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    Invnarcel
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the Mini-Crusher-Tournie - 14. Third Match

The victor grit his teeth, but after a few passing seconds he was unable to endure the agony silently. Lyle screeched and clenched his bleeding shoulder, a med drone came and sprayed his injury with something to numb it. While the unconscious Dan had some on-the-spot treatment applied, he was then carted away. Lyle managed to walk, the droid hovering beside him as he left. Jane watched him go before her worries returned to her friends.

She felt physically numb at that point. Bruises colouring her arms, but she couldn't feel her body, a shiny sheen of the medical agents applied to her skin. They had some more time before the next fight started, everyone in the stands seemed to be sharing their opinions excitedly. The teenage school kids were especially raucous. They infuriated Jane the most, acting cool and laughing while the crushers hurt each other for their entertainment.

After some patrons had a toilet break and came back, it was time for the next fight. Marine seemed glum, Leaf looked sick. Ophelia and Claire were both ready for their fights.

"And now dearest audience, brace yourselves for the third fight!" Blake waved an arm toward the screen and two names appeared. Marine Finn vs Claire Anvil.

The tall and lithe girl stood with her usual confidence and grace, striding onto the field. Marine got up with a mix of trepidation and determination. She'd been confident in her first fight against Zane, but perhaps the worry and preparation time had gotten to her. They both entered the square and the corner pillars flickered to life, their blue symbols glowing. Jane narrowed her eyes when something caught her eye.

Marine. The back of her shirt. At first she'd thought it was just sweat, but if so she was sweating quite a lot. And… her hair. Jane thought Marine hadn't dried it for whatever reason after showering, but it should've dried by now. It was still a bit damp. It wasn't from nerves, it was something else. When the two girls faced each other from ten feet away, Claire's eyes became shrewd for the first time.

"Ready yourselves!" Chris shouted as the audience joined in the countdown. The airhorn sounded and Jane's eyes widened at what she saw.

A puddle flowed out from Marine's feet, spreading wider and wider. Claire stepped back when the water spread toward her. When it stopped at an easy four metre radius Marine let out a sigh of relief.

"Phew! It sure was difficult holding all of that in."

"You realise you're gonna lose, right?" Claire looked at her as if she were stupid. It really did look like Claire saw no way she could fail.

"Don't underestimate the Finn clan." Marine took a ready stance. Her confidence is back! Jane couldn't help smiling in amazement.

Claire held her hands out and her ghostly green sword materialised. She narrowed her eyes and sprang, charging at the other girl with the blade angled artfully at her side. She jumped and slashed. Marine splayed her palm: a torrent of water with the force of a tidal wave blasted into Claire, the sheer force of it propelling her backward and away. Claire fell onto her back and gasped, her sword vanished and she quickly rolled onto all fours.

Marine remained where she stood, grinning.

"It's always interesting to see how the crushers overcome their own limitations." Chris mused to his apprentice.

"Finn clan members can spontaneously create enormous volumes of water." Zac agreed. "The strong ones anyway. Marine can't do that yet… but it looks like she liquified herself in a big body of water, then when she became human again she concentrated the mass inside her. She prepared well."

Claire stood and flicked her wet ponytail over her shoulder. She was dripping.

"You didn't try to capitalise on the situation after knocking me down. You can't move quick enough with all that extra water you're keeping inside you. But you can't beat me with just defence!"

Claire held her hands out and green wisps appeared, materialising into a ghostly chain. I haven't seen her do that before! Jane blinked. Claire swung one end of the chain, spinning it in fast circles before darting forward. Marine readied herself as Claire sprang forward, the chain arced at the other girl's side, intending to bind her. The ghostly chain hit and went to wrap around, but Marine liquified and the weapon passed through harmlessly. The long chain dragged across the floor.

Claire gave a grimacing smirk "Alright, impressive." She let the weapon fizzle out. "Let's try this again." Her sword reappeared and she dove.

Panic crossed Marine's features at the other girl's speed. She fired another jet of water from her hand, a forceful spray that Claire side-stepped in her advance. Leaping into the air and kicking Marine's shoulder, it opened in a waterbomb burst, Claire spinning in the air and slicing into another burst of water.

Claire landed and slashed, Marine stepping back as her opponent advanced. Her arms were tendrils of water, bursting water outward every time she used them to shield her body. Their ankles sloshed through water as they circled. Marine shooting more pressured bursts as Claire ducked and turned, not letting any distance come between them. Gritting her teeth as that sword cut through propelling water again and again.

Marine was grunting and Claire shouting like this was a tennis match, weaving and slicing. The square arena was now full of ankle-deep water, the pillars keeping it contained with magic. Claire attacked with blinding speed. Marine jumped back and her arms became normal. Then she shot forward and Claire slashed straight down.

Jane gasped as Marine barely turned in time, her body reforming. What Claire had been aiming for was the second strike – she knew Marine couldn't liquify entirely, so she aimed to stab backward as soon as the Finn girl went past her. When Marine ducked, Claire whipped around and arced the blade in a decapitating motion. Marine leaned away, back on one knee and fired all the water she was holding inside herself.

It hit Claire in the torso, the volume like an exploding storm pipe. The swordswoman was wedged high into the corner pillar, and Jane realised it was what Marine had been aiming for. Not just retreating, but drawing Claire into the corner so she could unleash all the remaining extra water in one shot. As the torrent weakened Marine sank down to her knees in exhaustion. Claire slid down into a slump.

That was all her water gone. The sheer quantity around them made Jane realise her friend must have absorbed most of a swimming pool. Marine's eyes widened when Claire's leg twitched. Then she drew her knee up and bent forward.

"How are you not unconscious?" Marine panted before leaning over again.

"You've not seen everything I can do… unfortunately…" Claire struggled to her feet. She stepped slowly toward Marine, who's blue eyes were wide and frightened. Raising her arm overhead, the green samurai sword reappeared. "Can you liquify now?!"

A slash across her chest that sprayed water. Marine fell back and Claire stepped over with a stab. Marine instinctively held her hand out to the blade and it pierced through. Her hand liquified, but the sword cut through it and into her shoulder. Blood mixed with the water and Marine screamed. Claire's teeth were gritted as she pressed into the hilt.

Blake appeared outside the ring "Claire, stop!"

The tall girl composed herself and her weapon vanished.

"We should call the match now." Zac began worriedly. "Even though she's a Finn she could still drown in all that water if she gets unconscious first."

Blake nodded and the pillars flashed before fading to normal. Water spilled outwards, past the feet of the elementals and to the ends of the stands. Marine's head fell back against wood with a pained expression. Claire was also soaked and continued to hover above her opponent with enough malice to make Jane think she wanted to finish the job.

"Well… we have half an hour to clean all this water up." Chris stated. The audience watched on with keen interest.

"The winner is Claire Anvil!" Blake announced, receiving a brief round of applause.

Claire gave an ugly look over her shoulder before storming away to dry herself up. Jane struggled to her feet but even with her pain numbed, her body was too stiff to move. A med drone was at Marine's side and soon her hissing breaths were alleviated. She was able to sit up and gave both of her friends the thumbs up. A few of the audience members cheered again.

She was out of the contest, but she'd given it her best. Jane and Leaf were both proud of their friend.

Copyright © 2020 Invnarcel; All Rights Reserved.
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