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The sky was crystal clear, the stereotypical sun beaming down onto the city. Even for mid-autumn, the sun was pouring down it’s warmth.
“Hello again, residents of Earth-22! The time is 8:45 AM, and the temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit, which will drop to a shocking temperature of 40 tonight. Don’t forget to get to your assigned job position for the day!”
The digital billboards continued to loop this video every 5 minutes, with the time changing each time, obviously. Whoever the woman was in that video, she clearly wasn’t being paid enough.
The bustling crowds of monotonous, matching suits brushed against each other, frantically trying to board the next train ride to their job. Kids were already outside of their schools, frolicking in the sunlight, for school did not start till precisely 9 AM.
Ah, yes, the streets were free of trash and ruffians, for there was no acceptance for such menial things. In fact, if you were seen skipping school, in the very least, you’d serve a day in solitary school — which, trust me, you do not want to be in. Such simple crimes for a large punishment? No one is even near willing to risk it.
Riri kept her eyes glued to the ground as her muddy, scuffed-up boots crunched upon the gray gravel that lined the outlandish sidewalks beneath the train system. She kept her hands locked upon her backpack straps, her hood drawn over her hair, obscuring the mess that it was. The only time she would release the straps would be to feel for her phone for the eightieth time in the day. It was the only thing with her fighting schedule on it, after all. And fighting happened to be particularly important to her.
With a subtle sigh, Riri tromped through the stones, wet from last night's rain, and trudged to a loosened sewer lid. Feeling for her phone in her front pocket one last time, she looked both ways before she lifted the metal cover and quickly slid under.
The light, of course, from the overworld, immediately slipped away. The darkness was consuming at first, but the crack! heard from where Riri presumably was signaled that she was still there — and had a neon blue glowstick. In that small portion of time, she had scaled down a large ladder and readjusted her backpack, landing on a concrete walkway, the dirty water flowing by below.
Riri hastily walked along the rectangular block of stone, avoiding the gushing, dark sewer water as best as she could. The only time she paused was to step up to a wall and push in a brick. The brick caused the other matching building materials to slide away and form a passage. A secret passage, to be exact.
Brandishing her fluorescent tube of liquid in hand, Riri walked through the passageway, watching the light at the end of the tunnel grow brighter and brighter, her grin slowly growing wider and wider. Who wouldn’t be happy? Compared to Earth-22, Beat seemed like Utopia.
The neon city greeted her with beaming hot pinks and cyans, the extreme lighting shooting color upon Riri's face. The gravel from before was nonexistent, this time, the ground being replaced with smooth, black pavement, with spray paint of multiple colors blasted across the streets. The sleek, silver buildings reached the seemingly endless roof — this world WAS magic, after all.
Houses were scattered among roads, fitted where the owners pleased, and community centers were placed everywhere. And, of course, dollar stores and grocery stores lined a good amount of boulevards. Children could be seen here and there (the homeschooled ones, of course), and parents seemed happier as they left to their jobs. No hurried rush. No concerned looks. Just...serenity.
The pride and joy of the underground civilization could be seen from the entrance. Pulsing with music, flashing and flaring multiple colors of lights. The explosions could be heard from there.
The name of this legendary place?
Riri grinned as she broke into a jog, letting down her hoodie and smoothing her knotted, cyan hair (to no avail). Soon enough, a set of footsteps matched her own pace.
"Heya, Riri," a girl said from next to her. The girl's brown locks bounced as she ran, her glasses obscured by her boxy glasses. Her black cat ears flicked with attention to each explosion and loud noise, her cat tail waving as she ran. "Excited for today's round? I've heard you're in a Rhythm Flow with MJ. Electro Swing round?"
Riri grinned, finally letting go over her bookbag straps as she started to put more effort into her running. "You bet I am, Toffee. I'm hyped for the fights today, too. Hey, aren’t I up against you today as well?"
Toffee nodded. "Prepare to lose, silly."
"I don’t think that's gonna happen."
"Well, if they're playing Grape Soda for our round, you're absolutely dead."
"Pfft, as if."
"We'll see, silly."
Riri wore a happy smile as she started to slow down. They had started to approach the entrance to the stadium already. "Hey, do you know if Sarae is up at the front today?"
Toffee shrugged, slowing down and brushing off her tulle skirt and straightening her pink sweatshirt. "Who knows, she is kinda an enigma."
Riri nodded as the duo approached the front. A young woman was asleep in the front, the booth where people counted their attendance so they were registered for the battle. The woman had dirty blonde, on the verge of brown hair, and the color of her eyes couldn’t be seen with them being shut tightly (she was dozing, what can I say.)
Toffee tapped the window, her eyebrows knitting together. "Sarae? Saaarraaaeee!"
Sarae jolted awake, her eyes shining. "Wha-? Oh, fighters! Right. Let's get you all registered up...hey, you two are Toffee and Riri."
Sarae tapped the computer behind her to life, flicking across numerous buttons, and printing out two wristbands: one a pastel pink and the other a bright turquoise. "Have fun, kiddos."
Riri grinned as she yanked Toffee in the front door and whipped out her phone. "Ooh, it's the Electro Swing segment first, which is me and Mockingjay. After that, it's you against Bixy in the Pop segment. Then it's Future Bass, which is me and you. There are a few more before that..."
Toffee grinned. "I'm gonna beat Bixy."
Riri shook her head. "Dude, you've seen Bixy fight. She's intense."
"I'm intense too!"
"Intense as a chipmunk on caffeine."
"Hey, I’m a little offended..."
"Dude, that's intense squared. That was a compliment."
"Oh. Okay then!"
Riri laughed and shook her head as she walked over to the prep room. "I'll see you soon, mmkay?"
Toffee nodded as she headed in the opposite direction. "I'll cheer you on!"
Riri death-glared Toffee. "You better. By the way...whoever loses the Future Bass segment is paying for boba later."
Toffee's eyes seemed to gleam. "...you're on."
The crowd was already pulsing with excitement, cheers rabid. Mockingjay sighed as she sat behind the scenes, rolling up her hoodie's sleeves. A Rhythm Flow round...how lucky.
Her breathing was steady as she fiddled with the water bottle in her hands. She already knew the song she was fighting to, she knew it by heart. Mighty by Caravan Palace, a catchy song in fact.
MJ tapped her Vans sneakers to steady herself with the beat. One-hundred twenty four beats per minute, to be absolutely precise. After all, precision was key in this situation.
Precision could win her a thousand dollars.
There was no nervous lump in MJ's throat. None at all. She wasn't nervous, she never was. Focusing on training was a large portion of her life. And making friends...that's a little harder.
The claps of the crowd outside slowly grew louder, matching up to MJ's foot-tapping.
MJ dusted off her pants as a method of collecting herself, placing her cool, calm expression upon her face once again. Unsheathing her katana, MJ walked out of her preparation room and onto the lower part of the stadium.
The massive stage could already be seen, the bulletproof glass shining brightly. The patterns for the rhythm game were completely randomized. There was no mastering technique to it. Fate and good tempo were your only friends in this competition.
MJ launched herself onto the platform, where Riri stood, her scythe expanded and readied. Riri had a innocent grin on, almost creepily innocent. Her sweatshirt had been ditched back in the preparation room, her faintly muscular arms wrapped in tape.
The stadium announcer's voice was loud and bold. "Goooooood evening, ladies and gentlemen, races of all kinds! My name is...well, my name isn't important. Welcome to the first event of the day, the Electro Swing battle!
"Introducing our first and returning competitor, Mockingjay, or MJ for short! The queen of cold kills, her unofficial title. Why, her gaze gives me shivers!"
"And our second and also returning competitor, Riri! The Rhythm Flow Maniac! How on earth does she hit the notes that fast?"
"Now folks, the rules are simple. First one to miss twenty notes and have their health bar disappear loses! Riri, you're turquoise and MJ, you're orange. Ready?"
Riri shrugged with her silly grin, sliding her scythe into a comfortable fighting position. "Ready as I'll ever be."
MJ swung her katana down into a readied stance, spacing her feet. "Ready."
The voice chirped back up as the music faded in. "3, 2, 1, begin!"
The notes started to light up on the floor, in a simple pattern. 1, 2, 3, 4. 1, 2, 3, 4. The clapping from the actual music was enhanced by the crowd, clapping along in time.
"Get into what they call a jumping mood, you know what I mean by a jumping mood? Well, we just can't miss," the lyrics practically shouted. The crowd was so loud, the music had to be amplified.
Riri started to swing her scythe back and forth, in a flashy manner. MJ just held hers tight, hopping from note to note.
The notes suddenly made a drastic change, lurching forwards. MJ, immediately sensing the advantage, lurched forwards and aimed for a hit. Unfortunately, Riri dodged in time, but it caused her to lose a note. The song was slowly growing more complex.
Riri lunged at MJ with her scythe, swinging it in a broad stroke while tapping her feet on each and every note. With one hand, she lowered herself onto the ground and completely swung the scythe under her feet, knocking MJ off of her balance. MJ missed a note, her health now matching Riri's.
"Oh, and they've already begun to lose health! Better watch out, girls!" The announcer cried, already bubbling with excitement.
MJ gritted her teeth, continuing to tap to the beat and lunge jabs at Riri. Each Riri dodged, but her shirt had a few noticeable holes. "Nice coffee grinder you pulled there. You a barista or something?” MJ asked, sarcasm lacing her voice.
Riri rose her eyebrows with amusement as she swung the scythe again, missing. "Nah."
MJ jabbed the katana at Riri, causing her to fall on her feet. Riri lost three notes, but quickly got back up and continued to tap.
The exchange went on for a while, each girl occasionally throwing in a witty comment. The two continued to throw relentless blows at each other, the success of the hits surprisingly high.
The last 30 seconds of the song had quickly approached. Riri's health was painfully low and MJ's was moderate. Riri pulled her scythe in a broad swing again, the sweat visible on her face as she knocked down MJ. Riri looked happy, energetic.
MJ retained her cold glare, jabbing at Riri and knocking her down repeatedly. Riri only lost more and more health, but the two happened to even up with their health bar.
With a determined face, Riri gripped firmly onto the scythe, yanked it up, and threw the blade straight for MJ. It knocked the determined fighter onto the ground, but the force of the swing knocked her onto the ground at the same time.
The song ended.
"It's...it's a tie?!" The announcer exclaimed in pure shock. "Wow, haven't seen one of these in a while! Well, you two girls each get two fifty, howabout that?"
Riri shrugged, getting back onto her feet, extending her calloused hand for a handshake. "Money is money. Hey, good game!"
MJ knotted her brows together. "...you too. The money is fine."
Riri showed no conflict upon shaking MJ's hand. "Hope to battle you soon."
With a large exhale, Riri departed from the stage, where Toffee promptly tackled her.
"You were great!!" Toffee exclaimed with a wide grin. "Omg, you were just...fantastic! I loved it!"
Riri laughed. "I tied. Haven't done that in a while."
MJ was greeted by no one as she entered the prep room and promptly exited. A tie, huh...
Toffee beamed. "I'm up against Bixy next, wish me luck!"
Forumers mentioned in order: Riri, Mockingjay, Toffee, Bixbite
Forumers who will hopefully be part of Chapter 2: Nyx, Ishmael, Summer, Confidence
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my heart has broken
into a thousand shards of red beryl
and there is no glue to repair it