At least at the Cosmic Universities, people either stopped voluntarily or were forced to before it came to that point. Dead students were bad for business, as it turned out. Out in the worlds, all bets were off, but many would rather subjugate their opponent than kill them. Which led back to the whole gauging thing.
Generally talking, a person that entered a fight clothed and ended naked had depleted their entire Astral Capacity. As wounds were healed, less and less of the energy went to maintain that additional layer and more to the core body.
Alternatively, one managed to transform the fight into a whole different activity through successful flirting. Chances of that were rather low, but not zero. I certainly hoped that both of the ladies down low, or at least some that were equally attractive, would one day engage with me in ways that were more fun than brawling.
Anyway, I already liked this reality quite a lot because of this. It meant that all of those strong-headed hotties could be fought earnestly, leaving their bodies unharmed while they got progressively less clothes on. Because this was an ability of the mind that could be disabled, spanking asses until they were red was still a possibility. The best of all worlds.
”Your self-control is respectable, ” Esther complimented as they both stood their ground, the distance between them now less than three steps. That voice of hers still sent shivers down my spine. It was like she was wrapping the inside of my ear canals with silk.
Even if an Astral Body prevented damage, the pain was very much real. Aclysia took her battle stance again. ”I thank you for the kind words, ” the white-haired woman declared, pointing her spear directly at her enemy now. Her Artefact ability was not going to be useful this close anyway. ”It is my obligation to emerge victorious regardless of how nice you are, though. I will win. ”
”Unlikely, ” Esthers melodic tone made it hard to decipher if she was mocking or just confident. Either way, she charged and bridged the distance between the two of them in a flash. The same effect that had allowed her to dodge so easily earlier was now utilized offensively. Before Aclysia even knew what was happening, the longer blade of Esthers conjoined weapon was coming for her head.
In a desperate attempt to block, she ripped up her spear. Grey met silver, a singing clash followed by a prolonged screech, the edge grinding over the ornate shaft of Aclysias spear and sliding closer to the green-eyed womans fingers. Although Astral Bodies prevented even the loss of limbs, proper severance was one large tax on a persons Astrality.
A chance for relief came when Esthers blade got stuck in a particularly deep ornament. Exploiting that opening, Aclysia twisted the spear sideways. The raven-haired woman had to jump backwards, to not be hit by the tip of the weapon.
Trailing her spear over the ground, Aclysia retreated until she was comfortable with the distance created. This first engagement had gone clearly to Esther, but the fight wasn over. They had their initial positions again, one slowly approaching, the other trailing the rim of the arena. This time, Aclysia didn throw an attack out. That water had been tested and deemed too dangerous. Now they were both reconsidering their strategies.
The runes on Esthers weapon were asymmetrically charged. While the short sword had basically none of them glowing whatsoever, the sabre was almost filled to the tip. Now that I paid some attention to it, they also had slightly different colours. The main blades runes were a greyish light, while the short sword was a pale blue. Similar, but not quite the same.
Aclysia kept transforming more of the floor into a liquid state, taking advantage of the prolonged gap between engagements. Everyone was holding their breath in anticipation. For most, it was the first time they saw two wielders of Artefacts fight.
I was slightly more relaxed about things. I hoped for the fight to either devolve into semi-nude catfighting or for them to show me more skillful combat. Either way, I would see something I liked. The art of battle was not my absolute favourite subject to study, but it was up there.
The second engagement started much like the first with Aclysia liquefying part of the floor. This time, however, she only pulled it out of the floor, leaving the ground around her marked by numerous trenches which made the footing unsteady. Esther, who had advanced close enough to charge in, still went on the aggressive. Lunging and leaping over the trenches, Esther aimed for Aclysias head. She was quick, but not as quick as she had been with the earlier boost.
This fact allowed Aclysia to dodge to the side. She ripped up her weapon and thrust forwards. Esther blocked the attack by launching a lightning bolt at the tip of the spear, forcing it off its straight trajectory. When she landed, she immediately attempted a counter attack, only to find her feet enveloped by the liquified stone.
It hardened before she could move away, leaving her rooted and at the mercy of an opponent with superior range. Aclysia backed off just enough to exploit that fact and thrust towards her opponent. Robbed of her mobility, Esther could only surrender or be turned into a pin-cushion.
Thats how it should have gone, at least, but Esther suddenly vanished. Aclysias spear only penetrated air. Confused, she looked down for a moment, seeing the stone sphere with the foot-shaped empty core under her. Then her head flew upwards in search of her opponent. The order of actions betrayed a level of inexperience.
Just in time, Aclysia noticed her opponent standing where she had a few seconds prior, on the other side of the trenches. The screaming of magical thunder once more filled up the air. Aclysia managed to make the attack hit the side of her shoulder, rather than her chest.
Esther immediately resumed the attack, not giving her opponent any time to breathe. It must have been her conviction that another build-up of liquid materials would only have been to her disadvantage. Better to keep her enemy occupied. Another lunge crossed the distance between them in an accelerated charge. Aclysia gathered herself quickly, knocking aside the now lightless, monotone grey weapon, and retaliated with a swift thrust at Esthers head.
As certain and graceful as a wise owl, Esther leaned her head to the side. The diamond shaped blade of the spear scraped over the side of her face. Golden blood appeared for a moment, then her Astral Body sealed the wound. Both of them were frozen for a split second, stopping the momentum of their weapons and then reversing it to start a new attack.
A flurry of blows followed. Metal clashed again and again. Lunges were knocked aside, strikes parried and slashes dodged. It was a back and forth dance, both of them playing to the strengths of their weapon, Aclysia trying to keep Esther at a distance while the raven-haired woman aimed to break into close range. A fourth bolt of lightning clashed uselessly against a bubble of liquid stone. With every strike that missed and scrapped the floor, Aclysia built up more of her own resources. The even tiled ground of the arena transformed into a landscape of unnaturally smooth trenches.
She wasn the only one continuously stacking up on ressources. The more they fought, the more of the runes on Esthers blade lit up again. Cacophonous, their weapons cut through the air. Two gorgeous women dancing a deadly waltz to a rhythm neither of them could completely dictate. One of them, however, had considerably more influence than the other.
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