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Sunderland College [2.7 – Growing Excitement]

MONDAY

 

It’s the beginning of a brand-new week. The students have had a relaxing weekend, relatively, but behind the scenes, Sunderland College has been furiously working with the police to locate the Aranea agents and protect the college. Security has been notably tightened as the students begin to reach the college on Monday. Some of these changes come up in the morning’s registration.

“Wait, really?” Cassandra asks. Simon nods.

“Yeah. Your student IDs now have a secondary security chip in for the building itself.” he says. “When you’re entering the courtyard through the gates, scan it like normal. Except now, you also have to scan to enter the actual college; should keep people from getting in quite so easily.”

“He looks super done.” Jackson notes.

Xilog shrugs. “Apparently he was fiercely opposed to just having a single secure entrance to the inner walls of the college. Obviously there’s a lot of Battle Clothing that would easily allow someone to scale the walls… as we saw. Pinnacle did not believe the college would ever be targeted.”

“How do you know all of this?” questions Ten.

Xilog glances sidelong at her, keeping his arms folded and his expression distant.

“I actually read the news.” he replies.

A few minutes later, once the rest of the information is given, Simon gives them some time to themselves before registration ends and lessons begin.

“Oh, right! Before I forget!” Cassandra says to the group. “I wanted to have another party this weekend. My place, maybe Saturday? How does that sound?”

“Sounds good to me!” Ten replies.

“What time? I’ll be with- I’ll be busy in the afternoon.” Xilog responds, glancing up at Boo.

Cassandra shakes her head. “Probably evening, don’t worry. Let’s say 7, like last time!”

“Excellent. You can count on me to be there – so long as you can sate my dark spirit with spirits of an entirely different kind!” Donovan says. He seems distracted, glancing at Xilog.

“Did you even drink last time?” Cassandra asks.

“Uh, a little.” he says, defensively. “I was the one who formed the group to steal the booze, remember! I must’ve had some! Otherwise our legendary quest was for naught”

“True. Oh, right, we should get going.” Cassandra says. The group realise that classes are beginning – walking together, Xilog and Boo have already wandered off, as have the rest of the form.

Donovan smirks. “Well, well, well…”

“What?” asks Jackson. “Wait, are they-”

“Wanna know why he was so worried about Saturday afternoon?” Donovan replies, a fiendish grin crossing his face. “That’s when they’re having their date!”

As they exit the classroom, watching Boo and Xilog talk quietly, they realise that Donovan might be right.

“I vote that we form a dark confederate before the party and tail their date!”

“You know what? I second that.” Cassandra replies, smiling. “I wanna see how awkwardly that date goes!”

“We should ask our other friends from Form B, too.” Jackson suggests. “It could be kinda funny.”

With a plan in mind, the group head to General Studies in an upbeat mood.

 

*

 

After spending her free period handing out invites, Cassandra gets a coffee in the lunchroom and relaxes for a little while with Ten. It’s been a very easy day so far, with very little homework to do.

“Sorry I’ve been so busy lately.” Cassandra says, turning to Ten. Ten grins.

“Hey, don’t worry about it. We hung out over the weekend, and that was fun.”

“Yeah.” Cassandra replies. “I’ve just been trying to do research on lots of different things, and hanging out with our new friends. I want to start looking into the people that attacked the school, mostly.”

“Oh, really?” Ten asks. Cassandra nods, a determined look in her eyes.

“Aranea agents targeted our college. I want to know why, and I want to be able to handle the situation better next time.”

“That’s gonna be hard.” Ten says. “You realise their names were aliases, right?”

“Are you sure?” Cassandra says.

Ten gets out her phone and begins to type some things in. “What were they called again?”

“Corrine Primero, Carlton Drugi and Cecille Tertium.” Cassandra replies, looking at the piece of paper where she has written some notes on the terrorists.

“…Yeah.” Ten murmurs, looking at her phone. “Primero means ‘first’ in Spanish, Drugi is ‘second’ in Slovenian, and Tertium means ‘third’ in Latin. I highly doubt that they’re the agents’ real last names.”

Cassandra’s face falls. “…Ah. I guess that makes sense.”

“Did you have any other ideas?” Ten asks. “Licenses and the like?”

“Yeah!” says Cassandra, staring at her notes. “In order to get Battle Clothing that doesn’t use Dampened Patches, it’s likely that they have a license of some kind, either a First or Second license.”

“Mm.”

“And it gets logged on your license whenever you change Battle Clothing. The list of license holders in the UK is in the public domain, so if we search for anyone wearing the same clothing they were, we might find results…”

“Surely they’d be safer than that. The police are struggling to track them down, and they have a lot more resources than you, girl.” Ten responds.

“I know.” Cassandra murmurs. “But I want to do all I can.”

 

*

 

Just before lunch, Form B have Combat Training with Marion Summer. There’s just a few more fights before the lesson ends.

“Alright, Eiden, get back up there! And Clocksworth, you’re next. Come on, show us what you can do!”

Eiden steps into the ring – he’s been in a lot of fights in this lesson, but fighting Clocksworth, who he notes is not wearing the Vibe Bottoms, is going to be the most interesting fight. Clocksworth smirks as she walks up to Eiden.

“See something you like?”

“You aren’t wearing your usual pants. Switched to the Blood-Pact Bloomers, I’m guessing?”

“Indeed.” Clocksworth grins. “Good catch. You ready?”

“You haven’t fought yet today, Clocksworth, so impress us now!” Marion calls. “Begin!”

Eiden runs towards Clocksworth, who closes her eyes and focuses her power. Eiden feels nothing, and continues to run.

“Oh, god dammit.” Clocksworth mutters, realising what has happened.

With the additional help of his Spider Snood allowing him to move quickly, Eiden reaches Clocksworth, who yelps in fright and leaps aside as two of the arms of the Snood reach for him. Eiden easily heads Clocksworth off, preventing his escape and grabbing him with several tentacles, hurling him outside of the ring.

“Nice one!” Marion shouts. “Eiden, even if Clocksworth had been able to affect you, you would’ve won that. You’re really mastering moving quickly with the Spider Snood!”

“Thank you.” Eiden replies, nodding. His fingers reach up and grip the Snood, pleased with how he’s doing.

“Clocksworth, that was your first time with the Blood-Pact Bloomers, right?”

“Yeah, but that’s so unfair!” Clocksworth says, getting up from the ground. “What are the chances that he and I share blood type?”

“It’s more likely than you think.” Marion replies. “You have to make sure that if your Bloomers fail you, you have a backup, either with another piece of Battle Clothing, or physical combative ability. I’d suggest you stick with the Vibe Bottoms for now and consider the Blood-Pact Bloomers after you can wear two pieces of Battle Clothing.”

“Mm. Fair.” Clocksworth mutters, going to sit down.

“OK, last fight of the lesson, we can sneak one more in. Aubree! Zaphod! Get to it!”

Aubree and Zaphod head up to the field, both ready for a fight. Anastasia is watching with interest, keeping her eyes locked on the battlefield.

“Go!”

Zaphod charges, running towards Aubree, who waits for him to get closer. The moment she spots his Rocket Heels charging up, she moves; just in time, she dodges as Zaphod blasts past her. Unfortunately, one of his flailing hands grips her shoulder and she is carried into the air.

The class look up as Zaphod and Aubree hang in the air for a moment – Aubree twists her body and slams the blade of her Killer Heels into his head, sending him flying down to earth with extreme speed. He slams into the clay on his back and looks up as Aubree begins to fall blade-first towards him.

In desperation, Zaphod charges up his Rocket Heels and throws his legs up, hoping to stop Aubree’s fall with his own feet. The blades of the Killer Heels slam into his shoes, and suddenly there’s an incredible explosion and a blast of heat and smoke. As it clears, the group see Zaphod, outside the ring, look dazed.

However, on the other side of the field, Aubree has also been knocked clear by the blast.

“A draw!” Marion says, genuinely surprised. “Alright – Zaphod, you could’ve avoided Aubree’s fall by rocketing away instead of trying that.”

“I know,” Zaphod murmurs, clambering to his feet. “I was simply too tired out to actually fire the heels once charged! I could do with some food… anyone got snacks?”

“And Aubree, you did well. Just remember next time that there are some things you don’t want to stab. Like explosions.” Marion explains.

Aubree nods to herself, muttering. “Maybe a change of Clothing would be good, perhaps I can find something a bit more my style. I wonder if there’s anything that gives me beetle-like powers?”

She continues to mutter as she gets out a small beetle encased in amber and muses thoughtfully, playing with it in her hands.

“Yes, maybe something with a carapace or a big horn or something. That’d be cool… I’d need to do my research…”

Zaphod stares at his shoes. They’ve been blown apart by the force of the explosion. “…Might need to get these repaired.”

“It’d be a good idea.” Eiden says.

 

*

 

After Combat Training for Form B, several of the group have errands to run. Zaphod, on his way to Romein to get his shoes repaired, spots Eiden heading to the nurse’s office.

“He must be going for a checkup.” he says to Aubree, who nods.

“Probably! It’s still so soon, though. I can’t imagine he’s going to be able to wear two pieces of Battle Clothing yet.”

“No, certainly not.” Zaphod replies as they enter another corridor. “But he’ll certainly have a much better idea of the exact date that he’ll likely be able to. And it could be pretty soon! After half term, maybe…”

“We’ll see!” Aubree replies. She shows Zaphod a picture on her phone. It’s a large stone golem with huge stony fists and an impenetrable body of brick.

“Interesting!” he says. “What is it?”

“It’s the Golem Suit! It’s made with, uh, Dungarees and a patch. I’m going to ask for it!” Aubree says. “Big stony body with tiny little me inside! Don’t you think that’ll be fun?”

“Sounds like it.” Zaphod says, grinning.

“There’s a Bombardier called Kristen Peeler who wears one. She uses it with the Stone Layer Coat to make pillars everywhere, and then smashes people with her brute strength!”

“Stone Layer Coat and Golem Suit, hm?” Zaphod notes. “That’s a fun combination. Gosh, I can’t wait until we can wear two pieces of Battle Clothing! The possibilities for my beauty to shine will be endless!”

“With Anastasia helping you out.”

“But of course! My beautiful assistant Anastasia is the girl who will make it all happen! Right now, she’s probably designing my gallant suit for the competition.”

“Shouldn’t she be in Clothing History?” remarks Aubree as they reach the patchworking lab.

“Precisely.” grins Zaphod. “As I said, she’ll be designing my suit. She doesn’t listen!”

 

*

 

Over lunch, nothing of particular interest is happening. Anastasia and Zaphod are hard at work on the competition outfit, whilst Aubree sits with them, catching up on her homework. Soon, though, the lunch period is nearing an end and Zaphod has things to attend to.

“I’m afraid I have to go! My shoes should be repaired by now, anyway.” Zaphod says. “I’m really pleased with this design though – on Wednesday, we’ll work on it and finish it!”

“Yes, of course!” Anastasia replies, smiling. She continues to shade the piece of clothing on the paper in front of her, and watches Zaphod walk away.

The paper begins to rustle as the shading begins to go out of the lines.

“…Um, you’ve been watching Zaphod for a while now.” Aubree says. Anastasia snaps out of her reverie and looks down at the work.

“Whoops!” she giggles, rubbing out the bits of shading that were unintentional. “I was, uh, distracted.”

Aubree gives her a curious look. “…By Zaphod specifically?”

“No! That’d be, um, silly…” Anastasia says, giggling further. Aubree fixes her with a strange and intense stare. “…OK, fine. We’ve been really getting along lately. And he’s a handsome guy. Is that what you wanted?”

“Eeeeeeee!” says Aubree, grabbing Anastasia’s hands and getting almost uncomfortably close. “Oh, this is going to be so cute, you guys are great! The dream team!”

“I’m trying not to say anything about it.” Anastasia says.

“I mean, it’s often quite normal for a designer and model to like each other.” Aubree says, beginning to monologue. “I mean, look at the two biggest men in the modelling business – Dexter Duvoir and Marcel Sezoine. Those two have been together forever. And then you have all the other pairings that get famous. Some of them win competitions due to the strength of their bond, and I think it’s really important to know your designer intimately sometimes, maybe it helps with the intimacy of wearing the clothes they made and that helps in battle? I don’t know.”

“Whoa, whoa, slow it down.” Anastasia replies, grinning. Aubree collects herself and lets go of Anastasia’s hands.

“O-of course! Maybe we should get to lessons.”

“We have General Studies next.” Anastasia says, packing up her things and beginning to exit, with Aubree close behind. “Anyway, don’t mention it. I don’t think he’s really into me. Seems a bit more interested in himself.”

“He called you beautiful earlier.” Aubree mutters, before flouncing off.

Anastasia stares at the receding figure.

“Wait, what was that?”

 

*

 

The afternoon passes uneventfully, and the real excitement comes from Testfire Club. As Tessa Valleja strides up with another set of clothes under her arms, the group comprised of Cassandra, Jackson, Eiden, Aubree, Zaphod and Anastasia, as well as others, wait with anticipation.

“Alright, guys, let’s get right into it!” Tessa says, dropping a set of faded black dressing gowns on the ground, torn and ripped in various places. “These are the Nightmare Gowns. Get ‘em on!”

As the group begin to dress themselves, Tessa places on her own Nightmare Gown. She puts up the hood, and immediately, the gown seems to change into a living being, worn like a shroud directly over her body. She grins at her students.

“The Nightmare Gown is a pretty simple piece of Battle Clothing, but that makes it quite potent. It increases your speed and strength, and slightly decreases your defences. If you get hit with it on, it’s gonna leave a mark. But…”

Tessa suddenly dashes forward. It’s not as fast as the Speed Sneakers, but still hard to hit, and delivers a punch to a dummy some feet away. It goes flying across the field and into the wall at the edge of the college grounds before landing, lifeless, on the ground.

“The whole point is to hit hard before you get hit! Dodging and counter-attacking; that’s how you wear the Nightmare Gown. Give it a try – just remember, please take care. We’ve got no Ward Aura Slippers!”

The students begin to test their capabilities. Eiden especially enjoys the speed at which he can swoop around, delivering punches and blows of incredible strength and immediately retreating within the same few seconds. Aubree prefers to focus on the speed, whilst Cassandra puts her all into the strength of the clothing.

Eiden and Cassandra also hear whispering – Cassandra especially hears loud, strange whispers.

“Why is it whispering to me?” Cassandra asks, trying to discern the voice. Unfortunately, though she can hear the whispers, she cannot tell what it is that they are saying.

“Right, yes, the big weakness of the Nightmare Gown – whilst you’re wearing it, it has an immense mental drain on you. Those of you who suffer from depression or another mental illness will be drained more intensely. It can only be worn in powered-up form by most mentally able people for eight hours or so.” Tessa explains. The students suddenly begin to look at their clothing again, wondering what kind of influence it’s having on them even as they wear it. “I will also state that you should never wear it to sleep in. Do not sleep whilst wearing it – ever.”

“What happens if you do?” Eiden asks.

“Put it this way.” Tessa replies. “The Nightmare Gown is, along with the Phantom Overcoat, the closest that ‘normal’ Battle Clothing gets to Silhouette Clothing.”

There’s a chill in the air.

“Let’s keep going with it. Please let me know if you want to take it off.”

Whilst everyone else is relatively fine, Eiden finds himself somewhat affected by the strange machinations of the Gown, and Cassandra can only wear it for twelve minutes before feeling physically nauseous and having to take it off.

However, with another new piece of clothing to possibly enjoy, the students head home in a generally happy mood.

Jackson watches Cassandra as she walks away, looking ill at ease. “I wonder…” he says.

“Wonder what?” Eiden asks.

“What happened to her that she’s so affected by the Gown?”

Eiden sighs and places a hand on Jackson’s shoulder. “If it’s that bad, and she hasn’t told us, it’s probably best not to ask.”

“She lives with her aunt.” Jackson mutters. “Maybe her parents were abusive?”

“Seriously.” Eiden says. “I have a feeling Cass will not take kindly to you theorising about her shitty past. Let’s just get home – I gotta do this Performing Arts homework before Louisa kills me.”

 

TUESDAY

 

“Alright, everyone, settle down!” Mia says. “Come on, we’ve just got one last thing to get through before I let you go.”

Form B’s chatter dies down and Mia smiles radiantly at them all. “Right! Today we’re going to be discussing the Practise Model Competition and exactly how it works. So most of you can zone out, but it might be helpful for you to listen, so you know exactly what the entrants will be graded on. Knowing how the competition works makes it more fun to watch, you know!”

Once everyone is looking attentively at her, Mia begins.

“Alright, so as we know, the model competition is usually performed via combat. Two combatants wearing designer clothing will partake in battle. There will be a panel of judges observing, and they’re checking for four things: style, efficiency, performance and skill.”

“And what are they when they’re at home?” Clocksworth asks. Mia grins.

“Glad you asked! Style determines the look of the clothes themselves. Is the Battle Clothing unique, and does it do interesting things with the clothing it’s based on? For competitions where there is a theme, this will be taken into account here, too. Efficiency determines how well the clothing was shown off. You win this if you’re able to show off all the different strengths of your clothing.”

Clocksworth is actually being quite studious, and making notes on everything. The rest of the class listen carefully.

“Performance is about the, well, performance. You don’t fight tooth and claw in a model competition – your focus is on spectacle above all else. The more showy and flashy the moves, the better, even if they’re not the most efficient way to win the fight. Finally, skill dictates your fighting ability. Remember, the aim of a model competition is to sell the designs to investors or design companies – you want to fight so well and beat your opponent so badly that it makes your Battle Clothing look all but invincible. Never show weakness! That’s how you win.”

Mia walks to the whiteboard and begins to draw the numbers one to five in two columns. “The final point is awarded for winning the fight – the same rules as our own college uses. Push the opponent out of the ring or knock them unconscious! There’s no Ward Aura Slippers in proper competitions, though, usually; holding back and not outright killing your opponent is another challenge models have to face. There’s usually several referees ready to step in when things get dire!”

She begins to mark some of the numbers with crosses.

“So, after the fight, the judges will award points to the fighters that they think deserved them. Once the points are allocated, the person with the most points wins!”

“Wait, so-” Eiden starts.

“Seriously?” Phillis smirks.

“That’s right.” Mia says, grinning. “If you manage to win enough points from the judges, you don’t have to win the fight to win the round. There have been several occasions where a fighter won the battle, and thus the victory point and the skill point, but the loser received the other three points and won.”

With proper knowledge of how model competitions work, the class leave for their lessons, excitedly discussing how they might change their designs to better suit the criteria.

 

*

 

In Form A’s Combat Training in the morning, everyone is feeling peppy. Even the chills of September cannot stop everyone chattering loudly and talking strategy.

Marion Summer looks over her class. “Alright! We’re going to be doing something different today – winner stays on! Once a fighter has been knocked out or removed from the field, someone else can take the chance to run on and join the fray! Keep going until all the class is done!”

“Oh, this sounds fun.” Jackson says.

“Let’s go!” Marion says. “Ten! Cassandra! Get up there!”

Ten and Cassandra hop up and stand, ready for the fight. Ten readies the Sawblade Skirt, and Cassandra breathes out a cold mist, gathering cold for the Chillbringer.

“Begin!”

Ten opens strongly, racing forwards and forcing Cassandra to hop backwards to stay out of the reach of the Sawblade Skirt. As Cassandra builds up the cold, Ten fights more furiously, trying to knock her out of the ring before she can fully gain her power.

It ends up being too late; Cassandra’s smaller stature allows her to dodge past Ten’s strikes, and in an instant, Cassandra launches several icicles at her companion. One of them catches her in the stomach and knocks her just out of the ring.

“Someone else!”

Surprisingly, as the class look around for who wants to deal with a fully-powered Cassandra, Boo is the next to run up to the field. She isn’t wearing the Sawblade Skirt anymore, either.

Cassandra readies a powerful strike of ice as Boo runs up. Releasing it as the smaller girl charges, a powerful wave of ice launches itself right across the field, with no way to dodge it. Cassandra whoops in delight at the sheer strength of her clothing, given time.

Boo charges power into the Powerful Pullover, and continues to run. As the great wall of ice slides towards her, she hurls a mighty punch, and with a single blow, shatters a gigantic hole in the wall. Cassandra turns in shock as Boo races up to her and delivers a powerful punch to her face, throwing her out of the ring.

“Oh, heavens.” Xilog says. “She was wearing that at the taster. Beat Eiden in a single punch.”

Another student runs up, but Boo is easily able to block their strike and punch them out of the ring. Xilog shrugs and decides to engage, leaping onto the field with the Steel-Capped Kickers. With a few kicks, he leaps over to Boo. Though she dodges past his first kick, that was the intent – Xilog hits the ground and immediately kicks again, launching himself backwards into Boo, knocking her to the ground.

Boo pushes up from the floor as Xilog races towards her to capitalise on the strike, and she is just able to roll herself away from his flying kick. Getting to her feet, she watches as Xilog prepares a final powerful kick, and he leaps towards her.

There is no attempt to dodge. Boo readies her fist, and throws it directly into the metallic boot as it flies towards her. There is an almighty clang, and for a brief moment, there is a powerful energy generated between Xilog’s swinging kick and Boo’s furious fist. Then the moment passes, and the force of the punch hurls Xilog out of the ring.

“Ridiculous.” Donovan mutters, walking towards the field. “You need to apply the dark arts if you hope to defeat this demon in a girl’s body! Watch, and learn!”

Donovan runs up to Boo, but as he does, he creates three clones and begins to weave around them. They keep their distance from Boo’s punches, and soon, she’s too turned around to tell which one is the real Donovan.

The Donovans close in, and one of them laughs in a mocking tone. “You can’t punch all four of us at once! Give yourself to the darkness, Boo!”

There’s a determined expression on Boo’s face, and with the speed of a bullet, she punches the ground at her feet as the clones reach her. The force explodes back out of the ground, launches huge pieces of dried clay everywhere and throwing all of the clones back. The real Donovan blindly fumbles for a moment as the clones fade away, and in that moment, Boo boots him out of the ring with a single kick.

The remainder of the fight is not long. Eventually, every single student has been knocked out of the arena, with nobody proving themselves strong enough to defeat Boo.

“Yes!” roars Marion. “Yes, Boo! That’s what you needed! Incredible work!”

Boo nervously looks around, hoping for people to be impressed with her feat of strength. The class scoff at her, and several students flip her off without Marion noticing. The students who do not outright disdain her ignore her, and the only ones with even a hint of friendliness are Cassandra and Xilog.

For the rest of the lesson, Boo loses all her fights. It does not seem to help the class’ opinion of her.

 

*

 

Aubree walks up to the lab during lunch, and sees Xilog striding towards her.

“Hi!” she says, running up to him. “Are you here for Romein?”

“Quite.” Xilog replies. “I’m here to collect my new piece of Battle Clothing.”

“Same here!” Aubree exclaims as they walk in. She turns to one of the assistants, Tessa. “Hi! I’m here for the Golem Suit I requested yesterday?”

“Yep, I’ll fetch that. And you?” Tessa says. Xilog shrugs.

“The Speed Sneakers, if you will.” he replies, then begins to muse. “One must wonder where the names of these clothes came from. Evidently there is some way to tell each piece of clothing apart, but is it the name that grants the power, or something else?”

Tessa disappears into the main lab, and a few minutes later, returns with the clothing in question. Aubree gets on her dungarees with unbridled glee, and dashes off, whilst Xilog slowly removes his boots and gets the sneakers on. Testing how they feel for a few moments, he nods, satisfied, and hands in the boots.

 

*

 

Form B have Combat Training right after lunch, and Marion smirks as she sees Aubree virtually vibrating in her seat, excited to try out her new clothing, and evidently having had an incredibly good week so far.

“Alright, let’s get started. Phillis! Aubree! Get up here and start us off.” Marion yells.

Phillis strides up, and everyone notes that he now has a new tattoo – on the right buttock, he has a garish ‘I ❤ PROTEIN’ tattoo marking his body. Aubree looks visibly irked by having to fight him first, and he grins.

“Ready for me?” he grins, licking his lips. Physically repulsed, Aubree looks away.

“Begin!”

Phillis walks forward, slowly, steadily, and begins to smile as Aubree watches him. When he’s nearly close enough to reach out and strike her, Aubree allows power to flow into the Golem Suit, and the dungarees transform, surrounding her entire body with a huge golem, standing at an incredible seven feet tall, with fists as big as Phillis’ chest. Phillis has a few moments to look up in complete shock before a giant punch hits him in the chest and hurls him back several feet.

With huge, imposing footsteps, Aubree begins to stride towards Phillis, who runs forward and punches the giant stone exterior. He yells in pain as hand completely fails to make any impact whatsoever. A kick from Aubree’s huge stony foot strikes his penis and before he can move out of the way, a side swipe knocks him out of the arena.

The class stare in amazement at the gigantic golem, and it stops moving. Aubree’s muffled voice can be heard from the depths of the thing. “This is amazing!”

“Sure looks like it! Well done, Aubree! Now remember, it’s very slow, but pretty strong. Bear that in mind when fighting opponents that might actually be able to pierce that golem shell!”

Aubree allows the golem to vanish, and return into a pair of dungarees. She drops to the ground and skips back to the bench, placing herself next to Eiden.

“You’ve been in an incredibly good mood today.” Eiden says.

“I got some good news!” Aubree replies. “When I went to get my Golem Suit, I spoke to Romein about the possibility of learning about patchworking! He said I’d be able to take on an apprenticeship with him after half term, with after-school classes!”

“Oh, wow. I had no idea you could even do that.” Eiden says. “That sounds pretty great – congrats! That reminds me, I need to speak to Louisa at some point about getting some extra classes. I could do with the help.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Aubree replies. “Oh, Zaphod is about to fight Anastasia! This should be fun.”

“Why?” Eiden asks.

Aubree smirks to herself. “No reason!”

 

*

 

It’s approaching evening. There’s a mighty clang in the gym, disturbing Donovan as he runs on the treadmill. He turns to the other side of the gym, wondering who else is in so late in the day.

It’s Boo, sat on the floor with a dropped dumbbell. She is wearing a short-sleeved top, and Donovan can see that her arms are red-raw. It seems she has been lifting weights for several hours without rest. Donovan also wonders briefly if it is a side effect of exerting too much power with the Powerful Pullover.

“Miss Boo!” Donovan exclaims. “Did you drop your dumbbell?”

“…Yeah.” Boo murmurs. Her eyes are a bit puffy; it looks like she’s been crying.

“Is everything alright? Should I smite your enemies with the force of a million screaming souls?”

“…No.” Boo replies, collapsing in on herself and drawing her knees in. “…Doesn’t matter.”

“Evidently it does.” Donovan replies. “Perhaps I am not the most equipped for a heart-to-heart, but you should speak to someone! Maybe Cassandra, my good friend. She’s become quite fond of you!”

“Maybe.” Boo says softly. She gets to her feet, looks down at the dumbbell for a moment, and begins to walk away.

 

*

 

Cassandra, Eiden, Zaphod and Xilog discuss the book as they walk in. Bradley greets them with a smile. “Come on in, students. How did we find Patches For Gods?”

“Super interesting.” Cassandra says, smiling. Bradley nods knowingly.

“I liked all of the tales!” Zaphod replies. “The Descending Sun was my favourite one. Love Egyptian myths like that!”

“It’s a good one, indeed.” Bradley replies. “Did we have any other favourites?”

Over the course of the hour, the group discuss the book and which stories they preferred over others. At the end of the session, Bradley gets out another book.

“Next time, we will be looking at something relevant to the Practise Model Competition next Monday. Swift As The Wind: Official Biography of Dexter Duvoir: I hope you enjoy this look into the life and times of the Royal.”

With a new book to be interested in and plenty more to discuss, everyone heads home, musing on the possibilities of the legendary Egyptian pieces of Battle Clothing and the terror of the Anticloth.

 

WEDNESDAY

 

Cassandra finds herself in the gym in the free period after registration, and begins to run on the treadmill. Shortly after, Phillis arrives and begins to run beside her.

“Hey.”

“Hey.” Phillis replies.

“So…” Cassandra says. “Do we want to talk about what happened last week? That weird thing you did?”

“Oh, that.” Phillis says. “It was just an idea I’d had. I thought it might help, and what do you know, it works. Almost too well, really.”

“No kidding. It was stupidly strong.” Cassandra says. “Just… some warning next time, yeah?”

“‘Course.” Phillis says. He begins to steady his breathing as he increases the pace of his jog. “Mind spotting me after?”

“Not at all.”

 

*

 

At lunch, Eiden finds and corners Boo for a few moments.

“Uh, hey! I was wondering if you could reconsider teaching me some hand-to-hand combat tips. I’m thinking of switching from my Spider Snood soon, and I really need to know what I can do without relying on clothing.”

“Oh, um…” Boo murmurs. “…Can I get back to you tomorrow?”

“That wasn’t a no.” Eiden notes with a glint in his eye. “Sure thing. Thank you!”

Heading over to where Jackson is sat eating lunch, Eiden sits beside him.

“Hey, Eiden. Did you need something?”

“I wanted to ask about my mask.” Eiden replies, gesturing. “I was wondering if you’d have any idea of what it would be capable of?”

“Capable of..?” Jackson says. “Hm. It’s pretty hard to predict what a piece of clothing is going to do, but… judging by the application of Original Cloth and clothing type… similar designs taken into account… hm… probably some kind of breath-affecting skill.”

“Interesting.” Eiden says. “Fire breath or something?”

“I’ve no idea. We’ll find out, though!” Jackson says, nodding.

At another table, Anastasia has come to find Aubree.

“Hey.” she says. “I was wondering, uh… would you mind giving me some pointers with my design?”

“Oh, no problem!” Aubree says excitedly, looking over the papers that Anastasia has put down.

“Thanks.” Anastasia says. “I’m not too familiar with design, and you seem to know your stuff, so…”

Over the course of the next hour, Aubree gives Anastasia various pointers and information, and Anastasia leaves the lunchroom feeling far more confident about the design she has.

 

*

 

As the end of the day approaches, several students make their way to Textiles Club to finish their designs. Louisa explains that they have been given extra time due to missing the previous week, and can stay until eight.

“That’s four hours! We can easily finish our design!” Clocksworth says to Mia, who has been dragged along.

“Let’s get started!” Eiden says to Aubree. Jackson is working on his own little thing, keeping himself separate from everyone else.

It is a long process, but soon, the outfits are coming to life. With help from Louisa, Romein and his assistants, who have come by to help out, the students begin to form their designs. There’s a great variation – some are flashy, some are edgy, and everything in between.

By the time that eight o’clock arrives and everyone has to go, most of the costumes have reached some state of completion. The competition is just five days away, and everyone is aware of the strict time limit.

Eiden goes to Louisa at the end of the club, and tries to ask, but finds himself a little nervous, and still distracted by the conversation. Making a mental promise with himself to ask her about lessons after Friday’s Performing Arts class, Eiden turns around and walks away with everyone else.

“Looking forward to your outfit?” Aubree asks. Eiden nods appreciatively.

The other students are still discussing their own plans; the only one who isn’t talkative is Jackson, who has already walked ahead of the pack and headed home.

“I really hope we can win.” Anastasia says to Zaphod as they exit the college gates.

“With you by my side, I’m confident we can!” Zaphod replies with a wink. Anastasia finds herself blushing a little, and tries to remain calm.

 

New Clothing Discovered:

 

[No. 010] Nightmare Gown

Formation: Dressing Gown + Power Patch

Effect: Increases speed and strength, allows for short-range teleportation

Drawback: Has a mental drain whenever worn, affects sleep

 

[No. 066] Golem Suit

Formation: Dungarees + Augment Patch

Effect: Builds a mighty golem around the user with extreme physical power

Drawback: If the golem shell is destroyed, it takes twenty four hours to be usable

Sunderland College [2.X - Race of Secrets]
Sunderland College [2.8 - Knocked Dead]

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