So this is a weird idea I had; a sort of self-contained world that draws inspiration from a ton of different things. There's not much more that can be said; I tried to establish the world's rules through the events and the characters. --- Part 1 "I completely forgot what time we were supposed to meet…“ I have a bad habit of talking to myself, though since I’m alone nobody can incriminate me for it. My eyes trail around the… Trail, walking along the forest path on the side of the mountain. It was a good thing we set this meeting place so close to the temple I had been visiting often lately, I would hate to head down south again from here. Especially after the training session I had last night… I can’t help but give a little shudder at the thought, my jaw still a little sore from the times I face-planted into the dirt. I look down at my hands, flexing my fingers as I walk to get them warmed up. Elementalists like me always get early hand problems, at least those of us who channel our energies through them. Sud on the other hand… I sighed lightly and quickened my pace, it was probably bad to keep whoever was waiting, waiting; assuming I actually was late. "Ahh, young one.” a half hour of walking passed before I heard the frail voice. I smiled, cresting a peak and standing atop a small hill. Before me was a divot in the earth, a good thirty or so feet across, mostly flat minus some jutting rocks, and covered in very short grass. I wondered to myself if this was natural, knowing our group I wouldn’t doubt if it wasn’t. “Ran Shaw. How are you?” I greeted the woman with our typical respective bow, my right thumb pressed into my left palm, held flat and straight vertical. She mirrored my salute as we bowed to each other, making the large phoenix seated on her shoulder ruffle its feathers, annoyed and giving a quiet caw. I smiled up to the majestic bird, almost as large as the old woman it used as a perch. “Hello to you too, Shu.” “YO! Liger!” I heard the voice call from the other side of our grounds, a taller man with long black hair, similar to mine actually, waved and walked briskly to me. “Roku! It’s been forever. Where were you last time?” I gave him a stern look with my serious voice, but couldn’t maintain it for long, smiling and offering my hand as he approached. He took it with his classic firm grip, pulling me in and wrapping his other arm around me in a manly hug. “Oh, you know how it is. Duty calls and all that. I tried to make it, I really did,” he give a laugh as we pulled apart. Roku was the only other elementalist in our group who was near my age, though he was still about two years older. He wasn’t quite as experienced as I was, only being able to use dual-nature manipulation, but his base lightning release was leagues above even my water release. I looked over his shoulder, finally getting a good grip on who all was here. Our group was one of the smaller elementalist gatherings in the world, a tight-knit one of about fourteen, not including Sifu Ran Shaw. It looked like there were twelve of us; I breathed a sigh, at least I wasn’t the last. “Yugoda and Kuruk have informed me that they shall not be joining us today. We may begin,” well that shot that down, my face turning to a deadpan look; I hope I didn’t make them wait too long. I didn’t get time to dwell though, as Sifu took her place in the center of the divot, the rest of us making a circle around her. I stood on one side of Roku, giving my friend a confident smile before looking to my other side, face dropping a little as a large, muscular man stood, grinning down at me. His thin but long beard framed his tough-looking face, as he cracked his rather large knuckles. “Didn’t think you’d make it, boy,” even his voice was tough. “…Had no reason not to, Sud,” my confidence waned, trying my best to keep it, but he could see right through me. He smiled a little condescending, but was mostly good about it. Sud and I had a… Rocky friendship. When I first joined the order about seven months ago, he was the one I was signed to as an apprentice, much to his dismay. Sud was primarily an earth user, that was his main affinity; and it showed in his stubbornness and determination. Unfortunately he was also quite fond of the element, to the point that he tried to make it mine. My affinity is water (something I only discovered after first joining), but everything he taught me was earth-based. Earth release is very strong, but very focused, it goes where it pleases to and is very stubborn to control. I managed to pick up some of it, mostly defensive, but I never really felt proper when trying to use the earth nature primarily. Being the chicken that I am though, I just went with it, developing it into instinct; it’s very hard to contest the instructions of a guy who’s an expert at throwing rocks at you. “We beckon the energies of the world,” Ran Shaw’s words jarred me, as we began our… Well I can’t really call it a ‘prayer’, since we aren’t really praying to anything. Creed is probably the better word. In unison, the twelve of us surrounding her took an aggressive stance. “The elements we channel." "Fire,” she spoke. All of us in our stance channeled our energies and with a motion, fired a burst of flame upward. I looked around, I really liked this part, everyone displaying their base elemental releases. Some flames were large and bright, those who had a natural fire affinity. Others were much smaller and wispier, elementalists with a wind affinity found fire difficult to breath as much life into. Our fire dissipated naturally, and we switched to our next stance, much less aggressive, very neutral. “Wind,” again, we summoned our energies and released, a gust of air shooting from our hands toward the sky. There were only two among us with the wind affinity, their release producing a loud booming gust, almost visible despite simply being air. I looked over at Roku’s, if I didn’t know better (which I did), it’d look like he wasn’t even doing anything. Roku’s natural affinity was lightning, so it was no wonder his wind release was rather weak. I knew he was trying though, and gave him a sure smile. We shifted our stances again, this one also fiercely aggressive. “Lightning,” the resounding noise was deafening, the charge of electricity shooting out of each of us. I watched Roku and the person on the other side of him him, a man we just called Sage, as their lightning arched the highest. They were our two primary lighning users, even though Sage was much more experienced than Roku, they loved to compete, every time we did our chant they would see who could get their lightning highest the quickest. We moved into the next set, as my face fell with a depressed sigh. I never look forward to this part… “Earth,” in our strong, sturdy stance we motioned our hands upward, summoning a cleft of earth on either side of us. I tried to focus as hard as I could, but the stone I called looked ragged, not structurally sound. I looked over to Sud, who of course was perfect. His pillars were clean and precise, their strength was evident in their pristine construction, making up for his lackluster lightning bolt in the previous release. He caught my gaze and grinned down, partly showing off, and partly giving me as much of an approving eye as he could. Although they looked weak, my release was the strongest I had ever done in the past. We moved into our last stance, making the earth we had called jut back from whence it came. Now this was my favorite part, as I took my elegant pose with the rest of the group. “Water,” we rose our hands, channeling our energy through them and released, water spraying gracefully into the air. Unlike the other elements that dissipated, we held the liquid suspended for a second. I got a little boost of confidence looking around, seeing that my release was the most substantial. I didn’t produce any more water than anyone else, but my globe seemed more pristine, calmer, with an unrivaled purity. After a short couple of seconds, we returned to our neutral pose, some in the group easing the water down to the ground, but me and the only other water affinity member present (Yugoda and Kuruk being the other two in the group) liked to show off a little, dissipating our globes in a graceful explosion of mist, letting it fall down on the group, a refreshing way to end our creed. “Welcome everyone. It is so good to see your faces again. I hope you have been well in recent days,” Ran Shaw spoke, her soothing, elderly voice calming us. Ran Shaw was one of the worlds strongest elementalists, one of the few that could combine all five natures at once, and even use them in the quint-nature releases. We all looked up to her; despite her great power and abilities, she was one of the kindest old ladies in the world. “I hope you have all been well?” She looks around, her warm face greeting all of us in turn. I give her a nod and a smile when she looks to me, thinking about the last couple of days. I was kind of dreading this event, but the last few days have more than made up for it, they had been some of the most interesting in recent memory. I had even gotten some training in, which I hoped would help me. “Well, shall we not waste any more time?” she turned to walk towards the raised side of the clearing, hoisting herself up the two or so feet to perch on it, Shu unfurling her wings and stretching. I smiled with a sweat-drop, knowing where this was going. “Sifu, I’d like to volunteer, since I was last last time,” as if on cue, Sud stepped forward, raising his hand. Ran Shaw met him with a kind gaze, giving her nod of approval. “Will you be testing your apprentice, or are you to spar again?” I folded my hands behind my back, secretly crossing my fingers and closing my eyes. 'Notmenotmenotme.' My inner chanting must’ve shown on my face a little, as I opened one eye cautiously to find Sud’s face just an inch away from mine, making me yelp and leap backwards in fright. His confident smirk pierced me. “I haven’t been able to meet with my apprentice in quite some time, I’d like to see what he’s learned in the past couple'a months,” I thought about trying to say something in protest, but I knew it would’ve been no use, I just sighed and drooped, resigning myself to my fate, and nodded in agreement. “Very well,” she said, motioning for the rest of the order to file out of the circle. They did so, Roku approaching me and putting a hand on my shoulder. He tried to give me a sure smile, but looking at my apprehension must’ve rubbed off on him. “Don’t be so worried, you got this!” I could tell it was a little out there, but I gave a shaky smile in return. He jogged over to stand next to Sage, who gave me a thumbs up. I sighed and turned toward the center of the circle, Sud had already taken his place on the opposite side. For someone who used earth, a very not-subtle element, he sure got around quickly and silently. I guess I should be used to it though, with the events that have transpired in the last week or so. “So! I hope you’ve been keeping up with your training!” he called over to me, louder than was probably needed. I flashed him a smile, not nearly as confident as his. “Yeah… I found a training partner and everything,” he looked at me for a second with a kind of curious eyebrow before bursting into laughter. I looked at him back curiously, wondering what the heck had gotten into him when I realized that my face was a little warm, I touched my cheek and realized I was blushing. I shook my head and slapped my cheeks gently, trying to get the blood out of them, and trying not to make it worse with embarrassment. “I see… Well, show me!” he takes his strong stance, and I mirror him without thinking, as we stare each other down. Although we’re in the same pose, his demeanor is much sturdier, stronger, as if his aura itself was solidifying his body. I heard the ruffle of feathers, Shu preparing to signal the beginning.“ We stood in silence, my master’s eyes piercing straight through into my own. I tried to hold myself with even a shred of the same kind of confidence, which sort of worked, at least I wasn’t shaking. The air hung as the phoenix’s wings stayed outstretched for what felt like an eternity. With a quick noise she pulled them together, a flash of light as her orange plumage caught the suns rays, that beckoned our beginning. At the same second we both moved in different ways, him throwing his hands forward, and me shifting them upwards. Sud was powerful, but he was decently predictable. I summoned the strongest sheet of earth at my left side, raising it to my chest height. At that same second I felt his release collide with it, a sturdy bolder flattening itself into the makeshift wall. The force of his strike was stronger than my defense, but just barely, as my wall crumbled and the boulder tried to fall on me, luckily having lost enough momentum for me to easily leap to the side, out of the way as it fell to the ground. I gave a sigh of relief in my head, I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to do that. "Not bad, boy. Better than last time at least,” he teased me lightly, but gave me no quarter; as soon as he spoke he began his motions, shifting his arms around precisely. The boulder I had just dodged, as well as the stone I had used for my own defense stirred with life, breaking into shards and quickly launching themselves at me. I had a millisecond to dodge, not enough time not to get hit though, some of the sharp shards tearing through the bottoms of my robes. I winced as a few of them caught my skin, luckily nothing too deep, but pain was pain, it still wasn’t fun. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t noticed that in my dodge I had lept forward, closer to Sud. My eyes moved forward at the last second to notice the large man begin charging at me. His muscular legs and feet began to absorb the earth with each step, coating themselves in the rock to form stone grieves. I gasped and, on instinct lifted a sheet of stone between he and I, trying to throw my weight backwards. As soon as I erected the wall though, a rock came crashing through it, connected to a muscled leg. Sud grinned in his attack, using the stone I had formed to attach to his sole, giving the kick more weight and momentum. Even in my motion backwards, he connected solidly to my chest with the force of a stampeding boar. The wind was completely knocked out of me as I flew backwards a few feet, sliding against the torn grass, gasping for breath. “Come on boy! You gotta think quicker than that. I don’t want this to be another one-attack test,” his words were punctuated by a slam of his stone boot on the ground, perching his arms on his leg as he looked down at me. It took me a second to comprehend his words, continuing to gasp desperately for the breath that had left me. I didn’t want to stay down for that long, knowing he would probably think I was open to the finishing attack, so I clutched my chest and stood shakily. I centered my breathing, using my energy to bring my body back into appropriate balance; something I had learned quite a bit about in the past few days at the temple. 'Damnit Liger. Stop thinking on instinct like that. She said it was no use to focus on your earth release against a superior opponent. You have to change your intuition.’ I told myself, getting all the way to my feet and centering my energy. I looked up to Sud, his eyes narrowing and his smirk widening. He must’ve noticed my pose, a bout of confidence I hadn’t shown lately. “It looks like your training has been paying off… Must’ve found yourself a good partner,” I didn’t let his words phase me, taking a water-based stance. He responded with a slam of his foot to the ground, shaking the earth off it, and using it to ripple the ground toward me in a quick line. I was ready though, leaping to one side. 'Fire is swift and water is powerful. You don’t need defense if you cannot be hit’ The words echoed in my head as I ran in a little circle around to his side. He followed me of course, kicking his foot forward, launching any remaining rocks next to his leg straight at me. I clapped my hands together and quickly gathered my energy, blue and red glows emanating from around them as I pointed my palms toward the stones. Globs of viscous liquid, almost gel shot forth and caught all the rocks, covering them and allowing me to use my control over the substance to slow them to a halt, hanging them in the air. “Ahh, oil release. One of your strong suits. Pretty good,” his smirk was met with mine, as I pushed my hands forward to launch the stones back at him, changing the properties of the oil as I did to make it much less viscous, more like actual oil as it spilled off the rocks and onto the ground. He used just one hand to stop each of the stones, not like I really expected that attack to actually -do- anything, it did give me the chance to make my own action. I again brought my hands together, the glow of energy returning, but this time I pulled them apart with great force, a loud hissing sound emanating as I did. A steam filled the area around me, and very quickly dispersed around the entire field. It was a fine mist, not terribly hot or thick, but enough to haze the battlefield slightly, although we could still see each other fine, it was much harder to pinpoint parts of the body. One thing I had learned in my fighting of my master was that he liked to cripple parts of the body, even if that part was the chest with a swift earth-kick. “Yeah! Using vapor to shroud the field,” Roku’s excited voice barely caught my ears. I’m sure if he thought for a bit he’d probably know where I got the idea for that from, though it wasn’t nearly as elegant or useful; pure invisibility would be nice but I’m not that good. “HAHA! Good work boy! Now this is a test!” Sud’s booming voice called out, as he made a quick motion to summon some larger rocks from his side, finding me in the mist and attacking. I took a stance and repeated my previous process, grunting a little as it was harder to stop the larger rocks with the gloppy oil. I left it suspended for a second, not able to put forth a reasonable amount of energy to use my oil to launch them back, I gave each stone a quick tap, infusing it with my own power to split it into smaller chucks, using them to counterattack. Again the oil slipped off the stone surface, but some of it remained as Sud blocked each rock with deft motions. I took the opportunity to sprint in a radial around him, to his side; not really expecting to lose his eye, but I wanted a different vantage point. He said nothing as he repeated his process, summoning the large stones and sending them careening at me. And again, I repeated as well, covering them in my oil release to stop them, breaking them apart and sending them back, making sure the oil slipped off as much as possible before it reached him. We continued the attack, stop, counter, run cycle at least two more times before I heard him grunt in annoyance. “Come on boy, I thought this was going to be a good fight. You’re not gonna do anything by trying to attack me with those little rocks,” I didn’t respond, afraid that my stint of confidence would break if I opened my mouth. Instead I just stood there, watching him as best I could through the vaporous fog. I heard him sigh, turning to face me. As he did, I made a downward motion, channeling energy into the area around me, though with little visible effect. “Fine.” Was all he said before he struck up a charge, again summoning the earth to his feet in his momentum. Before he took his second step though, he let out a sudden shocked noise as his charge faltered, and that’s when my confidence really showed. I gave a little chuckle, which was met with a scoff from my opponent. I could tell he was annoyed, looking around our battlefield at the slick oil-covered grass and torn ground. There were very few spots that weren’t soaked in the substance, even some of the stones we had been slinging at each other were still covered. Although it wasn’t thick enough for me to control what it was on, it served its slick purpose. It was time to go on the offensive, as I threw my arms back and charged forward, focusing intently not only on my target, but also my element manipulation, using my energy to clear the ground of oil as I stepped, making sure I wouldn’t slip. He noticed me charge and took his earth defensive stance, which I knew he would do. Something he didn’t know was how to take such a solid stance on non-solid ground, as I approached him to his side and threw a punch, he turned to block me, but his foot caught the oil and he slipped, allowing my attack to connect cleanly with his side. I wasn't physically stronger than him by any means, but a punch to the ribs is still a punch to the ribs. He reeled from my punch, using the momentum to shift into his own attack. I raised my hands, unable to dodge, but thinking quickly I summoned oil from around my feet to me, covering the ground and my own feet with it. His punch collided, but instead of taking the full force, a lot of the momentum was transferred to the slick liquid, sending me sliding backwards quickly. The attack hurt sure, but with his normal strength, had I’ve taken any more of that I’d be down for the count. I shook the pain from my arms, but didn’t give him any time, charging forward again, dispersing the oil in my foot’s path. He tried a different aspect this time, using a bit of stone in his hand as I drew close to try to smash me with. Raising a hand, I covered it in the oil and shot it up at his hand, covering them both with the substance and making the rock slip out of his grasp. I used the opening to get a bit of a leap, sending my knee square into his stomach. I saw his pained face as he reeled backwards, me taking a few steps back as well to put a bit of distance between us. I hadn’t winded him, but I sure caught him off guard, he had a hand on his stomach. “Well… This is most... enlightening,” he was a little short of breath, maybe I did wind him a bit; I didn’t think I had the body mass to do that. I thought about responding, but again didn’t want to give him the time or a reason to shake me from my focus. I didn’t know how much longer I could keep this up, being on the attack while also manipulating my steps was getting taxing, and energy reserves was never my strong suit. I decided to go in for a final strike, starting a dash forward. As I did, I brought my hands to my chest, a dull purple glow emanating from them. The mist that surrounded us began drawing itself in quickly as I charged, using my vapor release to pull the element into my palms, compacting the energy. He didn’t take long to react, doing a similar thing himself. His hand shined against the sun rays that were becoming clearer thanks to me absorbing the haze. I recognized that dull gray color, he was using his metal release; he was going for his own final attack. I should’ve known, he loved this kind of showdown stuff. The gap between us closed as we both finished our preparations, his hand covered in a layer of steel, my orb of vapor energy spiraling in my right palm. We approached and thrust forward our attacks, both smirking with confidence. It was like we were on the both wavelength, in addition to our attacks, we both used our free hand to manipulate little bits of oil at the last second under each others’ feet. I had completely forgotten that despite Sud's proficiency with earth and natural difficulty with water, he was still a part of the elementalist order, and could in fact manipulate the nature. It seemed that neither of us had counted on slipping, we were both banking on the other being the one to miss. His heavier body weight proved to be both a blessing and a curse though, as he basically fell onto my attack, but at the same instance falling his iron fist onto me, straight into the side of my head. The collision was strong, almost earth shattering. The nature of my attack was much more complicated than his, as the vapor release does. As soon as the orb connected with his body it exploded in a flash of mist, scalding his skin and providing a concussive force that launched him backwards. Too bad for me it didn’t launch him before his own attack hit, slamming into the side of my head with immeasurable force. I was sent back in the opposite direction, blood launching out of my mouth as my sight vanished. I could barely feel the rest of my body as I skipped and slid across the ground, finally coming to a stop crumpled against the area’s short wall. I was far too dazed to hear the gasps of the onlookers, but I could still think, albeit very painfully. The world seemed to pound loudly in my ears as I lay there, very slowly having my vision return to me. The only thought I could manage was attempting to center myself, to try to use my energy as best I could to get myself into a functioning state. One of the benefits of a water affinity is the ability to sort of heal yourself internally; when your jarred, you can use your ability with water to sort of calm your physical energy, like stilling a pond. It took me a moment, but my vision and most of my senses returned to me, I could feel the blood trickling down from the side of my head where his steel knuckle connected. I didn’t yet get up, but I looked across the clear field to see Sud, actually in a similar state to me. The attack seemed to be doing its job; his skin causing him a great deal of pain, hampering his movement, and the shock of the explosive force having completely sapped the air from his lungs, and probably the stability of his energy. In addition, he was completely covered in the oil he had slid across, but then again so was I. I didn’t think that far though, my cognitive functions were on instinct, I was in a fight, and I needed to finish it. I slowly rose to my feet, very slowly, but sooner and quicker than Sud was, still gasping for air and writing against the pain of his skin. I could barely think, most of the thoughts I tried to have returned as pain, but I was up and moving, and wanted to finish this. I didn’t want to kill him; I wasn’t that far gone, but I had another trick up my sleeve to seal my victory. With a deep wince, making my whole body buckle, I manipulated my energy, the glowing in my hands taking on a bright orange, almost white. I pressed them together carefully before slowly pulling them apart in an arc above my head. Between my palms I summoned a special energy, an element I had only recently just discovered. It was fire, yes, but it behaved like water, dripping pure flame droplets from the stream that hovered above me. The liquid fire twisted and turned exactly like flaming water would, shakily because of my lack of control. “Corona release…” I could barely make out a voice to my side, one of the natural fire affinity elementalists commented with suppressed excitement. Controlling the element above me felt so heavy, it felt like a hundred gallons of water when it was but a little stream. With difficulty, I began to wave my hands as though I were controlling any other water. “That’s enough!” a surprisingly stern voice stopped my in my tracks, eliciting a chilling fear through my wracked body. I slowly turned my surprised eyes towards Sifu Ran Shaw, her hand raised in protest and her closed eyes stern; my breathing heavy as I split what little focus I had between the old woman and my manipulation. “That is enough, Liger. I believe you have earned your victory.” She gave me a warm smile, waving her hand lightly to pull the fire easily from my mental grasp, dissipating it on the way. The relief of not having to control it washed over me as I collapsed to my knees, hands planted on the floor in my broken state. I heard the rush of the group, some coming to my side, some going to Sud’s. “Holy crap that was amazing!” Roku excitedly put a hand on my back, slapping me a little hard, making me yelp. He looked at me apologetically, but I returned his gesture with a smile, though the blood trickling down from my head kind of gashed the confidence I tried to show. “That… Was pretty good… Liger,” I looked forward, still breathing heavily as I looked up to Sud, being walked over using Sage and another person for leverage. He hand his hand over the wound my attack left, his entire chest a deep red, and even the rest of his body a light burned crimson. I gave him a little laugh, weakly raising my hand to offer it. He motioned with his head, the two helping him lowering him down so we could shake hands, both gripping weakly, but proudly. “I guess… That training… Has been pretty good for you…” I couldn’t really speak, my mind still wracked, but I managed another laugh, a blush tinging the red already present in my cheeks. “Liger… I must say that was excellent. Much more improvement than I have seen in recent times,” the crowd split as Sifu walked up to me, her trademark smile on her face. She reached over her shoulder and plucked at her phoenix's tail, Shu giving a caw in protest, looking down to her with a fierce glare. We all gave a lighthearted chuckle, but subsided as she offered the large pinion to me, taking it with confidence. “Congratulations.” I admired the oversized feather, the beautiful orange plumage, it almost glowing against the sun’s light. The group began to applaud gently, as I smiled sheepishly around to them all. “Now come on, let’s get you cleaned up.” Roku hoisted me onto my feet and plucked the pinion from my hand, planting it in my long hair and walking me off the battlefield.