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Archives for : Sunderland College

Sunderland College [5.1 – An Exhibition of Class]

MONDAY

 

Zaphod catches Estelle and Cassandra walking up to college just before eight. Estelle is breathing heavily, tired out from the morning’s training.

“Hi, Estelle… I was wondering if I could talk to you about something important.”

Estelle nods at Cassandra. “You get into college, I’ll catch you up in a bit.”

Cassandra heads off, and Estelle follows Zaphod to the side. She raises an eyebrow, and Zaphod gulps.

“I… um, I need to talk to a pro. And I’d rather not have anyone know about this.”

“Go on..?” Estelle murmurs.

“I found a piece of Silhouette Clothing.” Zaphod says. He brings out a carrier bag, and inside it is a carrier bag. Then another, then another, and inside that is a broiling mass of shadowy clothing. Estelle breathes in when she sees it.

“When you say ‘found’, Zaphod…”

“No, you can’t. I’m just- a friend made it. Bad home life. Didn’t know what she was doing. Please don’t punish them. Or me. We just… want to have it safely disposed of.”

“I can do that.” Estelle replies. Her brows lower as she glares at the Cursed Coat. “The less Silhouette Clothing there is, the better. It’s part of my job to find out the origins of Silhouette Clothing, but that only becomes particularly important if there’s someone purposely inserting it into society. I can get away with a one-off case like this… I’m doing this as a favour. OK?”

“Of course.” Zaphod replies, breathing a heavy sigh of relief. “Thanks so much.”

“No worries. Just don’t mention this to anyone ever again. Silhouette Clothing is incredibly dangerous, even in the right hands. Has your friend considered counselling?”

“I don’t know.” Zaphod replies. “I’ll ask, though.”

“Good.” Estelle says, taking the bags and holding them under her arm cautiously. “I… know what a bad home life is like.”

 

*

 

That week’s Testfire Club sees the students gathered around a gloomy November evening, and a cheery Tessa handing out dressing gowns.

“Didn’t we already cover one of the dressing gowns?” asks Eiden.

“We did! I wanted to take a look at another, though, especially now it’s a little darker. This one needs darkness!”

“It does?” Cassandra asks, putting on the strange dressing gown. Tessa, wearing her own, stands near the edge of the college, where long shadows have been cast. Activating the gown’s power, Tessa waves at the group as she sinks into the shadows and reappears a few metres to the left. Cassandra’s breath catches and she stares in horror at the event.

“This, class, is the Transmission Robe! It lets you teleport through bodies of shadow, and if you’re holding someone else, you can take them too! The drawback becomes evident once you use it – so hey, give it a try!”

Cassandra gives Tessa a blank stare. “…That’s what Alucard was wearing. That’s how they escaped.”

Aubree is the first to run over to the shadows and teleport through them. Giggling as she reappears, she suddenly looks back in shock and yells.

“I can’t see anything!”

“Give it a few seconds.” replies Tessa. “The drawback is that transporting through shadows blinds you for ten to thirty seconds. Still, it can be a very useful piece of clothing – famously popularised by Black Cat, the cat burglar who terrorised London in the early 2000s. Lots of buildings these days now have anti-transmission systems built in to prevent such things, but this only became common in ordinary people’s housing in the late 90s and last few years.”

The students begin to have plenty of fun transporting around and wandering around blindly, trying to see who goes blind for the shortest amount of time – it ends up being Jackson, at 11 seconds.

“It was also used by Hannah Barrett, who you may know more commonly as the Bombardier Image! She used it in conjunction with the Mirage Frock to confuse and outwit her foes before taking them down. Besides that, you don’t see it very often, due to said anti-transmission systems. But hey, it’s a fun one to mess around with, especially for those of you who can wear two pieces of Battle Clothing now!”

Eventually, though, it gets too cold to continue, and with the competition just a day or so away, people want to get an early night. The Testfire Club ends, as always, with excited students discussing the applications of the new piece of clothing. Cassandra, meanwhile, pictures the moment in her mind when the butler appeared as if from the shadows themselves, and teleported himself and the maid away. It had to have been the Transmission Robe he was wearing on top of his buttling uniform…

 

WEDNESDAY

 

Finally, the day of the Winter Model Competition arrives, and December 1st finds with it a group of students – some of them there to perform in the competition, and some there to watch, but everyone is excited.

The ones who are designing, however, are more stressed than excited. Donovan hurriedly adds the finishing touches to Boo’s outfit whilst Anastasia tries to ensure that Zaphod’s clothes fit him well enough. Jackson is fixing up his shoes, and Aubree is excitedly figuring out what strategies she’s going to use. Auralee Atwell, Eiden’s designer, is the only one who seems completely unbothered by the events going on around her.

“Are you not stressed at all?” Eiden asks, turning to her. He’s not wearing his costume yet, intending to change once he gets to the arena – he has, however, dyed his hair. It begins with a flaming red at the top, and goes from orange further down to yellow at the very tips.

“Nah. Peeps are getting agitated. I’m never one of them.” Lee replies, shrugging.

“I see. Well, you’re in higher spirits than me.”

“Eiden, no use worrying. You’re plenty strong, I’ve figured that out in our practise sessions. And, uh…” Lee starts, then awkwardly pauses. Eiden turns to her, and she sighs. “I’ve ducked out lessons a couple times to watch you in Combat Training.”

“Oh, I see. Uh, hope I impressed you.” Eiden replies.

“You did. In fact, most of you did. Aubree and Zaphod are no slouches. And then there’s that weird nude guy…”

“Yeah, we’re an odd bunch. If you think we’re strong though, you should see Form A. I have a couple of friends in that class, and some of them are really talented. Cassandra and Boo are probably my equals.”

Cassandra, on the coach to go and see the show, laughs and turns around.

“Equals? Eiden, no offence, but I’m pretty sure I can take you.”

“You want to put that to the test?” Eiden asks, grinning behind his mask.

“How about a little sparring match tomorrow or Friday?” Cassandra asks. “I wanted to fight some people outside of my class anyway, since mocks are coming up and all.”

“Oh, don’t remind me.” Eiden sighs. Lee smirks.

“Heh. Not ready for ‘em?”

“Combat Training should be fine…” Eiden begins.

“…It’s just all the others. General Studies is gonna be the worst.” Cassandra finishes.

“I feel that. First-year mocks were stressful, but like, don’t worry. They don’t actually mean anything. Just kinda lets you know where your weaknesses are.” Lee explains. “The real stress is the end-of-year exams.”

“I suppose so. Oh, hey, the coach is almost there.” Cassandra replies, pointing to the arena coming into view. It looks as impressive as always.

 

*

 

The arena has four modelling lounges, one at each of the four points of the compass. In each of the rooms, the last-minute touches are being done as quickly as possible as the sixty-four stressed models prepare their outfits. Aubree is approached by a familiar figure in the northern lounge.

“Hey, Aubree. How are you feeling?” Eiden asks.

Aubree looks at him brightly. “Pretty good! I don’t know how well I’m going to do, but I’m very excited to see everyone’s outfits!”

“Well, that’s good.” Eiden says. “I’m intrigued to see how everyone’s analysed ‘the hearth’s warmth’. The hearth… warmth and fire, that’s the main idea. And yet I don’t see as many fire-themed outfits as I thought.”

“Definitely! How’ve you found working with Auralee?”

“Not bad. She’s very direct, but an absolute genius, and she’s taught me a lot. It’s made me more confident in designing by myself, you know?”

“That’s great!” Aubree says, hugging Eiden. “I’m sure you can do it! You have such imaginative ideas, after all!”

“I suppose.” Eiden replies. “Uh, hey… if we meet on the battlefield today…”

Aubree frowns at him, but looks more adorable than threatening. “Then you’ll give it your all, Eiden! Because I certainly will!”

Eiden grins. “Yeah, of course.”

In the southern lounge, Boo and Donovan are putting the finishing touches on their piece. Boo smiles as she puts on her clothing.

“I look so cute! Thank you, Donovan.”

“Ask for power, and you shall receive!” Donovan replies, bowing. “Repay me not with words, but with action!”

“Oh, of course!” Boo squeaks. “I’ll try my best to thank you. Watch me!”

“Absolutely! And might I say, thank goodness we can see all from the modelling lounge… look at how full the stadium is!”

“The Practise Model Competition wasn’t nearly as full. I remember, there were only a few students and parents about. But this… is a full crowd.” Boo murmurs, staring out of the wide windows of the modelling lounge that look over the Macew Modelling Arena. The arena is packed, but the stadium is empty for the time being.

“Good day, Jackson.” says a voice.

Jackson looks up to see a confident young man and a quiet young woman looking at him. It’s a familiar face, with slick blonde hair and piercing blue eyes: Paris Duvoir.

“Ah, Paris. Ready for the competition?”

“Quite so.” Paris replies, before gesturing to the girl. She’s nervous-looking, but has dark skin and pale hair, with half-moon glasses resting on her nose. “Allow me to introduce my designer, Genevieve Ascot. I don’t believe you had the pleasure of meeting at the Practise Model Competition.”

“No, I didn’t. Hi, Genevieve.” Jackson says, extending a hand.

Genevieve takes it and shakes it quickly. “Hello.”

“I trust that you’ll be giving it your all today.”

“Of course. I hope you’ll give me as good of a fight as you did last time.” Jackson says, grinning. Paris laughs.

“Oh, I’ve been hard at work mastering my combative strategies for this competition. I’ll see you in the finals, Jackson!”

“See you there, Paris.” Jackson replies. Just before he can continue speaking, a loud voice booms over the arena, quieting the audience – the commentators.

“Good morning, Macew! What a wonderful day it is today, wouldn’t you agree? Even the winter cold seems to be less biting on the morning of a model competition. My name is Mia Denney, and I’ll be one of your commentators for today.”

“I’m Simon Rutledge, the other commentator. We look forward to spending this day with you; of course, I know what most of you are really here for. It’s not kids fighting in clothing, but the staple of Sunderland modelling competitions: the exhibition match.”

“That’s right!” answers Mia. “And today, we have a very special match indeed! Two very famous models – one current, and one who hasn’t done it in a while – are getting together to give us a match unlike any other! Please, welcome to the arena: the Queen of the 90s, Louisa Lefay, and the current Royal, Dexter Duvoir!”

Paris jerks his head around in horror as he stares at the blue-clad figure walking out onto the arena amidst the wild cheers of the audience. “What?! He didn’t tell me he was coming!”

“Your father?” Jackson asks.

“Yes.” sighs Paris. “He said he wasn’t able to make this competition because of business, but apparently that business was being in the exhibition match of the damn competition. I didn’t even know he was in the country. He could’ve at least told me that he was in Macew…”

“You don’t hear from your father very often, do you?”

“No.” Paris replies, staring with anger out of the lounge windows. “Not unless it’s about modelling… I don’t believe this.”

 

*

 

“Alright, ladies and gentlemen.” Simon says with his characteristic tiredness at odds with the sheer volume of his commentary. “Louisa Lefay was once the Royal, and had an illustrious modelling career. At the time, she represented Kirsten Designs, and won many Global Fashion Shows.”

Louisa walks onto the field. She’s wearing a tight crop top and a long jacket, with wide bell-bottom trousers; all in a glittering, pale shade of green. On her head are light green earmuffs. She gives the crowd some welcoming waves, then takes her place at the edge of the arena, looking radiant.

“Her opponent for this exhibition match is Dexter Duvoir, the current Royal.” Mia continues. “He’s an exemplary model with a rich and varied string of wins dating back as far as 1994, before snatching the title of Royal from Louisa in 1997. These two have an intense rivalry, and so do their designers: Duvoir, as everyone knows, is one of Lindsey Stunne’s finest models.”

Dexter walks onto the field, but a closer look shows that his feet are above the ground – buffeted by the wind that his scarf controls, he hovers onto the arena, just a foot or so from the ground, before dropping down gracefully. He wears a navy blazer much like the one worn by his wayward son, with matching navy trousers of fine quality. Under the blazer is an azure shirt. His outfit looks pristine, as if ironed just minutes before the match.

“Alright, we’ve introduced them. Now let’s see what they can do.” Simon says.

On the battleground, the arena’s referee, Lauren Valleja, raises her hand in the air. “Begin!”

No sooner as she has said the word, the two combatants charge onto the field. Dexter is stately, using the wind to hoist himself into the air and dance along the battlefield. The crowd is entranced by his movements, but Louisa is also intending to charm her audience.

With a crash of sound, Louisa blasts sound waves through the wind; Dexter predicts this and drops from the sky gracefully moments before the sound hits. With a flick of his hands, wind circles around his ears quickly, creating a vacuum that the Vibe Bottoms cannot pierce.

The attack was just a distraction, however. In the moment that Dexter drops and blocks the noise, Louisa begins to dance sensually, moving her hips from side to side and spinning gently. A power begins to grow around her, and soon her body is encased in light. The light changes, and soon reveals a majestic horse, mane flapping in Dexter’s wind. With a neigh, the horse charges for Dexter. With unflappable confidence, Dexter throws one of his arms aside, and a gigantic steel blade slides out of it. He swings it furiously, and the horse rears up to avoid the slice. The audience ‘ooh’s with surprise.

“What on earth was that? Does he just have a fucking sword?” asks Ten.

Clocksworth, Ten, Cassandra, Xilog and Phillis have all decided to watch their friends participate. Phillis seems especially interested in the competition – when asked, all he said was that he wants to see ‘which people my power will work with best’.

“I don’t think so. It’s his other piece of Battle Clothing.” Clocksworth replies.

“Indeed it is.” Xilog says, pointing. “The blazer isn’t his other piece of clothing; it’s the shirt underneath it. The Wrist Flick Shirt, I believe.”

“And that just makes swords?” asks Ten.

“It’s the cuffs. When the user flicks their arm like that, the cuffs extend into long blades.” Xilog explains. “It’s a very interesting piece of clothing.”

Back on the battlefield, Dexter follows up his attack – using the wind to lift him up, he performs a mid-air front-flip, drawing the second blade as he does so. He lunges down at the horse, but it moves out of the way and gallops around to charge Dexter again. As it reaches him, he prepares to strike, but a blast of light shines from the horse’s body, and it transforms back into Louisa, just before she reaches Dexter.

His blade misses her by inches, and she puts a hand around his neck, pushing him backwards. Placing a kiss on his cheek, to much surprise from the audience, she then flips around and blasts him with the Vibe Bottoms. The sound is ear-piercing to Dexter, who’s stood mere feet away, and he recoils. Retaining his composure soon after, however, he takes flight, and uses the winds to buffet Louisa into the air.

“What on earth was that kiss about?” asks Boo. Donovan shrugs, and Jackson overhears the question.

“This, Boo, is professional modelling. Remember that it’s not just a fight; it’s a performance. They’re toying with each other, mocking, taunting, and telling a story. That’s how you score higher, and that’s how professional models fight.”

Boo feels out of her depth, suddenly. She can fight, but she has no idea how to perform. “…I see.”

“It’s incredible to watch.” Jackson says, turning back to the fight.

“I just like seeing someone on par with my father.” Paris replies, grinning.

She reacts to this well, however, by spinning and moving through the wind, and transforming into an eagle. With an impressively loud caw, she wings through the wind to hunt down Dexter, who spins and pirouettes around the bird, hopping through the wind with practised ease. Eventually, the eagle closes in on him, and he dispels all the wind in the area, dropping down to the ground. Moments before he hits the ground, the wind begins to pick up around him again, and he sits on a throne of invisible wind which deposits him gently on the ground of the arena.

The eagle has dived after him, and he turns to face it head-on. Readying his left wrist blade, Dexter lunges, and the blade glances off the eagle’s cheek. Louisa reverts to her human form, using a blast from the Vibe Bottoms to hit the ground somewhat safely, retaining her balance and avoiding Dexter’s next strike. He blows a kiss at her, and she returns the favour, before immediately blasting sound at him again, and darting in to strike.

Blocking the noise with wind again, Dexter readies himself for Louisa’s strike, but she has ensured that she will come through unscathed. As his wrist blade swings, she grabs his hand and moves it to her back, as if he was about to begin ballroom dancing with her. Her other hand goes for his face – with the wind creating a vacuum around him, there’s no resistance at all, and her punch strikes true, hurling Dexter backwards.

“Oh, that was a good hit, ladies and gents!” Mia says excitedly.

“Dexter’s got his work cut out for him. She may have not been modelling in a while, but the knack never leaves you.” Simon replies.

Dexter flicks the wind up, heaving him into the air and turning his fall backwards into a well-performed backflip. He lands on his feet, only to see Louisa bearing down on him once again: this time in the form of a lion.

With little time to react, Dexter swings one of his wrist blades, but the lion’s huge paw knocks his arm aside, and the huge creature bowls him over. In the chaos, the other wrist blade manages to sink into the lion’s torso, and Louisa reverts, slightly before she intended. Using his wind to blow her backwards, Dexter leaps up with his wrist blades, intending to strike Louisa down.

“He’s won.” Paris sighs.

“No, look.” Jackson replies, pointing at Louisa.

Louisa’s quick reflexes save her, and she darts backwards, aided by the wind. Driving his wrist blades into the ground, Dexter lets the wind buffeting Louisa surcease and instead gathers them underneath himself, heaving his body round in a front-flip and kicking Louisa in the stomach before she has a chance to move. The blow isn’t too strong, but it’s enough to knock her backwards, just out of the arena.

“End!” shouts Lauren, lifting a hand.

“Well, there we have it, folks, the match is over.” Simon says. “A very good showing from two very high-up models. Now we’ll move to the judges to see what they thought – since it was an exhibition match, matching the theme wasn’t factored into judging.”

“Indeed, that’s right, only our actual contestants will have scores affected by their interpretation of the theme.” Mia says. “Let’s see here! So, Dexter won the match… he won the style point… Louisa won the efficiency point… oh, and the performance point. And lastly, the skill point goes to Dexter Duvoir, who wins this exhibition match! Give the two contestants a round of applause, please!”

The two models shake each other’s hand and walk off the arena together, amidst cheers and clapping, talking cheerfully.

“That was insane.” Cassandra says. “And that wasn’t pre-choreographed?”

“Nope. Models are very good at fitting their opponent into their movements, it seems.” Phillis replies.

“Yeah, I love it.” Ten says. “I used to watch Dexter Duvoir all the time when I was a kid.”

“His performances are something special, that’s for sure.” Cassandra replies.

Xilog observes the field with a sigh. “My one concern is how the students are going to follow-up such a performance. They aren’t nearly as talented.”

“They’re our friends, though!” Clocksworth replies. He’s obviously very excited to watch the proceedings. “It’ll be fun because we have a personal stake in it. Who are we all supporting to win, by the way?”

“Come on, they have to make it through lots of fights before they win. Let’s just see who makes it to the top 8. Hopefully some of the people we know manage it.” Ten says.

“We’ll see, I guess.” Phillis grunts.

 

*

 

11th January, 1999

 

“You have a visitor.” the receptionist says as the Bombardier they call Demonsfang enters the Macew Peacekeeping station. “She’s waiting at your desk, I sent her up.”

Demonsfang nods. “I see.”

It doesn’t take long to ascend. Ground floor is for police officers, second floor is for Peacekeepers, and the third floor is devoted to the Bombardiers. Demonsfang finds himself in a busy office, and soon realises why there is such a flurry. Stood by his desk, flicking through some of his files, is the Top Bombardier, Estelle Weatherby.

“Ah.” she says as he walks up to her. “You must be Demonsfang.”

“Well, my actual name is-”

“I know.” Estelle replies. “I’ve been keeping tabs on you.”

“What forces are at work here?”

“Let’s borrow the meeting room for a bit, and get away from everyone, and I can tell you exactly what’s going on.”

Moments later, Demonsfang is sat in a meeting room with Estelle, who has foregone her usual skimpy leotard and fishnets for an office dress and cardigan. She looks at him, and gives him a smile.

“No need to be so nervous! You may as well remove that mouth guard, too, it’s making it pretty hard to hear you.”

“Sorry.” mutters Demonsfang, removing the mouth guard. “So, Miss Weatherby… what possible reason could you want for seeking my counsel?”

“That’s quite simple. You’ve proven to be a very strong Bombardier, though you only graduated a few years ago.”

Demonsfang remains quiet.

“I need an apprentice.”

At this, Demonsfang’s eyes widen and he shakes his dark hair out of his face. He drops all pretence of flowery language. “What?”

“An apprentice!” Estelle replies. “Do you know what the Anticloth is?”

“Of course.” Demonsfang answers. “The maladjusted outfit that destroys Battle Clothing outright, finally put on hold by the brave Bombardiers of yesteryear.”

“I was an apprentice to Fire and Ice… before their death in 1992. They were old family friends, and they trained me in the ways of Battle Clothing whilst I studied at Sunderland. They… they were killed a month before I graduated in 1992.”

Demonsfang watches Estelle’s body shake for a moment, until she collects herself.

“I was terrified to be a Bombardier after that. I went on work experience for a few years, honing my power. It was only early 1996 that I decided to become a full Bombardier.”

“And you did that and more.”

“I did indeed. Top Bombardier… they’d have been proud.” Estelle replies. “That said, let’s not get distracted. Fire and Ice intended for me to take on their goal: they were trying to find the Anticloth. Rather than do the usual act of waiting for it to surface and then taking it down, they wanted to minimise casualties by trying to find it before whoever stole it could use it.”

“I see.” murmurs Demonsfang.

“Unfortunately, with the Bombardier Killer around, their goal was cut short, and it occurs to me that I, too, could fail in my goal. So I need to find an apprentice who can carry on that mission if I fall.”

“Could this not go to the higher-ups?”

“Not strictly.” Estelle replies. “Bombardiers are expected to respond to threats, not investigate them. But obviously, with no leads and the possibility of being Marked, it’s unlikely that the police are going to turn anything up. This is an investigation I’ve been doing in my off-time.”

“Hm.” Demonsfang says. “I understand. So… you think I’m the best one to train?”

Estelle grins. “You sell yourself short. You’re very strong, but more than that – you’re highly intelligent. I think you and I will make a good team. And as my apprentice, you will undergo training and battle Silhouette monsters with me, so there’s something in it for you, too.”

“Alright, Miss Weatherby. You have yourself a new partner in crime!” Demonsfang says, standing up and extending his hand. Estelle knocks the hand aside and pulls Demonsfang into a hug.

“Yes! I’m already excited to see what we’ll do together!”

 

*

 

With that, the Winter Model Competition begins properly, and with sixty-four entrants, the matches come thick and fast, with some even being settled in a matter of minutes. There are some notable performances, and the one match that everyone is interested to see is Boo Viejo’s. It’s the fifth match of the first round.

“Alright, everyone, in this match we have Boo Viejo! Simon, isn’t she one of your students?”

“She is, yes.” Simon replies. “Talented in combat, though she’s never really tried modelling before. Whether it’ll come naturally to her is yet to be seen. Her opponent is Burton Welcher, who is also a newcomer to the modelling scene but wanted to try it out. He signed up for the Practise Model Competition but didn’t manage to get his place, so it’s nice that he’s got the chance to perform now.”

“Let’s see how they go!” Mia announces.

On the field, Burton walks confidently on. He’s a stocky boy with olive skin, wearing the Chillbringer, with grey trousers and a grey hat.

“Oh, he’s gone with ice instead of fire.” says Aubree, pointing at the competitor. Eiden and Lee look over.

“That seems odd.”

“I guess his interpretation of the theme is the ice that you make a fire to dispel. He’s banking on his opponents all going with the fire theme.” Lee muses.

Boo enters the arena next. She’s wearing the Inner Heat Jumper and the Slowdown Stockings. She has orange shoes that seem to glitter in the light, and her stockings have vertical stripes of yellow, orange, red and other firey colours; round her waist is a red flannel, and on the jumper, Donovan has painstakingly sewn a large red heart in the chest, which blends in well with the dark orange of the jumper. The stockings and jumper also seem to have glow-in-the-dark thread sewn into them, which is reacting with the powered Battle Clothing to glow faintly, giving Boo an ethereal look. The outfit is completed with a wreath of flames around Boo’s shoulders, flickering so realistically that one could almost be forgiven for believing it to be a real crest of flames.

“Oh my god, she looks incredible.” Jackson says, staring in surprise. “You designed that, Donovan? It doesn’t look anything like your, uh, usual outfits.”

“Indeed I did!” Donovan crows. “I know that participation in this event is important to young miss Boo, so I did my best to give her a design that wasn’t, uh, me! And dare I say, it worked out perfectly!”

“Let’s just hope she can fight as good as she looks.” Paris sighs. Both Jackson and Donovan burst out laughing, and Paris turns to them curiously.

“Oh, just you wait.” grins Jackson.

“Alright, ladies and gentlemen! I think our participants are now ready, so…” Mia says over the crowd’s chatter.

“Begin!” shouts Lauren.

Burton doesn’t move, and instead begins to charge his power. Boo runs forward, but not at full pelt, still cautious – the heart on her chest begins to glow more brightly as heat is generated under the jumper.

As she reaches the middle of the arena, Burton throws his hands out wide, and pillars of ice begin to erupt from the ground around him, creating a perfect circle in the arena; Boo is directly in the middle. The ice begins to creep along the ground, and a beautiful dusting of snow begins to fall from the sky, complete with snowflakes dancing in the breeze.

Once his little circle is complete, Burton runs towards Boo, who observes him carefully, not moving for a few moments. When Burton gets close enough, the Slowdown Stockings activate, slowing his movements down. Opening his eyes wide in shock, he doesn’t have time to react before Boo goes on the offensive, karate chopping him with impressive speed.

“I wonder why she’s changed to the Inner Heat Jumper. Her outfit already kinda fits with the theme, and she’s not nearly as strong without the Powerful Pullover.” Cassandra says.

“Do you not recall the drawback of the Powerful Pullover?” Xilog replies. “It drastically lowers her charisma – her performance in the competition would have been severely impacted. I think she knew that, and changed to the Inner Heat Jumper to avoid that problem.”

“Oh, makes sense.” Clocksworth replies. “And besides, even without the punchy top, she’s a force to be reckoned with!”

“That’s true enough. Oh, wow!” Ten says, suddenly staring in shock at the next stage of the fight.

With an expert flip, Boo pushes Burton back, and finally unleashes her jumper’s power, just as it is beginning to reach an uncomfortable level of heat. The heat blasts through the arena, missing Burton, but melting the pillars of ice on contact: the edge of the arena is in sight through the gap that has been created. The crowd gasp as the shot goes wide.

“Oh, it’s gonna take her forever to charge another one!” Mia says with surprise. “What an unfortunate miss that was; but how do you miss at point-blank range? Stage fright?”

“I don’t think so. Keep watching.” Simon replies. “I don’t think she missed at all.”

As Burton stumbles backward and the blast of heat whistles harmlessly past him, he’s emboldened, and once again moves forward to strike. Holding his hand out to hopefully hit Boo before she can take advantage of his slowed movement, he readies a fist.

Unfortunately for him, Boo is ready. Leaping into the air, Boo spins a full 180 degrees before slamming her foot into the side of his head in a perfectly-executed roundhouse kick. Burton is launched several metres over, landing in between the melted pillars. As he groggily gets to his feet, Boo runs for him.

Burton throws his hand forward, and spears of ice shoot out from the floor. Boo uses the Inner Heat Jumper to blast them away, but the momentary distraction buys Burton enough time to try and tackle the smaller girl to the ground.

With an expert movement of her body, Boo meets the tackle head-on, and twists around, trying to put as much weight on her shoulders as she can. Hoisting Burton into the air, with an immense yell, she slams the boy into the ground a few feet away, out of the bounds of the arena.

“Stop!” shouts Lauren. “Burton is out of bounds!”

“Incredible performance!” Donovan shouts, leaping up in delight.

“Yeah, that was interesting.” Paris replies. “She purposefully blasted that hole in the ice so she had a way of getting him out of bounds. Impressive.”

“I told you, she’s good.” Jackson replies, grinning. “Let’s hope the judges agree!”

Burton gets to his feet, completely disoriented, as Boo turns to face the crowd, blushing hotly with embarrasment.

“Alright, the results are in.” Simon says. “Boo won the match, Burton won the performance point… and… Boo won the rest of the points. 4-1 to Boo.”

“I won!” gasps Boo in delight. “I don’t believe it!”

“She’s quite impressive in combat.” Zaphod muses, in one of the other modelling lounges. With him is Anastasia, and they’re sat watching the competition together.

“She really is. I hope you two get to fight! I’d love to see that.” Anastasia replies.

“I guess we’ll find out. When’s my match, anyway?”

“Still a while away yet.” says Anastasia. “You’d better start getting back into the mindset of combat!”

“Of course, of course, babe.” Zaphod grins. “I got this!”

 

*

 

The matches continue quickly, with many different contenders progressing. Paris wins the fourteenth match with ease, putting on a show nearly as good as his father. He’s wearing his usual suit and trousers, but with a hearty red and white Christmas colour scheme rather than the usual navy. Around his neck is his Swift Scarf, but is has been changed to become a flickering red. The end of the scarf looks like it is alight, soft flames dancing at the ends; as usual, Paris has a mastery of what it takes to be a model.

The very next match is Jackson’s; he’s switched back to the Laser Runners for the competition, though they are reminiscent of ice-skates now, and the laser trails they leave are a beautiful, deep red. The rest of his outfit is a stunning, fluffy ensemble that reminds all who look upon it of the feeling of being home and warm during the long winter nights. He, too, doesn’t struggle as he easily dispatches his first opponent with his dazzling speed and power.

Zaphod appears in the nineteenth match, using the Rocket Heels as usual. His outfit is more bombastic than most, as he’s gone with a shimmering top that makes it look like his entire outfit is alight – he wears a bobble hat with a brickwork pattern, having seemingly transformed himself into a walking fireplace; fitting for the theme. Having eaten plenty before the match, Zaphod is able to defeat his first opponent with a blistering array of high-speed blasts from the Rocket Heels.

The twenty-fifth match of the first round features Eiden’s debut. He’s wearing an impressive outfit; it’s an all-black suit, with fractured patterns of reds and oranges, like the dying embers of a fire. As it extends upwards, the reds and oranges become more frequent and intense, before exploding into flame when it reaches his face. His dyed hair matches the mask he wears on his face, which is now covering his whole face and burning with flames; within the fire, the Greek face of tragedy can be seen, but with a jagged mouth of sharp teeth.

“Whoa! His mask looks so different!” Aubree gasps when she sees it. Lee nods.

“His mask is usually the Bifurcated Mask. But for the comp he switched to the Support Patch. This is the Mask of Comedy.”

“Oh, I see. And his other piece of clothing..?”

“The Flame Cover.” grins Lee. “Watch this.”

It’s a match worth watching. The Flame Cover lights Eiden’s top on fire, and allows him to launch flames. With his blistering power and the strange properties of the Mask of Comedy, he’s able to easily beat his opponent with the fastest match time so far: just thirty-four seconds.

The third to last match finally has Aubree make her debut. She has her hair tied up in a long ponytail on the top of her head, with fiery makeup and a debonair smile. Two large wing-like flames sprout from her back, and she wears a similarly-coloured top and skirt. Much of her arms and torso, the parts that are not flame-coloured, are sheer, with glittering gemstones covering the veil-like material. Her trousers are more black, studded with small rhinestones and ending with flame patterns around her ankles. She looks like an adorable fire spirit; practically skipping onto the battlefield, the audience laugh at her friendly demeanour and apparent airheadedness.

“Begin!” shouts Lauren. In that instant, Aubree channels the power of her clothing, and the Golem Suit begins to form around her. The audience stare in horror as she disappears into the golem.

Ordinarily, the Golem Suit is ten feet tall, with an imposing stone body. Aubree’s modifications have given it a new lease of life, however: the feet and legs are composed of burning coals, with flames roaring out from within. The upper torso and gigantic arms are stone, but designed to look like wood, with flames continuing to rise, flickering like a candle on the golem’s head. Whilst the average Suit is ten feet tall, Aubree’s golem is now a monstrous fifteen feet in height, completely dwarfing her opponent and commanding the battlefield with ease. All it takes is a single mighty kick from the slow-moving, flaming golem to knock her opponent out of bounds. Everyone is awed by Aubree’s might, and the chatter from the models in each lounge is much the same: people are praying that they don’t have to fight her in future rounds.

 

*

 

The second round begins immediately once the first round is over, and things start to get more intense. Boo wins her next round, performing admirably, and her opponent ends up being a young man called Francis, who wins his match by the skin of his teeth, wielding a flaming variant of the Launch Jeans.

Paris and Jackson win their next matches, too, meaning that their next fight is with one another, much to the delight of the watching audience. A second-year student, Alex Kirkengard, wins his round in a desperate battle, and Zaphod, who also wins his match, becomes his opponent. Alex is using the Inner Heat Jumper and the Kingdom Come Clogs for the competition.

Nobody is surprised when Eiden wins his place in the third round, and his opponent ends up being Andrew Mellford, a student with the Shield Cravat, inlaid with a brickwork pattern and a little flame on the front. Eiden is more concerned with the match after that, though. Aubree is up against Vegas Dresden, an attractive performer using the Bunny Suit with a Christmas twist; it isn’t lost on either Aubree or Eiden that if they both win their matches, their next opponents will be one another.

 

New Clothing Discovered:

 

[No. 012] Transmission Robe

Formation: Dressing Gown + Augment Patch

Effect: User can teleport themselves and others through bodies of shadow

Drawback: Temporarily blinds user after teleportation

 

[No. 045] Wrist Flick Shirt

Formation: Shirt + Augment Patch

Effect: User’s cuffs become powerful wrist blades

Drawback: Damage to blades equates to damage to the shirt itself

 

[No. 098] Mask of Comedy

Formation: Mask + Support Patch

Effect: Confuses opponents who look directly at the mask

Drawback: Also affects allies, length of confusion depends on proximity to mask

 

[No. 016] Flame Cover

Formation: Smoking Jacket + Power Patch

Effect: User’s jacket is set alight, burning all who touch the user

Drawback: The flames can be doused, and don’t return for several minutes

Sunderland College [4.7 – Cursed Findings]

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Sunderland College [4.A – The Fabrication, 5th June, 1995]

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Sunderland College [4.6 – The Regrettable Pursuit of Power]

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Sunderland College [4.5 – Gascoine’s Playthings]

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Sunderland College [4.4 – The Hallowe’en Search Begins]

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Sunderland College [4.3 – Their Daughter’s Birthright]

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