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Sunderland College [5.3 – Fire and Brimstone]

As the audience reaches fever pitch, it is finally time for the quarter-finals to begin. Down near the arena, Donovan and Boo are staring at the entrance, where bright sunlight is pouring in. Boo gulps.

“Alright, if you wish to claim victory at the higher rungs of modelling, you must use your traits!” Donovan announces. Boo turns to him.

“…What traits are those?”

“Your cuteness!” Donovan replies. “You can allure and confuse your opponent, then overpower them with your overwhelming might! They will regret ever tangling with the Tough Texan! …God, no, that was terrible, I’ll think of something better…”

“You think I’m cute?” asks Boo, tilting her head.

Donovan looks literally anywhere else. “That was only implied! Now get out there already!”

Boo nods, and turns towards the arena, walking into the bright lights, shrinking a little at the audience’s applause. Gotta put on my best act.

“Well, folks, we’re ready to start the quarter-finals! Our first match is Boo Viejo vs Talia Fortescue – they’re both proving themselves to be quite strong, so let’s see how well they perform!”

Talia Fortescue enters the field. Her Bazooka Top has been changed into a red top, with white, Christmassy fabric surrounding the edges. She wears a short skirt of a similar red colour, with a sash of tinsel around her body.

Boo gives her a wave. Talia tilts her head in confusion, and does not reciprocate.

“Let’s get on with it.” Simon replies.

“Begin!” yells Lauren, and the fight begins.

Boo runs towards Talia, then stops in the middle of the battlefield as the Bazooka Top transforms. The huge shoulder-mounted cannon has been changed into a gigantic Christmas tree, with pine branches coming off the cannon and baubles jingling merrily. It slams down, and Talia fires off a shot that whistles past Boo and causes a crack in the ground.

“That was a warning shot!” says Talia, depowering the Bazooka Top and beginning to run at Boo.

“Oh, damn.” Cassandra says, looking at the battlefield. “The bazooka can outrange Boo’s Slowdown Stockings – she can’t slow down Talia unless she gets close to her!”

“And Talia isn’t going to let her do that.” Xilog replies. “Like any good model, she’s been carefully observing the competition and how they fight. She’s seen Boo fight in three matches now, so she’s got a really good understand of Boo’s fighting style.”

“She really is an excellent model.” Phillis grunts. “It’s a shame that she’s been pitted against such powerhouses for these competitions. I suppose I shouldn’t say anything yet, though – she might win this one.”

Boo dashes at Talia, meeting her stride, but suddenly Talia banks left, running around Boo, keeping just out of the range of the Slowdown Stockings.

“Hey, where you going?” Boo asks, turning around and trying to look as cute as possible. Talia goes bright red, and takes a few steps back.

“You know we’re supposed to be fighting, right?!” she says. Boo nods and smiles adorably.

“Yes! I’m looking forward to fighting you!”

Up in the model’s lounge, as Donovan returns, Paris stares at the battlefield.

“She’s changed her tune.”

“It’s an act.” says Jackson, glaring. “I’ve fought Boo. She definitely knows that they’re supposed to be fighting.”

“Of course!” Donovan replies with a grin. “It is our strategy for this round!”

“Talia will recognise that it’s an act.” Paris says. “She’s almost our equal; hotheaded, but when she focusses, she knows her stuff.”

“And yet she isn’t reacting as expected.” Jackson muses.

“In fact, she’s bright red.” Genevieve says, standing just behind Paris, staring dully at the fight. “How curious.”

Talia darts back and prepares the Bazooka Top to fire another shot at Boo. As she lines up the sight, Boo doesn’t move, and instead winks at her. Talia fires wildly, and the shot goes wide, missing Boo by several metres.

“What on earth is with Talia? She’s not usually like this! She should be seeing through Boo’s act!” Paris says with confusion.

Jackson strokes his chin. “She keeps getting distracted whenever Boo does something. I mean, I wonder…”

Talia spins around, depowering her top, and tries to shake her head and clear her mind. When she looks up, Boo smiles – the heart on her top is glowing, and Boo makes her fingers into a little heart. At this, Talia goes bright red, and without looking, furiously fires off a wild shot at Boo. It misses.

“Oh my god.” Paris sighs, slamming his head into the glass. “How is Boo getting away with this?”

“I… think Talia’s gay.” Jackson replies. “You reacted the exact same way when I flirted with you after our first fight.”

“That would explain it.” Genevieve replies.

“…I suppose so. Heavens, so Boo’s really toying with her?”

“We didn’t know that!” Donovan says, as the group turn to him. “It’s just a lucky coincidence, so we must give our thanks to the wicked sisters of fate!”

“That lucky coincidence is going to swing Boo this battle if she keeps this up.” mutters Jackson, turning back to the battlefield, now unable to look away.

Blushing bright red, Talia depowers her top, and begins to move away, but she’s too late – in the time that she spent firing off her missed shot, Boo has moved close enough to begin enacting the power of the Slowdown Stockings on her. Talia tries to run, but at her speed, it doesn’t take much for Boo to come in and hold her in a headlock, whirling her overhead and slamming her into the ground.

“Ooh, a nasty hit.” Simon comments. “Talia’s trapped in the slowdown field now, so she’s definitely at the disadvantage.”

Indeed, before Talia can even react, Boo blasts her with the Inner Heat Jumper, using a full force blast to overwhelm the poor girl. As she stumbles backwards slowly, Boo darts forward and grabs Talia’s leg, flipping her up in the air, then leaning back on one leg.

Talia falls down, and Boo’s leg thunders into her side – without enough time to prepare the Bazooka Top, she is thrown across the battlefield. Rolling for a while, then coming to a stop, Talia tries to get to her feet, but Boo is already on her again, using a full force suplex to slam her into the ground again. The crowd visibly winces at the force of the blow.

“And this is without the Powerful Pullover..?” squeaks Anastasia, watching the fight in horror.

“Indeed. This girl has untold strength, it seems.” Zaphod replies.

Finally, Boo decides to end it. Keeping Talia slowed down, she grabs the girl’s body and hoists it into the air, then jumps up and drives her elbow into Talia’s stomach. Her other arm points upwards and launches a blast of heat, which provides a little bit of force to slam Talia hard into the ground.

Boo stands up and stares at the girl on the ground. After a few moments, it’s clear that she’s completely unresponsive.

“Stop!” shouts Lauren. “Talia is unconscious – Boo wins!”

“Well, that was an incredible display of martial abilities… some might say too incredible. We’re sure Talia will be ok, everyone!” Mia says. “Let’s see what the scores say, anyway… Boo gets the victory point, the style point… oh, and the performance point. She also receives the effiency point, and Talia receives the skill point. Boo wins, 4-1!”

Boo drops her character immediately, and runs to Talia’s side as a stretcher is fetched.

“Will she be OK?”

“She’ll be fine. She’s a hardy girl, and this kind of damage is expected in a model competition.” the nurse replies. He hoists Talia onto the stretcher, and allied by another nurse, carries her off to be treated. Boo makes her way off the battlefield, awed by her own strength.

 

*

 

The next match is between Ingrid and Paris, and despite her best attempts, Ingrid just can’t outwit the young man who can predict every attack. He becomes the second person to advance to the semi-finals.

Zaphod is fighting Mariana Trina in his next match, and he walks confidently onto the battlefield, waving to the audience as he does.

“Oh, god…” murmurs Anastasia, watching nervously. “Come on, Zaphod…”

Mariana also seems confident as she walks into the arena. She’s gone with a homely Christmas dress, complete with a jumper that has a large Christmas pudding stitched onto it and a Santa hat. Her clothing is still the Sleepytime Slippers, and this hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“I obviously didn’t pay attention during her matches,” Phillis says. “Is she wearing the Sleepytime Slippers?”

“Indeed.” Xilog replies. “Though she can’t use them for twenty-four hours after kicking an opponent, so far she’s used them as a way of pressuring her opponent, whilst actually winning the fight through physical means alone.”

“She’ll probably do the same thing here. I mean, it makes sense. You wouldn’t want to approach her knowing that one kick would knock you right out.” Ten replies.

“Well, yeah, but she would also lose her next match, so if you let her kick you, everybody loses.” Phillis says.

“It’s certainly interesting. Let’s see how Zaphod goes about it!”

Up in the stands, sitting with the rest of the faculty, a certain woman smiles at the young moustachioed man entering the battlefield.

“Well, well…” Estelle murmurs. “You’ve made it this far already, Zaphod. Impress me!”

The lost model, back to her position high up on the roof of the stands, is visibly bored. She lays back and begins staring at the clouds, whistling quietly to herself.

“Alright, begin the fight!” shouts Lauren. Zaphod nods, and bows to Mariana. She scoffs, and runs towards him. Zaphod begins to eat from a small bag, seemingly unconcerned with the approaching threat.

“Mm, these are some good nuts.” Zaphod murmurs. “Must remember to thank Anastasia afterwards. Now then!”

As Mariana runs up, she swings her leg around. “Goodnight, Zaphod!”

“Nope, sorry!” Zaphod replies, blasting into the air. He grabs her leg and with a slick move, pulls one of the slippers off as he blasts away.

“Oh, no way!” yells Jackson. “What a move!”

“That had some immense BDE!” Donovan shouts. “Brutal Dark Energy!”

“That’s… not what that stands for.” murmurs Genevieve.

Turning with fury, Mariana chases Zaphod down once more, and prepares to intercept him as he lands in the middle of the battlefield. He sees her coming, however, and blasts off again, leaving her to eat his dust. Flying over the boundary, he drops the slipper from the apex of his jump, and leaves it to land outside of the boundary.

“Are you kidding me?!” shouts Mariana. Zaphod tumbles to the ground, and begins eating more nuts as he prepares an additional blast. Anastasia covers her eyes.

Mere milliseconds before he would have collided with the ground, Zaphod blasts off again and heads for the battlefield, landing at the end of it with a smug expression. Mariana races towards him, absolutely livid.

Zaphod charges up just one heel of the Rocket Heels, trying to remember exactly what Estelle told him. Estelle stares down at the battlefield with a grin as she realises that he’s going to try a rocket kick. As Mariana approaches, Zaphod releases the rocket kick, releasing quite a potent force that Mariana only just manages to avoid by throwing herself backwards.

Whilst Mariana gets back to her feet, Zaphod fishes a cupcake out of his pocket and eats it in a single bite. “Mm! Delicious!”

“Oh, this is ridiculous.” Mariana mutters to herself, and leaps towards Zaphod. She predicts his next movement and tries to throw her left foot out to kick him, wanting to end matters quickly, even if it costs her the rest of the competition. Zaphod, however, performs a short blast with the Rocket Heels, letting him do a somersault that avoids the kick.

Thrown off-balance by missing the kick, Mariana tries to right herself, but Zaphod soon grabs her other slipper and hurls it behind him, so it also lands out of bounds.

“Zaphod’s certainly not giving his opponent a chance to kick him.” Simon says. “He’s toying with Mariana quite a lot, but her rage is going to be an issue if she manages to get some good hits on him.”

Mariana gets one moments later – she charges into Zaphod and almost knocks him right over, but as he stumbles, he tries to incorporate it into his movements, and blasts off, spinning around with Mariana in his arms, as if doing ballroom dancing in the sky. With one last dramatic swing, Zaphod throws her across the battlefield, and she plummets towards the edge.

“Yo, that’s ice cold.” Clocksworth says, watching the battle from her seat in the stands.

With an additional blast, Zaphod charges towards Mariana, grabbing her once more, then tossing her again – now that she’s closer to the ground, when she hits the floor, it doesn’t hurt nearly as much. She is, however, well out of bounds. Moments later, Zaphod crashes besides her, turning his stumble into an ungainly leap forward, and ending with a shaky bow towards the audience.

The audience goes wild.

“Oh, thank god.” Anastasia says, breathing a loud sigh of relief and sinking to the floor.

“Zaphod has won!” shouts Mia. “We’re getting the judges’ comments as we speak, one moment, please!”

Zaphod helps Mariana to her feet. She glares at him, but allows herself to be helped up.

“Hey, I’m glad I didn’t hurt you.” he says, giving her a genuine smile. “I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if my extravagant throws had done some real damage!”

“I’m fine.” sighs Mariana. She stares at the battlefield. “I’d better get my slippers.”

Falling silent, she walks away, and Zaphod winces.

“Tough crowd.”

 

*

 

There’s a strange feeling in the air as the audience look on for the next fight. Cassandra and her friends know that the next fight will be an exciting one. Lee is observing the battle, inwardly praying that Eiden can somehow come up with a strategy to defeat Aubree, and Jackson and Paris are wondering which of the two will make it to the semi-finals.

“Alright, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s begin the next fight.” Simon replies. “These are both your students, right, Mia?”

“Indeed they are. Eiden Darrow, the runner-up of the Practise Model Competition, performed exceptionally well last time. And Aubree Cyrus, interestingly, was his designer last time. This is her first time taking centre stage, and I’m very excited to see what she can do against her old classmate!” Mia replies. “I’ve heard from Marion that in their Combat Training class, Aubree actually has beaten Eiden more than a few times. Combatively, they’re fairly evenly matched, so this battle will likely come down to their performance.”

“And how well Eiden can deal with the Golem Suit.” Simon replies. “Well, let’s not leave it any longer. Let’s go.”

“Begin!” shouts Lauren.

The Golem Suit begins to form around Aubree as Eiden watches her, his flaming mask eerily grinning.

“You look so small but you’re ever so sly… You’re almost as tricksy as me!” he taunts. Once the golem has completely formed, Aubree’s voice comes out of it.

“I won’t let myself be tricked by such a mischievous demon!” she shouts.

A head-on assault is suicide. Rounds 1 and 2 proved that, thinks Eiden, running towards Aubree. Can’t be as aggressive as before – gotta be careful and bait out her movements.

Darting towards Aubree, Eiden watches as a gigantic foot of the golem slides forward as she takes an immense, and immensely slow, step. Eiden dodges it easily, and makes a mental note of the general speed that Aubree was able to act.

“I hope you can move faster than that – for your sake!” Eiden says.

Aubree laughs. “You’ve no idea, tiny spirit. I’ll squash you!”

Eiden moves closer to the golem – so close that Aubree, within the golem’s shell, can’t see him without leaning forward slightly. As she does, however, she looks directly at the mystifying Mask of Comedy, and is instantly struck with confusion. Being several feet away, she isn’t too dazed, but Eiden takes advantage of it to move out of the golem’s range once more. Aubree, once recovered, tries to stomp again, but Eiden dodges to the side, beginning to power up the Flame Cover.

“Have you thought about how exactly those flames are going to help?” asks Aubree.

“She’s got him there.” says Xilog, musing on the situation. “Eiden’s not really got a good way of actually doing damage to the Golem Suit.”

“Stone can weather. Stone can break. But fire…” Eiden says, allowing the flames to read up, making his flaming fiend design look even more intimidating. “Fire just burns.”

“Wow, Eiden – make sure you don’t cut yourself on that edge!” Aubree replies. Cursing, Eiden falls silent and plans his next move. Darting in and out once more, he baits out Aubree’s stomp. It’s just a feint, however; the real attack comes from one of Aubree’s slow-moving arms, colliding heavily with the ground. Eiden only just manages to dodge the blow.

“Ooh, that was close.” Lee says under her breath. “She really knows her stuff – slow as hell, but still able to surprise him. That’s impressive.”

“You know, you’re pretending to be the villain but I’m the one in the big stompy suit!” Aubree says, leaning back and with a humongous crash, leaping forwards a few feet. Eiden avoids the blow, but the very ground trembles under the weight of the gigantic stone suit, and it almost knocks him off-balance.

Eiden turns with a wicked grin, which is exacerbated as his mask gives an even wider, more terrifying grin. Aubree accidentally looks into the mask again, and is briefly dazed.

“Argh! I need to stop doing that!” she hisses to herself, closing her eyes as bright flashes echo in her mind.

“I’m amused that you think that suit can keep you safe!” Eiden says, and with a theatrical flourish, launches a cascade of flames forward, bursting like firecrackers. Aubree looks down, but Eiden’s chaotic zig-zagging as he moves forward, coupled with the firecrackers, means that she can’t even tell where he’s going or what he’s attempting to do.

Blindly guessing, Aubree goes for a sweeping kick, the stone leg slowly swinging out, but Eiden leaps over the leg with ease, landing safely on the other side and running out of sight. He grins – he now has a good idea of Aubree’s speed and combative capabilities in the golem suit, and thus… “Showtime.”

As the golem ponderously turns around, Eiden waves at Aubree. She’s able to look away from the mask just in time, instead focussed on Eiden’s feet, and with a chittering laugh, Eiden moves forward.

With a salvo of fireballs, Eiden begins the offensive, but the flames disperse harmlessly off the arms of the golem.

“That’s not too surprising.” Cassandra says. “It is stone, after all – even though it looks like coal and wood.”

“Eiden must know that, surely.” Xilog replies, gesturing to the young man hurling fireballs. “What is he playing at?”

As more flames bounce harmlessly off Aubree’s Golem Suit, Eiden jumps backwards to account for the suit’s gigantic step forward, and laughs aloud to himself.

“Well well! You’re certainly put me between a rock and a hard place, haven’t you? That suit is bona fide flame protection!”

Aubree, emboldened, nods. “You’ve not got a hope, Eiden! And I’m gonna have a lot of fun proving that to you!”

“You’re not wrong! I can’t even leave a mark!” Eiden replies. Behind his mask, though, he’s not scared – the ploy is working. “But before you beat me, you have to catch me!”

With that, he runs forward, weaving left and right, chaotically dancing around, waiting for Aubree’s move. Aubree tries to grab him with her massive golem hands, but as she bends down, Eiden jumps up and hits her with a full-frontal blast from the Mask of Comedy. The mask still isn’t close enough to daze her for long, but it buys Eiden a vital few seconds. With that time, he makes like Vegas and runs for Aubree’s leg.

“I hope you can still see after my little display. I’d hate for you to miss the rest of the show!”

Aubree recovers, but she’s too late to stop Eiden from grabbing the leg of the golem. Hoping to shake him loose, she kicks out with her other leg. Eiden, however, drops to the ground at the last moment, and Aubree kicks herself in the leg, causing the golem to stumble unsteadily for a moment.

The instant the golem stumbles, Eiden begins to clamber up the suit again, and Aubree can’t do anything, still focussed on righting herself. 

“I bet you feel so safe inside that shell of yours. I’ll come up and join you!”

“Gosh, Eiden, you’re that desperate to be inside me?” Aubree says. The audience who hear it burst out laughing – but so does Eiden, and his laugh is anything but good-spirited.

“You want things to heat up between us? I can certainly help with tha-”

Aubree grins to herself, and then the suit disspates. Eiden falls, his foothold now completely absent, and hits the ground – Aubree, meanwhile, was prepared, and goes into a smooth forward roll, then jumps forward to put some distance between her and Eiden. Eiden reacts quickly, turning around to charge at her whilst she’s undefended, but Aubree is already reforming the Golem Suit as he runs up; a gigantic, stony foot kicks him hard, and launches him across the battlefield.

Eiden comes to a stop near the edge of the arena, and slowly gets back to his feet. When he turns around, the Golem Suit is already fully reformed, and taking another step towards him.

“Well, well, you have some more tricks up your sleeve! But it takes the truth to fool me, little sprite. All you’ve done is intensify my burning desire to win!”

“Come on, then, Eiden!” Aubree calls. “I’ve yet to see you land a single blow on me!”

 

*

 

24th September, 1999

 

Things are in full swing at the Macew Peacekeeping station. Estelle runs in, meeting Demonsfang in the hallway.

“Silhouette-” Demonsfang gasps, and Estelle nods.

“I got the call. There’s a Bombardier nearby but apparently they’ve been knocked unconscious. We’ve got a matter of minutes to get over there and secure the city centre!”

Demonsfang wraps his Phantom Overcoat’s arm around Estelle, and within seconds, the Rocket Heels have launched them both into the air.

“What’re the details?” yelled Estelle as they hit the apex of their flight and aimed their fall towards the sounds of chaos in the Macew city centre.

“It’s not good.” replies Demonsfang. “It’s a Silhouette Tank Top, the Killing Machine Top.”

“Damn.” Estelle sighs, staring at the people running from the street as an amorphous black mass rears up and the sound of cannon fire can be heard. “That explains the weaponry. What’s this thing’s given name?”

“According to Zimmer, it’s being referred to as the Finisher, and originally it was Dansk Pietroson, a labourer from the Netherlands who came here looking for work. He came across the- uh oh-”

As they head towards the ground, Estelle twists in midair and aims directly for one of the rooftops near to the Finisher, which is now beginning to extend various long cannons from the shadowy mass of its body, and beginning to fire on the road, creating gigantic cracks.

Demonsfang lets go of Estelle and throws his arm towards the ground – it takes the force of the fall, and both he and Estelle land safely on the rooftop.

“Go on?” Estelle shouts, getting up and observing the situation.

“He came across it when the Black Dragons assaulted him, is all I was going to say. Those dastards of darkness!” Demonsfang replies.

Estelle curses, and begins to formulate a plan in her mind. “Dammit! They keep doing that – grabbing random strangers and forcing Silhouette clothing onto them. Right, we’ll let the Peacekeepers find the perpetrators and hopefully bring them to justice; right now we need to take out the Finisher!”

“What’s the plan?”

Estelle judges the distance between the roof and the ground, and shrugs. “There’s people trapped in the shops – right now the Finisher seems focussed on the people running away, but if it turns on the people in the shops, they’ll have no way to escape. We need to force it down the road to buy time for everyone to get away. Ready?”

“Let’s do the armoured comet manoeuvre!” Demonsfang says, and immediately, Estelle performs a perfect swan dive off the rooftop. Demonsfang also leaps off, and the Finisher notices them – it has no visible eyes, but various muzzles begin to turn their sights on the pair, some as small as pistols, others large enough for fire rockets.

Estelle prepares to blast away with the Rocket Heels, and well over twenty weapons point their sights at her, and open fire. In the same instant, however, Demonsfang kicks the wall of the building he jumped from, and the force of the Steel-Capped Kickers launches him forward – the arm of the Phantom Overcoat takes the brunt of the gunfire, and the moment that the shots have ceased, Demonsfang dissipates the arm and crashes on the ground. He turns to see Estelle blast into the Finisher, using her full force to slowly push it backwards.

Turning back to the shop fronts, he begins to open the doors and usher people out. Switching to his other arm, he provides ample cover to help the people get to safety; it isn’t strictly necessary, however, as the Finisher is quite distracted with Estelle.

With a roar of anger bubbling up from within its depths, the Finisher rears back and an arm thunders out of the side of the amorphous creature. Estelle barely manages to flip over the fist and run down the creature’s arm, avoiding the blow. As she stares at it, she realises what’s happening.

“It’s armouring up, Demonsfang!” she yells.

Demonsfang grimaces; there’s still a few people yet to get to a safe distance. He turns back to the Finisher and kicks the ground with the Steel-Capped Kickers, launching himself towards the creature.

Estelle’s correct; the Finisher, rather than lacking a physical shape, is now coating its body in armour, taking the shape of a frankly gigantic supertank, with multiple layers of cannons and guns from every single part of it. The plating is sleek and black, and powerful treads appear beneath it. It begins to trundle forward, making up the ground that it had lost fighting Estelle moments earlier.

“So soon?” says Demonsfang, leaping up onto one of the giant treads, and leaping out of the way of a missile and a hail of gunfire. Swinging the arm of the Phantom Overcoat, he grabs onto the top cannon and heaves himself up to stand on top of it.

“Yeah, it’s obviously feeling threatened by us. We need to break through the top to get in there. Throw me up – gotta conserve blasts!” Estelle says. Demonsfang nods, and grabs her – her entire body fits into the gigantic hand of the Overcoat, and with a spin, he hurls her as high in the air as he possibly can.

Demonsfang spots the people ahead, and is uncomfortable with how close the cannon blasts are to the fleeing people. Most have reached a safe distance, behind a line of Peacekeepers guarding the end of the street, but one young woman is still running for them. The cannons seem to be aiming for her, and Demonsfang kicks his way to the ground, landing just ahead of the treads.

In the air, Estelle directs herself right above the top of the supertank, and charges up a powerful blast. Like a meteor strike, she shoots towards the ground and with a noise like an explosion, shatters the armoured top of the Finisher, causing an inhuman scream to echo from within. The sounds of Estelle causing chaos inside the machine can be heard, and several of the muzzles sink into the depths, presumably to fire inside the creature’s body at Estelle.

One gun and one cannon are still trained on the girl, however, and Demonsfang races towards her. Two shots go off, and he reaches out with the Phantom Overcoat. The first, the cannon, collides with the ground just beside the girl, throwing up a cloud of smoke that obscures the vision of the watching crowd and Peacekeepers.

Estelle blasts out of the side of the Finisher, punching through the metal as if it was nothing, and lands on the ground in time to see the second shot.

The arm of the Phantom Overcoat reaches far enough, but Demonsfang’s fingers are too wide, and the gunshot goes through them, piercing the girl’s back. She falls to the ground with a gasp, and blood begins to pool around her.

“No!” yells Estelle, staring at the body on the ground. As the dust begins to clear, the pair turn back to the Finisher, still rumbling towards the crowd, cannons still ready to continue the fire. Estelle begins to charge up another blast, eating some nuts from a pouch as she does, but then she stops when she spots Demonsfang.

The mouth guard is off, and his teeth are bared. Both arms of the Phantom Overcoat shimmer into existence, and a moment later, Demonsfang goes on the offensive.

“Demonsfang, you can’t-” Estelle says, but she realises it’s too late and sighs. “Alright, I suppose I’d better help out.”

She blasts off into the air. Below, on the ground, the two gigantic arms of the Phantom Overcoat slam into the side of the Finisher, and the claws are strong enough to rip right through the metal. Gunfire doesn’t do anything to dissuade them, and Demonsfang doesn’t even notice the bullets hitting his body; with a flick, two of the largest cannons are sliced off, causing the Finisher to screech in pain even more.

With one arm still gripping the side of the Finisher, Demonsfang allows the other one to punch the weakened armour and grips some of the amorphous black body within. Howling, he tears chunks off, then uses the other armour to flick the claw upwards. The force of the blow is enough to tip the Finisher upwards slightly.

Blasting by, Estelle collides with the now-visible base of the Finisher, and the force of her Rocket Heels begins to push the Finisher even further upwards. With a second blast, Estelle manages to tip the creature over, causing it to crash backwards onto the ground. Cannons begin to form on the underside of the Finisher, but Demonsfang growls again and makes short work of them. The pair then race over to the tipped-up machine and Estelle blasts into the centre of the amorphous thing, causing it to give a final scream.

The shadows begin to dissipate, and the armour crumbles away, until all that is left is an unconscious man wearing a grim-looking tank top, lying in repose around the destruction he unwittingly created.

Demonsfang turns with furious eyes to Estelle, who dodges past his first swipe with the massive shadow arms, and with a strong rocket kick, launches him into the side of the shops, hitting the brickwork painfully. He falls to the ground, and the arms dissipate. Estelle picks up the mouth guard and hands it over to him as he comes to his senses.

“You really need to warn me whenever you’re gonna use both arms.” she says, pointing at her legs – they’re red-raw with the incredible effort of using so many blasts in such a short time, and she looks malnourished.

“Sorry…” he murmurs. “After it kil- after that, I knew it needed to go down ASAP.”

“It’s been a while since we had a casualty in a Silhouette case.” Estelle replies. “The board are probably gonna want to speak to you- oh my god, Demonsfang!”

“What?” he replies, putting the mouth guard back on. Estelle points to his front, and he looks down to see multiple bullet wounds, all oozing blood. His eyes widen. “…Oh. I might need to see a doctor.”

“No kidding!” Estelle shouts, pulling him to his feet. “Come on, someone else can deal with the Finisher now he’s unconscious. Let’s get you to hospital!”

“We did it, at least.” replies Demonsfang. “I just wish it hadn’t cost an innocent’s life…”

“We all make mistakes. Come on, focus on your own health first before we deal with that.”

In his mind, though, all Demonsfang can hear is the surprised ‘oh!’ of the girl, moments before she hits the ground. Over and over again.

 

*

 

“This battle is really heating up!” Mia says, then laughs at her own pun. “Man, I’m too funny…”

“Eiden is certainly at the disadvantage, but the Mask of Comedy is allowing him to outspeed Aubree quite effectively. Buying himself enough time to do any proper damage, however, is going to be tough.” Simon remarks.

The same thought is on Eiden’s mind as he leaps forward, hopping left and right to keep Aubree distracted, whilst at the same time wracking his brain for a way to defeat her. Aubree begins to try and swat him, using her huge hands to slam the ground, but Eiden is far too fast for her. The collision of the fists in the ground, however, is creating small craters of cracked clay.

At first, this doesn’t seem to be too troublesome, but as Eiden hops around with his trademark manic laughter, he suddenly stumbles and almost falls to the ground, only just managing to catch himself and leap away – the craters are preventing him from moving as excitedly around.

“Come get me, Aubree!” Eiden replies, changing tactics and running directly for the golem. Aubree bends down to try and prevent him from moving, but he dashes past her slamming fists and runs between her legs. She peers down to see where he went, but realises too late that Eiden has turned around and unleashed a mighty pillar of flame towards her. The golem moves too slowly to avoid the blast, and Aubree squeaks with fear as flames billow into the inside of the suit.

“What’s the matter?” Eiden taunts, following up the attack with a flashbang to buy himself some time to approach. “A big, stone monster afraid of a little light?”

“Absolutely not!” Aubree says, coughing whilst the flames fade away. Trying to focus on the battle, she stands upright and dissipates the Golem Suit as Eiden runs through her legs.

Eiden comes to a stop as Aubree lands just behind him, and he turns with a mischievous grin. Aubree is caught by the Mask of Comedy, and in her confusion, Eiden hops forward and grabs both of her hands.

“Now, then, what’s a show without a dance?” Eiden says, grinning, and begins to waltz with a dazed and confused Aubree, heading closer and closer to the edge of the battlefield.

“What a showman.” Lee says, visibly impressed.

“Damn, I think he’s got her!” Ten says. “She was trying to taunt him by deactivating her suit, but that was never going to work twice in a row.”

“I’d have to agree. Aubree really made a mistake there.” Phillis replies.

Clocksworth sighs. “Ah well. Looks like Eiden’s won again!”

Aubree comes to her senses at the edge of the battlefield, and Eiden gives her a fiendish grin, the flames of the Flame Cover rising up – she can feel the heat, and looks at Eiden with fear in her countenance.

“One spirit to another, I’ve enjoyed this. Let’s dance again some time.”

Eiden prepares to spin Aubree away, sending her out of bounds, but as he begins to move, the Golem Suit begins to reform around her body. As the arm of the suit begins to close up around her arm, her hand still holding Eiden’s tightly, it briefly touches Eiden’s hand. There’s an explosion, and with an impossible force, hurls Eiden backwards.

Reacting well, Eiden manages to land on his feet, sliding backwards a little further before coming to a stop. The golem is reformed, and Eiden stares at his hand, which now has a fiercely pulsating red mark where the explosion charred him.

“Now what the hell was that..?” he whispers to himself.

“Goodness!” shouts Donovan from the model’s lounge. “What kind of mystic powers did Aubree use there?”

“It’s not mystic powers.” Jackson explains. “It’s a function of all Battle Clothing – your own clothing does this, Donovan. When clothing tries to form or create something in a space where something already exists, it causes an explosion as the particles of clothing and the particles of whatever’s in the way try to exist in the exact same space.”

“Oh! So this is the same thing as my chest-explosion!” Donovan says.

“Yeah. Much like that, Aubree’s golem tried to form around her, but Eiden’s arm was in the way, so… it exploded.”

“Aubree must’ve known about that function already.” Paris murmurs, raising an eyebrow. “It’s very damaging if you do it multiple times, but… you can’t deny that in this situation, it worked.”

Eiden laughs, ignoring the pain in his arm and begin to stride towards Aubree, taking care not to trip and fall into any of the small craters.

“And to think I was going to give you a little peck on the cheek. This is the thanks I get for a wonderful dance?”

“I love dancing with you, Eiden,” Aubree calls from within the golem. “But I prefer to take the lead!”

With a kick, Aubree begins the conflict anew, but Eiden’s speed is still too much for her. He seems to be everywhere at once, keeping up a constant barrage of flashbangs, flames and laughter. After a few more minutes, it’s evident that Eiden can’t damage Aubree; Aubree, however, can’t catch Eiden. The battle has effectively become a stalemate.

Eiden doesn’t like stalemates, however, and he’s preparing to finish things off. With each attack, he keeps trying to lure Aubree back out of her Golem Suit – she does it once more, but he doesn’t react quickly enough to take advantage of it. Next time, however, she leaps out of the Golem Suit, avoiding the flames, and turns to tease Eiden a little more.

“Even when I’m not in my suit, you can’t beat me!” she laughs, but then the Mask of Comedy gleams, and Aubree leans back, mouth agape, in a daze.

“There we go.” Eiden replies. “Sorry, little sprite, but enough is enough!”

She’s already near the edge of the battlefield, so as Eiden sprints up, he prepares a more quick version of the ballroom dancing he did last time. His hands reach over to grasp Aubree’s, and-

“Alley-oop!” Aubree shouts, grabbing Eiden’s hands and heaving as hard as she can. In a suplex that would have made Boo proud, Aubree throws Eiden right over her shoulder, crashing to the ground outside the arena. Eiden hits the ground with a shocked expression, thankful that the mask is hiding his complete confusion.

“How did she do that? She was dazed by the mask!” shouts Clocksworth.

“No, she wasn’t…” says Xilog, grinning. “My, how excellent. Aubree was looking at Eiden’s feet when he looked at her; she pretended to be dazed to lure him over to her!”

“A stroke of genius.” breathes Cassandra.

The crowd roars in appreciation at the incredible match, and the commentators have to shout to be heard over the noise.

“What an absolutely blistering match, ladies and gents! Let’s see how our two performers did – the judges are giving us the scores…”

“Aubree won the victory point, and… Eiden won the style point.” Simon says.

Fuck yes.” says Lee under her breath.

“And the efficiency point goes to Aubree… the performance point goes to Eiden…” continues Mia. “The final point, the skill point, goes to…”

Aubree stares up at the commentators hopefully, and Eiden clambers to his feet to stand beside her. From atop the stands, the lost model has perked up a little and is excitedly anticipating the result. The models and designers in the four lounges watch with interest, and Eiden and Aubree’s friends in the crowd are holding their breath.

“Aubree! Aubree wins 3-2, and earns her place in the semi-finals!”

Eiden pulls Aubree into a hug, which she reciprocates joyfully.

“You were absolutely fantastic.” he says, and she nods.

“So were you!”

“I’m so proud of you.” Eiden says. “Good luck in the next round – let’s get some rest, shall we?”

“Oh, of course – I didn’t hurt you with that explosion, did I?” Aubree says as they make their way off the battlefield. Eiden shakes his head.

“It’ll heal. I was more surprised that you even did something like that. What was that about?”

“It was something I figured out when I fought Corrine…”

The pair, talking amicably and both flushed with excitement, head off the battlefield together amidst the cheers of the audience.

“Alright, ladies and gents.” Simon says. “The semi-finals will be beginning now, as we approach the end of the competition. First up is Boo Viejo vs Paris Duvoir, then Zaphod Smith vs Aubree Cyrus. We’ve got some very interesting fights coming up.”

“I’m excited, and I hope you guys are too!” Mia says. “See you shortly, everyone!”

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

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