Flower petals shouldn't be falling here. Mai knew something was wrong the moment she saw red and blue petals blowing around her. For one, it was in the middle of summer, flowers wouldn't be blooming this time of year. More importantly, there wasn't a tree in sight near the river bridge. And the petals… red and blue. She knew those petals.
Mai turned around, seeing two familiar faces. The white haired and blue haired martial arts Phantoms she had faced months ago with Haruhiko and sealed… or so she thought. "You two!" She jumped back, hands raised in knife-like fashion.
"Mai Kawakami," The blue haired one repeated.
"We've returned to challenge you," The white haired one finished.
Mai stared at them both. There was something different about them. She didn't feel any malice from their words. Another challenge… She smirked. They did say they'd fight me again one day. Didn't think it'd be this soon. "A rematch, huh?" The two nodded.
"We've both trained hard these past few months. We wish to test the fruits of our labor." The blue haired one said.
Mai took a step forward. They weren't attacking innocent people for her attention, and this was an official challenge rather than picking a fight. The two were a lot less hostile now it seemed. Plus, she could see there was a fire in their eyes, a desire to win. This might be a bit harder without Haruhiko to help but… well, I doubt he'd be of help this time anyway. It had been awhile since she had a true battle as a fighter. "Fine by me, bring it on!"
The blue haired phantom stepped forward. "Very well, I shall go first."
Mai rose an eye. "Not both at once like last time?"
She shook her head. "You can't complain if we beat you in a fair, one-on-one fight." She took her stance, a much more unorthodox one than the last time they fought. She was swaying from side to side, almost like she was messily dancing.
"Aren't we cocky…" Despite her sarcasm, Mai was relived to know that. Taking on two or more of the more bestial phantoms was one thing, but humanoid Phantoms skilled in martial arts would had been difficult.
"I'll be the referee," The white-haired one walked between the two, looking at Mai, then the blue-haired Phantom. "Is that alright?"
"Yeah, that's fine." Mai said, the other Phantom nodding in agreement.
"Very well…" The white-haired Phantom rose a hand. "The winner will be decided by either knockout, surrender, or if I deem a side unable to fight back." She gave one last look at the two before bringing her hand down. "Begin!"
Mai went for the first strike, throwing a palm strike at the Phantom's face. She dodged it, tipping back to move out of the way and nailing Mai in the gut with her foot as she fell. Mai reeled from the hit, getting her balance back quick. She stared at the girl with a raised eye. What the- The Phantom fell on her back, as if relaxing on the ground. Oh no you don't! Mai shook off the pain and went in for a stomp to her face, but-
"Wha-" The Phantom hooked her legs around Mai's and forced her to the ground, rolling up onto her back awhile holding her leg for a boston crab. "A-Aaaah!" It was like the phantom was trying to break her leg, her back touching Mai's. Her flexibility was probably the one thing keeping her leg intact right now.
"Do you surrender, Mai Kawakami?" The white-haired phantom walked over to Mai, checking out her leg.
"You don't? The blue-haired phantom released Mai's leg and hopped off her, returning to her swaying stance. Mai rose as well, noting the soreness in her foot. She looked at the blue-haired phantom's movements. "Drunken… Boxing?"
"Indeed," She smiled, staggering about, throwing out quick swipes and kicks at the air. "I'm still a novice, but…" She grabbed Mai's arm, pulling her in for an elbow to the face. "I'm certain I can best you."
"Gah!" Mai scowled, letting out a huff as she rose again. She wiped her nose, seeing blood along her elbow.
"Do you wish to continue, Mai Kawakami?" The white-haired Phantom spoke up again.
Mai sucked in a sharp breath and changed her stance, her hands now in a more open and relaxed position. "Yeah, I can keep going," She swung her leg low, hitting the Phantom's shin and making her kneel. She followed with a kick to the face and tackled her to the ground, slamming her head into the girl's for a hard-hitting headbutt. A bit ruthless, but she couldn't hold back.
"Aaah!" The phantom covered her face, squirming about to dull the pain. Mai stood, forcing the phantom to her feet along with her and nailing her with four punches to the stomach before hurling her to the ground again.
"There, we're even now," Mai catch her breath, rolling her shoulders.
"Yes… we are…" The blue-haired phantom rose to her feet, retaking her stance. It still looked unbalanced, but Mai was sure it was moreso due to the damage she took than her style now.
"Can you continue, Hinata" The white-haired Phantom asked.
Mai rose an eye. "So Hinata's your name?"
"Yes, Hinata Ayaka." She said, circling Mai. "Now, do you still wish to fight? Or are we going chat instead?"
Mai smirked, slamming a fist into an open palm. "Yeah yeah, it's one-to-one. Let's have the tiebreaker."
"Agreed," Hinata rushed forward, ducking under Mai's palm strike and hitting her with two messy uppercuts to her stomach and chin than had her double over. Hinata followed by grabbing Mai by the arm and bending it back at she tipped herself over atop Mai's back, sending them both to the ground.
"Aaaah!" It felt like something snapped in her arm. Hopefully it was just dislocated, but the pain had her stunned, she couldn't move. The white-haired Phantom rushed over to the two.
"Mai Kawakami is unable to continue, Hinata Ayaka is the winner."
Hinata rolled off Mai, offering her a hand up.
"Thanks," She took the hand and pulled herself up. "That was a good fight, you've gotten better."
"Thank you," Hinata nodded. "Are you going to be alright?" She pointed at Mai's arm.
"Yeah, it's just kind of sore," She rolled her shoulder around, wincing as she did so. Thankfully, it wasn't dislocated, a testament to Mai's flexibility. "I'll live,"
"Very well," Hinata took a step back, giving a small bow. "Thank you for the match, Mai Kawakami."
"Yeah, no problem…"
Neither girl said anything for awhile. Mai took a moment to recover with Hinata's help, massaging her arm stopping her bloody nose. After some time, the white-haired Phantom spoke up.
"If you're feeling up to it, is it alright if I faced you next?"
Mai paused, double checking her arm. It was still sore, but she could still fight. "Yeah," Mai said. "I can still keep going."
"Thank you." The white-haired phantom walked over to the grass area of the river, stretching and warming up. Mai did the same.
"So, do you have a name too?" She asked.
"Ah yes, I'm Sakura Ayaka," The white-haired phantom gave a small bow. "Thank you for facing me."
"Uh-huh…" Mai glanced back at Hinata. "So are you two sisters?"
Sakura shook her head. "No, we were just born in the same place." She paused. "I guess it's more accurate to say we don't feel like sisters."
"Huh…" Didn't think Phantoms would categorize themselves like that.
"I'll be the referee then," Hinata walked between the two of them. "The same rules apply, win by knockout, submission, or if I say otherwise."
Sakura took her stance now, this one springier than the Hinata. Jeet Kun Do. Mai instantly recognized it.
"Are you both ready?"
Lightning-fast punches nailed Mai's face the moment Hinata lowered her hand. She swore something got cut.
"Wa-tah!" Two kicks hit Mai's shin. "Hah-tah!" Three punches hit Mai's stomach, and when Mai tried to strike back- "Hah!" Sakura grabbed Mai's fist, pushing it aside before slamming her backhand into Mai's face that had her flat on her back.
She let out a gasp. This wasn't as confusing as Hinata's Drunken Boxing, but it was much harder to react to.
"Can you continue, Mai Kawakami?" Hinata asked.
"Yeah," Mai hopped back to her feet, shaking her hands. "I can still fight."
Hinata nodded. "Very well," She brought her hand down. "Continue!"
Sakura came forward again, but Mai was ready. She sidestepped out of Sakura's lightning-fast punch, quickly grabbing her fist and punched her hard in the stomach in return, throwing her to the ground. Mai didn't relent, stomping hard on Sakura's throat and getting a sickening cough from her in return as she clutched her windpipe, squirming about on the ground. Hinata ran over to Sakura, shaking her head.
"Sakura Ayaka is unable to continue, Mai Kawakami is the winner."
Mai let out a sigh, stretching her back out. "Man, that was tough." She walked over to Sakura to help her up. At first, she glared at Mai, but reluctantly took her hand.
"Thanks…" She muttered.
"Don't mind her, she's always a sore loser." Hinata said, earning an elbow jab from Sakura. "You did well Sakura, that was a good match." Sakura let out a huff, but said nothing against it.
"Well, at least one of us got our revenge, so I suppose I'll just train harder."
"Yeah, you do that." Mai nodded, patting Sakura's shoulder. "It's been awhile since I was pushed this hard, so feel free to challenge me again."
"Hmhmhm…" Hinata started laughing.
"What's so funny?" Mai asked.
"Nothing, I just didn't think we'd be on friendly terms already, that's all."
Mai gave a sheepish smile. "Well, you guys are actually having fun this time fighting me." She scratched the back of her head. "And… well, I still feel kind of bad for roughhousing with you two when we were kids, so I don't mind if you guys want some payback every now and then."
Sakura gave a sly smile. "Good, because I definitely still want revenge for today's loss."
"Heh, yeah. Maybe tomorrow we can do this again, it's summer break after all."
"Ah yes, you teenage humans do get time off this time of year." Hinata smiled. "Let's meet up somewhere else. We're bound to the river, but we can be within a two-mile radius of it."
"The place I train at isn't to far from here, and there's a Chinese restaurant nearby."
"That sound good." Hinata smiled, taking Sakura by the hand. "We can train together for the rest of the day and eat."
"Sounds like a plan!" Mai grinned. "C'mon, I'll race you to the restaurant." She took a running start past the bridge, Sakura right behind her.
"I won't lose to you twice Mai Kawakami!"
"Hey you two, wait up!"