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[11:25] <Sachiko> Had anyone been able to observe the operations of the… (ugh) Monster with 21 Faces, the routine nature of them breaking into the school may've been a concern. Luckily the only ones able to see Sachiko and Roy approach the Fschool were a smattering of University Students, and if concern formed a part of their emotional makeup it did not take a shape mortal minds were able to conceive.-
[11:25] <Sachiko> "You were quiet today," Sachiko said, once the door was shut behind them.
[12:05] <Minaplo> "Hope that wasn't a problem." Said Roy, keeping to Sachiko's shadow.
[12:08] <Sachiko> "Nah, just noticed. You alright?"
[12:30] <Minaplo> "I'm good, thanks. Just thoughtful I guess. It's been a kind of nostalgic day."
[12:34] <Sachiko> "Yeah, seemed like it," she said quietly. The rounded the corner into the hallway hiding the Metaverse gate, and Sachiko freed her tomephone from her pocket.-
[12:35] <Sachiko> "… If what we were doing with all this was gonna get us killed, would you tell us?"
[12:39] <Minaplo> "I don't believe in sacrificial lambs." Said Roy. "You know already that this is gonna be a life-threatening gig. I can't promise you'll live, but I can deffo promise that there's a chance you will."
[12:42] <Sachiko> She nodded, and busied herself with the gate. "And if whatever happened to you and your friends was relevant, you'd tell us that too?"
[12:43] <Minaplo> "Sure. If or when it does."
[12:58] <Sachiko> "Just making sure."-
[12:58] <Sachiko> The last scan had proved the Lounge was contact with the Theater enough - no point venturing out into the more dangerous zones, especially with Asaka on high alert. The last venture had taught her one thing though: She sat down on her chair before summoning Faust around her. It wouldn't do to flop to the ground in front of Roy.-
[12:59] <Sachiko> … and then a moment later she poked her head out through Faust's spectral cloak to look back at Roy. "Anything specific I should be looking for, based on your old missions?"
[01:38] <Minaplo> There were two unexpected guests in the saferoom, however- sitting on a black leather couch were Okuninushi and Issun-Boshi.
[01:38] <Minaplo> They both bowed as Sachiko entered but, considering Okuninushi was tall and elegant, and Issun-boshi was barely an inch tall and mostly hidden by the lip of the rice bowl in which he sat, one was more impressive than the other.
[01:38] <Minaplo> "In my experience, the terrain matters a lot. When an archetype goes feral, the landscape changes to match. We're kind of walking into hell."
[08:10] <Sachiko> Sachiko had marched in with her head down, obviously pensive and expecting the room to be as it always was. So when she stuck her head back out to find extra onlookers, the surprise ran through her and her Persona both: For a moment Faust shimmer like a reflection on water.-
[08:10] <Sachiko> "Oh. Uh," she said. A hand poked through the cloak to offer an awkward wave. "Hi."
[09:07] <Minaplo> "Hello." Said Okuninushi. "The season has changed."
[09:28] <Sachiko> "We set things in motion. Sorry for the trouble," she said, and seemed to mean it.
[09:59] <Minaplo> "I sense that this place was inherently unstable. Should the captain apologise for ending the sea trip by arriving in harbour? This place would have to terminate in something eventually." Said Okuninushi.
[09:59] <Minaplo> "But I enjoy sea trips." Said Issun-boshi. "The sea is so salty, the dolphins have so much fun… I'm sad when they end!"
[09:59] <Minaplo> "Yes, but also be glad that they were at all," said Okuninushi gently.
[10:07] <Sachiko> "Told you I could find him," Sachiko said, shooting Roy a mischevious grin.
[10:09] <Minaplo> "Hmph. I'm not mad that you did, you know."
[10:10] <Sachiko> "Could you be? It'd make me happy."-
[10:12] <Sachiko> "… shit, I sound like Adrien. Be right back, scanning hell." And she disappeared inside Faust once again.
[10:15] <Minaplo> "Hey, you know what I found today?"
[10:21] <Sachiko> "What?" Her words couldn't carry through the cloak, but Faust's branches creaking and snapping formed an uncanny mimicry of her voice. It was… troubling.
[10:22] <Minaplo> "I found it interesting that you're just as much a nerd as Ai, you're just trying to hide it."
[10:26] <Sachiko> "I know some things, sure. But the fact that I can hide it means I'm not near as bad as Yoshino."
[10:28] <Minaplo> "Sure, ok. Surprised you didn't offer to form the head when they were going off about a Persona robot…"
[10:29] <Sachiko> "Because the Persona robot's dumb."
[10:30] <Minaplo> "What would you prefer?"
[10:34] <Sachiko> "To be starting a band, but we can't all have what we want. Quiet while I work."
[10:15] <Minaplo> "Hmph." Roy sat, but mumbled to himself, "Music nerds are worse than otaku."
[11:28] <Sachiko> If Sachiko heard she didn't reply.-
[11:28] <Sachiko> Inside the cloak, she crossed her legs underneath her as two shadows dangled from the knotted woodwork of Faust's ribcage, holding the scrying mirror ahead of her. Sachiko's focus expanded slowly, wary of the possibility that Asaka's rage might make this dangerous…
[02:19] <Sachiko> … and Centre Stage unfolded before her. With Asaka unleashed the Metaverse's logic had grown less linear, and the rules that governed the space around the heed were abstract, dreamlike. Scanning the Orrery was particularly difficult, and she had to work slowly.-
[02:19] <Sachiko> But after a few minutes of work Faust finally vanished. She didn't look as rough as she had after scanning for the Issun-boshi, but fatigue was still written across her face. "Well. That's a trip."
[03:23] <Minaplo> "I mean no shit. Details, Sabrina."
[03:43] <Sachiko> "The Heed's the Orrery's sun. We have two staircases running up towards it, but the orbits of those planets intersect it and they'll hurt if they get close," she said, grinding the heels of her hands into her eyes. "I think the light from the Heed's bad for us too, but it's hard to get a clear reading on what it'd do. We should be able to manipulate the orrery mechanism to adjust the motion of both and give us a clear path."-
[03:43] <Sachiko> "And there's some sort of spatial distortion the higher you go, shifting the scale of everything. It's going to make footing tricky. Same goes for avoiding the planets, I think."
[06:47] <Minaplo> "Man, honestly it's the environmental shit that gets you half the time." Said Roy. "We're fighting two different fights."
[10:32] <Sachiko> "Looking at it… 'hell' was right," she said. "It's a landscape of pain."
[11:36] <Minaplo> "An orrery is supposed to show the order of the heavens. If his is broken, then… Well. The system's fucked. Pain is one of the more vicious types of Centre Stage, but… I learned that there's more than one type of hell, and they're not all about pain."
[11:43] <Sachiko> "What's the worst one you ran into?" she asked as she got to her feet and stretched. "If you're comfortable talking about it here, I guess."
[11:46] <Minaplo> "Despair." Said Roy immediately.
[11:53] <Sachiko> "… ah. Yeah, I guess that makes sense."
[11:59] <Minaplo> "It fuckin' sucked."
[12:28] <Sachiko> Sachiko scuffed her toes, momentarily wrongfooted. Eventually her focus drifted back to Issun-Boshi. "Well, at least we have the little guy to help us out here."
[12:31] <Minaplo> "Yes, my lady!" Said Issun-Boshi, waving his knitting needle katana.
[12:31] <Minaplo> "I'm… interested in seeing what happens." Said Roy.
[12:35] <Sachiko> She shot the tiny samurai a grin. "Yeah. It'll be interesting," she said. "I'd be a lot less worried if we had some prep time, but Delacour's dropped us in it."
[02:27] <Minaplo> "I can't get a solid read on that guy. It's like he's trying to put the wild into Wild Card."
[04:46] <Sachiko> "He wants us to believe he's taking this a lot less seriously than he is."
[04:49] <Minaplo> "That sounds like a good thing."
[04:49] <Sachiko> "It's not."
[04:51] <Minaplo> "Him taking it seriously deep down is a bad thing?"
[05:01] <Sachiko> "I'm guessing that you have a pretty good idea of the leverage that's keeping most of us attached to the mission. That fair to say?"
[05:01] <Minaplo> "Sure."
[05:06] <Sachiko> "Same here. And that information's necessary to predict how everyone will react, what to manage. Delacour's simultaneously our most powerful piece and the least predictable, and that's a dangerous mix."
[05:09] <Minaplo> "Sure. That's the Wild Card, I suppose." Said Roy. "What do you think is his motivation, then? And what are his reasons for hiding it?"
[05:23] <Sachiko> "…" she shrugged, tracing a finger over the lower edge of her mask. "If I work that out I'll let you know."
[05:27] <Minaplo> "Aight." Said Roy. "You good to bail or what?"
[05:29] <Sachiko> "Yeah, I don't think I can do much more here," she said. She looked to the pair in the corner. "We'll be back soon to sort this out."
[05:34] <Minaplo> "I understand." Said Okuninushi.
[05:34] <Minaplo> "Me too!" Said Issun-Boshi.
[05:34] <Minaplo> Roy turned and headed for the entry. "Adrien's an enigma, and you just want a band, huh?"
[05:42] <Sachiko> "Yeah. Had tryouts planned this afternoon," she spoke in a hurry as they crossed the boundary between this world and theirs. The mask vanished from her face, and in the moment before she caught herself the hurt on her expression was obvious.
[05:43] <Minaplo> "… Ooooh. I'm sorry."
[05:45] <Sachiko> She shrugged. "I'm probably complaining to the wrong person."
[05:47] <Minaplo> "Some bullshit, that. Go on."
[07:58] <Sachiko> "I'm out of practice, and I've got a big competition later this year," she said. "Four weeks ago my plan was to keep to myself, play as many shows as I could manage and get my life back. Now? Being an Evoker's always going to come first, because I can't leave you dopes to die on your own. Gotta make my peace with that, I guess."
[09:02] <Minaplo> "Maybe it shouldn't, though." Said Roy.
[09:03] <Sachiko> "What do you mean?"
[09:05] <Minaplo> "You grew up watching, I dunno, anime bullshit, right?"
[10:48] <Sachiko> "Sure."
[10:49] <Minaplo> "And you'd watch some anime where a bunch of unqualified deadass schoolgirls beat Satan's great uncle through the power of heart?"
[10:50] <Sachiko> "I've seen Sailor Moon, yes."
[11:01] <Minaplo> "Hey. Know your place, girl. Don't talk about the greats with that mouth."
[11:01] <Minaplo> Roy paced out into the courtyard, the air still sultry with plum perfume and heavy with the humidity of spring. "Those shows aren't very practical. You shouldn't beat Satan with heart, you should beat him with howitzers."
[11:01] <Minaplo> "But the Sea of Chaos isn't a practical place. You're not just training your body and your mind. You also need to train your heart. And you do that by feeding it things that make it bigger."
[11:13] <Sachiko> "So I get to make my whole life Evoker work?"
[11:25] <Minaplo> Roy laughed. "Sure, that's one way to look at it."
[11:25] <Minaplo> He stretched, bounced and leapt over onto a nearby wall. He turned back to look at Sachiko.
[11:25] <Minaplo> "I know none of y'all asked for this, and to be clear, a lot of this sucks. There's folks who grasp this as a great adventure, one they leap at, and reality catches up to them eventually and hits 'em hard."
[11:25] <Minaplo> He sat and looked up at the three-quarters moon in the sky. It was a clear enough night, and the moon lit up the sky like a gleaming coin. "And then there's the other folks, who see it as an unwanted burden, resent it for the unwanted danger, the overhead it adds onto everything you do. And we- they- don't see it for what it really is."
[11:30] <Sachiko> She leant on the wall and stared first at Roy, then at the moon. "And what's that?"
[11:45] <Minaplo> "Everyone comes to sees it differently, I guess." He laughed again, the sound ringing with a note of uninhibited energy, high spirits unleashed after a hibernation.
[11:45] <Minaplo> "It's a lot to take in. You can't do it with a normal heart." Said Roy. "You have to make it bigger for it to fit. But that bigness stays, and you'll find it teaches you that the real world isn't as practical as everyone says it is, either."
[11:45] <Minaplo> "What we all went through, it… Wasn't easy. But it was the best year." He said warmly. "It let a scaredy cat feel like a king." He turned down and looked at her. For a moment, a hint of Faust's vision crept into Sachiko's real eyes, and she saw Roy's shadow, cast by the moon, flicker- a tall, lean, regal figure, clad in black armour and silver claws, reaching up toward the moon- before it returned to its simple feline silhouette.
[11:45] <Minaplo> "I'm going to go for a walk. See you around, Sachiko."
[11:58] <Sachiko> "… you got it" she said, raising her hand in a loose little salute. She stayed by the wall watching Roy's shadow, and then once it's disappeared alongside its owner she returned her gaze to the moon.

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