Chapter 7:

Ember Customs

Warground Kaleidoscope


"Really?" The big man laughed, and it mechanism sounds made her turn to see a bunch of barrels.

He'd brought his posse enough time to aim.

*B-B-BANG!*

Even if she was an Initiator, there was no way she would be able to survive a mass of gunfire head on.

The bullets directly hit her body from head to toe…

*Crash!*

She fell and broke the area where her head was smashed earlier. A lot of smoke started to settle.

The bartender shook his head from the other side of the bar. He was aware of their leader's grudge.

That's why he gave her a 'last meal' of sorts…

He hoped she'd enjoyed the last moments of her life, because he won't be enjoying cleaning this up.

Only Jonna and the twins seemed to stay vigilant.

"That hurt~!" Suddenly, they heard a playful wince from the where the drinks used to be served.

Huin readied her black claws and Zuin put on her bladed boots. However, Tiny gestured them back.

His eyes widened when her silhouette cleared…

She stood there unharmed with skin that had suddenly tanned like she had gone to the beach.

"You ruined my favourite jacket." Xia stripped one layer, and a seductive yet dangerous feeling arose.

Without thicker clothes in the way, all she was wearing now was shorts and a cut yellow crop top.

Her neck and stomach were now in much clearer view, which only emphasised her stunning body.

Not only the 'beauty' of it though…

A six-pack with sculpted muscles seemingly created by the gods… was such a combination.

But Jonna admired something else:

"So that's 'Hard Brown'." It sounded like a simple name for a Combat Colour, but it was a good one.

Earth Initiators were scary thanks to their high defensive capabilities using full-body hardening.

It was then Xia had done something he hadn't recognised… despite his extensive knowledge.

The natural glow on her skin became brighter before something appeared to covered her neck.

'Shaping?' The big man lifted a brow, but he couldn't be sure this act was what he thought of.

The magic called 'Shaping' was an exclusive skill to the Light Attribute. It was able to 'shape' energy.

The lightsabers used by Anti-Martial Academy students these days had this power built into them.

That's how their MagiBlades retained their 'shape'.

At least, the lowest level only changed the form of the energy. Higher levels actually created weapons.

It was possible to create a realistic scarf like the one she just materialised using 'Intricate Shaping'.

'Impossible…' He dismissed that conclusion almost immediately. She was an Earth Initiator 'back then' as well, so it wasn't possible she hybridised her Qi Centre to hold another Attribute like others did.

There was only one other conclusion.

'She must have upgraded her Dual Ranged Shot Gauntlets.' He glared at the bracelets on her wrists.

Mystic Tools could have many effects…

"Sick 'er!" He pointed, and his crew holding their battle axes went charging to cut her into ribbons.

Despite being punks and gangsters, these guys moved like professional loan sharks taking debts.

Their movements didn't cause the others to hesitate. Each move came after the other.

The first person to get to her was solidly punched in the face, feeling like a brick had broken his nose.

But another guy used that delay from when she needed to pull her hand back to chop with an axe.

*Clang!* *Clang!* *Clang!* *Clang!*

The sounds of metal hitting metal could be heard as she was constantly being hit from all angles.

However, none of them could get the upper hand.

Jonna analysed her movements from the side. Her familiar fighting pattern had gotten more agile.

Even though Earth Initiators were supposed to lack speed, Xia herself was faster than most fighters.

Her fists were like concrete blocks, and her forms seemed reminiscent to a stylised street boxing.

She didn't hesitate to grab some fellow girls by the hair and leverage them to increase her own power.

The essence of 'Dirty Boxing'.

That didn't seem to be all though. Sometimes, he could see aspects of Jeet Kune Do mixed in there.

Kicks were rarely used by her, but when she chose to throw one, it would instantly knock someone out. She made full use of her 'armoured body' to aggressively attack without thought of defence.

This was the attitude he expected.

'Thanks for the blindspot!' Since she was being careless of her own accord, he sneaked behind her.

His large arms locked her neck and squeezed.

Even if she was wearing 'Hard Brown', that didn't change that her muscles were the same as ever.

All he needed to do was put intense pressure on her neck, and she'd fall just like others of her kind.

"Guh…!" She gasped for air and tried to rip him off her, but Jonna's muscles just bulged hideously.

The veins on his arms appeared in full view.

There was no way an Earth Initiator would have the flexibility to stop this choke hold from his body.

He'd used this technique on stronger Earth Initiators, and twisted their necks like dough.

It was then she finally found a solution!

Just as her neck was about to snap, blood started to drip from the arms coiled around her throat.

Tiny groaned before letting go of her.

He was shocked to see that scarf on her neck had changed shape to jam spikes into his body.

This 'solution' to his hold seemed exclusive to her.

"What the heck was that?!" He seemed more angry than injured, but the twins wrapped up his wound.

"My mentor taught me this… I think he called this scarf 'Dust Shroud'." She spoke with proud eyes.

As if it was something she wanted to brag about.

Then, she continued her onslaught on the thugs.

"DJ, give me a good mix!" She shouted at the man spinning records while wearing a weird bear mask.

Oddly enough, he complied with her request.

The DJ jammed and rocked those beats as she was thrashing tables. Even taking names like some kind of disastrous waitress. Fists went high and bodies dropped low. No one could touch her sick flows.

Her bracelets unfolded into a pair of gauntlets midway through. Each hand their own mechanisms.

Even barrels pointing out of her knuckles!

She recoiled her arms, which ended up lock and loading the each of the shot gauntlets she wore.

Her elbows came closer near her chest…

One of her hand/ pointed its palm behind her.

The hidden 'Impact Red' setting of Mystic Tools were turned on. Increasing the shot's blowback.

*Boom!*

An explosive sound rocked the house party and propelled her towards an unsuspecting axe user.

Her she used the momentum to drive her elbow into his liver. Similar to 'Bursting' of Krav Maga.

Zero rotational force was put into that strike.

Fear started to arise in the gangsters as they fought, but there was no way to stop the tragedy.

Her aggression increased with this critical strike.

*Boom!*

A short ranged blast erupted from her other gauntlet to throw him away and propel her to the next target. Another unsuspecting thug had an elbow fitted into his rib, with a backhand follow up.

A classic move seen in movies with Bruce Lee!

Recoiling and reloading once again, she watched some fighters trying to get in close to fight her.

They were trying to stop her from reloading!

It was too late though…

Since they were here, she showed them just how creative she could be when using the propulsions.

Flying kicks, double rotation roundhouse kicks, a rare drop kick, and even Brazilian Kicks were used.

Her hands weren't her only weapons…!

When the beat finally stopped, the bear headed DJ was shocked to see everyone was accounted her.

Everyone got their turn of a heavy beating.

This made the home boi take out his own pistol.

Of course, wearing a bear mascot mask wasn't going to make his aim any better, but it was a threat that Xian Xiao Wu detested. She didn't like how his reckless act would hurt those other thugs.

She'd gone through the trouble of knocking them out because she didn't want to kill anyone.

What would she do if a stray shot hit them?

That's why she recoiled her arms again. Her right arm was aimed underneath her for propulsion.

She wanted her Dual Ranged Shot Gauntlets, also named 'Ember Customs', to show their metal today.

But she didn't want to be like these delinquents.

Although 'Burn', the Grenade Gauntlet on her right forearm, had only six shots, they were must stronger than 'Crash', on her left arm- No, it was more because her left gauntlet was better to 'fight'.

Her right Ember Custom was tailor-made to blow up Anima. It wasn't to be used in a mere bar brawl.

She lunged with the propulsion of her right gauntlet shooting her far. The bullets missing their mark… Xia crossed her arms again and propelled her elbow into that masked face with prejudice.

The DJ was instantly knocked unconscious…

'Tiny' Long (Meaning: Tiny Dragon) watched with a pale face. He couldn't let her destroy his den!

"Pass me my weapon."

"Sir, are you going to fight?"

"Don't! We can take her…!"

The twin beauties didn't even listen to a word he had to say before jumping in to defeat their foe.

They moved too quick, and timed their hits.

Going down heavy on this war queen.

Immediately pushing her back with synergy that surpassed others. They fought as one entity.

*Slash!*

Huin's long bladed claws cut through the air. By sheer force of instinct, Xia dodged her body.

Then noticed the 'poison' on the blades…

It was like a maelstrom of blades, both graceful and insidious. Even her gauntlets sparked from having to block them. On top of that, the strength put behind each hit was stronger than her defences.

It didn't take long before- *Woosh!*… Xia was thrown a few feet into the air and crashed onto a sofa. There was agitation in her prideful eyes, as well as hellfire. They started to paint scarlet red…!

"I'll frickin' kill ya!" Her tone changed for a brief moment, but that was enough to strike hearts.

Fear appeared in the eyes of the twins. They braced themselves after hearing a sharp roar.

It was as if a predator had made its appearance known. A lioness that didn't fear any other.

Fortunately, Xia was able to hold herself back.

She remembered her mentor's words:

"Grown ups down have tantrums."

That ingrained memory made her take a breath.

The scarlet glow of her iris receded, and the matchless presence she let out was subdued.

She remembered the teaching of the one who had saved her. The one taught her to have manners.

One memory in particular appeared in her head.

There was a time she asked why her training was so different from her little sister's… on 'that day'.

Her pose after she got up was a little strange.

'Huh?' Both Huin and Zuin didn't understand what she was doing. It didn't look like a proper stance.

Looked more like she was trying to look cool.

It wasn't a boxing stance, nor the standard form of Jeet Kune Do. The inconsistency caused curiosity.

She remembered the 'conversation' from back then. Or at least, the shouting contest they had:

"Why won't you teach me to hit people?!"

"You already know that!"

"I wanna hit stuff more!"

"Crazy idiot, I won't teach you how to 'strike'!"

"Then why did you teach Anya, huh?! You don't like me much, right? You're annoying! Just go to hell!"

"Language! Eat your food and stand! You wanna learn that bad?! Come here! Learn to 'stand' first!"

That day, her mentor, Simon, had explained to her that the reason he'd taught her little sister separately… was because she was 'built different' than her. Their strengths weren't the same.

Anya was acrobatic and agile.

She never needed to brace herself. That little red hood was fast enough to dodge when necessary.

The only problem was Xia.

Despite having a better overall physical condition among his disciples, she was too rigid of a thinker.

'Not anymore.' Maybe in the past, but this blonde bombshell inwardly believed she had changed.

And that she could prove it through actions.

The maelstrom of blades approached her like a tornado once more. This time… she wasn't beaten.

Her whole body shifted around to block and redirect the blades using the tip of her fingers.

Such dexterity… Such finesse…!

Huin was getting agitated with her claw strikes, but Zuin was slowly piecing together what differed.

She eventually came to a conclusion inwardly:

'Her posture…! Her stances are formless!'

By the time she realised, it was already too late to react. The moment she threw a kick, Xia launched herself at an odd angle towards her twin sister. A single propulsion had shortened the distance!

Her 'Crash' gauntlet reached forward…

*Bang!*

A punch was empowered by a shotgun blast. The impact knocked her out of this fight for good.

One human-shaped crack appeared in the wall…

Zuin was truly angered. Her blades boots both stabbed and bashed Xia from various angles.

She seemed to be a practitioner of Savate.

A heavy emphasis was put on graceful kicks that sprinkled in feints, and enhanced with dynamism.

Her acrobatic stunts and strength reminded her of her younger sister. A smile appeared on her face.

Even after being pushed back again, the blonde bombshell didn't feel too bad about trying again.

They entered each other's range once again…

This time, it was a tango between the two of them as Zuin advanced with her foot always at front.

Xia's posture changed with every twirl and shaking of Zuin's foot. Her strength accumulated properly.

Rather than always being on the attack, her mentor had taught her how to manipulate her readiness potential. The essence of 'stances'. Properly doing so made up for her inherent lack of dexterity.

After all, if Xia went into the right stance, then she could easily move the way that would benefit most.

It was like how even though a boxing stance was good for punching, it was weak against kicks.

Or how crouching left one's head open to attack.

Zuin's face was covered in sweat from using most her stamina on failed feints. The blondie before her still seemed fine, but that was only because she only used subtle movements keep her guessing.

The moment of truth happened at the last step.

The white dressed girl impatiently tried to kick, and was immediately found herself parried by her foe.

Xia spun. Her Ember Customs deactivated to lessen the weight on her arms momentarily.

And an elbow smacked into her liver!

Zuin lost her breath. Her staggering body was lead around in a circle after having her wrist grabbed.

What she found on the other end of the circular throw was a brown ankle high boot to her face.

*Bam!*

The girl fell over powerlessly like stringless puppet.

However, another sound reverberated too…

*Crunch!*

Her thick neck muscles barely protected her bones from being cracked open. A pain ran through her.

"You're gonna pay for this!" Jonna was already bedevilled by hysteria and fighting like a maniac.

Even though hitting the back of the neck could lead to death, the big guy still whacked her head again.

The metal bat Enchanted Item changed its form like the pistols his henchmen had, but bigger…

A long barrel aimed down on her after she fell. The power of flames focused into the bazooka's rocket.

She was about to die!

Time seemed to slow down at that moment. The blonde woman's hair started to take a fiery form.

The injuries on her head started to heal as well.

"Hey, clench your teeth!" Her low voice widened his eyes, and a crunching sound could be heard.

It wasn't the sound of bones breaking, but of the bazooka's barrel suddenly being squeezed shut.

The next instant was hard for the eye to see…

One thing was for sure: Xia had knocked down the big guy and gave him no choice but to comply.

He held his face while waving his hand:

"Fine! I'll give you it! Just don't come back here, ya hear?!" He seemed desperate to keep her away.

She took the USB he hand handed her with a smile.

"Oh, Tiny~ You should've done this sooner~!"

The flames in her hair had vanished. This was seemingly the second ability built into her first.

Jonna could tell it had something to do with the damage he'd dealt earlier. Different from just rage.

Did her hair and eyes signify different abilities?

Regardless, Xia left the place satisfied. The only thing she didn't know was the three figures above.

Shadowy silhouettes watched her leave…

Momentie
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