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John S. Zeitler
That smiling face, the little ten year old girl standing in front of her... Ado almost puked. How sickening. She thinks this is just a game, just a diversion, a hobby to amuse herself... Little does she know.
Relm smiled uncontrollably. Her granddad had asked her to donate some of her work to the annual artist's convention, so she had. But that prissy Ado, with her big superiority complex, she had challenged Relm to a paint-off. The first to run out of ideas, lost. Relm fumed silently behind her smile. Just because she's eleven, that doesn't give her the right to boss me around...
"Yeah, the best artist," Ado added silently, "Yeah. Me, you little--"
The gun sounded. Both girls were caught up in a flurry of colors.
Ado was the first one done with her first painting. It was a crudely-drawn blue dragon-looking thing. She seemed very impressed by her work.
Relm paused for a second, and looked over her shoulder at Ado, who was just then signing her name to the bottom. "You call that art? I could do better than that with a box of crayons!"
Ado simply smiled. She was not signing her name... oh, no. She was adding the final touch of realism to her painting...
The Ice Dragon stepped cautiously from the canvas, at first disoriented. It looked tentatively at Ado, as if awaiting orders. Ado smiled wordlessly, and extended her left arm-- still clutching the paintbrush, which dripped black outline paint-- to point at Relm's back.
Several gasps emanated from the crowd, which altogether failed to catch Relm's attention. How did the light fall on Ultros' second tentacle...? Was it...
"Hrrraaaarghhhh!" The Ice Dragon gave a mighty roar, took a deep breath, and blew on Relm's paints with tornado force. The cans sat there silently, their contents frozen to the core.
Relm, at this point, was just about to re-cover her brush in black for her signature when the chilling sound was made. She slowly turned around to face the dragon-- and a laughing Ado. "My paintings are so real... They jump off the canvas at you! Hahahahahahahaha!!"
That was the last straw. Relm forgot all about her signature, instead opting to mutter ancient runes. Seconds later, Ultros's portrait popped from the canvas and began lashing out at the Ice Dragon.
Ado was left momentarily speechless. "How could that be...?" Behind the fray, she could barely make out Relm, hard at work thawing out her paints and beginning work on painting number two.
The battle raged on between the monsters, with Ultros coming out the victor. With a mighty "Eeeeeeeyaaaahhh!" he came towards Ado's painting supplies, scattering the closed cans of spare paint into the spectators' reach. Ado gave the final licks to her second picture-- a landscape with a setting sun and rising moon.
Blazing heat caught Relm's attention, and when she glanced back to see what Ado had conjured up this time, she saw Ultros being beaten by... a crescent moon? The blinding ball of light above the battered octopus seemed to have an evil smile on its face... What was going on here?
Thinking quickly, Relm opened up a new set of paints and pushed the old ones back behind her to thaw in the sun's heat. Hastily, she drew out a portrait of a knight in crystal armor and growled the appropriate words. Cecil sprang from the painting, and the ancient warrior drew his sword, rushing the moon.
Ado had finished her fourth real picture by now, while Relm had been struggling to get even one finished that couldn't be used in combat. This was almost too easy, Ado thought.
With a flick of her brush, Relm decided to turn the tables on Ado. A third invocation of the spell resulted in another creature-- this time, a robotic menace from the halls of Vector-- entering the battle. Ado barely gave it her attention, instead opting to bring forth another monster.
Cecil and the cyborg began hacking away at the goofy-looking tree, while the tree simply shook hard apples from its branches down onto the warriors. Ado smiled. She'll battle these things forever... until she runs out of ideas, that is!
Relm grimaced, knowing that theoretically, the two could go on like this forever. But she had an idea... one that would possibly stop Ado from bugging her for a while and give Relm a shot at actually completing a painting.
The tree, having dispatched Cecil and the robot monster, lifted its massive roots and began hauling itself towards Relm-- when suddenly Ado cried out "Stop!" and hurled herself between Relm and the lumbering lumber.
Ado turned around to face Ado. What the devil has that girl done now?
The second Ado-- the one facing the tree-- seemed... different from the other Ado. For example, her eyes seemed to be oozing down her face, her hair seemed stringy and frazzled, and her dress seemed even dumpier than normal. Relm was happily painting away, having already rattled off three portraits and four landscapes.
Ado was stunned. "How-- I mean, why-- but-- hey-- THAT'S NOT FAIR!!!" For added emphasis, she stamped her left foot.
"Yes it is," Relm sang. "There's no rule that says I can't paint my adversary!"
"THAT'S NOT FAIR!!!" The Relm-Ado mimicked Ado's pout to the exact tone. Even more frightening was the precise stamp of the left foot. She pulled out a palette and paintbrush from her dress pockets and began painting, copying the real Ado's every stroke with effortless accuracy.
What Ado was trying to do was make a painting of Relm. After three tries, and watching the Relm-Ado copy each painting, she succeeded in making a passable portrait of Relm. Ado added the small rune in the corner, and a decidedly ramshackle Relm appeared.
Ado cackled. "You'll regret ever coming to this art show, little girl! Say it! Say that I, Ado, am the QUEEN of ART! SAY IT!!!"
Relm looked back, aghast... at Ado's rendering of her dress. A cut that low? I'm not THAT much of a slob. Relm laughed.
Ado was slightly surprised. "What? WHAT'S SO FUNNY???!!!!!" Then she caught her mistake.
The Ado-Relm didn't have a paintbrush.
There wasn't time to do another sketch, because the Relm-Ado had mimicked the rune activating the copy of the Ado-Relm sketch. The second Ado-Relm advanced menacingly at Ado.
Relm kept painting happily, while Ado spent the next four hours and three hundred paintings fending off the second Ado-Relm. The Relm-Ado was copying Ado's paintings and sending them off the canvas at Ado, and...
It all got rather muddled at that point.
In the end, Ado sat exhausted beneath her easel and sighed quietly, "I'm done. I can't think of anything else."
Relm slapped a few more trees onto her last painting-- a landscape of a forest on a mountain-- and turned around to face the graveyard of monster corpses, most of which were melting away into paint. The Relm-Ado oozed to the floor in a puddle of paint. The floor was covered in a color that was somewhere between putrid and decaying; in other words, a color called 'ugly'. Relm smiled.
"What are YOU smiling about, priss?" Ado snapped. "You won. Go ahead. Laugh in my face, huh?"
"No. Good job," Relm said, extending an arm to the floor, in a display of good sportsmanship. "I couldn't have done that good against myself."
Ado was taken aback. "You mean...?"
"No hard feelings, girl!" Relm pulled Ado up. "Maybe we could do this again next year!"
Ado laughed softly-- not her maniacal cackle from the past, but a quiet, silvery sound resonating throughout the museum hall. "Yeah. Next year."
The two hugged.
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