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[13:29] * Ai would be found, someday, pulling a big plate of omurice - a dish she, honestly, loved? - out of the kitchen. It … it was almost 'glorious' in a way, how it settled steamily, how it actually glistened with some kind of sauce (wait, sauces other than ketchup on…?!). But soon, the girl was sitting at a table~
[13:41] <Minaplo> [Light, quick footsteps down the staircase. A moment later, Ji-Hu arrived, wearing a light button-up shirt and a pair of slacks. "Oh there you are, Yoshino."]
[13:42] * Ai herself was in a blouse, jacket, and midlength skirt, as she sat down, legs kicking back and forth. "There I am?"
[13:43] <Minaplo> [Ji-Hu strode over. "Omurice, huh? Nice."]
[13:50] <Ai> "Y… yeah. It's sorta nostalgic, somehow? But I realized that if I add a bit of hoisin from that grocer, it. It goes nice with the ketchup and… so good, ehe~" But she did hesitate, despite preparations by all means to stab into it.
[13:59] <Minaplo> ["Mind if I join you?"]
[14:00] <Ai> "Oh! Go ahead." Ai said cheerily, sliding her plate over a bit, just in case Ji-Hu needed anywhere in particular to set down… something? Or just lean on.
[14:00] <Minaplo> [Ji-Hu had nothing to set down, except perhaps some hard questions.-
[14:00] <Minaplo> [She sat at a right angle to Ai. "Actually, I wanted to thank you for saving me."]
[14:05] * Ai …flushed brightly, almost immediately, at that. "Y… you're welcome. I knew we all would, so…" A light scratch at the back of her neck.
[14:08] <Minaplo> ["Haha." Ji-Hu beamed. "How did you know I was going to be in danger?"]
[14:09] <Ai> "Someone called us. On a phonebooth that wasn't there before?" Ai said, straight-faced, and stabbed a bit of the many-shades-of-red-doused egg mass to force an artificial beat on the topic. -
[14:10] <Ai> …Chew… -
[14:10] <Ai> "…They spoke in a way that suggested they knew you were in danger, and miasma was increasing. They weren't wrong about the latter, either. …I don't know fully why but I trusted them."
[14:14] <Minaplo> ["Well, it's good you did." Said Ji-Hu. "Um, I was wondering if you'd be okay with helping me more…"]
[14:21] <Ai> "I mean, yesh?" …So she had taken another bite, oops. …But, she swallowed. "How so, though?"
[14:23] <Minaplo> ["Well, I'm new to all this, so I'm trying to get myself grounded."]
[14:30] <Ai> "Okay, grounding makes sense. Whatcha wanna know?"
[14:39] <Minaplo> ["Well… Tell me about your Persona!"]
[14:40] * Ai nodded, with a soft smile. "So. …uhm. She's Mami Tomoe. Did you ever watch Madoka Magica…? It's uh. A bit dark, but it's really pretty other than that…"
[14:41] <Minaplo> ["I didn't, no… What's it about?"]
[14:44] * Ai started to cold-sweat. "Uhm. …It's a magical girl show, to start. So, cute little animal, young girls make a contract with it and become really fancily-dressed magical warriors against horrid monsters, a-all that." But she distracted herself with another bite. -
[14:46] <Ai> "…The thing is, it's a literary deconstruction. S. So like. The little animal is actually an emotionless horror that does all of this for some weird cosmic goal that relies on their suffering. A-and the monsters used to be magical girls - one of them turns into one in the show, e-even. But there's all this, desperation and fighting and trying, until the main character finally figures out a way to stop it all, even if
[14:46] <Ai> it takes her away from the world and the one she then finds out loved her so much they'd break time itself to save her…"
[15:15] <Minaplo> ["Wow. That's kind of a lot going on, huh?" Said Ji-Hu. "What was it called again, sorry?" She took out her phone.]
[15:16] <Ai> "Madoka Magica." Ai repeated, flushed brightly. "I got uh. Excited, sorry? The weird thing is that I'm pretty sure it's kinda a. Take-off of Faust's plot with different messages to give…"
[15:18] <Minaplo> ["Faust? Really?"]
[15:29] <Ai> "Yeah. 'Cause, apparently in all the weird side-info its like. …Uh. Well it's apparently about another character regretting the contract and trying to save their love! Which is apparently a thing in that, too! And then a lot of references."
[15:35] <Minaplo> ["Huuuh. Interesting."-
[15:35] <Minaplo> ["So why do you think you identify with that?"]
[15:48] <Ai> "I think…" Ai began. "Magical girls fight for justice, traditionally. Most of the characters in the show are more confused, or have different motives. Mami. …She tries to be a proper heroine." Ai admitted. "But. The rest of it is, in a way? …I think it's because they're being abused. But want out. A life that's a lie, a deal and a wish that turns to dust in their mouths, but they have to save something." Ai
[15:48] <Ai> continued, though she started to chew a bit more food at once, nerves only getting more and more obvious. "And … well…" -
[15:48] * Ai …Was she trying to dance around something else?"
[15:57] <Minaplo> ["And are you trying to save something…?"]
[16:02] <Ai> "People." Ai said, quickly. "…People need help. I know what that's like…"
[16:10] <Minaplo> ["… Yeah. Yeah, I can see that." Said Ji-Hu gently.-
[16:12] <Minaplo> ["Um, I wanted to ask a little more about your Persona, though. I've been trying to learn more about how you get one."]
[16:19] <Ai> "Okay? …What have you learned so far…?" Ai asked, though. The way she asked it seemed… leading.
[16:19] <Minaplo> ["Apparently they occurred when people were under massive pressure. Like, life-threateningly so."]
[17:12] <Ai> "…I mean, yeah." Ai said, slowly. "But I think you'd have to be in the sea, too. …And… I'm… not sure what else is involved."
[17:14] <Minaplo> ["What happened with you?"]
[17:18] <Ai> "Shadows, just like everyone else." …But Ai's cheeks went bright-red at even mentioning it.
[17:22] <Minaplo> ["… Wanna talk about it?"]
[17:25] * Ai slowly nodded. "…Just. Be gentle about it…"
[17:35] <Minaplo> ["Only tell me what you want to."]
[17:42] * Ai breathed in, then out again. "Okay… So. …After we found this giant worm creature, I. I ran. …And I met some…" She wiggled her hands. "Demons. Like. …I was crying and confused and I didn't know what to say or do - n-nobody believed me when I saw all the signs. The butterflies, the weird coincidences…" She breathed in and out. "But." -
[17:42] * Ai stared up at Ji-Hu with a look in her face that felt so. …Distant. "They spoke to me. …They were gentle."
[17:51] <Minaplo> ["That doesn't sound too bad… What happened?"]
[17:56] <Ai> "We spoke at length. About being alone and upset and angry. …They apparently were all that was left of …" Ai hesitated. "…Girls and women. Who had been hurt, killed. And the memory of them became… uhm." Ai continued to shift her gaze. In a small voice…
[17:56] <Ai> "Succubi."
[17:57] <Minaplo> ["Succubi? Uh, I'm not familiar."]
[17:59] * Ai suddenly twitched. "Y-you really aren't?! …" A sigh, as she resumed her explanation. "Pretty women. Like, bat wings, horns. …Really tight clothes. Huge …" Ai just cupped the air whinily. "…R-really pretty hair and this neat dark caramel skintone and bright bright eyes with this really really nice hair and … Just so soft and…"
[17:59] <Ai> …Ai's blush was quite possibly at critical mass.
[18:02] <Minaplo> ["Oh. A lust spirit."]
[18:02] <Ai> "…Yes."
[18:02] * Ai said, so sheepishly.
[18:03] <Minaplo> ["It's, um. Okay." said Ji-Hu, her cheeks rosing. "I don't, you know… It doesn't matter to me, is what I'm saying…"]
[18:06] * Ai nodded her head. "…That's what I was scared of, so thanks for saying that." Ai admitted, before moving … to finish. "But they wanted me, anyway, to… let them out. And for some reason I had to become one of them. They said, in that place, they were… the last bit of something ending? And kept thinking that was me, too. …I didn't agree, and as they got insistent, I. …Was I supposed to just die there
[18:06] * Ai in a weird labyrinth? Be some… demon that gave up on life? …And what would they do out in the open? I didn't know much about shadows but it felt wrong somehow, with wanting revenge. And I. I didn't wanna give up. I can't just give up. I wasn't ending, I was beginning…! And. And…"
[18:07] * Ai was waving her arms. "…There were so many of them. And. …I think they were trying to break my mind. Hypnnotic magic or… something… I felt. I felt like just falling asleep. Like nothing mattered or m-made sense…"
[18:10] <Minaplo> ["… And that's when your Persona arrived."]
[18:15] <Ai> "Not just yet." Ai said sharply.
[18:15] <Ai> "…That's when The Butterfly arrived. The Persona was after it."
[18:16] <Minaplo> ["The Butterfly again…"]
[18:17] * Ai nodded firmly. "I think it's extremely important, whatever it is."
[18:23] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, agreed."-
[18:23] <Minaplo> ["So it sounds like what you encountered was pretty… Relevant to you."]
[18:24] <Ai> "Y… yeah…" Ai said, frowning. "I didn't even get hurt… I just. T-talked… And then got scared all on my own." …After what she just said, that's … probably not really true. "I s-saw burns on some of them…"
[18:24] <Ai> "I mean, of us."
[18:26] <Minaplo> ["Sachiko said they attacked her with fire, and that nearly dying triggered her response… I guess what happened to you was just as intense."]
[18:28] * Ai nodded her head. "… …Right. I'm sorry, I'm… I." Ai sighed again, shifting in her chair. She had almost forgotten some of her omurice, and just shoved a bunch into her face to try to make up for it.
[18:29] <Minaplo> [Ji-Hu waited for a minute or so.-
[18:29] <Minaplo> ["Why did you apologise just now?"]
[18:29] <Ai> "For making light of what happened to me. It'd probably be annoying, r-right?"
[18:32] <Minaplo> ["Does it matter what I feel? It's about you, after all. I'm just trying to make sure you feel safe."]
[18:35] <Ai> "Oh. …I guess it doesn't." She nodded, though. "But. …That's how I got her. There was the whole thing with the ink blood and stabbing myself in the heart with a quill and all but uh." She shifted her head. "Set-dressing. O-only good for figuring out the overall theme much later."
[18:47] <Minaplo> ["The… Theme? Of your Persona, or?"]
[18:49] <Ai> "…Everything." Ai said. "Or at least everything about Persona stuff and the Sea. I mean. There's a big library. There's the butterfly. Stabbing with quills. Literary conventions being something you can feel on you, in someone's 'theater'… On and on." Ai explained.
[18:49] <Ai> "It's like everything blatantly uses trope rules."
[18:49] * Ai closed her eyes. "I wanna know why. Eventually."
[18:54] <Minaplo> ["Well… Jung thought humanity used stories as a lens to perceive reality. Maybe that's it?"]
[18:54] * Ai snapped her fingers. "OH RIGHT. Jungian stuff!" She said, nodding.
[18:56] <Minaplo> ["Haha."-
[18:56] <Minaplo> ["So you were harassed by sexual demons, the remnants of forgotten girls… The others had curious things happening too. I guess next is, uh, Dinah."]
[18:58] <Ai> "N… next would be." She said, sighing softly.
[18:58] <Minaplo> ["You and Hideki might have some stuff to talk about, anyway. Regarding all this."]
[18:58] * Ai tilted her head. "Me and Hideki…?"
[18:59] <Minaplo> ["Yup. Won't say anymore. But maybe you should talk to him."]
[19:00] * Ai slowly nodded after that… and by now had mostly finished her meal anyway. So. One last bite.
[19:05] <Minaplo> ["Thank you, though. That helped a lot. I wanna do my best to help you all out- it's the least I can do."]
[19:06] * Ai smiled… But. "…If you intend to get a Persona yourself sometime, I have to warn you," Ai said, suddenly.
[19:13] <Minaplo> ["Eh?"]
[19:16] <Ai> "I can't guarantee you'll have that butterfly to get you to wake up if you ARE in mortal danger in the Sea." Ai cautioned. "If that's not what you want, fine. But…" She shook her head. "Just. Without understanding that blue twinkler's motives you shouldn't just assume you have a chance, whether or not black hat is into you." -
[19:16] <Ai> Beat. -
[19:16] <Ai> "…Also if you see a black butterfly without that guy around, warn us IMMEDIATELY. Call it a hunch I hope doesn't come true."
[19:17] <Ai> "…Like, a magic one."
[19:42] <Minaplo> ["S… Sure."-
[19:42] <Minaplo> [She glanced around nervously, took a breath, and then smiled. "Don't worry. I'm not going to leap into experimenting with Personas. I just want to figure some things out."]
[19:44] <Ai> "Oh. …Sorry. It's just, being so curious about how is only two… uhm. Real reasons?" Ai said. "That, or." Shiftily glancing around. "…Figuring out who we are inside, or what you can expect us to be capable of…"
[20:04] <Minaplo> ["Sorry, it's not that either. I just think that, faced with such a changeable… Reality… It's best to figure out exactly what we know and don't know."]
[20:05] <Ai> "…Oh."
[20:05] * Ai looked down, shamefaced. "I sound paranoid…"
[20:10] <Minaplo> ["Maybe, but then again maybe that's the right reaction." Said Ji-Hu. "Regardless, I'm going to start researching things in the library from now on, see what we all have in there…"]
[20:17] * Ai nodded. "Good idea, there. Maybe you can be another set of eyes…"
[20:19] <Minaplo> ["It's the least I can do."-
[20:19] <Minaplo> ["Anyway, if you know of a way I can help, let me know, ok?"]
[20:21] * Ai …smiled. "I know of one. Research!" She said with a smile. "Investigating how to break down narrative conventions in the Sea, lore behind Shadows, what's going on with someone who's making an Archetype…"
[20:22] <Ai> "You're the furthest ahead in year, right? …You've got to have a lot of study resources a first-year like me doesn't."
[20:23] <Minaplo> ["True. I'll do my best to use my senpai privilege to its fullest."]
[20:27] <Ai> "Yaaay, senpaiii~"
[20:28] <Minaplo> [Ji-Hu reached out and ruffled Ai's fringe. "I'm noticing you!"}

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