The girls’ tourney started without a hitch. To Yoh, it was just as boring as watching the pathetic boys. To Tom it was more so; he didn’t need to analyze the combatants.
“Hey Tom, do you think we were the only ones trying, or is everyone really that bad?” Yoh said nonchalantly.
“If the latter is true, then both of our countries are doomed,” Tom answered coolly.
He tried to scan the audience for Sally, but with no avail. On the other hand, she didn’t get to congratulate (and/or embarrass) Tom yet.
She looked into the sunset over the horizon. The brilliant reds were just now starting to mingle with the oranges and yellows. She began to hurt her eyes and looked away. Even today, I lose myself, she thought. Flustered, she looked if anyone around her noticed her childish folly.
A yellow-haired kid seemed to stare at her from beyond the bleachers; his hair gently tussled by the wind. He smiled at her and before she could react he ran off. Sally was a little concerned and so she followed. She saw him sitting by an older guardian, maybe his older sister.
Wait a second, she’s not a student here; I’ve never seen her before.
Sally’s train of thought was ended abruptly when she was called up.
Yoh returned to his seat with a drink and passed one Tom. “Hey, that one looks a little like you,” he said as he clumsily spilled a little on the ground.
“Don’t joke. I look nothing like my sister.”
“Hah, I made you slip. But it’s true, same unrestful eyes, cresting hair.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“Plus, she has your last name. I think you forgot about that.”
Sally drew her sword and tried holding it in her offhand. She gripped it in an inverse manner, so that the point was behind her.
Nah, this is stupid, only Tom would try it like this.
So she flicked her arms and held it naturally.
Just as she had predicted, similarly to both Tom and Yoh, she had won just as easily as she held her custom-made sword. Over and over again, she won over her opponents as the night grew darker. Sally simply hated the fatigue she got from the days’ routine, and the tourney was just as tedious. She noticed a slight fault in her blade, but she dismissed it as just a scratch. None of the other girls even proved to be a threat.
Her muscles ached as she was called up for the quarterfinals, which she had so easily reached. Her opponent this time was another swordswoman who smiled questionably at the crowd. It seemed that she was a regular at these tournaments. She put a finger to her mouth and hunched slightly; at this motion the crowd grew wild.
So she’s a crowd favorite, Sally thought to herself.
Yoh pestered Tom until he turned to face him. "Hey watch that girl. The one that's about to go against your sis. I bet you’ve never seen magic before. But she’s only alright. She might be a crowd pleaser, but she usually places second in our internal tournaments. The way I see things going, she’s only going to place third, like you. Wait, no, that’s not what I meant; she’s the third best here. Believe me Tom, you were the second strongest here. It’s just that the bracket system threw you off,” Yoh ended when he realized he should stop talking.
Slightly offended, Tom watched when the other girl took the stage. On the screen, her name read Katy Reed. Blatantly, she waved her hand towards the bleachers as Sally crept up on the stage.
As soon as the match started, Sally lunged, trying to emulate Tom’s quick draw. She lost her footing and it was reflected. I guess Tom is truly more nimble than he acts, she thought to herself. As a fencer, Sally was a solid competitor to Katy, but even at a disadvantage, she smiled on. Sally even landed a solid contact point, but it wasn’t enough for the judges to accept her win.
Finally, very much like how Sally expected it to happen, Katy backed off and waggled her finger. Sally knew exactly what happened. She had been so prideful to walk up, and even in seeming defeat, she still had that egoistic smile. It was only obvious that she had a trump card, and an unfair one at that, judging by the crowd.
Sally had to be on edge, but at the moment, retaining her dignity was the goal here. If she lost to a trick, and especially to a girl like that, she’d just embarrass herself in front of the whole audience. She wondered how many poor girls had also been humiliated like that.
And then Katy began to narrow her eyes. Her image began to resonate. First it shook slowly and then it created noticeable tremors on the floor. Sally whispered to herself,” I know I lost sleep, but not that much,” and then giggled at her own joke.
She felt daggers on her back. She shouldn’t have giggled. Now she really needed to win, or otherwise she’d be the joke. In actuality, she had no idea of what is going on.
Katy quite literally split into two bodies. They were uncannily identical to the original image. Even the individual strands of her long wind-ruffled hair moved independently but similarly. The two pointed their swords at her. Even with this trump card, she wanted to milk it as much as possible.
Sally was hesitant to attack. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. To see what would happen, she struck one of the Katies. She retreated in confusion as she learned that both of them were fully tangible.
She could hear someone in the audience, “She’s got her now. That’s our Katie.”
She stayed indifferent; she had too if she wanted to win. She thought to herself, my main goal is to figure out these illusions. Katy teased her, having either image attack independently. Sally noticed a slight lucent characteristic to her sword.
Without taking more than a few painful scratches, she learned everything she needed to know. Each illusion is independent and tangible, but Sally had reason to believe they were vulnerable. How she managed to pull of such a feat of magic was beyond her. Additionally, if Katy had to resort to some underhanded she’s most likely poor combatant.
The beginning of Sally’s counterattack was met with luck. Perhaps controlling more than image was difficult, because the Katies kept on making absent-minded mistakes. That luck was promptly interrupted when a Katy split again, for a total of three.
Sally was still in full momentum, with her swordplay slowly tiring out her adversary. She wanted so much to tell Stein and Tom how she could handle three as easily as two. She imagined that she was simply fighting Tom, and that the illusions were just a trick he had learned. Without holding back, without any timidity, she ran one illusion through. Although it was not the same sensation, the next one fell just as easily.
Katy herself was finally subdued. Looking very exhausted, almost to the point of fainting, she sat down on the arena’s floor and everything suddenly became quite.
“Even I lose sometimes. Let’s go at it again sometime. What was your name anyway?” she spoke as Sally helped her up.
“Sally Blanc. I hope we meet again.”
“Seeing how it is, that’ll be some time. Anyway, you better beat our champion, or otherwise my image as number two will be gone.”
“Will do,” Sally answered as they both sat back down in the audience.
Sally was rather shocked, not so much at her victory but by her opponent’s pompous attitude. But as soon as she lost, that vanished. Yet at the same time, her pride hadn’t completely faltered, as her now uneasy smile had yet to hide itself. It would have been easier for Katy to antagonize Sally, but her temperament was anything but sour. To be fair, Tom had made a friend too, Sally thought.