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[13:31] <Hideki> To students who survived off nearby convenience stores and dorm meals for most of the year, grocery stores were slightly alien places. The one closest to 5 Soejima Road was still a 10 minute bus ride away, and most of the people milling in and out of it were families, adults, and the occassional inscrutable university student. -
[13:33] <Hideki> It was a bright-looking place, though, with large yellow signs advertising daily deals plastered on the windows several bins of discount fruit out front, near the entrance, in order to tempt a steady stream of passersby. -
[13:35] <Hideki> Hideki peered down at the list Ji-Hu had given him, and then at his companion for the day. "Well, at least getting here was pretty painless."
[13:38] <Ai> Now, for the record… Ai seemed to not mind the university students tons? They were tall and odd and stuff but… …Well. Maybe, she mused, she was just looking at them in a Form She Is Comfortable With (…and a few were pretty comfortable to… okay no, focus). STill, she was pivoting on her feet beside Hideki, no doubt creating a slight 'odd couple' air. "Yeah. I figure I can find some stuff I want while we're here, too.
[13:38] <Ai> …And the bus isn't that bad no. This isn't Tokyo's trains…"
[13:47] <Hideki> "Ah, yes. Not a fan of being packed into uncomfortable cars with a ton of other folks?"
[13:49] <Ai> "Not really, no. …Never actually got molested… …er, in a train." She noted, starting to move a bit forward. "'Cause that's still a thing that happens, even if sometimes it's more like… a stupid oneoff in a show or comic to get the girl lead a chance to deck someone."
[14:00] <Hideki> "Heh. Seems like people around here find plenty of other opportunities to deck people."
[14:04] * Ai nodded her head. "…I've noticed, even."
[14:04] <Ai> And she sort of tilted her head wistfully. "…We talked about it after, on the day of, but there sure was a lot of that sunday."
[14:12] <Hideki> "Time for self-defense boxing lessons?"
[14:13] <Ai> "…Eh…" Ai said, wiggling her hands. "I'll just dodge. Float like a butterfly, sting… like a faster butterfly." She nodded sagely. "So, what's on this list anyway?"
[14:19] <Hideki> "Lots of vegetables and fruits. Fish. Vinegar. Flour. Cooking oil. Chicken and minced pork."
[14:22] * Ai then nodded firmly. "Okay. …I got a bit of a kid's palate so not the most thrilled at a hundred veggies but, uh." She shrugged. "This seems okay anyhow? Let's go~"
[14:35] <Hideki> The grocery store was… well, a grocery store! Well lit, with customers strolling down aisles with full baskets. "She's hard to shop for, but maybe we can grab something extra for her."
[15:35] <Ai> "H… hard to shop for?" Ai asked, as if confused at that. "Really."
[15:37] <Hideki> "The last time I bought her junk food she was really not happy," Hideki mumbled.
[15:49] * Ai paused. Blinked… and then staaared at Hideki. "Hidecchin, hoooow long have you even been her boyfriend."
[15:50] * Hideki hung his head. "Over a year."
[16:11] <Ai> "Y… you…" Ai was flabbergasted. "You should figure out her general diet over the course of about 3 months or so, unless she's very private!" Ai said critically! "Besides, someone so socially engaged in important causes probably isn't that big a junkfood fanatic. Look, Hideki." …No diminutive. Oh dear. "I will educate you in pleasing a woman in mundane, domestic situations. …Because I'm starting to suspect you're not
[16:11] <Ai> very good at that." -
[16:12] * Ai then stifled a giggle. "I'll be your girl wingman? …which is still weird that you need one but. Whatever. It's not like you have any other boys that can help - Adrien's idea of asking for dating advice is… …" Ai shuddered.
[16:29] <Hideki> "Hey, just because I slipped up once or twice doesn't mean I need a wingman. ~But~ you can still help me out by keeping your eyes peeled for something you think she'd like. Exotic produce that isn't too expensive, or a nice drink without too much sugar in it. Or, like, even non-edibles. Stuff like that."
[16:30] * Ai did eventually nod, even if she did still have a vaguely smug look on her face. "I think I have some ideas."
[16:35] <Hideki> "Oh yeah?"
[16:36] <Ai> "Light cuisine, something calm and airy… Maybe you should try something Italian? …Or like. Something with berries and nuts~"
[16:38] <Hideki> "Aha. Like birdseed." He nodded sagely.
[16:39] <Ai> "… Just get her a fancy greek yogurt with mixins."
[16:39] <Ai> The voice of defeat.
[16:42] <Hideki> "Will do!"
[12:12] * Ai anyhow moves deeper into the store…
[12:13] <PersonaGM> [Someone entered their aisle, the sound of shuffly trainers scuffing on the linoleum giving him away before he entered.-
[12:14] <PersonaGM> [He was a lanky, pale Japanese boy with a mop of shaggy, messy black hair and a pair of glasses. He wore a dark grey hoodie, a pair of faded jeans and a cap, the word 'BEAM' written in faint red across the crown.-
[12:15] <PersonaGM> [He stilled as he saw Ai and Hideki, his gaze flicking toward Ai, lingering for a moment, then turning toward Hideki. "… Oh, hey."]
[12:19] <Hideki> "Hey! What are you doing here? Actually gonna try cooking something for yourself? That's rare."
[12:22] * Ai tilted her head left and right. "Mr…n? Whosis."
[12:26] <Hideki> "Ah, right. Yoshino, this is Karo. Karo, Yoshino. She's living in my dorm this year."
[12:27] <PersonaGM> [Karo shifted his basket slightly, as though trying to hide that the contents were mostly potato chips, frozen chicken tender boxes and instant cup noodle. "… Hi."]
[12:34] <Ai> "Hi! We're shopping for stuff and stuff." Ai said, bowing. "Do you two knowwwww each other?"
[12:38] <PersonaGM> ["I'm his brother. He probably doesn't mention me much."]
[12:39] * Ai nodded her head! "Oh! Okay okay. Good to meet you, brother guy with hoodie."
[12:39] <PersonaGM> ["… My name is Karo."]
[12:40] <Ai> "♪"
[12:43] <Hideki> "I dunno how much the rumors reached you middle school guys, but you'll be happy to know that your favorite Ji-Hu has been doing ok lately."
[12:43] <PersonaGM> [Karo scowled.-
[12:44] <PersonaGM> [Then he looked back to Hideki. "Yeah? That's good, I guess. People cottoned on that I'm related to you, by the way. They're starting to ask a lot of questions."]
[12:48] * Ai tilted her head. "…Favorite… Should. Should I just go get the yogurt now and…" She looked awkward! As if she sensed there was ENMITY here, so…
[12:50] <Hideki> "It's not that serious, Yoshino, really. The two of them just get along, is all." -
[12:53] <Hideki> "And really, those questions were bound to come out sooner or later. What's the big deal?"
[12:55] <PersonaGM> ["Well they're asking a lot more now because they know you're connected to Yi. It's inconvenient."]
[12:55] * Ai slowly nodded. "Ohhhh… Okay, that's fair enough." She said, nodding.
[12:57] <Hideki> "Oh?" Hideki grinned, "I'm surprised you took the risk to stop and talk with us, then. Wouldn't that raise even more suspicion?"
[12:58] <PersonaGM> [He shrugged.-
[12:58] <PersonaGM> ["You seem to be getting along." Karo said to Ai.]
[13:08] <Ai> "Yes!" Ai said pretty enthusiastically. "Yeah, We do kinda get along pretty well. More than I can say for the rest of the dorm and me, but…"
[13:11] <PersonaGM> ["Do they hate you or something?"]
[13:24] <Hideki> Hideki sighed. "Man, what the hell kind of question is that?"
[13:26] <Ai> "…I baited it, you know?" Ai said with a sigh. "Not… really."
[13:28] <PersonaGM> ["See, she knows she baited it, so what's the problem?"]
[13:31] <Hideki> "Don't be dumb. You know it's rude."
[13:33] <PersonaGM> ["Why? Is she lying, and they actually do hate her?"]
[13:34] * Ai tilted her head even more. "… …They don't but we don't get along the best with me either." She flailed her hands a bit though, once it escalated. "Why am I being used as a manners lesson…"
[13:39] <Hideki> "Eh. Stuff's getting awkward, so let's just drop it, alright?"
[13:39] <PersonaGM> ["… Fine." Said Karo. "I should get going."]
[13:40] <Hideki> "Get some vegetables before you go."
[13:42] <PersonaGM> ["Fine."]
[13:42] * Ai seemed to
[13:42] * Ai seemed to actually pout more at that attempt to defuse. Yet… Mostly just becamse sulky and silent.
[13:45] <Hideki> "Later, then."
[13:45] <PersonaGM> ["Bye."-
[13:45] <PersonaGM> [And with that, Karo shuffled away.]
[13:46] * Ai turned to Hideki with obvious askance. "What the hell was that?"
[13:50] <Hideki> "Yeah, sorry. That whole thing was probably pretty weird." Hideki began fishing out the grocery list again.
[13:53] <Ai> "…In part for you uh…" She gesticulated a bit in confusion. "Sort of going… out of your way to…" She then just settled on pouting. "I knew what he was doing, but then suddenly it's all just… terrible for him to do that…? Mrn. I guess it was supposed to be rude but…"
[13:54] <Hideki> "But…?"
[13:56] * Ai sighed. "It's… it's like I knew what he was gonna say? And… it's… it's like everything he said made sense, or was something I was hoping someone'd ask because I didn't wanna just say it, or something." She starte to walk a bit to the side, almost as if to gesture to continue on…? "And then all of that's bad, or you talk to him weirdly about your girlfriend - it sounded like he hated her and your 'favorite' thing
[13:56] * Ai was … sarcasm? I…" She then just gave up on making progress and slumped against a shelf. "Mou, it was all fine."
[14:05] <Hideki> "Er, okay? Bit of projection, here, but if someone I just met asked me if everyone hated me, I'd probably feel uncomfortable. Especially if I knew he was doing it just to be an asshole. Next time I'll stay out of it."
[14:12] <Ai> "…Does he…?" Ai said, now a bit confused and… feeling… wrong-footed. "I'm sorry. I…I didn't…"
[14:27] <Hideki> "No, look." Hideki sighed. "I think I get it. He said something you wanted to explore, and I butted in when I shouldn't have. If he was being a jerk, you could've handled it on your own. Am I wrong?"
[14:33] <Ai> "Y… you're not wrong." Ai eventually said. "Yeah. S… so I guess I thought you were really mad at him and expected it from him when you were… just trying to protect me? I… is that it?"
[14:37] <Hideki> "I wouldn't say I was mad at him. But everything else is right, yeah."
[14:43] <Ai> "I s-said I thought!" Ai said quickly. "…I know now it's wrong…" She sighed, thinking… before nodding. "But uh. …I don't know if 'hate' is the right word, but… No I don't think Sachiko or Dinah really care about me at all, though…"
[14:50] <Hideki> "You're not as bad off as how they treat Adrien, but… hm. Maybe talking with them one-on-one would help. I did it with Kurata the other day, and we actually had fun."
[14:52] <Ai> "…Really." Ai said, seeming incredulous… before shaking her head as if to dispel that feeling. "…I see. …She… she kinda treats me like… wait, no, it's /Roy/ who treats me like a hopeless basket case. Sachiko just seems angry. And has…" She flailed her hands. "It's like she has a bunch of extremely strong opinions about ethics and belief and behavior that are… nothing I even know? And she seems to just… I dunno.
[14:52] <Ai> Assume that because I was on the wrong side of them, that I'm more or less garbage and evil for it. And then when I get scared, I look useless and annoying…" A sigh. -
[14:52] <Ai> "Dinah at least I can tell just hates dealing with my stupid immature self."
[15:02] <Hideki> "Ok. Assume that's all true - which we don't know for sure because we're not Kurata or Schreier - and their perception of you is already at rock bottom. That also means it can't get any lower than this point, right? Aside from the anxiety, there's nothing to lose by talking to them." -
[15:04] <Hideki> "That said, the anxiety looks like it's the major barrier here. You get upset when you run up against conflict, right?"
[15:05] * Ai nodded, but… quite shame-facedly. "Yeah… Surely you've noticed."
[15:14] <Hideki> "It's pretty hard to hide," he grinned. "Don't worry about it. But okay. I feel like your best bet here is to find a way of approaching them that minimizes conflict. Maybe not in the middle of battles or tense group conversations because of how much stress there is. Why not… start slow? Invite them out with you somewhere."
[15:16] <Ai> "Well… okay. What do you think they enjoy doing, you think?" Ai said… and opened her mouth, before thinking better of it.
[15:22] <Hideki> "Kurata likes reading. So for her, maybe ask if she wants to hop on a bus with you and go to the library. Or ask her about what she's reading and go off of that topic for more ideas."
[15:23] <Ai> "Okay, that… yeah, that seems like it could work. I've been thinking of some stops by the library to read up on more anyway."
[15:24] * Hideki nodded. -
[15:28] <Hideki> "Schreier is still mysterious. All I know is that she likes fire and cigarettes, and needs a source of nutrition, since she's not eating at the dorm. Think short trips to the convenience store. Or maybe just get through her defenses by being nice and offering to pick her up something the next time you go there."
[15:29] <Ai> "Yeah…" Ai scratched her chin, thinking. "Actually, maybe I could grab a peace offering since we're here at a real grocery store.
[15:29] <Hideki> "There's an idea!"
[15:46] <Ai> "Yes!" Ai said, nodding. "…I'll not get something too stupid, though. Just… a… hm. A comfort food, yeah. Something american but not super american."
[15:49] <Hideki> "Bread? So that she can make sandwiches?"
[15:57] * Ai slowly nodded… then perked. "Oh! Yeah bread isn't super popular so… maybe she doesn't find good brands in a convenience store…"
[16:03] <Hideki> "We still have to get all of Ji-Hu's stuff too," Hideki reminded her.
[16:06] <Ai> "Yeah… I know, I know! So busy talking… So. Produce, produce section…"
[16:07] * Hideki trailed behind thoughtfully. Which aisle would they stash the nuts in again…?
[16:12] <Hideki> After shopping, paying, and hopping on another bus, the duo found themselves at 5 Soejima Road once again with their mission completed. -
[16:12] <Hideki> "We're back!" Hideki called, as they pushed through the front door.
[16:14] <PersonaGM> ["Welcome back." Said Ji-Hu from the kitchen. "What'd you bring me?"]
[16:16] * Ai smiled. "Well, Hidecchin had his own ideas, but I figured I'd add something of my own…?" So she soon pulled out of her own bag - which also had a loaf of bread in it, and what looked like a thing of lunchmeats - …a cup of greek yogurt, with a side-cup that was labeled with strawberries.
[16:18] * Hideki beamed. "We got the stuff on your list too."
[16:27] <PersonaGM> ["Thanks." Said Ji-Hu. She gave Hideki a kiss on the cheek and Ai a rub on the head. "Is this yogurt for me…?"]
[16:28] * Ai …sort of wiggled in place and beamed proudly at that. "Yes…!"
[16:29] <Hideki> "Just wanted to show how much we appreciate you being around, you know?"
[16:35] <PersonaGM> ["Hmm… It's almost like you two want me to stay forever."]
[16:36] * Ai …looked at Hideki and sort of… thought, unsure what quite to say there. She had a silly smile on her face, though.
[16:39] <Hideki> "That wouldn't be so bad, would it?"
[16:45] <PersonaGM> [Ji-Hu was already digging into her yogurt. "Mmm, noffo bad."-
[16:45] <PersonaGM> ["Ith gud."]
[16:52] * Hideki visibly relaxed a little and gave Ai a brief thumbs up.
[16:52] * Ai smiled broadly again, and gave one back! "Good to see you enjoyed it~"
[16:54] <PersonaGM> ["Now, I'm going to cook. And you two are going to help me…"-
[16:54] <PersonaGM> [And so ultimately the three of them began to cook. Brought together by this mutual friend, Ai and Hideki felt as though they knew each other slightly better than they had before…-
[16:55] <PersonaGM> [ Thou art I; I art thou.-
[16:55] <PersonaGM> [ Thou hast glimpsed a new path of thine heart, with which to rewrite your story.-
[16:55] <PersonaGM> [ With the first meeting of the Justice Arcana and the Lovers Arcana, the beginning of your transformation and that of the world begins.]

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