This had to be fate. The only two people from West Vale had matched against each other? Perhaps this had been rigged, then again did it really matter. I"d been wanting to teach Jason a lesson for years and now I had the chance to not only beat him but to do it in front of the entire town and his sect.
"You"ve got this Aiden," Zirani said.
I moved to the stage and waited as he got into position opposite me. He had a dark smile on his face, and I could see his hands twitching. It seemed he also really wanted this fight. Too bad for him it wasn"t going to end the way he thought.
As the referee raised a hand and began counting I calmed my breathing and pulled aether from my core in preparation for the fight. I shifted slightly, turning my body to the right and raising my hand, my right outstretched in front of me, palm in a cupping shape, while my left rested closer to my body. Jason wasn"t as elegant, instead just jumping in place, his fists raised in a basic boxing stance. I hadn"t seen much of Jason"s fights, but he seemed to prefer a constant rush of attacks and giving as little time for his opponents to react or think of a counter. An onslaught style that relied on constant aggression, it suited him and his attitude perfectly.
He shot forward and I rushed to meet him. I could have played defensive and perhaps against another opponent I might have, but not Jason. Today i was going truly and utterly beat him. We met at the center of the arena, fists already flashing in strikes. His attacks had no refinement or elegance, instead just a barrage of strike. I dodged, ducked and countered, sending strikes back, most of which he blocked, but some landed, although not with enough force to do much damage.
We went back and forth, a dance of battle. His onslaught never wavered though, I quickly noticed that he didn"t use his legs often, only using them to block kicks, and never to actually attack. A weakness I could exploit, but first some distance. He moved in sending a jab toward my ribs while a fist flew at my face. I smacked his wrist sending the jab away, while I dodged the strike to my face, following up with a kick to his chest. I pushed with all my force, using it to leap back and make some space.
I wouldn"t have long but I"d been training to form my techniques while fighting and under pressure so the moment my feet touched the ground, my bark armor was already mostly formed around my hands and shins.
He scoffed and rushed forward, an orange haze appearing in the air around him. "Wood isn"t going to help you, stop running."
I didn"t respond, instead focusing. I needed to time this just right for it to work. He quickly closed the gap and once again fists flew at me, though far faster than just a moment ago. Too bad for him I was used to it much faster. Training with Zirani really had been beneficial. Moving in close, I sent a kick towards his right shin, which he blocked, but instead of moving my foot back, I focused. Creating a lashing vine from my leg and through my bark armour wasn"t as hard as I"d expected. It was the same exact thing, just with another layer added. A lashing vine quickly appeared wrapping around his leg. He tried to move back, striking at me as he did, but I took the blow on my forearm, and the bark armor protected it. I pulled and he staggered, off balance.
Now it was over. My fist hit him square in the face, and a loud crack could be heard as his nose caved in. He howled but I wasn"t done, grabbing his right arm, pulling with all my force, then twisting. It was hard, but Zirani had taught me how to use aether to get quick bursts of strength. It was one of the most basic techniques she knew, but very useful.
He screamed and for a moment I almost felt sorry for him, only a moment though, because my knee was already rising up. His scream abruptly cut off as my knee met his privates. I dispersed the vine and moved back.
He fell to his knees, his eyes blank and his mouth open. It was almost comical how frozen he was, but it didn"t last. A moment later he fell onto his side.
"The victory goes to Aiden of the steel heart."
The crowd cheered, the steel heart disciples happy for their second win of the day while the twin horns looked sullen dn even more pissed. Before I could leave the stage my aunt rushed out and to my surprise came to check on me first.
"Did you have to go that far?" She asked, placing a hand on my chest and sending healing through me.
"Probably not, but you know he deserved it."
She shook her head and quickly moved to help Jason. Twin horn disciples quickly dragged him off after thanking my aunt. They kept their eyes averted from my gaze, but the way their fists were clenched told me they were pissed.
"Good work," Zirani said. "Your technique formation is getting better."
"Thanks," I replied mentally as I moved off the stage to join my fellow steel heart disciples. They clapped me on the back and when I met Elder Samuels eyes in the crowd he smiled and nodded, clearly pleased at the outcome of things.
"Well done," Markem complimented. "Nice tactic using the vine on his legs. I gotta admit watching you pummel him was quite entertaining, especially that first shot at the end. Hah, the look of shock on his face."
I smiled. Indeed it had been funny, and it had felt good to finally put him in his place. For as long as I"d known him he"d been an annoyance that only served to bully people and use his father status to get what he wanted, but in the arena, his father hadn"t been able to help him and he"d gotten his fair dues.
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