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Feb 03, 2023 8:21 AM
a Hailey goes to school in Erebonia
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She mouths "assumptions" at Greenie with an arched eyebrow, before turning back to the improbable hottie teacher to listen for more details. What isn't she saying? And if they're going orienteering — a normally outdoor exercise — why are they in this house?

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The instructor appears to be sneakily backing up towards a button on the back wall.

"Bu~ut, I don't want to spoil the fun, so let's get started, shall we?"

She hits the button. There is a deep, ominous clunk sound. And a second later, a massive slab of floor under all of their feet suddenly swings downward, dropping them onto a steep, polished stone ramp.

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Ooh! This is more her speed. She forms a small cushion of swirling air under each palm as she drops to the ramp, leaning back against her outstretched arms in a controlled slide, feet first.

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The rest of the class is caught off-guard and slips down in an undignified tumble, with the exception of the silver-haired girl, who pulls out a smuggled-in grappling hook and fires it at the ceiling. The rest leave her behind as she dangles, Instructor Sara's exasperated scolding lost as the rest of them fall out of hearing range.

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The black-haired bishonen is the least caught-off-guard after the petite silver-haired girl. He controls his fall, then spots the blonde girl in an uncontrolled tumble and leaps to catch her.

He reaches her, but their momentum carries them into Hailey, which knocks her off-course.

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The cute ginger is frantically trying to slow himself down, and is completely unprepared when Hailey collides with him.

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At the bottom, they're all left breathless for a long moment. Slowly, each of the members of Class Seven start to pick themselves up.

"Ugh... what just happened?"

"The floor... gave out from under us..."

"I can't believe I fell for such an obvious trap."

"Catacombs?"

"What does that woman think she's playing at..."

Four members of the class come to much the same realization at the same moment.

The blonde girl, it seems, has landed boobs-first right on the black-haired bishonen's face, and the boy freezes as he realizes his position. Likewise, Hailey has landed right on the cute ginger, such that his head is just about up her skirt, and he makes a squeaky "eep" sound as he realizes he's nose-to-panties.

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Blwuh? Nope, not thinking about enjoying this, get up. "Mmmright." Don't blush don't blush totally blushing.

Hailey pushes herself upward and off of cute-and-orange, dusts herself off, and extends a hand down to him. "Up you get."

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Meanwhile, a muffled, "Well... this is awkward?"

(The blonde girl stands up quickly but calmly. Too calmly. Her red face is a locked rictus of calm.)

He gets up as well, projecting solemnness. "Yeah, I'm really sorry about that. Still I'm just glad you're okay. That's what's really important here, ri-"

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The blonde girl slaps the bishonen boy hard enough to make his eyes swirly.

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The ginger startles at the sound of the slap, and looks back and forth between that scene and Hailey's outstretched hand a few times, before taking said hand tentatively.

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Hailey plants her feet and hauls, pulling Ginger to his feet, then shoots Blondie a look. "Mm, yes, slap the boy for having the nerve to break your fall. S'not like you landed on him or anything, right?"

Turning back to her own victim landing pad crashed classmate, blush still not quite faded from her cheeks, she says, "You all right, Ginger?"

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He laughs nervously, wincing at the blonde girl's sudden mortified glare. "I-I'm not hurt at all."

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The blonde girl looks... like she's struggling to keep up a front of anger, and turns away from both the black-haired boy and the ginger and Hailey, folding her arms and shrinking into herself.

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"That's good at least."

She turns back to the blonde girl and what? Guess that girl doesn't know what to do if her arrogant attitude isn't backed up. Did she expect Hailey to agree with slapping the hapless prettyboy?

Hailey arches an eyebrow and takes a look around to see what else is going on.

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Recovering from the slap, he doesn't know what to do. The short brunette has a point, a point she herself proved she believed in, but... he shoots the blonde girl a mournful look, even though she's now ignoring him. He still feels like he should apologize more.

The ginger gives Hailey a tentative smile before edging over to give him a few sympathetic words.

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Hailey steps back and watches the proceedings carefully, looking around the area where they've landed.

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The black-haired bishonen and the cute ginger have a brief, whispered conversation.

They're in a large, octagonal chamber, ringed by pedestals. On each sits a familiar piece of luggage: each of their weapon cases, including Hailey's. In front of each case is a small jewelry box.

And then, there is a chiming ring sound.

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"It's... coming from the devices we received at admissions..."

She pulls hers out: a flat metallic slate about the size of her hand, slanted at the corners. The outer face is red, with the school's logo on it. After a moment of fiddling, it flips open, hinged at one end, to reveal the familiar clockwork Arts mechanism as well as several widgets of unknown purpose.

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Everyone else follows suit.

"Seems they're some kind of... advanced personal orbment."

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Instructor Sara's voice suddenly sounds out from everyone's lids: "Right you are. These handy little devices are a special kind of battle orbment."

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"An orbment with built in communications functionality, then?" He sounds impressed.

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The blonde girl seems disturbed for some reason, though.

"W-Wait, don't tell me these are the new..."

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"...brand new, bespoke, fifth-generation ARCUS units," Instructor Sara's voice confirms, "made through a partnership between the Epstein Foundation and the Reinford Company. For those of you who've never used a battle orbment before, this means that all you have to do is set a quartz into one of its slots and you'll be able to use Arts. Which is why I've prepared a unique quartz for each and every one of you."

The lighting sconces on the walls suddenly brighten, shining down on the pedestals.

"Your weapons are all here too, each packaged neatly alongside a little box containing your special quartz. So find yours and try setting the quartz into your ARCUS."

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Hmm. Fancy new orbments, custom quartz, mixed-class group... This is going to be an interesting year.

Hailey steps over to the row of cases, quickly locating her own, and immediately pulls out her orbal batons. She checks them over carefully before slipping them into loops she'd added to the back of her jacket, relaxing fractionally as she does so. She's only had them a few weeks, but the cool metal of the rods already feels more comfortable than her old wooden sticks. Traveling up here with them stowed in the case felt naked. Still can't believe they gave her custom orbal weapons of her own. Not a chance she deserves it, ungrateful brat that she is.

She shakes her head to clear it, pausing to feel the reassuring presence of the batons at her back. Thus centered, she takes a look at her custom quartz, examining it carefully before slotting it into her ARCUS, then examines the features and controls.

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