My name echoed through the dojo of the Serene Dragon for a moment, then I rose to my feet. My eyes darted around the dojo, taking in the variety of emotions in the faces of my fellow students before coming at last to rest upon Takashi, our sensei. Long thinning snow white hair fanned out overr his shoulders, his body thin, withered with age under the bleached white gi. Only the steely glare of his eyes remained of the warrior who had won countless martial arts tropies in his youth, perhaps 50 years ago.
I stepped forward onto the mat and bowed deeply to Sensei, trying my best to remain calm. His voice rang out, only a hint of his true age adding a tremor to his tones "Witch! Harlot! Thought I would face you myself, did you? I invoke the right to declare a champion!"
I straightened from my bow, turning to face the target of my Sensei's wrath, my heart fluttering in my chest at the sight of her. Lady Shiva. Her reputation paints her as a fury, a dark destroyer of men and dojos in her ruthless pursuit of perfection and challenges. But her reputation did little to prepare me for the reality. Short, practical black hair. Dark, mysterious eyes giving no hint of the thoughts running through her mind. A body like coiled steel wrapped in silk, under a short leather jacket and spandex tights that mold to her legs like a second skin. She moves with the effortless grace of a jungle predator, beautiful and deadly. Goddess, she was beautiful, desire stirring in me for a moment before it was suppressed.
A outraged murmurr passes through the other students as she steps onto the mat, evidently not considering me worth the effort to remove her jacket or slip on shoes. "Age has soured you, Takashi. Do not think to judge me by *your* rules. I am outside, that is all that need be said."
I hear a strangled cry of rage behind me, just one more distraction as I slide with practiced ease into a ready stance. We both pause, studying each other intently. I feel the rough texture of the mat under my feet, the stares of the students upon us both as my thoughts start to drift...
I leap forward, starting fast with a jumping side kick, effortlessly avoided. A light push on my back sends me stumbling forward off balance, but I duck down into a roll quickly to avoid the follow up attack, only to find her watching me from ten feet away, a barely perceptable smirk on her lips. My cheeks flush red and I attack once more, crescent kick blocked, ridge hand dodged. I can't help but be facinated by her deadly grace, even as a foot slams into my belly, followed by a Leopard Palm strike that I only partly dodge.
As we back away from each other for a moment I feel blood tracing down my cheek, a cold chill running down my spine as I realize that had been a killing strike. The next few minutes are lost in a haze of blood red and pain, open hand strikes and furious kicks sliding past my defence with ridiculaous ease, her movements graceful like a deadly dance. Finally an elbow strike to my ribs causes me to cry out and fall to my knees, spitting blood. She turns from me in disdain and says something I can't quite make out ovr the rush of blood in my ears.
Summoning the last of my strength I scythe a kick into the back of her knees, catching her off guard for once as she tumbles to the mat. Forearms block my shin kick as I twist around acrobatically on the mat, but my ridge hand bloodies her mouth. Before I can recover from the attack strong hands grip my wrist and her body knives upward. I see it coming but I'm far to slow to stop her fram wrapping her legs around my arm and pressing back toward my body. I cry out again, a ragged scream as my shoulder dislocates.
Once more she backs away from me, not turning her back this time as she watches me carefully. Groaning in agony, I roll over on my face, trying to get my feet under me for a minute before through sheer force of will I'm finally able to stand, right arm hanging limp at my side. Our eyes meet for a long moment and I know she could kill me in an instant, but I have to show I'm not afraid of even her. Through the haze of pain I see her raise her hand to finish it when ... "ENOUGH!"
We both look over to Sensei, who stands, his body trembling with the effort "This is not necessary! You have what you wanted .. we .. we concede the match. You win." The last words are spat out, like a curse as he turns and walks from the dojo.
I was the last to remain in the changing room. I was wrapped in a towel, my bloody gi dumped in the wash basket. My wounds had been tended as best they could, but my shoulder was still white fire whenever I tried to move it and my head and ribs ached. I linger, eyes closed, resting on the bench to gather my strength, then I felt ... a presence. My eyes fly open and I see Shiva lounging on the bench, watching me closely. She murmurs softly "Too long to notice me, but you were hurt badly so it is forgivable."
I'm sure my blush must run to my toenails as I stare at her for a minute, like a foolish doe trapped in headlights. She reaches over to pull the towel down my body and lay it aside, sliding close to examine my body as I just sit there foolishly, eyes wide watching her.
A flash of pain floods my senses for a moment as she touches my shoulder, then without a word she wraps her arm around mine, her hand pressing down sharply on my shoulder. For a searing moment I bite back a scream, then the pain is gone. Not just reduced, gone. I stare into inscrutable eyes for a moment, then just as I am about to thank her, she lifted a fingertip to my lips and murmured
"Your form is pathetic, your training clumsy, your style beneath notice. Only your fighting spirit aroused my interest. It is possible you have the spirit to become a true martial artist. But the only way you will ever achieve your full potential is by accepting my training."
She pauses, her eyes holding mine as her hand now brushes over my cheek and she leans closer. Her lips poise before mine as I start to comprehend just how extensive my training will be. With a soft sigh I lean toward the kiss when ...
Sensei's shout breaks my daydream and I realize I missed the entire ritual pronouncemnt of my style's linage. My dream has left my cheeks red, my breath rapid, I could only hope they would mistake my condition for fear and not the truth. I crouched and faced Shiva, her eyes meeting mine, a knowing smile upon her lips as she walked toward me. A chill ran down my spine as I wondered if she knew my secret. I was surprised to realize I hoped she did, then I began as in my dream, a leaping side kick.