"Tch... you damn brat!"
Impossibly, Rose from the River has lost her cool. The Conciliatory Ice-Star Blade flows through shapes like water, but its tip is driven into the crack between two tiles. One of Rose's tight vine-braids comes loose, the ties around it snapping, and her too-thick-to-be-hair curls like the leaves of a fern in the rain. When she looks up at Qiu, her serpent's slits throb with passion, reflecting the ice-and-fire war raging in her own heart.
"Where do you think you get off... hnngh!" Qiu's blade kisses her cheek, and her fingers fly there just a moment too slow. Another strip of orange flutters to the ground. (Orange she wasn't wearing this morning; blame the stylization. A conical hat lies askew on the tiles; her practical black top peeks through the long gashes in the robe, which is much more striking in its damage, and isn't that what matters right now?) "You think I'm going to roll over meekly for you?"
(No, her heart sings: she's going to take those strips and wrap them tight around you, bind those swordplaying wrists fast and pinch your nose shut so she can cram in...)
Rose from the River makes a sound like a thousand-year-old tree being uprooted, all groan of roots and scream of branches, and darts into a nameless style we'll call Move Like Armies Form. She moves so fast, stones shattering underneath her feet, that she leaves afterimages to surround Qiu in a ring of illusions, only to strike from behind. Qiu stands still and blocks the strike without so much as looking behind her. The wind roars through the pillars as the air catches up to their swords.
Rose jumps, leaping from pillar to pillar, stone crunching under her terrible fingers, and then descends like a broken space elevator, howling. Qiu calmly vacates the landing zone, riding the rippling current of Rose's impact on the buckling flagstones, and makes it look easy. When Rose flings herself after, taking her blade in both hands and swinging it like a claymore, Qiu has already moved out of the way of every swing before Rose so much as makes it, and each swing is punished: hiss, hiss, hiss! Like a wasp, Qiu's sword flickers in and out, stinging Rose's skin and reducing that robe of the twilight sun to nothing but tatters, tatters draped over her like a shroud.
There: Qiu makes to block, and Rose surges forward like a hungry sea to slam her weight, her strength, her throbbing lunar blade, all of herself against this waif of a girl who thinks herself better. And at the very moment it is too late to do anything but follow through with the blow meant to pin her fast against a pillar, to drive the Conciliatory Ice-Star Blade through her dress like a spike and crush the breath out of her pretty lips with shoulder and hip, Qiu melts away, ducking impossibly low, leg swinging wide to unbalance the monk. Rose hits the pillar and then the ground hard in quick succession, and before she can stand up, one high heel presses insistently on the back of her head, pushing her back down. The sun gleams mercilessly on the hilt of the Conciliatory Ice-Star Blade, sunken to the crossguard in the black stone of the pillar.
Her heart is racing. It hammers against ribs and lungs heedlessly, howling incomprehensibly about brats and how dangerous it is to be helpless and how no one is ever going to take her seriously again and how her body is a fire from the skin down to the very marrow, and when she tries to raise her head, Qiu exerts the slightest pressure and the head goes back down. If there is any mercy, let no one be watching.
Then the shoe is removed, and Rose traitorously feels disappointed.
"Well?" This time she stays down. "Please, don't let me interrupt your victory gloating, your most excellentness, your royal pain-in-the-ass!" (No self-reflection on her judgment of Qiu. Absolutely none.) "After all, if the Way meant for you to lose here, it..."
It would have sent someone who wasn't Rose. The realization of her own pride slams into her like a mountain falling on her back. She'd not just failed herself, she'd failed the Way-- unless this was exactly what she was meant to do, meant to learn, and the proper harmony of the universe required her to be...!! (No, surely not, that's her petals doing the thinking for her, wanting Qiu to conquer her properly, to be reassured that she didn't have to choose between her own lust and her duty to the good of all things.) Her thoughts run round and round in circles, barking at each other like dogs, and all the while Qiu looks down at her, face hidden by the light of the sun surrounding her head as a halo.