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Red Star
Focused. That was Zixin as he was positioned in front of an enormous mirror that ran the length and height the wall. Rubberized mats spread black across the floor. Lights beat down from overhead and a row of all sorts of weapons were stored on racks off to the side.

His arm had that pleasant burn of exertion. Sweat slicked his skin, dripped around the collar of an ironically sweat-wicking athletic shirt open down the back. His hair was wet with more. Behind eyes intense on the mirror in front of him and the image of his own reflection embedded within, he was counting.

Ninety-nine. One hundred.

With a flourish, the nunchuck’s tirade swirled, and the second wooden handle came to rest in the fold of his armpit.

That was just the warmup for his wrist. He steadied his breath and switched hands. There were many more rounds to go. After a moment, the counting began fresh. It took less than two minutes, but the blood was fresh in his fingers afterward.

The warmup was the same all his life. Each weapon had its own sequence. Had its own basic movements. Its own steady heartbeat. Nunchucks moved in eight directions: four cardinal and four diagonal. They were fucking fun, but nothing as grandiose as what was coming up next.

After the workout that planted the roots of muscle memory a little deeper in his brain, he moved on to the next weapon. He brought his own, being very particular of the belongings. There were three swords propped along with the mound of his gym bag. The Jian was a straight, double-edged sword mainly used for stabbing. He moved this aside to grasp the other style. The mian dao was a single-edged sword, slightly curved, and mainly used for cutting. In the west, most assumed it was the Japanese katana despite the fact they looked completely different to his trained eye, but the former was brought to fame by twentieth century martial arts movies. Zixin brought two dao blades with him today.

He returned to the open floor, this time with his back facing the mirror, and began to warm up smooth and slow.

"To be slow is to be smooth; and to be smooth is to be fast."

It quickly became apparent that he had mastered the art. He ended the sequence with a backflip twist and a sweep of the blade outward, gripped from the long handle behind.

Breathing hard, he left the floor to grab a towel and water bottle. Next was body-training.

Hour one: crushed.
Hour two was up next.

Red Star Combat Sports Club is known by the members as Red Star. It caters primarily to the martial arts training communities. It's high end, high quality, and members only. Visitors can 'try' the facility on a trial basis, but really, the owners will seek to vet and approve you rather than the other way around.
[Image: Zixinatredstar.jpg]
It had been a while since he'd seen Nhysa, they were both busy with various things. They texted once and a while, but it was a different sort of relationship. Nhysa was a different type of girl. There was no glitz and glamour. Not that she didn't appreciate it, but there was no show. And their commonalities were of the darker persuasion anyway. Which was what he offered to share with his dark flower. Training at the dojo was not the same as training at a gym. And it the Red Star was exclusive. He had the money to pay a few people. And he had the quality to actually join. And the combination of both allowed Nhysa to join him on this particular occasion.

They had agreed to meet at the Red Star, mostly because it was between both of their places, and it saved time. Time was important.

Li waited outside with his bag in hand flung over his shoulder. A change of clothes inside and a towel, but little else. The day was nice, maybe food afterwards would be nice.
“What you must do," said Monkey, "is lure the monster from its hiding place, but be certain it is a fight you can survive.” 
― Wu Cheng'en, Monkey: The Journey to the West


Life was busy. Nhysa had a new identity embedded in a local security firm, which meant the Custody intended to keep her on DI soil for now, but also that her work had become a rotation of different assignments. She was a perfectionist above and beyond the realm of duty, and such things always took a time of study and acclimation. Still, when the invitation came from Tan Li, she accepted immediately.

The smile upon her arrival, gym bag in hand, was one of hungry appreciation, and her eyes roamed him up and down in unabashed anticipation for the morning ahead. Nhysa enjoyed watching him work, and the man’s body was art. Her greeting was visceral; a hand wound the front of his shirt to pull him down and close, and her kiss was possessive and deep enough to make a spectator blush. She smiled around it when she released him. “I have never been here before,” she said, finally taking in the building behind him. Of its reputation she knew, of course. She smoothed the rumple she’d made of his clothes, mostly for an excuse to touch him again. “Lead the way, dear one.”
[Image: nhysabanner1.jpg]
Once upon a time there was a girl who loved the night, and the night loved her back...
Part of the challenge with Nyhsa would be getting through the workout at all. There was a keen fire between them. He enjoyed the fire of her passion and was grateful she was unabashed in everything. And that fire would translate to the training and to much things later in the day. But first the ring awaited.

"Right this way, my dark flower." He opened the door and ushered her in. The front desk let them pass with little more than a wave of a badge and a signature on the pad."I'll meet you on the floor." He pointed in the direction of the floor and nodded towards the women's locker room "The woman's locker is right over there."

Li used a locker of his own and then headed onto the floor to start warming up. There were others around, some sweating their hearts out and others taking that in between break. Li noticed the personal weapons and smiled. A man after his own heart, though today he and Nhysa would evenly match in bare knuckles. Close combat was far more fun. And while the men here might think him weak attempting to spar with a woman -- none of them knew Nhysa. And they would learn quickly that it was not as easy as her womanly frame might suggest.

Li stopped next to the man who'd occupied the floor before "Still using the floor? We don't want to interrupt."
“What you must do," said Monkey, "is lure the monster from its hiding place, but be certain it is a fight you can survive.” 
― Wu Cheng'en, Monkey: The Journey to the West


[Image: zixin-.jpg]

Zixin was positioned in front of the mirror. During this routine, he was pretending to fight an opponent. He ducked, he wove, he bopped, he slipped, he countered. Throughout all of it he was visualizing an opponent on the other side. His arms moved forward and back with rapid punches and throes of the body behind it. Shadowboxing went on for about ten minutes, and like the other routine, let his heart pumping and the blood pulsing through his arms and chest. Normally, paddle work would be up next. To that end, a case of the cushioned paddles were nearby. Sathian, Zixin’s trainer, would be out any minute to pair up and put him through drills. So meanwhile, to stay warm, Zixin bent at the waist and bobbed in some hamstring stretches.

He looked up when another guy came in. There were others around, so he didn’t normally draw much attention, but as Zixin looked at him, he recognized the actor. A smirk popped up on his face and he stepped aside to make room. There was plenty of it.

“Go for it,” he gestured at the space.

A few feet away, Zixin dropped to his back and twisted his spine around in a glorious scorpion stretch. He could feel the pops rattling up and down his body, and from this position he looked up.

“I’m a huge fan. Maybe I can get an autograph?” he nodded, eyes rolling up and down the actor’s muscular frame, imagining the two of them face to face. “And a spar after you’re warmed up,” he nodded.
It wasn't so much that Li heard the pops alone the spine of the man working the floor, as much as he felt the tension in his own back. Too many soft days, not enough hard rigor. It was much different now that he was not on set as much. He could. He had a few offers, but he'd chosen to settle down a little anyway -- not that if the right job came he wouldn't jump at the action. Of course he would. For now though Moscow was home, and he was happy in his little dojo -- and there was Nyhsa. His beautiful dark flower whom he would not be able to see should he leave the CCD. Such was the nature of things. And he was content here.

Li nodded and smiled at the typical response. Though the spar wasn't typical -- even in a gym. And it made Li smile. "Absolutely. I'm sure my darknest flower won't mind watching while she warms up herself. And we might decide to team up against her." He was letting him know that his sparring partner was not a delicate flower. She was the baddest of all bad asses he knew.

It wasn't long to warm up his muscles. He'd jogged the whole way here so he was already pretty warm coming in. Only had to stretch the joints and the muscles so not to pull anything outrageously. A spar no matter how friendly could still be dangerous -- specially when he went up against Nhysa. The only drawback to going someplace other than the dojo is there was a certain amount of decorum they displayed in public. The kiss outside had been a tiny fraction of the passion, but alone in the dojo they'd... well those thoughts were best left to the back of his mind.

Li bounced on the balls of his feet and stretched and popped his neck and shoulders one last time. "Totally ready when you are."

[[ ooc: feel free to mod Li doing what you need doing, though would appreciate no blood gushing etc lol ]]
“What you must do," said Monkey, "is lure the monster from its hiding place, but be certain it is a fight you can survive.” 
― Wu Cheng'en, Monkey: The Journey to the West


She followed through the doors Li’s wealth and fame opened for him. A small smirk twitched for his directions to the changing rooms, but she disappeared obediently in the right direction. When she surfaced Li had already attracted attention, which was not so unusual, and still proved somewhat a novelty for someone like Nhysa who lived life very much in the shadows. She eyed the man without any attempt to hide the way she sized him up. Almaz matched her against all sorts, and they often favoured the spectacle of brawn. It was entertainment after all. But sparring was a different beast to those kinds of no holds barred fights. In the pits she was a hellion. For now she left the two to their conversation, focused on her own warm-up.
[Image: nhysabanner1.jpg]
Once upon a time there was a girl who loved the night, and the night loved her back...
Zixin sure as shit wasn’t going to judge Tan Li’s shitty warmup routine. The guy would know what his own body was capable of handling. Zixin wouldn’t hold back, though. If he ended up with a ruptured bicep tendon, it was his own lazy-ass fault.

So, after finishing his current set to loosen up the wrists, Zixin sauntered to the rack. A woman entered by then, doing her own stretches. She was just close enough to curl up one of Zixin’s famously flat brows with curiosity. Was she the movie star’s dark flower? God now that was a term of endearment. Who knew Li was so damn poetic?

Zixin twisted as he passed her, walking backward and half-assedly obscuring pointing in her general direction and mouthing: ’T h a t  _ h e r? between smirks. Then an even less obscured mouthing followed: ’da-am.’

The rack was full of options. Zixin spied his favorite sword, which could match up with the blades he brought himself. The Red Star's version was dulled but still hurt like a mother when it connected, but he decided to hold off. He wanted to see what Li was made of.

So he grabbed a pair of strike pads and gloves. Zixin’s own wrists were wrapped, but he wasn’t up for Muy Thai style training at the moment. For now, he shoved on the pads, slapped them together with a loud thud, and a grin sparked at the noise echoing across the gym.

“Let’s see what you got,” he called out to Li as he returned. He held up his arms, strike pads at the ready, and gave the signal to go.
Li gave the man a simple nod and accepted his appreciation of Nhysa, though he was pretty sure that Nhysa would have him for lunch if she thought he'd claimed her in anyway. But she was a beauty -- beautiful and dangerous and he was gratefully infatuated with her even if he knew next to nothing about his dark flower. And that was all okay. His life was more than public enough for the both of them.

Demonstrating his abilities was part of the interview process. This wasn't such, but that was what the pads had been used for in the last instances he'd been in. Then it was all about the showiest moves and the highest kicks. This one didn't seem like he'd be impressed by the theatrical impressions of his skill. The deep down physical and prowess was on display today. Showing off wasn't the key to winning people. Actually skill showed more to potential clients, friends, and even your enemies. None of where did this man qualify as, and well Nhysa had already seen him in action -- many times and in many capacities.

Li didn't go all out, but he put power behind his hands and feet as he met the pads. There was no distinct style to his actions, nothing inept about his moves, but one could not say his technique was one art form or another. He'd learned many over the years and as he flowed through the powerful movements he let his mind find that place in the world where gods light and the human world met. The world became clear, the power flowed through his veins and he saw the drop of sweat falling from his opponents brow. He heard the heart of his opponent and the steadface pace of his dark flower and it soothed the savage beast with in. The monster that the Atharim claimed them to be -- he knew full well the power of the gods and he knew it could ravage this world with a thought. But it had it's uses and thought and clarity were all enhanced. All the better to fight you with he thought of the story of little red riding hood.
“What you must do," said Monkey, "is lure the monster from its hiding place, but be certain it is a fight you can survive.” 
― Wu Cheng'en, Monkey: The Journey to the West


He timed the sets into ninety second rounds. Li was smoking the pads. Every time he connected, the force rippled up Zixin’s arms, who often exclaimed loudly and proudly for the other man, cheering him on. Both were light on their feet, but while Zixin watched, he could discern no specific technique over another. In fact, he caught glimpses of multiple martial arts, or modifications of moves that Zixin would know by another name. It was probably all those years of choreography. Inventing cool looking shit for the camera.

Soon, Li’s brow shone with exertion. Zixin was quite fresh on the other hand. It was always easier being the pad than being the fist even if he was swinging back just to give Li something to dodge. 
“Nicely done,” he said, offering an elbow in place of a high-five given his palms were full.

Zixin ripped the Velco from the pads with his bare teeth, winking at Nhysa like he would be willing to do as much for her, and chucked them to the wall for workers to put away. Afterward, he threw a soft shoulder punch onto Li and laughed, “Tag. Your call what’s next.” Usually, he moved into kick drills next before transitioning into weapons, but fair was fair. Time to let Li choose.

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