Chapter 134

                Alice was pretty certain they’d have turned the lights on or otherwise found a way to let her know if she was the last student standing (or floating in her case) but as the minutes wore on without seeing so much as a single other soul, she began to wonder. There were no more loud booms, no more shuffling footsteps, not even so much as the sound of someone panting from around a corner. If there were any opponents left, then they were in short supply.

                A bright spot of light drew her attention as she rounded a corner. Moving carefully closer, prepared for another trap, Alice realized that the light was coming from a teacher-combat room.  For a moment, she thought the door had been left open, then she noticed the debris and rough outline of the opening. Someone had busted a hole in one of these damn rooms, which was no small feat given how tough HCP building materials tended to be.

                “Looks like I missed a hell of a match.” Alice’s voice was soft, even as alone as she seemed it was dangerous to assume she was by herself. Which made it all the more surprising when someone replied.

                “Vince did that. He’s made great strides in a lot of areas, but he downplayed just how hard he’d been training to quickly bring out large amounts of energy. Just when I think none of you can get any scarier, you prove me wrong.”

                Mary stepped into view from a nearby hallway, smiling placidly as she looked up at the floating form of her best friend. Alice’s muttering was too soft to be heard at all this time, although the tail ends of a few choice curse words could be made out if one paid close attention.

                “Of all people, I had to end up against you,” Alice said, audible at last. “Let me guess, I’m in a field of mental force, which is slowly tightening around me.” Sticking out her unbroken arm, Alice seemed like a mime as she swatted about trying to grope for an obstacle.

                “I’m not here to fight you, Alice. I knew you were lost, so I came to give directions. Vince and Camille are the only other students remaining, and both are not too far away. If you hurry, I think you’ll be able to catch either one.”

                Slowly, Alice lowered her hand after failing to find any telekinetic cages. “Hang on, so you blew your chance to surprise attack me, and now you’re saying you didn’t come for a fight at all? Just to tell me where the next opponents were?”

                “It seemed more prudent than letting you stumble around in the dark until you happened upon them,” Mary said.

                “Uh huh. And what about you?”

                “I got a few points from helping defeat Professor Cole. With Chad eliminated, I think I’ll have to step into his shoes as the final grand obstacle. The boss battle, as Hershel would put it.” Mary turned, starting to head back down the hall where she’d come from. Two steps in, and suddenly her entire body felt heavier. “Is there a problem?”

                “You’re damn right there’s a problem.” Alice floated slightly lower; she didn’t want to have this discussion any louder than was strictly necessary. “Saving yourself as the final boss? That’s bullshit. Maybe you could fool someone who doesn’t know you well, but we’re both aware you lack the ego to ever see yourself that way. I know what you’re doing, Mary.”

                “Oh do you?” Mary glanced over her shoulder, meeting Alice’s gaze. Alice was perfectly aware of what was happening: Mary was searching her mind, and Alice made no attempts to stop her. Seconds later, Mary’s amber eyes widened slightly, catching the light streaming out of the nearby room. “Oh… you actually do know.”

                “I’ve had some suspicions for a while, this just confirmed it. Were you going to even tell us?”

                “Of course… eventually. After I met with the dean next month.”

                “When this is all over, you and I are going to have a long talk,” Alice warned her. “But for now, we’ve got a trial to finish.”

                Mary turned back toward the hallway. “Right, I’ll point you toward Vince and Camille.”

                “The hell you will.” Alice amplified the gravity a bit more; making sure Mary couldn’t miss the message. “I’ve got an opponent right in front of me, and I’m not letting her go that easily.”

                Slowly, Mary swiveled back around to face Alice, and when she did there was no trace of the calm grin she’d been wearing. In its place was an expression of seriousness and determination. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

                “In case the gravity didn’t tip you off, I’m already doing it. This fight has started, Mary. And we’re seeing it through to the end.”

*              *              *

                He couldn’t see the person approaching, but he could hear them. Soft movements that betrayed little, yet with a careful ear one could make out the sounds. Vince waited, tracking the movements. While he wasn’t particularly fond of surprise attacks, there was no denying their usefulness in battle. And this was a mock-battle. Still, he kept the voltage in his right hand low. There weren’t that many physically resistant opponents in the class, and he’d taken out Roy already. Striking without warning was bad enough; he couldn’t use excessive force without good cause.

                 The sound of footsteps came from around the corner, and Vince leapt forward, unleashing his attack as soon as he caught sight of a human-shaped silhouette. The bright bolt surged through the air, momentarily lighting up the hallway and providing him an excellent view of Camille as she rolled to the side like she’d been expecting the attack. When she came up, the two of them locked eyes and realized for the first time who they were facing.

                “Vince? You look like hell.”

                “Fought Roy and Professor Cole,” Vince replied. “You look totally fine.”

                “Absorbed my own damage.” The light from the blast was fading, yet Vince could still make out Camille’s movements as she shifted her position slightly.

                “How did you know I was going to attack?” Vince asked.

                “Your breathing is louder than you think. Tends to happen when people are dealing with the pain of broken bones.” She took a step to the side, moving away from the wall, giving herself room to dodge. “Anyone else left?”

                Vince started to nod, then realized the motion would be too subtle to make out in the darkness. “Mary, last I saw her.”

                “I think Alice is still around too. Probably Chad as well, he always makes it to the end of these things. Lots of strong opponents.”

                “Being the last one standing will be quite the difficult task,” Vince said. “Think either of us will have a shot?”

                “Depends on how we look after this fight. Are you ready?” Even without seeing the details of her form, Vince could tell she was in position, ready to pounce in a heartbeat. There was no question of whether or not they would face one another; it had been a given from the moment their eyes met. This was going to be a dangerous fight. Fragile as Camille’s body was, a single touch from her was enough to claim victory.

                “I’m ready.” Vince had no sooner spoken the word than she rushed forward. He turned to his side, narrowly avoiding the first charge as he summoned more electricity to his hand. She ducked the blast nimbly as it went high, scrambling to land a blow as Vince rapidly backpedaled. Easy as it was to underestimate Camille, he knew better.

                This was a fight of precision. The first one to make a mistake would be the loser.