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[13:17] <PersonaGM> [Thursday, the 12th of April.-
[13:17] <PersonaGM> [Ahh, Baseball. Japan's national pastime. Whether it's hitting homers or ditching Colonels into a river bank, it has a long and storied history here in Japan.-
[13:20] <PersonaGM> [Of course, on this particular day, Sophia Academy's diamonds were being attended to by the Lion Hall Baseball Club, who turned out in force, heedless of the ominous overcast clouds ahead.-
[13:25] <PersonaGM> [The Club, in turn, was also the home of the Academy's well-regarded high school baseball team, which, due to a fit of uncharacteristic lack of restraint by the fathers of the club, was known far and wide as the Sophian Scholar-Kings.-
[13:27] <PersonaGM> [The club, of course, upheld the finese traditions of Japanese baseball, one of which was, for whatever reason, having an overpowered Russian pitcher somewhere in the lineup. For the Scholar-Kings, this man was Nazarly Volkov, a six foot tall electric spring in the shape of a man. He had short, spiky blond hair and bright blue eyes, and generally looked like he should be building houses, or destroying them.-
[13:27] <PersonaGM> [He was also the club leader, and so Hideki recognised him- and he recognised Hideki.-
[13:28] <PersonaGM> ["Hideki!" He cried in response to Hideki's arrival. "You're back after all!"]
[13:37] <Hideki> "You didn't think I'd be back?" Hideki was in grubby sweats and a t-shirt that he'd rolled up at the sleeves. He'd traded his usual spectacles in for a pair of yellow-tinted sports glasses.
[13:38] <PersonaGM> ["Well I believed in you. But on tuesday… No Hideki. Worrying."]
[13:52] <Hideki> "C'mon, man, you shoulda known I couldn't stay away for long. Ji-Hu right be my girlfriend, but…" He slipped on a mitt and posed triumphantly. "…so is the diamond!"
[13:54] <PersonaGM> ["Diamond love for life!" Cried Nazarly as he leapt to Hideki's side and joined in on the pose.-
[13:54] <PersonaGM> ["Heh, what's this?" Came a new voice from behind Hideki. "The Sophian star player screws the ground, now?"]
[14:04] <Hideki> "At least I'm getting some," Hideki turned to face the guy with a smirk. "One more thing to get jealous over, eh?"
[14:07] <PersonaGM> [Standing on a bench so he could look down on Hideki was none other than Asari Mochizuki.-
[14:10] <PersonaGM> [The narrator regrets to inform the reader that Mochizuki was a beautiful, beautiful man. He was tall, perfectly proportioned, with fair skin, large, delicate brown eyes, and long, shiny black straight fine hair that fluttered most aesthetically in the breeze. He had a baseball bat over his shoulder.-
[14:11] <PersonaGM> ["It's Mochizuki! The star player of the Aichi Senior High School in Nagoya!" Cried a teammate.-
[14:11] <PersonaGM> ["Our fiercest rivals!" Shouted another.-
[14:13] <PersonaGM> ["Tell me, Daichi," Said Mochizuki, turning towards one of his own- a wiry, snickering short boy in his shadow, "What's the word for having a ground fetish?"-
[14:14] <PersonaGM> ["Yeastiality?"-
[14:14] <PersonaGM> ["It'll do." Said Mochizuki. "So! Are you ready to face humiliation this year, Yeastiality-san?"]
[14:19] * Hideki rolled his eyes. "That the best you can do? Misnaming fetishes? There's no way you strolled all the way from Aichi just just for that. Why are you here, Mochizuki?"
[14:21] <PersonaGM> ["Hm. Everyone knows Sophia and Aichi are the only two schools in the league worth mentioning." Said Mochizuki. "So I thought I'd come and… Observe."-
[14:21] <PersonaGM> ["Of course, you weren't here on tuesday, so that was an hour trip to and from Nagoya wasted. Where were you?"]
[14:22] <Hideki> "None of your business, that's where."
[14:23] <PersonaGM> ["I see. You must've been scared."]
[14:24] <Hideki> "Of what?"
[14:24] <PersonaGM> ["Of us. Of me."]
[14:25] <Hideki> "How does that work? Did I know you'd be here on Tuesday?"
[14:27] <PersonaGM> ["Is that not when your clubs meet?"]
[14:29] <Hideki> "You know you're not in our club, right? Tch." He glanced at Nazarly. "Did these guys seriously hang around here watching the whole time?"
[14:33] <PersonaGM> ["No. Mochizuki showed up, sure, but when he realised you weren't here, he left." Said Nazarly.]
[14:34] <Hideki> "So that's what you're interested in observing…"
[14:34] <PersonaGM> ["You. Me. Head to head. That's what the crowd goes wild for, Nakajima." Said Mochizuki.]
[14:41] <Hideki> "Sure, sure. And they'll get that during the season."
[14:42] <PersonaGM> ["But I've improved this year."]
[14:44] <Hideki> "So shouldn't I be observing you in that case?"
[14:52] <PersonaGM> ["Indeed? If that is your wish, then I grant you permission."]
[14:54] <Hideki> "Good. Now go home."
[14:55] <PersonaGM> ["W-What?!"]
[14:57] <Hideki> "Yeah. I'll totally show up to your practices to stalk you. I promise."
[14:58] <PersonaGM> ["I'm not- you- I'm not here to stalk anyone." Said Mochizuki, his face going red. "I'm here checking out the competition!"]
[15:05] <Hideki> "So if I show off, you'll go home?"
[15:05] <PersonaGM> ["Yes. In fact… Why don't we have a competition? You and me in the batting cages."]
[15:08] <Hideki> "Ugh, fine. Volkov, you come too."
[15:09] <PersonaGM> [Hell, half the club was coming along at this point.-
[15:13] <PersonaGM> [It didn't take long for Mochizuki and Hideki to suit up. Or for word to spread. Before long, a mix of club members and fans were ringing the batting cages, watching with interest.]
[15:32] * Hideki promptly got to work. But… something was off. His swings were a little slower than usual. His gaze a little more distant.
[15:36] <PersonaGM> [The first ball he missed completely. The second he barely winged.-
[15:37] <PersonaGM> [Mochizuki, meanwhile, was cutting balls down like he was Sasaki Kojiro hunting birds.-
[15:37] <PersonaGM> [After five minutes in the batting cages…-
[15:37] <PersonaGM> [Well. One was a winner. And it wasn't Hideki.]
[15:40] <Hideki> But Hideki didn't seem that bothered by it, surprisingly. "Phew. Good game!" he called over at Mochizuki.
[15:45] <PersonaGM> [Mochizuki was silent. He stared at Hideki, then down at his bat. The crowd slunk away, except for Mochizuki's toady, who was cackling wildly.-
[15:47] <PersonaGM> ["Daichi?" Said Mochizuki. "Leave us."-
[15:47] <PersonaGM> ["Yes boss." Said Daichi, crawling away.-
[15:47] <PersonaGM> [Mochizuki planted his bat into the ground. "You weren't playing at your best."]
[15:49] <Hideki> "Eh?" Not what he was expecting. Hideki blinked a few times. "How would you know?"
[15:52] <PersonaGM> ["Well, because we played each other last year and you were better than that." Said Mochizuki.]
[15:58] <Hideki> "Well sorry to disappoint. We all have our bad days, right?"
[15:59] <PersonaGM> ["Of course we do."-
[15:59] <PersonaGM> [Mochizuki slung his bat over his shoulder and leaned into the side of the cage toward Hideki. "… Everything alright?"]
[12:49] <Hideki> "Even if there was something wrong, it's pretty pathetic to let it shake my concentration." Hideki gave a slow, idle swing. "Give me a day or so, and then we'll go another round!"
[13:05] <PersonaGM> ["Hmm. Perhaps…"]
[13:07] <Hideki> "What's that? It sounds like you're hesitating."
[13:08] <PersonaGM> ["Well, I myself have had plenty on my mind recently." Said Mochizuki. "So I looked into techniques that allowed me to focus. Block them out. I can share them with you if you want."]
[13:15] <Hideki> "Y'know… why not? I'm all ears."
[13:16] <PersonaGM> ["Naturally."-
[13:16] <PersonaGM> [He glanced over toward the rest of the club. "I should be quick, of course, I don't want to waste your time…"-
[13:20] <PersonaGM> ["You need to consider your identity. What these techniques involve is compartmentalising the many types of you and focusing on the one that's most needed at the moment. Right now, you are just Hideki Nakajima the baseballer… You start and end here…"-
[13:20] <PersonaGM> [It took about ten minutes for Mochizuki to elaborate on his techniques and run Hideki through some practical ways of internalising the lesson. Once that was done, he walked over to the batting machine and slapped it. "You ready to put it into practice?"]
[13:22] <Hideki> "Let 'er rip!" Hideki's bat was ready, and so was he!
[13:22] <PersonaGM> [Mochizuki turned the machine on.-
[13:22] <PersonaGM> [A bone-white baseball launched itself at Hideki…!]
[13:23] * Hideki swung, getting the timing just so!
[13:27] <PersonaGM> [Thok! The ball went flying, smacking into the back net with a most satisfying crash.-
[13:27] <PersonaGM> [The next ball went much the same way.-
[13:29] <PersonaGM> [And the next three?]
[13:31] * Hideki kept his focus, of course, and his timing! He would have no issue hitting two out of the three.
[13:32] <PersonaGM> [Mochizuki clapped. "Better!"]
[13:35] <Hideki> "Thanks. I'm surprised at how good you are at teaching." Hideki pulled back and rested his bat on his shoulder.
[13:38] <PersonaGM> ["You're an unexpectedly fine student yourself."]
[13:40] <Hideki> "Wouldn't be here if I wasn't quick on the uptake. That said, this is a fine way to treat someone from a rival team. Isn't this gonna make things harder on you guys in the long run?"
[13:45] <PersonaGM> ["I joined my school's baseball club for three reasons: to improve myself, to seek glory, and because I love the game itself." Said Mochizuki. "And loving the game means wanting it to thrive. When does baseball thrive? When competition is most even and no one can ever be sure how the numbers will fall."]
[13:47] <Hideki> "You know what, Mochizuki? You're all right."
[13:49] <PersonaGM> ["Haha!"-
[13:49] <PersonaGM> ["I look forward to being your rival this year, Nakajima. I'm sure things will be most entertaining."-
[13:49] <PersonaGM> [ Thou art I; I art thou.-
[13:49] <PersonaGM> [ Thou hast glimpsed a new path of thine heart, with which to rewrite your story.-
[13:49] <PersonaGM> [ The first draft of the Death Arcana has been written; its refinement will bring you new power in the world to come.]
[13:53] <Hideki> "Likewise!" Hideki rolled his neck and shoulders. "I'd better get back, though. Team must be wondering about me."
[13:53] <PersonaGM> ["Yes, and I should be going. It was fun besting you today, Nakajima."]
[13:54] <Hideki> "Don't think it'll go so smoothly next time!"
[13:54] <PersonaGM> ["Ha!"]
[13:55] <Hideki> Smirking a little to himself, Hideki adjusted his hat and sprinted back toward the diamond.

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