Mai Natsume - Heart-to-Heart

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Description: Yet another day in Illryia, no day is ever dull. There are always surprises and sights to see, people hard at work and trying to do or achieve even more. Daily struggles and rewards in building their fledging nation. Despite my position as NOL's envoy I decided to accept some of the challengers to participate in the practice yard. I am Natsume Mai! I accept your challenge!

It had all started in a seemingly innocuous manner, A simple and straightforward invitation.

Having been keeping to herself whilst making use of an unused grassy knoll close to the wall, part and parcel of the view from the widow in her room it almost felt like it was her own backyard. As the lone NOL soldier in a nation full of people and machines who would view her as either an enemy or a threat; she didn't want to cause any uneccesary problems. She was wary yet curious when two Sacred Order cadets approached her. A sincere desire that the resident NOL Operative might give them some of their time, would provide them some valuable sparring practice.

Secretly Mai was delighted by the offer, it was a chance to stretch out unused muscles and maybe learn a little more about the people in the SO. The offer had been made to her in the past, it would surely still be permissible.

Still wearing her figure concealing bright red cloak her appearance on the training yard caused a ripple through the yard as lapses in concentration led to premature ends to some matches and in others the combatants slow or stop to turn and look at her. The enemy was here.

The recognizable long blue hair gathered back in a ponytail with a yellow ribbon, so eerily similar in appearance to Miss Dizzy many were certain this was a deliberate move against Ky Kisuke. Within minutes the atmosphere surrounding the yard has completely changed. A circle of men surrounding the edges of the arena and yelling suggestions to the soldiers facing her and still on their feet.

The match with the cadets had lasted mere seconds, Mai wasn't certain if they had held back because she was a girl or were simply unprepared. One lay unconscious at ringside while his comrade nursed a potentially broken wrist and sat beside him while looking bewildered.

There is a rapid flurry of wooden raps and clacks as a barrage of her strikes with the training sword is fended off by one of the more seasoned opponents. This was the third match she'd fought and there were still two of the four opponents she'd started against standing. Either one capable of defending long enough the other could circle and strike from a blind side. This tactic could perhaps hold a stalemate until Mai tired or in theory reinforcements arrived.

Mai's only practical option was to overwhelm them by attacking faster than they were capable of defending against. Hooking a toe under one of the fallen practice blades she kicks it up into the air and seizes it midway down the shaft, emulating a long and a short blade there is no comparison. Feeling in complete control Mai sweeps and spins through a half dozen strikes, letting the speed of her blows sink in and batter against those defences, adjusting her pattern of attack until she forces a mistake she can capitalize on; which she does with a straight and debilitating kick to the sternum. The clack of her wooden sword on the back of the man's neck and shoulders as he begins to pitch forward prompts the crowd to silence. Surely there was no call for such brutality, but that's how she was trained. Hazuki Martial arts were inseparable from many assassination schools simply because the blows were intended to be potent enough to kill with any single strike.

His partner spurred on by that final strike launches a furious attack with reckless abandon. Mai raises a hand toward him in an almost futile gesture until his sword stops dead against the large floating circle of energy she conjures into existence. Barrier magic, even though Mai was almost always on offense her defense was formidable, recklessly attacking it and leaving an opening this big. Mai drills the tip of both wooden blades into the man's centre mass and pitches him away into a high flung arc where he comes down hard and bounces on his back.

She wasn't holding back, that would defeat the purpose of training. The looks in the eyes and faces of the people staring at her stung somehow.

"Ahhuah that was a good match. Is everyone okay?"

A beatific and cheery smiling face, confounds and sngers most of the troops and participants involved. If this were a proper NOL training session everyone would be back up on their feet in an hour or so, half-day at worst for a particularly bad wound or accident.

For those in the Sacred Order, familiarity with magical techniques, combat methods and martial arts and supernatural enhanced abilities is an expectation. Such soldiers could be said to be the new elite guard of the fledgling nation and as such they are not unfamiliar with the abilities on display here.

These cadets are not those men. Illyria can hardly defend itself with the remnants of those who remained with it in the after match of the conflict with the mad queen, Mab, and the refugees and transplants that are gradually developing the country into a functioning nation also provided many eager to have a sense of national pride by attempting to ensure that the country was well defended against threats... and while the likes of Ky Kiske and Leo Whitefang and other elite Sacred Order veterans have undoubtly been seen in action in the training yard.... well..there's nobody that looks quite like Mai among their ranks now is there. Nor are there any who seem capable of fighting like her and she leaves bruised ego's, bodies and possibly hearts in her passage through the rank and file as newcomer after newcomer attempts to rise to the challenge and show this NOL visitor just what awaits them in Illyria should they decide to revert to their evil ways!

Apparently not much is awaiting them based on their performance so far...

This feels one Leo Whitefang with a bit of mild amusement as well as consternation as he watches from a balcony overlooking the training yard, an entire kettle of tea in his hand, cause who needs a cup right? Besides him is a Sacred Order soldier, a big one at that, in full regalia, and holding Leo's favorite high backed chair in case the Illyrian King decides to just attempt to sit down right wherever he's standing if there's a chair nearby or no.

"Soldier, I do believe I underestimated our visitor." he muses, "I didn't think her..uh..physique ..would allow her such range of skill and flexiblity but she seems to be..well capable of defeating everyone they've tossed at her."

"Yes, King Leo! She is quite ample!"

Ample. Leo considers that word and then sets the kettle down and pops out his dictionary. He had been trying to find a word for Mai since her arrival. He's found it!

"She is very ample, indeed!" declares Leo who then decides to just attempt to sit down causing the soldier to rush forward with the chair and catch him and then fall backwards roughly as Leo leans backwards with the chair right into the large soldiers form.

"That is a good word!"

Confronted with her next opponent this one man takes up a stance she's more familiar with and immediately wary when she sees him take this form.

"I - Second Lieutenant Natsume Mai!! of the 78th library regulars. 4th Magic Division. Official Emissary of the Novus Orbis Librarium will be your opponent."

Magic Division, Mai had the skill to make the grade and pass all of the required conditions and courses. On hearing her answer his challenge thusly the soldier prepares for a proper magic duel. Not for the serpentine weaving path of the girl threading between his weaves of fire and bolts of wind to charge toward him.

Fearlessly charging, Mai held no doubt her opponent was probably the superior magical duellist, her speciality however was not ranged duellist forms. Her division was designated one of the: Buso Jutsushiki Hohei, Magical Formula Infantry specialized in close combat magics.

It was the closest she could get to Noel and Jin, her precious friends were all in many different divisions but so long as she followed Jin and Noel, Tsubaki would strive to be close, Makoto would find a way to stay in contact.


Tossing her 'short blade' up ahead, Mai begins a sprint with her one remaining blade dragging behind her, gathering a ragged pink aura and beginning to leave a wafting trail of pink petals. When she swings the blade forward it contacts not with the shield first, but her own descending and discarded blade, pinning it against the shield the duellist was throwing up to defend himself.

Only she is close enough to see the panic in his eyes as he realizes his mistake. When you create a shield to defend against physical and magic attacks, the resulting spell has far less duration. Against a clearly magical imbued weapon I was more pragmatic to shield against and repel the magic attack.

Partially a mistake, His face is striped vertically by the offhanded blade being batted into him moments before a diagonally slash across his body, left shoulder to right hip shreds the chest of his uniform and the man falls into a crumple.

NOL did not fight with Honour, nor did they choose to match strength against strength as a matter of pride. NOL personnel were stationed or dispatched to do a job, protect their comrades and or the public at large. Efficiency in taking down the target, exploiting weakness, application of any or all dirty tricks came as standard.

The girl then kneeling beside the crumpled man and putting a hand to his shoulder to help him sit up. After a heavy blow to the chest like that they needed to make sure he could get his breath again. Internal injuries were always possible, it was important to look for early signs of injury or difficulty breathing.

"Deep breaths, okay? How are you feeling."

having his care taken off her hands the late teen finally spies the enthroned King. She buries the tip of the cracked and splintering training sword just outside the ring, rests both her hands across the upside of the hilt, offers an embarrassed smile and then waves.

"I had no idea you would come to watch the training, majesty."

The girl sweeps her cloat half aside into a modest bow, sinking to one knee, pulling the sword down with her until it is nestled against her waist. Appropriately respectful to ones betters or nobility, but there was a tiny delay before she did it. It took a moment to dawn on her that decorum dictate she respond such to her better even if a rather unusual man and onetime enemy.

Mai Natsume is not the sole member of the NOL in Illyria. Even if she is the sole -official- member of the NOL, truth is often more than the obvious. Makoto Nanaya, Intelligence Squirrel, has been within the nation. She hunting down the trails and information regarding the disappearance of her friend MIA Lieutenant St. Jeanne. That search bore fruit, and with it many many more questions. Not just for Makoto Nanaya, but for Clio St. Jeanne as well.

Questions about selfishness, about fear, about what is right and wrong to expect of your friends and those closest to you. The ones you grew with, and the ones that showed you that there is a great deal of power in friends and found family. And those questions left Clio wondering just what she would do when it came to one of the biggest of all.

"What to do with Mai Natsume?"

Clio had been avoiding Mai, putting her all into skulking, sliding, sneaking and staying high and out of the way whenever Mai was around. Clio's work on studying the arcanology on display with the Telluric Complex was of too great of import to ignore. The work on the new chain, the study with Jubei on new techniques. The strengthening of self was all too important, but for the most part could excuse her from the castle. After a while, it became easy. Especially with so many of the neophyte's wanting Mai's attention for the most obvious of reasons; her combat ability, of course.

But the time for running and leaving your friend's to the safety of ignorance was nearing its end. And so Clio makes her approach. Not fully aware of the fighting going on in the courtyard, Clio's scaled the parapets and walls as she's wont to do, her newly customized hood worn up. She slips up and onto the walls, scopes her approach. And is already making her nimble way toward Leo Whitefang and associate.

She would've stopped if she had noticed Mai calling up to the balcony, but she was already taking the dashing leap to crash Leo's party when all that fighting and magic ended. But she didn't, so she finds herself pouncing while everyone's focused toward the person she's pouncing.

"It was not on the agenda.." admits Leo, who also makes a hurried gesture for Mai to rise as well. He doesn't mind the gesture of respect, per se, it's just they haven't fully figured out all the particulars and ins and outs of this 'kingship' thing. They're sort of flying by the seat of their panets in acknowledgement of the past history of Illyria's rulers and other honorific titles. But theirs is an unusual monarchy today with not one but three(?) kings (with the third selected a secret at the moment.) and Leo, really, second among 'equals' if truth were to be told. That damn Bambino Ky..

"Your style of fighting is interesting to me, Miss Natsume. I think it is beneficial that you are doing what you are doing here for our soldiers. It is good for the newcomers to see the vaunted capabilities of an elite member of the NOL. Most gathered in the yard today did not have the opportunity to see you and yours in action during the joint effort or final battle to clear Illyria of danger."

Leo considers the humbled cadets and even more experienced duelists. There's a slight harumph in his gaze even though he doesn't say it aloud. Of course he'd rather they'd have won against her but..losing is an education in and of itself.

"Perhaps you need an opponent that is more suited to your level skill. I would be remiss to not offer you a chance to get a true work out.."

Is he offering himself as a sparring partner? There's a certain tension in the yard, perhaps even a slight charge of mild excitement at the prospect. Leo might have his buffonish and roughshod sides but when it comes to command and battle..his reputation is well earned and the soldiers seem to lean forward on the edge of their proverbial seats at the idea.

But before he can confirm or deny if it will be him who takes the charge or if he is intending on pointing out an Elite - there is a blur of movement and all eyes tilt upwards to track the on cue arrival of Clio as she charges through the air towards Him, an unexpected 'New Challenger'?

Mai turns her chin up just a moment before the hooded figure lands beside the Sacred Order King, an assassination attempt? Her hand tightens around the hilt of the sword but she stills herself. She's not sure if her role in this situation would be to defend the King from an attempted assignation or cause a catastrophic incident by approaching the man with a weapon, of a kind.

Rising and extending her empty hard forward a gust of air surrounds and picks up the waist length cloak, setting it flapping about her at shoulder height. An epicentre of a tiny storm a ring of dust ripples away from her at the same time a lance of red drops out of the clear sky overhead and buries itself point down within her reach. As she closes her fingers around the shaft the storm of air intensifies and then blows itself out. Gallia Sphyra: Outseal drinking deeply.

it was a spear, but also a javelin, if it came down to it.. perhaps she could kill or at least wound the potential assassin from here. Something akin to incision of a feeling of unease stilled her hand; she stands and watches while looking more confident than she actually felt. If the King wound up wrestling with his assailant she would have to be very precise with her throw.

Gripping the clasp of the cloak at her throat with the hand still holding the half destroyed practice blade she tugs the clasp open and tosses both cloak and practice blade aside. Prompting an ill-advised and timed mumbled comments and gawping.

Her outfit beneath the cloak, her concealed top wasn't just backless, the sides were apparently missing as well. As were the sides of her pants!

Mai's face begins to colour and turn a faint shade of pink. It must be true that this outfit wasn't normal. She thought it showed too much skin but it was one of the most modest things Kajun had left in her luggage. (Some of those other items had been completely see-through.)

Landing, Clio spins out the remaining energy of her motion and rises up, hands dipping into the pockets of her hoodie. She's already speaking. "Leo, good, found you, it's really important I get your opinion on a few things. First; do you like the ear caps on the hood? I wanted to show Master Jubei some respect, but maybe he'll think they're insulting?"

The air clears above, a mighty spear streaks from the sky like the mythic Gae Bolg and careens downward to its owner.

Clio turns her head slightly to watch the missile find the hand that wields it. And a flapping cloak reveals said owner in an outfit that can certainly only belong to the one person that Clio has been avoiding at all costs. And that person that Clio has recently decided she wanted to contact. Only not quite like this and with this much pomp and circumstance.

The clothing amount, well, Clio won't complain about that part.

"Well, shit, I didn't expect her to want to throw down," she mutters as an aside to Leo. "I swear, we're friends." That said, Clio steps to the edge of the balcony and pushes her hood back. Her hair is a lot shorter than her academy days, and she lacks the heavy chains around her arm and body, but it is Clio St. Jeanne. Revealed to either be alive, or a very well kept corpse.

One that waves down to Mai. "Thank you so much for greeting me like this. I appreciate it!"

The Great Knight turned neophyte King is..caught slightly off guard here though he doesn't recoil from Clio's arrival or emit any cry of alarm. His bodyguards are not quite as restrained or relaxed as they immediately snap to combat attentiveness with a clanking of their armor and a unified grunt with Illyrian weapons revealed and pointed at Clio with full intention on following through with their usage.

A quick gesture from Leo calms them along with him moving his broad frame to block them from Clio as he she begins speaking to him. His expression is clearly confused and surprised though he's seemingly pleased to see her. Those questions though...

"Clio! Huh? What?? Master Jubei?!" is al lhe manages to get out before he settles his attention on Mai, noting her own combat readiness and the explosive arrival of her weapon. His eyes bulge out slightly at her outfit and he then looks back to Clio who has likewise turned towards Mai and is addressing him regarding her.

Now Leo is hardly clarivoyant. Truthfully..they could use someone with that talent. Had things gone differently with Elise, he had intended on approaching her and offering a job..but that's neither here and now. What is now is that despite his lack of precognitive abilities he can sense that..something's about to go down... "MIss Clio, Miss" and then it fully hits him. Right. Clio's supposed to be dead. Even The Imperator was lead to believe as such.

"Right..oh dear.."

So, not an assassin then? Judging from the way one of the Kings of Illryia was reacting if not how and his elite guard chose to greet the intruder. Mai remain suspicious, hand wrapped around the spear shaft until the moment that figure throws their hood back. She was changed, a little different form how Mai remembered her but it was undoubtedly...

Mai vaults into the air, a dark shadow appearing against the bright sky as she vault impossibly high enough to draw even with the balcony and suddenly switches momentum as she seems to crouch tuck up against something solid and kick off into a purely horizontal air dash right at the balcony and Clio.

Mai collides with her target with a hefty thump and high tackle. Bearing Clio St. Jeanne to the ground and collapsing on top of her, Mai won't let go. She found her, Clio wasn't dead.

"Clio, CLIO! I'm so glad you're okay."

Everyone worried she was killed in the fighting or worse, trapped somewhere truly horrid. Being MIA in a place like this Illryia with all the things that had been seen here. Not knowing what happened to a friend and if they needed help was torturous.

The spear remains buried and still standing vertical and glowing a threatening red. Way too clingy and getting worked up emotionally Mai doesn't even really notice eyes welling up with tears. She was just relieved and so damn happy. By the time she does notice she's starting to get drippy and she should check and see if she has a tissue. There are no pockets in this outfit.

Clio is a little red at surprising the King of Illyria like she just did. She does grant the Lord of the Castle, half, a sheepish grin, also half, and a plaintive look. "I've been coming and going, and I think I'll let Jubei himself tell you when he's ready, but the stars are looking more in your favor every night out there."

Cryptic apologies done with, she does look back toward Mai, who is currently more and more of an airborne missile than her own spear. "We're friends, like I said, she's one of the good . . ." The sentence is never finished.

Clio is not dead, not yet at least. The official record was she was off to confront of capture Leo Whitefang during the Illyrian Conflict. Yet both Leo and Clio are here in the same place, decidedly not conflicting. And here, pinned against Mai and the floor, Clio is somewhat squished. But she returns the hefty embrace, and closing her eyes, does her best to hide the tears of relief that are only touched by bitter guilt at keeping Mai in the dark for so long when it was such a greater thing to be open about it.

Clio also flashes a small thumbs up to Leo. Everything is okay, this is not some sort of vile full body tackle. Clio can live with this position for a bit longer. "Thank god it's you, Mai, and not someone else that came here," she admits, a whisper of truth to her old friend.

Well it seems he's not yet ready to take up that position as castle oracle yet. Mai and Clio seem as bonded friends and as such the context of discovering Clio alive in Illyria is much different now.

Leo nods his head in approval and heaves his shoulders in a sigh of relief as he sees Clio and he nods his head again in agreement with her last statement to Mai. He turns and gives the guards a quick gesture to give the ladies some space and as they exit, he also turns.

"I'm sure Miss Clio can explain herself further and will do much to make you feel even more welcome here, Miss Natsume. I'll leave you two to catch up. I'm sure you may have questions and it's best she answer them."

Indeed, the official word might have suggested that Leo himself did the dead. Certainly the NOL has some beef with him with that $400,000 bounty on his head despite much of the report being redacted as to exactly why. Either way there are things that need unraveling.

"Call for me if you have any questions or specific need of me."

And with that, Leo takes his leave to let the two have some time to themselves, though they may want to move back from the balcony edge since they're undoubtly giving the cadets down below quite the view...

Mai at least a little reluctantly lets go and sits up. She was more used to being the victim of embarrassing or overwhelming displays of affection than doing it herself. A friend revealing themselves to be alive and well when thought in danger or dead, was plenty of reason to drop decorum and rush to see if they were okay.

"I'm halfway certain they were debating between sending Tsubaki instead. But I think she's working on something special."

Mai brushes at her nose with a bare forearm to stymie any dripping and offers Clio her other arm to help the other woman up.

Tomboyish and unladylike by her mannerism still, wan and pale compared to her usual self. The head of exhaustion and embarrassment had put some red in her cheeks but that colour would fade. Where Clio had cut her hair shorter Mai's ponytail was even longer, where Clio was hooded and shrouded Mai was wearing conspicuously little; Which was certainly an act of another mutual friend they shared.

The Detective Team of Pretty Girls: Remix Heart! One time school friends turned lifelong companions; consisting of Academy girls Mai Natsume, Kajun Faycott, Noel Vermillion, Tsubaki Yayoi, Makoto Nanaya, Shiori Kirihito and of course, Clio St. Jeanne. A club of friends all devoted to helping one another, and curing a dire affliction that afflicted one of their dear friends. Mai with her supertaster ability, that fortunately made her able to stomach and even enjoy the most dreadful and potent dishes known to man (Noels cooking.) The trade-off being she could hardly eat or stomach normal foods.

"You must have a pretty involved story since you're dressed like this. (and haven't reported back.)"

Instead of leaping on Clio and wrestling her to the ground as an apprehended traitor or deserter Mai had faith, Clio had good reasons to do ..whatever it was she was doing. Mai gives her friend a good once over, looking up and down for other changes or signs of injury she might be recovering from. The absence of the chain was a pretty big change! Likewise was the spear plunged into the ground below. They both appeared to be changing with the time spent apart. With the passage of time, how much were they still like the girls they'd once been?

A reunion, once more with those that she knew. The friends she made at the Academy. The ones that made her what she is today. An irony that isn't lost on Clio as she looks up at Mai and hears out the thought that Tsubaki was nearly sent in her stead; the biggest thing the Librarium's Military Academy did for Clio St. Jeanne was give her the strength to break away from the NOL itself.

Clio takes that offered arm and pulls herself up to a sit before jumping up to her feet. "I'd give you a tissue if I had any, but I don't," she admits with a shrug and a simple look of relief, a weight disappearing like so many. She catches Leo's turning away and gives him a short wave. "I want to ask you about my project later, but thanks for this," she tells Leo's back as the King departs.

Let the underlings watch, soak it up, sadsacks, Clio's just happy to be able to talk with her friend again.

"I do, it's a long one. It's not a good one, though," Clio admits, the happy face, the feeling of relief remains, but there's a distant dissonance in her voice. An uncertainty as Clio steps back from the edge of the balcony. Her hands go into the pocket of her hooded sweatshirt, her focus down and away. "I didn't want to drag you into this. It hurt so much to go through myself, but, well, it'd also be bad of me to leave you in the dark." She looks back to Mai. Any injuries' Clio has are emotional, and they scar a great deal more than the physical fight's she's had.

How much has time changed the two girls from the Academy? A statement may reveal a lot in a moment. As does the reaction to it. "The NOL's gone rotten, Mai."

Lending a hand up, it's like a little of that time spent apart melts away. As Clio turns her attention to the King's exit Mai inelegantly scrubs at her nose while looking away. Folding her hands behind her back and standing awkwardly when Clio mentions giving her a tissue if she had any. Mai waves it off; she'd have a bath later on since she was a little sweaty already. For the moment she was plainly trying to avoid eavesdropping, a poor quality in a spy.

At the promise this was a long and unhappy story Mai pushes all these thoughts out of mind settles her back against the balcony columns.


Mai wasn't certain how to react to that statement.

"Rotten? Okay."

Mai nods, considering and solemnly. It was more important to listen carefully than anything else, everything that Clio thought important enough to tell her. She wasn't about to express disbelief at what a close friend was telling her even if it ran contrary to her own experiences. Especially when her friend was telling her how painful those feelings or events were for her, enough for her to go rogue and risk everything she had worked for.

Mai's own unit was plenty tight knit, capable and dependable. What injuries and losses they'd suffered were at the hands of a clandestine Sacred Order assault on a NOL facility, and patrolling the streets of Southtown in order to safeguard its citizens.

The populace's opinions and the popularity of NOL troops had been skyrocketing, citizens were co-operating and people seem to be trusting and depending on them. Grateful for being saved or having friends or loved ones saved from supernatural creatures and Gears. They were also glad to be rid of cursed or potentially dangerous magical objects hazardously lying about in attics or dormant on dusty shelves.

How was the librarium Rotten and to what extent. Perhaps if it was serious enough she could bring it to the attention of her Father. Perhaps with the Colonels aide or with her fathers support, go directly to the Imperator herself.

The Wheel of Fate Turns.

Clio closes her eyes, the doubt is clear in Mai's tone. This wasn't Makoto. This wasn't going to be the same. But Makoto worked in the right circles. She knew the right things. Mai didn't. Clio couldn't hold that doubt against Mai. She had to see this through.

In another time, The Hound of the NOL stood ground against allegations, against the news that one of their own officers was inhuman and capable of many terrible things. And it would take the friendship of Makoto Nanaya to show the light. But that was not this case. And this moment was not that time.

"Dispatched in Mankind's darkest hour, we are knights of blue flame." Clio speaks the words with solemn truth and looks sharp toward Mai. "The meaning of the Librarium is still right, Mai. I know what you're doing with the people is intended to be for the best. But all of it helps a rotten inside." Her eyes are wet as she looks toward Mai.

"When I came back from Metro City. More and more I ran into things, people, that warned me. That showed me more to what was going on than I was told. When Noel was attacked, they said it was Dizzy, then they said to hunt down the Chain Man. That Chain Man is Captain Hazama. He told me as much himself. He showed me. For all of our wanting to lock away the dangerous magic, putting a bounty on the heads of people who did nothing but tell the Librarium 'no', Hazama is using one of the Nox Nyctores."

She speaks quickly, pained, shaking her head. "And Jubei. I met him. I was learning more about him. I was studying things myself. They, those in charge, they brought his wife from the dead to hunt him down. And they used my head as a roadmap. And all because they want powerful weapons. Not to help people, not to keep people from getting hurt. They want it for their own power's sake."

Clio puts her hands to the side of her head. "I only know a few people I can trust there. I know there are good people, but whatever the rot is, it's deep. I can't fight it like I am. So I died. And I have to stay dead, Mai. So that I can be strong when I need to be."

A captain then, potentially someone above, giving him orders or at shielding his movements from inquisition by the 0th division. And he was responsible for attacking Noel? The picture of exaggerated thought while propping her chin up with a crooked finger and the thumb of a raised hand brushing the underside of her jaw. The other hand hanging at her side was clenched into a trembling fist. A captain inside NOL had dared hurt Noel, betraying them all on every level. He would never be forgiven.

Clio, if you have any proof of this I'm sure we can take it to someone. Colonel Mutsuki! Tsubaki!"

She stifles the overwhelming desire to mention her own connections and reassure Clio that she was certain something could be done. She had held some long-time secrets from the people she held dearest and out of a fear they'd consider it a betrayal or the shame she didn't feel confident enough to tell them. Houichirou Hazuki, once former commander-in-chief of the NOL before the Imperator's reign, Patriarch of the Hazuki family and father of a male heir named Mai Hazuki.

Mai was a little concerned about the use of a Nox Nyctores. Jin and Noel both carried weapons like that, the spear that Kajun was working on and asking Mai for her help with was equally as strange and odd an artefact as the Nox Nyctores were. Most of these were inherited within the Duodecium and through family lineage and bloodline, passed down into the hands of heirs.

What was troubling though was that she didn't recognize a 'Hazama' from her recollection of the other family heirs. It's possible to that he might have been gifted the weapon or stolen it if he was indeed so twisted as to attack one of his own.

She wasn't sure she could even parse the thought that somebody had been brought back from the dead, that that was possible! Even to pursue so dangerous a bounty as Jubei Mitsuyoshi. Sending a deceased member someone's family after them would be an abhorrent act against nature, surely if it were just some very real splinter faction within NOL they could be rooted out. Necromancy and treachery among the worst of their crimes.

"I'll do everything I can to help get any proof you can get into the right hands where we can see this man stopped and Noel avenged. You have my word I won't do anything that would risk your plans or place you in danger. We're friends right?"

She'd swear to that! Even if it cost her life to see it done.

Clio St. Jeanne holds more cards yet. More information. More conjecture from the kinds of people more than capable of fighting back and in ways that she can't imagine. But she needs to protect Mai. And that means information.

"There are only a few people you can trust, Mai," Clio tells the blue haired heir. Her eyes lock, deadly serious, dark shadow only slightly streaked with the start of earlier tears. "One is Makoto and the other is Kagura Mutsuki. They are the only ones there that I know for certain still believe in what's right." She shakes her head. "And be careful. Be really careful. Captain Hazama is dangerous, very dangerous. I've met people, people way way above my pay grade that told me how dangerous he is. People without reasons to lie about this."

Clio tenses and flares, literally, streaks of an arcane fire lance out from the ground around her before dying down to nothing again. "I didn't want to tell you because I want you to stay safe. This is everything to you. It was everything to me. I know how much it hurt doing what I did and I didn't want you to go through that. Yes, Mai, we're friends. We'll always be friends."

Magicians have a flare for dramatic effect, magic lent itself to emphasis in flashy kinds of displays. Mai takes the display of rising flame as a sign her School friend was neither dimmed in spirit or willing to give up. Just as intent as ever and taking the best course of action she saw fit. Mai nods, definitively convinced.

"Friends... always."

She personally trusted quite a few more people than that but there were elements of secrecy to consider, and risk to those involved. From the way Clio was talking Mai could infer that Colonel Mutsuki and Makoto were also working with her or tangentially toward rooting this dangerous man out. If anything this causes her to flash a bright grin.

"I'm glad other people in NOL are helping and you still trust them."

Somehow Clio had gotten caught up in or made aware of some dreadful and sickening actions taken by some individuals in NOL but that didn't reflect on them as a whole.

"What would condemn us as being awful people not worthy of the faith people have in us? Would be if we willingly turned a blind eye to someone using the power and influence of NOL to hurt people." We are the Knights of the Blue Flame. There are unerring standards we hold ourselves to and taboo's we don't ever breach. What use would it be to safeguard and seal away all the dangerous powers of the world in order to achieve a balance if the nations of the world couldn't trust in us to do that.

Mai herself bristled under military style command, it felt like a step backward and sideways. Being given orders and told where to go, who to work with and sent away from the people she wanted nothing more than to be close to. She finally found freedom and began to love her new life when she escaped being the Hazuki family heir. NOL wasn't an organization she was fond of, but it meant something to the world. And like or dislike it she had obligations and familial ties to the thing.

"If you need my help you'll have it. Tsubaki and Jin probably have the connections to get the information to colonel Mutsuki, if you want to get something to Jin in a Clandestine manner I have Taro's scroll number somewhere."

There's another grin. No honorific used for their former upperclassman and confidant of Jinny. She was trying to be helpful but it's also a throwback to an earlier time in the Academy.

Clio would admit, under a great deal of duress, that yes, mages have a flare for the dramatic and that would include herself. The simple fact that she pours forth with quite literal arcane fire at her whim and in some cases without said whim is ample evidence enough. But the truth is, she meant it, she meant every word and she meant it with such a force and will that it had to present itself in some way to the world around her.

She looks back toward Mai, and she smiles, her shoulders fall in a half-slump. Relief pouring from her to hear the words back from her friend. Even with all the naivete she feels the earnest Mai has, that her friend is there to promise that friendship is enough to lift a great deal of the burden Clio has been feeling.

She looks back to the past, secrets shared. Another secret between friends. A bloodied Clio, hair long then, tangled, knotted, back in from sneaking out. She had things to fight, they all did, but Clio was doing it alone back then. It took Mai and the rest of Remix Heart to assuage the isolated warrior in St. Jeanne.

But what takes Clio from the NOL is something different, more real, more dangerous, than a child's belief that they need to do things alone. "Yes, Mai, you are there, Makoto is there. There are people I trust. But there are people with power there that, any strength I gained with them was just making them stronger. And I couldn't do that. There are people out here that can train me, help me get better. And if that eventually leads to bettering the NOL, to make it stand for what it stands for again, then I will do everything in my power to do that. You and Mako and the others have done so much for me. I can't bear to see it be used by wrongheaded people. I can't be used like that."

She looks back over the balcony. At the nascent land of Illyria. The rising home of Darkstalkers, Gears, and more. A place of their own. And she smiles. "Have you met Dizzy yet?" she asks. "I really think you two would like each other. And, well, you'll see how utterly wrongheaded it was of the NOL, OUR NOL, to want to turn her into a weapon."

That speech struck a chord with Mai. I resonated in her soul, she wanted to run away and join Clio like it would be a romantic adventic full of daring do and a heroi, welcome return. She loathed being used, playing at being a soldier and following orders rather than following her heart.

"Uhm. The command gear? I haven't met-."

Mai falls silent and with a concerned look. The gears were weapons! They were developed to be used as weapons having been born with a switch in their heads that could be flipped in their head, slaved to unquestioningly follow the will of a Commander. Without respect of their own feelings they could be made into remorseless killers who'd obey any order.

The topic of using a weapon as a weapon was wrongheaded? Mai wasn't sure how to respond there, she scrubs the back of her head awkwardly while looking away. Some magical weapons and items had wills and desires of their own. They spoke, found things amusing or had purpose or natures that influenced them. They weren't granted the status of personhood and the ones that were truly dangerous were sealed away in vaults, hopefully would never see the light of day again. Wasn't that the same as what had happened to Dizzy.

If Clio thought that Mai might like Dizzy, she probably would like her after meeting her. That made this sense of unease even worse.

"Well, I can at least do my part and keep meeting you out of my reports. That probably means lying to Tsubaki though. ... I'll do my best!"

An honest assessment of her chances versus just how high-level their regard for Tsubaki's memory, attention to detail and ability to guilt her friends if she caught them engaged in any infractions or schemes was, that would be the end of that. Unless the cause was good enough or she agreed it must be done. There was definitely a time limit in play now until Tsubaki found out, she always did.

"Just, please try to avoid winding up on a wanted poster. There might not be any coming back from that."

On the surface, NOL always had to appear like it was calm and under control. Allowing a publically denounced traitor and former member return to the ranks, as well as acknowledging there was a treacherous group within NOL that had access to the dangerous magic's they were supposedly safekeeping. The affiliate nations might lose faith and think they should start their own programs, which would be disastrous.

"You're one of the best people I know. Strong willed and principled but you still have a good heart that knows how to be compassionate. You have to be careful! NOL can't allow itself to appear weak or corruptible, this has to be settled internally. If you're found out and they declare you're an enemy of the NOL, they probably can't let you return without appearing weak... Even if you're the Hero who accomplished everything and brought the whole conspiracy to light."

She reaches out to place a hand on Clio's shoulder. Is this what you want Clio? This was a chance to go back. She could be 'rescued' any number of ways and go back to a familiar life. Mai has to make the offer.

A speech to some. Ramble to others. Upset young woman with a righteous fury within her just trying to vent out her feelings while still holding some dignity. All of these things in more wrapped Clio's words up in her own personal banner. And when Mai Natsume mentions the command gear, Clio looks as far down as a five foot four girl can on to someone the same size as her.

"Dizzy," Clio corrects. But the seriousness fades as Clio clarifies. "She goes by Edith. She's trying to hide her power. She's not really good at it. She likes cute things. She is a cute thing."

Clio laughs, looks away from Mai, and she points to the parapets. "We talked over there. She has the weight of her people on her shoulders. She knows what she's up against in this world and all she wants is somewhere everyone can just be."

Clio steps up onto the edge of the balcony. Balanced. Hands resting in her hoodie pocket. Her face a stern, steady watch to the Sacred Order soldier's below. To where, what feels like ages ago, she fought Leo Whitefang. "Just don't mention anything," Clio says. "I'm dead. They found my chain. They found my hat. They probably put the weight onto Leo. They can't do much to him but offer a bounty, but that's what he's doing for me. He is being my murderer so that I can be free."

She looks to Mai's hand on her shoulder "Think about everything you just felt you had to warn me about, Mai. Did that come from you knowing how good and a force for justice the Librarium is?" She laughs, bitter, and looks back to the castle Illyria. She can feel it. The potential. The power. The possibilities. The place shown like starlight at night. And she knew what was right and she knew she had to do what she may to help all that was hers. All.

"Mai," Clio says, stepping away from the edge and putting her hand over Mai's, keeping it on her shoulder. "Before we graduated from the Academy, I was sent a letter by the Sacred Order. They wanted me to join them back then. I turned them down so I could be with you. And still, I ended up back in Metro City, away from all of you." Clio laughs, choked, but laughing, "And now here I am, turning and taking my flame from the Librarium, to the Order, and it's brought us back together."

Mai retracts her hand. There is a muted red buzz, a vibration where air is displaced as a staff-length of red light grows expands from a single point and resolves into a heavy and flexible spear, which she snugs into the crook of her arm, hugs against herself and partially props herself up with. It felt comforting and strengthening to wield the spear and it was a relief to shift her weight onto it.

Mai was frowning thoughtfully as she tried to process: Was NOL supposed to be good? Or Just at all in the grand scheme of their varied politics and arrangements. Mai wasn't certain, she wished it were as a whole and could make nicer and get along with other groups, like the Sacred Order. She also knew of some worrisome reasons it could never really do that.

"Perhaps certain individuals in NOL are really responsible for how Militaristic it's become. But NOL serves three purposes: As a school it spares no expense educating students about Magic, with the top minds in various fields teaching."

Mai initial low spirits at thoughts of whose fault that might be melts into a smile at that last one. The facilities they'd had at their disposal and incredible teachers truly had been amazing. Not even as heir to one of the Duodecium families had she noticed a drop in the quality of living. Just... shared living with so many more amazing people.

"Then as a vault where we collect and seal away powerful magic's where they can't cause harm. Most of the politicking that allows us to operate in so many various counties means they have to trust we won't supply or side with their enemies. We have to be neutral, concerned only with the threat of magic's being used."

And lastly.

"Global threats against all of mankind, where we're all mankind's ally. Ever since the Great Mages of old dissolved so many years ago and formed the Twelve Duodecium families of NOL, that responsibility has been left to them."

Every single one of the families was directly descended from one of the Great mages, from someone entrusted to wield a Nox Nyctores by the Great Mage Nine; or adopted into the family for that purpose. They were the foundation on which NOL was built.

Mai tries to show Clio an enthused and cheery grin.

"I don't think NOL was ever trying to be 'good' so much as take their role and do the job... Perfectly. I haven't met any of the Gears yet but they rightly have NOL worried. If there is an 'incident' on the world stage, it could mean the end of NOL or of the Sacred Order in an instant. Depending on how the blame falls."

She couldn't tell Clio. Not about watching her father sit and think long into the night about how he would choose to act, the unreasonable length of thought and care placed in every action and how it may be interpreted. That was part of what made the Last Emperor so formidable and amazing a person. Their uncanny ability to plan so far ahead and correctly interpret how people would react, right up until the end and that Revolution.

"In my opinion, NOL is on the right track at least with educating people about magic. It trained all of us to reach the level we're at! all of us made it through as good and caring people, Maybe you more than the rest of us Clio."

She couldn't think where many Military school programs did or encouraged such. Mai's own home routine was far more regimented and punishing than her school life had been. She didn't know if it was damage on her part, inexperience or missed opportunity that didn't allow her to quite see things quite the same way as Clio. All she could recall was the impression of profound and unfathomable weight on her fathers shoulders. A reason he had to be strong.

Clio bites her cheek. She looks more with her eyes than with her posture when Mai summons her spear. She reads the situation. Mai is uncomfortable, afraid and feeling unstable. She clings to her weapon in those times. Clio sees the reflection. She was never without the chain, herself, and she wants one back again. To feel it's weight and yet know it was hers to control. To have your weapon was to be assured of the situation. Or if you couldn't be assured, it was at least a comfort you could walk away from it intact.

Clio's attention turns upward toward the spires of Castle Illyria. She licks her teeth and lets a moment of a daydream carry her to picturing the right routes to climb upward. A distraction partially from Mai's attempt to read to the NOL's mission statement back to Clio as if she hadn't spent years of her life in that academy learning those concepts day in and day out.

Clio turns back to Mai. She pulls her hood back up. In the absence of chains, her self-assurance has to come from somewhere. "I've met people that can match any gear. To single them out when people like you and me and more exist is just cruel and pointless," Clio says. "Regardless of your reasons."

Clio's hand sits at her hip, her middle finger dances a circle on her side, small lines of iridescent magic spark to light as she draws sigils on her leg. Clio didn't grow up in a regimented world. She grew up in one where she did what she wanted. And that was fight. And that was sometimes go home with bloodied face from biting off more than a tiny wannabe vigilante could chew. A gulf of difference set Clio and Mai Natsume apart, bridged only by their shared time at the academy.

"I saw the lines in Japan during the invasion. A Darkstalker kept me from hurting people and liking it. A Gear showed me how much it hurts to have your choices taken from you. They are people, Mai. Meet them. What we are doesn't matter compared to what we do. And when the leaders of the Intelligence Division is confusing his own agents, and someone is ripping people from the dead so that they can claw for more power, then I can't help make that organization stronger through my own growth."

Clio's head begins to shake slowly as she speaks. "Lord Kagura needs people like you. Like you and Tsubaki. We're all loyal to the NOL, we just have to show that in different ways. And if sticking with them and cleaning up from the inside is yours, do it. But this is mine."

She'd done it now. For some reason it felt like everything she could say or appeal she could make was wrong. She was always wrong. It's true that Mai didn't have anything close to the experience Clio had with the world. Mai's had been held back for so long without an assignment since so many of her records weren't filled out. She held no official Magical Aptitude rating, persistent medical problems and a lack of family history or medical records.

Her unit wasn't expected to do great things. They were the greenest of the green, but NOL needed bodies on the street to protect a populace and win some hearts and minds. Those fresh faces and enthusiastic cadets were just the trick.

"If we're comparing experiences, the only run in I've had with gears was part of the clean-up of Southtown. Mostly dealing with weapons platform typed gears or small ones that were inactive or lost within the damaged parts of the city. Keeping them out of populated areas or hunting them when they reactivated and went on rampages."

Self-repairing to a point they would reengage in a battle that had taken place a long time ago, some of those gears were incredibly dangerous even when inert."

She pointedly looks away as she brings up the topic of the supernatural Darkstalkers.

"While the only Darkstalker I've met was some kind of frost wraith. It gradually changed into a copy of me as, we fought and nearly managed to kill me in one on one combat. It might have actually managed to become me! A different me."

Maybe a better one. Mai was never the most confidant person but had a very high rating in her physicality and combat aptitude. If she had been nearly killed, better it had been her getting involved in that fight than one of her comerades who stood less of a chance.

Mai could TASTE the disappointment rolling off Clio. She was paling and her body language was a lot more insular and compact, like she was shrinking. She was supposed to feel empathy and a connection to these Gears? Kindness toward someone she'd never met and instead she felt... a hostility or coldness. Perhaps it was just harder for him to picture them as human after seeing weapons grade gears. Knowing they were just a few years old and that no matter how kind or pleasant they were, some third party flipping a switch in their head would turn them into a remorseless killer. She couldn't empathize with that, she didn't know them. She didn't want to disappoint Clio, yet he was failing at that.

Mai kind of wanted to melt into the ground or hide under a stone, leaning on the spear for support in more ways than just the physical as the constant rush of power helped with the fatigue and hunger. He draws a breath and almost hiccups as while freezing suddenly, unable to force the words at first. It takes effort, lips twisting soundlessly before she can bring herself to admit something so awful aloud. Especially to someone she wanted to think well of her.

"I even bear the Sacred Order a grudge, or at least this Ky Kisuke who leads them. Since when he attacked that facility to rescue 'Edith' he caused a huge distraction outside while his team went in. He hurt good people from my unit Clio."

Even with magic and first class care their road to recovery was a long one so far. She dreaded what she might feel when she actually had to meet the man responsible for that.

Their overall experiences were as night and day.

"Sorry!! It might take some time to for me to see things as you said they were."

An awkwardly tame smile, her free hand had drawn her ponytail around in front of her body and she was batting at or stroking the long hair reassuringly. She trusted Clio beyond question. All of this and now she couldn't even be sure she wasn't actually somehow the bad guy in all this. Was she working as a cog in a machine that was oppressing and hurting ...people. Was this the price of protecting those who were otherwise reliant on NOL for protection?

This sucks. She didn't want to be that bad guy, or to disappoint her friends and earn any more of the disapproving or reproachful looks. How could she possibly start liking the people who were hurting those close to her.

Clio can read rooms. She's good with seeing into people. She always has been and that fact has also always surprised her. This moment is no different. Each look toward Mai tells her more of the way her school friend is shrinking and quailing under the righteous certainty Clio seems to have in her point of view. The girl held back, the girl retained for many a strange and secretive reasons. Good ones, Clio would judge, and ones not to feel bad over, but that didn't help Mai in the long run.

"I wasn't really comparing, Mai," Clio says, hands slipping into the pocket of her hoodie. "The thing about what both of us said is the same, though." She looks down, to the side, she slides her foot back, scraping the nails that jut through the toe along the floor of the balcony. "Human, Darkstalker, Gear. It's all about the choices. It's what we do, not what we are. The ones you met, they made shitheel choices. Dangerous ones. Or they were forced to. So they're put down for either the world's good or their own. We cry, we go on, we do the things so that the rest of the world can be safe and not have blood on their hands." Clio takes her own hands out of the pocket to look at. Almost sure there'd be something there on a metaphysical level.

"It wasn't that long ago I said the same things you do. About the Gears. About Dizzy. It takes time. You showing off down there is a good start. These people need all the help they can get and I'm sort of just crashing on their metaphorical couch right now." Clio laughs inwardly, shaking her head. "Don't think we're all that different. I'm just a few steps ahead of where you are. It took time for me, too."

Clio St. Jeanne rocks back on her heels and looks up to the sky above. "We haven't sparred for a long time, Mai." She sniffs. "And I don't think the wooden sword brigade is going to give you any real exercise." A slow smile dawns on Clio's face as she lets her head hang just slightly to the side, enough to peer a single eye toward Mai Natsume. "And I don't have my chain on me, so I'm a bit gimped, but you want to show me how much stronger you've gotten since school?"

The cowed Natsume nodding along while Clio cuts her some much appreciated slack. Only casting furtive glances back toward Clio, after admitting she was a bad enough person she was holding a grudge against someone she hadn't met she'd ceded any real claim to a moral high ground. Mai wasn't trying to win, she was attempting to understand. A sheltered well-educated life, torturously training day in and out, painstakingly pieced together into a perfect warrior that his Father envisioned.

She'd had no choices in that old life, it was all 'he' -- Mai Hazuki knew. Mai Natsume wasn't that person, Not now. She peps up a little at mention of sparring with Clio. For these girls, that was akin to playtime. They sharpened their skills together, and depended on one another when it mattered. She missed this tingling of nerves and wonder just how her friends would have learned and changed by the next time they crossed swords. She didn't disparage the soldiers below as a 'wooden sword brigade' .. it'd be kind of expensive and impractical to damage all their actual combat gear in mock battle and practice.

"Mhmm, I could do with a real workout, I'll try to keep up."

The blue haired girl acknowledges her stamina is pretty badly affected. Without Noel's visually terrifying and critically damaging cooking? Mai was getting used to making do with the bare minimum in terms of sustenance. Forcing herself to eat where she could and otherwise hunting for raw ingredients and fruits that would trip her Supertaste to the smallest of degrees. The cookies Noel had sent with her had to be carefully rationed out, unless Noel got enough time to send her a care package with some more goodies in it.

"With or withou your chain I imagine you'll be a tough opponent."

Mai did feel a little bad they might be responsible for damaging a bit more of the training gear around here but it was probably a grand show for the SO soldiers to see two NOL soldiers sparring with one another.

Hopefully worth the price.

Clio wasn't trying to win. Not a war of ideology and of growth. She just had what she had in front of her. And any resistance Mai could give her was something that could help Clio think. She had been surrounded by those against the NOL, and Clio knew that fresh words got her to where she is now, and she needed to know if fresh words would pull her away.

To her quiet thrill, the words from Mai did ring hollow, stale, but familiar enough to know that it was all a matter of learning and seeing and knowing that could bring the light of justice back to the Azure Flame. And Clio needed that reassurance. She hoped against hope that the NOL could retain some like Kagura Mutsuki and Mai Natsume to help bring it about to a place where Clio could be proud of once more.

And that there is a fight in the immediate future makes Clio all the happier. "Awesome, but stop selling yourself short. We don't need to get any shorter," Clio jokes, turning around and walking to the edge of the balcony. "So, ready to give them a show?" she asks Mai, not looking back before she simply drops from the edge down to the training field below.

She lands, or, just before she lands, a flash of light appears. The after image of a circle. Within it a series of sigils and equations. They spiral for a moment before Clio lands with little sound and little disturbance to the ground she's landed on. Popping back to her feet, she cracks a crick in her neck and starts to shake out her hands.

She was unarmed, and Mai was always a powerhouse that sold herself short. But Clio was ready. And she was hoping. The NOL is going to need strong fighters ahead, and this would be a fantastic gauge of what level Clio would need to rise to.

But for now, funzies. "Come on, Mai! The guys down here look like they can't wait to see how you dance around that spear of yours!" Clio calls out with a madcap laugh. Anything to put the self-conscious Mai off her game. Just like back in school. Before all this war and emotional baggage. Just like old times.

COMBATSYS: Clio has started a fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Clio             0/-------/-------|

Mai was indeed off her game, hurriedly following with more of a childlike scramble.

"Oh, ah! Right, Okay!!"

Hopping over the railing and momentarily taking a seat Mai lifts the speartip and twirls the spear so that it rests across the back of her ribs and shoulder blade, likewise dropping to the ground but landing in a three pointed crouch. Being a little more conservative with her energy since there was the prospect of a good fight, and she'd need every Iota of energy. Mai had already done more than was required for a warmup, as Clio stretches Mai grounds the tip of the spear on her left, letting the arm rest lead foot crossing over her back, posture perfect and appearing ready for the first movement of a dance.

When she turns to confront Clio it's with the bladed tip of the spear facing away, her grip one-handed on the spear and closer the blade than would be customary. Mai was not a spearman. It wasn't her speciality, Hazuki martial arts encompassed a full range of weapons though her preference was to use both hands with two swords. The strength of the spear itself made up for the deficit in her abilities. She found this weapon incredibly easy to wield, perhaps that was part of it powers.

if you missed with the first thrust of a spear, the outcome of a fight was usually already decided. The way Mai carried it she was equally likely to use it to strike from a swords length, whip it around into a staff strike making full use of the weapons reach. She wasn't taking chances, considering avenues of attack Clio might choose. Mai cedes the first action to Clio, conserving her strength for now and waiting to see how Clio would choose to fight without her chain against an armed opponent.

COMBATSYS: Mai Natsume has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Clio             0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0      Mai Natsume

The SO trainees spread for the sudden arrival of the two young warriors. Exchanging glances, some questioning whether or not to get their higher-ups, some wondering if they should start throwing down betting pools, many just interested in the showdown between the two young women; the NOL liaison and the stray dog.

Clio's stance falls forward, bouncing and swaying on the balls of her feet in a posture that seems to threaten her tipping forward at any moment. A hand goes into her pocket, draws out one of the spare spike plumbs that she retained from the destruction of the chain itself. She spins it in the palm of her hand. Runic sigils glow with a lashing violet light. And Clio shoots her opponent a sharp grin.

"Still got a few of these," she says, "Not much, but at least I have some teeth, yaknow? Anyway. Let's have some fun." And with those words, Clio is off like a shot.

Her attack is quick, direct, a low run, her shoulders nearly as far away from having her feet under her as humanly possibly. She makes for a full frontal charge on the spear. But her attack isn't at the level. She twists, and with a kick, sends herself hurtling into the air and tucking into a roll. With her roll, she seems to ignite, sheathed in a writhing shadow-like fire. She comes out of the tucked roll with a full force, two legged missile dropkick aimed square for Mai's chest. Bursting with arcane chi, a streaking spear of flame made from her own body.

COMBATSYS: Mai Natsume dodges Clio's Strong Kick.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Clio             0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0      Mai Natsume

Not completely unarmed!! -- Clio was far too resourceful for that and even without a weapons they had Magic Formulae and unarmed training to rely and fall back on. Mai was grinning, she couldn't help herself; assuredly there would be some more tricks since Clio was the one who'd suggested the sparring match. Neither girl was at their full strength thanks to circumstance, but this was a measure of how far they could go right now and what they could handle.

Mai would be doing no favours if she held back, at the same time she needed to maintain strict control. Her arts and instincts did not lend thmesleves or translate well to attempting to avoid killing or injuring her opponents, Style completely at odds with her nature. Clio was tough though, enough to take it and possibly beat her even without the chain. Mai had to strike a balance, her best game but very careful with a weapon this powerful. The Gallia Sphyra: Outseal quivered in her hands like it was trying to answer her. Or it was hungry for more of her power, Her's or Clio's?

"Ghk! Uht-oh"

Don't overthink and worry, just focus on the fight. Mai hurried pop's up into the air, a dip bending of her knees and then shooting into the air like an arrow. Ponytail trailing along behind through a gentle rolling backwards turn, streaming and then slowing into a low-gravity wafting tail with the owner looking upwards from her perspective, as her view rotates back around to the ground. Target acquired!!


Dropping straight down at Clio from directly above. Mai's descent speed accelerating, the light from the spear appearing to project and elongate the appearance of length to the weapon as she arrows down, gripping the rearmost half of the spear she'll hit the ground hard enough to spider web it with cracks. Her grip loose enough she winds up gripping the spear close to the head. She wasn't intent on impaling her friend, but that would deliver a hell of a blow if it fell upon them.

COMBATSYS: Clio blocks Mai Natsume's Suzuran.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Clio             0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0      Mai Natsume

Slam to the ground, skid, slide, stay low and stay armed. Clio's grinning like a wild-woman with her landing. Happy that Mai was awake enough and taking this seriously enough to properly react and not just take a flying set of boots to her chest.

Clio doesn't carry any heirloom, magical or otherwise. But what she has is hand made or hand modified. Things she did for her, not handed off to her by others with the idea of sucking up on a bloodline's power. Clio didn't even know what her bloodline was. At least, not much more than her secretive scientist of a mother.

clio is low, and Mai is above. Spinning, there is but a moment to react to the plummeting spear and the girl holding onto it. She waits. She waaaaits. She waits. And when the spear is imminent, she shoulders down and rolls along the haft of it. Letting much of the blade pass her by, scraping her own spike along the tip with a spark of violet flame spouting off.

And it's with that flame, and with this closeness to her opponent that Clio generations a splash of arcane fire, dancing violet and shadows, roiling up in a wave toward Mai. All the while, Clio is laughing for the chance at a fun fight after so much emotional tension.

COMBATSYS: Mai Natsume blocks Clio's Whipflash.

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Clio             0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0      Mai Natsume

The conflagration that sparks point of on contact between the two arcane weapons, theatrical and grand was in reality Clio's attack. Mai steps backwards with the pressure of the approaching wave of flame and the spear pinwheels at a ferocious speed. Mai carves and burrows herself a hollow out of the centre of the thick veil of flame attack. Wheeling about a ring of the same violet flame surrounding the tip of her spear she gathers it up only to casts it away to the left and right. Singed but undaunted, Mai continues a high speed whirring kata till the flames cease and she can press forward again.

Moving from a horizontal whirring buzz saw to sweeping horizontal passes, She swings hard enough that she hurls herself into a graceful and fluid butterfly kick. The unusual cant to her torso mid-movement the first clue to her intended follow-up, a snap that brings down a cleaving overhead strike of the seemingly now flexible spear.

Amist the fire and shadow Mai was smiling, burns and singe marks appearing on clothes and skin alike and highly visible on so pale skinned a girl. She was feeling the pressure, and it was more her style to reprise and apply pressure of her own than back down.

COMBATSYS: Mai Natsume successfully hits Clio with Power Strike.
~~ Alluring Hit! ~~

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Clio             0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0      Mai Natsume

Crack! The strike is fast. Distraction by Mai's fluid motion and dancing strike? Simply putting more force behind trying to apply pressure to defend herself? One way or another, Mai finds purchase with a heavy, scattering blow that casts Clio aside. She bounces along the ground, carried by the kick. She hits the ground, carries along the ground on her shoulder, and with a kick she rolls backward and back onto her feet.

And still she's grinning. She wipes her nose and sniffs. "Good one. Good one. But c'mon, hit me harder than that Mai. It's like you're not even trying."

She laughs, rotating her arm, and bursts forward with another fiery strike. A sharp series of quick thrusts with her spike and one heavy back spinning kick with the heel of her boot.

COMBATSYS: Mai Natsume fails to interrupt Fierce Strike from Clio with Suzuran Dipper.

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Clio             0/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0      Mai Natsume

The charging Mai speeds in with a spear glowing brightly, pink Sakura appearing and drifting behind her in her wake as her aura pass the point of intensity it became visible to the naked eye, motes of light breaking away and shedding behind her as she moves, to fall like scattering petal blossoms.


Mai's thrust with the spear is slower than Clio's quick lunge, Mai has to crane her neck over to avoid the first thrust, the tear forming on her cheek scattering red droplets into the pink surrounds. There a bellows like whumph as the featherweight Mai sails backwards, skidding and grating backwards while still on her feet. The aura surrounding Mai and concentrated on her weapon winks out of existence, all of a suddenly extinguished. An arm clutched across her abdomen she slumps to one knee, one eye squeezed shut against the pain and trying to stamp out the urge to vomit on an empty stomach.

She WAS trying, giving her best with the techniques she dared use. But Clio couldn't see that. Either Clio had gotten a lot stronger in that time they'd been apart or Mai was falling out of her league. Either was reason and motive enough to try all the harder.

Mai draws herself back up the polearm and returns to her feet. She had more strength in her arms than in her legs right now, she felt positively numb.

Why did that hit feel so heavy? Clio was equally sized and there was... Mai touches a hand to her stomach, surprised to encounter the thin and taunt waist of a girl rather than a washboard of hard abdominals. Oh, right! Mai was also a girl right now. She really should be mindful of those combat instincts that were honed with her old male body in mind.

Clio blasts through Mai's technique, coming out the other side seemingly more charged and raring to go. She stands and grins, waggling her spike in her hand, tapping the nails of her boots against the ground. "C'mon," she says, "I know you're better than that, Mai. Don't take it so easy on me."

She scrapes the nails of her boot along the ground, the lines crackle with arcane energy. Whorls and patterns scratched into her boots make themselves known. Clio crouches like a cat ready to pounce. "Ready, Mai?" she calls out, rear lifting up like a runner at the gun. "I'm about to turn up the heat."

Clio fires like a blur. An afterimage of her form hangs in her wake as she rushes down Mai while Mai is busy reminding herself of her changed body and the possibility that Clio had learned some in their time apart.

The first strike is a rolling wheel of a kick. Clio just letting her whole weight fall under a heel as she lets herself barrel toward and past Mai.

She hauls past Mai because in this rush of pure speed, Clio isn't finished with her assault. For a moment, she stills a good ways past Mai, still in her catlike crouch. A smirk crosses her face. And a second rush is on for Mai's position.

Cutting across her, this time Clio doesn't strike, simply dashes past with lightning quickness. To get by Mai, and to turn, and to hurl the spike like a throwing knife right for the center of Mai's mass.

COMBATSYS: Clio blitzes into action and acts again!

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Clio             0/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0      Mai Natsume

COMBATSYS: Clio successfully hits Mai Natsume with Crushing Strike.
- Power hit! -

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Clio             1/-------/=======|=======\==-----\1      Mai Natsume

COMBATSYS: Mai Natsume blocks Clio's Spike Throw.

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Clio             1/-------/=======|=======\===----\1      Mai Natsume

Mai is driven down onto her knees. The heel strike crushing down upon her clavicle was enough she had broken out in a chilling sweat, her arm was feeling rubbery and numb, pins and needles where she could feel anything at all. Eyes wide and staring down at the cobbles of the training area all the sounds were muted, far off seeming voices warbled and the pounding of boots on the cobbles as Clio completed her pass and started a return trip. Even the catlike landing felt like a series of thuds with Mai on her hands and Knees.

She draws the spear along the stonework surface as it grates and bumps, throwing it up it time enough to deflect the thrown spike, yet only alters its trajectory a little with a clunk and sparking, another graze and blossoming of blood red appears as a stripe across her tricep and scratch across her back

The spear clunks with the ugly and unwieldy swipe she takes at the projectile, allowing her head to hang back as she draws a gasping and relieved breath. With rubbery legs and an injured arm she couldn't conjure up a normal defensive barrier. She was just about done.

The lifts her rearmost and uninjured arm, holding the spear from the furthers point away from the head, guiding the point of the blade forward and directed towards where Clio now stands, Mai angles the blade diagonally down, edge rotating and turning up. While she sinks into a low stance, a scorpion martial arts pose where she slowly lifts her numb arm to also take a cradeling hold of the spear and continues pouring even more and more power out into a turbulant and violent increase in her aura.

She floods the area around her with a vortex of cherry blossoms, the girl herself rendered in a bright pink and casting dark shadows. Eyes laser focused on Clio and hair fluttering all around in the wind.

COMBATSYS: Mai Natsume charges her next attack!

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Clio             1/-------/=======|=======\=====--\1      Mai Natsume

Strike, move, strike repeat. Unrelenting and fierce. Clio's unarmed, but she still has her strength, her speed, and her magic to bring to bear at any moment. And so far, she hopes she's proving herself as best she can to her friend.

The magic bursts upward, welling around Mai in a beautiful blossom of color and light. Clio may be one of the flames in darkness, but she was always more comfortable in the night. Still, she smiles as her friend gets serious. As she focuses and brings that spear to an angle toward Clio.

"You really are pretty, you know that? Damn," Clio remarks, shaking her head. "But I'm afraid I can't let you do what you're about to do. Think fast."

Clio darts toward the sakura tornado. A roiling, violent black and violet flame wreathes around Clio's left arm. She ducks left, she weaves right, she snaps her fist forward. The hazy magics around her arm bend the light, splitting shadows, a single punch seems to come from spots of dark and blind angles. All wrapped in a shade.

COMBATSYS: Mai Natsume counters Stygian Fist from Clio with Empowered Floral Blizzard Blossom.
- Power hit! -

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Clio             1/--=====/=======|======-\-------\0      Mai Natsume

The light gathers and strengthens around the tip of the spear, the focal point from which the rest of her aura projects. All light and the hypnotic whirling vortex of blossoms and light mai turns her numb hand upwards, fingers splayed on one side of the shaft and thumb the other as she lifts the blade point off the ground.

I won't disappoint, I won't give up.


Out of respect for her friends strength. /Out of fear of losing you mean, fear of being a failure!/

Mai vehemently and violently shakes her head, she wouldn't hold back in the slightest. If this was to be her final move in this she'd make it the most powerful one she could muster. The flash and lightshow were unintended and completely outside of her awareness.

"I'm going all out!! Blow away!"

The approaching distortion filled her sense, looking through that lens of twisted light and gathering darkness fortified and doubled down on the nausea she was still experiencing. Moving shadow and points of whirling lights. Both storm fronts collide and Clio's strike strikes true, passing though the afterimage of bright light as her school chum is flipping backwards, tucked into a tight little ball she unfurls into a spider like long legged airborne crouch and kicks off the air directly behind her, not even waiting for the moment her foot could touch down. Knowing Clio, that moment would be too late.

"Tokihanatsu Rikka RANOSEN" (RELEASING... Flashing Cherry Snow Storm)

A cannonstrike like she was a cavalry lancer Mai Plows into Clio centremass, the tip of the lance connecting with Mai continuing to shunt the spear forward, as the kick from all that energy travels the length of the spear and detonate where it can magnify the impact and damage.

The gates of hell open and it is filled with pink flowers.

Clio is dashed away, sent soaring back and flopping, bouncing along the ground, rolling and scraping and sliding to a stop a good many many feet away from the source of the cannonade.

And there she lay for a long moment. Unmoving, still. Then a laugh comes from the downed Clio St. Jeanne. Slow, steady, happy. Clio pushes up, steadies, steadies, almost drops back down, but tosses herself back up to her feet, back to her bend and swaying stance. And despite the bloodied nose. Despite the scraped legs. Despite the torn hoodie exposing a good deal of her stomach. Clio St. Jeanne still stands.

"Good. Hey, you know the rule, always ice cream after a good fight. Don't matter who wins it. Got that?" Clio says with a point, and then she drops to a near three point stance. "Because I think I got one more good trick left in me today."

Her hand, touching the ground, scratches a quick circle in the dirt. An arcane ring flares to life around Clio, reflecting behind her in the faint image of a ring of chain wreathing a set of scales. Clio's form begins to blur and a ring of fire bursts out from around her. "Through the Fires of Hell," Clio's voice intones, "Cerberus RUSH!"

Three figures burst through the fire. Three images of Clio St. Jeanne. A one woman riot as the first seems to come through with a fiery fist striking a hook toward Mai's head. A second charges in, sliding along the ground to take out Mai's knees. And that third one, rolling in a wheel, heel coming down toward the top of Mai's head with a crowning, crushing blow.

Which one is real, which is illusion, which strike is coming, the multiple strikes rain down in a blistering assault, all driving to push Mai to her potential.

COMBATSYS: Mai Natsume blocks Clio's Cerberus Rush.

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Clio             0/-------/--=====|=======\==-----\1      Mai Natsume

Relieved while also a tad concerned; all that Mai could focus on right now was trying to catch her breath. Gulping down air and intensely glad that last blow had actually found it's mark, the anxiety and tightness in her chest refuses to fade until the figure lying on the ground over yonder begins to laugh, unsteadily climbing back to her feet was a welcome sight.

Mai didn't want it to be over just yet. This was a reunion after all. There was so many more times she wanted to cross blades, come right back and try again... more and more! Until they were both satisfied.

/You REALLY want to defeat her don't you? You're getting worked up because she's so strong. You should share that with her./

Mai wasn't even sure they could find an ice-cream within a hundred miles. But it was tradition, by virtue of that and the special circumstances of this particular match they would definitely somehow find some.

"Mhm!! *huff* ...Loser *huff* buys!"

In response to Clio's confidence and the drawing on the ground Mai already has her guard raised. The particulars of the architecture and sigils were lost on her, not part of the education they shared. The attack could be anything, thus she would have to respond to it with her own skills and speciality. Mai was a martial artists practitioner first and formost, not a caster, conjuror or summoner.

In Mai's mind, each of those copies were as powerful as Clio and all carried the same level of threat. Fast hands, wielding the spear as though it were momentarily a shield she could hide behind at a given moment Mai retreats, hastily blocking and parrying blows she doesn't know are illusionary or very real and dangerous. There's three opponents and the whirring red only protects her in well-timed movements, she has to step lively, push her body hard in order to keep up this surge of effort it's taking to keep most of the blows from reaching her flesh. Some slip through, her fingers sting and bleed from nicks and cuts, the sticky fluid camouflaged against the blood-red spear. Mai continues to retreat until the moment all three figures are within a wide cone in front of her.

Mai wasn't a strategist or great thinker who could plan like Tsubaki. Nor was she an optimist, like Makoto who had those unparalleled instincts and an overwhelming speed and strength to win her fights. Noel was the gifted magician of their group and had an arsenal of abilities up her sleeve. Clio? She was the one who never gave up, always driven. Mai didn't have those talents. She was indecisive, pessimistic, trapped in her own old ways of doing things until someone showed her another way, and haunted by a past rather than driven by one.

"Natsume Mai! -- Oka Ranjin!"

If she had no other answer, couldn't figure it out for herself? She'd just have to attack all her targets at once. Both her arms striking out back and forth she weaves a ludicrously fast pattern through the air as the shaft of the spear seemingly vanishes, red crescent blades slashes attacking from many different angles, rapidly and consecutively at blinding speeds. Mai speeding through a kata such that the wind pressure ahead of her; has her ponytail whipping away behind her and streaming away from her point of attack.

COMBATSYS: Mai Natsume successfully hits Clio with Sylvan Hurricane Assault.
- Power hit! -

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Clio             1/----===/=======|-------\-------\0      Mai Natsume

Strike. Strike. Strike. A whirlwind of power and strikes, prompted forth with the great might of Mai's familial weapon. Granting her the speed and power needed to cut down not one, not two, but the entirety of Clio's illusury and not so illusury assaults.

The last one to fall is the real deal St. Jeanne. Knocked to the side, she lays on her back, looking up, laughing, breathing heavily. "I owe you an ice cream after this," she says, happy and content to have gotten the chance to let it out like she has. Just, happy, for things to seem somewhat normal and not so serious.

"Okay, okay. One more go, then Ice Cream," Clio says, pushing herself back up to her feet. She staggers forward, then rights herself. "You ready? This shouldn't be a tough one."

Clio skip steps forward, and then makes for one final feinting rush down on Mai's position. Juking one way, then another, she puts out a one-two punching combination followed by a flashing, flaming knee leaping for Mai's chin.

Whatever happens, Clio lands on her butt on her way down, hissing and rubbing her tailbone, but so content with what's gone on, that the little ache and pain is a small price to pay.

COMBATSYS: Clio can no longer fight.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  <
Mai Natsume      0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Mai Natsume blocks Clio's Charged Combo.

[                       \\\\\\\  <
Mai Natsume      0/-------/------=|

When the assault finally dies out and Clio is knocked aside , Mai has slumped forward after Clio lays there a moment, both hands wrapped around the spear she's clearly using it for support. Her mask of serious intent dropping for a heartbeat as she considers it might be over.

Mai starts smiling and nodding as though she might be agreeing, though midsentence when Clio announces she's not done yet. Mai immediately straightens, a sharp exhale escaping her lips that wasn't a sigh. Muscles tightening again and between blinks that super serious mode Mai returns. Brows drawn down she was grim faced and ready. She wouldn't spoil this match at the final hurdle.

A bare armed block wards against the first strike reaching her, the polearm weaving up between the figures of both girls in tight proximity, clapping against the inner side of Clio's other arm Mai places an obstacle in the way Clio has to pull the punch short, it slaps the side of Mai's cheek rather than knocking her block off. It's only about then that Mai realizes the danger. Clio's leaping knee prompts Mai to release her grip on the spear entirely and start a back handspring even as the rolling wave of flame makes contact with the spear and rolls across her face and fringe.

Blinding and instinctually terrifying Mai continues another full revolution of back flipping away, coming to a rest on one knee, a grasping hand held out in front of her fills with a familiar bar of red energy and the spear returns to her grasp, held angled up as though it were a pike ready fend off a charging opponent.

Mai scrubbing her eyes back and forth across her equally utilized rubbing forearm, adding a few more bright lights than existed otherwise.

"I win this one right? Ice cream! Ice cream!"

The Mai who stands back up still rubbing at her eyes as though she were sleepy more her normal self than attack mode. She was looking forward to Clio getting her ice cream. It was a treat after all, even if she didn't enjoy normal food very much.

"Ah-hah. It probably would have gone the other way if you'd had your chain."

The self-effacing Mai continues to rub her eyes with her even as she walks back over and only stops to extend a hand to help Clio. How utterly shattered and dead on her feet she felt? Clio could maybe blow her over with a hearty breath. If the girl had her signature weapon it could well have gone the other way, and Mai was using a Legacy Weapon... rebuild in progress. Without it, she probably wouldn't have had the oomph to fight Clio, let alone still be standing.

"It might turn into an adventure like old times just trying to find Ice-Cream."

COMBATSYS: Mai Natsume has ended the fight here.

Clio flops back, laughing to herself. Her hands reach up and rub against her forehead. She isn't in Illyria, not in the Sacred Order's castle. She isn't surrounded by Sacred Order neophytes. She isn't anywhere in Europe. No, Clio is back in the Academy. She's back with a friend. She's back where things should be and difficult moment and moral hardsharps no longer apply.

Only fights and ice cream here.

Clio sits herself up, resting her forearms on her knees. Sat like this it's more obvious she's just wearing small shorts rather than a hoodie for a dress. "I'm looking into building a new one," Clio tells Mai. "I've been learning here. Picking up a few new tricks. And I'll be building a new chain if I can get Leo to let me at their facilities."

With a sigh and a pained grunt, Clio pushes herself back to her feet. She stretches, arching her back back in one moment and bending over to touch her toes in the next. "But hey, glad we could show these guys what a Sacred Order Magic Formula weapon can do."

She walks toward Mai, happy, content, smiling and feeling a world lighter than she has been. This has been a good fight and a good day. But she has one more thing, and that's another big, tight, fairly sweaty, hug against Mai. Where she can whisper, "Thank you so much for helping me."

It wasn't quite a fair comparison to wow these cadets with. The gifted and elite prospects that got to attend the Academy proper, those with a better than fair chance being promoted straight out of school. Filling officer positions based on their record, merit and achievement. These two cheery and smiling girls were some of the lower end of the spectrum of NOL's elite forces.

Mai takes in the state of her friend and her ruined clothing and wounds. They've always been close to the same height and size so it comes as a no brainer to offer a solution. Traditionally they always shared what outfits they could. Ultimately the only person she rarely shared clothes with was Noel. Since that time they'd last seen each other at the academy, Mai had grown.

"I'm sorry about your hoodie. I have some more clothes in my luggage if you need something else to wear."

Obviously Clio wouldn't be interested in the NOL uniform and the like, Mai was sure there might be at least a couple of items in there. Though what she was wearing right now was amongst the most conservative options she had.

Brushing the end of her nose with the back of her hand she plainly averted her eyes. Some old manners kicking in that wouldn't allow for staring at a girl in dishevelled clothes. Mai squeaks in response to being hugged, amidst returning an awkward feeling return of a challenging stare at the cadets.

What did they think they were looking at? The girls faces pressed cheek to cheek, body half turned away she was positively plastered to Clio, flustered and turning beet red.

"Ah! Ah, ...Y-You're welcome. ..but Clio. I didn't do anything."

It kind of reminded her of being piled under hugs by Noel or Makoto holding tight and staying awkwardly close for a really long time. Mai wasn't complaining, she was positively beaming at both the hug and the memories. It was beyond to keep up a stern and challenging countenance in face of such an attack by Clio.

"I'll always come to help Clio, any time you call."

Mai returns the embrace with one arm, body half turned away it's more awkward when she does it. Her arm slower to lift and return the embrace since Mai wasn't big on reaching out to or touching others.

Log created on 21:19:03 09/18/2018 by Mai Natsume, and last modified on 05:22:56 10/08/2018.