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[10:21] <PersonaGM> [It was a late sunday night, the night before Golden Week- one of the busiest weeks on the Japanese calendar.-
[10:23] <PersonaGM> [Events and coincidence had conspired to bring two unlikely travelers together. Dinah Sarah Schreier and Ai Yoshino walked down the road together to the nearest convenience store. Ai needed snacks for the night, Dinah needed cigarettes from a nearby vending machine.-
[10:25] <PersonaGM> [It was a balmy night, a cloudy sky and humid air promising a storm to sweep in from the pacific in a day at most. They didn't meet anyone else on the road that night.-
[10:25] <PersonaGM> [In such a devoid atmosphere, it proved easy for Ai and Dinah to see it: a small flicker of bright, ethereal blue light, moving in a curving pattern.-
[10:26] <PersonaGM> [A butterfly glowing with blue light. It flew in front of them, a few metres away, then scooted down a side road.]
[10:32] * Ai …realized it immediately. ["Butterfly! The one from. From the sea!"]… Came a telepathic message to Dinah, as Ai saw that thing moving ahead of them. Snacks forgotten, she just. Bolted for it, sliding to the nearest building corner to peek around where it went…!
[10:36] * Dinah frowned, her last cigarette twitching in her mouth as she did. The sky above didn't look too good for smoking or walking but they were hopefully only going to be out for a bit. Another little bonding session over games required the right fuel, after all. In front of the machine, she pushed the button for her pack, letting out a little sigh of relief when it ended up dispensing,
[10:36] * Dinah allowing her to toss a little smirk of victory at the taspo reader on it. "Day they fix this is the day I'm fucked."-
[10:38] <Dinah> Bitter if just for a moment, she grabbed her pack and slipped it in her pocket just as the message hit her head, furrowing her brow and drawing her attention to Ai. While she seemed a little more enthusiastic - as usual - Dinah just shrugged, moving after her with, admittedly, a keen interest under her bored demeanor.
[10:40] <PersonaGM> [Ai - and then followed by Dinah- turned into the sideroad, revealing the butterfly floating next to an odd and alien sight: an old, dishevelled pay phone booth.-
[10:40] <PersonaGM> [The butterfly flew into the booth and vanished.-
[10:41] <PersonaGM> [A moment later, the phone rang, its old ringtone harsh and scratchy.]
[10:48] <Dinah> Taking the cig from her mouth, Dinah exhaled a puff of smoke as soon as she rounded the corner and saw the sight of the butterfly disappearing into the phone booth. Letting out a slight, 'huh' noise, she was quiet for a moment and then rolled her shoulder some, heading toward it. "Figure this is for us. You wanna get it or should I?"
[10:49] * Ai drew her own phone out, peeking at it just to see what she was doing. Her mind - already echoing some thoughts to log for the record - went instead to penning a fast text. |"encountered blue butterfly. magic stuff afoot. Phonebooth. Probably not doctor who. Sea stuff. Konbini @ (Address). With Dinah. I'm going in."| …before regarding the phone, approaching. She turned to Dinah once.
[10:50] <Ai> "…Yeah. I'll get it but be close - if they're scary I'm gonna toss the phone at you for you to give them hell, okay…?" Gingerly, she stepped up to the booth, cautious, cautious. A foot out of it as she went in, awkwardly leaning to grab the phone. …And put it to her head.
[10:52] * Dinah clicked her tongue and tossed a thumbs up to the girl, heading over to the booth with her and settling against the side of it.
[10:54] <PersonaGM> [The ringtone died as Ai picked up the receiver. A moment later, a gravelly voice, with some kind of American accent, crackled through. The voice sounded very distant and a little tinny.-
[10:54] <PersonaGM> ["I'm speaking to Ai Yoshino."]
[10:55] <Ai> "…" Ai gave an awkward look to Dinah. "I'm speaking to a phonebooth." …Almost dumbly, helplessly.
[10:56] <PersonaGM> ["Have you noticed that the miasma on your side is growing real thick, there, Ai?"]
[10:58] <Ai> "Not directly but it's a reasonable conclusion, Booth-san." …A headcrane to Dinah, and… she wrote more texts. |"Live update, a phonebooth is telling me about elevated misama. @everyone @Roy @Roy @ROY"|
[11:00] * Dinah closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose slightly but said nothing, simply waiting for the instance that she might be needed. Whatever was being said was probably important and she didn't want to prevent Ai from hearing it after all.
[11:03] <PersonaGM> ["Things are gonna get real dangerous over there real soon, Ai. I'm going to need you to run two streets over west-side. There you'll find Yi Ji-Hu. She's found something out. You should escort her to your dormitory. Even if she protests."]
[11:07] * Ai …widened her eyes. She had an idea on what she needed to do, and. For now she'd trust this man. Nodding slowly. Then remembering she's on the phone. "…I'll do it. Thank you. …I'll mind the black wings." A guess. But one she thought might work. |"I'm getting a tip. Ji-Hu in trouble? Escort to our dorm. Danger. @Hideki"| …She tensed to run after the final reply.
[11:09] <Sachiko> [@Sachiko "Where?"]
[11:09] <PersonaGM> ["Put Dinah on before you go."]
[11:13] <Ai> "…Alright." …And she forked the phone over to Dinah, just saying "No need to yell. It's for you." …And stepping off to get back on the phone. |"The convience store on Soejima and Akeburo. Two streets west is where Yi-san is. I'm trusting but verifying."| But, she then stepped away, beginning to flick through her phone. Checking tome app, looking at her persona sheets.
[11:14] <Sachiko> ["Heading over. Might take a second."]
[11:14] <Dinah> With a lift of her brows, she shrugged and nodded. Dropping her expired smoke, she put it out with the toe of her shoe as she lifted the receiver to her ear. "Yeah?"
[11:17] <Hideki> ["Leaving dorm now. Be right there."]
[11:24] <PersonaGM> ["Dinah."-
[11:25] <PersonaGM> [He said something to her, and then the line went dead.]
[11:27] * Dinah squinted slightly when she heard the words, more than a little confused by them. "Wha-?" But the chance was already gone, the voice was no more, leaving her to process the info and then shake her head, hanging it up. "Alright, let's go."
[11:28] <PersonaGM> […-
[11:28] * Ai nodded her head, and immediately began running. "Two streets west!"
[11:30] <PersonaGM> [Ai and Dinah would arrive a few minutes later. Yi Ji-Hu was walking down the sideroad, a handful of groceries under her arm. She had a set of big white headphones on, and she was taking advantage of the empty street to bop and skip along to the beat.]
[11:42] * Dinah still had confusion etched on her face, a thoughtfulness there, but she was eager to get where they needed to be nonetheless. Rushing a little faster than she had been so far, she glanced around, frowning as she noticed that everywhere seemed empty so far. "What all'd that guy tell you?"
[11:43] <Ai> "That it's about to get dangerous, that miasma levels are starting to rise, and that we need to escort Ji-Hu to our dorm." Ai said. "…I'm inclined to believe him, in part because if there's a trap, it's not at our dorm. And if Miasma's rising…" She made a throat-slit gesture, before starting to move towards Ji-Hu.
[11:48] <PersonaGM> [Ji-Hu didn't notice them, bopping along as she did.]
[11:53] <Dinah> "Yeah….that sounds about right." She glanced around then, wondering whether or not it was just the weird voice or what, but something just felt off. Moving in front of Ji-Hu, she waved, trying not to startle her too much. Her hand went for her headphones then, enough to push one cuff off. "Hey. C'mon, we gotta move."
[11:54] <Ai> ,,,And Ai sidled to her other side, moving with an unusually smooth glide. "Something's really wrong."
[11:55] <PersonaGM> [Ji-Hu startled a little at Dinah's sudden appearance nonetheless. She gawked at Dinah for a moment, then whipped her head over to Ai as she appeared. "What? Where did- what's going on?"-
[11:56] <PersonaGM> [Ji-Hu tugged her penknife out of a coat pocket, her expression surprised and scared. "Where are we going-?"]
[12:04] <Dinah> "To the dorm. Put that away before you hurt yourself." Shaking her head, she moved past Ji-Hu then, glancing back to Ai when she did. "Tell everyone to either meet us on the way or just be at the Dorm."
[12:10] <Ai> "I'll do it. And uh just. Be careful. I saw something. …I don't know what, but it's putting my hair on end." She gave a quick telepathic addendum to Dinah. ["A lie for her benefit."] …But then she started to write another text, not even bothering to look at her phone. |"Ji-Hu get. Meet on way to dorm."|
[12:12] <PersonaGM> [There was a sudden rush of wind around them, catching their hair and clothes and pushing it back. The wind was just the vanguard however; pouring out of a side road was a great black inky mass- at first looking solid, yet as it got closer, revealed to be thousands of black butterflies.-
[12:12] <PersonaGM> [Ji-Hu shrieked.-
[12:13] <PersonaGM> [As the swarm passed, a figure stood in the road. Long, navy blue coat over a dirty white robe with a popped collar… A white cloth covered the bottom of their face, and a black butterfly carnival mask covered the top. On their head was a black top hat.-
[12:14] <PersonaGM> [The figure stood and stared at them, unmoving for a few seconds. Then it approached.]
[12:18] * Dinah stopped when the wind started, her fists balling in preparation as they didn't really need to guess it wasn't the sign of something good. Turning to see the swarm, her first instinct was to move between it and the other two and as it passed to reveal an odd figure, she figured this was probably the reason why the voice told them to get Ji-Hu to the dorm.-
[12:18] <Dinah> "Get your asses in gear!" Dianh wasn't exactly planning on holding whatever this was off. But she did at least want to be the buffer between them.
[12:21] <Ai> Moment of truth, (there ain't no truce). Ai held out her hand as if waiting to accept a bow. There was no going back, and she needed protection, now. Closing her eyes for just a moment, to pray to her soul.
[12:22] <PersonaGM> [At first, nothing happened.-
[12:23] <PersonaGM> [Then there was another swirl of wind, and this time some caught and swirled around the three of them. A sudden smell lingered in the nose- miasma? Could miasma have a smell?-
[12:23] <PersonaGM> [Thou Art I.-
[12:23] <PersonaGM> [Dinah and Ai heard it both at the same time, in different voices.-
[12:24] <PersonaGM> [A moment later, their smarttomes caught fire with a blue blaze. When the fire cleared, their Personas sat on the screen, just like in the papery tome.-
[12:24] <PersonaGM> [A bow exploded into Ai's hand, and a moment later her armour of the soul rippled out across her body.-
[12:26] <PersonaGM> [Ji-Hu staggered backward, eyes popping. She stared at Ai in the terror of witnessing the inexplicable. It was obvious that Ji-Hu didn't trust her very eyes at that moment. So she simply froze in place.-
[12:26] <PersonaGM> The Black Hat stopped. It looked at Ai and Dinah, tilting its head lightly, then reached a hand into its coat.-
[12:26] <PersonaGM> [It pulled out a Tome and, holding it by the spine, cracked it open to a middle page.]
[12:29] <Ai> …Ai posed, the skirt and long sleeves of her miko-like outfit flowing out, and her tall bow stamping onto the ground. "In the name of the light, I, Magical Girl Justicia☆Lily, shall protect my friend!"
[12:31] <Dinah> "Not what I meant!" Seeing Ai manifest her bow and armor, she briefly considered it as well but decided against it, taking a step back, still keeping herself in between them and the Black Hat. "Just be ready to get outta here!"
[12:32] <PersonaGM> [("Oh my god. Anime is real.")-
[12:32] <Ai> "Don't care at this juncture!" Ai snapped back. "…Ji-Hu, don't just stand there, please…!" Desperation leaking through her voice.
[12:33] <PersonaGM> [Ji-Hu stared back at Ai then, shakily, swivelled her eyes around to take in the street signs. She'd forgotten where she was.-
[12:33] <PersonaGM> [She locked onto the street sign pointing for Soejima Road, then took off at a sprint, not the panicked rout of someone in terror but someone keeping it, barely, together.-
[12:34] <PersonaGM> [The Black Hat watched her go.-
[12:44] <PersonaGM> [It looked back at Ai and Dinah and for the first time, spoke. A single word. A name.-
[12:44] <PersonaGM> ["Ai."-
[12:44] <PersonaGM> [But this wasn't directed at Ai.-
[12:44] <PersonaGM> [A moment later its tome burst into blue flames. A mist swirled around the figure, catching the tails of its coat.-
[12:44] <PersonaGM> [A Persona burst into existence above it.-
[12:45] <PersonaGM> [Tall and spindly like a porcelain ballet dancer, long hair down to its ankles, and layers and layers of robes, kimono and shrine maiden paraphernalia wrapped around its body. In many places the clothing had been ripped, only to be stitched back together with tiny chains, like chainmail thread.-
[12:47] <PersonaGM> [Its skin was inky black and its joints were mechanical. Its face was covered by a mask, glasses framed by tarnished rose gold that spread over its whole face.-
[12:47] <PersonaGM> [It levelled an arbalest at Ai and Dinah and cocked it.]
[12:54] <Ai> "… …Oh fuck." Ai said in a small voice, even as her mind raced with. Something. Distracted. She felt she had to do something important. But then… Eyes flicked up. ["Split up, keep moving!"] telepathically, then. She got a running start and went to leap up the wall of a building. If she did it twice now…
[13:04] * Dinah didn't really wane when the Persona showed up. She frowned, sure, tightened her fists more but the plan was still in her mind to get the hell out of here. At the idea of splitting up, she say anything or make her thoughts on it known, simply waiting for Ai to make the move. As soon as she started, Dinah moved as well, heading in the direction Ji-Hu had gone in, intent on making
[13:04] * Dinah sure she was out of harm's way first and on the way to the hopeful sanctuary of the Dorm.
[13:04] <PersonaGM> [A second later the arbalest fired, punching a crater three feet deep into the pavement where they'd been standing.-
[13:07] <PersonaGM> [The Black Hat turned toward Ai. Its Persona moved with it, raising the arbalest a second time.-
[13:08] <PersonaGM> […-
[13:09] <PersonaGM> [Roy ran as fast as he could without leaving Hideki and Sachiko behind. "C'mon c'mon c'mon! Only a few streets away-"-
[13:09] <PersonaGM> [There was the sound of a loud crash and explosion. "Oh shit, what was that?!"]
[13:12] * Sachiko was pushing herself to keep up, but she was lagging behind the other two and the gap was beginning to widen. She didn't bother answering Roy's question - how was she supposed to know? - and ran a sleeve over her face without breaking stride.
[13:15] * Hideki was just a few steps behind Roy, his flip-flops slapping loudly on the pavement. He had brought a baseball bat with him, but that sound suddenly made it seem very much inadequete. "Dunno." His voice hit a tight note, but he shook it off with a little effort, and threw on a small grin. "At least we're almost there, from the sound of it. C'mon, Kurata!"
[13:16] <Hideki> ^inadequate
[13:17] * Sachiko moved fractionally faster, but only after making a rude gesture at Hideki's back.
[13:17] <PersonaGM> [The three of them turned a corner into a side road-
[13:18] <PersonaGM> [To find Ji-Hu at the end, pumping her arms wildly as she sprinted down the road. She was looking back over her shoulder, and her breaths were hard and ragged.-
[13:18] <PersonaGM> [A few seconds later came Dinah.-
[13:18] <PersonaGM> ["Holy shit, Dinah, what's going on?" shouted Roy.]
[13:27] * Dinah basically skidded to a stop when she saw the others, gesturing back and then using her hands to motion for them to get moving again. "The guy, the black butterfly thing back that way. Ai's back that way too, ran a different direction."
[13:29] <Sachiko> That was enough for Sachiko to keep running, headed back the way Dinah and Ji-Hu had come from.
[13:32] <Hideki> "He after her again?" Hideki clenched his jaw. "Roy, think you can go with Ji-Hu and make sure she's alright? We'll beat him down here."
[13:35] <PersonaGM> ["Hideki!" Shouted Ji-Hu. She ran toward him, now, but realised he wasn't going to stop.-
[13:35] <PersonaGM> ["I- Roy?"-
[13:36] <PersonaGM> ["This is going to be hell to explain." Muttered Roy as he peeled off from the group. He rushed over to Ji-Hu and began nudging her leg toward the dorm.-
[13:36] <PersonaGM> ["Wha-? You're leaving me with the cat?!"_
[13:36] <PersonaGM> […-
[13:37] <PersonaGM> [Ai leapt, her bow drawn-
[13:39] <PersonaGM> [Before she could let the arrow loose, the Black Hat's Persona caught Ai with its long staff, smacking her into the pavement hard enough to bounce. For a moment, Ambriel flared into appearance to cushion her, but the minor Persona was now flickering massively.-
[13:42] <PersonaGM> [The Ai-Persona levelled its arbalest at Ai again, the tip of the bolt barely a metre away. It cocked the crossbow-
[13:42] <PersonaGM> [CLANG-
[13:42] <PersonaGM> [A throwing axe smashed into the Persona, disrupting it slightly and knocking it back.-
[13:43] <PersonaGM> [Adrien, in full metagear, leapt off the roof of a nearby apartment building, a green vine letting him slide down onto the ground next to Ai. "Good job, fighting by yourself, nerd."]
[13:50] <Ai> "I," Ai said, standing from her slump against a wall, readying her bow again. "It was a tactical maneuver to get him off his target! I. I called and…" She shook her head, holding her bow as a staff to instead wave her gohei a bit, light starting to coalesce around it, a soothing… healing light. She had a breather now. "Whatever. Use the data, save the girlfriend, punk the chaos butterfly. 'kay?!"
[13:51] <PersonaGM> [Adrien turned back toward Ai and gave her a thumbs up. "I'm on it!"-
[13:52] <PersonaGM> [In the moment he took to signal to Ai, the Ai-Persona raised its staff and brought it down squarely on Adrien. He didn't have time to dodge.-
[13:52] <PersonaGM> […-
[13:53] <PersonaGM> [As Dinah, Sachiko and Roy turned the corner, they'd be faced with an unpleasant sight.-
[13:53] <PersonaGM> [Ai, a little backed away. The Persona of Ai, recognisable as her even through its distortions.-
[13:54] <PersonaGM> [And the Black Hat, holding a semi-conscious Adrien in one arm by the neck.-
[13:54] <PersonaGM> [A second later he tossed Adrien, football-like, squarely into Dinah.]
[13:57] * Dinah had held her tongue when Hideki shouted out his 'plan', simply gesturing for Ji-Hu to go along with it and making a mental note for the future. There just wasn't enough time to say everything she wanted to say right now and it would probably do more harm than good anyway. Instead she went with the rest of them as they went back, not wanting to leave Ai behind.-
[14:00] <Dinah> By the time they arrived, it looked like the scene was pretty bad already, yet was about to get worse. There was no time to react as the Wild Card was thrown at her, knocking her to the ground and making her grunt in a slight dizziness before a sudden bout of anger that lead to Adrien being thrown off her form.-
[14:00] <Dinah> Standing up then, she glared around at, well, just about everyone and everything. "I think that's a sign that we need to get the FUCK outta here now!"
[14:02] * Sachiko just barely sidestepped away from being clocked in the head by one of Adrien's limp legs a moment before he struck Dinah.-
[14:02] <Sachiko> She tried to take in the situation as she struggled to catch her breath: Personas were in play somehow, and a hurried glance around showed the street to be apparently empty. Not a lot of choices.-
[14:02] <Sachiko> "Agreed," she muttered, the bulkier sillhouette of her metagear rippling into place around her as she took a few steps forward. The mask appeared last, branching across her face in a fractal spray that matched the gold tracery that ran through it. "Can you two carry Adrien? Yoshino, we're running rearguard."
[14:05] <Hideki> "'s he just gonna let us go?" Hideki was far enough away from Dinah to not have to dodge. He held his bat at the ready, scanning around at the fight and their surroundings as well before sidling over and making an attempt to pull Adrien up to his feet. "C'mon. You still alive?"
[14:07] <Ai> Ai then telled back, as she shifted along the wall quickly, to avoid more staff strikes. "…Alright! I'm going to have to lay cover fire!" And in mid-roll, she thought about this, now. While the others handled the escape plan, she had to handle getting him off their backs! So why not do it with a bang? -
[14:10] <PersonaGM> [("mughlg" said Adrien.)]
[14:10] <Ai> …Folding her arms, staff-bow's lily pointing at an angle. "HEY. Shadow Ai! What the hell are you, anyway? Why the joints and chains? What gives, butterfly guy? You just doing evil for no reason…?" She sighed. "What is it? Get that mud off your soul, cheer up. …Let me…" -
[14:11] * Dinah gave a short nod to Sachiko, pausing just a moment before moving in on Adrien's other side, figuring it'd be best for the two of them to shoulder his weight, literally. He likely wasn't in any condition to run, regardless of whether or not he was actually conscious. "Please, I've punched him harder than that thing did."
[14:13] <Ai> And then she extended it out, with a wave. …Behind her, phantasmal guns, carved with lily motifs and gleaming baroque gold, started to appear, as the beatific guise of her persona floated over. "Mami-san, we're still afraid of something, and that's okay. Tiro…!" The guns aimed, as the bow in Ai's hand matched it. Draw, pull, release. No further thought, like Saoirse told her. "…Raffiaaaa!" A barrage.
[14:13] <Ai> A volley, a gust made of holy seal bullets, hammering in a tight blast around the 'dark Ai'. …The real one actually skidding back from recoil.
[14:17] <Sachiko> She kept slowly backpedalling, but in the brief moment Black Hat was distracted by Yoshino's barrage Faust's cloak swallowed Sachiko up like liquid darkness. Inside the sounds of bullets were muted, like she was hearing them from underwater. "Come on," she muttered as she summoned up a scan. "What exactly are you…?"
[14:18] <PersonaGM> [The bulletstorm raged into the Persona Ai. It buckled backwards- the damage it took clearly wasn't enough to kill it, and it seemed as though it was made to absorb such displays. Nonetheless, it flickered slightly, clouds of blue fog pouring out of a dozen small gashes and cuts across its body.-
[14:19] <PersonaGM> [But as Sachiko went to scan, the Black Hat jerked its head toward her.-
[14:19] <PersonaGM> ["Sachiko."-
[14:20] <Sachiko> "shiiiiiiiit," she muttered, although whether it was Black Hat's statement or whatever the scan had revealed was unclear.
[14:22] <PersonaGM> [The Persona burst apart in a great storm of blue light and smoke, only to reform a second later. A Persona clad in a long, dark brown coat covered in scorch marks, its hair loose and uneven, long trousers ripped and cut. Wherever the clothing had been damaged, it had been sewn back together with piano wire. Its joints were not as complex and mechanical as the Ai Persona; instead they consisted of a simple round ball suspended by wires that trailed off into nowhere. Its mask was nearly identical to Sachiko's own, except it crept down across her cheeks, hiding scar tissue that occasionally blinked, revealing red eyes.-
[14:25] <PersonaGM> [It reached out into the air and grabbed something invisible yet concrete. A moment later the object came into vision: a long ropelike web emanating from Faust.-
[14:26] <PersonaGM> [It jabbed it back into Faust's face, causing the entire web to suddenly vanish.-
[14:27] <PersonaGM> [With that, the Black Hat bolted toward a nearby wall. It dug a hand into the brickface and pulled it open. From the black chasm that appeared came a flood of black butterflies, filling the air and choking any chance of sight.-
[14:27] <PersonaGM> [When the swarm passed, the Black Hat was gone…-
[14:28] <PersonaGM> [… And a strange, transparent ghostly figure was standing in the middle of the road, whispering something too quiet to hear without going closer.]
[14:29] <Ai> …Ai stopped cold, breathing hard. She just. …Aimed at it and waited.
[14:35] * Sachiko tendril had only grazed Faust when Sachiko started screaming. She folded to her knees, Faust flickering and fading unevenly around her. Her metagear flickered too, only to reform with that same blue flame that had surrounded Ai and Dinah's tomes minutes before and then repeated the process over and over again. Ghostflame swallowed her entirely even as Black Hat made their
[14:35] * Sachiko escape.
[14:49] <PersonaGM> [It would take a few seconds later for the effects on Sachiko to subside.-
[14:49] <PersonaGM> [The strange ghost remained where it was, whispering the same phrase over and over.]
[14:50] <Ai> …And Ai lowered her bow, to actually walk closer. "…I don't like this…"
[14:53] <Sachiko> When the flames finally wisped away, Sachiko's Persona and metagear were both gone. She was in her civilian clothes, breathing in short, ragged gasps.-
[14:53] <Sachiko> But she was aware of her surroundings again - their enemy gone, a ghost in its place. She struggled to her feet and walked closer.
[14:56] <PersonaGM> [It was a young man. He looked odd, as though he should be vaguely familiar and yet wasn't. But his voice was unmistakeable.-
[14:57] <PersonaGM> ["He hurt my mother. He was a monster, and every day I'm reminded of it. If I ever see him, I'll kill him." Said the shade, in Asaka's voice.]
[15:00] <Ai> …Ai's eyes widened. …"I've made a note of this too." She'd wait as long as she needed to, but… after that? AFter that… banishing her metagear, and walking over to offer Sachiko a (very low) shoulder to lean on for help walking, rejected or not? She readied to leave.
[15:06] * Sachiko stood staring at the ghost for a time, her eyes a little wilder than normal and swaying slightly on her feet. After a handful of repetitions she reached out and jabbed a hand through the apparition's chest, and it popped like a soap bubble.-
[15:06] <Sachiko> … Ai's silent offer of help clearly caught her flat-footed, but after a moment she accepted it. The return trip to the dorm was a lot slower than the one that preceeded it.
[15:07] <PersonaGM> […-
[15:10] <PersonaGM> [When they returned to the dorm, they found Ji-Hu on the couch, nursing a cup of tea. Roy was there too, sitting next to her. But once they arrived, Ji-Hu leapt to her feet with such speed that some of the tea splashed out onto the carpet.-
[15:10] <PersonaGM> ["You're back! I…"-
[15:10] <PersonaGM> [She realised that she had so many questions that she wasn't even sure where to begin. So she simply froze up.]
[15:12] * Sachiko didn't have any answers. She dropped bonelessly into the nearest chair and covered her eyes with one hand.
[15:14] <Ai> …Ai was nervous to answer, but. …Bowed once at Ji-Hu. "…I'm sorry it was so sudden." But soon, went to claim her own chair. Big, odd-looking, but just the right size to flop into without stealing a couch.
[15:14] <Hideki> "First things first." Hideki was still half-carrying Adrien. "Are you okay, Ji-Hu?"
[15:16] <Dinah> As soon as they were inside, Dinah rushed the trio toward one of the chairs to drop Adrien into it, not particularly caring about /how/ it was done. Afterward, she moved to one of the unoccupied chairs and dropped into it, propping her feet up on the table in the center then.
[15:19] <PersonaGM> [("wufmg.")-
[15:20] <PersonaGM> ["Uhm… No… I don't think I am." Said Ji-Hu.]
[15:20] <Sachiko> "A lot of that going around," Sachiko said.
[15:26] <Hideki> "Maybe so…" Freed from Adrien, Hideki moved over and offered Ji-hu a hug. "Do you need to go to the hospital? What happened with the three of you and that guy?"
[15:36] * Dinah sniffed and interjected in then, arms crossed over her chest. "Ai and me found that phone booth. Guy on the other end of the phone told Ai that we needed to get Ji-Hu and get her back to the Dorm. By the time we found her, the big guy showed up. I told everyone to run and Ji-Hu actually listened. Meanwhile…" She gestured to Ai then, not particularly scowling but not really sure
[15:36] * Dinah what to say about what happened either.
[15:38] <PersonaGM> [Ji-Hu let Dinah and Ai explain. She settled down onto the couch and went limp all at once, falling into Hideki's chest. She started to cry- not loudly, but little shellshocked sobs right from the ribcage.]
[15:41] <Ai> Ai… sighed. "…I made a tactical decision. He w… wasn't going to just go away without a fight, I thought. I should've backed off first, protected opsec, I." She frowned. "…She couldn't fight back against that. We could."
[15:42] <Ai> Nervous. Ai was trying to justify herself, first. "…What do you need to know?"
[15:42] * Sachiko peeked out from behind her hand. "… what, so she saw?"
[15:44] <Ai> "The dude did the black butterflies of evil and shadow selves! H-how much further does it go before it's an unacceptable risk?!"
[15:45] <Dinah> "Yes. She saw Ai turn into a Magical Girl." There was an edge to her tone as she glanced over at Sachiko, turning the gaze around to the others then.
[15:45] <Ai> …Not angry, as much as upset. But… not broken?
[15:47] <Sachiko> "Look, I…" she groaned quietly, "I get it, ok? But I don't know how we work this."
[15:47] <PersonaGM> ["In terms of how we keep a civilian around who knows the truth?" Said Roy.]
[15:47] <Sachiko> "Sure."
[15:48] <PersonaGM> ["Black Hat guy seems fixated on Ji-Hu. It would've happened sooner or later." Said Roy.-
[15:48] <PersonaGM> ["… If we wanted to, we could erase her memory."]
[15:49] <Ai> "…Not yet. My vote." But …Ai did nod, calming down fairly quickly. "Thank you, though. …He really is."
[15:49] <Hideki> "Here's an idea," Hideki cut in. "Why don't we all just sleep on this?"
[15:49] <Sachiko> "No," she said firmly. She put her hand back in place. "I have a better option, if we need insurance."
[15:49] <Sachiko> "… yeah, sleeping would be good.
[15:49] <Ai> "…Mmm?"
[15:50] <Sachiko> "*
[15:50] <Ai> Ai pursed her lips. "…We can sleep after the immediate 'what the hell', maybe? … …I'm. I'm not sure how e-easy sleep is if you're wondering about all…" Seh trailed off.
[15:52] <PersonaGM> ["What's your option, Sachiko?" Said Roy.]
[15:57] <Sachiko> "An oath," she said. "It's something like Yoshino's telepathy. I've never tried it, but I can feel how it works."-
[15:57] <Sachiko> "So if she was ok with being sworn to silence, I'd know if she broke her word."
[15:58] <Ai> "If … it doesn't compel her, just tells you when? Or. …That seems useful. That's. …" She actually smiled.
[16:01] <Hideki> "And then what? If she broke her word?"
[16:03] <Sachiko> "It'd be unpleasant for her. Nothing lasting, but it'd put her out of action for a while. And I'd know where she was."-
[16:04] <Sachiko> "But it cuts both ways if I broke my side of the oath."
[16:07] <Hideki> "What if we just trusted her? No oaths or memory-wipes?"
[16:08] * Sachiko shrugged. "I'm not against it. Just putting our options out there."
[16:09] <PersonaGM> [Ji-Hu shifted against Hideki's chest. She sucked in her breath and, after a long, tight few seconds, reined in her tears.-
[16:10] <Ai> "It's better than some of what we've had hanging over us even if it's… bad, so…" But then Ai noticed Ji-Hu moving.
[16:10] <PersonaGM> ["I want to know." She said, her voice hard and tense. "I want to know why I keep getting attacked. And I want to know why Yoshino i-is an anime now. Okay? I want to know what's going on."]
[16:12] <Sachiko> "Yep. Only fair," Sachiko agreed. She massaged her temples and sat up straight with some effort. "At least for the bits we understand…"
[16:12] * Ai made a really weird snuffly noise.
[16:19] <Hideki> "Yeah. You have to understand that there's some stuff we don't understand either. Like, we don't actually know who that hat guy is, or what he's after. All we know at this point is that he kicked our asses pretty hard just now."
[16:25] <Ai> "…Lemme tell you, this… is all too real. And they're uh. Other things. I'm the anime. …In fact technically literally, a-aheh. The magical girl thing was a bluff if we ended up not having to do this…" She scratched the back of her neck. "Butterfly hat guy seems to be tied to some heavy stuff, though. Butterflies…? Butterflies are important. And then there's the matter of Asaka, and…"
[16:31] <PersonaGM> […-
[16:34] <PersonaGM> ["… So this is my fault." Said Ji-Hu quietly, after they'd finished explaining. "Because I drew attention to Asaka's things, he's got this weird… Nightmare space now."]
[16:39] <Sachiko> "Seems to me like Asaka was already primed to blow, and those factors were his fault and not yours," Sachiko said firmly. "If you hadn't drawn attention to his bullshit, somebody else would have. You did the right thing."
[16:41] <Hideki> Hideki was holding Ji-Hu's hand now. "Plus, you've gotta remember… Things like this happen all the time, but they don't all result in Dream Theatres being made. So there's probably some factor about it we don't get yet, so you can't possibly blame it on yourself."
[16:42] <PersonaGM> ["… Y-You guys mean it?"]
[16:43] <Ai> "It's like when they talked abotu me uh. Transforming. …It had to happen sometime. … …The butterfly guy, the Sea getting all wobbly? Something wants to mess this up." Ai said. "You just. G-got caught in it."
[16:43] <Sachiko> "I've spent a lot of time talking to the people he hurt that only felt confident to speak up because of what you did," she added. "So yeah, I mean it."
[16:44] <Ai> "And without him, none of us would've gotten these… Persona. Maybe the… weird coincidences would've fallen apart." Ai muttered. "…'for want of a nail, a kingdom falls'."
[16:46] <PersonaGM> ["… Okay." She mumbled. "I still feel kind of messed up, but that makes me feel a little better."-
[16:46] <PersonaGM> ["Y-You guys said that the black hat targeted me because I knew something?"]
[16:47] <Dinah> "S'about all that makes sense."
[16:47] <Sachiko> "… I have a guess, but I'm not sure if it really counts for much?"
[16:47] <PersonaGM> ["Yeah…?"]
[16:50] <Sachiko> "I feel like they might be… some sort of expression of the Sea?" she hedged. "You created the Heed, you're the focus of a lot of Asaka's Theatre, and whatever this thing is they're responding to that."
[16:50] <Ai> …Even Ai was looking at Sachiko.
[16:50] <Ai> And then Ai stared closer. "Sachiko, how often have you seen a blue butterfly?"
[16:51] <Sachiko> "A couple of times? Mostly when this all started."
[16:53] <Ai> "Same. …And I saw one today, leading us to the… phonebooth. With the guy that gave us the tip." Ai said, firmly. "…The hat guy has always been around black butterflies. He disappears with them. He appears with them." Ai continued, rolling up in her chair to sit more upright.
[16:54] <Ai> "The blue butterfly shows us the way. The black butterflies… bring him here. What do you think that is, as far as clues to look into go…?"
[16:54] <PersonaGM> ["I don't think I've seen anything like the black hat guy before." Said Roy. "That's, uh, a new thing."]
[16:57] <Sachiko> "Yeah, I don't know." she said, giving Roy an apologetic shrug. "Like I said, it's just a hunch."-
[16:57] <Sachiko> Back to Ai. "So… you think he's some sort of shadow variant of us? A representative of a different power?" she didn't sound convinced, necessarily, but she was entertaining the idea.
[17:00] <PersonaGM> ["Hold on." Said Roy. "Before we go into that. I want to hear what it is Ji-Hu knows."]
[17:00] <Sachiko> "Sorry, sorry…"
[17:00] * Ai nodded. "Theory later, but. …It's not much more than a theory that fits some clues. So yeah…"
[17:00] <Ai> "Wh… what do you know, Ji-Hu…?" Ai's eyes wide, patient, curious.
[17:05] <PersonaGM> ["Well… I kind of did a social media stalk on Asaka and his classmates, and I found out a thing." She fumbled in her jacket for her phone and took it out.-
[17:06] <PersonaGM> [In the gallery was a series of black and white photographs of school children.]
[17:08] * Sachiko leaned a little closer, trying to suss out whatever Ji-Hu was getting at.
[17:09] * Ai pushed her glasses up a little. Stared.
[17:09] * Hideki did the same, squinting.
[17:12] <PersonaGM> [At the bottom of the picture was a list of all the students and their place in the photograph by row and in order, so you could match a name to a face. Standing in the back row was a pale boy named Taro Asaka.-
[17:14] <PersonaGM> [He had an odd expression on his face, a little lost, or even hollow. He seemed to be staring past the camera somwhow, or perhaps not seeing anything at all.-
[17:15] <PersonaGM> [However, there was one thing obvious about young Taro Asaka: he looked vastly different to his current, modern self. His eyes, his jawline, even his nose seemed different, more than age would provide.-
[17:16] <PersonaGM> [The most obvious difference, however, is that he didn't look Japanese. He looked like an American.]
[17:18] <Sachiko> "… ok, that's…" she squinted even harder. "Are you sure that's not a mistake?"
[17:21] <PersonaGM> ["It's not a mistake." Said Ji-Hu firmly.]
[17:24] <Ai> "…What…" Ai said, and. The reality of what that expression on Asaka's face meant hit a lot harder than the confusing ethnic features. Her eyes dilated even more. "A…h…"
[17:25] * Sachiko seemed to be piecing it together too. She sighed, but sounded more annoyed by the revelation than anything.
[17:28] <Hideki> "That clears some stuff up, then," Hideki said simply, leaning back in his chair again. "Thanks."
[17:28] <PersonaGM> ["I can't see it." Said Roy. "She's not showing me the damn thing."-
[17:30] <PersonaGM> ["I asked around. It appears that Asaka's father was an American soldier in the post-war years. He left before Asaka was born." Said Ji-Hu. "And apparently he always hated him. I… Guess he had surgery or something done on his face. Does this help, then?"]
[17:33] <Sachiko> "Kind of," she said, then looked at Ji-Hu's expression and gave another small sigh. "… Yeah, it does. Thanks."
[17:33] <PersonaGM> ["Okay."-
[17:34] <PersonaGM> [She sat back down, looked at Roy, and absently petted him on the head.-
[17:34] <PersonaGM> ["Hey guys." Said Roy. "Wait for it."-
[17:36] <PersonaGM> [Ji-Hu suddenly froze mid-stroke. She turned her head slowly to stare at Roy, her eyes dilating. "You're a person."-
[17:36] <PersonaGM> ["Hey, there we go. Welcome to the party, dog." Said Roy.-
[17:36] <PersonaGM> ["That's why everyone keeps talking at you." Whispered Ji-Hu. "And that's why you keep meowing back. You can all speak cat."]
[17:37] <Sachiko> "We speak magic cat," she said helpfully.
[17:41] * Ai had mostly been… shifting her head trying to shake out the 'oh god' from that horrified look on Asaka's face. Before…
[17:41] <Dinah> "He complains mostly."
[17:41] <Ai> "…Roy can choose who hears cat. And I'm so glad I have telepathy. …"
[17:41] <Ai> At which point she flushed scarlet.
[17:44] <PersonaGM> ["But… But I treated him like a cat." Said Ji-Hu, horrified. "I used to put him in my lap to watch television! And rub his belly! I changed around you!"-
[17:45] <PersonaGM> ["Well that's what fucking happens when Hideki throws his good friend Roy Griffin to the wolves!" Shouted Roy. "YOU USED TO LOCK THE DOOR!"]
[17:48] <Ai> "Roy! Roy, pls." …She said it funny so you knew it was a meme. "What the hell are you two doing. …Is. And the rule about?! …" Suddenly, Ai turned to look at the BOOTH.
[17:49] <Hideki> "Look," said Hideki awkwardly, "He says it's fine. Just keep it in mind from now on and you two are good."
[17:50] <Ai> "H-H-Hidecchin…" Ai said, wiggling her arms. "A-and this is the consequencce of b-being forced to… act cat and… not…" Twitch. "Help."
[17:50] <Sachiko> "Him saying it's fine doesn't necessarily make it fine," Sachiko said. She'd settled back into the chair once the shouting started and covered her face again.
[17:52] <PersonaGM> [Adrien groaned.-
[17:52] <Sachiko> "… oh right, first aid. Shit."
[17:53] <PersonaGM> [He tried to flop himself up into a seating position, and only really managed to slide onto the ground.-
[17:53] <PersonaGM> ["Nah, s'all good, I'm tough." He muttered. "And y'll loud."]
[17:56] <Dinah> "Well, one of those things is true anyway."
[17:57] <Hideki> "Help with what?" he shot Ai a puzzled look. "And look. This is probably the sort of thing that all parties involved should come to terms with in a private fashion, after some frank discussions and such. Welcome back, Delacour."
[17:58] <Sachiko> "Probably still need to get checked by a doctor," she said to Adrien. She still hadn't moved since he woke up, mind you.
[18:00] <Ai> "It'd be uh, a good idea. …I don't know what alibi to give, but I bet the truth is not it." She sighed, pouting. Before staring at Hideki. Staaare. And…
[18:01] <Dinah> "Get close to it. You were doing something stupid and you hit your head. Hard."
[18:02] <PersonaGM> ["Well how about we tuck in for the night. Some of us can take Adrien to the doctor, and uh, some of us can stay here. It goes without saying that Ji-Hu should probably stay here for the time being."]
[18:02] <PersonaGM> [Said Roy.]
[18:02] * Sachiko shifted slightly to pull out her phone and check they weren't a topic of conversation on social media. She'd done her bit to help.
[18:02] <Sachiko> "I need to stay. Not really sure I can walk."
[18:03] <Ai> "…S… still." Ai said. "D-do we need to just send you both and say that Adrien pissed off the stairs and you got in the crossfire…?" Ai pouted at having to even think of it.
[18:04] <PersonaGM> ["I didn't piss off any stairs. I piss in a toilet. Don't slander me."]
[18:05] <Sachiko> "I'm good. Doctors don't care about a teenager coming in with a dumbass injury. We do it all the time," she said. "Don't overthink it."
[18:06] <Dinah> "If I'm taking Adrien to the hospital, I'm gonna make sure it's worth it." She sniffed, moving to crack her knuckles.
[18:07] <PersonaGM> ["Saved Ai's life tonight. Be good to me, for once."]
[18:10] <Ai> "He got punted right when the shadow would've hit me." Ai said. "…Yanno…?"
[18:11] * Dinah sighed and stood up. "Fine. But you already used up your warning. You wouldn't be the first person I put in the hospital." Keeping her eyes on him for a moment after that, she sniffed again. "Hideki, you're comin' with."
[18:11] * Hideki sighed. "You gonna make me carry him, aren't you?"
[18:12] <PersonaGM> ["C-Can Hideki stay with me?" Asked Ji-Hu quietly.]
[18:12] <Dinah> "Well, I ain't gonna."
[18:13] <Dinah> With a frown and a long silence, she finally let out another little grunt of an annoyed sigh. "Fine. Means it's you an' me, Ai."
[18:16] <Ai> "…It is, isn't it. Don't worry, Dinah. I'll only shoot you if you fall to your unfathomable bratwurst." She said cryptically, standing up. …She seemed less uh, wounded, too.
[18:18] <Sachiko> "Good luck."
[18:20] <Dinah> "Well, I just did buy a new pack of smokes. Maybe I'll even have some left. C'mon. Up and at 'em."

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