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[11:57] <Sachiko> "Shit!"-
[11:57] <Sachiko> It was the morning of Consistutional Memorial Day, and anyone passing through Soejima dorm's third floor hallway would be treated to a litany of curses from the floor's bathroom, first loud and then in the half-conscious grumble of the deeply aggrieved.-
[11:58] <Sachiko> Inside she was peering into the mirror, using her fingers to probe above her eye where the spot she'd smacked the day before had bloomed into a bruise overnight. It wasn't bad, at least as far as she could tell, but if she didn't fix it, she'd be fielding questions until it healed.-
[11:58] <Sachiko> She went to collect her makeup case, still muttering all the while.
[12:07] <PersonaGM> [If she focused, Sachiko would hear the faint gravelly crunch of tire on bitumen from the window outside.-
[12:11] <PersonaGM> [A few minutes later, her personal mobile would shake with a text.]
[12:21] <PersonaGM> [Given the chance to look, it'd read: "VISITOR HERE!"]
[12:37] * Sachiko stalled in the middle of the hallway and squinted at her phone. The number was unfamiliar, but the approach to communication was not.-
[12:37] <Sachiko> She thought about changing - She was wearing the most comfortable clothes she owned, which were also some of her least presentable - and found that she didn't especially care.-
[12:37] <Sachiko> The elevator took her to ground level and she exited into the lobby, hands in her pockets. "I'm guessing that was you, Asahina?"
[12:51] <PersonaGM> ["Yes." Came the voice from the booth.-
[13:04] <PersonaGM> [Standing a little away from the booth was a tall, slim woman. Looking at her, one would instantly see Sachiko's features in her face- the resemblance was strong. Family, then. The woman was fair, with long glossy black hair that fell around her shoulders in a way that seemed loose and carefree but was unmistakeably the work of a carefully refined and controlled haircare ritual. Her
[13:04] <PersonaGM> clothes were exquisitely well-fitting, and she wore them with the confidence of a second-skin: a light pink silk blouse covered by a light, fashionable white jacket and a white pencil skirt that fell to just above the knees. On the legs themselves she wore flesh-coloured stockings and white high heels. The woman and outfit both were elegant, the clothing fastidiously put together- despite
[13:04] <PersonaGM> the smart-casual look, it felt as though she was dressing for an interview.-
[13:05] <PersonaGM> ["Hey there." She said, grinning at Sachiko. "Surprise! Haha."]
[13:21] <Sachiko> Asahina was quickly forgotten, and Sachiko's frown tightened just a little. "… surprise is right," she said. "Hey, sis."
[13:24] <PersonaGM> ["Hey. Nice eye." Said Mari Kurata.]
[13:32] <Sachiko> "Yeah, I like it. Thinking about keeping it."
[13:34] <PersonaGM> ["Did you kick the ass of the staircase that got you?"]
[13:41] <Sachiko> That earned a proper smile. "You better believe it."
[13:44] <PersonaGM> ["Nice. Hey, I'm gonna fiddle with my phone for a sec-" She took out her smartphone- "So if you need a moment to go up and, say, tell a potential boyfriend to go climb out the window, take it."]
[14:01] <Sachiko> "And what, just leave the rest of them up there?" she asked heading back towards the elevators. "I guess I'll go supervise the exodus."
[14:09] <PersonaGM> ["Use protection." Muttered Asahina.]
[14:12] <Sachiko> […]
[14:12] <Sachiko> Ten minutes later Sachiko returned to the lobby in slightly better clothes (The well-worn festival t-shirt remained) and and a lot of concealer around her eye. "So what's the plan? You hungry?"
[14:13] <PersonaGM> ["Sure. Show me the local cuisine. I bet you know all the best places by now."]
[14:20] <Sachiko> "The best place to eat is right here at Soejima Road Dorm," Sachiko said as she passed Asahina's sanctuary.
[14:22] <PersonaGM> ["Man, I had no idea the local foodie scene was that dire."]
[14:29] <Sachiko> "Judgy."-
[14:29] <Sachiko> The two of them stepped out into the dorm's measly courtyard, Sachiko leading the way. "So is this your idea of subtle or mum and dad's idea of subtle?"
[14:37] <PersonaGM> ["Mum and dad's idea of subtle would be the secret wire planted in your bedroom five minutes ago."]
[14:43] <Sachiko> "Not wrong."-
[14:43] <Sachiko> "… It's good to see you," Sachiko said, leading the way down one of the side-streets splitting off Soejima road. "Kinda feel like you're springing a check-up on me, though."
[14:52] <PersonaGM> ["C'mon, it's Golden Week." Said Mari. "And I was in town."]
[14:53] <Sachiko> "For what?"
[15:19] <PersonaGM> ["Matchmaking. Mum and dad want to forge a mighty economic and political dynasty, you know."]
[15:25] <Sachiko> "I know you're joking, but it still makes me want to become a hermit."
[15:29] <PersonaGM> ["You already kind of have the decor down." Said Mari. "But no, I'm in town to examine some contracts around solar panel improvement."]
[15:32] <Sachiko> "That's only marginally more attractive, you know," she said, kicking a loose rock further down the street.
[15:33] <PersonaGM> ["Solar panels are okay. Especially right now."]
[15:35] <Sachiko> "It's more about the contracts than the panels," she said. "Solar panels are pretty cool. And quite profitable, as dad keeps reminding me."
[15:36] <PersonaGM> [Mari snickered. "Profit through benevolence!"]
[15:47] <Sachiko> "I still feel like that's an oxymoron."
[15:59] <PersonaGM> ["Yeah, I know. But it'd be kind of perverse if people couldn't profit from it."-
[15:59] <PersonaGM> ["Anyway, I admit, I was a bit grouchy about having to do it during Golden Week, so that's why I'm here, so you can cheer me up."]
[16:26] <Sachiko> "Noted cheer beacon Sachiko Kurata is on the case," she said dully, even as she leaned over to bump her shoulder against Mari's arm.
[16:28] <PersonaGM> ["Yeah yeah. So, what've you been up to?"]
[16:44] <Sachiko> She found another rock to kick. "Just trying to keep up with everything around school. It's…" she hesitated for a beat, then looked over at Mari with absolute seriousness. "Look, I'll be honest so long as I know you aren't just going to take it straight home, ok?"
[16:47] <PersonaGM> [Mari eyed her. Bit her top lip.-
[16:47] <PersonaGM> ["Tell you what. Give me something to tell 'em that'll satisfy their general curiosity, and the rest is just between you and me."]
[16:56] <Sachiko> "Just tell them that the reintegration into school went fine. Some hiccups but I feel relatively confident in my classes, work's getting done… I even joined a club as per orders."
[17:01] <PersonaGM> ["Oh yeah? Which one?"]
[17:02] <Sachiko> "Debate."
[17:05] <PersonaGM> ["Nice. Very cool."]
[17:08] <Sachiko> "Cool might be generous, but the people there are nice enough."
[17:11] <PersonaGM> ["Well that's a good thing, then. They actually good at debating?"]
[17:12] <Sachiko> "They're good at arguing. Debating remains to be seen," she said. "They were on the edge of closing when I turned up, but we're going to try and make a go of it."
[17:22] <PersonaGM> ["So you're gonna turn the small time debate team around, huh? Nice."]
[17:24] <Sachiko> "Think that'll be enough for mum and dad to go on?"
[17:27] <PersonaGM> ["Yeah, I reckon so."]
[17:40] <Sachiko> "Good." They came to a small restaurant wedged between a dilapidated electronics shop and a shop that sold ‘brand-name’ bags. It was a hole-in-the-wall establishment, cramming a lot of tables into very little space, but it seemed surprisingly busy for its unassuming location.-
[17:42] <Sachiko> "You’ll like this place," she said as the two were led to a table. "Excellent ramen, and I don't need to stretch my budget too badly."
[17:44] <PersonaGM> ["You'll be a fantastic college student one day." Said Mari. She took her seat, took a silky personalised napkin out of her purse and tucked it around her collar.]
[17:49] <Sachiko> "I kno-" she said, the brightness fading into sudden, overpowering horror. "Are you kidding me? Is that monogrammed?"
[17:51] <PersonaGM> ["M… Maybe?! What's it to you!?" Said Mari, her face reddening.]
[17:53] <Sachiko> "Did you think someone was going to steal it?"
[17:54] <PersonaGM> ["I just-" She shot Sachiko a dark look. "I thought it was cute."]
[17:57] <Sachiko> "It won't be cute when I get my food and put you in the splash zone, Mari. I'm gonna make that thing put in work."
[17:58] <PersonaGM> ["Come on." Mari muttered. "Look at these clothes. They'll feel sad if you splash 'em."]
[18:02] * Sachiko rolled her eyes dramatically, but relented. "Yes, yes. It's a nice outfit."
[18:24] <PersonaGM> ["Thank you. I bought it myself."]
[18:26] <Sachiko> "I'm so proud."
[18:26] <PersonaGM> ["Mmhmm."-
[18:26] <PersonaGM> ["Alright, then, start talking, prickly pear."]
[18:48] <Sachiko> … the sound she made suggested she was hoping Mari had forgotten. She paid studious attention to her menu in silence for a while.-
[19:06] <Sachiko> "I guess I let myself believe that once I got back to my life things would work the way they used to," she said eventually, not bothering to look up. "Which was… stupid. Shortsighted. But I really believed it."
[19:24] <PersonaGM> ["… Ah." Mari nodded slowly.-
[19:25] <PersonaGM> ["Did something happen?"]
[20:24] <Sachiko> "I needed to go and get a few club forms signed yesterday. I haven’t been sleeping well, so I woke up late. I only caught the bus because I ran for it… I should’ve just caught a taxi, or a later bus, but I thought I was ok. It hurt like hell." Her voice hitched, and she paused to take a breath.-
[20:24] <Sachiko> “Got to school, collected my forms, and then missed a stair on the way back down and hit the floor face-first.”
[20:29] <PersonaGM> ["… Ah, geez. I'm sorry. I didn't realise you really did fall down some steps."]
[20:35] <Sachiko> "Yeah, but now you're wondering whether I really did kick the stairs' ass."
[20:36] <PersonaGM> ["Hah." She nudged Sachiko with her elbow.-
[20:36] <PersonaGM> ["… This been the only time, though?"]
[20:38] <Sachiko> "No. It was the worst, but there's a lot of less dramatic stuff."
[20:41] <PersonaGM> ["Yeah?"]
[21:00] <Sachiko> "None of it's super interesting. It just complicates everything."
[21:03] <PersonaGM> ["Makes easy things normal, normal things hard, that kind of thing?"]
[21:04] <Sachiko> "Uh huh."
[21:06] <PersonaGM> ["Well… I'm sorry to hear that."-
[21:06] <PersonaGM> [A cook came by to take their orders, before he swaggered off back to the kitchen.-
[21:07] <PersonaGM> ["Well, I can see how that'd make the whole going-back-to-life thing harder." Said Mari. "What about your social life?"]
[21:32] <Sachiko> "It's… there? I don't know," she shrugged. "I've met some new people that are pretty ok, and I'm trying to interact."
[21:33] <PersonaGM> ["That's good, though. What're they like?"]
[11:27] <Sachiko> "Only three people in my dorm. We have a guy who's friendly to an aggressive degree, but he's pretty fun to chat with so I guess I can forgive that. Then there's a younger kid who…" she wobbled her head side to side, looking for words. "I don't know. She's ok, but she has one of those cases of social anxiety where it becomes a little contagious? It stresses me out."-
[11:27] <Sachiko> "And then there's an American student my age. Aside from a bad case of punchitis, guess what her downside is."
[11:28] <PersonaGM> ["She has bad taste in music?"]
[11:30] <Sachiko> "Probably? But no, she's a chain smoker."
[11:31] <PersonaGM> ["Oh damn, okay."]
[11:33] * Sachiko smirked. "I give you permission to laugh. It's pretty funny, in a morbid sort of way."
[11:38] <PersonaGM> ["Does she smoke inside?"]
[11:39] <Sachiko> "Uh huh."
[11:40] <PersonaGM> ["Mmm. I don't suppose she's going to listen to being told 'no'?"]
[12:01] <Sachiko> "Probably not," she said. "I don't exactly like it, but I'm not going to let it have power over me."
[12:02] <PersonaGM> ["Fair fair."-
[12:02] <PersonaGM> ["That's… A weirdly empty dorm, though."]
[12:04] <Sachiko> "Hard to maintain the spooky aesthetic with a crowd, I guess."
[12:05] <PersonaGM> ["I wasn't going to say anything, but what's up with the… Box?"]
[12:06] * Sachiko groaned. "If you find out, let me know. None of us have ever seen her outside of it, but things just kinda happen when we aren't looking."
[12:20] <PersonaGM> ["… Creepy. Bet she goes through your clothes when you're out."]
[12:23] <Sachiko> "You think?"
[12:24] <PersonaGM> ["Have you actually confirmed that she's a lady and not a pervert catfishing you all?"]
[12:27] <Sachiko> "I tried to look in the box and she poked me in the eye with a stick, so I guess that's a no…?"
[12:28] <PersonaGM> ["Definitely a pervert."]
[12:29] <Sachiko> "See, we were thinking she might be a ghost, but the two theories are compatible."
[12:30] <PersonaGM> ["Oh see, ghost perverts are sexy."]
[12:31] <Sachiko> "… ok, I need you to explain that one to me."
[12:34] <PersonaGM> ["You're a young adult. There has to be dozens of light novels or manga or stories about sleeping with a ghost."]
[12:37] <Sachiko> "There's a story for every kind of perversion," she said dismissively. "I'm asking why you, Mari Kurata, want to sleep with a sexy ghost."
[12:39] <PersonaGM> ["Well let's take a sexy person. You want to sleep with sexy people, right?"]
[12:41] * Sachiko wobbled a hand and gave a very half-hearted. "Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh."
[12:42] <PersonaGM> ["Oh, so I'm weird for wanting to sleep with a sexy ghost, and here's my little sister with an ugly person fetish."]
[12:46] * Sachiko gave this some consideration. "… yeah, that's about the sum of it."
[12:49] <PersonaGM> ["Aight, you gonna explain that or what?"]
[12:55] * Sachiko started laughing. "Explain what, that I was committing to your premise?"
[13:00] <PersonaGM> ["Apparently! Maybe you shouldn't commit to it if you end up wanting to, I dunno, express your amorousness for Gerard Depardieu."]
[13:14] <Sachiko> "What, you need to look "normal" to deserve love?"
[13:18] <PersonaGM> ["Noooo. But everyone has a type, right? Features they're attracted to? But in this one case, it'd be like saying you're attracted to people you aren't attracted to."]
[13:55] <Sachiko> "I'm sure that's someone's thing."
[13:55] <PersonaGM> ["Uh-huh."-
[13:55] <PersonaGM> ["Anyway, to answer your question: sexy ghosts are sexy people but with less logistics."]
[13:56] <Sachiko> "Interesting. Go on."
[13:56] <PersonaGM> ["Most people can't see them, so you don't need to hide them or concoct ways to smuggle them in. They also don't get tired."]
[13:58] <Sachiko> "Uh huh… and this is based on extensive research, or…?"
[14:03] <PersonaGM> ["Sure." She said, nudging Sachiko with her elbow.]
[14:07] * Sachiko was, indeed, nudged. "Mum and dad aren't getting that dynasty."
[14:08] <PersonaGM> ["Not soon, anyway."-
[14:09] <PersonaGM> [With a wordless 'mmh', the cook came over with their bowls of ramen. He set them down on the table. Two bowls of fresh, piping hot ramen, wafts of steam curling off the top and into the air.]
[15:39] * Sachiko made a small, happy sound as the food appeared, thanking the cook as she picked up her chopsticks. She picked up her chopsticks without waiting for Mari and dug in with a kind of artless enthusiasm.-
[15:39] <Sachiko> "… it's good, right?" she asked once she'd come up for air.
[15:43] <PersonaGM> [Mari slurped up her own mouthful of noodles and smirked. "Look at you, going all native."]
[15:45] <Sachiko> "Native from what? Pretty sure Yokohama knows about ramen."
[16:09] <PersonaGM> ["Yeah, but you aren't in Yokohama finding your favourite ramen joint, are you?"]
[16:37] * Sachiko gave her a withering look as she ate. The conversation fell into a comfortable lull, sounds drifting out from the kitchen and the other tables to fill the silence.-
[16:37] <Sachiko> "So I got scouted for a music competition later in the year," she said eventually, deliberately nonchalant.
[16:37] <PersonaGM> ["Oh yeah?" Said Mari, just as nonchalant.]
[16:42] <Sachiko> "A couple of the local schools run it. You need backing by one of the town's big art players to get in," she said. "The guy who runs the music shop I visit offered his sponsorship to me."
[16:45] <PersonaGM> ["Well done."]
[17:11] <Sachiko> "… my hand still feels like a brick when I play, though."
[17:18] <PersonaGM> ["Okay… So what does that do to the music?"}
[17:53] <Sachiko> Her brow bunched up as she searched for words, giving the momentary impression of someone much younger.-Her brow bunched up as she searched for words, giving the momentary impression of someone much younger.-
[17:53] <Sachiko> "It's a lack of precision, in placement and timing. It's the difference between this-" she raised her good hand and started tapping the table at the left edge, the dead centre and the right edge in precise, 4/4 time, "-and this." She used the same hand, but this time the timing was more erratic and the placement less controlled.-
[17:53] <Sachiko> "So scale that up to the level of complexity and timing of a proper piece of music, and imagine a false note every time I get it wrong."
[18:02] <PersonaGM> ["… Yeah, sounds pretty bad. WHat're you gonna do?"]
[18:10] <Sachiko> "There's this idea in music that repetition legitimizes? If you play it that way the first time it sounds like a mistake, but if that mistake is then repeated and incorporated into the structure of the song it becomes a choice. The listener starts accepting it" she shrugged. "So that's what I do. Really taxing, but it works… you know, mostly."-
[18:10] <Sachiko> "But my sponsor's right, it'll still lose to perfection every time."
[18:11] <PersonaGM> [She scoffed. "Perfection? Is that what you're up against? Nobody's perfect."]
[18:11] <Sachiko> "Some people are close."
[18:13] <PersonaGM> ["Who exactly is this near-perfect person, then?"]
[18:30] <Sachiko> "Me a year and a half ago," she said, though the faint smile gave the joke away.
[18:31] <PersonaGM> [Mari nudged Sachiko, although not ungently. "Sorry, kiddo. You know what I meant, though."]
[18:40] <Sachiko> "I know what you meant."-
[18:40] <Sachiko> "… I kinda thought about giving up on it yesterday," she said. "… but then I woke up this morning and I was just mad. Honestly spite gets a bad rap, it's a very useful emotion."
[18:42] <PersonaGM> ["Yes, we've uh, figured out your take on spite, sis."]
[18:44] * Sachiko grinned.
[18:45] <PersonaGM> ["Anyway, would you like my take on it?"]
[18:46] <Sachiko> "Sure."
[18:48] <PersonaGM> ["Perfection is all well and good, and I can see why you'd feel hopeless about going up against that. Especially when you had it in the past." Mari dug around her ramen with her chopsticks.-
[18:49] <PersonaGM> ["But there's someone we do business with, and her family has a motto that's stuck with me: 'Two in Harmony Surpass One in Perfection'."]
[18:55] <Sachiko> "Hm. So time for me to join a band, is that it?"
[18:57] <PersonaGM> ["Can't rock without roll." Said Mari, her face deadpan.]
[18:59] <Sachiko> "Ugh."
[19:08] <PersonaGM> ["I'm surprised you didn't join the music club. Joining the debate club instead? The perfect compromise between the Sachiko and the Kurata."]
[19:23] <Sachiko> "Yeah, I don't mind it."-
[19:23] <Sachiko> "I thought about going back to music club, but all the people I hung out with there started avoiding me the instant I got hurt. They're still avoiding me," she said. "So it would've been fun to watch them scramble to act like that didn't happen, but I can do that without needing to spend a year with them."
[19:24] <PersonaGM> ["Yikes. Alright. I guess you could, uh… Make your own?"]
[19:27] * Sachiko smiled a little. "Yeah, that's the best way. I know people who should be familiar with anyone local who's looking for a band…"
[19:35] <PersonaGM> ["Is it a lot of work to make a band?"]
[19:38] <Sachiko> "I mean, almost certainly," she said. "Not that I've ever had a chance to try."
[19:41] <PersonaGM> ["Hmm…"-
[19:41] <PersonaGM> [She slurped up some noodles, her brow creased.-
[19:41] <PersonaGM> ["So long as it doesn't hit your grades, I guess it's fine."]
[19:42] <Sachiko> "Thank you for your grudging acceptance."
[19:43] <PersonaGM> ["Gotta see proof of concept. If your band's as good as this ramen, then I'll be happy."]
[20:03] <Sachiko> "Oof. Lofty expectations," she said with a laugh.-
[20:03] <Sachiko> "I'll do my best."

fin

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