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By the end of morning meditation, half the class had been able to pull the fire. “Very good. At this juncture aye will be surprised if all ya can not reach the fire by da end of day tomorrow.” He moved to the left. “Now let us talk about what makes elemental fire so different from da other elements. Sure, sure. It is part of da creation an destruction cycle. But da difference lies in da how. Fire is as much a part of ya as it is external.” He put both hands over his heart. “It comes from within ya. Ya have heard the fire of passion?” He looked around. “Of course ya have. Da flames of desire?” He said with a huge leering grin and smoldering yellow eyes that made men and women blush together. “Dat is fire. It all starts within ya.”

He moved back to the center and took a calming breath and his accent lightened. “This is part of a larger, more important discussion. Da one that talks about your internal intent. Your Yi drives from actual external movement.” He held out a fist. “Xing is da shape. Yi is da intent.” He snapped his fist suddenly in a punch. “Together, they can drive power.” He stood up straight. “This is especially important with fire as perfect technique is not enough. Your will has to add da power.” Xan felt like this really resonated with him. He could see where the instructor was going with it.

“Aye want ya to take a stance. For now, ya will step forward with one foot, and ya will punch with da opposite hand. This is a twisting movement that lend the power as ya turn. Fire is about explosive power and pounding force. Now, try it and aye will come around and provide guidance where it is needed. Begin!” Instructor Jyoti headed to the right side of the class and started making small corrections to different people as he moved around. Xan tried to follow him with the corner of his eye. There was a cry and the mental rush of attunement on the other side of the room. Xan looked. It was Kai Jin. He was glowing with red flame. It swirled around him like a mini-crimson whirlwind, then settled onto him.

Jin crowed. “Finally!” he said with gusto. “No one has attuned so quickly, have they?” He asked Instructor Jyoti.

“It is rare, indeed,” The instructor admitted with a half-hearted shrug.

“That’s because you haven’t seen me before!” Jin howled in triumph. He formed a crimson sphere of fiery Qi. “Marvel at it.”

“Dat is enough Kai Jin. Ya need to remember your place,” Instructor Joyti said.

“My place?” Kai Jin replied with a sneer. “Who are you to—”

“Enough!” The instructor’s eyes blazed with a golden light as if the fires within him suddenly were stoked. The heat in the room rose sharply. He clapped his hands, a thunderclap, and Kai Jin’s ball was extinguished with a pop. “Ya will learn ya place, Seeker,” he admonished with the roar of a furnace, the walls shaking in response.

Cowed by the display of fire mastery, Kai Jin bowed in acquiescence. “My apologies honorable instructor.”

Like the furnace door suddenly closed, Instructor Jyoti was calm and his normal self. He frowned. “Ya can stay an meditate on ya actions.” He looked at the rest of the class. “The rest of ya are dismissed.”

Xan, Cho and Sue headed back to the dorms. Xan walked slowly, giving the other students a chance to get ahead of the trio so they could have a little privacy.

Xan started, “Of course Jin would attune on the first day.” He sounded bitter and a bit petty in his own ears.

“He hasn’t attuned to anything so far,” Sue said, “so you knew it was coming.” She was devoid of any sympathy.

“You have to admit he was being a jerk about it,” Cho grumbled. “Did you see Instructor Jyoti? That was awesome when he shut Jin down.” He paused, scratching at his chin, “I wonder how he did that?”

“It must be a higher-level ability,” Xan guessed, though he wasn’t sure himself. “Maybe there is something in the library on it?”

“Well, regardless, it can’t be fun meditating with Instructor Jyoti,” Cho said darkly, his brow furrowing.

The three continued their walk in silence for a few minutes. The shops in the area were all closing up. People pulling shutters closed and wheeling carts with wares on them inside for the night.

“Are we meeting for practice later?” Xan asked.

“I’m up for it.” Sue said immediately, causing Xan to start. Normally she was the last to comment on practice.

“Okay,” Xan said. “Usual time?”

The other two nodded.

#

The next day morning meditation went well for Xan. He was easily able to get in touch with his inner fire. He could see it pulsing with each thump of his heartbeat and pulled the element into his sphere of Qi with relative ease. The element responded to his will with an almost eager intent. Xan was amazed how completely opposite from metal this was. Metal had been like grabbing smoke. Fire was much easier to touch.

“Alright. Ya have all done a great job pulling Qi.” Instructor Jyoti said once the first hour had passed by. Xan leaned back to get a peek at Kai Jin, who seemed to be meekly working through his forms. I wonder what the instructor did to him?

“Yesterday, aye showed ya the beginning punch for fire. Now we are going to learn da component before. This isTiger Leaps Over the Ravine.” He stepped forward, bringing both fists rotating up in front of his face like a double block. Then he stepped forward again with the fire punch, twisting at the waist and driving to the side. “The beginning part is a combination of water and wood. Your hands are lifting and drilling.” This time, his arms rippled with crimson energy as he powered his Jin. He stepped forward again, arms twisting up. “Den fie-ya!” He stepped through and punched. An orange disk bloomed from his fist and continued forward through the air until it exploded against the wall in a splash of crimson sparks.

“Alright. Work forward two steps, den turn, and two steps back. Please watch each other. Begin!” Instructor Jyoti moved over to Xan’s side of class to start with the coaching. “Very good Xan,” he said as Xan shuffled slowly and meticulously through the form. “Ya Tiger Leaps Over the Ravine is very strong. Now, push more with the back leg as you punch.” He told Xan.

“Instructor Jyoti, if I may? Why does this stance violate ‘Cross the Great River’?” Xan asked him, wondering how the flow of Qi and the power of the move worked.

“The power in this punch comes from two places. Your hip and waist as ya turn, and from inside you. Remember, fire is intent on driving da action.” He tapped the side of his head. “Ya have to commit to da punch.”

“Thank you,” Xan said with a slight bow, fists touching in front of his chest. Jyoti nodded and moved on.

Xan really slowed down to get the punch form correct. He thought he almost had it down when the instructor called for a break. He straightened up and turned to Cho.

“How’s it going, Xan?” Cho asked with a meaningful glance at Xan’s arm.

“Oh!” Xan caught what he was really asking. “The arm is fine.” It hadn’t bothered him at all as Xan had been completely absorbed in the practice.

Sue slipped up beside them, covered in a thin sheen of sweat from the workout. “It seems you are having an easier time with fire,” she said to Xan.

“Well, anything is better than metal,” Xan chuckled.

“Pair up!” Instructor Jyoti called, signaling an end to break. Instead of pairing with Cho, Xan squared off against Sue. “Push hands. I want one of you to power your Jin with fire and the other with water. Feel how the other element is moving in contrast.”

“You go fire,” Sue said while conjuring blue coils of water Qi wrapped around her arms with a sound akin to water being poured into a pitcher.

“Fine,” he told her. He stoked his inner fire and with a crackle, red bands snapped along his arms as he powered his Jin. He felt alive, energized and the thump, thump, thump of every heartbeat was amplified. His lungs were the bellows force-feeding air to his inner furnace. He felt like his skin was burning, magma flowing just below the surface.

He was power.

They put their right wrists against each other. He started moving and Sue moved with him. The fire roared in his ears, called for more. Called to consume. He pushed with his wrist and Sue just flowed with it, redirecting his energy off to the side as his hand completed the circle. On the back swing, Sue suddenly reversed the direction. It was Xan’s turn to push with the attack and lifted their hands up.

She quickly drained the push of its energy and was once again pushing his hand back to his center. Xan twisted from the waist, the coiling force accelerated, pushing his arm both forward and to the side—forcing Sue to step back or be pushed over, Sue stepped. Xan had won the bout. Easily. The mechanism of it clicked in Xan’s mind. “Your turn,” he whispered, letting the fire evaporate as he reached for water.

Sue grimaced and nodded, preparing herself.

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About the author

MarkStallings

Bio: I’ve been in Colorado since I was a young teenager. I live in the foothills of Pikes Peak with my wife, two children and various dogs and cats. I have a crazy technology background having founded several tech companies centering around human machine interfaces before I discovered a passion for writing.

When I’m not slinging the ink and trying to get paid to fabricate tales that entertain, I like to shoot competitively, drink craft beer, ride motorcycles and play games with friends.

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