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    Invnarcel
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the Mini-Crusher-Tournie - 5. Fourth Match

There was a sharp intake of breath from the audience. The black-robed Elemental strode toward the downed girl, the medical droid creeping closer in preparation. Chris ducked down and pressed his fingers to Joy's neck, paused for a moment, then lifted his head to answer the question everyone was silently screaming.

"Alive." He stepped away to let the droid prepare her stretcher.

"Wow for all the strength of her power, one direct attack and she's down…" Leaf murmured to Jane.

Dan didn't look interested in Joy's well-being one way or the other. He stepped off the field, his clothes in absolute tatters. One sleeve hanging on by a thread. The white-robed Elemental stepped over to congratulate his crusher, stroking his beard with one hand and holding his staff with the other. Then, like a magic trick, Blake reached back and presented him with a can of coke.

"Seeing as you didn't make yourself incapacitated by winning, enjoy your prize!"

Dan reached out without thinking, a long fingernail piercing the can, a spray of soda hitting the hem of Blake's robes. They paused awkwardly.

"I should get my gloves…" Dan commented.

"Well hurry, the next match is going to begin post-haste. Then you must leave for a change of more suitable attire."

Chris had returned to the side of the young-looking Elemental, and the screen was already blurring with the photos of the next contestants. The teens fidgeted uncomfortably. Jane was sure the next fight couldn't possibly top what they'd just seen. Either of those fighters could've made it to the top if they hadn't fought each other so soon.

The first half of the screen stopped on number 10 – Claire Anvil. The girl with the wheat-brown ponytail rose lithely from her chair.

"Don't die." Ophelia spoke up with a smirk.

Claire smirked without turning her head, striding confidently onto the field. She was tall, and the way she carried herself made Jane sure she was quite nimble. They watched her go, Ophelia's eyes narrowing and expectant.

Her opponent was number 13 – Helias Caldrofis. Another tall girl with wavy brown hair stood, her eyes considering the other girl seriously. The audience watched as they moved to face each other, ten feet away in the middle of the ruined grassy field. One of the trees was broken down the middle, collapsed from the last fight.

"Two experimental crushers…" Jane spoke up. "Guess we'll see their powers soon enough."

"A Godrid versus Zorgon," Chris mused before straightening, arms behind his back. "Begin at the siren!"

Both girls tensed. When the siren sounded the audience gazed in wonder as brown smoke hazed around Helias's hands. It began wafting around her body. Claire's eyes narrowed. She held out her hands like she was clutching something, a semi-transparent samurai-sword blurred into existence. It shimmered a dull green. The audience watched on as Claire perched before darting forward with ninja-like agility.

She covered the distance with impressive speed. Her ghostly sword went to arc through Helias's body, but instead met only air. In the space of a second the other girl was suddenly five metres above. Jane felt her mouth drop open. Helias hovered, flailing her arms as she struggled to stay upright. The cloud of brown below had dispersed, wisps of the strange gas circled around her limbs as if leaking from her body.

From below Claire looked upward, sword in one hand. Her other arm was covering her face as a precaution. It didn't seem like the purpose of that gas was to poison, however. Helias allowed herself to drift away from above. She began to lower in jerky, uncontrolled drops. Finally landing twenty feet away.

"How original," Blake shook his head sarcastically. "I've seen that power before."

"You can talk." Chris scoffed. "Spirit weapons? The ability to materialize a sword? Nothing special about that either."

The two contenders scowled despite themselves but were still regarding each other warily.

Jane was transfixed. While Claire appeared skilfully lethal in close-combat, she didn't seem to have any way of fighting long-range. Helias could launch herself out of reach quite quickly, but unless she had a good offense of her own it seemed unlikely she was going to manage a win.

Helias braced herself. Claire whipped her sword around gracefully before angling the blade behind her back. She raced around for another assault, her pony-tail trailing behind her. Helias's eyes were focused completely on her opponent. Once Claire was close enough she leapt forward, closing their distance.

Claire swung the katana. Helias zipped up and over, reaching with her hand but not managing to grab Claire's shoulder. Claire stabbed back with alarming speed, Helias falling to avoid the blade. Claire turned and slashed, Helias managing a back-roll that landed her two metres away, but Claire covered that distance in no time. Her sword sang and Helias shot upward once again. Claire jumped with another sword-swipe, Helias pulled her leg in so as not to lose her foot. Then she was out of reach once again.

The audience regained their breathing. Both girls stared at each other, several metres between them again. Helias levitated unsteadily, Claire angled her weapon downwards and waited.

"Helias can float by making her body lighter." Zac deduced. "It's got something to do with that gas. But it's clearly a balancing act that requires concentration. Making her body lighter helps with the acrobatics, but she struggles with balance." He lowered his gaze back to the other girl.

Acrobatics isn't going to be enough against someone like Claire, Jane thought.

"Is this going to be another long battle?" she wondered.

"Not if she keeps trying to get in close like that. But I don't see how she can win otherwise." Leaf answered.

Helias's expression became despondent as she drifted away. She could see that the chances of winning were indeed slim. After a careful moment of mid-air contemplation she began to drift down again, in jerky fast-slow bursts. Claire waited patiently for her opponent to touch down. When Helias landed metres away Claire tensed for just a second before charging again, that sword angled back.

When she got close Helias jumped aside, flying horizontally for several metres before skidding in the grass. Claire turned without stopping, still gunning with determination. Helias flew backwards, backflipping quickly to a nearby tree. Her feet touched the trunk and she shot upward, snagging a branch while her legs trailed upward. For a moment she struggled to press both feet against it. Aiming herself and pushing off.

Claire hesitated, not quite stumbling. But it was only for a moment. Helias shot toward her, slowing to a sudden stop when Claire swung her sword. Barely dodging the blade. Claire darted to the side and Helias had trouble orienting herself, feet kicking above the ground. She turned awkwardly in the air and Claire's next swipe took a good chunk of her hand, three-and-a-half fingers littering the grass.

Helias screamed in agony, gripping her mutilated hand while blood gushed from the wound. She turned over in the air. Claire paused briefly before purposely stabbing the weapon into Helias's shoulder. The sword poked sharply in-out. Claire stepped back while Helias hit the ground and rocked back-and-forth in her blood. She turned away and made her weapon vanish, now sure of her victory.

The medical droid was sure too. It whizzed over and began emergency medical treatment right there.

"Winner of the fourth match…" Chris began with gruff disappointment. "Claire Anvil."

The pony-tailed girl began to leave the field, stopping before the audience to take a bow.

Victor was scowling. Ophelia looked furious, bug-eyed. Everyone else was shocked. Jane ended up smirking as Claire straightened up. It was tasteless, but still grimly amusing. And at least she had the decency to not kill the other girl when she had the chance.

Claire declined the can of coke Blake merrily presented her with.

"I don't have any injuries. I'd rather re-join the crowd and keep watching."

Of course, Jane thought. She's smart enough to know she should study the other competition while she has the chance.

Claire took her seat again and crossed her legs. "Your move." She muttered to Ophelia in quiet victory.

Copyright © 2020 Invnarcel; All Rights Reserved.
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