The sound of running water. It soothed her, calmed her, Allowed her to reach out and search. He was on the way already: He was an expert on hiding all outward signs of his presence, be it sight, smell or sound. But she could feel him, touch him. She knew he was here and he knew she did. It was all a part of his plan. She could find his presence, but not him.
She slowly opened her eyes, letting the continued sound of the nearby waterfall, the brilliant light of the Sun and the beautiful green grass and trees overwhelm her senses. He was nearby, but neither of them were ready just yet. She might as well enjoy the waiting. She slowly got to her feet, picking up her wooden staff and slinging her pack over her shoulders. She began walking, heading down the small forest path closer to the waterfall.
As she got closer, the gentle sound of running water morphed into the thunder of thousands of gallons of liquid falling hundreds of feet to the lake below. His presence also morphed from a faint signal to a feeling like a hard to remember idea. He was certainly close now. It wouldn’t be long now, they both knew. Her heart began beating faster as she slowly moved to the center of a small clearing. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes again. And he jumped.
In a heartbeat, she whirled around, slinging her staff up with all the strength she could muster. It collided with his own horizontally held weapon mid flight, striking it in the weakened middle grip. He was sent flying back, but recovered with a role and landed on his feet. The two stared at each other with narrowing eyes. She was no more than sixteen, dressed in simple clothing with white hair and a nervous, but hopeful look. He looked to be middle aged but felt much older, clad in a jet black coat which matched his hair. A steady look of determination met hers, And she was suddenly dismayed.
He flipped the two halves of his broken weapon so the non-shattered ends faced outwards and fell back into a ready stance. Instead of disarming him, she had given him twice as many weapons! She responded and the two began slowly circling each other. The two shared more than a ready stance: Both faces held scars, On the outside and in, both held a look of wisdom far beyond their apparent age and both had a look of fierce determination, but a slight glimmer of joy in their eyes as well. In a blur of motion, almost as fast as their opening moves, the two lunged at each other.
She swung her staff, which he blocked and deflected. His counter attack was only barely ducked under in time and she stepped back, falling into a defensive stance. She continued to hold this position, letting him rain strikes down on her and looking for an opening. Just like he had taught her. Forcing her to give ground, he spotted a hole in her defense and exploited it, using one stick to force her staff above her head and the other to land a blow.
It stung but did not damage, just like they always did. Determined to take the upper hand, she turned on her heel, forcing him to choose between letting go of his weapon or breaking his wrist. His first stick went flying into the nearby bushes, while she again seized the offensive. He flipped his remaining stick into a reverse grip to better block and let her drive him closer to the treeline. Her drive finally payed off and the remaining half of his staff joined its twin somewhere in the bushes. She did a 360 turn with all the grace of a trained dancer spinning her staff in the air with one arm, before slamming it into the ground and kneeling, grinning at her opponent in victory.
The two locked gazes for a millisecond, just long enough for her to realize her mistake, before he seized her staff with both hands and gave a mighty swing. Having been holding on with only one hand, she was sent sprawling to the ground, disarmed. She scrambled to her feet and fell back into a ready stance, but the odds were stacked against her know. He had her weapon. But he himself had taught her to never assume an enemy is disarmed and helpless until they stayed down.
His lunges weren’t as strong as hers were, but they were just as quick and had experience behind them. She was limited to four years of fighting training and a single, defensive style. He...had a little more than that. She steadily backpedaled, deflecting what hits she could with her hands and tanking the rest. The two fell into a rhythm, with her giving ground and him steadily driving her back, looking for a weakness in her defense. Unfortunately, he had taught her well and even without a weapon she was doing a surprisingly good job of blocking his blows. It also did not escape his notice that she was not just falling back randomly: She was leading him somewhere.
And indeed she was, darting back onto the forest path and ducking and weaving around his attacks as she focused in on the sound of the waterfall and used it to lead herself back. The sound of the waterfall soon became a backdrop to the continued clash between the two, as fists and staff collided with unexpected force. Soon the two stood and fought in a second clearing, this one right on the edge of the waterfall itself. Now in position, she set her plan into motion...and missed.
He couldn’t stop his staff in time, and it connected. She really wanted to react to the blow, which got her right in the nose, but she instead let the moment carry her backwards and to the ground. She sensed his hesitation, obviously not having intended the blow to do real damage, and she used it. Feeling around in the grass, she found what appeared to just be a thick stick poking out of the ground. She firmly grabbed it as she leaped to her feet, unearthing a third staff. His hesitation was gone and he advanced once more. She threw off her pack and met him head on.
She had buried the new weapon last time she had visited the falls, anticipating another session in this area. Her foresight had saved the match: She had bruised her hands and arms deflecting shots and was steadily bleeding from the nose, thanks to his last strike. He was barely breathing hard. Still, the fight wasn’t over yet, and they both knew she had youth and stamina on her side. This lead him to take decisive action, as she discovered when the ferocity of his attacks increased, sending her into a hurried retreat. Determined to not lose her weapon again, She let her focus on the surroundings faltar in favour of complete attention on her target. When she almost backed off the cliff completely, stumbling and sending some small rocks plummeting to the water below, she hastily rethought this strategy. Not quickly enough however.
The staffs they used were all practically identical: smooth and thick hand crafted shafts of wood over a meter and a half in length. However, those who had spent hours practicing with them could tell that the center of the weapon was crafted from less resilient, more brittle wood. She had already taken advantage of this and he now returned the favour, delivering a powerful blow the the staff while she held it aloft as she tried to regain her balance. Now, the match was over.She glanced at the remains of her surprise and tossed them into the falls. She had no training in wielding multiple melee weapons at once, and he had backed her into a corner. As there stares met, she could feel a clear message in him for the first time during the fight. “I win”. She paused for a second, before sending her own response. “Not yet”. In an instant, she wheeled about and leaped off the ledge.