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[14:52] <PersonaGM> [Wednesday, the 11th of April.-
[14:52] <PersonaGM> [The Pop Culture Club was a far cry away from the archery club, that was for certain. Of course, you needed less sheer equipment than an archery club…-
[14:55] <PersonaGM> [The Pop Culture Club was nestled in one of the 'club rooms' the academy had dotted around for this specific occasion. The rooms were empty squares, with some basic furniture and whatever else the club could scrounge up. In this case, that meant bookcases full of manga, large movie posters, a few computers, several big television screens, a few game consoles, a stereo setup and some projectors.-
[14:56] <PersonaGM> [The club itself was more in the 'university' part of the academy, despite being a Lion Hall thing. The reason for this was obvious: the club was right next to several eateries as well as the university's movie theatre and bookshops.-
[15:02] <PersonaGM> [Ai would find the club easily enough. Standing at the doorway was a tall, jovial white French boy with wavy red hair. "Hellooo! Hello! This is the Pop Culture Club!" He said cheerfully, speaking in fluent, if accented Japanese. The check-in sheet was in his hand.]
[15:05] * Ai naturally had to stare up a bit at him. …French accents speaking Japanese. Interesting! The nasal sounds of the real French language were probably weirder, though. Still… remembering the drill, she walked up to him. "Ai Yoshino, checking in. …H-1C."
[15:08] <PersonaGM> ["Ah! You are Ai?" He said, staring down at her. "Look at you! You're so tiny and cute!"]
[15:13] * Ai …blushed brightly. "…A…ah. I uh. Well uh. …Thanks?" Fidget, fidget.
[15:13] <PersonaGM> ["Youuu're welcome!"-
[15:15] <PersonaGM> ["Oh, I'm Camille, Camille Sault." He said, with a bow. The bow was slightly too flourishy for a Japanese bow.-
[15:16] <PersonaGM> [Another student walked past and shouted, "I THOUGHT I HEARD A GIRL'S NAME, BUT THAT KID LOOKS LIKE A BOY!"-
[15:17] <PersonaGM> [Camille gave him a playful shove. "Go sit, imbecile." He turned back to Ai. "I hope you have fun here, Yoshino. Just take a seat and soon we'll begin!"]
[15:20] <Ai> The way Ai looked at the studant that did a driveby gender confusion was. …Was… Actually we have no idea what that look is. Confused, yet sympathetic, yet irritated. "Airight then, Sault." A more proper bow, before she wandered over to sit down!
[15:26] <PersonaGM> [And on the topic, Ai would notice that most of the club's members were boys.-
[15:27] <PersonaGM> [Camille took a seat up near the front. "Welcome everybody to our Pop Culture Club. I see some new faces, and I see a few old faces, but what I want most are happy faces, regardless!"-
[15:28] <PersonaGM> ["For the new people, it's right into the deep end. It's a club tradition: what brought you to Pop Culture Club?" Asked Sault.-
[15:28] <PersonaGM> [The new folks gave a variety of answers, but before long it'd be Ai's turn.]
[15:31] * Ai …maybe realized her mistake pretty soon after she really… understood how. How many boys there even were in here. In fact, it was downright making her feel a bit unsafe, to be honest. But when her turn came to explain… she sort of. Froze, mouth open, eyes wide. As if something was distinctly holding her back, or even terrifying her. "I uh… sometimes play some stuff… and I wanna get into… uh… s… s-sociology of popular culture as a… uh, hobby? Analyzing it is… useful. Teaches me a lot, aheh, aheh."
[15:35] <PersonaGM> ["Ah!" Sault's face lit up. "That's the perfect answer!"]
[15:41] <Ai> "O… oh! Okay."
[15:47] * Ai needless to say was caught a bit wrongfooted…!
[15:53] <PersonaGM> [Camille grasped his hands together and raised them to his chest. "Every year, this club focuses on an objective to drive towards, a style that shapes everything we do. This year, after much deliberation, I decided…"-
[15:53] <PersonaGM> [He drew a sign out of his blazer and slapped it down on the table in front. It read: POP CULTURE AND IDENTITY.-
[15:54] <PersonaGM> ["This year I want to see how pop culture influences identity. Not just of those who self-describe as being deep into the scene, but everyone- because everyone is influenced by pop culture in some way, even if they don't think they are. That means engaging with the common person in the street and school hall, seeing their views and creating a yet more complete vision of pop culture for all of us to witness!"-
[15:54] <PersonaGM> [People applauded politely.]
[15:58] * Ai stared a little. Then stared more. …And had the look of something dawning on her face that made her honestly look a bit upset. Still, she softly clapped, seeming less like normal polite applause and… more, shy, honestly.
[16:07] <PersonaGM> ["Thank you, thank you." Said Sault magnanimously.-
[16:10] <PersonaGM> ["So what I want you to do is go out and ask someone, just one person, about how pop culture has been a part of their life. It doesn't have to be worded like that, of course. You can just ask… What shows did they like to watch when they were a kid? What books or movies?"-
[16:18] <PersonaGM> ["And of course we can start here today. As everyone here knows, I grew up with Sailor Moon… Come on, now, everyone, don't be shy…"]
[16:26] * Ai again waited her turn… patiently, nervously. Wondering whether this'd end poorly or well., She had to… "I. …I started anime with Precure, I… I forget which one was the first I even saw, b-but I know I went through Heartcatch and Suite early on. I… kinda loved the genre so I went back to Sailor Moon, and Card Captor Sakura, eventually. Uh, hm. Also as a kid uh… Oh, oh, the old super famicom… Ah, Dragon Quest~ …6 was more my speed, 5 made me feel weird about the family thing though it was kinda cool but… And and books well I did get a Japanese translation of Lord of the Rings really early but it was really dense and I found out later that 'c-cause of the guy's writing it was hard to quite go through? …Though I had more fun with Water Margin come to think…" She paused. "…Oh I should've left it to one or two, shouldn't I."
[16:28] <Ai> She almost opened her mouth to add a bit she forgot… then closed it.
[16:34] <PersonaGM> ["I see!" Said Sault brightly. "And how did they help make you who you are now?"]
[16:39] <Ai> "…In a number of ways? Magical girl shows are filled with trying to care for one another, with.. understanding growing up as a girl, and then realizing you have to… still fight? Like… those are the themes. And those RPGs I played made me u-understand a more analytical side of myself? I think Water Margin was just sort of more fun for me, and lord of the rings did tell me a bit more about where the fantasy things that Dragon Quest makes use of, ssssorta came from? But, yeah, I. …If nothing else, being a hero is important, even if we can't always…" She shook her head, pausing and looking to the rest of the club, nervous. "…Do it by fighting orcs and slimes and dark spirits… Th-there's still some monsters out there."
[16:43] <PersonaGM> ["Great answer." Said Sault. "So you see, everybody? That's the kind of thing we want to try. To start a conversation, you see. Now…"-
[16:44] <PersonaGM> [After that, the club eased into more general discussion and show. The atmosphere became more casual and laid back, and Ai would start to have decent, accepting conversations with her peers…-
[16:45] <PersonaGM> [As the day wore on, members started to slowly leave. The numbers dwindled, until after about an hour and a half it was starting to become empty. It was now that Sault approached Ai. "Excuse me Yoshino, might I have a word?"]
[16:51] * Ai …had a slightly shocked expression, when he asked! …Yet. Soon, she calmed down and nodded to him. "Oh, go ahead…!"
[16:54] <PersonaGM> ["What did you think of your first time at Pop?"]
[17:00] * Ai …sort of actually pouted at that question. "Honestly… It was kinda scary to begin with. I already get called 'otaku' by some of the people I run into, and… and then all these boys and they seemed… I thought maybe if they didn't clap that much maybe they thought you were going overboard and I get people thinking I go overboard and so I was sorta scared that I was gonna be in a hostile room and then also what happens if I come off as some kind of ~gamer girl~ and then they try to go after me and I really don't want a… lll…" Breathe. -
[17:01] <Ai> "…Sorry. I d-did it again…"
[17:04] <PersonaGM> ["D-Did what again?"]
[17:19] * Ai actually waved her arms frantically. "Ramble! Really fast!"
[17:21] <PersonaGM> ["O-Oh, I see."-
[17:22] <PersonaGM> [Sault rubbed his chin. "Still, I see you noticed the gender imbalance… Well, how could you not? I was hoping to have more girls join the club this year, but…"]
[17:26] <Ai> "…But…?" She asked. "…"
[17:26] * Ai seemed to be hesitant, waiting for his thoughts on the matter first.
[17:26] <PersonaGM> [He waved a hand at the clubhouse. "But no good. Clearly."-
[17:27] <PersonaGM> ["We have a reputation as being very boy-orientated, very male-dominated. A deserved one, obviously. But one I want to change."]
[17:33] <Ai> "Right…" Ai said, nodding a bit. She did seem a bit uh, pensive about it, and thought. "…Pop culture is different, and… boys often get really bothered by stuff seen as 'girly'. …Mostly." She had a… sort of weird grimace at the last one. "But if a girl shows interest in things not aimed at girls, even like… normal pop culture touchstones like. Well. Dragon Quest, or even some big-deal movie like Star Wars… they… they sort of sometimes freak out. Either w…" Beat. "Er, I should wait before I go into it too much, right?"
[17:37] <PersonaGM> ["No no, go on."]
[17:39] * Ai swallowed air, then nodded. "…They either attack the girl for intruding on their stuff, or they get super desperate 'cause they think girls into nerdy stuff are rare…"
[17:41] <PersonaGM> [Sault nodded. "Right. And you were worried that'd happen to you?"]
[17:44] * Ai nodded. "Yeah. And I got more scared 'cause if they looked like they weren't thrilled with your ideas then… when I said something like it before you did, they might get mad too. And if they didn't get mad…"
[17:55] <PersonaGM> ["Oh. Yeah. They're just used to my grandstanding, don't worry about that." He said with a laugh.]
[18:02] * Ai blushed, a bit embarrassed she didn't seem to realize that. "…Oh. Not th-that many newbies?"
[18:06] <PersonaGM> ["Nah."-
[18:07] <PersonaGM> ["But, you're right." He said. "I want to make this place more friendly for girls, make it more a space they feel comfortable in. In fact, my 'pop culture and identity' push isn't just about seeing how pop culture interacts with people, it's also about making the club more personable, bringing the club to the people, working on giving us a reputation for openness and friendliness. Does that make sense?"]
[18:12] * Ai nodded emphatically! "It does!" … … But she pursed her lips in thought. "What was it before?"
[18:13] <PersonaGM> ["Just generally kind of insular."]
[18:13] <Ai> "…Oh." Sheepish! She must've thought something way worse. "Right then…!"
[18:14] <PersonaGM> ["Can I count on you to help me, Yoshino?"]
[18:16] <Ai> "…Yes…!" She said, slowly, then more firmly. "I'd want to be welcome while I'm doing my research. …I'd have every reason to do it selfishly anyway." She said… but then smiled. "But you'll find I'm a bit hopeless about trying to help people, so that isn't even an issue."
[18:20] <PersonaGM> ["Oho. Then maybe you wouldn't mind helping me with a more personal matter…?"]
[18:25] * Ai had a… concerned look on her face. Concerned for her safety. "…Personal…?" Dubious, dubious tone.
[18:28] <PersonaGM> ["I've been here for six years, Yoshino." He said, a faraway look on his face. "This will be my last year as a school student. I want it to be idyllic."-
[18:28] <PersonaGM> ["That means I have four special goals for the year…"]
[18:30] <Ai> "…Four special goals? …You make it sound like a quest prompt." Ai said a bit… oddly neutrally for seemingly calling it out as weird.
[18:31] <PersonaGM> ["Well of course. It is a quest prompt. And the reward is experience." He said seriously. "Experiences, rather."-
[18:31] <PersonaGM> ["The first goal… Get high grades. I need to master my intelligence and academics this year, and destroy the curve!"]
[18:32] <Ai> "Doesn't the curve e… wait doesn't actual curve-setti-…" Ai furrowed her brow. "Uhm, never mind." She scratched the back of her neck. "I'm not really sure about the whole 'grades as competition' but go on."
[18:35] <PersonaGM> ["Well we don't have a curve, it's just a turn of phrase."-
[18:35] <PersonaGM> ["Second… I need to develop a prime reputation."]
[18:36] <Ai> "…Prime. That… what about 'good'?" Ai said, tilting her head. "Do you mean like… you want to be… …a well-respected… commodity?" Ai, please, stop nitpicking.
[18:39] <PersonaGM> ["Well of course I want a good reputation, my social squire." Said Sault, clapping a fist over his heart. "I want to be known as respectable, hard-working and admirable…"-
[18:39] <PersonaGM> ["But the true meaning of a prime reputation shall come later. My third special goal…" He threw his arm out towards the nearest window.-
[18:39] <PersonaGM> ["… Is to complete my transformation into a true bishounen."]
[18:45] * Ai pouted very visibly, gaining the mien of the all-suffering bodhisattva of anime. She who has witnessed a thousand sparkles, uttered the sacred uguu, yet did not transcend to the breaking of the cycle of releases, staying to shepherd those wayward souls who did not yet grasp the truth of our lord and savior, whatever deific schoolgirl the latest popular anime featured. -
[18:45] <Ai> …Which is to say she became exasperated. "CAMILLE, even I think that's too chuunibyou."
[18:45] <PersonaGM> ["Are you saying I'm too chubby to be beautiful?!"]
[18:48] * Ai …actually facepalmed. "…you… that… d-did…" She flailed her arms. "Look if you're that blatant about it people will think you really do wanna become some kind of tall sleek-haired boy with the weird spindly bone structure whose entire existence is forged of angst, roses, looming over demure schoolgirls, and appearing in yaoi doujings." -
[18:48] <Ai> Beat. "…You can just say you wanna be pretty like a true bishounen. T… transformation… sounds a bit over the top is all."
[18:48] <Ai> It seemed as if Ai wasn't as thrilled about bishounen as one might expect. Hmm.
[18:56] <PersonaGM> ["W-Well fine. Pretty, then. Which means… Losing weight and taking better care of my appearance."-
[18:56] <PersonaGM> ["Which just leaves the fourth goal."]
[18:57] * Ai pretended to brace, as if she was expecting a train to blast through the wall at her. "…And… th-that is…?"
[18:58] <PersonaGM> ["I said I wanted a prime reputation. Well, a prime number can be divided only by itself and one other. So like a prime number, my heart must be divided between myself and another."-
[18:59] <PersonaGM> ["I must find a wonderful girlfriend with whom to share scenes of grand romance! Fireworks in the summer! Snow fights in the winter! Confessions under the-well, the plum trees, come the spring!"]
[19:00] * Ai …flailed her hands even more, actually blushing and … honestly looking somehow panicked? It was hard to tell where the exaggeration ended and actual fretting began… save that there… there WAS some fretfulness. -
[19:02] <Ai> "Camille, Camille, just saying that outright?! A-and… who would that even be and … that's a w-weird metaphor and … the… one other but it's the number one so isn't… but…" She was getting redder, even. Yet also huffy and whiny. "A-and you're just telling the first-year you took interest in for some weird destiny reason that's having me get all that attention all month and… uh…" She paused, now looking a different kind of scared. This time, maybe that she looked crazy, or that she said something she shouldn't have. -
[19:02] <Ai> "…Where do I even come in on this…"
[19:07] <PersonaGM> ["Oh. Don't get any ideas, Yoshino. I'm flattered, but you're not my type."]
[19:11] * Ai nearly crumpled in relief at that. "…Phew, th-that's a relief." …Overly relieving, even! "…But I also m-meant… how can I help you with any of it?"
[19:11] <PersonaGM> ["Oh, that's easy. You can motivate me, give me tips, and help me speak to girls I'm interested in."-
[19:12] <PersonaGM> ["I'm not saying I'm shy or anything! I just. My other friends. Bad at this."]
[19:15] <Ai> "…So … wait, is that like, you wouldn't have anyone else to ask for help? Since, if you're not shy but your friends are…" She tilted her head, thinking… And for the briefest of moments, her eyes looked distant, and got a bit watery. Still, Ai seemed to catch herself, sniffing in. "Uhm, I suppose you do need to figure out how to get in on someone'scircle…"
[19:18] <Ai> …In fact, it's worth noting that before that sniff? …Ai briefly had not just a wistfully distant look in her eyes. If, maybe, you looked close enough? …It might even seem like she was staring right through Camille, honestly right through the clubroom with how faraway she stared. A bit unsettling…
[19:18] <Ai> It faded after, but…
[19:19] <PersonaGM> ["Y-Yes. Precisely." Said Camille.-
[19:19] <PersonaGM> ["Then. You'll help me?!"]
[19:21] * Ai smiled warmly, and nodded, her reverie successfully broken. "Yeah, I will. …Eheh, Keep in mind I might have responsibilities and stuff, but I want people to succeed, you know?"
[19:22] <PersonaGM> ["Fantastic."-
[19:22] <PersonaGM> [ Thou art I; I art thou.-
[19:22] <PersonaGM> [ Thou hast glimpsed a new path of thine heart, with which to rewrite your story.-
[19:22] <PersonaGM> [ The first draft of the Strength Arcana has been written; its refinement will bring you new power in the world to come.-
[19:44] <PersonaGM> [Ai and Camille stood there for a moment, basking in the glow of partnership…-
[19:45] <PersonaGM> [… Until they realised that the rest of the members had left, without cleaning up.-
[19:45] <PersonaGM> ["What?! They left it all for us? Damn their eyes! Come on, Yoshino, let's tidy up…"]
[19:46] <Ai> "…Mou…" Ai whined, before nodding. "Alright, yeah, but you get the heavy stuff, o bishiecakes." She said with a teasing lilt.
[19:47] <PersonaGM> ["Now you're getting it, my wingmoe."]
[19:48] * Ai gave that a petulant little sticking-out of her tongue… before eventually nodding and starting to move over to get papers on tables, stray DVD cases…-
[19:48] <Ai> …If nothing else, it'll be an interesting year, with meetings like this…

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