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Feb 03, 2023 8:40 AM
a Hailey goes to school in Erebonia
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"It's not like I go around hitting people! This has never happened before!"

Alisa whines. "I don't know what to do. I know I can't keep blaming this on him being a perv forever, but..."

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She tilts her head thoughtfully. "Honestly, if you told him what you told me, he'd probably be thrilled just to know you don't hate him. Gives me a real vibe of too forgiving for his own good."

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Alisa's usual filter is already pretty eroded, so she blurts out her response without thinking.

"Forgiving? I can't apologize! He'll think I'm a slut!"

It occurs to her, briefly, to wonder if that actually makes sense, but she doesn't pursue the question in the moment.

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This earns Alisa a flat look and a raised eyebrow. "I'm fairly sure — despite how nice your tits are and how pretty the prettyboy is — that there was no intent involved on either side. Setting aside problems with the word, at least some intent is required to meet the definition of 'slut'."

Hailey may have strong feelings about that word.

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Alisa huffs, blushing.

"You know that's not what I meant. If I tell him that, he'll think I'm changing my mind about not wanting him to touch me. I don't want him thinking that I might want him to touch me! Especially if it's true."

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Oh really. Hailey smirks.

"There's a middle route that will leave your precious denial intact. Here, I'll show you."

She turns a bit to face Imaginary Prettyboy, crosses her arms and gives a mix of a pout and a scowl, and in a passable impression of Alisa says, "Hey, look. I realized that landing was probably an accident, and you probably didn't mean to violate my boundaries like that, so my slapping you was probably an overreaction. Sorry about that."

She turns back to the blonde girl, smirking again, hand on her hip. "Well?"

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"It does seem uncharitable to assume our classmate is the kind of boy who'd lose respect for you if you were any less than maximally hostile toward the idea of physical intimacy with him," Emma agrees with helpful innocence.

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At Emma's agreement with Hailey, Alisa looks somewhat hopefully at Laura, but the regal swordswoman offers no aid either.

Alisa lets out a defeated whimper. "Fiiiiiine. I guess you're right. I need to... to apologize to him. I'm, I'm not going to do it today, though! I'll just, I'll find the right time."

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A slightly less unimpressed look, this time. "Show of hands, girls. Who thinks Alisa will manage to overcome her social anxiety and propriety enough to remember to apologize anytime soon if she procrastinates?"

Hailey pointedly does not raise her hand.

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"W-Well," Emma hedges. "I think it was, um, admirable of Alisa to admit fault. There's no need to push her further right now, Hailey..."

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Hailey gives an exaggerated huff and rolls her eyes, but smiles a little. "Yeah, it was pretty good that you've come this far. Fine, fine. You can take your time. Just don't let it slip altogether."

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Alisa huffs.

"And don't you go getting a big head."

Alisa takes a deep breath to calm herself, and looks around.

"So... which way do you think we should go?"

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"This place quite resembles a maze, does it not?"

Laura turns leftward.

"It is said that to navigate a maze, place your off-hand on the wall, and follow that wall wherever it leads. Unless a superior strategy presents itself, perhaps we should obey that bit of wisdom."

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She chuckles ruefully at Alisa. "Oh, I've got lots of practice getting my ego deflated, even arguably beyond healthy levels, trust me."

To Laura, she just nods and grins. "It's a classic for a reason, right?"

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Emma clasps her hands around her staff as she glances at Hailey in concern, but for now she keeps her peace.

She nods and follows Laura down the left passageway.

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The corridors are peaceful and quiet...

...until quite suddenly they're not. A trio of uncanny feline heads peak around a corner and hiss loudly at the quartet of girls.

Three cat-like creatures with bat wings swoop into the air and rush at the party, claws out.

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Laura's massive sword swings nimbly into place, and monstrous cat-bat claws spang off the steel in a shower of sparks.

Laura jumps back, taking up a guard position in front of the other three girls as the cat-bats circle around.

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Cat-bats? Cutely horrible monster. Whipping her batons into her hands, Hailey air-boosts herself into a dash and then tips back into a crouching slide, right leg out, left bent, left baton helping her glide with a cushion of air — wow that's smoother than doing 'em by hand — and slashes at the underbelly of one creature as she zips underneath it with a wind-blade formed around her right baton.

She bounces up to her feet on the other side, batons out and ready, flanking the winged felines.

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The cat-bat never even sees her coming. Her slashing Craft cuts right through it, cleaving it cleanly into two pieces.

The two pieces of cat-bat crumble into sepith beads and clatter to the floor.

It's buddies take offense at this and hiss-shriek as they both dive-bomb Hailey, raking claws at her face and at her leg from either side.

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Shit! Shit shit shit, that worked a little too well! Now they're mad! They almost feel a little slower than she expects 'em to be, though. She whips her batons into place to block them — one high cross to protect her face and a low vertical to guard her leg — and tries to flare a little extra gust out to deflect, or maybe knock them aside.

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She really should've dodged. She is faster than them. By a considerable margin. But she's not strong enough to stop their dive-bomb cold. She manages to deflect the one going for her leg, but the one going for her face slams her own baton into her nose hard enough to break-

Good news, her new master quartz grants enough passive toughness that her nose isn't broken. Bad news, she's not any heavier than she usually is and the force of the impact knocks her on her ass.

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"Haa!"

A bolt of silvery-white light streaks across the chamber and skewers the cat-bat off Hailey's face before it can maul her.

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And then Laura descends like a meteor, sword cleaving down through the deflected cat-bat, shattering it against the floor in a spray of sepith beads.

Unfortunately, the last cat-bat is still alive, though with a ragged hole in it, and Laura's not close enough to hit it.

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Hailey bounds back up onto her feet and continues the motion with an air-boost to lunge into the last monster, slapping it out of the air to crash against the wall with a gust wrapped around her baton.

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The monster hits the wall and is stunned by the impact, unable to dodge or defend itself as a phantom arrow tinged with Fire mana takes its head off.

It bursts into sepith beads, and the fight is over.

Alisa peers at Hailey's face and grimaces. She flicks her ARCUS into her hand, thumbs the dial with a practiced motion, then thumbs the activation switch. A soft whirring sound comes from the ARCUS as the clockwork within spins up and empowers the Tear quartz she apparently has slotted.

"Here," she offers, targeting the Art on Hailey.

With a musical snap, the clockwork stops whirring and Hailey is surrounded briefly by the soothing blue glow of Water mana. In a moment, her nose no longer hurts and the newly forming bruise is gone like it was never there.

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