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Rumble in the Arena (Part 3)

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A Second Generation Whateley Academy Adventure

Rumble in the Arena

by

Malagua

 

Part Three

 

Saturday, October 22, 2016 - 12:51 pm
>Whateley’s ‘closed’ coliseum. Temporary ‘Bohemian’ Arena

The event was meant to start at one hour past noon. And before that, the side of the arena was starting to fill up. Granted, it was nowhere close to when it was for an official event, but it was above the expected number. Mostly upperclassmen: juniors and seniors, interested in the show. Some appeared rather thrilled with the idea of an underground fighting ring conducted in Mexico showing some of their students fighting, whereas others were just appreciative of the pugilistic efforts. A couple of those present were high ranking members among groups like the Amazons or the Masterminds, seemingly scouting for some potential talents and others were just partaking of the side-betting.

Within minutes from the start, the curiosity of those present stirred away from their phone and towards the amenities offered.

Near the entrance, lowly members of the organizing group, the Bohemians, were giving out fliers outlining how the event would go and suspiciously highlighting how this is all one of the member’s idea.

Halfway there, was another stand, also organized from the Bohemians. Having already sampled some of Daniel Diggins', also known as Donut’s, pastries, a stand was put up to sell them to those that were interested in a treat during the fight.

Nearby, the betting house was making the last call for the exhibition fight. Cestus vs Zoo, with the majority leaning towards Cestus, whether believing that the fight was rigged or not.

At the front of the arena, in the balcony reserved for members of the staff, the place was occupied by the organizers of the event and all the other VIPs present. They lounged there taking enjoyment from the prestige that their position granted them and celebrated it with a clink of some alcoholic drinks provided by William Crossby’s group.

The night’s selection ranged from common beers to bourbons, and, in the middle ground, the most common being the devised whiskey that spurred nothing less than satisfied reviews. The members weren’t that far off, standing back, acting as bartenders, and dedicated to seeking further endorsement of the group.

Still, it wasn’t as if the present members of the group were paying them much attention. With Bohemian Lion absent, each of them were on their own matters. Glam was cheering for Cestus as he warmed up, down on the field. Pitfall stood closer towards the betting stand managing the place. Knock out and some other members just contented themselves with watching the show and, Scarlyt acted as the de facto leader, sitting in the largest seat of honor in the back.

At the front was the table of computers and mechanical parts where both the stream would be monitored, and the camera drones were being prepared as per the specifications of the handler.

Jeff Hayes, also known as Lightbulb, for his work with cameras and prominent member as Venus Inc’s cameraman. The implication being that he’s skilled in finding a good angle for a shot. Though the poor guy appeared to be well over his head, moving back and forth trying to figure out if everything was working as it should. Managing the connection of a livestream and the balancing on a camera drone was entirely different to balancing the saturation, creating an enhancing filter, and even making light holograms for the girls of Venus inc. And, knowing the way he’d modified the pictures he kept within his memory card, his club activities were far ahead of the usual sense of duty. How he got roped into helping this was up for anyone’s guess.

Though there were some thoughts pointing towards Crossby.

A couple of minutes before the announcement was made, the synthetic chime of a cellphone rang from the arena, some blasting tune that appeared straight out of the WWE’s golden days.

“A small reminder,” Scarlyt said, taking over the announcement microphone. “Participants will have their phones surrendered before the encounter, lest you want them accidentally broken.” She said, not that there was anything relevant to mine from the phones of meatheads that were interested in jumping into a brawl for funsies.

“Hey,” With a leap, Cesar Palicki, aka Cestus, the ‘star’ of the exhibition match, called out as it was his phone that made the noise. He made it over to the edge of the field, making a leap that covered three meters of height just to cling onto the edge. “It’s for you.” He said handing over the phone to Jeff.

Somewhat uneasy, Lightbulb accepted the phone. “Hello? Oh, you’re Mr. Moreno, right? Yes, we’re ready for the show…. What? What do you mean the camera is on? Oh shit. Sorry, I didn’t mean to curse. Is that going to get bleeped? Alright, I’ll let you into the system… Are you sure you can run a full-on diagnostic remotely? Really? I hadn’t considered it. I…”

Lightbulb trailed off as he spotted Cestus’ growing displeasure whilst hanging from the rail. His hand held out expecting to get his phone back.

“Um… Mind if I call you directly? My number? Sure it's…”

With the camera matter sorting itself out things appeared back on track, albeit somewhat delayed, everyone in the arena began to prepare and warm up, knowing that they were now on the scene. In the corner of the scene, the last of the traps were buried by an exhausted Jack-in-the-box.

There was hardly a feeling of foul play involved. Sure, the guy wasn’t exactly well liked, but it was clear, either stated or implied that he’d been hired to spice up the encounter with his joke traps. About half an hour before he began planting them, he began to run through what to expect. From silly string to mild shockwave explosions meant to push the opponents aside. Vertigo inducers and electric footplates were among the nastier ones but non-lethal. The worst it could get was for a person to run into one of the pop-up walls that were prepared. Those who were there from early on had the knowledge of where anything was.

Once he was done, Jack approached the front side to tell the organizers that it was all set and that he was leaving. Making a big show that he already got himself paid for his services, though not before handing them a simple remote with a huge on/off switch, announcing that was the traps’ controller. The thing was comically big, enough so as to make it hard to conceal, presumably to show everyone that there would be no shenanigans involved.

Before long, the announcement came in, declaring that the fight was about to start, asking for everyone’s attention and to make way for the first bout. The fighters were invited to slip onto the side whilst the two combatants: Cestus and Zoo stepped forth into the center of the ring.

With the speakers and cameras on the side of the field now accessed by the host server’s connection, the commentator began his spirited speech.

Saturday, October 22, 2016 - 1:07 pm
Whateley’s ‘closed’ coliseum. Temporary ‘Bohemian’ Arena - Hallway access

“Are you sure this is the way?” Caro asked as she looked around the cramped corridors that lined the inner sides of the coliseum. The passageways of stone and painted concrete made for a rather unappealing access, but not exactly unexpected considering what they were looking for.

“That’s what the invitation said,” Chris muttered, showing off the paper she received. “I suppose it does make sense. If the school shadow-approved this request, then they probably would prefer if most of the students and staff avoided the front door. Although we did see a couple from the members of security standing guard outside.”

“This feels a bit like a setup… I really hope Sofia isn’t in there,” Caro mumbled. Just ahead and around the corner, they knew they would find the entrance to the arena.

“I hear something,” Chris noted, making a pause of silence. Effectively, carried by the walls would be the rumbling and echo of a voice. Energetic and with a heavy latino accent that appeared to be making introductions and outlining rules. “It’s about to start, I think. Are you sure she’s here?”

“Well, I’m not but I have my suspicions.” Caro sighed.

“And you’re worried she might get hurt?”

“I’m worried that she might relapse, okay?” Caro sighed, noticing Chris doubtful raise of the eyebrow. “I know I have issues with control, especially when it comes about the people around me, but I’m also worried, you know? Sofia is not one who aspires to be a hero, much less a brawler. She wouldn’t agree to participate, especially willingly.”

“Well then, I guess my question is, what did you think of doing? If it’s true, I mean. I don’t really want to piss off the crowd of people there without a reason.”

Caro stopped, evidently not having thought that far ahead. So instead, just forced herself to admit. “I guess, I’ll watch and make sure she’s okay.”

“Alright, just wanted to be sure. Let’s go,” Chris reaffirmed as she was about to pick up the pace when…

“Caro!” said a squeaky voice from behind. It was none other than Rachel Atlus, also known as Ratel, the pint-sized dynamite, who just emerged from around the corner. Was dressed in a sporting outfit, a couple of plain disposable shirts and spandex pants, the one she usually reserved when she knew she was going to pick up a fight.

“Rachel?” What are you doing here?” she asked as the girl met up with them.

“It’s not every day that I get to just jump into a brawl without having to go through the hoops of a challenge. A better question is, what are you doing here? I didn’t take you for much of a fighter,” Rachel mused.

“We’re here just to watch. And what I meant is, you’re supposed to be grounded from fighting-” Caroline said, though the freshman’s attention suddenly pivoted over to another point.

“You had an invitation?” Ratel asked Chris, seemingly looking at her already with a bit of interest.

“Um… yeah. I don’t think they were sent out for freshmen, right?” she asked, getting a confirmation nod from Caro, who was discreetly producing a black marker and painting a wet dot on her palm.

“That’s so unfair. I’m going to have to show them,” Ratel said smiling, she almost appeared ready to jump in and tackle Chris.

“Hey!” Caro said, stepping in. She had the courage of an animal tamer as she daringly placed her hand on Ratel’s shoulder whilst, out of the girl’s view, she was also holding her spell notebook and a piece of chalk she produced from her purse bag. The latter of which she was offering to Chris to pick up. “You know you should listen to your upperclassman. Either go back to your room or I’ll send you back.”

When Chris nabbed the piece of chalk, Caro’s finger told her to draw a circle, a big enough circle.

In the meantime, Ratel took the threat with amusement. “Oh, are you? I thought you were just a mage.”

“W-What if I am? I’m also your upperclassmen,” Caro said, when Ratel shook her shoulder, she took a couple of steps back in preparation.

“Funny, but you think I’m going to let you stand between me and a bunch of asses to kick?” Ratel said with a small smile, it was about then that she noticed Chris standing behind Caro, tracing a line with chalk along the surface of the corridor going from one side, across the floor and up the other wall.

“Wait, what are you-” Ratel said only to be interrupted by Caro this time. The sophomore reached into her purse and produced a plastic casing from which she pulled a measuring tape that stretched from side to side to the limit.

“What do you think, Chris?” Caro said smugly, with a bit of natural showmanship. “This is more than three meters, right? About three and a half?”

“I dunno,” Chris said, just as confused as she still drew the line onto the ground.

“That works.” Caroline said as she began to read through the rules of her spell, fast.

“I invoke the spirit of the bended labyrinth of Escher.”

“Wait, no, I won’t let you trap me!” Ratel said, already having a slight idea of what Caro’s powers allowed her to do. She tried to stop her from casting the spell, jumping forth only to find the Whitman sophomore had managed to sidestep her, only bumping her rather than taking her down. She went after Chris who was, in her mind, the one that was enacting the ritual, but the Poe sophomore had even better reflexes, dodging her at the last moment. Though leaving the line interrupted.

“From now on, like a circle twisted within its center.”

“In a corridor no larger than four long strides,”

“I made it!” Ratel teased. Now past the two girls, she broke into a sprint towards the corner.

Caro didn’t let herself stop the incantation, going as loud as she could so Ratel could hear it for added effect. Instead, ran the same marker, painting a dot at the tip of the tape before collecting its length. However, instead of letting it slip back in, she rolled it more akin to a lasso. As the finishing touch, she produced a vial with her blood and poured it onto the ground whereupon it spread and melted as if turned into water.

“Marked black will repeat, while white line Is outside.”

“Measurement winded, slowly it will get chewed.”

“As long as no one else sees, to the start you’ll be glued.”

“The only way forth, will be to turn back and leave.”

With the wording concluded, the mana deposited and the air around the corridor suddenly grew charged in a strange magical pressure.

“I made it!” Ratel teased. Now past the two girls, she broke into a sprint towards around the corner.

Though, visually, it all appeared normal. It was the moment Ratel disappeared around the corner, and they heard a “what the!” Come from the end they opposite end that they were reassured that it’d worked. Effectively, Ratel had just looped back where she started.

“Go back, Rachel. If you weren’t invited, no need to cause more trouble,” Caro mused as she grabbed Chris’ arm to guide her puzzled friend forth, absentmindedly producing some wet wipes from her purse and erasing the mark on her palm, the same one that had been pressed up against Ratel’s shirt.

“Hey wait! That’s not fair!” Ratel gasped as she chased after, covering the distance as fast as she could and turning around the corner only to find herself within the same chalk marked corridor, she’d just swore she passed.

She tried running through a couple of times, always finding herself back to the start, almost seamlessly.

Looking over shoulder, she half-expected to see the corridor marked with chalk as well, but instead found the path before it. The exit almost appeared as the only option open for her.

But she wasn’t about to give up.

“All I have to do is erase this bit, right?” Ratel challenged as she ran towards the chalk line. Licking her hand, she began to try to erase the thing. Yet it would still take quite some work and effort before she would accomplish that, for whatever purpose.

Slightly ahead.

“Are you sure you won’t get into trouble with her after this?” Chris asked, looking over her shoulder, almost expecting to see Ratel jumping through ready to fight, but instead all she heard was the girl’s footsteps and panting as she tried to sprint through but suddenly sounding far.

“Nah, she considers me too physically weak to be worth the bother… And I’m also an upperclassman and Mrs. Savage’s helper.” Caro sighed. “Telekat did ask for help rounding her up, but I was mostly worried what damage her meddling could do in a place where she wasn’t wanted. Hopefully, she’ll just keep on running until she gives up.”

“Yeah, I guess I understand,” Chris acknowledged. “Wait, so you bent space?”

“It’s hard to explain,” Caro muttered. “It’s more like her perception of space is bent. She moves around the corner finding herself back into the same place, but I’m not connecting points of space and not exactly teleporting her. The moment she misses sight of the path she just came and looks into the new one around the corner, she finds that she’s back at the start.”

“That’s horribly convoluted.”

“Well, let me make this clear, as long as she keeps trying to move forward and there’s no one there to observe her, the spell will hold… and don’t try to use your clairvoyance to spy on her, I think it’ll break it as well.”

A light rattling kept on coming from the bundle in her hand. “Hm… She’s covering a lot of terrain so fast. Let’s hope she’s not the type that mindlessly perseveres,” she noted as the measuring tape reeled itself, as if with a will of its own.

“You said a line, you mean that one?”

Caro nodded, flipping the tape to reveal a white line along the length. “The more she runs, the more it gets pulled, once it’s done, the spell is broken.”

“Then what was the whole chalk thing?”

“Misdirection.” Caro sighed. “I honestly wasn’t sure if it was going to work with the wording still incomplete. But it seems to be doing fine…” At that time, the measuring tape stopped its reeling. “I guess she stopped.”

“Isn’t it a bit overboard to go like that on a girl?”

“You don’t know Ratel like I do…” She said, sounding suddenly tensed. “And I’ve known her for a month…”

“Right…” Chris muttered. “Oh look, we’re here.”

Effectively, climbing up the stairs, they made it to the side of the arena. The sound of fighting, shifting of the sand and the mechanical clanking of some sort of device triggering told them they were on the right track. The roar of a lioness about confirmed their suspicions. Yet before they could step in, one of the students blocked their path, charging a rather cheap sum that Caro paid.

“So…” Chris said as the two walked over to the arena’s handrail where they could overlook the sandy field where the junior, Cestus and sophomore Zoo were duking it out. The former raising his arms to show off his combat gear. One that resembled the gladiator armor, showing his toned chest and torso under the leather and metallic plates. Caro’s roommate, on the other hand, was making a retreat, her body appearing in the form of a lioness, running away for a flanking position. “We can see she’s playing the part in it.” Chris muttered as she followed Caro over to the edge.

“Yeah.” Caro said, a tad disappointed. “I’ll have questions for her later.”

“Well, she’s doing a fine job…” Chris noted as she leaned onto the railing, pointing at the drone cameras that hovered around the place. “Look, it seems like it’s true, the thing is being recorded.”

They watched the lioness dressed in a stretched version of Sofia’s combat suit, slip its way around the thin mesh wall, growling and roaring in a warning before making a sprint into Cestus. She threw her weight against the target, with her teeth sinking into the leather gauntlet while the paws tried to claw up against his arm. Although it was clear to see that this man was some sort of exemplar, seeing as to how he could put up with the weight.

There were some cheers from the crowd, though looking around, Chris would see that most of the viewers weren’t at that level of enthusiasm. The most that could be felt was from the prospective fighters near the edge of the field preparing for their encounter to be announced and, especially those that just happened to make a stop by the betting house.

“It’s just odd,” Caro muttered. “Sophia should be better than this.”

“Isn’t turning into animals’ part of her powers?” Chris muttered, wincing as Sofia was shoved off, receiving a backhanded smack forcing her to run back.

“Her current limit is about three full different forms every day. She does get around by making partial changes.” Caro noted.

“I see. So, she doesn’t go full animal as often anymore,” Chris said, waving to one of the guys that was passing around some popcorn to get her snack.

“Unless she’s just doing it for the spectacle or an intimidation factor,” Caro noted with a sigh.

“Hm… Then it’s like Mike told me,” Chris noted. “The fight, at least the first one is supposed to be a spectacle for the drones.”

“It would explain it,” Caro muttered noting as, after another attempt from Zoo, she sprinted back, letting the cameras circle Cestus as he posed and threatened as part of the act. “I suppose it’s a fortune that only he is doing the acting and Sofia pretending to be an animal.

“Does that put your mind at ease?” Chris said munching on the popcorn.

“It does. Since it’s a spectacle, I take it Cestus is supposed to win.”

“Vanity project for the big guy,” Chris shrugged. “Imagine what would’ve happened if Ratel just jumped in looking for a fight.”

“Yeah… imagine,” Caro said, and as a reminder, the measuring tape in her hand began to rattle as the tape began to reel in back again. Out of the hundred and fifty centimeters she pulled about ninety remained out. “I guess we’ll just watch the show.”

“Yeah, we do,” Chris said, offering out the popcorn.

“People are getting bored!” Cestus chided at the lion as he assumed a fighting stance. “Show them something better.”

If lioness could sigh and roll their eyes, it would’ve been pretty close to what Zoo was doing. But still, she humored him.

With a soft roar that was close to a theatrical thing, the lion’s tawny fur began to darken and bristle, as her body grew larger and wider. The lean muscles of her forelegs swelled out, altering in terms of stance, losing some of their feline grace and becoming wide paws meant to come out for a clean swipe. The long tail shrank through quickly becoming a stub for those that could see. As her squared muzzle became more prolonged and the fur thickened, now Zoo stood as a large black bear, with the adjustable clothes stretching up to fit her larger frame. Quite of a more menacing visage.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Cestus laughed as Zoo charged forth at a brisk sprint.

He sought to hold up his arm to block the hint but found that the bear had a much heavier punch. The hit connected and pretty much swept Cestus down onto the sand.

Zoo then tried to waddle closer towards her opponent, telegraphing a double paw stomp. Though she was clearly stalling to let Cestus collect his bearings and roll off the way. He achieved it in the nick of time as dirt and sand was raised about, yet even as he pushed himself up, Zoo just upped the pressure, spinning around her body and striking Cestus with her large rump.

It wasn’t meant to hurt, much less to knock him down. Yet Cestus found himself suddenly overwhelmed and letting his footing slip. “Hey, stop it!” in the middle of the encounter. With her larger weight and momentum, all it did was push her opponent to the side, sending him staggering.

He ended up tripping on the dirt, and that’s when things turned for the unexpected. Hitting the ground, there was a brief moment where a loud tick could be heard (evidently, Mike had to make it so that people would know when the traps had been tripped). In this case, came in the form of an overly loud explosion that rang through. It was a shockwave trap, which rippled through the air with visible concussive force, sending Cestus up off his feet, across the air and down into his back… right onto another one of the mines.

This one was a wall one, and no sooner he touched it, the metallic mesh raised up in a snap, right at the center of Cestus’ back, effectively launching him about a good couple of meters up into the air and away.

As if that weren’t enough, the landing placed him up against another one of the mines, this one exploding with a clown’s honk as colorful bits of silly string came out into the air wrapping themselves around Cestus, in a cacophony of colors. The result was comedic enough that even Zoo was putting her paw up against her muzzle to cover the snicker.

He pushed himself up, his clawed hand tearing through the bits of strings that tangled across his body, only to stop as he began to hear the laughter of the crowd. Clamoring in a mocking tone towards him.

“Stop it!” Cestus snapped, trying to take a breather to calm himself, but the laughs of those around, began to affect him. As he heard allusions towards clowns and his name go together

“I said enough!” Cestus said, gritting his teeth.

Tried as he might, his snarls didn’t get them to stop, all it did was to further rise up the echo, both real and that one within his mind. Now some of those that stood closer to where Chris and Caro stood began to follow in suit. “This wasn’t meant to happen! Be quiet. Be quiet. Be quiet! Shut up!”

His eyes suddenly began to turn redder, and many of those present, especially those who knew, took warning of it. His screams grew deeper as his body popped and cracked, starting to swell up. His already prominent physique grew more imposing and bulging. Darkened nails curved into claws whilst mottled fur began to grow along his arms. His lips darkened, along with his nose as, and, in between his orders his fangs grew sharper.

“That guy doesn’t get it,” Chris commented on the side. “Fights are more entertaining when there’s both push and pull, you can’t be in control at all times, or you’ll lose the attention of the crowd.”

“Chris… Chris… I think Cestus has some rage issues.” Caro muttered, noting as the fur covered Cestus’ body, bristling itself as he hunched ever so slightly, making him look like a large beast, what could one describe as a werehyena. Standing up, above two meters tall, with broad shoulders, he had his hands prepared to bring them down for a swipe, stomping the ground in a childish manner, though not something that could be taken as a threat. The crowd began to grow curious as to what was going to happen.

“I’m the champion and I’ll prove it to everyone!” Cestus snarled, slamming the ground. To him the laughers were like noise, ever present, even as some of those had already started to slow down. Only a few kept on doing it, and that was all that mattered.

The organizers were a mixed bag. Most of them had their heads lowered or hidden as if this was a bit of shame, but were hardly trying to stop him, except for Glam who was trying to call to him. The redheaded girl who appeared in charge was requesting the guy next to the controllers to take better angles.

“You!” Cestus snapped looking at bear Zoo, who now appeared suddenly concerned about her opponent’s mental condition. Both paws held out telling him to chill, but all that did was make him all the more frustrated. “Are you taking pity on me?” He snapped.

“Oh boy…” One of the juniors within the spectator's view noted within the girl’s earshot. “It’s been a while since we watched Cestus lose his cool.”

The girl by his side agreed. “Now I’m starting to get worried for the girl.”

“How bad can it get?” Chris ventured to ask out loud.

The two students looked up their way. “You friends with the girl in the field?”

“Yeah.” Caro said.

“Well, it might get dangerous for her. Cestus is a rager. Once he begins to unwind, he loses all sense of restraint.” The girl said. “It’s a shame, we thought he had it under control?”

“Aren’t you going to jump in to help?” Caro asked.

“And do what? I’m a gadgeteer without my gadgets.” She gestured at her attire, plain clothes with no tool belt in sight.

“And I’m not that strong, not even a fighter. Besides, it’s those guys’ event,” he said pointing towards the front balcony where the Bohemians were watching. “If it gets out of hand, they should deal with it because I’m not that interested in stepping on their toes.”

“You…” Caro said with a bit of scorn, and was about to make an argument for it but found herself interrupted by a loud howl, one that forced her and most of those present to cover their ears, not because of the volume, but because there was something about it that send a biting shudder through their bones and limbs.

Back in the arena, Cestus charged forth. Zoo had stopped to cover her ears as best as her body would allow and it left her wide open for a punch down the stomach. Stunned, he moved forth, landing a clawing swipe across her stomach and two more punches up against her muzzle, even as she tried to react and swipe back. It was all for naught as the hyena man ducked down and lifted her up before throwing her across the sand.

“Cesar likes to fight, but as a rager, he doesn’t have the control that he usually does.” The boy kept on explaining.

“And this is a ‘secret’ event allowed by the school,” Chris muttered taking a couple of steps to the side. “I’ll see if I can get the organizers.”

“This is starting to get too real.” Caro muttered, her hand tightening onto the rail.

Saturday, October 22, 2016 - 12:08 pm
Makeshift locker room at the fringe of La Pedreada

“Oh wow!” Marco said, trying to contain his laugh and disbelief. His jaw, within the commentator camera, was hanging slack surprised in between the words. “That boy has such a wild side! He just punched a bear and tossed it across the field. I know, I know, it’s not a real animal, but a mutant able to become a bear… but that doesn’t take away the power of those arms.”

“What will happen now,” he then noted. “The girl isn’t getting up, is it the end of the match?”

“Tsk…” Caroline muttered, turning her gaze away from the screen. “Dang it, this must be done at the school’s expense, right? There’s no way the head of the staff would approve of this.” She told mostly to herself. “But then again, isn’t the school’s protection, especially the security, supposed to be top notch?”

She tried to shake her head and avoid thinking about it. If things were turning around that badly, part of her wondered if she could arrange for Vic to be moved to another school. It would certainly ease up that pressure he feels about his debt to the Syndicate.

Focusing back on her job, she turned to the line of fighters that were waiting for her and invited the first one to step up for the eye exam. Occasionally her gaze switching over to the screen to see the progress of the fight, but mostly to see her partner square off up against the young upstart fighter. As did many of the evaluated candidates. If there was something they couldn’t help but find interesting, was a good brawl.

Cole and Root in the center of the field facing each other about three meters away. In preparation.

Root stood eager, jumping in place to warm up whilst his hand moved into his derelict coat’s pockets.

While on the other end, Cole stood passively. His finger swiping over the tablet whilst looking over at his opponent, mostly with confusion. Before long, he gave a shrug and moved over towards the edge of the field to place the device onto his bag.

“You’re not in the MCO’s database. Do you have a MID?”

“No. I don’t.” Root said. “Is that what you were doing? Looking me up?”

“I was curious to know what sort of things you could do. If you were a speedster, I’d force you to work on close range acceleration. If you were a shifter, I’d push you to change under pressure. If you were an energizer, I’d force you to be more efficient in your output.”

“Sounds like cheating,” Root said, raising up his fists. “Like you’re intentionally going for my weaker points. I’m sure if I knew your power, I’d be able to respond.”

“It would be irrelevant,” Cole said, his hands closed into fists which he thrust forward in a martial arts stance whilst his leg carved a half moon on the sand. “I’m a mutant, but no exemplar. And I don’t use my powers during combat. You can begin whenever you feel ready.”

“I’m not falling for that,” Root muttered, raising his hands from his pockets, balled into fists and in preparation. “You expect me to make the first move only to counter me, right?”

“This is an evaluation. As I told Curtis, this isn’t a win or lose deal,” Cole said, bearing a grin.

The man is at its happiest whenever he finds combat, isn’t he? Caro thought to herself.

“Would you be more comfortable if I were to start the assault then? Cole suggested.

“Fine,” Root said.

And as soon as the word was uttered, Cole launched himself forth with an explosive leap, weaving through the dirt with his fists coming for a strike on Root’s chest.

The young man could only react to the best of his skill, taking steps back and forcing his body to bend back was the only thing he could do to avoid the hits, treating them as if they were lethal.

“What are you doing?” Cole asked as he tried to throw a kick, one that had plenty of windup and even then, came in at a slower pace so that Root could slip under.

“What does it look like?! Trying to avoid getting kicked into my face.”

“I told you, I’m here to evaluate you and I’m not using any powers. I need you to cross your fists with me and deliver an attack on your own. If you from the get-go assume you know my strengths, you’re already setting yourself up to lose. What am I to you? A grand thug? Someone who’s off the charts in terms of strength? Even if you are a mage or a gadgeteer, you should know this. Stop facing me like a child,” Cole lectured as he changed his motion in mid swing, instead making a quick leap and attempting to stomp close to Root’s foot, the man stepped to the side only to find his opponent’s leg coming in a sweeping arc at the height of the hip. The strike connected just enough to move him, but also to dispel the implied fears about Cole.

Outside viewers would also note that the last move was meant to keep Root from slipping off the field.

“I’m not a child!” To that, Root managed to answer and deliver in a response hit, finding a deliberate opening, and throwing his fist in whereupon it was blocked by Cole’s arm.

“He’s good,” Caroline heard some of the men by her side note.

“Unfortunately, dodging is all the kid has,” someone else said, piquing Caroline’s interest.

“What can you tell me about him?” she asked as she finished administering the exam.

“The boy?” One of them, Lion animan, noted. When Caroline answered with a nod, he elaborated. “Kid is a new addition to the crew. Has had a couple of fights against some of the junior guests and challengers. Won some and lost some.”

“I see…” Caroline muttered, thinking back to the data sheet he filled. He knew it might be pointless to prod in a place like this, but she had to try. “Has he told you anything about his background.”

“Nah. We tend to keep most of the background details to ourselves,” the lion said.

The rhino then chimed in. “All we know is that he has some connection with the current champ.”

“That Johnson guy?” Caroline sighed.

“Well,” The two exchanged looks as if uncertain on their claim. “The kid does backtalk often, and whenever he does so to Curtis, we’re almost certain that the man will do something like setting up the next sparring practice or match against him, as a form of punishment.”

Sounds like this is something that happens often, Caroline thought before looking at them. “His clothes appear to be terribly worn.”

“We get our money based on how many wins we have. He hasn’t won any recently.”

“Street kid?” Caroline asked.

“Most likely.”

“I see…” She took a depressed sigh. Heroic roles weren’t the only ones that dealt with the destitute… in fact, she felt that she’s come across more of these stories after starting her work within the syndicate. Vic was a fortunate case she happened to stumble upon in the right place at the right time… Root was what he might’ve become if she hadn’t.

“You have strength. You’ve trained here after all,” Cole said as he pushed his arm to the side, forcing Root to step back. “But you’re used to avoiding rather than punching with your own fists. I can tell that you’re no exemplar nor have any power boosting techniques. No underhanded tactic nor attempt to reply with a hit of your own until you’re given no option. You’re carrying something in your pockets… but it doesn’t clink nor jangle. It bears little weight by the looks of it… Are you some sort of magic user?”

“Correct…” Root sighed.

“Good then, I’m going to have to ask you to come after me with everything you’ve got,” Cole said, stepping back and making an inviting bow.

“Are you sure?” Root said as he reached into his pocket and produced something. Something small enough to fit within his fist.

“I need to see what I’m working with to make a recommendation. The next seven minutes are yours.” He gestured at Caroline to start the timer. “Do so, and while at it, why don’t you tell me what you want?”

Root sighed as he undid the buttons of his coat and carefully let it drop to the side, revealing a simple sleeveless shirt that showed his thin frame, but also bearing some muscles from his workouts here. “I’m Travis Hedgewick. A phylomancer.” He said with such rehearsed conviction.

With that, the air around began to glow with a sort of green and golden light. To Caroline’s gaze, it was immature and wild, but at the same time potent and awkwardly. It drew focus towards his closed hand. Something stirred as a piece of wood grew outward. The trunk stretched forth in silence, scratching cracks were present but the trunk didn’t spread outward into branches. It just pushed itself off in a slightly curved stick, with the magic slowly fluttering around its surface. Morphing under his will as the magical sparks of his mana coated the surface.

“Good,” Cole smiled. “And what do you seek?”

“I told you,” Root said, shaking off the stick, letting the sparks fly off. “I want a new job, a new leash. Or at least a better one.”

Saturday, October 22, 2016 - 1:07 pm
Whateley’s ‘closed’ coliseum. Temporary ‘Bohemian’ Arena

If the viewers weren’t invested before, they were now. Either out of morbid curiosity or the thrill of the fight they were now interested in seeing the outcome of this without really making an effort to jump in to contain the situation. Believing the organizers would jump in to handle it.

And as such, no one seemed particularly eager to help Zoo, she was tossed from side to side, her large ursine build bouncing off the sand and striking a shockwave charge that further flung her across the field.

With a victorious roar, Cestus took but a couple of steps forward. “Victory! It will be mine!” he snarled as he called forth for one of the camera drones to give him a close up, lost in his fantasy, he broke up into a fit when it, instead, flew away. Presumably concerned that he might break it.

“Alright, alright!” Zoo gasped giving herself the ability to speak despite still being a bear. Not something she liked to do given how it always left her sounding so bestial. “I give up. I give up.”

“Give up? You don’t give up in a match till the referee calls! And the bell rings!” Cestus snapped as he moved in, his eyes were already focused on the intent of doing some more punishment before accepting her concession. “This isn’t how the matador ends fights. He slays the beasts”

“No jodas,” Sofia cursed, turning towards the organizer’s balcony, hoping to throw a pleading look to her friends… However, all of them had their attention out of the way. William appeared to be busy talking with Pitfall at the betting stand whilst Trevor, Peter and Giselle were moving around filling with drinks and passing them around the VIPs.

Can’t they see me? She thought, her face reflecting the growing panic. She was supposed to keep up the act and put up a fight for Cestus until the timer was done. They told her he would go easy on her but only as she stepped out into the field did she realize that the guy was as clueless on the matter as it could be. And now he wasn’t holding back.

And now, he was taking it way too seriously.

Having turned into a large monster that pretty much outmuscled her strongest fighting form, she'd already used her three full transformations of the day, and yet he was still looking for more. His eyes told her as much.

Fingers curled into fists, and a stance that came in prepared to clobber her. Even with the amounts of fat and thicker bones her form awarded her it would carry over to her normal appearance.

And as if it weren’t enough, the camera drones buzzed about around her, getting up close for a better view. She’d rather not have hundreds of other people watch her like that, much less know about her abilities but the worst part was that it made Cestus angrier.

“Stop focusing on her! I’m the champion,” Cestus snapped.

There was a little bit of hope that, as Cestus began to spend time without needing to fight and getting whatever he wanted, he would calm down. The person manning the drones seemed to pick on this as they began to move back from her.

Zoo had no idea how bad it could be, but she hoped that the timer would run up and she could call it quits as soon as possible…

But, once again, bad luck seemed to follow her. Upon taking a step forth, Cestus’ foot triggered one of the traps hidden beneath the sand. This one was an explosion that released sparkling confetti into the air, followed by a red gas. He began to hiss and snarl as he tossed and turned around within the mist, swiping the air. He hacked and coughed, before suddenly throwing himself down onto the ground followed with a set of awkward moans.

The large hyena beast began rubbing his body up against the dirt.

“Oh please. Oh please! Yes! Yes!” he said in between animalistic pants as he rubbed and rolled.

The bit of confusion filled in the arena and Sofia as she watched her opponent squirm on the spot. Though she soon realized what just happened. It could’ve only been one of Jack-in-the-box’s traps, and one of the nastier ones at that, filled with itchy powder. Probably the worst kind of thing that could be needed on the spot. Cestus’ reaction was to throw up his arms and claw at himself for a feeling that wouldn’t wear off for a while.

And that just exacerbated the laughs around. Not as overt to change the rager’s target, but generalized and widespread enough so as to play up onto his frustrations.

“Enough!” was an approximate interpretation of Cestus’ snarl as the dust got blown away with one deep breath.

Zoo groaned. She understood one or two things about instinct, when an animal was angry, it would easily lash out against anything that came within sight. In Cestus’ eyes, the closest source of his humiliation was… her.

As everything had happened, though, Zoo had recovered from the impact and was already pushing herself up. Her gaze waved and she came across someone she really hoped wouldn’t be there: her roommate Caro. Her horned crown was unmistakable even in a passing glance looking straight down upon her. She made out a face that was equal parts sadness, fear, and anger.

No doubt anger towards her. She always disliked when Caro became controlling and judgmental of her actions and decisions. Even though things had been going so well, now she felt herself set back, and was already looking forward to an even rougher time after the beating she was about to receive. Which was starting to feel more deserving for agreeing to this.

Her foreleg ached from the bad fall, and she was having some trouble breathing, but desperation powered her actions. Her sights set upon the exit, she imagined she would be able to escape around, running on all fours.

But that was too much to ask.

A couple of steps in, she felt something large collide up against his side. Cestus had bashed his shoulder against her flank and sent her toppling off the ground, once again, onto another trap.

Upon hearing the metallic click of it getting triggered, she was on the receiving end of an electric discharge. Lightning and electricity rippled through her, up her good foreleg to down her spine until it finally stopped.

There wasn’t much pain involved in the trap and Sofia was still alive… However her body was numbed by the discharge, and she soon found herself slumping down onto the side, unable to get her legs to work properly in between residual twitches. The creator of the mines had made sure that this sort of trap would have the same effect on everyone despite their body-size.

Cestus snorted as he drew closer to the stunned bear. “I’m the school’s champion!” He exclaimed, raising his arm just next to Zoo, letting in the camera’s swivel around him as he relished in it before succumbing to the drive for humiliation for his opponent, just like his idol from the arena in Mexico. Turning around and delivering a kick onto her larger body.

“Enough!” Came in from the side of the arena. Heads turned around to see the newcomer: a horned girl who barely appeared prepared for a fight, unlike the prospective challengers and fighters. Simple jeans and a stylized shirt that could be glimpsed underneath the black jacket she wore. On one hand, one could see a random piece of string and a black marker. And, in the other, a small booklet that glowed with markings that rested on the back. “If you keep on beating on her, you’ll be nothing but a coward.”

“Coward? I’m the champion!” Cestus snarled. “And who the hell are you?”

“I…” Caro began but quickly realized that she’d put herself into the spotlight by entering the field, the students around were watching. More obnoxiously, the cameras fluttered around her. “I’m…” She muttered, stumbling in her words.

“Act it up,” she could almost hear Chris call her in the distance.

After all, this was still a sort of exhibition match. Even if she didn’t care, at least felt the courtesy to play along, if not for the cameras for the peer pressure of the eyes set on her. “As the coward hides and the brutes fall to anger, so does the bully need to fill the void within, with both cowardice and anger.”

“What?” Cestus grunted. At least that was enough to get his attention off Zoo.

“What I’m saying is… Your size might be large, but I will sink your barge, like an ugly mascot at a parade, I’ll crush you in this charade. Weakling.”

“Kill me,” she thought embarrassed, especially as she picked up on the echo of her own voice thanks to the camera’s microphones. Her ears burn, even more when she heard a couple of the viewers nearby clap for her. But social pain was the least of her concerns as the ‘champ’ was pummeling the ground with his fists.

Cestus was reacting to that last word. “I’m no weakling! I’ll show you!” With a couple of steps forth, he was slipping away from Zoo and starting his charge towards her.

“Crap…” Caro muttered, suddenly realizing her problems had just begun. At her base, she didn’t have the strength to withstand one of the hits that sent Zoo flying, so she needed to think fast on her feet.

Holding her hands, even with the objects she held, a quick recital:

“Spirits of burnless fire, I call for your presence,

I need help, so take as fuel my essence.”

“For an ethereal body to create and bloom,

Vowed to my command your bolts will zoom”

“Towards the largest shadow’s step, you’ll gain.

And come upon it like birds onto the grain.”

A quick spell that grew out of the combination of formulas and rules she’d outlined upon the booklet within her hand and out of her improvisation on the spot. Once the down-payment for the spell was made and at the snap of her fingers, the air before her flashed with an orange glow within a spherical area. The inner side appeared to be fed up by small runes or crude translations of the words used that floated around, covering it in the same way as a gyroscope.

As Caro eased her hands, she saw her spell remain stable in the center of the air, sparking embers within its center at the rhythm of the hyena man’s steps. He drew closer and closer, but the enchantment grew brighter and brighter.

And it reached its limit far before she could be touched.

With the sound of fireworks cracking, the orb released a flock of birds made of fire, about the size of hummingbirds up into the air. They crossed the sky leaving trails of red before descending upon Cestus. The junior student might’ve raised his hand to block, if not catch the projectiles, but they still exploded in bright flashes like firecrackers.

Just as the effect passed, Cestus took another step and the orb in the air released another set of projectiles. This time, he tried to stay ahead of them and dodge, throwing himself to the side. A couple met the floor head on, but a few found their mark on his back.

But moving away didn’t make it any better, it meant attack after attack.

The spell couldn’t last forever, and every time it activated, it just consumed more of the mana deposit. Still, that was all she needed to move halfway across the field towards her roommate whilst preparing her next trick. With the string weaved between her fingers, she brought to her mouth and bit it into pieces.

“On this field of dirt, no one can refuse.”

“Asked a question, an answer you must use.”

“My servants, fed by my blood for the deal,

Will move around and rule breakers seal.”

“Answer truthfully and you’ll be ignored.”

Try a deception and you’ll be stalled.”

“Until my blood touches the earth,”

They will move around with an ample berth.”

Caro muttered, hastily completing yet another spell from her musing’s notebook. Now done, she casted the strings down to the ground and produced a small knife from her belt. With a slicing cut, she got her fingertip to bleed out tiny droplets onto the sand.

The effect was immediate, and Caro felt a good chunk of her mana suddenly pulled down through her legs, destined to iron the minor kinks that were left blank in the construction and to boost the resulting effect so as to meet her expectations.

Magic began to swirl around at her feet, infecting the soil. The droplets of blood began to sparkle and glimmer with an unnatural red and blueish color that spread onto the pieces of strings as they delicately came into contact with the ground, none of them longer than her forearm. And one by one they began to change color and wiggle themselves as if apparently life was suddenly inhabiting them. Without awaiting, geometric patterns of hardlight coated the severed ends and upon touching the ground, they burrowed like worms.

“That ought to deal with it,” Caro muttered as she continued her run whilst Cestus was still distracted with the fleeting barrage of fire.

“What are you doing here?” Zoo asked as her roommate drew close. By then, the effect of the stun shock had worn off and she felt herself already able to get back onto her feet.

“I’m here to help you. A better question is… what the hell are you doing here!?” Caro asked as she reached over to try to help her to stand up, which she did with a couple of groans as she put on weight within her injured leg.

“I got forced into participating in a fight,” Zoo blurted out, without even thinking. Had she wanted to say that? Her tongue was already moving and vocalizing the first thing that came to her head.

Her gaze went over to Caro. Could only be part of the spell she just casted. She had to talk back when asked. “Are you happy now?”

“Of course, I’m not. Do you see how you’re standing?”

“It’s n-”

“Stop!” Caro hissed, pinching the large bear’s cheek. “Don’t placate, don’t try to be dismissive, and don’t even think of lying. Do you understand?”

“I understand,” Zoo nodded.

“You think you’ll be getting away?! After doing that to me?” Cestus called out. By now, the enchanted ball of air she’d casted had used up most of the mana she gave it and was starting to fade.

“Yes!” both Caro and Zoo said, compelled by the spell cast onto the area.

Cestus didn’t expect them to be forward, but then again, had no idea what was at play right now. Instead, he carried on his boast. “Well, I’m not going to let you.”

Zoo was about to say something but was stopped by Sofia holding her hand to inform that she’d be doing the talking. “What are you going to do? A rager like you shouldn’t be out here!”

“I’m not a rager! I’m the champion of my class and there is no one that can stop me.”

“Three lies… that’s going to get interesting,” Caro muttered, already seeing the ground beneath Cestus start to stir.

“I will get the respect I deserve! After this fight, It’s only stardom for me and…” He interrupted himself with a wild roar, realizing something was wrong. Around his feet, the strings emerged, visibly longer. They launched themselves through the air. Their path arched softly, rising, falling until they touched something. Be it the skin, it magically bound itself onto the surface. Be it the ground, with Cestus caught under, it would fasten itself and pull.

The large hyena tried to fight and tear them through, but found his resistance just made the enchantment redouble its efforts, making more emerge and repeat in increments.

Despite the losing battle, he could still move around by giving slack to the strings and used this minor reprieve to just double down in the fight, cutting and slicing through the enchanted worms but from little to no avail… Eventually, his movements halted as the myriad of tiny strings became too much and their meager restraints added up. All the while his curses and snarls filled the air.

It gave Caro and Zoo the chance to make their way.

“Why haven’t you even changed back? Wouldn’t it be faster to run on your two legs?”

“I can’t….” Zoo muttered. “I promised I would help them keep up the act until the camera’s stopped rolling.”

“Is that so important to you?” Caro asked.

“No… it’s not. But my friends wanted for this to be the case,” Zoo muttered.

“Your friends are having you fight someone with anger issues?” Caro noted furiously.

“This is the reason why I didn’t want to tell you about this,” Zoo snorted, coming across as a deep growl. “They didn’t know he had this problem.”

“Nor cared to come to your aid. What would’ve happened if I hadn’t been here?”

“I… I don’t know, alright? Are you happy? I don’t know.” Zoo said with a small grumble. “I’m grateful that you showed up. But at the same time, I still want to believe that they’re my friends.”

Caro held her breath. “Fine… Do you believe me your friend? And speak truthfully.”

“Yes,”

“Do you believe I have the best of intentions at heart?”

Zoo held her answer for a moment before the spell forced her to spit out her thoughts. “Yes.” She begrudgingly admitted, much to Caro’s relief.

“Stop! Don’t run!” Cestus snarled, still fighting with the enchanted ropes. For every one he cut, two more grew from the frayed ends and three emerged from the ground. “You cheater!”

“Cheater? You want to talk about cheating when you were fighting against someone who was holding back?” Caro snapped.

“She wasn’t.” Cestus snarled.

“She was, just for the sake of your spectacle fantasy you had playing.” Caro snapped. “The outcome of the fight is settled.”

That broke the illusion.

“Is that true?” Cestus said, for a moment, a sense of clarity filled him since he began his furious unwinding. “No! It can’t be! It can’t be! It was supposed to be a random draw for me! I was made fight that beast girl! I…”

He suddenly turned towards the balcony. “Is this true?!”

“Seems like things are settled,” Caro muttered though found herself regretting the matter.

Meanwhile, at the organizer’s balcony.

“Well crap…” Pitfall said with a small frown. “The cat is out of the bag…”

“Tsk…” Scarlyt said, foreseeing the incoming problem to her right as the students that had been on the watcher’s side began to approach. “What did she mean the outcome of the fight is settled.” “Is all this competition rigged?” “I want my money back.” That last one was mostly directed to the guys running the betting house, starting to get overwhelmed by the dissatisfied mob.

“Is it true?! Did you rig the match?!” Cestus called from the distance.

“I haven’t seen Cesar this disappointed,” Glam said with a small frown. “Should we call off the event?”

“What do I do? Should I cut the feed?” Jeff asked from the control table, only to get feedback from the screen.

“Don’t do it,” an adult voice said from the other end. “While this is hurting your credibility, it seems to be really getting the younger viewers invested.”

“But…”

“Ugh,” Scarlyt grumbled holding her temples. Frustrations pent up, she was close to just throwing her hands up and just saying screw it. After all, this was all Cestus’ event and he’d already been set off. Now everyone was raising an objection and looking up at her and the rest of the high-ranking members for decisions.

The only exception were the members of Whiskey’s gang, doing their best to lay low amidst the chaos and noise so as to not piss off the people that would pay them for their drinks.

“We’re giving up. Just take the earnings and leave-” Scarlyt began to say but her voice was drowned by someone’s stronger one.

“We’re not doing that,” A figure stepped into the area from the back side entrance of the balcony. A young Adonis of healthy skin, elegant skin, and a defined chin. None other than Karel Lorenc, Bohemian Lion, the official head of the Bohemians.

“I thought you were staying out of this.”

“And leave everything in the hands of Cestus? Not a chance,” Bohemian Lion said. “I’ve been watching this trainwreck just unwind itself from the back. It’s been funny, to say the least.”

“Well, glad you enjoyed it. Sadly, the entertainment is over.”

“No, it’s not.” Karel retorted. “If we drop this, it would be but a stain of shame within our reputation. I can allow Cestus to be ridiculed, but we can’t let him drag the rest of us down. One way or another, things have to turn in our favor, no matter how small.

“You plan to salvage this?” Scarlyt challenged.

Bohemian Lion snorted, as if saying ‘watch me.’ And with a confident air, he strode forth towards the control room, demanding a microphone connected to the speakers around.

And with the hand on the microphone, he began to address the crowd. “Greetings to this afternoon event.” He spoke, and there was something about his tone that got most of the chaos to settle, with the only other interruption being Cestus’ attempts to break free from the magical string.

“I can understand the disappointment many of you are experiencing. Believe me as I’ve felt it myself. We the Bohemians strive to be symbols of status, not to play dirty tricks on those that consider it a luxury to spend time with us. So as of now, I’m cancelling the combat structure that had been defined.”

“What?!” Many were heard saying, but the loudest came from Cestus, still bound, and trapped.

“Let’s face it. This was prepared at the last minute and done for the ego of one of our members. The affair will be investigated and thoroughly dealt with, internally. Instead, we’re changing the format. A free for all brawl-capture.”

There were some sounds of confusion among those present, but it was enough to stop the fighting. Curiosity had piqued and even the fighters in the arena froze as to what this could mean.

With a snap of his fingers, amplified by the microphone, the doors at the side of the prospective fighters opened and out emerged Jack-in-the-box, the guy who boobytrapped the field, pushing in a tray with a set of modified zip ties, made of a synthetic fabric and thick enough so as to show they contained some technology. “I’ve requested our hired devisor to craft up these special zipties, designed to incapacitate anyone who finds themselves wearing them, slip them on and they’ll be down for the count.” Some of the men were already picking up the pieces of equipment.

“And as an incentive, I’m putting out a bounty. One thousand dollars to the last man or woman standing, and two hundred to anyone who captures three players in the field right now, those responsible for the troubles. Nothing personal, girls and cestus.”

“Bets will be remade on the spot and those who can opt out can do it without any penalty fees,” Bohemian Lion added.

“How is that for a change of rules? Jump in whenever you feel ready, but do it fast, you won’t be counted if you take too long,” And with that, he handed the microphone back, while telling the group. “That should be enough to keep up the attention and the game running.”

“Participants have about five minutes to jump in so they can be considered as participants.” One of the organizers added.

“I guess getting tied up wouldn’t be so bad…” Zoo muttered.

“We still have to deal with Cestus. Change back now so we can leave!” Caro snapped as she saw the crowd of students deliberating before the first one threw himself over the ledge and into the field.

“Fine… It’s not like I could fight anyway,” Zoo grumbled as her body spasmed, shrinking down, starting to lose the extra fat, muscle and fur that made her form so large. “How are we getting out anyway?” she asked in a changing voice.

“I’m thinking of it,” Caro muttered looking down at her book.

Zoo’s own transformation carried forth, her muzzle shrinking down whilst the extra strength the form gave her ebbed out, leaving her as the tanned skin latina dressed in the combat uniform. “That was my third change of the day,” Sofia said, sounding exhausted. “Isn’t there a spell you can use? Didn’t you have one you used on me recently?”

She was spitballing. In her mind, she thought of things like the barrier spell she’d casted before to keep her momentarily trapped in Whitman. Maybe one that could heal or enhance her.

To Caro, though, another incident came to mind.

“No, I didn’t cast anything on you!” Whether it was because of the subsiding guilt or the area enchantment that was having every word in her mind zoom through out of her mouth with barely a thought. Only after she uttered them, she realized the error. “Shit!”

Down at her feet, she saw her own magic form and act up against her. The string heads peeked out from the ground and launched themselves up against her, either latching onto her skin and clothes or catching her under the string’s tension. When the first began to hit her, she knew more were about to come.

“Caro! What the,” Sofia said as she was about to step closer, with the intention to try to yank the strings off but found herself instead onto the ground after Caro shoved her.

“Stand back or you’ll get trapped!” Caro snapped as she immediately reached for the knife on her hand while the spell hadn’t completely immobilized her. “I hate to do this, but I’ll have to break the spell.”

“No! You won’t missy! Two hundred is not a bad offer!” One of the impromptu participants called out as a large concussive force struck Zoo as she tried to shield her, but that still didn’t protect her from the impact, and, as her roommate was sent flying, the impact also struck Caro. Hard strength but in what felt like an incredibly wide area, nothing but a painful shove. However, it was just enough to have her drop the knife just far from her reach while Zoo was topped over, momentarily out of commission.

“Shit,” Caro cursed, in particular her loose tongue and her own spell as she tried to drag herself across the ground towards the knife. The enchantment took it as her trying to escape and immediately reinforced the efforts to bind her. Still, unlike Cestus who’d been ripping the strands, they didn’t go hard on her. So, she drew close enough.

Still, the present problem was the other students. About seven who’d bought into the new format and, with the capture straps in hand, had jumped into action. With their long and hasty strides, they were primed to get to her much faster than she could snatch the blade.

And it became all the more pressing when one of them, a low-level speedster, began to gain upon them.

Fortunately, as luck would happen, Chris wasn’t going to let Caro have most of the fun.

The sophomore aspiring hero and street specialist had already touched ground and taken off in a fast sprint in the path for interception. Her body and the air ahead of her intermittently glowing with a red aura that awarded her incredible bursts of speed.

Being the outlier and only newcomer that came from the spectator’s side, she easily stole the attention of some of the cameras, especially when, during her run, she made a slight stop to thrust her hand into the ground and grab one of the mines that she’d spied from the elevated position. Grabbing it by the rim and avoiding the wide button that would set it off.

A spin and it was thrown forth, flying like a frisbee towards the path of the other challengers. They would’ve seen it coming, hadn’t they been focused on the two girls in a vulnerable position.

It touched the ground with a spiraling explosion, carrying the momentum of the throw. A releasing shockwave that threw everyone out of the path, even the speedster who was thrown forward, in what would’ve been a rather painful tumble were it not for the softness of the ground there.

“Malefis!” Chris called, using her codename. “We should probably get going,” she said as she zoomed past, taking strides towards the downed speedster.

“I get it,” Caro grumbled, by now the strings covered most of her arm and reaching out was already starting to get painful as the tensions added up and they began to dig into her skin. Fortunately, a couple of her fingers touched the edge of the knife, and it was just enough to pull it along with her.

“Caro?” Zoo muttered as she pushed herself up. ”Wait! Are you going to undo the spell? Won’t that release Cestus?”

“Then what else am I supposed to do!” Caro answered.

In the back, the speedster got up and rushed forth with a running sprint of a start towards the two, but before she could make it far, Chris caught up to her. In a fluid motion, she vaulted over the girl’s back, locking arms with her before using the leverage to throw her down onto the sand, whereupon she began to hastily confiscate the bindings.

“Fine,” Zoo muttered “Do it.”

“I could take him,” she said, pressing the knife against her hand and reciting another spell, while her other clenched the remaining item she had with her, and her last prepared trick.

“As the situation around us is dire.

And as our options have run out.

Yet I’m determined to win this bout.

So, I invoke for the curse of fire.”

With that, she used the knife to make a cut on her palm. The pain was frustrating, and it was about to get worse. Dripping a couple of droplets onto the ground, she saw the dispelling clause enacted, feeling the pressure released from the soil as the glow started to envelop the droplets.

And as a result, the lines began to grow slack, breaking apart as if made of soft tissue. And further from where they stood, Cestus was celebrating his release, tearing through the ropes with ease as he began to set himself in motion.

“I can still be the best!” he exclaimed, slamming his fist onto the ground, almost as if a mortar shell had just fallen. Caro tried to continue reciting.

“They demand me to meet their strength.

And I seize it to teach them a lesson,

For of enchanted words, I’m the mason,

So, I’ll bind myself to a line’s length

Thrusting the uncapped marker onto her palm stung like hell as the ink had plenty of alcohol, but it was part of the trick. With the spell in progress, her body resonated to the incantation and her power marked the common item’s cottoned tip.

“Blood on my left as the rope and mana as gas.”

For the power I claim I demand for the drake.

Inhabit within me to ensure I won’t break.

Because I need to step up in terms of class”

Cestus was now drawing in closer, there was no way they could’ve steered away from his path in an open field.

Losing no time, Caro removed her jacket, revealing her sleeveless arm, human skin coated with pieces of scales that began from her shoulders. And with a swift motion, she traced down a line across the length of her left arm starting from the back of her palm up to halfway from her shoulder, and as the marker stopped touching her skin, a strange magical glow ignited from there, sparking in the same way a flame to gunpowder would.

Pact made! Power is mine to assume.

For as long as the line has yet to reach the end.

I’ll try to bring the fight to the end.

Caro raised her arms, just in time as Cestus brought his down. A fist that was twice her size, stretching the fighting gauntlet to its limit made contact up against the intended target, coming in with a large crash that raised the sand up into the air.

And yet, Caroline held on, still standing in place with both hands keeping Cestus’ in place.

“Caro?” Zoo blurted out.

A strange magical fire coated the air in embers as a sense of heat prevailed, made the air shimmer for a moment and blew the ground away. Cestus was taken aback by the flash, unable to understand how his opponent, a weak girl, had stopped his attack. When she let his arm slip, he couldn’t react to the strike of the elbow as it was forced to bend, trying to make the werehyena go down to his knees.

Caro might not be taking BMA in an official capacity, but she was still part of an after-school group and had received enough training from Chris and Gwen to know what sort of do.

Still, she was hardly an expert, and up against someone who had about a year or so more of experience than she was, she found him slipping off her grip and trying to answer with a swipe using his arm before she could even apply the leverage. Her head in danger, she had to let go, instead raising up her arm just to put it in the way of the sharp claws.

A hard ringing sound came in and sparks flowed off, but Caro was still standing, and surprised to find that, despite feeling the numbness of a growing bruise, she had no broken bones.

“I can’t believe it worked…” Caro said with relief, looking down at her own hands. Her forearms were now coated in hard diamond-like scales tipped with dangerous claws. Her arms and… in fact, her body felt taut and compressed, with the magic and power unleashed and channeled with the purpose of fueling up her strength. The borrowed strength of the drake. She could hardly imagine that it ended up working as expected. There was a fire, either ethereal, metaphorical, or literal within her that she wasn’t accustomed to.

Her amazement cost her time, though. Cestus’ now freed arm came in crashing for a sweeping strike. It connected hard up against her, coming across as a hard smack, like being struck by a truck. It sent flying a good set of meters away only to fortuitously landing on her feet. Once again, showing her body was now capable of much more.

Only, though not without a cost. She glanced at her left arm, seeing the line she’d traced along her skin. The length had been cut short by a chunk, burned off in almost a fiery flash, when struck. She had to keep herself protected… otherwise, she would end up losing her enchantment in the worst of times.

And she needed to act as she saw Cestus getting closer towards Sofia.

“Hey. I’m over here!” Caro called.

And whether it was because he regarded her more of a nuisance than the designated fight or just didn’t recognize his opponent now that she was back to a human, the large hyena turned to face her with a threatening growl.

“I hope you taught me well, Gwen…” Caro prayed as she launched herself forth.

 

To Be Continued
Read 768 times Last modified on Monday, 18 April 2022 16:34

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