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Sunderland College [3.1 – A Hectic Morning]

In the early morning, Donovan sees Cassandra and Ten walking up to college, and runs after them.

“Good day, ladies of shadow! I must ask, will you two be attending the Model Competition to provide support to our assistants of the darkness?”

“Oh… uh, probably not.” Cassandra says. “The coaches leave in five minutes, don’t they? You’d best hurry up. I have a lot to do today, so I don’t think I’ll have the time…”

Donovan, obviously put out, nods and heads up to the college courtyard, where two coaches are waiting.

“Cassandra Giles, go with him.” Ten says. “He’s into you; can’t you tell?”

“No he isn’t. Shut up.” Cassandra replies, evidently not in the mood to discuss it. She heads into the college whilst Ten continues to badger her.

“He is, seriously! I saw the way he was looking at you when we were stalking the date, and at the party… Cass, he likes you.”

“No!” Cassandra replies fiercely.

They make it to the lunch hall, where they were intending to have an early coffee, but the discussion has devolved into a full-on argument.

“You guys have had your cutesy moments. Remember that fight you had where he almost won, and then you beat him? And don’t think I can’t see the way you smile when you hear his, uh, particular manner of talking.” Ten says.

“Shut up, Ten!” Cassandra yells. “He’s not into me! Nobody is! I…”

“You what, Cass? Go on, finish that sentence. Give me a good reason and I’ll drop it!”

The other students in the hall, some of which share classes with the two girls, begin to watch the confrontation.

“I can’t be liked! OK? You get all the attention whenever we go out, and you know it. I’m broken, and I can’t be fixed, and so nobody can be capable of finding me attractive! Did you have to make me admit it like this?!”

Glowering with rage, Cassandra begins to storm out of the room. A packet hits her shoulder. As it lands on the floor, she looks at it.

“Hot sauce. Because you’re hot.” Ten says. “And everyone else thinks so too.”

This last attempt does not convince Cassandra, and she continues to walk out of the room, trying to fight back tears. Ten watches her and then huffs, turning back to the lunchroom counter to get a coffee. The conversation goes back to normal in the lunchroom, for the most part, but several students are observing with surprise.

“What was that all about?” asks Aubree.

“I don’t know. But we can’t stick around, the coach is leaving soon. Have you got your coffee now?” Eiden says. Aubree nods.

“Yes, sorry, sorry! I needed to calm my nerves… let’s get going!”

The pair race out of the room, ready for the competition.

 

*

 

It’s a short coach ride to the edge of Macew, where the Macew Modelling Arena lies. The teachers begin to organise their students as everyone piles in.

“The audiences won’t be arriving until 9 or so; in the meantime, students here to watch head up the stairway to the left!” Jessica Fir is calling. Chrissie Ansell is guiding her students out of the coach as Simon observes and makes sure nobody gets lost.

“Come, étudiants, who are performing or designing, head to the right and follow the signs to the model’s lounge!” Louisa Lefay says, pointing at a hallway off to the right. Several of the students make their way over there, including Eiden and Aubree, Jackson, Mia and Clocksworth, and Zaphod and Anastasia. Phillis watches them walk off as he gets off the coach.

There’s very little chatter as they make their way to the model’s lounge. Everyone is quiet out of nervousness – except Clocksworth, who is trying her best to strike up a flirtatious conversation with the stonefaced Mia Denney.

“Alright,” says a competition official, checking his records as he walks into the room. “The clothes have been delivered to the design room, just off from the model’s lounge. You will get changed in ten minutes and head down to the arena. Here are the first brackets.”

The paper is put up on the wall, and the fifteen students crowd around it, trying to see. The eight models have their names written down:

Round 1: Jackson Slacall vs Mariana Trina

Round 2: Clocksworth Clocksworth vs Paris Duvoir

Round 3: Eiden Darrow vs Talia Fortescue

Round 4: Zaphod Smith vs Alice Harvey

 

*

 

“Are you supposed to be in here?”

Phillis turns to see a woman, one of the competition officials, staring at him. He’s stood in the design room, amongst all the clothes, holding one of them suspiciously.

“Uh, yeah. Move along, let me just fix this.” Phillis says. The official glares at him, and he sighs. “Fine. I was mucking around.”

“Out. This space is for models and designers only.”

Phillis exits. He wasn’t able to do exactly what he wanted, but he managed to mess with the patches of three of the competitors’ clothing. Chaos will be rife in the opening fights.

 

*

 

“Oh, god…” murmurs Aubree. Eiden turns to her, putting on his snood.

“Hm?”

“Oh!” Aubree replies. She grabs Eiden’s arm and awkwardly tugs on it. “I just got a text… my dad is here. I thought he was working. Oh, no no no…”

“Hey.” Eiden says, placing his hand on hers. “You’ve done well. We did alright practising with the new snood yesterday, didn’t we? We’re gonna be fine.”

“I’ll cheer you on as best I can!” Aubree says seriously, narrowing her eyes. “We’ll do our best out there!”

Eiden chuckles. “Yeah. We will.”

Jackson is sat on his own. He looks so androgynous as to be virtually unrecognisable at first. It’s only when he does a characteristic sigh that Clocksworth realises who it is.

“Hey, Jackson, didn’t even recognise you for a sec there!” calls Clocksworth. “Where’s your designer?”

Jackson is silent.

“Well, alright. Your outfit looks… interesting, anyway.” Clocksworth says. Before the group can continue chatting, there’s a roaring from outside all of a sudden. The crowd is getting excited as the competition begins.

“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen!” comes a loud and confident voice. “I am Lauren Valleja, one of your hosts for today’s Practise Model Competition! Though it’s small, all of the parents and students who have attended today – and some fashion dignitaries – it’s gonna be a good show today!”

“Indeed it is.” comes the other voice. “Hey there, folks, I’m Hector Proctor, careers advisor at Sunderland. We’re gonna be filling you in on all the exciting details of these practise fights. Though they might be less serious than a normal competition, the judges have said they’ll be judging as if it were serious. So everyone better bring their A game.”

The crowd is cheering. Aubree gulps nervously, and Jackson is very withdrawn.

“We’ll begin the first fight shortly!” yells Lauren. “Let’s get ready to greet Jackson Slacall and Mariana Trina!”

 

*

 

Back at Sunderland College, Cassandra decides to get checked up, and she looks with interest at the slip as she exits the nurse’s office.

 

Nurse’s Notes

Nurse: Richard Nolan

Students are tested on strength and intelligence through a point-score system. 7 is around average for students of this age. Their bodies are only capable of handling more kinds of Battle Clothing once their strength score reaches 14.

Students with 11 or more strength will likely be able to wear two kinds of Battle Clothing by the end of the winter term. Those with 8-10 strength will be able to wear two kinds of Battle Clothing by the beginning of the summer term. Those with 7 or less will be able to wear two kinds of Battle Clothing during the second year.

 

Student Name: Cassandra Giles

Analysis: Impressive physical condition.

Int 7/Str 8

 

She’s satisfied. Deciding to go outside for a little bit of fresh air – and avoiding the lunchroom where she knows Ten will be – Cassandra hums to herself. Two suspicious figures at the first security gate catch her eye.

“Hello!” one of them says, waving her over. Preparing the cold of her Chillbringer, she walks forward cautiously. The one who spoke, a taller man, nods at her. The woman at his side looks at her with dead eyes.

“Can I help you?”

“Yes, you can, actually.” the man says. “My name is Lucas Gloom. I’m simply wondering if you know a girl by the name of Aubree Cyrus, or anyone called Peter Gascoine?”

“No clue on the second one.” Cassandra replies. “I know Aubree. What do you want with her?”

Lucas feels the cold surrounding him and shivers involuntarily. The woman keeps her eyes trained on Cassandra. A letter is produced from Lucas’ pocket and he hands it to her.

“See that this letter reaches her. It’s of vital importance.”

Cassandra takes the letter.

“I know what this looks like.” Lucas continues. “But it’s important. I promise. There’s something dangerous coming to Sunderland College… or rather, someone. He is looking for something. If he finds it, he will change history. And if he doesn’t find it…”

“He’ll kill everyone until he does find it.” the woman says. “Nobody knows where it is. The only person who might have an idea is Aubree Cyrus.”

“I’ve never met her, but I’ve worked with her mother, Ellis. Please believe us.”

Cassandra continues to stare at the letter without speaking. The woman tuts.

“It’s a lost cause, Gloom. If this girl wants everyone to be killed, so be it. We have to look elsewhere.”

The woman begins to walk away. Lucas nods at the letter and gives a friendly, worried smile to Cassandra, and then turns away. Cassandra pockets it for now, her mind in turmoil.

 

*

 

“Alright, ladies and gentlemen! It’s been a long morning, but we’re finally here – the first fight is beginning! On one side of the arena, the mysterious Jackson Slacall! And what is that he’s wearing? Looks very, uh, homemade!”

Jackson sighs as he walks onto the arena. It’s a lot larger than the ones used for practise fights at the college, and the crowd, though small, is very loud and imposing, surrounding him on all sides. He smiles, though; time to perform.

“And on the other side, Mariana Trina! A popular girl who has caught Lousia Lefay’s eye, or so we hear! And those slippers aren’t just for show – she’s going to win with style!”

Mariana grins at Jackson. She’s wearing a silk dressing gown and soft satin pyjamas, with red slippers that seem to be glowing with power. Jackson doesn’t look concerned. He’s wearing a white formal shirt, tucked into a pair of androgynous harem trousers; his waist is practically cinched with a wide leather belt with corset-style lacing. He also has large platform shoes on, and a jacket on top, completing the look. On his head, matching his baggy harem pants, he wears a long and flowing hood that hugs his shoulders.

“They’re the fighters for our first match. Jackson has submitted an unlisted piece of Battle Clothing, which means it was custom-designed. That’s an impressive achievement for an adult, let alone a child; once his designer submits it to the Board of the Clothing Index, it may get officially added to the roster of legal Battle Clothing.” Hector explains. “Mariana, meanwhile, has gone with the Sleepytime Slippers, and let me just say, she looks adorable in those pyjamas.”

“She’s sixteen, Hector…”

“Right, right, I was just saying; not in a weird way. Reminds me of my daughter, though at least my daughter doesn’t use the Sleepytime Slippers: they can knock a foe out in a single kick. Of course, once you knock someone out, you can’t do it for 24 hours… “

“It’s possible that Mariana either wants to get a guaranteed victory, even if she loses the other fights, or she intends to win this fight without using the slippers to have an easier time in the later fights! We’ll find out, folks, here we go!”

Alarna Marigold, the combat referee, nods at the arena. “Begin!”

The minute she speaks, Mariana charges. “I’m sorry, whoever you are, but this is going to end quickly!”

Jackson has a strange smile on his face, and he doesn’t move as Mariana runs across the field towards him. As she reaches the halfway point, he raises his hand.

“You’re right.”

Suddenly, his harem pants flow out of control and there’s a strange energy in his legs. In a single instant, it blasts out as a gale-force gust of wind that hits Mariana like a fist and carries her twenty feet backwards, well out of the arena’s range.

“My god, such a quick fight!” yells Lauren.

“End!” shouts Alarna. “Both of you, wait for the judge’s results!”

Jackson glances up at the sealed-off booth where the judges are watching the fights. He can see figures moving around inside, but they are too far away to properly focus on.

“Alright, we’re getting the results in.” Hector says. “The winner was Jackson; 1 point. Jackson… actually won in a landslide, getting the points in style, efficiency, performance and skill. 5-0 to Jackson! He’s through to the next round!”

“There we have it, ladies and gents! Jackson’s new clothing, which is named the Bluster Bottoms, have swept Mariana completely aside! An incredible performance! We’ll get on with the next fight very shortly!”

 

*

 

In the model’s lounge, everyone is wondering who Jackson’s designer is and whether using custom clothing should be allowed. One student in particular tilts his head, as if realising something important.

“Of course.” Eiden murmurs. Aubree turns to him.

“What is it?”

“He didn’t just design the Bluster Bottoms. I’ve seen his designs over the last few weeks… Jackson doesn’t have a designer.”

“He doesn’t?”

“No. Jackson is his own designer. He entered as both model and designer.”

“…I see.” Aubree says. “That makes sense! I wonder how he managed to do both, though. They said we weren’t allowed unless we’re properly capable of handling it!”

“I mean, you did just see that fight, right?” Eiden says. “He handled it, alright.”

 

*

 

Two of the students, sat watching the fights, talk intently.

“That was incredible.” Boo murmurs.

“Almost as strong as your punches.” Xilog says. “That new piece of clothing is something potent indeed.”

“Yeah.” Boo says. “I, um, hope the other fights are a bit longer though.”

“Mm. That’d help. I mean, I can’t quite remember what all the categories are again.”

“Style is how the clothes look.” Boo says. “Efficiency is how well they’re shown off.”

“That makes sense. Jackson looks stylish, and, well, that was the most efficient victory he could have possibly pulled off.” Xilog muses.

“Performance is about being all performative and showy, I think.” Boo continues. “And then, um, skill is about fighting and not showing weakness.”

“He certainly did those, too. I understand now… it’ll be interesting to see how the other fighters handle this.”

“With aplomb!”

Xilog yells “GAAAH!” as Donovan hops into the seat beside him, grinning widely.

“Good day, son and daughter of love! Mind if I observe the combat with you? It’s always more fun with friends!”

“…Sure…” Boo murmurs. Xilog nods.

“Y-yes. Just don’t repeat that particular action again.”

 

*

 

The second fight is soon underway.

“Alright, everyone, we’ve got some new fighters coming up!”

In the model’s lounge, Mia is observing the field nervously. Anastasia and Aubree are with her.

“Hey, why did you work with Clocksworth? Is that allowed?” Anastasia asks.

“I asked the headmaster, and he allowed it. Besides, he… he was worried about Clocksworth.” Mia admits, staring at the field intently as Clocksworth flounces on confidently. “They shouldn’t be acting with me the way that they do. And I checked their student records… Clocksworth’s father was a Patchmaker, who apparently died in their infancy.”

“I see.” Aubree says, her face falling. “How sad…”

“But… I believe that Patchmaker, Clocksworth Clocksworth the 1st, is- was involved with the Bo-”

“Mm?” presses Anastasia.

Mia falls silent, shaking her head furiously. “No… wow, what am I saying? I shouldn’t be sharing this private information with students. The fight’s about to begin.”

“On that side, we’ve got Clocksworth Clocksworth the 2nd! You may know their mother, Watchworth, who is a designer that owns a small fashion brand – and it looks like they’re using the Vibe Bottoms, and they have their soundproofing headphones prepared! Get ready for some loudness, folks!” Lauren says.

“On the other side, allow us to introduce Paris Duvoir. And yes, audience, this is the son of the Royal, Dexter Duvoir. He’s ready to make a splash in the world of modelling, it seems.”

Paris Duvoir stares evenly at Clocksworth. He’s tall and thin, with blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. A faint, smug grin passes over his features. He wears a long, flowing scarf, stylish navy blazer and dark blue trousers.

“Begin!” shouts Alarna.

Clocksworth runs forward, and Paris takes a moment to take his scarf and wrap it around his eyes and ears.

“What’s happening here, Hector? You wear the Swift Scarf yourself, don’t you?”

“Indeed I do. Paris may wear a scarf like his father, but he has gone with the Support Patch instead of the Power Patch. The Swift Scarf lets him predict and avoid incoming attacks.”

Paris runs forward, and Clocksworth prepares her Vibe Bottoms, releasing a huge shockwave of sound. Paris grits his teeth, obviously uncomfortable, but continues moving towards Clocksworth.

“He’s got an excellent strategy here,” Hector explains. “Since he can predict Clocksworth’s attacks, he doesn’t need his eyes, and he can cover his ears to hugely reduce the effect of the Vibe Bottoms. He knows exactly what he’s doing here.”

As Paris reaches Clocksworth, who blasts another shockwave of sound, he goes to punch his opponent. Clocksworth dodges neatly and kicks out at Paris, using the fierce vibrations of the Vibe Bottoms to increase the power of the kick. Paris dodges, lunges forward and delivers a sucker punch to Clocksworth’s stomach. “Gah!”

“Oh, wow! Clocksworth went for a tough kick, but the Swift Scarf is helping Paris dodge and counterattack in a single fluid movement!” Lauren shouts.

“Something’s wrong.” Xilog says.

“Mm?” Donovan asks.

“Look at Clocksworth’s face; the Vibe Bottoms aren’t working as expected. Those loud noises aren’t the loudest the Vibe Bottoms can do; I think we all know that, having fought Clocksworth ourselves.”

Clocksworth is noticeably concerned. He retreats from Paris and prepares another shockwave, but instead he produces an earsplitting shriek that doesn’t launch any shockwaves of sound. “What the fuck is happening here..?”

Paris charges, a grin on his face and his fist balled up and ready.

“Is something wrong with the Vibe Bottoms?” asks Lauren. “Clocksworth seems to be having some trouble.”

“What on earth is going on?” Anastasia asks. Mia and Aubree have no idea, and can only helplessly watch as Paris reaches Clocksworth.

“I’m sorry, Clocksworth – not that you can hear me.” Paris says, punching him and knocking them backwards as the Vibe Bottoms continue to fluctuate. Clocksworth throws two punches back, but Paris easily predicts them, dodging past one and catching the fist of the second hit, then pulling backwards, hurling Clocksworth over his body and slamming him into the ground.

Clocksworth tries to release a shockwave of sound but the Vibe Bottoms now refuse to respond. He grips them in rage, and then notices that the patch is half-ripped off. Somebody intentionally ripped it halfway off, and the moment he realises this, he growls in anger.

“It’s nothing personal.” Paris says, talking airily to himself. “My father refused to be here today. So I’m going to win and show him that he should have been watching me. You’re just a stepping-stone on my way to victory, I’m afraid.”

With that, Paris lifts the enraged Clocksworth and tosses him out of the arena.

“End!” Alarna shouts. “The results!”

“Yep, wait a moment for the judges to discuss it.” Hector says. “The winning point goes to Paris… style goes to Paris… efficiency goes to Paris… performance goes to Clocksworth… and skill goes to Paris! 4-1 to Paris!”

“An incredible performance by an incredible kid!” Lauren says. “I mean, I think most of us know Paris could easily take this whole competition – he’s had a natural talent for modelling his entire life!”

“What…” Clocksworth mutters, staring at the sky as he lies on the ground. “Who… who did this?”

Sat on his own, in the audience, Phillis is grinning to himself.

 

*

 

“Hey.”

Simon looks up as Ten walks into the room. “Ten. What can I do for you?”

“I, uh…” Ten replies, not sure what to say. “I had a fight. With Cassandra. Uh, a verbal one. And… I don’t know.”

“Right. What was it about?”

“Something stupid.” Ten answers.

Simon muses for a moment with his eyes closed, and then he fixes Ten with a stare. It’s strangely calming, looking into his eyes.

“You and Cassandra have been friends for an awful long time, from what I gather. I think the best thing you can do is speak to her this afternoon or later today and try and make up. If it’s something stupid, then she’s likely going to be just as willing to forgive and forget.”

“…Yeah.” Ten replies, walking to the door. “Yeah, I guess so. I’ll do that.”

“You’re welcome.” Simon says.

“Oh!” Ten says as she opens the door. “Uh, yeah. Thank you.”

She exits the room, wondering how best to approach the situation.

 

New Clothing Discovered:

 

[No. 079] Sleepytime Slippers

Formation: Slippers + Power Patch

Effect: Allows user to instantly knock a foe out with a single kick

Drawback: After a knockout, user cannot do it again for twenty four hours

 

[No. 111] Bluster Bottoms

Formation: Harem Pants + Augment Patch

Effect: Generates wind as user moves, then blasts it out wherever directed.

Drawback: Wind cannot be controlled once released

Sunderland College [2.8 - Knocked Dead]
Sunderland College [3.2 - No Small Amount of Chaos]

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