Energia

Chapter 13: Friends and Fights (Energia: Titans of Verità)

Energia: Titans of Verità
Table of Contents (For Catching Up)

It wasn’t a fight. If it were a fight, Anna would be able to tell what was happening. She’d be able to watch and learn from it. She wasn’t allowed that luxury. I’d be a miracle if she got anything except for a ruined head of hair.

What she was watching wasn’t a fight. It was a tornado.

The two fighters went back and forth, exchanging blows with impossible speed. They spun around each other in a silver blur. The force of each impact sent powerful blasts of air in all directions, whipping at her face and sending her hair into a crimson flurry. Each lash stung her eyes like a thousand needles. But she forced them to stay open.

Every few seconds, she’d catch a brief glance at the two fighters. But they were never anything more than a flash. Eitan would land a blow, then his opponent, then they’d be consumed by the tornado again. Just when it seemed one side was gaining ground, the other turned it around. The back-and-forth never seemed to be without end.

Anna bit her lower lip. This was going to get her nowhere! She couldn’t even tell if either fighter was especially skilled! It was as worthwhile a spectacle as a fireworks show! This was a waste of her time. She found her leg bouncing, which sent the E-Suit’s hydraulics into a loud frenzy. Would one of them just lose already?!

As if to answer her wish, the storm came to a sudden stop. Both men had their fists in the other’s face, hitting them with enough force to send their helmets flying away. Both men were frozen in place as if time had stopped for them. A long, silent moment passed. Then, with a sound like a pan falling off the counter, Eitan’s opponent toppled over. The dark-skinned man coiled back, stumbling to keep his footing. He clutched his cheek, which was already swelling.

One of the judges, the tall Operative in yellow armor, leaped down from the stands and dashed over to him in the literal blink of an eye. He leaned down and checked his pulse with an ungloved hand. When he stood, he raised it into the air. “Applicant Olivier Allard is unable to continue.” He announced with a thick Japanese accent that caked his flawless English. “The winner is Applicant Eitan Avidan!”

The applause was short and quiet. Eitan wiped the sweat from his brow, heaving a sigh of relief as he painfully rubbed his bruises. He walked back to the stands, grabbing his helmet along the way. Then, seemingly without thinking about it, he took a seat beside Anna and went to check on the various straps and locks of the E-Suit’s skeleton.

She cringed. Given how he looked at them, it was clear that he had no clue what he was doing. Anna forced herself to ignore him. The next match was beginning.

This time, it was Tommy that stepped down to the arena, along with a short, plump man with a square, black beard. He passed Anna on his way down, mumbling to himself in German. Silence fell over the crowd again as they took their positions. The bearded man widened his frame, pushing his arms out as wide as possible. Tommy smiled, entering a simple defensive boxing stance. As if to mock his opponent, or maybe to mock her, he shot Anna a glance and winked.

Please lose. Anna found herself thinking. Or at least stop. I don’t care which anymore.

When they were both still and ready, the judge leaped back up to the stands, then shouted: “BEGIN!” Tommy’s opponent charged him like a bear going for a hug, moving surprisingly slowly for someone in an E-Suit. Tommy remained in position, waiting patiently for his opponent. Then, as the bearded bear went to wrap his arms around him, Tommy lunged to the side in a blur. He became a silver blur, then spun around his foe like a tornado.

The man spun in place, trying to get eyes back on the American. Anna sighed. This fight was already over. If his opponent was already making such an amateur mistake, then Tommy already had it in the bag. Worse yet: she wouldn’t be able to glean anything from it thanks to how fast he was moving. Another total waste of time…

A loud thunk from behind drew her attention. Eitan had accidentally undone the locks securing his shoulder plate in place, dropping it into his lap. Now, he was staring down at the metal like it had fallen from the sky.

Without thinking, Anna’s feet began to move. “You’re doing it wrong,” she scolded, snatching the plate from him. Her arm moved so quickly that she almost didn’t see it moving. The rush nearly took her breath away.

Eitan looked up at her in surprised confusion. He didn’t seem to recognize her for a moment. “I’m sorry?” he said slowly.

Anna grabbed him by the shoulder, put the plate back into place, and moved the locks into place. “First of all, the locks were already perfectly secured. You didn’t need to worry about it. But since you did, let me explain.” she pushed the locks into place with a gentle click. “You push a lock into place, not pull.”

She shook the plate, making sure it was properly secure and took a seat beside him. He rolled his shoulder and it moved with a gentle, smooth hum. His face became red, though Anna couldn’t tell if he were blushing or if his cheek was swelling from her angle. “T-thanks.” he stammered, holding his hand back to his cheek.

A massive blast of air from down below drew their attention back to the fight. Tommy’s opponent had apparently dizzied himself by spinning around like an idiot, leaving himself wide open. The American had taken this opportunity by kicking his chest, punching him in the side of the head, and finishing it off by sweeping his legs out from beneath him. The German fell onto his back with enough force to nearly knock Tommy off of his own legs. After struggling to get back up, like a turtle on its shell, he went still. The judges went down to help the man back to his feet, declaring Tommy the winner.

Another short round of applause filled the room as Tommy moved back to the stands. The judge pulled the man back onto his feet with a single stroke, then escorted him out of the room. Steam still wafted gently upwards from the skid marks left behind by the battle.

Tommy made for the upper seats, but he paused when he saw Anna and Eitan. He smiled and made his way towards them. “What did you think?” he asked, meeting Anna’s eyes. “Pretty impressive, right?”

Anna shrugged. “How should I know? It’s not like I could actually see anything!”

The American laughed. “That’s fair, I suppose.” he sat down beside her, putting his shoulder so close to hers that they were practically touching. She shot him a murderous glance. He smiled awkwardly, then slowly stood up and sat down beside Eitan. “I don’t think we’ve been introduced! I’m-”

He was cut off by the Operative in blue from the other end of the room. “Applicants Alexander Frolov and Simon Smith, please step into the ring!”

Everyone in the room immediately went quiet. All eyes immediately went to Alex, who still sat casually on the far end of Anna. He still hadn’t taken his eyes off of her. Maintaining his gaze, he stood up, slowly walked to the guard rail, and cleared it with an effortless leap.

His opponent, a tall and thin man with flowing black hair, stood from his seat at the top row. A long, thin blade with a dull tip bounced against his thigh as he confidently strolled down the path. He jumped the barrier just as easily as the others, then took his place across from Alex.

Anna leaned forward in her seat, resting her chin in her hands. This was it. The match that would decide her opponent in the next round. She already had a sense of who it would be. But she was eager to find out who would come out on top.

“There’s no point in leaning in like that.” she could hear Eitan say. He sounded strangely bored. “You said it yourself! You won’t be able to see anything!”

“He’s right,” Tommy added. “If we couldn’t see anything in the fight, you won’t be able to catch anything watching it.”

She knew they were right. But she couldn’t tear herself away. “I want to see what they can do.” It was a pathetic excuse, but it was all she could think of. “You two should watch. You might notice something, now that you’ve-”

Tommy laughed. “Nah! I want to keep that as a surprise! Besides…” he shot Tommy a cocky grin. “I need to get past this guy first!”

Eitan met his gaze and shrugged. “I look forward to it.”

“At least try  to sound excited about it…”

Down in the ring, the swordsman flashed his blade a few times, slicing through the space in front of him in a flashy display. Alex stood still, crossing his arms across his chest. When the fencer’s display ended, the stoic Russian let out a long, deep yawn. The fencer’s face twisted in rage.

As soon as the judge yelled “BEGIN!”, the fencer charged. He pulled his blade back, getting ready to thrust it with the force of a cannon. All Alex did was raise a single fist. The gap between them closed in a millisecond.

The fight ended just as quickly. With one hand, Alex grabbed the oncoming blade, snapping it between his armored fingers. Then, as soon as his opponent’s momentum came to a stop, he quickly struck his chest with a flat palm. The blow rang out like a bell, hammering the ears of every member of the crowd.

Both fighters went still. Anna leaned in further, nearly falling off of her seat in the process. Both Tommy and Eitan, despite their earlier indifference, joined her with wide eyes and gaping jaws. Then, as if he had left and returned to his body, the fencer suddenly snapped backward. With a loud gasp, he fell with a clang onto his back. Then, his spirit left his body behind once again as he went motionless.

Alex didn’t wait for the judges. He casually strolled back to the stands while they confirmed what everyone already knew. “The winner is Applicant Alexander Frolov!” they announced. “Applicants Anna Ironchase and Anaïs Corentin, prepare for your match!”

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