Chapter Seven – Blind
Bethany Parks watched as the remaining fights from the second round concluded. She was mildly impressed by some of the fights she saw on the screens. In her mind she ran through the strategies she could use to disable, defeat and even kill the fighters she saw on the screens. She also contemplated the cost of such feats, discarding those that were too high, saving those with promise for later dissection.
She heard the sound of footsteps approach her above the noise of the other defeated girls murmuring. She glanced over her shoulder to see that one of the girls had approached her. She was of a similar height to Bethany, clearly of Asian descent with fine straight black hair and dark, almost black, almond shaped eyes. After studying the girl for a few seconds, Bethany decided the girl was of Japanese heritage.
“They’re quite impressive aren’t they,” said the Japanese girl, her eyes focused on one of the monitors. On screen a girl was creating barriers made of a glowing violet energy which she used to try and box in multiple copies of herself. Bethany watched as the girl managed to pin down and round up all the copies into sealed barriers. The copies beat at the violet walls until, one by one, they collapsed. Bethany guessed all the air had been cut off from within the boxes.
“They aren’t bad,” she agreed, looking back towards the other girl.
“That’s a bit rich coming from a girl who surrendered before five seconds of the match had elapsed. That has to be some kind of record.”
Bethany stiffened then looked closer at the girl. She ran through her mental roster of all of the girls who’d been in Gym class and realised she hadn’t seen this particular student at all.
“Who are you and how do you know that? I was the first person back to the observation room, no one but the teachers could have…” she trailed off, the realisation of who the girl must be sinking in.
“Wow, you are a quick one aren’t you,” said the dark eyed girl, a smile playing across her face. “I hope you don’t mind Miss Parks, but once the matches are finished, the Dean and I would like to see you later. To discuss your earlier performance.”
Bethany nodded mutely and watched as the young girl walked away, her hands clasped behind her back, her step light, almost skipping. Bethany had known her performance would likely cause a few questions, but to have Him come and speak to her already, she was honoured.
Turning back to the row of screens, a smile bloomed across the blonde girls face. Looks like the first year wouldn’t be as dull as she’d feared.
Kris tugged on a lock of her purple hair, desperately wishing she could indulge in her habit of chewing her nails as she waited. She was unsure however if the cameras in the corners of the room were watching her so she pulled on her hair instead. In the back of her mind, Kris could already her the disappointed tutting of her grandmother as she watched the replays of Kris’s battles.
‘It’s a disgrace how long it took you to finish of those opponents girl’ came the imagined voice of Emmeline Brashmoore, Matriarch of the Brashmoore family, ‘clearly your parents have failed to instil any proper training in you, a failing as much on my part as theirs for not overseeing your training myself!’
Kris sighed before banishing thoughts of the disgruntled and perpetually displeased old woman from her mind. She’d no doubt be getting a real lecture later once the rankings were finalised.
A hiss sounded across the room and Kris glanced over to the door on the opposite side of the room. She was both simultaneously surprised and pleased to see her stoic red headed roommate enter the room.
“Anya!” Kris yelled, unable to hide her excitement, “This is great, I’ll finally get to see you…” Kris’s bubbly greeting was cut off by the glare her roommate directed at her.
“Are you really that big of an idiot?” Anya asked bluntly.
Kris was confused. She knew that rankings were serious but surely they could fight and still be friends.
“These matches are broadcast to the public, now they’ll have to cut this part of the match because you went and said my name. How dumb can you get?”
Kris blinked at the verbal assault from her roommate. Ok, so maybe yelling Anya’s name hadn’t been the smartest thing to do with all the cameras, but that didn’t mean she had to be insulted. Seeing the contempt in Anya’s eyes, Kris shut off her feelings. If Anya was going to take this that seriously, there was no room for friendship in this cell after all.
From the ceiling came the same reminder about the rules of the fight. Kris barely listened as she began to ready her powers, bringing them in to a state of readiness. As soon as the bell sounded, Kris launched a full frontal assault with her powers. From the air around her over fifty brightly coloured butterflies suddenly appeared. They ranged from pure white to dark blue, all of them pelting with unnatural speed towards Kris’s intended target.
Anya stood calmly facing the oncoming storm of supernatural insects. She breathed deeply, readying her own powers, waiting for the summons to get into range. As she observed the oncoming assault, Anya noted with some interest how Kris hadn’t moved at all whilst creating the butterflies. The only visible change to the girl appeared to be the appearance of tattoos covering her face, an odd manifestation of her power perhaps?
As the butterflies surged towards her, Anya narrowed her eyes, her mind poised to attack. Just a few more feet, she thought. Now!
One second, the butterflies had been flying unimpeded towards their intended target, their wings beating furiously as the raced towards the indifferent red head. The next second, what appeared to be a blazing wall of fire erupted before the onslaught of insects, burning them all to ashes. Kris reeled back from the unexpected heat, her mind burned from the psychic cries of her butterflies.
Furious she quickly summoned more butterflies, these ones all a pale ice blue, and sent them fluttering off in all directions, hoping to surround her prey. Through her connection to the insects she saw that the blazing wall blocking her view of her opponent only lay between them and Anya was still visible behind it.
But she wasn’t the same Anya she’d been just a few seconds before. This Anya was covered head to toe in multi-coloured armour. Her head and chest were sealed in a transparent crystal, her left arm was covered in a gauntlet of hazy air, whilst her right was encased in a shiny blue substance that almost appeared liquid.
As Kris watched from her own eyes, the fierce fiery barrier shrunk until it stood only a meter high, floating in front of Anya. In her right hand appeared a sword made of planes of interlocking golden light.
Kris let out a long low whistle.
“Wow, now there’s a suit of armour. You look really familiar like that.”
The figure in the suit of armour moved its head to take in the circle of butterflies. Despite the backlash Kris had felt when her first wave had been destroyed, she’d persevered through the pain as she’d been taught to create another large batch of the creatures, trying to encircle her opponent.
“Now even you can’t be stupid enough to try the same tactic as last time. I’m guessing these ones are fireproof?” Anya’s voice was muffled by the strange helmet covering her head, though Kris could still make out the condescending expression on her face.
Kris grimaced, annoyed her plan had been so easily uncovered. The light blue butterflies, whilst not useful for quickly stunning an opponent, caused a layer of ice to appear wherever they touched someone. This meant they were fairly heat resistant and, in large enough numbers, could encase their target in a tomb of ice.
“They are fireproof,” Kris acknowledge seeing no point in denying it. “But that’s by no means all they can do.”
With a mental command, Kris launched her butterflies at Anya, aiming the bulk of them at the girl’s head hoping to at least block her vision if she couldn’t completely bind her. As the creature’s surged towards her, Anya raised the glowing sword and began to slice at the insects. Each one that touched the blade burst into light before fading away. Kris could feel a numbness spreading through her as almost all of her summoned helpers were done away with. The speed with which Anya moved was faster than should have been possible given her bulky armour, yet the mismatched pieces seemed to flow with her movements, allowing the girl to bend and sway like a palm tree.
Before even one of her butterflies could land on Anya, the entirety of Kris’s second wave had vanished, leaving nothing standing between the two combatants.
“Ready to surrender yet?” Anya asked.
Kris swallowed hard. So far everything she’d thrown at the other girl had been reduced to smoke and ashes. Whilst she could take on some of the properties of her butterflies, she didn’t think she could handle the kind of heat Anya was dishing out. Mind racing she came up with a daring and desperate plan.
Kris ran towards her opponent. As soon as she got in close enough she summoned a white butterfly, ordering it to activate right in front of her. With her eyes closed, Kris avoided being blinded by the ensuing burst of light the butterfly created. Anya however hadn’t had any warning and now staggered away from Kris, her eyes blinking furiously in an attempt to restore her vision.
Summoning forth the strength of the gold butterfly, Kris infused her fist with as much power as she could, layering the heat from a red wind for good measure as her fist ploughed forward towards Anya’s protected head.
Just as she was about to connect with the helmet, Anya’s glowing sword swung in front of her fist, deflecting the blow and pushing Kris back. Kris used her momentum to spin round, bringing her left leg up in a high kick, only to find her attack blocked by Anya’s right arm. Where her leg made contact with the strange blue gauntlet, cold seeped through her body.
Off balanced, Kris felt her leg being grabbed by Anya who then pulled the girl forward causing her to go crashing to the ground in an unceremonious heap. Rolling onto her back, Kris found herself being leant over by her opponent, the glowing sword pointed at her heart, the shield hovering inches from her head.
“Surrender now, or I will be forced to knock you out.” The threat came without preamble and Kris, seeing her options had run out, slumped to the ground, defeated.
“Alright I give!” she shouted, shame colouring her face. God what was her grandma going to say when she saw this. What an absolute mess she’d made.
A bell rang, signalling the end of the fight. As the ringing faded away, so too did the armour covering Anya. The freckle faced girl looked down at her opponent, her expression as impenetrable as her helmet had been.
Without a word, she leant down and offered her hand to Kris. Kris accepted and rose to her feet, turning to her cold roommate.
“You know,” said Anya, biting her bottom lip, “I probably shouldn’t tell you, but you came awfully close to beating me with that flash bang. If you’d been a bit faster, or had sent some more of those butterflies at me at the same time, you’d of had me.”
Kris blinked, her brow furrowed in thought.
“Really?” she asked.
Anya nodded. Despite her misgivings about the loud and thoughtless American, the girl was good. She’d known how to try and get inside Anya’s guard and her power was tougher than she’d expected. With a bit more training, she’d be a good opponent to face.
Kris’s expression brightened and she turned a beaming smile on Anya.
“Thanks!” she said, “I’ll work on it for next time.”
Glancing behind her, Kris saw the door she’d entered by had opened. Waving once more to her roommate, Kris left the room, mind racing to see how else she could have tried to beat her foe.
Anya left the combat cell where she’d fought Kris. Glancing at the monitor just outside she saw her last match of the day would be in Cell B. Nodding, Anya orientated herself and began to head in the direction of her final opponent. She wondered what powers the girl might have to have made it this far. It was probably something physical, maybe super strength or super speed. She could be a shifter with a powerful form, or a very strong telekinetic.
Anya had trained to fight most of these types of Supers, after all, when you were a hero, the unexpected was always to be expected so preparedness for any eventuality was a must.
As she reached the room, Anya took a few moments to assess herself. She was nervous, which was odd since she wasn’t particularly scared. Second place, whilst not ideal, wasn’t a bad place to launch an HCP career. Many famous Hero’s started from lower ranks that even the top ten.
Shaking her head Anya turned her mind away from her emotional state and took stock of her powers. Anya had inherited her mother’s power and, like Ellen Collins’s own suit of armour, Anya’s would suffer tear and wear after each battle, taking time to restore itself. That last blow from Kris had come very close to shattering her sword and water gauntlet. Had she blocked with her left arm instead of her right, the blow likely would have broken her arm. As things stood, her left hand side was now far weaker than she would have liked. She’d need to try and avoid too much close combat grappling by using her shield more, a tricky thing to do if her opponent’s durability was at a normal level.
Oh well, she thought, I can’t change anything standing out here. I’ll just have to hope my opponent isn’t a shifter or super strength type.
The automatic doors to Cell B whooshed open and Anya stepped inside. What she saw when she entered however, caused her to do a double take.
There standing in the middle of the room, arms folded protectively across around her stomach, stood the blindfolded girl. Her long brown hair was pulled into a pony tail, the white bandage wrapped round her head covered her eyes completely. As Anya walked in the girl raised her head in Anya’s general direction.
“Hello,” the girl, Amelia, thought Anya, welcomed.
Anya, still stunned, nodded in acknowledgement before realising the girl wouldn’t know she’s nodded. Anya cleared her throat before responding.
From the speakers set in the ceiling came the voice of Dean Finch.
“Ladies, this is the final match of the day to decide who out of you two will be the top ranked female of the lower sixth. Since Miss Edwards has opted to remain anonymous, this match will be observed only by members of staff. The rules for the fight are the same as every other. Once the bell rings you may begin.”
As the Dean spoke Anya watched as Amelia reached up and began up unfasten her blindfold. She stood puzzled until her brain made the all-important connection. Amelia wasn’t blind.
In fact her powers probably had everything to do with her eyes. That didn’t explain why the girl wore a blind fold at all, it could just be for dramatic effect, but it did mean Anya would have to be extra careful when dealing with this girl.
Above them the bell to signal the start of the fight rang and Anya summoned her armour. She thickened the crystal that made up her helmet’s visor so as to obscure her vision before turning to face her opponent.
Through the blur of the crystal, Anya could barely make out the form of Amelia Edwards. She saw what must have been the blindfold hanging limply from her hand. Anya waited, wondering what they girl would do next. Was her power just limited to her eyes? For good measure, Anya thickened the crystal covering her ears as well, hoping that it would help block out whatever words the other girl might say.
Amelia stood, eyes adjusting to the bright light of the combat cell. She hadn’t yet turned her gaze to her opponent, but from the corner of her eye she saw that the girl now wore some kind of mismatched, multi-coloured armour. Mentally she shrugged. If the armour could stop her gaze then it would stop it. She didn’t care much if her powers didn’t affect the other girl.
“If you can still hear me,” she said, voice raised in case the armour muffled sound, “I’m sorry for what I’m about to do.”
Her apology spoken, Amelia looked at the girl.
Instantly her opponents body went limp, only her head remained ridged, the obscured eyes of the armoured girl, fixed on Amelia’s own. Sighing in disappointment, Amelia began to slowly walk to the other girl, keeping her eyes trained on her fixated opponent.
When she reached the other girl, having passed by the forgotten sword and shield, Anya raised her hands to the armours visor. Carefully she pulled off the helmet, never breaking eye contact with her opponent.
Anya Collins stared into the swirling eyes of Amelia Edwards, ensnared by the beautiful dancing colours. If she’d been capable of describing those eyes, she would have been at a loss for words, though if pressed, she would have said they were like a rainbow, a constellation all condensed into two round orbs.
“When I break eye contact, you will kneel down and surrender.” Amelia stated, her order clear.
Anya, transfixed, nodded.
Satisfied Amelia began to walk backwards away from her last opponent, glad to have only had to fight four battles today thanks to a reprieve she’d been granted due to an odd number of students. When she was far enough away that she thought she’d be safe from accidentally being stuck by her opponent, Amelia closed her eyes.
She didn’t bother to wait for the bell to sound before she began retying her blindfold. There wouldn’t be any point, her victory was just as assured now as it had been the other three times.
As she turned and walked out of the room she heard the other girl unsteadily get to her feet.
“Wait!” the girl cried out. Amelia paused and turned back to the girl. Through the specially created material of the tech super fabric, Amelia could make out the vague shape of her defeated opponent.
“What happened?” asked the girl, “Were you my opponent? What happened in that fight?”
“The fight is over,” answered Amelia before turning once more and exiting the room.