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[11:52] <PersonaGM> [Thursday, the 26th of April.-
[12:01] <PersonaGM> [The archery club was already abuzz with noise and dust when Ai arrived.-
[12:02] <PersonaGM> [The club was not practicing, but had exchanged their bows for hammers and nails today; instead of quivers, they carted around barrows of wood and hay.-
[12:04] <PersonaGM> [They were busying themselves putting together what looked like wooden barricades, walls and stuffed dummies. Indeed, it very much felt as though the club were preparing for a siege, except for the fact that the members themselves were mostly relaxed and upbeat.-
[12:05] <PersonaGM> ["Yoshino!" Shouted Saoirse as Ai arrived. She waved at Ai with a mallet. Saoirse, like most of the members, was still in her uniform.]
[12:06] * Ai was, too, in uniform, and happily waved to Saoirse. She had some sense this might be preparing for an event, despite that… well yes, overly militaristic amount of setup. "Hey! I'm here now, what's up?" She even bowed gently as she scooooted on in, smiling brightly at Saoirse.
[12:10] <PersonaGM> ["We're putting together the stuff we need for the Running Shoot." Said Saoirse. "The club's getting together to help. We managed to get the University Woodworking Club to help-" Saoirse gestured to a small kabal of mysterious figures, already tall but made looming in coats long enough to be robes, standing off in a corner, muttering incomprehensibly amongst each other as they compared their strange and unfathomable blueprints. One of them pointed at a nearby clubmember and barked an order; the girl squeaked and hurried to comply. "… But they're really more supervising than helping."]
[12:12] <Ai> "…I can tell." Ai managed to say with a vaguely awkward glance towards them. "But I guess if they made the designs it has to work, right? …Maybe. Presumably. So anything I can do to help?" She was sort of shifting on her feet, surprisingly… eager.
[12:12] <PersonaGM> ["Have you ever nailed something before?"]
[12:21] <Ai> "…" Ai smiled, allowing the slight double entendre only possible in our Translation Convention narrative to wash past her. But shook her head. "No, but the theory seems… simple enough? Was something on the GBA a while back that had a minigame about nailing - hold it, try to hit it square so it doesn't bend, and to not go so far you hit your hand." A chuckle. "You can sorta see how it'd be easy to make a few seconds of arcadegame out of it if you
[12:21] <Ai> think about it."
[12:24] <PersonaGM> ["That makes sense. I'll give you a quick demo, then you can do one yourself. Sound good?"]
[12:31] * Ai gave a thumbs-up! "Great idea!"
[12:34] <PersonaGM> [Saoirse placed a wooden beam on a scaffold frame, pinched a nail carefully over the cross where the two met, then tapped it with the mallet. The nail went in nice and clean. After a few more precise taps, the nail was well-embedded.-
[12:35] <PersonaGM> ["See? Piece of cake."]
[12:37] * Ai nodded carefully, as she examined the girl's work. Sort of leaning over her a bit to gawk. "…Agree, agree. Seems easy enough, just needs a still hand. Not quite the same as kendo but a 'melee combat' skill more than 'ranged'." …Nerd. "Anyhow, so you want me to start nailing?"
[12:46] <PersonaGM> ["Please do. All we have to do is nail each plank twice, where they cross over with the frame."]
[12:49] <Ai> "…Twice like, two nails in the same area, or… one at each crossing point? J-just checking!" She seemed oddly determined to Get This Right!
[12:54] <PersonaGM> ["One at each. No need to double up."]
[12:58] <Ai> "O-okay! Just making sure." Ai said, bowing again, before looking for - and pursuing - nailing supplies.
[13:03] <PersonaGM> [Mallet!-
[13:03] <PersonaGM> [But the first nail went slightly off-centre.]
[13:05] * Ai stared at it. And… and sort of…tried tapping it from the side lightlyish to get it oriented again.,
[13:14] <PersonaGM> ["Here, lemme help." Said Saoirse. She reached over and took Ai's hands, adjusting them slightly down to the knuckle to put them in the right position.]
[13:15] <Ai> …Ai's breath seized in her throat, and now with her pseudodating with Reiko this was only making it worse. Saoirse was functionally a cute senpai, holding her hands, to help… MUST she be so hands-on a-all the time? "Uhh… th… th-thanks… haaah…" Quick, quick, disguise it! That first puff of nerveous energy was becoming an attempt to look like she was doing breathing exercises now! A few breaths in and out, then… Whud!
[13:18] <PersonaGM> [The nail went in deep and sure.-
[13:18] <PersonaGM> ["There you go." Said Saoirse, letting go. "Do more of that and you should be good."]
[13:22] <Ai> "O…kay…" Ai said, still in a bit of a daze, wiggling in place, before. Actually doing breathing exercises again! And … starting to work on the other boards, being a bit more precise and sure this time. Even if her mind was turning over the uncomfortable feeling of just going mental over a few hands on hers…
[13:35] <PersonaGM> [It was easy to get into the rhythm of the work. Wood, nail, nail. Wood, nail, nail…-
[13:36] <PersonaGM> [Saoirse worked faster than anyone else in the club; but the speed did not harm her work, for each of her planks was firmly secured, the nail hammered home precisely and easily.-
[13:37] <PersonaGM> [After about twenty minutes of this work, Saoirse turned toward Ai, brushing a light sheen of sweat off her brow. "Good going, Yoshi- oh."-
[13:38] <PersonaGM> [Someone else had entered. It wouldn't take Ai long to realise who it was.-
[13:41] <PersonaGM> ["Good evening, sai mui. Oh, and you too… Yoshino?" He said.-
[13:42] <PersonaGM> ["Hello, brother." Said Saoirse warmly, waving up at Caolan.]
[13:44] <Ai> Well then. Ai herself was sweating pretty hard, wiping her brow off as she … tried to find something not-fortifications to lean on. "Y… y-yeah… I'm in the … archery club…!~" Tired voice, as some of the clambering out was effort!
[13:51] <PersonaGM> ["You're Kurata's dormmate, right?"]
[13:52] <Ai> "Yeah." Ai said plainly, tilting her head to him. "…Why you ask?"
[13:54] <PersonaGM> ["No real reason. Just trying to place you." Said Caolan. "Saosao's said you're a pretty good archer."]
[13:56] <Ai> "B… based on my level of experience at least yes." She said. "A… apparently a natural at the Running Shoot, and I actually know what it is? (Swear I heard someone ask what the hell it was.)"
[13:59] <PersonaGM> ["Interesting. It's kind of an idiosyncratic thing to be a natural at, isn't it? Maybe you're meant to be Special Forces."]
[14:07] <Ai> "I… h-have approximate skill at many things, I'll have you know…!" Ai protested, actually trying to defend her deniability vis a vis totally not being the human collective unconscious's special forces. "…Maybe it's a gamer's intuition."
[14:10] <PersonaGM> ["Gamer's intuition?" Asked Saoirse.]
[14:13] <Ai> "Videogames! Hand-eye. …U-used to the idea of simulated combat." She sort of blerped. Which is like muttering but a bit more shamefaced. "I don't play shooters a lot except for some of the arcade lightgun ones back in Tokyo, but… I dunno? It. …It felt right." She was actually still sweating - just, this time, from poorly concealed worry that this would in NO way explain her prodigal skill in suspiciously live-combat abilities.
[14:17] <PersonaGM> ["You seem pretty nervous." Said Caolan. "Are you hiding something?"-
[14:17] <PersonaGM> ["Maybe she's secretly a military nerd." Said Saoirse.-
[14:18] <PersonaGM> ["Or she's a secret magical girl and anime has been telling us the truth the entire time." Said Caolan.-
[14:18] <PersonaGM> [A passing woodworking club muttered something as he passed.-
[14:19] <PersonaGM> ["No, I don't think she's an elf." Said Saoirse. She tugged on Ai's ear just to be sure.-
[14:19] <PersonaGM> ["Probably just a gun nut, then." Said Caolan.]
[14:21] <Ai> "But… bows… string, draw, pull, arc… d-d-different… I…" HOW. Ai's mind was racing. HOW could he be that close to the truth! B-but. Fantasy isn't real. Even what she knew wasn't real. Or. …Dubiously real. Metareal? GAH FOCUS. This internal monologue made the girl look even more frantic, which made that ear-tug enough for her to hop a few inches and yelp in shock! "S-sao please!" She suddenly barked out. "It's just really embarrassing a-and
[14:21] <Ai> weird to be thought of as some secret spec ops warrior. I'm j-just a good shot…"
[14:21] <Ai> …Yet… She stared a bit closer at Caolan.
[14:23] <Ai> …And somehow her blush of embarrassment doubled in intensity, despite no further things happening.
[14:24] <PersonaGM> ["Anyway, stop distracting my newbies, Caolan." Said Saoirse, letting Ai go. "What're you here for?"-
[14:26] <PersonaGM> ["I had a rare empty space on my schedule and figured I'd come help build the Running Shoot field. Pass me some tools, Yoshino."]
[14:27] * Ai absently nodded, and reached back towards the tooltable nearby. She gave him two mallets and about 9 nails. She looked completely distracted.
[14:34] <PersonaGM> [Fortunately, it was soon back to work for the three of them. Caolan worked with single-minded dedication- he assembled barricades, stuffed calico bags full of hay for dummies, assisted others and focused their efforts. As a whole, they did more in the following half hour than they had in the previous hour- much of it thanks to Caolan.-
[14:35] <PersonaGM> [During this, Saoirse worked silently at her tasks, slowing down slightly as she did so.-
[14:37] <PersonaGM> [At the end of that half hour, Song Zhi, the club leader, called for tools down. A good deal of progress had been made. Their duties discharged, the Woodworking Club hid away their inscrutable blueprints and left in silence.-
[14:37] <PersonaGM> ["This was fruitful." Said Caolan contentedly as he returned his hammer to the pile. "But, I should be going."]
[14:43] * Ai had continued to work until the end, and went at an efficient enough pace. But she was… was sort of looking to Saoirse with a bit of odd concern. Then at Caolan. And Saoirse again. …And just. There was something wrong here. Something… sad? Maybe. …She waited nearby the siblings, remaining in vague shadows even as the other clubmembers left.
[14:47] <PersonaGM> [Caolan left, leaving the club and Saoirse behind.-
[14:47] <PersonaGM> [Saoirse watched him go, then nudged Ai. "You want to do some quick archery practice before we leave?"]
[14:49] * Ai at first just nodded. "Sure!" …Yet she left a lingering glance at Saoirse as if she was Thinking About Something. You know the look.
[14:58] <PersonaGM> [Saoirse and Ai went to the changing rooms, just adjacent to the armoury. Saoirse began peeling off her uniform whilst she prepped her robe. "So what did you think of today?"]
[15:00] <Ai> "Unusual? Th-though I'll be excited to see how training for Running Shoot exercises rolls - and how confused the uh, other girls will be at it. It's so weird that I'll probably count as a co-senpai on this one…" She muttered, starting to dig for her own robe. …Changing rooms were uh. Always interesting, and Ai tried not to look (conspicuously not looking even) as she doffered her own uniform. "…You okay with Caolan?"
[15:11] <PersonaGM> ["Hm? What do you mean?"]
[15:15] <Ai> "…You worked slower when he was here, is all. I s… saw it, but I didn't want to pry." In more ways than one. Ai was also trying to get her robe on already before she got too antsy about having to stare at the locker.
[15:20] <PersonaGM> [Saoirse paused, then slowly lowered her robe back onto the bench. She folded her arms. "What do you think of him?"]
[15:22] <Ai> "He seems normal enough?" Ai mused. "There's probably a bunch of Stuff I don't see, but that speech at the assembly… I mean everyone saw that. That was ground zero of the entire year for us."
[15:22] <PersonaGM> ["Yeah, it was."-
[15:22] <PersonaGM> ["Do you have any siblings, Yoshino?"]
[15:23] <Ai> "Older brother, and an … older… older brother…" She sort of, slowed down on that one. "The one closer to my age was kinda fun if weird because. Boy."
[15:25] <PersonaGM> ["Weird?"]
[15:28] * Ai tilted her head. "…A bit loud, talks about girls in ways all sideways, listened to old music and stuff. And just. I dunno." She wiggled a hand, despite still not looking at Saoirse. "It's like he's a… boy. And that was a bit weird as-is. Like what makes him enjoy beer when he got that old? What made him a bit more 'toughguy' when he was my age? …It's… …" -
[15:28] * Ai blinked. "…This isn't normal is it."
[15:32] <PersonaGM> ["No, that scans. I don't know if you should really expect me to know normal or not, though." Said Saoirse with a smile. "It's hard to explain what it's like being Caolan's little sister."]
[15:44] <Ai> "What it's like now, or what it's always been like?" Ai asked, probing to the obvious ground zero she referred to, with that.
[15:51] <PersonaGM> ["What it's always been like. I haven't really caught that much flak from the whole speech thing, at least not yet."]
[16:16] * Ai slowly nodded. "Ah. …So is it still his … public life kinda air, or just that he's some kind of… shadow caster that you're under? O-or is he secretly really weird."
[16:16] * Ai seemed more than a bit unsure where Saoirse was going, and was more than nervous at guessing too hard.
[16:19] <PersonaGM> ["Shadow is probably it. He's kind and supportive, but he's also pretty popular, and he's kind of the one our parents pin all their hopes on."]
[16:21] * Ai nodded. "…So by coming here to help…" Ai nodded. "Right now, you're more relevant to me than he is."
[16:22] <PersonaGM> ["Well, I'm glad for that." Said Saoirse with a small smile.-
[16:23] <PersonaGM> ["It's not like I don't want him to help. It's just that he's… Better at it."]
[16:34] * Ai nodded. "…Is your job to make fortifications, or shoot targets, here?" She asked plainly, bluntly.
[16:35] <PersonaGM> ["Well, it's my job to lead you guys, I guess, isn't it…?"]
[16:47] * Ai smiled. "Yes, but leading isn't hammering boards and filling straw. Moreover, aren't you not the club leader? If anything, you're an ace. Look, I've read a bit about this (I've read a bit about everhything)." Ai began. -
[16:49] <Ai> "An Ace is the best of the best, the one that the crew brings out to get it done. They lead by example, they give down their lessons to apprentices, or with their hands and wits. They're not a teacher. They might only ever be good at their plane or bow or whatever. …But they're the best. You can't match the Ace, but you can dream about being the Ace when they retire." Smile. "…Caolan is no Ace. He's a captain, maybe, but not an Ace."
[16:56] <PersonaGM> [Saoirse chuckled. She reached out and ruffled Ai's hair. "You're a sweetie. Is that more video game intuition?"]
[16:58] <Ai> "And anime! And… Top Gun! …Bro spent long enough at MIT in the States to bring back a lotta stuff every now and then. Big ol' HD full of rips." …That's illegal, Ai. She didn't seem to mind being ruffled, though. "But roughly yeah! B-but fiction's gotta basis in reality. And I wanna use it."
[17:01] <PersonaGM> ["Haha. Well, thank you at any rate." Said Saoirse. She walked back over to her robe and, after adjusting her underwear slightly, began wrapping it on.-
[17:01] <PersonaGM> ["Why do you want to do well, Yoshino?"]
[17:12] * Ai paused, thinking about that. "…Hmm." …She could, again, not answer 'practical training for killing manifestations of human repression'. "I do want to just be better and help people. But… …Sports relax the mind, hone the body. And vice versa? …Shooting feels a bit zen for me, even if I look like I'm going to war, aheh."
[17:12] <Ai> "And if I'm 'honed', I can help people better, right?"
[17:16] <PersonaGM> ["That's a good reason, Yoshino. You're kind of bashful, but you're pretty well put together at the end of the day, huh?" Said Saoirse.]
[17:40] <Ai> "I mean… I. Yeah? I have insights every now and then." She said, softly, if with a small well of pride.
[17:44] <PersonaGM> ["Mmhmm."-
[17:44] <PersonaGM> ["Speaking off, I have those too. For example, I know your secret~"}
[17:45] * Ai …narrowed her eyes critically. "Which secret is that?"
[17:46] <PersonaGM> [Saoirse put a hand on Ai's shoulder and brushed it gently. Her eyes gleamed.-
[17:46] <PersonaGM> ["That you have a big crush on my brother~"]
[17:51] * Ai froze up there. Stared at that eye gleam. Her mouth quivered wavily, about to talk but stopping, constantly. Her blushed deepened. Eyes scrunching as if … as if… It was a weird expression. It was as if something at the edge of her being had reached a boiling point, and Saoirse turn the stove up Just… A Bit… More. -
[17:52] * Ai stared for what felt like a whole second, but was less than one by far. And then her eyes shut, hard, as if embarrassed and frustrated all at once! She said. -
[17:52] * Ai said. -
[17:52] <Ai> "Oh my god Saoirse please that's… That's! I'm gay! Don't be getting weird ide… as… l…"
[17:53] <Ai> Oh. She just did that, didn't she.
[17:53] <PersonaGM> [Saoirse stared at her.-
[17:53] <PersonaGM> [Then she gave Ai a big, exaggerated wink. "Right right, of course. I get it. I can keep a secret~"}
[17:55] * Ai felt the essence of silence pass over her. Pass through her. Somewhere, a cicada might've chirped. "… …S… sure…" Somehow Ai suspected she was keeping the 'secret' she herself 'deduced'.
[17:56] <PersonaGM> [A crow flew right over the archery club.-
[17:56] <PersonaGM> ["C'mon, let's go practice some shooting." Said Saoirse cheerfully, brushing past Ai with a big grin on her face.]
[17:58] <Ai> "Archery." Ai repeated, and. …another set of breathing exercises. She took a few seconds to follow along, for a very, very awkward practice session.
[17:59] <PersonaGM> [ The Temperance Arcana Deepens…]

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