The Way of Air: Opportunity

Xaldin's comments from their last match still rankled in Saix's mind. Critically flawed attack style, he'd said. Would never hold up against a true master fighter. Left gaps big enough for an elephant to get through. The worst part was, when Saix had tried to objectively analyze his attack style himself, he'd found all those weaknesses Xaldin had pointed out staring him in the face.

Not anymore. He'd spent every spare moment of the past two months carefully working out every weak spot in his attack, so that where Xaldin had claimed an elephant would get through, not even an ant could. And he'd made sure not to make the mistake of eliminating his current weaknesses and opening up even greater ones by accident - if he'd been that foolish, Xaldin would never let him forget it.

He was looking forward to making the Whirlwind Lancer eat his own words.

Xaldin was already waiting for him at the training arena, one lance in each hand and the other four hovering around him, suspended in the air. There was no need for any sort of formality; they just bowed slightly to each other, Saix summoned his claymore, and the fight began.

The whole point of a fight was to focus on and defeat your opponent's fighting style, but Saix couldn't help but notice how he'd improved as the battle progressed - he didn't waste so much time on follow-through, he left his chest exposed to attack far less often, he parried blows far more quickly and effectively -

He suddenly found himself with a spearpoint at his throat and no idea how it might have gotten there.

"Well, there won't be any more elephants getting around your attacks," Xaldin said in an almost smug tone. "Now you'll have to work on eliminating all those gaps big enough for a lance to get through."

Saix was going to have that advice ringing in his head for a very long time.


The Way of Earth: Resilience

When Foriuxocol had tried to sound the other Neophytes about the Organization's training regimen, Demyx had been remorselessly enthusiastic in singing Lexaeus's praises. He couldn't imagine a better fighting trainer for an undersized, frightened kid who knew absolutely nothing about fighting, even how to defend himself. Lexaeus was endlessly patient, never screamed at you or threatened you if you were slow to learn something or were having a bad day, didn't drive you past your limits just for the sake of showing you what it was like to be driven past your limits (though if you wanted to drive yourself past your limits, he wouldn't stop you unless you were bound to hurt yourself), never forced you to train injured but always helped you get back in shape after an injury, pointed out your weaknesses in a way that didn't make you feel stupid but did make you want to do whatever it took to overcome them...

The list went on for a while, but Fori had stopped listening around that point. Unlike Demyx, he was coming in with years of practical fighting experience; in the dog-eat-dog world of the Nexus, either you were a fighter or you were dog meat. Lucioforo had always been at a serious disadvantage because of his small stature, and never liked the idea of being dog meat, so he'd taken up martial arts at a very early age indeed; now Fori could reliably set people twice his size or more on their asses. He wondered just what Lexaeus would make of that.

Well, he was about to find out.

Fori sized the man up thoughtfully - sure, he'd known Lexaeus was easily the biggest person in the Organization, but somehow he seemed so much bigger in the training arena. Well, he was probably smaller than some of the Infernal Behemoths among the Pirates of R'lyeh, and he could definitely knock one of those over... "What sort of fighting experience do you have?" Lexaeus asked mildly.

Fori was tempted to start rattling off a list of every martial art he'd ever studied - tae kwon do, karate, judo, eskrima, krav maga, etcetera - but instead he just gave the giant a confident smirk and said "Lots."

Lexaeus just raised an eyebrow. "All right...show me what you know."

Fori blinked. "Just like that?" Lexaeus nodded and smiled gently, holding his arms out to show he was unarmed and would offer no resistance.

All right. This old man was about to get the pounding of his life.

When you were five feet tall and never weighed more than a hundred pounds, and rarely had any weapon but your own body, you learned to get in disabling strikes right away so your opponent would have as little chance to counterattack as possible. Fori started with a flawless Savate de Rue coup de pied bas, a wicked kick designed to break an opponent's leg, ducked and whirled inward to avoid a counter that wasn't actually coming, and followed it up with a textbook Ba Ji elbow strike straight to the man's gut. He spent the next several minutes demonstrating everything he knew about every martial art he knew, relentlessly and mercilessly, until he was about to drop from exhaustion; only then did he look up to see what kind of carnage he'd wreaked.

Lexaeus's gentle smile was positively infuriating. "Feel free to hit me again...it might hurt this time."

He raised an eyebrow at Fori's vocal response. "You'll have to learn to curb that kind of language if you're going to be working with Vexen."


The Way of Fire: Relentlessness

Marluxia had had enough. Axel, the arrogant bastard, had gone one step too far - the endless jabs and insults were bad enough, but then bedding Larxene, and all but bragging about it at breakfast the next morning - dammit, by all that was ever held holy, that woman was meant to be his and his alone! And then when she showed open preferance for the idiot pyromaniac, hanging around him for no purpose other than to rub it in Marluxia's face...pouting seductively at Axel with one side of her face and sneering at Marluxia with the other...

Well, this fight would show once and for all who was the better man. He intended to give Axel exactly no chance at all to defend himself - by the end of this battle, there wouldn't be so much as a streak of soot left on the floor to indicate Axel had ever existed. And there was more at stake than the artificial affections of one woman, tempting though she was - with Axel gone, Marluxia would effectively be Number Eight. Sure, he would technically be Number Ten, but Demyx was too meek and timid to be any sort of threat or challenge, and Luxord too shallow and hedonistic. All he'd have to do was intimidate Demyx and bluff Luxord, and he would as good as outrank both.

First things first, though. He had to get rid of Axel.

When the match was over, he'd just call it an accident, or say his powers slipped his control. After all, no one knew for sure whether he could direct his plants to wrap around a man's throat, or if they just did so by chance.

"All right - weapons out," Xigbar called down from the ceiling; Axel and Marluxia obediently summoned their weapons, their gazes locked on each other. "Go!"

Before Marluxia could even try to conjure so much as a sprout, the arena filled with flame. Coughing and choking on the smoke, he tried to summon a defensive wall of lush, succulent plants, that could withstand the flames just long enough to let him summon tough woody plants that would last long enough to let him launch an attack of his own - dammit, defending himself had never been part of the plan, he hadn't intended to let Axel attack at all, he should have been the one delivering the beatdown - and his half-grown hedge burst into flames, and well-aimed fireballs streamed right through it, right at him. He tried to duck, only to catch a thrown chakram in the shoulder -

"Fucking hell! Stop! Break it up!"

Marluxia collapsed, fully expecting Axel would keep right on attacking and kill him despite Xigbar's command, especially since he was now in no shape to counterattack - after all, that's what he'd intended to do, if only he'd been in Axel's position. But, almost miraculously, the flames died down, and the bloody chakram returned to Axel's hand and disappeared. Axel just stood there, smirking, as Xigbar jumped down from the ceiling. "What the hell was that, dude? Trying to kill him? Marly, man, you're definitely going to see Vexen for that -"

It wasn't until Xigbar was helping him to his feet that Marluxia noticed the spectators. Larxene wasn't watching, thankfully - he couldn't imagine anything worse than having her watch that brutal curbstomping. But Demyx and Luxord were standing right there, clapping and cheering. "Guess you didn't need our help anyway, Ax," Demyx said cheerily.


The Way of Water: Flexibility

It was just another fight, in Larxene's opinion. Granted, it was a singularly easy fight, given her opponent, but there was nothing else special about it, or anything big riding on it - show up, lay the smackdown on Demyx's wimpy ass, go about her day. Maybe send him some flowers in the hospital wing if she felt generous. She was going into town this afternoon anyway; maybe she could send him a wilty bouquet with a smart-ass note attached. She was mentally composing said smart-ass note as she entered the training arena, summoning her kunai and smirking at her opponent. Demyx was just standing there, a bland, pleasant smile on his face; his sitar was nowhere in evidence. He must have given up already.

Well, if he wasn't going to even try to put up a fight, this would be over quick. As soon as Xigbar said "Go!" she launched a stunning bolt at him, ending it right there.

Or, well, it should have ended right there. Demyx swayed slightly as she raised her hand to strike, and the bolt blazed right past him. He straightened up as soon as it was gone, still smiling. Wondering how the hell he'd dodged that, but still wanting to get the fight over with, Larxene flung a kunai at him, catching him in the shoulder - a disabling injury that got the fight called immediately.

Except Demyx swayed a little to the other side, and the kunai didn't even ruffle his hair as it passed. That smile wasn't so bland or so pleasant anymore.

Wondering what the fuck was going on, Larxene launched a stunning bolt from each hand - when he dodged one, he went straight into the path of the other. Except he twisted his body so that they both blew past, one on each side, not even close enough to count as a graze. Infuriated by his passive dodging, without even the slightest attempt to fight back, Larxene started throwing everything she could at him, hard, fast, and relentlessly - not just kunai, or more stunning bolts; she was throwing bolts that could potentially kill anyone with a heart to stop, and would still wreak havoc on a Nobody. There was no way in Hell he could dodge all of those.

Demyx's reaction was a sight to behold. It was almost like a freeform dance, swaying and sweeping and curving and bending and flowing, almost like a river - masterful choreography, that any producer would kill to have on their stage and any professional dancer would die to replicate, and all of it created on the spot. Larxene continued to launch bolt after bolt at him, until the air reeked of ozone and crackled with static, but Demyx was still just standing there, doing that strange flowy dance -

Bam!

She suddenly found herself flat on the floor with an aching jaw; Demyx was leaning over her, wearing a smile that was emphatically neither bland nor pleasant - "smug" and "triumphant" came to mind. Damn it all to Hell, with all that fancy-dance stuff he'd had going on, she hadn't even noticed how close he was getting. Even more infuriatingly, he was completely uninjured - not so much as torn clothing or mildly singed hair. "...How the fuck did you do that?" she sputtered.

Demyx's cheesy grin broadened, if that was possible. "Ever sit next to a bubbling brook and just watch the way it flows for hours on end?"

What the hell did that have to do with the price of burgers in Switzerland? "No! Why the fuck would I waste my time on dumb shit like that?!"

Demyx shook his head, still grinning relentlessly. "Then it'd be a waste of my time to explain...but you should try it one day. You just might get it."


AN: I was in one of those moods.

Based loosely on four Eternal Soldier skills from Nexus War: The Way of Air improves your critical strike chance, the Way of Earth gives you innate armor, the Way of Fire gives you a super-powered attack, and the Way of Water improves your dodging chances. Timeline-wise, this is all over the map, possibly from shortly after Saix joined to just after Fori joined.

Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, got it memorized?