1 2 1

[13:58] <PersonaGM> [Tuesday, the 10th of April.-
[13:59] <PersonaGM> [That morning, the clubs had opened for business, with reps from each club setting up in the assembly hall to take on new names.-
[14:01] <PersonaGM> [Ai had chosen archery, which meant that after school ended, she would head right to the sports complex.-
[14:02] <PersonaGM> [There were benefits to going to Sophia Academy. The middle, high and university colleges all maintained their own sports teams, but they all used the same complex. Even though the university's equipment was more advanced, some of this trickled down to the Lion Hall students too. By and large, the Lion Hall Archery Club was well-equipped.-
[14:05] <PersonaGM> [Their clubhouse consisted of an armoury where their bows, arrows, robes and other materials were kept; a changing room, a small shower area and of course the shooting range itself, which was expansive. Contrary to some traditional views of an archery range, this one had a bevy of targets and setups that made it resemble more an Olympic shooting gallery than a few bullseyes on a grassy field.-
[14:06] <PersonaGM> [The club leader, Song Zhi, was a Chinese girl of average height and short brown hair. She sat near the front door of the hall, the list of new registers in front of her, and checked people in.-
[14:06] <PersonaGM> [As Ai arrived, she'd look up at her. "Name and class, please?"]
[14:09] * Ai was… admittedly quite impressed at the facilities, even if she knew exactly why they were impressive. Yet… All the same? The girl bowed softly to the club leader. "Y-yes. Yoshino Ai, H-1C."
[14:21] <PersonaGM> ["Okay." She marked Ai off the list. "The armoury is that way. Find a robe in your size, put it on, and meet back in the range. If you need help with the robe, let me know."]
[14:23] <Ai> "Alright then~" Ai said with a bit of relief, before heading off to said armory! …Interesting too that it was called that, but hey. …Maybe they're just a bit more formal, you know? All the same, she was heading over there with a surprisingly… determined? Gait.
[14:25] <PersonaGM> [The robe took a bit of time to put on, especially as it had a light chestplate to go over the robe itself.-
[14:26] <PersonaGM> [But once it was done… It was back to the main archery range.-
[14:27] <PersonaGM> ["Hello, everyone." Said Song Zhi. "My name is Song Zhi, the leader of the archery club. Thank you all for coming…"-
[14:27] <PersonaGM> [After a few minutes explaining the basic format of how a session at archery club would go, Song asked a question. "Put your hand up if this is your first time at archery club."]
[14:45] * Ai gently raised her hand, though she blushed a little when she did so. "…This is my first time at Sophia's Archery Club… But I attended the one at Sakuramachi. D… do I count as first time or not?" Middle school back home in her ward in Tokyo.
[14:50] <PersonaGM> [A fair few others put their hands up too.-
[14:52] <PersonaGM> ["Yes." Said Song. "Archery clubs in the Chubu region are a little different to Kanto's, and I can't really account for Sakuramachi's standards. You're also a first year high schooler, so this'll be your first time in a high school archery club."-
[14:52] <PersonaGM> ["Here's what we'll do." Said Song…-
[14:52] <PersonaGM> [Song grouped the newbies around Ai's age- including Ai- into a group of about five girls. "I'll let Saoirse look after you. Saoirse!"-
[14:57] <PersonaGM> [Saoirse was clearly something of a veteran in the group. Saoirse was lining up a shot and barely noticed her name being called.-
[14:57] <PersonaGM> [She pulled the arrow back- released- and it hit square in the middle of the target.-
[15:01] <PersonaGM> [It was only now that Saoirse turned. She was about 5'4", with shoulder-long black hair and, despite the gaelic name, Chinese. She was slim, fair-skinned with a clean, bright face. She had big, honey-brown eyes and a cute little nose. "Yeah? What's up?"-
[15:01] <PersonaGM> ["I'm leaving these newbies in your care, ok?" Said Song.-
[15:01] <PersonaGM> ["Really?" Said Saoirse. She turned back to look at her target for a moment, then back at Song. She took a breath-
[15:02] <PersonaGM> [Then threw out a thumbs-up. "Leave it to me!"-
[15:02] <PersonaGM> ["You're a gem. Okay, you guys-" Song moved off to handle someone else.-
[15:02] <PersonaGM> [Saoirse walked over. "Hi! I'm Saoirse Choi. New to archery club, huh?"]
[15:08] * Ai wandered a bit closer! …but on hearing that name, and… well. That was a connection, she realized! But she wouldn't say much about it for now, because… because. She imagined Saoirse might get annoyed if people harp on her brother's reputation, right? So she just… did her best to smile and nod when she replied. …The bright face and light eyes did draw Ai's attention though, as she lingered on the face a little. "Yeah! Last time was in middle school."
[15:13] <PersonaGM> ["Oh, yeah, you've just hit high school? What's your name?"]
[15:20] <Ai> "Ai! Ai Yoshino." …Who even knows how we're doing name order in this game anymore.
[15:21] <PersonaGM> ["Nice to meet you! What brings you to archery?"]
[15:23] * Ai …suddenly froze. Now, she had taken one year of it in middle, that's true. But she hadn't been fully sure she wanted to continue? …And now, she. Well. Fought the debris of human emotion embodied in the form of demons and monsters with a bow that probably wasn't entirely physical. …So she needed the practice. But if she said that it'd be super-chuunibyou and honestly alarming if someone didn't just assume it was that kind of silliness - a lose-lose. But. -
[15:24] <Ai> Turning that over in her head made Ai actually pause for a good 3-5 seconds. "…It's a good sport and I did it in middle." She said … a bit too sheepishly.
[15:29] <PersonaGM> ["Uh-huh." Said Saoirse. "Checks out!"-
[15:30] <PersonaGM> ["It's kind of a simple answer, but I like that." Said Saoirse. "Some people have pretty complex reasons for doing archery. Some say it helps with exam results or study. It's true that it improves concentration and discipline."-
[15:30] <PersonaGM> ["But sheer love of the sport is hard to beat." Said Saoirse, even though that wasn't quite what Ai said.-
[15:31] <PersonaGM> ["Alright, so you still remember how to fire a bow? Didn't forget in the break?"]
[15:41] * Ai nodded, even smiling softly. Energy! "Yes! I do. And how to string it and nocking and holding the stance and proper finger placement and … yeah. I prefer careful aiming over instinctive release but whatever you think works is good!" …How did she even remember all of this from just one year? A mystery for Saoirse, maybe.
[15:43] <PersonaGM> ["Great!"-
[15:45] <PersonaGM> ["Alright. You five. Go fetch a bow, string it, then take shots. I want to see your styles."]
[15:53] * Ai bowed again, and headed off to get a bow. …Were there any variants on type of bow, at all?
[15:54] <PersonaGM> [The bows were all modern composite bows. Fortunately for Ai, the major difference was in length- some were shorter, others were longer.]
[16:01] * Ai nodded her head slightly, and after a brief moment of testing the flexiness of them… She opted for a bit on the longer side, if still near the middle - the others were big enough that she'd have trouble drawing them, and many modern bows weren't designed with the asymmetrical shape of her, uh. Magical one. Still, this one seemed to have similar performance - maybe - so Ai nodded to herself and carried it out! …while paying attention to see what the other girls had. Maybe even, who the other girls were, on some level. Curious!
[16:05] <PersonaGM> [The other girls were all a little taller than Ai, with the tallest being about 5'2". They all went for bows similar to Ai's, maybe a little longer. The only one she recognised was Yurika Mori, who was from Ai's class.-
[16:06] <PersonaGM> ["Alright, good picks." Said Saoirse after a moment's inspection. She moved to help string up some bows for three of the girls, who were completely new to archery.-
[16:07] <PersonaGM> ["Take your shots. It's okay if you don't know how, I want to see how you go anyway. You all probably have at least an idea of what it looks like to fire a bow…"]
[16:15] * Ai nodded again, at the instructions, carefully stringing the bow. …A thing, belatedly, she realized she didn't need to do with her shadow-fighting one. Hmm. Oh well, that wasn't an important issue, right? Right. It… actually took a bit of fiddling with the thing, and outright stepping (gently!) on the bottom to get it to stay pulled enough to put the string on… but she had managed nicely. -
[16:17] <Ai> At which point, the girl sauntered over to her spot on the range, and held the bow. She … while she did mostly position it for seeing down the arrow, as a sighting method? Her position was a bit higher up on her face than possibly the other girls did, and her hand on the bow was as low as the grip would allow - again, mimicking her vaguely mounted-archery-style traditional bow in combat. She assumed a firm, if slightly broad stance… yet her legs were a bit looser and openly placed than some of the girls. …If you really thought about it, it was because she was positioning not for perfect stability, but for being able to adjust her pose quickly! …Like say, to dodge return fire. -
[16:18] * Ai took a deep breath, spending a… pretty sizable amount of time concentrating on aiming. Then. Release, trying for the bullseye!
[16:24] <PersonaGM> [Thok! It very very nearly scored the bullseye.-
[16:25] <PersonaGM> [It was clear that Ai's shot had been the best. The only other girl- Emily- who'd done archery before landed her arrow on the outer ring. The three newbies, including Yurika, barely managed to get their arrows off their bows.-
[16:26] <PersonaGM> ["Interesting." Said Saoirse. She beelined for Ai. "That was a great shot. Can I give you some pointers?"]
[16:34] * Ai turned to Saoirse, blushing brightly at the praise, and sort of grabbing at her robe with the hand not keeping her bow in hand, now, swaying on her feet. "Oh! Yeah, you can…" Though she did briefly have a small glance of nerves … of a different, more fearful kind?
[16:49] <PersonaGM> ["Good!"-
[16:52] <PersonaGM> [Saoirse moved in close and started adjusting Ai's posture manually. "Juuust raise your elbow a little and pull it back so it kisses the cheek-" she put her hand over Ai's and pulled the bow back. "The longer you hold the bow, the more tense your arm will be- you'll want to go arrow, notch, pull, release in as smooth a way as you can…" She mimicked a smooth pull-notch-release gesture across Ai's front.-
[16:53] <PersonaGM> ["Your stance feels tense, like you're waiting for something. That can be useful, but if you can master a momentary bend-and-plant, you can get a little extra stability…" She nudged Ai's knees and thighs apart just a little. "… And shoot. Ultimately you want to be able to do all of this in a few seconds. You've got promise, though, and it'll come to you in time…"]
[16:57] <Ai> The very instant Saoirse put a hand on hers, Ai… squeaked out loud in what sounded like shock, and her cheeks reddened even deeper. Still, she tried to remain quiet and listen longer. "A-ah… so a more… right. A s-smooth… soft focus. Not tense or hard but… gentle and flexible." A nod, if one that seemed to be with great … something. Like the tension in her legs became the tension in her mind. "And then just try to relax when you exert yourself. Go a little faster, even if normally you wanna take it sl… ow…" Cheeks even more red, and that last, delayed syllable sounded oddly mortified. "…" -
[16:58] <Ai> Deep breath. "I was kinda thinking that I needed to be in a ready spot because I've been thinking that I don't know how long I'll have the perch available before I need to move on and drawing fire is pretty bad given my usual formational configuration or well not that it's that usual yet and so I thought that I needed to be in a ready position so that I could dodge at a moment's notice and then reposition so I could get an optimal angle
[16:58] <Ai> on the target and adapt to changing circumstances a… and…" Okay, explaining technicalities to erase the previous awkward only made it worse.
[17:00] <PersonaGM> [The other girls were observing this in a silence more silent than silence. An active silence.-
[17:00] <PersonaGM> [Saoirse, however, only brightened at Ai's explanation. "Hey, you've done the running shoot before? No kidding! That's perfect!"-
[17:02] <PersonaGM> [She patted Ai on the head. "Try another shot now with my pointers in mind."]
[17:07] <Ai> It took nearly a full second for Ai to catch her breath… and close her eyes. Meditate, touch the fear lightly and let it go. Fear is th… no not this junk again. But they snapped open. "Alright!" And so, she moved a bit to the side of Saoirse, sort of wiggling her shoulder as a gesture of how much space she needed for her draw. Bow was lowered, not at draw yet. So… so, draw, notch, pull, release, as smooth as possible. She could do that.
[17:07] With a swift draw, she grabbed an arrow from her quiver, spun it with a small twirl of her fingers (slow enough not to quite be showing off, thankfully), took just a breath to make sure she didn't mess up placement… then with a single blink, cleared her sight, leaving her dominant eye open and staring down the arrow. Lined up. All before the full second passed, she drew back. Trying to do it quickly was a bit hard on that part, so Ai let herself take time, passing into the start of second 2 or so. Then… release. -
[17:08] <Ai> …and afterwards, as if some stupid reflex caught her, Ai lowered the bow as soon as the arrow was clear, and did a small half-hop, half-stride to the side, as if repositioning already.
[17:09] <PersonaGM> [Thok. The arrow hit home, edging just inside bullseye territory!-
[17:09] <PersonaGM> ["Yes, excellent." Said Saoirse, her face lighting up. "Again-"-
[17:10] <PersonaGM> ["Saoirse!" Said Song from across the hall. "You can scout later! Make sure the newbies get actual technique training!"-
[17:10] <PersonaGM> ["Er-" Saoirse froze. She scowled at Song for a moment, then gave her a thumbs up. "Sure-sure. Sorry, guys! I got a bit wrapped up. Alright, I'm going to demonstrate the basic stances… Yoshino, you can practice if you like…"-
[17:12] <PersonaGM> [After that, Ai was mostly left to her own devices for the next hour. Saoirse would make occasional fly-bys to check on Ai's progress, which mostly consisted of clucking approvingly before returning to the newbies.-
[17:12] <PersonaGM> [After the hour mark, the club started to wrap up, with many of the members heading home, leaving only the hardcores, the veterans and wannabe professionals behind.-
[17:13] <PersonaGM> [It was then when Saoirse approached Ai. "Yoshino! How do ya feel about today?"]
[17:18] * Ai was beaming, having spent a lot of time … after sort of managing to make enough gestures of zone control (read: sort of pacing around enough to give the idea she'd be there) to get a clear idea of where she could move… she had, emboldened by Running Shoot being a real thing (how was she supposed to know? Middleschool didn't really interact with semi-obscure badass tourneys.)… made her start actually running around, sighting things. She … admittedly sort of felt a bit like half her age pretending she was in some videogame fantasy world when she tried to imagine the scenes from the Library, or shadows at the end of her arrowheads. …Ai was actually pretty tired out by the time it all ended, though. Still, happy! "I-it was great! My… my time in middleschool archery was n-nothing like this. It feels weird already feeling like a veteran to girls my own age… but exciting! I was a bit nervous when Song yelled at you to stop focusing on me, but she's only doing her job."
[17:20] <PersonaGM> ["Yeah, she is. Like I shoulda been, I guess." Said Saoirse. "Oh well."-
[17:21] <PersonaGM> ["You looked like you were having fun, though, and you obviously have potential." Saoirse said, folding her arms. "I'm going to be straightforward: there's a spot on the Lion Hall Girls' Archery Team if you want it."]
[17:23] * Ai …may well have entered sparkly-eye shoujo-bubbles cut-in mode for all we knew, because her answer was immediate and delivered with a radiant smile. "Yes!"
[17:24] <PersonaGM> ["That's the spirit!" Said Saoirse, pumping her fist. She shouted across the hall, "Hey Song, she said yes!"-
[17:24] <PersonaGM> ["Woo."-
[17:24] <PersonaGM> ["Okay. You're new, so you probably don't know what the Team does? How it competes?" Said Saoirse.]
[17:26] * Ai was smiling too broadly to let her confusion register any worse than a 'Derp? :D'. "No idea! I know you should be accurate and there's formal matches. But anyone knows that…"
[17:30] <PersonaGM> ["Yeah, there's a little more to it than that." Said Saoirse. "The competitive circuit Sophia's a part of is a little different to some schools, so here's how it works."-
[17:33] <PersonaGM> ["Each competition has the teams meet up and compete in three matches. The first match is Basic Shoot. Each team member takes it in turns to fire five arrows at five different targets within a time limit. Points are awarded on accuracy, but also on how much time you have left on the clock."-
[17:35] <PersonaGM> ["The second match is Synchronised Volley, because they need to prove that it's a team sport, I guess." Said Saoirse. "The whole team lines up and does five synchronised shots over a wall with a time limit. Points are awarded on accuracy- even though you can't see the target-, synchronicity with your teammates, and time left on the clock."-
[17:37] <PersonaGM> ["The third match is Running Shoot, which you seem to have some experience with. It's the most complicated match." Said Saoirse. "Each team enters an obstacle course, one at a time, to shoot moving targets. The targets are programmed based off the speed and accuracy of rival teammates, and they can shoot back- not with real arrows, though. Points are awarded based on how many targets you hit, how quickly you clear the course, and on how few hits you suffered."]
[17:41] <Ai> "I'd hope not with real arrows! I'm gonna get enough of th… that… …fear from uh." She wrung her hands, trying to play it off as just fear. "Just the thought of being shot at by blunts." Good save, definitely weren't going to tip off you anticipate going into live-fire zones. "The synchronized one sounds a bit weird, but oh well. Let's just make sure I don't get anything going to my head to make me act like some weird ace once I have practice. Can't cooperate good when you act weird…" A shake of her head. "But, but, I see, I see. Rival teammates is an interesting trick on the running shoot, though.".
[17:42] <PersonaGM> ["Yeah. Oh, in case that sounds misleading- it means rivals from other teams, not each other."]
[17:45] <Ai> "…Oh! I did get confused on that, thanks." Awkwardly wringing her hands again.
[17:48] <PersonaGM> ["All good, I misspoke." She gave Ai a thumbs up.-
[17:50] <PersonaGM> ["We compete four times a year." Said Saoirse. "The first competition is in May. That's the Prefectural Tournament, where we compete with schools in Aichi Prefecture. Then there's the Subregionals in July, where we go up against the teams in Tokai."-
[17:51] <PersonaGM> ["After that is the Regionals in September, where we compete with the best six teams in Chubu. We scrubbed out at Regionals last year." Saoirse muttered.-
[17:51] <PersonaGM> ["… But if we win that, it's on to Nationals in November."]
[17:57] * Ai nodded patiently at all of that. "…I hope I and any other new adds can help swing it in our favor…!" With a, well. Hopeful voice. "…But there's still many years for the team if we don't, and that just means more practice and improvement…!"
[17:58] <Ai> "Like. N-not the end of the world. I'd… think it looks different than that."
[17:58] <PersonaGM> ["Well. You'd hope so." Said Saoirse.-
[17:58] <PersonaGM> ["…"-
[17:59] <PersonaGM> ["But I want to make nationals this year. No- I want to win this year. This is the last year I have to make a real impression…"]
[18:00] * Ai then gaped in shock… before clenching her fist and pumping it a bit. "Then I'll do my best to keep the team's score up! I have a good feeling about my training this year…!"
[18:01] <PersonaGM> ["Yeah!"-
[18:01] <PersonaGM> [Chirp chirp. Saoirse's phone rang.-
[18:02] <PersonaGM> ["Oh, oops. That's probably my brother. He's giving me a lift home today." Said Saoirse, taking her phone out. "You should probably head home too…"]
[18:04] * Ai nodded again. "…Ne, how far is it? I'm guessing it's off on the other side from 5 Soejima, or maybe you live in town or…" She held her hands together. "…I usually go home with the third-year who's in my dorm, but I think he's with his ~girlfriend~-" Impressively, she managed to sound shy while giving it that teasy lilt. Impressive. "-so I'd be walking alone…"
[18:06] <PersonaGM> ["Workout on the way home, huh?" Said Saoirse, grinning. She answered the phone. "Hello?"-
[18:06] <PersonaGM> [… It looked like Saoirse would be tied up for a bit.]
[18:10] * Ai now had a decision to make. She could … try to ask for a lift more directly, waiting. …Or. Or she could just go. But she'd feel weird if she just walked off without saying goodbye! …If she hadn't already done it, she thought maybe changing back into the school uniform'd be a timesaver. …Otherwise… Hm. Not sure. Maybe pull up her phone? There was something she had forgot to check since… uhm. Sunday.
[18:12] <PersonaGM> ["… Okay, I'll see you then." Said Saoirse. She hung up her phone and put it away.-
[18:12] <PersonaGM> ["Alright, that's me off. I had a lot of fun today, Yoshino. I'm looking forward to working with you throughout the year!" Said Saoirse, offering a hand.]
[18:14] * Ai …might have been shaky, but. She breathed in, accepting the hand and trying to get the jitters out before she did it. It, mostly, worked. "S-same!"
[18:15] <PersonaGM> ["There's a great archer in you, and I'll do my best to chisel it out of you." Said Saoirse. "You can bet on it."-
[18:18] <PersonaGM> [ Thou art I; I art thou.-
[18:19] <PersonaGM> [ Thou hast glimpsed a new path of thine heart, with which to rewrite your story.-
[18:19] <PersonaGM> [ The first draft of the Temperance Arcana has been written; its refinement will bring you new power in the world to come.]
[18:35] <Ai> …And so it went, then. As much as Ai most definitely cannot remember that whole… thing? Even then, she felt… something heady about having met Saoirse, that isn't just uh. All the other things she felt about her. …Being a teenager is weirder with every year… -
[18:36] <Ai> Still, in spite of Ai's subtle attempt to get a ride home, she ended up walking back to the dorm anyway, resolving to be a bit more cautious about some things after uh. How weird she got.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License