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Sunderland College [5.2 – Race For the Quarter-Finals]

“Alright, let’s not delay any longer. Time for the round 3 matches – first up, we have Talia Fortescue versus…” Simon begins, as the crowd excitedly look upon the battlefield. The matches are becoming more exciting as the less competent models are being defeated, and everyone’s wondering who will make it to the finals.

Talia’s match goes well, and she is easily able to defeat her opponent. Next up is Boo, fighting Francis Jones. Donovan watches nervously from the southern models’ lounge as Boo walks onto the field.

“…and Boo’s opponent is Francis Jones, who is partnered with his brother Stanford for this competition. Their design is certainly appealing.” Simon remarks.

Francis is wearing a stone-coloured jumper with a flaming pair of Launch Jeans, complete with shoes as black as coal. His hair is short and bob-cut, which serves to enhance the rounded hearth design that he’s wearing.

“Let’s get on with it! Begin!” shouts Lauren Valleja, the referee, throwing her hand up. Boo charges, and Francis prepares the Launch Jeans to fling himself towards her. As he sails through the air, Boo slides on her back to avoid his flailing body, getting up and kicking him in the back with one fluid motion. Francis hits the floor, and Boo prepares to follow up. He kicks out, forcing her to stay back, and attempts to get back to his feet.

“Oh, she’s won.” Jackson says. Donovan turns to him in surprise.

“How on earth can you have scryed the outcome of this fated duel?”

Turning back to the battle, he watches as Boo blasts a wave of heat at Francis whilst he’s still clambering to his feet. Unable to bear the intense heat, he stumbles backwards, and Boo uses the Slowdown Stockings to slow his movement, swinging her leg around to trip him once more. Francis hits the ground hard, in slow motion, and Boo leaps forward. Trying to use the Launch Jeans to get back up quickly, Francis’ eyes widen as Boo grabs his torso and bodily throws him several feet further backwards, right outside the arena.

“A blisteringly quick match!” yells Mia. “What an amazing showing from Boo! What did the judges think of the performance?”

“Francis had met his match this late in the competition. Having two pieces of clothing does give our stronger students the advantage.” Simon muses.

“Boo gets the victory point, and…” Mia says. “Francis receives the style point, Boo gets the performance point and the efficiency point… and the skill point! Boo wins 4-1!”

Boo smiles and blushes as the crowd cheers.

 

*

 

The next match is between two other students, Pauline and Ingrid – Ingrid wins the match with style and flair, impressing the judges. After that, it’s Paris Duvoir and Jackson Slacall. The lost model watches from her position at the very top of the arena, hidden from view. She claps her hands in excitement as she realises who’s next to fight.

“Well, would you look at that. The two boys seem to be very heated already.” Simon remarks as Paris and Jackson race onto the battlefield, anxious to begin. “Their rivalry, I believe, goes back to the Practise Model Competition, where Jackson won the match.”

“Let’s see if he can repeat the feat!” Mia says. “Looks like we’re about ready now.”

“Begin!” shouts Lauren. Both Jackson and Paris move slowly towards one another, neither one willing to make the first move. Eventually, once they get closer to the centre of the battlefield, Jackson darts forward, ready to strike. Paris slides effortlessly out of the way, as expected, thanks to the Swift Scarf’s prediction ability.

“Oh, this is going to be interesting. Do you think Jackson can win again?” Cassandra wonders, watching the battle.

“In their last battle, Jackson did well.” Xilog replies. “He managed to make one of his attacks unavoidable – even though Paris predicted it, he could do nothing about it, and so Jackson claimed victory.”

“I see. But Paris is going to know now.” Ten says, gesturing to the battle. “Jackson’s gonna need a new strategy to keep Paris on his toes, because Paris is definitely going to make sure that he doesn’t get cornered.”

Ten speaks the truth – Paris is still aggressively dodging and counterattacking, but the way that he moves shows that he is very concerned about being cornered by Jackson. The Laser Runners that Jackson is wearing create an array of lasers around the battlefield as Jackson moves, slowly limiting the space that Paris can move around in.

The boy isn’t out of the game yet, however, and he begins to lure Jackson closer to the edge of the battlefield, away from the mass of lasers hanging in the air like tripwires. The first lasers begin to fade away.

“The lasers from the Laser Runners do fade away after a minute or so.” Simon replies. “Jackson will have to keep creating new lasers as he moves to press his advantage.”

Paris darts backwards as Jackson kicks out, and when Jackson goes to follow up, Paris moves to the side, catching his arm on a laser and grunting in pain. Jackson’s eyes light up, and he continues advancing, pushing Paris towards the far corner of the battlefield.

“What happened there?” asks Boo, pointing. “Isn’t Paris able to predict attacks?”

“Yeah.” Genevieve says. “He can predict Jackson’s attacks, but once the lasers are created, they’re no longer attacks. They’re just… there. So Paris can’t predict them.”

“Oh, I see. He’s got to be careful when he’s moving around, then.” Boo replies.

“Mm.” Genevieve murmurs, watching the battlefield with disinterested eyes.

Back on the ground, Jackson is pushing Paris further back, but still hasn’t been able to land a hit. Eventually, when Paris dodges back into the corner, Jackson takes the time to kick his leg out to the left and spin around, creating a veritable criss-cross of lasers that is virtually impossible to pass through. Paris curses, realising what he’s done to himself.

“Alright, let’s end it now. Dodge this!” Jackson says, kicking out with vicious intent.

“If you say so!” Paris shouts, hurling himself forward. He twists his body in midair, dodging Jackson’s kick and neatly passing between two of the lasers to land safely on the other side. His blazer has been singed by the lasers, but he is otherwise unharmed. Jackson reacts quickly, slamming his foot on the ground and turning to face Paris.

“What an incredible move! Paris managed to dodge both Jackson and the lasers in a single movement!”

“His physical control is frankly superb.” Simon remarks. “Keeping his body flat in midair like that and slipping through the lasers requires intense concentration. We’re looking at two possible winners here; both have the skills to make it to the finals.”

“I did as you asked.” Paris grins, looking at Jackson. Jackson nods, and grins back.

“Yeah, you did. Next time, I’m not going to ask!”

With that, he charges once more, readying his Laser Runners to coat the battlefield in light and colour anew. Paris prepares to meet him head-on, taking him by surprise; he grabs Jackson and bulls forwards between the lasers. Jackson kicks his leg up and creates a laser behind Paris, then stands his ground and forces Paris backwards into it. He yelps in pain.

Wrenching his body sideways, Jackson throws Paris off of him, and goes to finish the boy off, but Paris rolls out of the way, having predicted the attack. He hits another laser, and his Swift Scarf, already a bit damaged, is singed by the laser and falls off, floating through the air. Paris glares at Jackson, who nods and lunges.

“Nice one, Jackson!” Ten says.

“No, no…” Xilog replies. “Paris shrugged his shoulders – he let his scarf fall off. He’s got something up his sleeve.”

Paris grabs one end of the scarf before it hits the ground and jumps to the side, wrapping it around Jackson’s legs as he runs forward. Jackson tries to stop himself, but he stumbles and falls. Hopping neatly between the lasers, Paris gets the other end of his scarf and heaves it upwards, throwing Jackson’s feet into the air.

As Jackson turns in a flailing panic, Paris places his foot on Jackson’s chest and pushes hard, causing the boy to fully flip over and crash on the ground just outside of the battlefield. Dazed, and horrified, he lies on the ground and stares up at the opponent who bested him.

“Jackson is out of bounds!” shouts Lauren. “Paris wins the battle!”

“Paris certainly gave us an exciting victory. Let’s see what the judges thought.” Simon says. “Hm… Paris got the victory point, the performance point and the efficiency point. Jackson got the style and skill points, but Paris wins this round, 3-2.”

“Damn.” Jackson says, looking up at Paris, who extends his hand to let him up.

“A good fight.” Paris replies, pulling Jackson back to his feet. “I’ll be looking forward to fighting you again.”

“Yeah, definitely. Now go and win this competition, otherwise you’ll make me look bad!” Jackson says with a smile. Paris nods, and shakes his hand in a gesture of respect.

 

*

 

On his way back to the models’ lounge, Jackson yawns. The corridor he’s in is quite empty, and so it comes as a bit of a surprise when one of the doors next to him opens, and a hand grabs him and pulls him into the room.

“What was that?!” says a shrill voice. Jackson stares in horror at a very familiar face. He’s looking at a girl just a year or so younger than him, with bob-cut blonde hair, dyed rose-pink at the very tips. Her limbs move inhumanely, like she’s a 1930s cartoon character, and she’s got a pink apron on that seems to be flickering. Her other clothing is just a yellow dress underneath her apron with matching tights. Her eyes are dark; she’s glaring with fury at Jackson. At once, a million memories rush back to Jackson, and he can barely believe his eyes.

“Cordula…” he whispers.

“You weren’t supposed to lose!” the girl hisses. She straightens up, and places a hand on her chest. “I can’t believe I used to… urgh!”

“What are you doing here?” says Jackson, still stunned.

“I just wanted to see how you were getting on.” Cordula says. She looks at Jackson, then winks cheekily. “Not buying it, huh? I figured.”

With a single fluid movement, her right arm extends and grabs Jackson’s chest, heaving him up and slamming him against the wall. Jackson struggles to move, trapped in a vicegrip. Cordula’s neck extends so her head is right beside Jackson’s. She whispers gently into his ear.

“So, next time I come by to see you in a competition, you’d better put on a show, Jackson Slacall. Or should I perhaps be calling you… your real name? Everyone needs to know.”

“You wouldn’t.” Jackson hisses.

Cordula glares with a white-hot fury. “Why wouldn’t I, Jackson?! What do I have to lose?!”

“Look, Cordula, I’m sorry.” Jackson says, feeling the hand holding him against the wall tighten uncomfortably. “If you want to try things again, then I’d be happy to-”

Cordula bursts out laughing, her neck retracting. After the laughter subsides, she looks at Jackson with twisted intent.

“I’m not here to make friends, Jackson. You lost that chance three years ago.” she hisses. “I’m here to destroy you. To humiliate you in front of an audience. To pay you back, pound by pound, for the humiliation you made ME endure!”

Opening her hand, she lets Jackson fall to the ground and walks to the door. She doesn’t even turn around to say her final piece.

“Not yet, obviously… but I’ll be watching. And next year, when I get my place at Sunderland College? It’ll finally be time to get my own back.”

The door slams shut, and a shellshocked Jackson tries to figure out what just happened.

 

*

 

13th January, 1999

 

“Morning, Estelle. Are you ready to engage in fierce combat?” asks Demonsfang as he spots Estelle limbering up in the training area behind the Macew Peacekeeping station.

“Indeed. I’ve not had a chance to scope out your true potential myself yet; apologies for being busy yesterday. Today, give me everything you’ve got, and let me see what you can do!”

Demonsfang nods, and readies his clothing.

“Alright, I shall not hold back. Miss Weatherby, prepare yourself!”

Estelle doesn’t reply, and instead blasts across the training area with the Rocket Heels, hoping to end matters with a swift sideways kick.

“You’d better prepare for me, Demonsfang!”

Her foot flies out to catch Demonsfang, but without him moving, a huge shadowy arm rears up and blocks the kick. Estelle’s eyes widen in surprise and she twists in midair to avoid a gigantic punch from the hand, landing on her feet just in front of Demonsfang.

“The Phantom Overcoat, huh?” she remarks, jetting into the air. “That one’s become pretty popular lately!”

“It’s fitting, I think, for the power that I hold!” Demonsfang says, swinging his arm and slamming it into Estelle; she takes the hit thanks to the extra strength of the Bunny Suit, and slams into the ground, holding the arm above her head with immense effort.

“You’re strong, certainly. What else do you use, I wonder?” Estelle says. Heaving the hand backwards, Demonsfang stumbles slightly, and activates the second piece of Battle Clothing: the Steel-Capped Kickers. Kicking the ground as he stumbles, he kicks himself into the air and dispels the arm that Estelle is holding, switching in midair to the other arm of the coat, and readying himself.

“Not bad!” Estelle says. “But the air is my forte, sorry!”

She blasts off with a powerful force and punches straight into Demonsfang before he can block with his arm. Estelle’s punch propels them both high into the air, where Estelle delivers a series of fierce kicks, before grabbing Demonsfang’s flailing shadow arm and hurling him towards the ground.

Demonsfang has no time to react, and his the ground hard, completely dazed. Estelle slams into the ground beside him, grinning widely.

“So…” Demonsfang groans. “That’s the power of the Top Bombardier…”

“You did quite well there.” Estelle replies, extending her hand. “Over the next few months, we’ll train up and get you as strong as me, don’t worry!”

“If you think it possible, then I shall do all I can to attain that power.” Demonsfang replies, taking her hand and allowing himself to be pulled to his feet. He nods at her, and she nods back.

“For now, though, let’s focus on getting to know one another’s fighting styles. That’ll be useful for when we’re fighting together.”

“Definitely. Show me your air mastery, Miss Weatherby!”

“Shall do. Let’s go again!”

 

*

 

The next few matches go by quite quickly. Zaphod manages to defeat Alex, and Mariana wins her match with a competitor called Thierry. The next match is Eiden and Andrew.

Eiden arrives on the field with a spring in his step – bouncy and chaotic, he makes a real entrance onto the field, and gives a mocking laugh as Andrew steps up. Andrew touches his cravat and a huge shield extends from it, covering his whole front, complete with a pattern of brickwork and a small flame, alight in the centre of the shield.

“Looks like our competitors are ready to go.” Simon says. “Let’s see how they do.”

“Hey, Andrew! You must be so cold with such a tiny little flame…” Eiden replies, setting his Flame Cover alight and allowing the fire to consume his body, so that only the eerily-grinning mask can be seen by Andrew. “Let me warm you up.

Once the match begins, Eiden charges his opponent. Andrew, standing confidently, doesn’t move.

“What is that?” asks Aubree.

Lee grimaces. “It’s the Shield Cravat. Completely impervious to fire – I was worried about this guy.”

“…Ooh, I bet. Eiden’s only really got fire attacks!” Aubree replies with worry.

“That’s why the bastard chose it, I’m sure.” Lee mutters, glaring at the field. “Knowing the theme, he expected everyone to go with fire-themed clothing. Hence, having something impervious to it would let him win quite easily without needing to be good at fighting.”

“That’s an advantage, then!” Aubree says.

Lee turns to her. “It is?”

“Well, yes. Eiden will know that he’s using the Shield Cravat because he’s not a confident fighter, and if there’s one thing we know about Eiden, it’s that he definitely is.”

“Mm, true. We’ll see how he does, I guess.”

Eiden races towards Andrew, leaping from left to right and spinning around, giggling madly as he does. Once he gets close enough, he prepares a fireball and launches it at the shield.

“You idiot!” Andrew says. “I can just block it with my-”

As he brings up the shield to let the fireball harmlessly dissipate on contact, Eiden sweeps his legs around and trips Andrew up, sending him the floor. With a manic laugh, Eiden leaps onto the shield, gripping the top and peering over it. On the ground, Andrew can’t move, and helplessly looks into the Mask of Comedy’s eerie grin. With such close proximity, he’s completely confused.

Eiden hops back and begins to dance around as Andrew gets to his feet, trying to figure out where he is and what he’s doing. The minute he’s back on his feet, Eiden readies an impossibly bright blast of fire in his palm and launches it. There’s no heat, however – instead, he closes his eyes and a flashbang explodes from his palm, completely blinding Andrew for a few moments. The audience gives a shocked gasp.

“Well, Eiden’s certainly dressing himself up to be a villain for this competition.” Paris remarks, watching with a strange admiration.

“The Fiend of Fire!” Donovan says, his eyes glittering. “Truly, his performance is excellent! Now he just has to destroy his opponent!”

Andrew stumbles back, still struggling to understand anything that’s going on. Eiden lunges forward again, and with a joyful, malicious laugh, knocks him backwards and slaps one of his ears, adding a ringing sound on top of the momentary blindness and confusion brought on by the Mask of Comedy.

“Now to finish you!” crows Eiden, slamming into the shield and forcing Andrew back. His vision begins to clear, but the confusion of the mask remains and he still can’t think enough to form a solid counterattack. As he gives more ground, Eiden leaps around him, striking the side of his head several times and performing another, smaller, flashbang. With a completely neutered opponent in front of him, Eiden takes his time making Andrew turn around at the edge of the arena; with a final triumphant laugh and a blast of flame surrounding him, Eiden kicks Andrew’s rear, sending him sprawling to the ground outside the arena.

“A masterful victory!” yells Mia. “What a performance, I thought we were watching a professional model for a second there. What did the judges think of that?!”

“Nice work.” Lee grins, watching Eiden down on the field.

Aubree nods, shaking with nervousness. “Suddenly… I’m not confident about fighting him.”

“You shouldn’t be. He’s very strong.” Lee replies, shrugging. “He’s been training without Battle Clothing for the last few weeks. It’s definitely helping him.”

“Alright, Eiden got the victory point, and… hm…” Simon says, then he sighs. “Well, I won’t read them out. Eiden got every point; 5-0.”

“Oh, brilliant.” Eiden says, breathing a sigh of relief. “I’m getting there!”

 

*

 

Finally, it’s Aubree and Vegas’ match. Vegas is looking very confident indeed, and waves to the audience, pushing her chest out to emphasise it, as she takes her place on the battlefield.

“Oh, that’s just tasteless.” Eiden says.

“Would you rather me or Aubree did that?” smirks Lee. Eiden lightly cuffs her on the shoulder and she laughs. “I mean, I think I’m more amused by the fact that she’s barely a B-cup. But boy, she’s trying her best to convince the audience she’s got something there.”

“Mm.” Eiden replies, not sure how to respond. “I’m not even sure why we’re watching. Aubree’s got this in the bag.”

“I should hope so. Let’s see.” Lee replies.

Aubree comes out next, playfully making her way to the starting position and glancing towards Lauren Valleja.

“Alright, our two competitors are ready. Let’s see what tricks Vegas Dresden has up her sleeve.” Simon says.

“Begin!” shouts Lauren. Vegas charges as fast as she can, hoping to catch Aubree before the Golem Suit forms, but she can’t make it across the battlefield in time. Aubree’s golem suit forms around her, and she slowly drags a foot forward, which Vegas only just avoids. Leaping backwards, she tries to grab the foot, but the Bunny Suit doesn’t afford her nearly enough strength to hold it back, and Aubree flicks her foot to the right, launching Vegas across the battlefield. She doesn’t quite land out of bounds, but she’s close to the edge.

“Dammit, already?” she sighs, pulling herself to her feet. With the slow speed of the golem, Vegas has more than enough time to catch her breath and get to her feet, and her mind begins to race, wondering how she can get through the golem’s defences. Eventually, a plan forms in her mind, and she runs for Aubree.

“What’s she hoping to do, do you think?” asks Xilog.

“Probably the only thing she can do – try going for the face.” Cassandra replies. “It’s open, and if she can climb up there, she might be able to hit Aubree, I guess? I dunno.”

It doesn’t pan out – the moment Vegas leaps up to grab the golem’s leg and climb up, the golem’s other knee slams into her hard and flings her back. This time, she does land out of bounds, completely winded.

“How did Aubree react that quickly?” asks Donovan, staring at the battlefield.

Jackson, back at the southern lounge after his encounter, shakes his head. “She didn’t. The golem suit moves slowly, but Aubree knew that her main weakness was the face – she was already moving to protect it before Vegas even decided to go for it.”

“Impressive. She’s got some battle acumen, it seems.” Paris replies, then grins. “I’m very excited to meet and challenge all of these performers! There’s such an array of talent here, it’s wonderful!”

Jackson nods. “Yeah, there really is.”

“Alright, we’ve heard from the judges. Aubree wins the victory point, as well as the style point and efficiency point. Vegas won the performance point… and Aubree won the skill point. 4-1 to Aubree, Aubree is the winner!” Mia exclaims. “And with that, round three is done! Next time, it’s the quarter-finals, starting with Talia Fortescue and Boo Viejo!”

“Then it’s Paris Duvoir versus Ingrid Hermes, Zaphod Smith and Mariana Trina, and finally, Eiden Darrow and Aubree Cyrus. For now, we’ll take a quick break, and we’ll be back soon.” Simon replies.

The audience begin to excitedly discuss the quarter-finals and wondering who will make it to the semi-finals. Food vendors begin to walk around, selling their goods, and the eight models, along with their designers, begin to discuss their strategies for the upcoming matches; the competition is getting fiercer.

 

New Clothing Discovered:

 

[No. 114] Rubberhose Overalls

Formation: Apron + Augment Patch

Effect: Gives the user a rubberhose body and limbs, stretchy and bendy

Drawback: User is colourblind, seeing the world in grayscale

 

[No. 104] Shield Cravat

Formation: Tie + Support Patch

Effect: Extends to become a shield protecting the user’s front

Drawback: Near impervious to fire, but very weak to ice- or cold-based attacks

 

Sunderland College [5.1 - An Exhibition of Class]
Sunderland College [5.3 - Fire and Brimstone]

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