“What do I get when I win?” Noah questioned and cracked his neck.
“I don’t know? Ask Hyun,” I told him as I rubbed his shoulders to help loosen him up.
“I meant from you.”
“I wasn’t the one who wanted you to fight in the first place. This is for your bruised ego, I only helped set it up. You should be giving me something.”
“I got something for you right here,” he said and grabbed his crotch. “I’m not doing this just for me though. You used to look up to me for being the best, but I’m 0-for-2 lately. I wanna make you proud so you know you’re with the best again.”
“I already know I am.” I hugged him around his neck. “Just pay attention to the fight. I hate seeing you get hurt.”
“I’m not gonna get hurt, it’s only to knockout or submission, no powers, and we’re unarmed.” Noah turned around to look me in the eyes. “Don’t worry about it.”
“You know I also hate whenever you say that.”
He grinned at me without any other response and went in for a kiss to distract me from my concerns. I took the bait for a time.
“The spirits are a lot stronger after absorbing the Empyrean Jewels—,” I warned as the wind picked up ushering in Hyun’s entrance.
“Will you relax? I’m feeling stronger now too since feeding on your tasty god blood everyday. Trust me.”
He nodded to Hyun to signal that he was ready.
“Yeah, yeah.” I tightened his belt for him for the third time. Both he and Hyun were only wearing gi pants to prevent either from having an armor advantage.
“I’m gonna cut your hands off if you keep doing that,” Noah said and grabbed my head to make me look at him. “You’re being dumb.”
He sauntered down the empty street to face Hyun. Both combatants bowed as a show of civility before they began. They started off the fight by continuously circling each other to get a feel of the battlefield and psyche themselves up.
I had never seen Noah in combat like this with someone of his own skill level. I think I was more anxious for the result than nervous about him getting hurt. It was a similar feeling as when I used to watch MMA matches and be on the edge of my seat hoping for my favorite fighter to be victorious.
Hyun threw out the first jab to test the waters, which connected with Noah’s bare forearms with a crack. It was a calculated move on Noah’s part to block instead of dodge. He was known for his speed, but being that the use of their powers was restricted he wanted to feign how slow he was without them until he was ready to let loose and overwhelm his opponent at the right opportunity.
The two of them exchanged lazy blows back and forth to try and bait the other into making a serious move to be countered.
“Why didn’t you tell me this guy got a lot stronger?” Noah shouted and shook out his arm after deflecting another fierce jab. Although they weren’t using their active powers, their movements were still innately superhuman.
“I guess because I wanted him to win,” I shouted back and rolled my eyes at his sarcasm.
Their strikes were getting more intense and then Hyun went for a leg trip to mix things up. Noah took him to the ground and got him in a dragon sleeper hold after a quick scuffle. He locked his massive tree trunk legs around Hyun’s torso and clamped down. The first real damage of the fight went to Noah at the sound of Hyun’s ribs snapping under the pressure of his vice-like grip.
Hyun fought back with his one free arm and pounded Noah’s flank until he returned the favor and broke some of Noah’s ribs. Noah was forced to release his hold, but kicked Hyun away when jumping to his feet. The both of them held their sides in pain as they stared each other down for a moment.
Noah and Hyun exchanged words in Korean—Hyun’s native language—as they circled again.
“You said that you don’t speak Korean,” I called to Noah upon remembering the last time they had fought and Hyun shouted out what seemed to be taunts at Noah.
“Did I?” Noah grinned at me as he passed without taking his eyes off of his opponent. He healed his ribs and took a gamble that Hyun was still in worse condition than him by rushing Hyun down with a series of heavy blows to the head and midsection. Hyun was in no shape to dodge Noah’s onslaught and was forced to block, taking more damage in the process.
Hyun took Noah by surprise with a rising knee under his chin, followed up with an open palm strike to the sternum. Noah recovered and countered an incoming kick by catching Hyun’s leg and throwing him to the ground. Hyun tried kicking free, but Noah twisted around until he dislocated Hyun’s knee and snapped his ankle.
I thought the fight was pretty much over from seeing how much pain Hyun was in, but he flipped himself off the ground and onto Noah’s back. With his leg busted, the safest place for Hyun to be was where he could take control with limited mobility. He put Noah in a rear naked choke hold and went right for the win by flexing until every vein in his arm bulged.
Noah was losing strength and possibly consciousness. Although he didn’t need to breathe, now that his heart and lungs worked again it must have been at least disorienting for him to get choked out and have the blood flow to his brain restricted. He began to stagger and was forcing himself to blink to stay conscious.
Hyun pulled back and brought them both down without releasing his hold. Noah struggled to break free, but was almost out cold in Hyun’s relentless grip. This was the part I hated most; watching my tiger suffer helplessly while waiting for the end.
Noah still wasn’t giving up. With the last of his energy he got Hyun’s good leg and yanked it from the socket to dislocate him at the hip. Hyun was forced to let go and Noah didn’t waste any time pouncing on him while he was vulnerable. Noah beat down Hyun without mercy until he was thrown off and both combatants were back on their feet.
Hyun had managed to pop his hip and knee in, but he was looking weary after Noah’s latest barrage. The two of them returned to circling each other and spoke briefly as Noah threw out some jabs and light kicks to maintain his dominance. Noah kept the pressure on until Hyun got a shot in with a left hook to the side of his head. Noah lashed out and tackled him through the wall of a nearby building and out the other side.
When I caught up to them, Noah was bleeding from his shoulder where a large piece of wood was lodged and Hyun was flat on his back in even worse shape. Noah removed the shrapnel and went to finish off Hyun, but he rolled out of the way and dug his fingers in the hole in Noah’s shoulder to help himself up. In the split second that Noah flinched, Hyun used his other hand to uppercut Noah between the legs. He grabbed Noah by the hair and kneed him in the face repeatedly while keeping his fingers dug into Noah’s wound.
Hyun hooked his arm under Noah’s already hurt shoulder and pulled up to dislocate it while he was dazed. He spun and almost kicked Noah in the head when Noah caught Hyun’s foot and brought his elbow down, shattering Hyun’s kneecap. Noah hopped to his feet. He hit Hyun in the stomach with his heel on the way up and finished him with a roundhouse kick to the head that sent Hyun flying.
Noah watched and waited as his opponent remained still until finally Hyun faded away into firefly-like lights leaving Noah victorious. I flew down onto the dirt road to join him. He was a mess; covered in sweat, dirt, and blood.
“I got hurt,” he said with a sheepish smile that turned into a smirk. I raised an eyebrow at him and popped his shoulder back in place with my powers. He let out a startled shout. “Warn me before you do that!”
“You wouldn’t have listened anyway,” I grinned.
“I listen,” he said and started to come closer for some affection.
“Stay back. You’re gross and I’m wearing white,” I told him, but of course he ignored it and put his arms around me, making sure to get as much coverage as possible and nuzzle his face to mine. “I hate you.”
“No you don’t. I’m your tiger, the best tiger,” he growled and nibbled my neck.
“Yeah, I guess,” I sighed jokingly and started cleaning his face with my cloak. “Come on, let’s go home.”