was still taking the hit, so Zhao decided to – hopefully – deal the final blow. He took a deep breath, and used his Tempest of Anger. The breath he took ignited, surrounding the man by a vortex of bright fire. Zhao landed on the ground, awaiting to see what the man would do. The people around the ring were shouted and cheering for Zhao. Zhao looked around, and was stunned by the cheering. This was a sport on its own, and these people were the viewers. When he looked to his right, he saw the referee ending the match. Zhao’s eyes widened, and he realized that the man had surrendered – or had fallen down. Zhao looked to his front again, and noticed the man, knocked out on the floor. Zhao had actually done it!

Zhao took a moment to catch his breath again. He lend on his knees with his arms, and took deep breaths. It was just a moment, when a young woman entered the ring. She commanded everyone to step outside the ring while pointing at Zhao. “Except for him”, she shouted. The referee took his place again. Zhao looked up, and noticed everyone was in position for this match. Could he just take a moment to catch his breath again? But the ring was already to set again. But right away, Zhao noticed the woman’s movements. She was a water mage, most definitely. But she was too aggressive to be actually mastering the element of Water. Water was caring and thought things well and truly through. Although, Water was one of the most tactical elements. No living creature could live without water, yet Water was one of the greatest killers of all elements. Water was more about timing and planning, rather than raw offensive power. But this woman had faith in her aggression, so Zhao let her. He braced himself for combat.

The referee started the battle, and the woman immediately cast some kind of water whip and slashed into Zhao’s direction right away. Zhao knew what to do. He activated the Aspect Host of Lightning, bracing his arms and legs into shards and sparks of lightning. He felt the pressure of the air intensifying around him. The whip was about to strike, when he used Decisive Strife to teleport behind the woman. She let out a small scream, as the shock of the movement went right through her. Zhao turned around and faced her back. This was – right away – a perfect opportunity. He set his right for fourth and held his left hand behind his head, charging electricity. He braced himself and pushed his hand forwards, giving her a real punch in the neck. A pulse of electricity went right though her, right as the previous scream ended. She cringed, quite badly actually. He put his right next to hers, with about 50 centimeters distance. He put his weight rapidly onto that foot, kneeling through it. The speed caused a momentum, which he used to kick his knee into her back. Another pulse entered her body, which engaged a lot of anger. She had enough of it, and she punched her fist right towards Zhao, who was still low on his feet, causing the punch to get into his face. Zhao cringed, but managed to stay. The woman stepped away, and created a tidal wave that was setting towards Zhao. Zhao decided to was no option to get around it, so he had to go through it. He hoped that a bit of electricity from his fist would be enough to bring the wave down. He punched the wave, and a shock went right through it, causing it to shatter into drips all around the ring. Zhao jumped up and used Decisive Strife again to bring himself behind the woman again. This time, the woman knew what was happening and as soon as she felt the electricity going through her body again, she formed a wall of water behind her, ensuring that Zhao would not go for a strike on her right away again. The wall looked solid enough to hold a man, so Zhao decided to try and climb it. As soon as he touched it, a shock went through it, causing the wall too to collapse. Zhao and the woman were looking into each other’s eyes as the wall fell down, both surprised to the rim by the sheer ease of collapse. At the same moment, the both of them realized Zhao had a great opportunity here. Zhao took that opportunity, while the woman tried to stop that from happening. Zhao initially decided to head in for another punch, but the woman activated he water whip again. Zhao tried to go for a lower technique, and leaned onto his left knee while putting it in front. He ducked, stretching his right leg to his rear. The woman’s water whip ended up missing, due to Zhao staying so low. Next, Zhao pushed off with his right legs and twisted his body counterclockwise. This created a sudden, intensive turn that Zhao could turn into a kick against the woman’s ankles, using his right leg. The electricity went through the woman once again. She was clearly struggling with the amount of incoming damage, but did not back off. Out of reflex, she pulled her hand down – the one with the whip. The whip clashed unto Zhao’s back. Instead of really hurting Zhao, he felt a familiar feeling. The feeling that an element had welcomed him again. The water whip disappeared, and the woman cringed loudly. She was at her limit. Maybe even beyond her limit. Zhao recovered quickly, still letting the sparks run over his body. He stood up, still bracing for combat. The woman started to recover too. Zhao nodded, showing that he was ready for continuing the battle, and a moment later, so did the woman. She did not look ready though. Her make-up ran all over her face, and he could see the tears in her eyes. “You can always surrender. Fighting is not always the answer”, Zhao said as kindly as he could, but the woman refused. It was best to end it sooner than later, so Zhao initiated a high kick. As the kick continued on, the woman tried to catch Zhao’s leg with her hand, but the moment the first spark impacted onto her hand, Zhao could see her faint. Unfortunately, Zhao couldn’t stop the momentum, causing his shin to collide into her chest. She was knocked over, and the people around the circle started to cheer. Zhao couldn’t believe it: it was that badly?! He decided it was best to leave this place right here and right now. He switched in the spark over his arms and legs for silver streaks of wind, activating the Aspect Host of Air. He ran towards the referee – who was standing two meters in front of the entrance and exit. Zhao used Joyful Leap to jump over the referee, right into the exit. He had enough of the fighting.

He ran on, running into an alley nearby. The alley was short, and not even a moment later he spurred out into a shopping street. Zhao looked around, and decided to walk on. 

[2498/2498]