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Yeva goes to the Proving Ground for a bit of exercise, ends up running into Darius Baer.

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Yeva
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Choose Your Fighter

Running in Circles

75 Ashan 720

Yeva doubled over in pain, clutching her ribs as her feet slowed to a stop and the exertion of her run caught up with her. With burning lungs rivaling Faldrun, a merciless stitch in her side, and the inability garner enough air in her lungs, she was convinced her time was nigh, "I can't do this," the medic wheezed to no one in particular, dropping heavily upon a bench and using her left hand to bunch her curls and lift them from her neck. Perspiration clung to her brow, her chest, and as usual, her face held its rosy coloring, "Everything hurts. H-How are they still alive?"

Men and women - those not here for just general exercise - gathered around for a lesson that would be starting soon. It had been her full intent to join them as well, after a "warm up", but now, with a recent reminder of just how deceptive that statement was, Yeva wasn't sure she could physically keep up. Or if she wanted to.

Leaning forward, she gulped from the water skin and patted her skin dry, using the opportunity to catch her breath and blindly feel beneath the seat for her bag she knew was waiting. She had a few flash cards she could review, and a couple notes about how she was fairly sure that in her medical opinion, physical exercise was not good for someone, that someone being her. Sitting there, she watched a few of the trainees who didn't require the basic lessons, how they swung and parried with practiced skill. Would things have turned out differently if she had been able to fight, if she had been a better Rharnian, like Petyr and Issac?

Soft fingers reached up to touch the gauze stuck to her cheek and when she lowered her drink, she stared at the dark and yellowing bruises that patterned her arms. Things would have been different. They still could be.

Yeva took another drink and hurriedly slipped her belongings back to where they had been, rushing to jump to her feet and join the fighting session. From how the instructor spoke, somewhat softly but with authority, and how the students stood unsure, she knew she was in the right place. A few adults, Yeva noticed with a bit of embarrassment that there were a number of teenagers, and she smiled shyly when taking her place. Dressed in black shorts and a matching top, her attire was a bit dark in color to be spring bound, but the outfit allowed more mobility than her usual pants or a dress would allow. Briefly, they were asked what their preferred weapon would be, and the goal of their visit, "I would like to specialize in hand to hand combat," she announced nervously, less confident now that a number of eyes had fallen upon her, "Weapon wise, shield, staff, or maybe... maybe a mace or club."

That got a few raised eyebrows. Blunt force was often more effective against armored opponents, most others in the group had claimed a type of sword. A smashing blow could cave in some armor (obviously from someone much stronger than herself!), and restrict fighting ability in an opponent but a dagger or sword took a finesse she wasn't sure she had the time to learn. Not when their were lives to save, anyway. Shrugging, she allowed the lesson to continue, but not before spotting a familiar face.

Darius Baer?

Face lighting up in pleasant surprise and disbelief, she waited till they were allowed to partner up and ran to him, "What are you doing here!" she hadn't seen him since... since.. well, the Elements back in Cylus, "I didn't know you needed training," then after a bit of consideration, she motioned the space between them, "Do you want to work together? If you're free, that is."

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Arc 720, 75th of Ashan
Darius was no fighter. Not yet, anyway. He had received quite the "lesson" at the sparring hands of the Elements as an act of gratitude for helping with the Dusk Festival, but in reality, the experience had really just been a training session for his instructor. His bumps had taken a few trials to flatten out, but he had used the bruising sessions to make mental notes of what to do next time - or, more specifically, what not to do.

His time with Doran had been equally intimidating, but still useful. He knew he was fortunate to learn what he had from such a skilled combatant.

But he was still a beginner, for the most part. He had seen many drunken fights between sailors - usually over accusations of one or both parties cheating at dice - but they hadn't exactly been displays of fine skill. Just whoever was too drunk to feel the pain of being hit until the following morning.

Darius wanted to be better than that. He wanted to be able to fight and to protect his family and friends...and himself, should he ever be accused of unfairly winning a game of dice.

That was what had led him to return to the Proving Ground, dressed in loose, black leggings and a light tunic. The surface of the training area was filled with sand, which added to the challenge.

There was always more to learn, and he was too focused on the group lesson to witness Yeva's rather unflattering arrival. But she made her presence known easily enough, and the sight of an unexpected friendly face in a location filled with potential adversaries came as a pleasant surprise. His dark grey eyes lit up and the ends of his mouth teased into a smile at her approach, though they faltered when he caught sight of the gauze on her cheek.

"I always need training," he chuckled.

His size, he wagered, might have given the young woman different ideas.

"And yes, I'd be happy to train with you."

The instructor began to take the group through a series of stretches, insisting on the importance pf doing so before combat, while acknowledging that such luxuries were not always possible in the real world.

Darius obliged, and he and the other students were soon kneeling and straining in the sand in a pigeon hole stretch.

"You've trained here before, I take it?" he asked Yeva, nodding his head as if to point at her cheek, assuming the injury to have come from a previous lesson.
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Re: Choose Your Fighter

Stretching Limits

75 Ashan 720

"Great!" Yeva grinned, "Makes me feel a bit better, knowing I'm not the only one who should come here more."

Darius was a welcome sight and so she fell in line beside him when the instructor came walking back around, taking the time to show them a series of stretches they would be performing, "Increased flexibility lowers risk of injury," she whispered, eyes ahead as she watched the first position and how they were to lower into it. Doubt flickered across her own face and she glanced uneasily towards Darius. Other students were beginning to follow suit and she clumsily lowered to one leg and then further, eyes widening as she saw how easily the others seemed to perform the motion. Delicately, she pushed her hips forward, her front leg creating a ninety degree angle after the instructor criticized another for creating too much of a bend.

Immediately she felt the tension in her hips and thighs and she kept her breathing steady, not sure if it was discomfort she was feeling or pain. What was the appropriate level? Yeva inhaled, doing her best to keep her torso nice and tall, but she was distracted by how aware of her body groups she had become. Muscles she knew the names of, but had not felt, at least not in recent memory, were now in the forefront of her mind.

Could this be an interesting opportunity?

Yeva continued her breathing, holding the position until they were told to switch sides, to which she found herself listing off rather scholarly facts to distract herself from the building warmth of her legs, "This must be good for external hip rotation...Piriformis..." Could this help sciatic pain?

She looked over when Darius spoke, "Hm?"

You've trained her before, I take it?

She watched his head bob in acknowledgement towards her face and she swallowed, not sure how to word her next sentence, "No, not really. This is my first time. Pretty obvious, isn't it?" she tried to smile, but the gesture was lackluster. Yeva adverted her eyes and grew quiet, unable to repress the memory of the blade at her throat. Anger, fear, panic... she stuffed those creeping emotions into the corner of her mind where they still lingered and she watched the sailor from the corner of her eye, raking sand through her fingers, "About a fortnight ago, I was in Almund."

Her throat caught and she had to stop speaking for a moment while she composed herself. To her relief, the instructor began demonstrating the next stretch and she had a moment to gather herself, "I... I...ran into some trouble, I guess. Someone tried to carve my face with a knife," she had rehearsed this before, told the Elements the same thing. Distress misted her eyes as she shifted, drawing her legs inward to perform a butterfly stretch, "I've been having some nightmares so-"

She tried to lighten her tone but the sadness was unspoken, "I thought maybe this would make me feel better... It was overdue anyway. I'm fine, really."

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Darius grunted as he pushed his hips forward into the stretch. Flexibility was not one of his greatest assets, so although he had been taught how to do a few stretches in the past, they never seemed easy and he was usually left wondering if he was performing them correctly.

He realised, perhaps a little too late, that Yeva was talking to herself. He looked across to see the pink flush of exercise teasing at her cheeks. When he had first begun his training, he had been amazed by how tiring the warm up always seemed to be, but the instructors insisted upon it. They had said that it would help him improve much more than rushing into combat with cold muscles. The bearded blond had decided to take them at their word, because his limited ability meant it was difficult to ascertain where his improvement - if there was indeed any at all - was coming from.

Darius matched Yeva's smile, but he saw its lack of conviction, and his brow furrowed in confusion. They were moving into another stretch when the redhead spoke more. Their position was such that his face was close to the ground, and he could not see her face, but he could hear the fear in her voice. Unconsciously, one of his hands tightened into a fist, his palm attempting to crush the handful of sand that had been collected in that instant.

"Who..."

The man began to speak, but he moved out of his stretch to face the young woman.

"Who did that to you?"

His eyes and tone of voice betrayed his deep concern. In truth, he would have been troubled by hearing of such events happening to just about anyone, but he had been growing a sense of friendly affection towards Yeva, and he hated the thought of anything bad happening to her, and he wanted something to be done to her attacker, if that hadn't already happened.

The revelation that she was experiencing nightmares shifted his perspective, however.

"Are you okay?" he asked, a pained expression across his face. "Aye, this might help. I find it can be a good stress reliever."

They were soon standing again, and he looked down at the woman who stood almost a foot shorter than him, but who probably had a greater reason to fight than anyone else present. His expression was serious but sincere.

"If you need to let out your stress," he spoke quietly, "don't feel you need to go gentle with me, just because we're sparring. If you need to hit hard, don't hesitate. Just...do it."
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Re: Choose Your Fighter

Not the Face

75 Ashan 720

When Darius moved from his stretch to face her, Yeva suddenly wondered if she had made the right choice telling him. It wasn't that she thought he couldn't be trusted but the concern that knitted his brow made her feel equal parts guilty and thankful, "Please don't worry," she started, pushing down upon her knees to feel the stretch in her inner thighs, "I... I'm fine. I don't know who it was, but it was just a scratch... See?" Yeva pushed her feet out and then rolled so that she was propped on her knees, and began to peel the gauze back from her cheekbone. Below her eye on the height of her freckled cheek was a red scab, about an inch in length that slopped towards the bridge of her nose. She stayed still, allowing him to analyze it if he wished, but couldn't help the relief she felt, confiding in another person.

"I was stressed before the attack, this just added to it. I won't lie to you. I was scared. I... I was alone when it happened and I tried to run but they must have known where I was going... I'm not the only one," Yeva's lips dropped into a solemn frown, her eyes a bit distant, "Someone's been attacking the Order members for awhile now. I think the symbol is a message, or maybe an organization... He would have killed me after."

She pulled back, resettled the bandage and then rose to her feet with a confidence and determination not normally guiding the young woman, "That's why I'm going to catch him and whoever else might be doing this," she hit an open palm with her fist, "And I won't go easy. I might have taken a healer's vow, but in Rharne, we don't believe in hitting soft. If you're in a fight, you fight with everything you have."

I might be small, but I'm not made of glass.

The instructor ran the group through a few more stretches involving the shoulders, chest and arms, and then it was time. For those paired for unarmed combat, he demonstrated a series of basic attacks - punches and holds, emphasizing proper footwork and where to place weight upon the feet allowing for quick mobility. Yeva had seen these practiced throughout her entire life - execution would be far different and with an opponent like Darius? She glanced over at the sailor, noting his size. She would be at a disadvantage; even if his strength wasn't where it needed to be as a fighter, his weight alone would make it harder to throw him off balance, to push him back. With a shorter reach, she'd also have to worry about whether or not they were distanced. Her brothers had taught her that. If he could keep her from getting close, he would control everything... but then again...

As protective gear was given out to those who wished it, Yeva raised her hand and took a set of black, finger-less gloves, where padding had been added to the knuckles to protect from severe bruising and practiced the stance they had been shown. She gave a few practice jabs at at the air, and then slipped off the bit of ribbon around her wrist to tie back her hair, "Not the face," she said, smiling in excitement, "Deal?"
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Darius' frown lessened ever so slightly when he saw how his reaction affected Yeva. She was the one who had been attacked, after all - she shouldn't have to worry about his response on top of everything. Even so, he was concerned for her, especially when he saw how much she was trying to downplay her injury.

He leaned forward as the redhead lifted the gauze, his dark grey eyes studying the cut. He didn't know how serious it was by looking at, but it didn't seem too life threatening.

"That doesn't look too deep," he nodded, his voice lacking confidence as he leaned back again.

His blond brow furrowed again when Yeva spoke more of what had happened.

"I am glad you got away," he stated, his deep whisper soaked in a mixture of conviction and concern.

Darius could feel his jaw tighten when he realised that the attacker had not been caught. His fists clenched subconsciously, and he nodded in agreement when the redhead voiced her intention to go after her assailant.

"Aye," he spoke quietly. "And if you need someone to join you in your hunt, I would be there in a heartbeat."

It was, perhaps, a rather presumptuous thing to have said. They had only met a handful of times, and Yeva was sure to have others in her life who she trusted more, but he couldn't take the words back. The offer had been made and, though he would not say such a thing, her willingness to fight back made him proud. And perhaps helping her to train herself in combat would be one way of helping her get the justice she sought.

Though she be but little...

Darius' thoughts returned to the present as his attention was pulled back to the instructor. He followed through with the stretches, and, like Yeva, he took a pair of padded gloves, though it was more for her sake than the protection of his own knuckles. He adopted a ready fighting stance, waited for the excited woman to tie back her hair, and grinned back at her as he nodded in agreement.

...she...
...is...
...fierce!
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Re: Choose Your Fighter

Go Big or Go Home


75 Ashan 720

Yeva smiled at Darius' offer of help, but it faded as she regarded him as an opponent. Hands lifted, she kept her fists loose, thumb on the outside to prevent breaking and tucked her chin. She gave a quick jab in Darius' direction, to test his reaction and her own comfort and then remembered to tuck in her elbows. She threw a few more hits which collided with his arm and shoulder, and she braced herself for the retaliation that never came. Brows furrowed, her shoulders dropped and she tried again, each sloppy hit bouncing off his torso, the medic tensing after each swing. Darius moved where he could, but his swings were few and far between, reserved in a way she resented. Before, she would have taken it, but she knew the ferocity of a man with the intent to harm, and this... this was not it.

She pulled away, breath steady, "You're not fighting back," she realized, annoyance making her voice sharper than usually, "What's wrong?"

He hadn't appeared injured in their conversation, but now, when it mattered, he hesitated. She glanced down at her arms and their bruising. He was going easy. He didn't want to hurt her, "You said you'd help," Yeva stomped forward, ready to argue, "I can't get better if I don't have a chance to learn. Darius, you have to hit me."

Yeva lifted her hands and retook her position and bent her knees, waiting. Again, she sensed reluctance, and she frowned, jumping forward with open palms to shove her weight towards his chest, which was more like a bird flying into a wall but the medic didn't relent. She shoved into him again, more breathless than before because of the maneuver. Yeva wasn't done pushing her point, but tried to soften her voice, "This is just the way it has to be," Yeva tried to reason, hoping he'd believe her, "I think it's really sweet you're being nice, but I don't want nice right now. I want-" she rammed into him again, pushing the both of them back with fiery determination as she grabbed him, "I want you to fight."

Brown eyes searched his face for understanding, and she held a finger against his core, right below his ribs, "If you don't, I'll hit you right here. You know what that's called?" she paused, trying to muster up as much intimidation as she could. Rharnian ancestors be proud, "This is your diaphragm. It's a dome-shaped partition that increases the volume of your thorax. One small hit and you'll have all the wind knocked out of you. So -" she flicked the spot her finger had been, but the explanation had taken some of her fury with it. She now struggled to repress a small smile, "We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way. Got that?"

Yeva backpedaled and lifted her gloves.

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There was no question in Darius' mind that he had gone to The Proving Ground with the express intention of getting some more sparring under his belt. And he had known, as his feet had stepped onto the sand of the arena, that it would require him to throw as many punches as he had to take. But Yeva's presence, and her recent experience in Almund, had caught him somewhat off guard.

He was happy to spar with her, of course, and if that meant being a human punching bag so she could gain confidence in a combat scenario, then so be it. But as he looked at the gauze on her face, and saw the bruises on her arms as she raised her gloves, he could feel the fight go out of him. It wasn't that he'd been taught not to hit women - his mother had shown him that they were strong and fierce, and Yeva had of course chosen to be there - but knowing what had happened to her made him hesitant to engage in much more than some half-hearted shadow boxing.

"I'm sorry," his deep voice offered weakly when she asked him what was wrong, a frown of confliction across his face.

Yeva's response was strong. If there had been any doubt that the seemingly meek young woman didn't have a fire in her belly to match the colour of her hair, then he'd removed that by finding a way to ignite it. Her grabbing at him was so unexpected that he initially stepped back, his dark grey eyes staring into her searching brown gaze as he nodded silently at her words.

That was part of the challenge for Darius: he knew Yeva was right. The only way she would learn to take care of herself if - Immortals forbid - she was attacked again, was to actually experience fighting in a controlled environment. She would need to learn to channel her rush of adrenaline into a controlled attack. She would need to know what it felt like to get hit, so that she might have a chance of recovering quickly enough from it to hit back. And it was almost certain that she would get hit. Darius was no fighter himself, but even he knew that it was very rare for a victor to escape combat completely untouched.

Her threat helped to lighten the mood. Darius wasn't sure if that was the intention, but seeing the slightest of smiles tease at the ends of Yeva's lips somehow made it an easier burden to carry.

"Aye," he nodded. "I'll help you. I'll hit you."

Ignoring how strange it felt to say that, Darius shifted back into his ready position as the redhead did likewise. And then, after a pair of tentative jabs, he swung with his right fist, aiming a hook at the woman's torso.
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Pretty in Pink

Darius swung and Yeva smiled.

She twisted, the blow hitting her upper arm and a bit of her ribs, more substantial than the ones before it. There was bite to it, "Good!" she reared back, trying to watch his hands, his feet, stuffing down her excitement while she reminded herself that this was still a training session. She had just convinced Darius to get his head back in the game, "See? I'm breakable but not breaking."

The redhead kept her hands raised, watching him from atop her knuckles while the instructor walked the yard, "Don't forget - leverage your body weight," he stopped before another pair, correcting their stance before nodding in approval and continuing onward, "Remember there are four basic punches - Jab, cross, hook, uppercut. Don't rely on just one." Yeva glanced back at the speaker and played the words like a mantra in her mind.

Jab. Cross. Hook. Uppercut.

Jab. Cross. Hook. Uppercut.

Yeva leapt forward, and swung in quick fury once more, rather unrelenting to try to keep him on the defensive. Her technique was sloppy and she would no doubt tire out quicker if she kept up her rate. In her wild attack she launched a hook, but did not predict Darius would move in the way he did. Eyes widening and a gasp, she realized her her fist was moving in the direction of his face and she braced for an impact she hoped would be avoided.

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Darius felt his fist connect with Yeva's body, and he fought back the pang of guilt he felt for hitting his friend. He was gritting his teeth as he reminded himself that she wanted to be there; she wanted to learn so she wouldn't be a victim. He could help her. It was the least he could do.

He paused as she reared back from the contact, giving her that moment to regather herself - for learning how to take a punch was just as important as learning how to throw one - and nodded as she indicated that she was ready to continue.

At first glance, there were some clear advantages that Darius had over Yeva when it came to unarmed fighting. He was taller, for one, and - he wagered - stronger, so he had more raw power. That meant that not only could he presumably hit harder than his redheaded friend, he was also less likely to be toppled over if she tried to grapple him. He also had longer reach, by sheer good fortune of his longer limbs. If he had enough skill, he could in theory keep her at bay by jabbing at her and preventing her from making a decisive strike.

But for everything Yeva might have lacked in power and range, she more than made up for with speed.

As Darius attempted to strike her, his efforts gradually becoming more serious and dangerous, the redhead became harder to hit. She was a smaller target, of course, but she was also indubitably lighter on her feet, and that made her movements seem impossible to predict. The blond's attacks began to miss as his laboured strikes became slower.

When Yeva suddenly surged onto the offensive, slender limbs seemingly flying in all directions, Darius shifted back half a step. But the flurry of attacks kept coming, and though he was able to successfully block many of them with his fists and forearms, they did enough to ensure he couldn't keep proper sight of her attacks.

And then the hook came. Darius saw another strike coming, and decided to duck the blow, but all he managed to do was move his head right into the path of a gloved fist, and it caught him on his mouth. It hit hard, his lip crushing between Yeva's knuckle and his teeth, and it hurt as his head spun away from the contact.

Darius took a quick step back, smarting at the strike. His tongue tentatively reached out for where he felt the most pain, leaving him with a familiar metallic taste in his mouth. He flinched at the touch, crimson on his lip.

He kept his gloves up, in case his opponent had another flurry of attacks to unleash, but anything the instructor had to say would have fallen on deaf ears. There was no question that Darius was impressed. Yeva might have been small, but her strikes could cause damage.

"You're like a bee," he attempted to grin, though the flash of pain caused him to flinch once more, "flying around with that stinger of yours."
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