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Sunderland College [3.5 – Eiden vs. Jackson]

“Hey.”

Eiden looks up in surprise, expecting Aubree, but instead sees Jackson. “Jackson, hi.”

“I care about you, man. No matter what happens today, we’re still gonna be friends, right?”

Eiden smiles behind his mask and shakes his head. “Goodness me, Jackson. Yeah, of course we are! We’ve been making some cool clothes together, and working with you is fun. Whatever happens, we’ll stay friends. But don’t hold back on the battlefield just because of that!”

“Hah.” Jackson grins. “I don’t intend to hold back… mostly because I know you won’t.”

“Indeed.” replies Eiden. “And hey, once all this is over, we can celebrate, whoever wins.”

“Yeah.”

From outside, a voice rings out over the stadium.

“We’re finally here, folks! It’s been a long day, but we’re at the final now: Eiden Darrow vs. Jackson Slacall! The Spider Snood vs. the Bluster Bottoms!” shouts Lauren above the crowd, who are cheering excitedly.

“We’d better go.” Eiden says. “Good luck, Jackson.”

“You too.”

“The match will begin shortly, once our performers are in position.” Hector says. A few moments later, Eiden and Jackson appear at opposite ends of the stadium and begin to walk up to the edge of the battlefield.

“We don’t have much else to add, so let’s not waste any more time. Final match of the Practise Model Competition… begin!” Lauren shouts.

Eiden snakes forward slowly, moving around unpredictably to prevent Jackson locking on to him. Eventually, Jackson darts forward and releases a blast of wind; at the moment of impact, Eiden slams six of his limbs into the concrete of the arena and closes his eyes. The wind buffets him fiercely, but anchored down by his limbs in the ground, he does not move.

“Did you really think that was going to work?” Eiden says, tugging his limbs out of the ground, pulling out small segments of rock and dirt.

Jackson smirks. “I’d have been disappointed if you’d gone down that easily. We’re in the final – we have to put on a show!”

“Damn straight.” Eiden replies, bunching up his limbs as Jackson moves towards him. He stretches them out as quickly as possible, launching himself into the air a short distance. Jackson glances up, but can’t see Eiden well due to the sun. In a blind panic he runs forwards and uses a blast of wind to head to the other side of the arena. Eiden lands where Jackson just was, slamming his limbs into the ground, cracking it slightly.

Eiden gets up slowly, being carried by the Snood’s limbs, looking fearsome. The front two limbs with the sharp claws are primed and ready. Jackson observes the field carefully, and some plans begin to form in his mind. He hurls another blast of wind at Eiden, who successfully anchors himself once again; whilst his eyes are closed against the wind, Jackson runs closer to him, readying another blast.

“They’re both so aggressive.” murmurs Boo.

“The skills on display are self-evident, though.” Xilog says. “I can’t say I’m particularly wanting one to win over the other, but I am enjoying the raw strength of our two competitors.”

“Jackson is a friend, and thus he has my darkest blessing!” Donovan announces with a dramatic flick of the wrist. “Whether he will win is another matter, but I sincerely hope he can overcome the Spider of Sin!”

Opening his eyes, Eiden sees Jackson getting closer, and un-anchors himself to go on the attack. Jackson jumps up, and one of Eiden’s limbs wraps around his legs. Before Eiden can pull them together, the Bottoms release a powerful storm of wind that drags Eiden backwards. He keeps hold of Jackson, but the boy lands on the ground feet-first, making sure that the Spider Snood’s limb around his leg cushions the landing.

The impact causes the limb to flail and release Jackson’s legs. However, shaken by the landing, Jackson spends a few moments recovering, and in that time, Eiden shakes off the wind blast and heads for Jackson once more, limbs at the ready.

“What’s he doing?” Anastasia says, staring at Eiden. Aubree looks down.

“I’m not sure. Haven’t seen this before.”

Eiden has gathered all eight of his limbs together, deigning to walk on two feet for the first time in the match, and twisted them together in front of him to form a sharp point. He begins to run at Jackson, who fires off a blast of wind.

“Would you look at that?” Lauren says. “Eiden’s formation of limbs has made him aerodynamic enough to shake off the wind; it only slowed him down a little!”

Jackson curses as he backs off from the charging Eiden, wondering what to do. Concerned about the edge of the arena several metres behind him, Jackson uses a blast of wind to leap above Eiden, but the limbs collide with him before he can get high enough. Choking out a breath as the eight limbs his his stomach, Jackson is hurled to the side, crumpling on the ground. He clambers to his knees, but behind him, he can already hear the strange skittering of Eiden moving towards him.

“Not even gonna give me a second to catch my breath…” he mutters. “Alright, Eiden. Alright.”

 

*

 

“Right. Are you Phillis Singen-Stevens?”

“No.”

The official raises an eyebrow. Pinnacle has long since left the room to watch the final, but the official has resigned himself to missing it, being stuck with this irascible, unhelpful young man for the next half an hour.

“Are you a student at Sunderland College?” he asks.

“No.”

“Did you tamper with the patches?”

“No.”

The official sighs. He’s getting nowhere.

Phillis looks at him with a disinterested stare, idly tapping two of his fingers on the table. His tattoos look somewhat intimidating, rippling whenever he moves his arms, as if they were alive.

“…Uh…” the official says, but loses his nerve. “Alright, fine. You already got suspended from college, so whatever. Just this once we’ll let you off. It’ll be going on your permanent record, but somehow I don’t think you’re the kind of kid who cares about that.”

Phillis smirks at the man and stands up to leave. “Maybe.”

The moment Phillis exits the room, however, he feels a sense of worry. Suspended from college for a couple of weeks… maybe it’s time to dig into my parents’ past and see what I can learn about the Anticloth. May as well do something whilst I’m off.

He hears a worried ‘ooh’ from the audience and tilts his head in the direction of the stadium seating.

Eh. May as well finish watching the final.

 

*

 

Eiden lunges at the figure of Jackson on the ground, knowing that Jackson hasn’t moved around enough to build up more wind yet. Jackson hurls himself blindly to the left as several of Eiden’s limbs strike the ground, throwing up dust and rocks. Another limb reaches out to grab him, but he scuttles away even further, buying himself just enough time to get to his feet.

A fierce wind begins to build up around him, whirling like a tornado. As Eiden goes on the offensive, the small tornado catches him, and he is hurled aside; unfortunately, his limbs take the fall and he lands, spider-like, unharmed.

“Eiden has really been showing off the offensive and defensive prowess of the Spider Snood this match.” Hector notes. “He’s got an excellent control of it’s functions, and it looks terrifying, to boot.”

“Jackson, meanwhile, is at a disadvantage. Can he catch Eiden out? It seems like he has endless supplies of wind – he just has to use it at the right moments!” Lauren adds. “This is shaping up to be a very exciting final!”

Eiden begins to run with all of his limbs skittering about, not quite attacking Jackson, but ducking and weaving around him. Jackson darts about, hurling blasts of wind where he can, hoping to catch Eiden out, but the Snood is just too quick.

Jackson begins to move around without attacking, and by the billowing of his harem trousers, he’s preparing a powerful blast of wind. Eiden’s eyes fixate on Jackson: this is what he has been waiting for.

“You can’t dodge forever, Eiden!” shouts Jackson. Eiden continues to skitter around Jackson, shrugging.

“I’m pretty sure I can. Hit me with your best shot!”

“Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Jackson replies, building up a mighty tornado around himself. Slamming his palm into the floor, Jackson expands the tornado – it expands in every direction, in a perfect circle.

Completely unavoidable.

“Dammit-” Eiden grunts, not expecting an unavoidable strike. He manages to slam three of his eight tentacles into the ground before the wind hits, and as he is slowly pushed back, the three limbs scrape through the ground, cracking the floor and causing large chunks of it to break off. The wind passes quickly, however, and Eiden is still on the field.

“Eiden survived it!” Mia says, watching the fight.

“He can do this!” Aubree replies. “Look – Jackson’s all tired out from such a strong attack. Perfect time to counterattack.”

“We’ll see.” Clocksworth says.

Eiden lunges for Jackson, who is still catching his breath, determination in his eyes. His limbs rear up above Jackson, and he readies himself to go for the legs. As he strikes, Jackson grabs one of the limbs, but Eiden soon has him trussed up in a tight wrap of limbs, four around his legs and four around his arms and torso.

Struggling against the tentacles, Jackson can’t move or use his wind, and Eiden turns to face the edge of the arena, several metres away, and with a heave of his limbs, he goes to hurl Jackson.

“Ooh, this is bad.” Xilog says, watching with quiet interest.

As the tentacles unfurl, Eiden watches in shock as Jackson, still gripping tightly to one of the limbs, doesn’t get thrown. In a snap response, Eiden slams his limb, with Jackson clinging grimly on, into the ground. Jackson lets out a gasp as his back strikes the ground, and he lays on the ground, completely dazed.

Eiden doesn’t quite take the advantage, and instead stands there for a moment.

“Eiden’s stopped attacking!” Lauren calls out above the noise.

“I can’t tell why, but he’s giving Jackson a moment to get to his feet.” Hector says. “Strange decision.”

“As expected.” Xilog says, watching as Eiden readies himself to go after Jackson again, once the boy has clambered onto unsteady feet. “That attack was a regrettable instance… he was worried he’d genuinely hurt Jackson.”

“Ah, I see.” Boo mutters. “He’s still at the advantage either way, though.”

“Yes, but you can imagine his disappointment.” Xilog replies. Eiden launches a barrage of pincer strikes at Jackson, forcing the boy to dance backwards to avoid the attacks. “He thought he’d won. That was a genius move on Jackson’s part; I saw him grab one of the limbs as Eiden went to grab him… he knew exactly what he was doing.”

“Of course he did.” Donovan replies. “He’d seen Eiden do exactly that to Talia; he knew what dark work Eiden was capable of, and prepared his celestial vengeance to avoid the same fate!”

Boo watches the barrage with worried eyes. “They both seem so evenly matched…”

“One has to win. That’s just how this works.” Xilog says.

 

*

 

October 31st, 1991

 

“Wait, what’s this?” says Ellis, staring at the ground. “There’s a small furrow… and that’s the hieroglyphics for ‘down.’”

“Followed by ‘god’. ‘Down god’?” Elysia murmurs, waving her torch over the lettering set into the floor. She stares at the furrow. “There might be a trapdoor under these stones.”

The two women begin to shift the stones aside, revealing, piece by piece, a large stone trapdoor with the phrase ‘go down, god sleeps’ carved into it.

“God sleeps…” mutters Elysia as she follows Ellis down the narrow stairway under the trapdoor. The rooms are getting more dank and musty as they descend. Elysia wonders briefly how far under the ground they must be by now.

The bottom of the stairway opens up into a little room, and the pair note a furrow in the wall, in which a piece of clothing is hung up. It does not seem to be an ordinary piece of clothing, however; it shines with a valuable lustre, as if the sun itself is shining out of it. The room is well-lit thanks to this.

“What on earth is that?” asks Elysia.

“…Looks like…” Ellis says. “No, it couldn’t be… not in all my days as a historian have I ever seen this.”

“Hm?”

“That,” Ellis says, pointing at the piece of clothing with a dramatic flourish. “Is one of the three Gods’ Regalia of Egypt: Ra’s Toga.”

“My god. No wonder this place is so strange… this must be the resting place of the Toga. Do you think the other Regalia will be here, too?” Elysia mutters, staring at the brilliance of the Toga.

“It’s entirely possible – we’ve never discovered Anubis’ Mantle or Osiris’ Tunic, and it would explain why if all three were hidden deep below ground.”

“Right now, though, we need to get out of here.” Elysia says.

“Put on the Toga.” Ellis suggests. “It allows you to generate immense light and release powerful flames – we could use it as a beacon, and blast a hole up to the surface. It’s definitely strong enough to melt solid rock.”

“That works.” Elysia replies, going towards the Toga. “I’d rather not take my clothing off, though – would you mind being the one to do it?”

“Would I mind wearing a piece of the Regalia?!” laughs Ellis. “Absolutely not. Hand it over, and let’s see what can be done!”

In another segment of the pyramid’s vast underground, Lucas and Axis head down the stairway they discovered, and find a room with a furrow in the wall – there is a piece of clothing hung up in it. Lucas waves his torch over the area. “You know, I swear this piece of clothing looks familiar.”

“Oh… yes, it certainly does. I’ve taught many a history lesson on this piece.” Axis replies, staring in wonderment at it. “It… it can’t be, but it looks like Anubis’ Mantle.”

“What, that raises the dead?”

“The very same.” Axis replies. “I… I must have been destined to find this.”

Axis begins to walk towards it, and Lucas pulls an awkward face. “I wouldn’t do that.”

Axis stops. “…What?”

“It’s not ours to use. We take it for historical relevance, not for personal use.”

“Gloom. I would consider you a friend.” Axis says through gritted teeth. “You can’t… you can’t be telling me that I cannot use the Mantle’s power to-”

“As your friend, I am telling you that you cannot use the Mantle!” shouts Lucas. “It’s a great discovery, I agree, but it’s not yours just because you found it! You’re a historian – do you not understand the significance of our find?”

Axis turns to Lucas, eyes burning, and yells. “I do! But I also understand what I need it for! And you can’t stop me from finally fixing my mistake!”

“It wasn’t a mistake, it was natural!” says Lucas, ever more fiercely. “You can’t blame yourself for what happened, and it goes against nature to abuse the Mantle’s power!”

Axis’ eyes widen. “Lucas, get out of the way.”

“What? I’m not even in the way of the Mantle, though maybe I should b-”

“Mummy!” shouts Axis, and Lucas hears the shuffling behind him, ever so faint. Leaping aside, the mummy lumbers into view, lit by Axis’ torchlight. Lucas curses and runs for the Mantle.

“No, Gloom!” howls Axis. “You can’t do this to me!”

He runs at Gloom, and the mummy follows slowly. Axis has desperation in his eyes, and Lucas knows what happens when Axis becomes desperate. He prepares his Control Labcoat and stares at Axis. Both of them are stood on either side of the Mantle, and the mummy is walking slowly towards it.

“Don’t make me hurt you.” Lucas says. “I really, really wouldn’t want to hurt you. But you’re being erratic.”

“Lucas-”

“Take another step and I’ll do it.” Lucas replies. “Let’s deal with the mummy, as per the job, then take the Mantle and hand it in to the authorities.”

“If you do that, they’ll send it off to the UK, stick it in the Velleria, and nobody will ever see it again. This is my chance to fix everything.” Axis says.

The mummy reaches the pair, and as Lucas turns to fight it, Axis leaps for the Mantle.

“Dammit, Axis!” shouts Gloom, jumping back and clicking his heels together – there’s a generation of immense heat energy in his shoes, and with a flick of his wrist, wincing slightly, he releases an immense explosion that hits both Axis and the mummy.

They are fired into the corner of the room, and as the light fades, there’s a crumbling from above and the ceiling begins to cave in. The mummy moans and Axis yells, but Lucas doesn’t listen, instead grabbing the Mantle and running for the stairway. He reaches it just as an immense slab of rock seals up the entrance almost entirely.

Lucas waits for a few minutes until the rumbling stops, then gets as close to the entrance as he can.

“…Axis? Axis?”

Silence.

Clutching Anubis’ Mantle, Lucas is filled with revulsion and has to fight down the urge to throw up. The Kingdom Come Clogs on his feet seem to vibrate with shame and disgust.

“Oh god.” he mutters to himself. “Oh god, I killed the mummy, but I… I…”

He faces the entrance again.

“Axis! Please! Stop messing around!”

After a few more moments of silence, Lucas falls to his knees.

“I killed him.” he says hoarsely. Not sure what to do, he begins the slow walk up the stairway, but is surprised to find numerous people talking on the floor above, and a rope ladder descending into the trap room.

It takes ten minutes for the Egyptian authorities to bring Lucas to the surface, where he meets Elysia and Ellis. He hands Anubis’ Mantle to one of the officers, and rejoins his friends.

“Lucas! You’re safe!” Elysia says, in a rare moment of emotion, just able to stop herself from going to hug him. Ellis tilts her head in confusion.

“Where’s Gascoine? And… was that another of the Regalia?”

“Axis, uh…” Lucas says, stumbling over his words. “We beat the mummy. Axis… didn’t survive. Mummy got him with a trap.”

“…I’m sorry to hear that. The same happened to, uh… Lott and Sarah.”

“No.” Lucas says, his heart failing for a moment. “Lott? Sarah? Oh, god… I can’t believe this. Lott was so young, too… I knew we weren’t ready for this. Most of us only just turned twenty. Did we really think we were capable of entering the most dangerous pyramid in Egypt without a problem? God…”

“Lucas.” Elysia says. “It wasn’t your fault. We just… it’s a regrettable instance. But it wasn’t our fault.”

The words feel like knives in Lucas’ back as he nods. “Yeah. Not my fault…”

As the pair sit around in the night air, staring out over the desert in the distance, Lucas turns back to Ellis.

“Did you say ‘another’ of the Regalia?”

“Yeah.” Ellis replies. “We found Ra’s Toga.”

“My god… maybe all three of them were down there.” Lucas says.

“Why did you hand it in?” asks Elysia. Lucas stares at her in confusion.

“Why wouldn’t I?”

Ellis pats her bag. “I’ve still got the Toga. You’re not allowed to tell anyone – I want to keep it hidden.”

“Surely it’ll be safest in the Velleria. It’s impossible to break into; the most secure museum in the world.”

“Safe, but also not very accessible.” Elysia replies. “Besides, it fits into her research. It could give her a unique edge over others in her field.”

“I suppose, but I don’t like it.” Lucas says. “Fine, Ellis. Just make sure you do look after it.”

“I have a good place to keep it hidden.” Ellis says. As conversation stops abruptly, the three of them sit and cannot help but think about the three lives lost.

Eventually, they meander through another day or two of helping the Egyptian authorities ensure that the mummy problem is gone, board a flight back home, and find themselves in the comforting streets of the UK, still not sure what to do with themselves. Every Hallowe’en from that year on, they feel it. The same memories… the same guilt.

“Are you alright, Elysia?”

The voice cuts through the mist of memories, and Elysia looks into Lucas’ worried eyes.

“Fine… just remembering.” Elysia replies. “Let’s get back.”

“Yeah. I know how it feels.” Gloom says. “Once we reach the hotel, all we can do is wait. I just hope that Aubree receives that letter.”

“Do you think Ellis will want to see us? It’s been years.”

“She has to. With how dangerous things have become, I don’t think she has a choice but to work with us to stop him.” Gloom replies.

 

*

 

“This final is heating up.” Hector remarks, observing how Jackson is dodging away from Eiden, but getting closer and closer to the edge. “Both of our competitors have proved themselves to be very solid models, and beaten tough opponents.”

“Looking at their records, they’re both first-year Performing Arts students, studying under Louisa Lefay. That probably explains why they’re so competent.” Lauren responds.

Eiden retracts his limbs after his assault, and Jackson realises just how close to the edge he is. Nervously, he readies a blast of wind, and he is just quick enough: Eiden bunches all of his limbs together into one long, heavy limb and slams it just as Jackson blasts away. The impact disturbs the ground, and Eiden turns to go after Jackson once more.

Jackson launches a blast of wind, which Eiden anchors himself for, and the process repeats itself three times as Jackson keeps retreating around Eiden, trying to get back into the middle of the field. Eiden becomes more aggressive after the third blast, darting forward the instant he disentangles his limbs from the ground without much care.

Eiden reaches the centre before Jackson, and proceeds to barrel towards the smaller boy, zigzagging left and right to prevent Jackson targeting him with more blasts of wind. Jackson instead targets himself, using a surge of wind to launch himself over Eiden. Eiden grabs him in midair, however, and it takes some vigorous shaking for Jackson to free himself. He lands awkwardly, roughly in the middle of the arena, and stumbles around some of the debris from Eiden’s anchoring.

“Come on, Jackson, give it up!” Eiden says, skittering towards the quiet figure.

A surprise zephyr hits Eiden; it’s a light attack, not enough to push him out of the ring, but fast enough to take him by surprise. He looks up to see Jackson preparing a tornado.

“Jackson is trying the tornado strategy again.” remarks Clocksworth.

“But he doesn’t have the element of surprise this time – what’s to stop Eiden anchoring himself?” Anastasia says.

“Well, nothing, but a strong enough blast might dislodge him.” Paris replies, watching the field. “Or maybe…”

The wind begins to pick up around Jackson, a cyclone of terrifying size and power, but Eiden has firmly lodged his tentacles into the ground once more. He resists the spinning winds and prepares to weather a veritable storm of wind. Jackson is in the middle of it all, looking all around, nodding in satisfaction.

“Your wind can’t dislodge me!” Eiden shouts into the tornado. “We’ve already established this!”

“I know. It’s not the wind that’ll dislodge you.” Jackson replies. “It’s the rocks.”

Eiden looks up in shock, and then he realises Jackson’s ploy. The members of the audience also begin to spot it.

“Of course…” Xilog breathes.

“Every time Eiden has anchored himself, he’s damaged the field and brought up rocks.” Boo observes. “The battlefield is strewn with them.”

“And Jackson’s tornado is strong enough to lift them up.” replies Xilog.

The tornado begins to spin faster and faster, and powerless to move lest he get dragged into the wind, Eiden helplessly watches as huge chunks of rock spin around him, slamming into him over and over again. Eiden holds on grimly, but as the stones continue to pile up, one of them eventually strikes his stomach hard enough to dislodge four of his limbs. The other four strain against the wind, but more rocks come flying towards him and several of them hit Eiden directly in the face and chest.

Dazed, Eiden is launched by the wind, completely ripped up from the ground. Two of his limbs have been torn off in the chaos, but as he flies towards the edge of the arena, his mind snaps back into focus. His front two limbs strike the ground for all they’re worth and screech horribly through the concrete, creating a long, awful furrow in the ground. As Jackson disperses the whirlwind, dropping the rocks all around, he watches in surprise as Eiden begins to get back to his feet.

“Eiden’s up!” shouts Lauren. “Looks like he won’t be going down quite that easily, despite the excellent move by Jackson. But he’s looking pretty out of it!”

Eiden grimaces. His whole body aches; if it weren’t for the combat referee, he’d likely be covered in cuts and blood after the rockstorm. He glares at Jackson, walking slowly towards him, and readies his limbs. After their impressive performance, his front two limbs have been torn by friction, kept together by just a few threads each.

Still in the game.

“Are you OK? Please don’t push yourself.” Jackson says as he reaches Eiden. Eiden doesn’t reply, and instead prepares two limbs to dart at Jackson’s legs and truss him up. In his tired state, however, the limbs don’t move as quickly as Eiden wants them to; Jackson sees them coming and grabs one, leaning back and pulling, dragging Eiden to the floor.

Two more of Eiden’s limbs wrap around Jackson’s legs as Eiden hits the ground, and through weary eyes, Eiden watches as Jackson pulls at one of his front limbs, with the sharp edge, and swing it wildly. It slices neatly through the limbs trapping Jackson’s legs and the young man leaps for safety, using a blast of wind to perform a mid-air frontflip, landing on the ground just ahead of Eiden.

As he turns, Eiden continues struggling to his feet, with just three limbs remaining, one of which is hanging by just a few threads. He lunges at Jackson, and the young man buffets him with a light blast of wind, knocking him back to the floor. He’s still in the arena, and he grits his teeth behind the mask as he stands once more.

“Don’t pity me because I’m at the disadvantage!” Eiden shouts. “Hit me with everything you’ve got, or lose!”

With that, he charges on foot towards Jackson, preparing all three of his limbs to strike, and Jackson, wincing a little, readies another blast.

It strikes true: the sheer force of the wind hurls Eiden back, as far as he will go, slamming heavily against the wall on the other side of the stadium. He falls and lands on his feet, shaking for a few moments before collapsing, completely unconscious.

“Eiden!” screeches Aubree, rushing out of the model’s lounge to head to the stadium grounds.

“Well, it looks like Eiden is down for the count, ladies and gentlemen!” announces Lauren. “Jackson has won the match, but was it enough to clinch the victory?”

“The judges say… let’s see here. Jackson won the victory point, Eiden won the style point… Jackson won the efficiency point, Eiden won the skill point…” Hector says. “And the performance point goes to… Jackson. The winner of the 2004 Practise Model Competition is Jackson Slacall!”

Breathing a loud sigh, Jackson collapses to his knees. “I… actually pulled it off.”

Aubree runs onto the arena, transforming into the Golem Suit to pick Eiden up. She turns to the combat referee, who points her to the nurse’s office.

“Take him there and let him know that he just fell unconscious. He should wake up soon – he seems tough.”

“Well, I didn’t expect that!” Donovan announces. “I’m pleased Jackson won, though!”

“I was rooting for Eiden, but I’m happy for Jackson. It was a good match.” Boo says. “We should go down and greet him.”

“We should – let’s meet up with the class.” Xilog says.

“That might be an idea.” Donovan replies, looking at his phone. “Especially now, thank the dark forces for this lucky text! Seems like Cassandra and Ten are down at the Fae’s Patch, you know the pub in town? They’ve invited us to drop by for a post-competition celebration!”

“Oh, nice.” Xilog replies. “Right. Let’s find everyone, then, and prepare to head there.”

Down at the entrance to the stadium, with most of the crowd filing out, the group from the stands and from the model’s lounge meet, finding Jackson, who looks somewhat lost.

“Well done, Jackson!” says Aubree, running up to the young man and hugging him. “I just dropped Eiden off at the nurse’s office, and look, Zaphod woke up!”

“Hey.” Zaphod says, grinning. “It’s a shame I was unconscious for the final, but I hear it was pretty exciting. Congrats, Jackson!”

“Ahah, thank you.” Jackson replies.

The crowds are virtually gone, with just the models and competition delegates around, and it is at this moment that a woman walks up to the class, a smug smile on her face. She is tall and beautiful, but in a very disconcerting sense. Something about the woman’s nose, and the cold look in her eyes, and the show-stopping dress… she seems like beauty that has been created, as opposed to being natural.

However, she is having a very pronounced effect on everybody except Jackson.

“Is that-” gasps Anastasia.

“Well, that was very impressive, Jackson. I suppose that’s what comes of me teaching you everything I know.” smiles the woman – the face of the design industry, Lindsey Stunne.

“What the hell is Lindsey fucking Stunne doing here, in Macew?” whispers a gobsmacked Aubree. Zaphod shrugs, and cannot help but watch the woman in awe.

“You didn’t teach me anything.” Jackson says. “I taught myself.”

“I offered you a place at my company.” Lindsey said. “And yet you persist with this idea that you can succeed on your own.”

“I will.”

“Slacall, isn’t it? Jackson Slacall?” Lindsey says. “An interesting last name…”

Jackson doesn’t look back.

“Let’s all just get out of here and wait for Eiden to wake up.”

Lindsey Stunne watches as the students walk away; for a moment, Paris, Zaphod and Aubree are considering speaking to her and possibly getting an autograph, but they decide that it isn’t the right time.

 

*

 

Cassandra sits next to Ten with a drink in her hands. Ten looks up and nods.

“Hey.”

“Hey.” Cassandra says. “Uh, sorry about today. I didn’t really mean what I said, for the most part.”

“I should hope not, it was generic as fuck.” Ten smirks. “What was it? ‘I’m broken and I can’t be fixed’?”

Cassandra laughs hollowly. “Yeah, that was silly of me.”

“Well, hey, doesn’t matter. It’s not the first time we’ve fought, probably won’t be the last. But glad we made up.”

“I’ll pay for your drinks, if that sweetens the deal.” Cassandra says, smiling. Ten laughs.

“No need, but thanks. Competition is probably closing up soon, though. Maybe we should invite some peeps round for drinks.”

“They’ll probably deserve it, yeah.” Cassandra replies, typing on her phone. “I’ll let Donovan know.”

“You have Donovan’s number? I don’t remember him handing that out to just anyone.”

“Shut up.” Cassandra replies, blushing hotly. “Alright, sent. Damn, I need to remember to buy more credit at some point.”

The class arrive just a short while later, where Eiden is excitedly talking to Jackson.

“I can’t believe I missed her! Blimey, Jackson, when you said you were taught well, I didn’t realise Lindsey herself had taught you!”

“I’d rather not talk about it.” Jackson says, squirming. “It’s not something I bring up often for good reason.”

After another few minutes, Phillis turns up. Before he has a chance to greet Cassandra and Ten, Eiden rounds on him.

“Phillis! I have a serious bone to pick with you!”

“So does everyone, get in line.” Phillis sighs. “I’ve been suspended for three weeks, until the end of October. So after today you don’t have to bother with me for a bit.”

Eiden stares at Phillis’ defeated countenance and relents. “…Fine. Don’t think I’m gonna get pally with you once you come back to college, though.”

Eiden exits the bar without getting a drink. Aubree looks at the group, then back at the closing door, and sighs. “I’ll make sure he’s OK!”

She dashes off.

“Who’s this?” Ten asks, pointing at the newcomer. Paris Duvoir bows.

“The name is Paris.”

He turns and spots Zaphod sat next to him. The group have so many members that they have now taken up two tables in the corner of the bar, all chatting amicably over drinks whilst some wonder whether to get some tea.

“Hi!” Zaphod says, presenting a notebook and a pen. “Uh, I was just… you’re Paris, and you’re like, Dexter’s son. Could I… get an autograph?”

Paris initially recoils from being called Dexter’s son, but shakes it off. He stares at the notebook, with a dramatic picture of Dexter Duvoir on the front. “…Huh. You actually bought my father’s merch? Sure, I’ll sign it.”

Zaphod gleefully watches as the young man signs the book. “Oh, this is so cool! I’ve always wanted to be a model, and people like you and Dexter are big inspirations!”

“…I inspire you?”

“Well, I mean, I’ve not seen you perform until today, but you did super well! You could even grow up to be better than your dad!” Zaphod says.

Paris, somewhat touched, fights down a blush. “…Yeah, I suppose so. Maybe one day…”

Cassandra, at the other end of the table, looks up as Aubree returns. She looks despondent, and Cassandra assumes that she couldn’t find Eiden. “Oh, right, I forgot. Some strange people came to the entrance of college today, and they gave me a letter for you.”

“A letter?” Aubree asks. Cassandra hands it over, and Aubree opens it.

“…Huh.” she murmurs as she reads.

Clocksworth is quiet, staring out of a window.

“Everything good?” Anastasia asks.

“Yeah.” Clocksworth says, smiling. “I enjoyed today. And I think Mia did too.”

“I wouldn’t get any funny ideas, but yeah, she seemed to enjoy it.” Anastasia replies. “I’m enjoying this, too. A good way to end the day…”

The group continue talking and chatting into the late evening, before heading home, ready for another day of college the following day. As they walk home together, with the nearest bus stop just a few minutes from Cassandra’s apartment, Cassandra and Donovan talk quietly.

“…Oh, that reminds me.” Cassandra says. “It’s Eiden’s birthday next week, on the 12th. We should do a little something for him.”

“And Clocksworth’s on the 15th; she mentioned that in the pub.” Donovan replies, tilting his head. “Though by your shadowed countenance, I assume that isn’t of concern?”

“Not particularly. Other people can do something if they want, but I’m not bothering. Anyway, we can worry about that another time… I also need to start thinking about half term.”

“Do you? There’s still two weeks to go! My spirit aches for a holiday as much as yours, but we have a long while yet.”

“It’d be nice to meet up and things, though!” Cassandra replies.

“You want to meet up with me?” Donovan asks, dropping the act, no longer mincing his words.

“Well, the group as a whole.”

“Right. Of course.”

“Anyway…” Cassandra mutters. “There’s the bus stop. See you tomorrow, yeah?”

“See you tomorrow, and may our burning darkness defeat all that stands in our way!” Donovan says. Cassandra chuckles, and continues towards her apartment building a few streets away. Donovan watches her go, his mind aflutter.

 

New Clothing Discovered:

 

[Legendary] Ra’s Toga

Formation: Linen Tunic + Power Patch

Effect: The toga of a god, affords unrivalled combat and fire powers

Drawback: Power wanes excessively during the night, strongest at midday

 

[Legendary] Anubis’ Mantle

Formation: Linen Tunic + Support Patch

Effect: The mantle of a god, affords the power to revive the dead

Drawback: Takes 1000 years to gain the power to revive after it has been used

 

[No. 108] Kingdom Come Clogs

Formation: Clogs + Augment Patch

Effect: User can click their heels together and generate large explosions

Drawback: Doesn’t require energy like Rocket Heels, but blasts are weaker

Sunderland College [3.4 - Jackson vs. Paris]
Sunderland College [4.X - Payment]

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