Rui had been going at a jogging pace for the last ten minutes, and Aoi was staying right on her heels. She wasn't going to be outdone by this irritating monk, though she had to admit she was nearing her limit. A jog across her hometown or the beach this was not. Mountain hikes were definitely a different animal. Going on an incline was hard enough, but Aoi was starting to really feel the lack of oxygen as they went higher and higher. Breathing was becoming a challenge now.
"I'm surprised your keeping up, islander." Rui said, her own breath growing short.
"Like I'd let you overtake me so easily," Aoi shot back.
A few more minutes jogging later and Aoi finally saw a temple in the distance. The two stopped once at the end of the stairway leading to it, both bent over and gasping for air. Aoi was silently grateful the jog had taken a lot out of Rui as well. Both were a gasping, panting mess, Rui dropping to her knees after a minute passed, giving Aoi the excuse to drop as well.
"How can… a mere commoner… keep up with me?" Rui asked through pants.
"I'm not… just some… commoner…" Aoi shot back.
Rui gave Aoi a glare, still panting, then sat on the stairs. Aoi followed suit. A temporary truce before the battle began, along with some a needed break from the run.
Aoi looked at the temple behind her. It was surprisingly small given all the monks Rui had sent to fight her. She had expected to see a much larger place, but the buildings were small. The main temple at the entrance, and a few buildings off near the cliffs of the mountain. Between the buildings was what looked like a small garden area for crops, and sort of offering box right outside the temple gates, likely a place for locals to donate supplies to the monks. It was… humble, ironically enough, given all of Rui's boasting.
"Impressed, aikido girl?" She pulled out her fan, fanning the sweat from her face then gesturing to the temple behind her. "This is the glorious Zhu Que Temple! A place of diligence, effort, steeling one's mind and body! Truly the greatest temple in all of China!"
Rui stopped fanning herself for a moment before immediately catching herself. "Of course! Only a braggart would want to live in a palace! We're here to train and study, not flaunt out extravagance!"
Aoi frowned. Every word that came out of your mouth feels very hypocritical. She let out a huff, saying nothing on the matter. "Regardless, it is a nice place."
"Indeed…" Rui slowed in her fanning, looking down the pathway. "This place was a lot nicer before the city was built."
Rui stopped fanning herself. "The city was built about 10 years ago, right when I first came to the temple." She said, closing her fan. "Have you heard about the 'ghost cities' in China?"
"A little," Aoi had heard of a few articles on the topic after Smith mentioned this city in particular, but nothing more. She only knew of the existence of them.
"Well, originally this temple was just a Shaolin temple in the rural area, but as the city was being built a lot of the farmers and original residents didn't want to stay, so they left. When the city finished construction about 3 years ago the place was basically empty. I don't know the details, but not as many people moved in as some officials had expected. They said our temple would be a great tourist attraction, but…" She let out a sigh. "I know Shaolin temples are popular places, but I don't like the idea of putting on a show for random foreigners. I was raised here to learn martial arts and Buddhism, not prance around like a clown."
"I don't think Buddhism teaches you to call people commoners and send your friends after me because you can't work a device,"
"Hush," Rui pointed her fan at Aoi, letting out a scoff. "You and your sponsors are the main reason I didn't want to come down from the mountain."
Aoi rose an eye.
"The cameras," She said. "I don't like my fighting style being filmed. Some Shaolin temples are fine with it, we aren't." Rui gestured her fan toward the temple. "My temple doesn't have an cameras or recording equipment, I made sure your sponsors complied with that."
"I see…" That was somewhat a relief. At least this fight wouldn't cause a huge amount of attention outside of witness reports, and it seemed only her, Rui, and the other monks would be seeing this fight.
"In any case," Rui stood up. "I'll guide you to our battlefield."
The two walked around the temple, several other monks greeting and bowing to Rui. She greeted the monks in turn and walked inside the temple. Getting a better look at the place from the inside it was just as nice. Clean halls, monks meditating or practicing forms in secluded areas, an overall quiet atmosphere. The place was picturesque, almost disturbingly so.
"This place is surprisingly nice." Aoi admitted. Rui only gave a satisfied hum.
"Of course!" She said with pride. "And this is only a small section of the place. Now then, this way." The two walked to an open space at the edge of the mountain, rocky cliffs around them. Rui stopped, turning to Aoi. "Like I said, there are no camera's or anything like that here." Rui said.
"That's fine," Aoi replied. "I'm here to answer a challenge, nothing more."
"My, I'm surprised the cheerleader has a bit a pride as a fighter." Rui said, smirking. "Don't be too upset when I break you like the rest." She took her fighting stance. "Face me if you dare, commoner."
Aoi stared at Rui, examining her stance. Hands in a unique, claw-like form, legs apart, and eyes focused. She smiled, taking a stance as well. "Very well,"
The two began to circle each other, ready to pounce at a moment's notice.
Rui struck first, grabbing Aoi's arm and wrapping her leg around it, dragging her to the ground and punching her face hard. Stars soared around Aoi's head, but she fought her fading consciousness, squirming under Rui's tight grip. "I could break your arm right know, just so you know." She said, putting pressure on Aoi's shoulder. "Well, it wouldn't be fun to break you like that." She released Aoi, kicking her in the stomach before backing away. Aoi rose to her feet, glaring at Rui. "C'mon, little cheerleader."
Aoi sucked in a sharp breath, inching forward. She feinted a strike to Rui's neck, her hands down and slamming her palms into Rui's stomach instead. Rui doubled over, and Aoi slammed her elbow into the back of her neck to knock her down. She didn't wait, grabbing Rui's arm, twisting it, and stomped hard on her shoulder before letting go. Rui let out a short cry, writhing on the ground as she clutched her shoulder.
"Care to surrender?" Aoi asked. "You didn't break my arm, so I only dislocated your shoulder as thanks."
Rui looked up at Aoi, glaring. "You wish!" She shot her foot out, hooking it under Aoi's ankle and yanking her down. Aoi was flat on her back, dazed only for a moment before Rui mounted her.
"Look at that." She said, sneering. "Me above you, as it should b-" Aoi slammed her palm under Rui's chin, pushing her off and rolling back.
Aoi then dove right on top of her, wrapping her arm behind her neck while using her other to apply pressure, choking her. It was more of a judo move than an aikido one, but something Aoi learned through her training. Rui struggled and squirmed throughout, flailing about and loosening Aoi's hold until she violently shook Aoi off, pushing her to the side and jumping to her feet, gasping for breath. Aoi didn't leave her time to rest, grabbing her ankle pulling her back down, immediately flipping Rui on her stomach and pulling back her grabbed foot, standing herself and holding Rui's thigh down with her own foot.
Rui screamed and squirmed, but Aoi maintained her hold, pulling and stretching Rui's leg awhile longer before releasing it, finishing with a hard stomp to the back. Aoi took a step back to catch her breath.
"Had enough?" Aoi asked.
"Please…" Rui rose to her feet, dusting her shirt. "Don't get a swelled head from a few decent grapples, islander. I've only gotten started."