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[12:50] <Hideki> Hideki had checked all of the men's bathrooms in the dorm, but he still hadn't stumbled across Adrien Delacour. He also hadn't been in the kitchen or in the library. Somehow or another, the guy had vanished after the latest strategy meeting/feast. He hadn't gone home - at least, not without passing by the lobby or the tollbooth. Bathrooms seemed like the natural next place to check, but nope, nothing. -
[01:00] <Hideki> "There's always the back door, I guess?" he muttered to himself as he descended to the floor where his bedroom was. It was an empty, empty floor, and for a moment he thought about inviting Ji-Hu to stay in his room for the night, but something bright snagged his attention before he could consider that for very long. It fluttered, bright and blue, around the brassy doorknob of one of the silent rooms.
[01:02] <Minaplo> And after a moment it vanished; but the door swung slightly open.
[01:07] <Hideki> Hideki braced himself for… well, he didn't know what, exactly. Magic? Dangerous people in hats? In any case, he abruptly threw the door open the rest of the way!
[01:15] <Minaplo> Lying on the bed, headphones on, staring up quietly at the roof, was Adrien. A plate of fried chicken was on the ground, a few metres away.
[01:15] <Minaplo> He put a hand out toward it, and seemed momentarily frustrated that the chicken didn't fly into his hand. Then he seemed surprised at his frustration; he leaned over and grabbed a piece, then popped it into his mouth.
[01:25] <Hideki> "…" Hideki held in a sigh. No mysterious phenomenons here. Just Adrien. So he walked over to the bed and plunked down heavily on the edge of it. "Having your own private party, or something?"
[01:25] <Minaplo> "Huh?" Adrien looked over at him. "What? No. I'm…"
[01:25] <Minaplo> He looked around. "…"
[01:25] <Minaplo> "I guess I kind of am."
[01:25] <Minaplo> "You want some?"
[01:30] <Hideki> Hideki reached over to grab a piece for himself, even though it meant actually getting up again. "Gonna stay here until morning? Because, I mean, you can if you want. I don't think it'd be weird to any of us if you did."
[01:31] <Minaplo> "Maybe. I'll probably find some other room though." Said Adrien.
[01:31] <Minaplo> "What brought you here? Was I too loud or something?"
[01:38] <Hideki> "Nah. In fact, you were a pain to find. I'm just seeing what's going on, I guess."
[01:43] <Minaplo> "Oh. I 'unno."
[01:49] <Hideki> Hideki settled back on the edge of the bed, and glanced up at the ceiling where Adrien had been looking before. "What should we do when the fight with Asaka's over? Beach trip? Amusement park? You brought tonight's food, so I'll shout you."
[01:54] <Minaplo> Adrien gave Hideki a curious look. "You'll shout?"
[01:57] <Hideki> "Yeah. Fair's fair, right?"
[01:59] <Minaplo> "Sure."
[01:59] <Minaplo> Adrien sat up. "How about we let the universe decide?" He reached into his breast pocket and took out a single six-sided die.
[01:59] <Minaplo> "Let's take turns naming possibilities. If it's a one, we go to the beach."
[02:01] <Hideki> "Alright! If it's two, we'll have a party here in the dorm."
[02:02] <Minaplo> "Vanilla, but okay. If it's a three, we go to the amusement park, but only people with dates can come."
[02:04] <Hideki> "Man. It'll just be me and Ji-Hu then." Hideki smirked.
[02:04] <Minaplo> "Don't be a cocky bastard. Name a fourth."
[02:07] <Hideki> "Karaoke night. A dance-off, of course, will also be required."
[02:08] <Minaplo> Adrien smirked.
[02:08] <Minaplo> "Alright. Number five: we sneak into a University club." He said.
[02:08] <Minaplo> "Last one's yours. Here's a requirement: have it be something that you want to do, but wouldn't normally choose to do."
[02:22] <Hideki> "Hmm. Music concert. We could hop on a train going to a bigger city and see one there."
[02:23] <Minaplo> "God." Adrien shook his head. "For a fun-loving guy, you're really very… Straight."
[02:23] <Hideki> "Well, I was going to say skinny dipping, but there's no good place to do it around here."
[02:24] <Minaplo> Adrien smirked. "Well that's untrue."
[02:24] <Hideki> "What? Where?"
[02:24] <Minaplo> "There's two places I recommend. There's a pond up near the mountain shrine, and there is, of course, the school pool…"
[02:27] <Hideki> Hideki folded his arms and closed his eyes thoughtfully. "Then I will amend my last wish," he said seriously. "To the pond with us!"
[02:28] <Minaplo> Adrien grinned. "There." He recorded the six options in his phone. "See, the trick is that you want to do everything, but there has to be at least one option that's a little risky. If you aren't feeling scared, or excited, when you roll the die, then what's the point?"
[02:28] <Minaplo> He held it out to Hideki. "Would you like to do the honours?"
[02:32] <Hideki> "Sure." He accepted the dice, tumbled it briefly in one loosely-closed fist, and then dropped it onto the bed between them, craning his neck for a good look. On which side would it fall?!
[02:33] <Minaplo> It landed on a four.
[02:33] <Minaplo> "Karaoke night." Said Adrien.
[02:35] <Hideki> "And a dance-off," Hideki added. "It'll be fun!"
[02:36] <Minaplo> "I'm sure it will be." Said Adrien. "But how do you really feel? Admit it, a part of you is disappointed you didn't roll five or six."
[02:38] <Hideki> "Tch. Maybe. But there will be other victories and other die rolls. All we need is patience."
[02:39] <Minaplo> "And if there isn't? If we win this one, and lose the next? Do we really want our last victory celebration to be something as hokey as karaoke and dancing?"
[02:41] <Hideki> "You really want to sneak into that club, don't you?"
[02:42] <Minaplo> "I wanted to do all of them." Said Adrien with a smirk. He scooped up the die and put it away. "But the universe has spoken."
[02:42] <Minaplo> He pocketed the die. "You know, you're kind of an anomaly here."
[02:45] <Hideki> "You think?"
[02:48] <Minaplo> "Sure. Dinah's a surly, angry mess. Sachiko's got that big tired energy, Ai's got a bunch of unresolved shame and anxiety bouncing around. Roy's an old grumpy veteran stuck in the body of a black cat. And of course you got me."
[02:48] <Minaplo> Adrien took a second to chew on some chicken. "And then there's you. Tall, handsome, cheerful, with a beautiful girlfriend who everyone loves and admires for being so smart and tough. In a room full of losers… What's broken with you, Hideki Nakajima?"
[02:57] <Hideki> "Uh, I'm not really sure." He rubbed the back of his head. "Why do you think you guys are losers just because you've got a few things to work through?"
[03:07] <Minaplo> "I mean it in the sense that we've lost things. Sachiko and Dinah have lost people, Ai has lost… Security? Her ability to trust in people? And Roy's lost almost everything." Said Adrien.
[03:07] <Minaplo> "But you… Seem to have more than even normal people." Said Adrien. "You haven't lost anything. Or at least, if you have, you don't wear it on your sleeve like the others. Everyone else tries to button it up, but it squeezes out like jelly on a pressed sandwich. But you don't." Adrien took the die out of his pocket and fidgeted with it.
[03:07] <Minaplo> "The Sea of Chaos reacts to stories and theme and all that shit. If you fit in, you'd have lost something too. The obvious thing for you to lose is Ji-Hu, considering the times Black Hat's tried to murder her. But he failed, and you still have her. The two of you are closer than ever, huh? So what's missing? What's wrong with your heart that you need to patch the hole with a mask that looks like Dorian Gray?"
[03:27] <Hideki> "I don't…" He shook his head. "When I was little, I lost two grandparents. And a pet bird. But that's, like… life stuff. It hurt, but it didn't make me lose a part of myself somewhere. It made my family smaller, but I didn't lose my family." He flopped backward so that he was laying on the bed. "I don't know what to even say here."
[03:29] <Minaplo> Adrien held up his die. "Let's ask the universe. One to four, I tell you about some of my shit. The kind of shit that the others don't know. Five to six, you tell me something about yourself. Something you've never willingly told anyone else. Deal?"
[03:30] <Hideki> Hideki curiously eyed him. Was this some kind of therapy technique? "All right. Deal."
[03:31] <Minaplo> Adrien flipped the die into the air. It clattered onto the floor.
[03:31] <Minaplo> "A one."
[03:44] <Hideki> "The universe speaks," said Hideki with a helpless shrug.
[03:47] <Minaplo> "Alright." Said Adrien. He pocketed the die.
[03:47] <Minaplo> "I never knew my grandparents or my real parents. I'm adopted."
[03:51] <Hideki> Hideki blinked in surprise. "Oh." -
[03:53] <Hideki> "Would you want to meet them someday, if you could?"
[03:55] <Minaplo> "Whoever they were, they didn't want to have or meet me. They left me on the doorstep of a random hospital. I wasn't even a year old."
[04:00] <Hideki> "I see. I'm sorry. Did… you always know?"
[04:21] <Minaplo> "Oh, yeah. It was never a secret. My adopter made no bones to hide it."
[04:34] <Hideki> "You guys get along much?" A little caution had crept into his voice, and by now he was sitting straight up. "It's gotta suck for a little kid to deal with that information."
[04:35] <Minaplo> Adrien shook his head. "It's not a normal parent/child relationship. Have you ever heard of a book called The Dice Man?"
[04:42] <Hideki> "Nah." Although, once he made the connection Hideki's eyes sought out the pocket that Adrien had slid his die into.
[04:49] <Minaplo> Adrien grinned.
[04:49] <Minaplo> "It's a cult classic from the seventies. A psychiatrist is bored with his stable, comfortable life. One day, he sees a die and remembers that he used to roll dice with his friends to determine how they'd spend the night. He rolls the die. If it's a one to five, he'll go about his daily routine. If it's a six, he'll do something he wants to do but would never choose to do: cheat on his wife and sleep with his friend's wife." Adrien rolled the die, which landed on a five.
[04:49] <Minaplo> "Unlike me, he rolls a six. And he does it. And this guy finds the experience… Transforming. It's almost like he's found a way to short-circuit the tired prison of the ego, with its fears and other bullshit. By rolling a die, he can give himself permission to do things he'd never actually choose to do." He picked the die up and tossed it into the air.
[04:49] <Minaplo> "He starts using the die to influence his actions. He poisons his clients' lives. He rapes, he even murders. And one of the things he does is he tries to indoctrinate his son into seeing the world through dice rolls. What would happen, he thought, if you raised a child purely by the dice? The first child to be raised without the ego determining their actions, but instead random, pure chaos?"
[04:49] <Minaplo> "For years, it was unclear if the book was fiction… Or an autobiography."
[12:02] <Hideki> "And your adopted dad - or mom - took inspiration from all this?"
[12:07] <Hideki> Hideki's tone was carefully neutral. The story felt like it was leading up to a punchline, but he couldn't be sure.
[12:25] <Minaplo> "They bought into it, sure. Do you know why they chose me?"
[11:54] <Hideki> "I don't. Why?"
[12:24] <Minaplo> "Because he rolled a five."
[01:20] <Hideki> "Yeowch. You sure about all that? Like, did they actually say so?"
[01:23] <Minaplo> "They did." Said Adrien. "And I've seen him roll the die for pretty big things."
[01:33] <Hideki> "A healthy, rational person wouldn't gamble when it came to having a kid. Well, not with dice, anyway," Hideki winked.
[01:34] <Hideki> "Seriously, though. I don't think I've ever seen you do rolls yourself before now. So you've clearly got a different philosophy going, right?"
[02:04] <Minaplo> "Yeah, I try to." Said Adrien. He eyed the die in his hands.
[02:04] <Minaplo> "I didn't really spend time with people my age until I was about ten years old, when I was allowed to go to school. And it was obvious that I was missing something." Said Adrien. "I felt disconnected from everyone else. I didn't have social skills, or even the same pool of reference for culture as everyone else. But the worst part was how totally different my view of right and wrong was compared to others. My sense of cause and effect was skewed. Living by the dice means giving up ownership of your actions, letting an outside force take over. Kind of like people big into religion, but instead of defending a deity you're defending random chance itself."
[02:04] <Minaplo> Adrien's smile faded. "People hated me, being around me, and the ones who didn't were the ones who hated everything else. Who saw my approach as a way of rebelling against society."-
[02:12] <Minaplo> "Do you know the theory of narrative identity? That people reorganize their life events into a coherent story to give themselves unified purpose and meaning? Well, my life story was too random and incoherent. My sense of self was barely there. And when I finally started work on putting it together, it fucking hurt."
[02:04] <Minaplo> "The thing that killed me the most was responsibility. Of having to choose an action deliberately and live with it. To own it. It was terrifying and painful. How was I supposed to know what a good action was?"
[02:04] <Minaplo> "It's so easy to just roll the die, Hideki. Even jusy listing the outcomes gives life to desires you'd never choose to do. And if the die picks those, it's so… freeing. To indulge in things, free from feeling like it's your responsibility. Free from the consequences."
[03:06] <Hideki> "You're not, though. It might feel like freedom, but isn't following the die once it's picked something also a deliberate decision? Like, you're the one who slowly pieced together an identity for yourself, even though you were picked by chance and brought up on it. I feel like I'm preaching to the choir here."
[03:20] <Minaplo> "Maybe. Maybe not." Adrien shrugged. "Living with the dice makes it impossible to ignore the influence of randomness and sheer dumb luck play on how our lives turn out. Yeah, much of my life was based on the rolls of dice, but the truth is, everything in our lives, from big things to small things, could be changed if one small thing, at the right place and time, was different."
[03:20] <Minaplo> He folded his hands in his lap. "Ji-Hu would've had to apply to come here. What if on the day in question, she felt a bit sad and put it off for a day? But the day after wasn't that good, and her application was a little sloppy, and suddenly she doesn't get in? What if, on the way to the airport, Ji-Hu's father makes a slight left turn when he should've taken a hard left, and she misses her plane, and she's a week late, and that week is all you need to meet someone else instead of her? Hell, what if the first time you saw a baseball game, your family's television broke, or the first time you were going to play it, it rained? You might think that you deliberately chose Ji-Hu, or deliberately chose baseball, but the truth is that you're reacting to a thousand different variables, of which you can see about ten and control, maybe, just one."
[03:54] <Hideki> "I can't really deny that… although the examples you picked are breaking my heart," said Hideki with a faint grin. "But it's hard on the ego if you hold to that view too strictly. How can you take credit for things you do right if so much is based on chance? How do you hold other people to moral standards if the stuff they do is out of their hands? Ah. Maybe that's part of what you meant before when you were talking about your views of right and wrong, and responsibility and stuff."
[03:56] <Minaplo> "Exactly."
[03:57] <Hideki> "God. You're doing a lot better than you probably think you are. I don't know if you believe me when I say that, but it's true."
[09:06] <Minaplo> Adrien stared at Hideki for a few long, silent seconds that stretched out into a minute.
[09:06] <Minaplo> He took a deep breath and choked back a sob.
[12:27] <Hideki> Hideki's own eyes widened for a minute, and he glanced aside, absently scratching his chin, before returning his gaze to Adrien. "So, yeah, you're a little awkward here and there, but you take responsibility and apologize for things, and you try to understand others in your own way. You've done a really difficult thing, and I know a lot of people are hard on you, but I think you're incredible and you're working hard every day. So…" he gave a determined fist pump. "Kick that die's ass! Keep it up!"
[12:41] <Minaplo> His sob turned into tears.
[12:41] <Minaplo> "T-thanks, Hideki…" said Adrien after a minute of choking and tears. "You're a nice guy. Everyone else here hates me, and it's… hard…"
[12:59] <Hideki> "But Ji-Hu doesn't hate you," he said softly. "Roy doesn't. Yoshino doesn't. Schreier and Kurata… probably need some more time to understand you. I don't know much about your other classmates either."
[01:19] <Minaplo> "Y-yeah… oh, my classmates don't like me. I asked a girl out the other month, she said yes, then told everyone that I'd spread a rumor that she'd said yes to pressure her to agree… and i didn't know about this until the time of the date when I got stood up."
[01:23] <Hideki> "Ugh," Hideki rubbed his face. "Yeah, the aftermath of that couldn't have been fun."
[01:24] <Minaplo> "It really sucked…"
[01:28] <Hideki> "Maybe hold off on dating people from school for a while," Hideki suggested. "Sophia isn't the only place in town. There are other girls who don't go to the academy and don't care about its rumors and stuff."
[01:29] <Minaplo> "Yeah… maybe I shouldn't date at all until I'm a little more well put together."
[01:33] <Hideki> "Your decision, ultimately. But it's not like you have to decide right this very moment."
[01:35] <Minaplo> "Yeah." Adrien sighed and wiped his face. "Sorry. Embarrassed."
[01:39] <Hideki> "Don't sweat it. In fact, since we're telling secrets today, I'm gonna share one, dice or no dice."
[01:39] <Minaplo> "Yeah?"
[01:44] <Hideki> "Here goes…" Hideki took a deep breath. "So. I'm in my third year of high school now. So far, things have been good. Decent grades, lots of time for my passions, lots of fun. This whole Persona thing isn't bad either. It's intense, yeah, but not bad."-
[01:50] <Hideki> "But it's like… what happens after this? When things end a year from now, and I have to find a job or take university classes, won't it all go downhill from there? No more free time. Paperwork or class papers every day. No more baseball. Boring."-
[01:51] <Hideki> "And when I think about it like that I wonder if maybe I even want to graduate at all."
[01:58] <Minaplo> "I get it. You're worried about peaking in high school."
[02:03] <Hideki> Hideki chuckled. "Yeah. That's where my head is these days. Constantly."
[04:53] <Minaplo> "Yeah man, I can see why. You're crushing it right now, but how can adult life compare to being the school ace who has magic adventures?"
[12:10] <Hideki> "'School ace'? Pfft." He shook his head. "But, listen. Maybe if I go pro, or at least get myself onto a minor league team, I can keep having some fun after I leave Sophia. Just think about it. Parties. Travel. Baseball!"
[12:22] <Minaplo> "Hum. I wonder…"
[12:27] <Hideki> "It's not impossible. Guys have been scouted from our school before."
[12:34] <Minaplo> "Yeah, I mean, that's not up in the air. You could probably go pro if you wanted. And the Sea of Chaos would probably really help that somehow." Said Adrien. "But what I'm wondering is… Where does Ji-hu fit into all of that?"
[12:39] <Hideki> "Ah… that's a hard question." Hideki shifted his weight. "We haven't exactly talked about any of this. The after-graduation stuff."
[12:40] <Minaplo> "Not what I mean. Where does she fit into your image of the future?"
[12:50] <Hideki> "She'd be working hard at her own career. I'm thinking something in law, or activism, or both. So I'm thinking we'd have to be long distance for a while. I can't see her coming on the road with us, y'know?"
[01:13] <Minaplo> "Do you think you guys will even be together?"
[01:23] <Hideki> There was a long pause. Hideki sighed. "I like her a lot. You know that, right?"
[01:23] <Minaplo> "Who doesn't."
[01:35] <Hideki> He nodded. "Good. 'Cause I do like her! And it'd be great to stay together with her for a long, long time! But I'm gonna be honest, here. I think at some point… we're gonna go our separate ways. Maybe after graduation. Maybe if we really do have to go long distance, between jobs, or going to different universities, or her having to go home for a while. And it sucks! It makes me squirm when I think about it."
[01:39] <Minaplo> "Mm."
[01:39] <Minaplo> Adrien leaned back on the bed. "I get it. Honestly, if I were in your shoes? I'd build my life around her, you know what I mean? She'd be my priority and everything else would be fitting around that."
[01:39] <Minaplo> "But, I'm never actually going to have to work a day in my life. Being the adopted child of a billionaire has its advantages, so I can't really talk to your situation."
[01:43] <Hideki> "Rub it in, huh?" -
[01:55] <Hideki> He smiled, but it faded quickly. "We should actually talk, I'll grant you that much. When we first got together, I don't think either of us thought about those serious commitments or anything. Hell, it was a surprise when we celebrated our one-year anniversary."
[01:56] <Minaplo> "Yeah, no kidding." Said Adrien. "Everyone says high school relationships die pretty easily."
[01:56] <Minaplo> "But… You know. You and her are going through something special right now." Said Adrien. "The Persona stuff, Shadows… That's unique. You'll never meet another girl who's been through that."
[03:29] <Hideki> "And she didn't freak out or have a psychological breakdown or anything!" Hideki beamed proudly. "I wouldn't have blamed her for that, you know."
[03:33] <Minaplo> "Exactly. She's one of a kind, you know." Said Adrien.
[03:33] <Minaplo> "So I actually think you should break up with her. The sooner you do, the sooner I can make my move."
[03:42] <Hideki> "Not a chance. You'll have to wait for her to dump me first."
[03:42] <Minaplo> "Won't be hard to persuade her."
[03:58] <Hideki> "Wow, confident," Hideki stood up and stretched. "She's still downstairs. We could go see how far you can get."
[04:01] <Minaplo> "'Hey Ji-hu, Hideki's never going to grow out of his baseball phase'. Boom, done."
[04:02] <Hideki> "Hey! S-she likes baseball too."
[04:02] <Minaplo> "Does she like it more than she likes you?"
[04:04] <Hideki> "I kind of hope she does. But at the same time, I kind of hope she doesn't. I'm conflicted."
[04:10] <Minaplo> "Well either way she feels, you don't like her more than you like baseball. Which is sad."
[04:23] <Hideki> "You know what? I'm going downstairs. And I'm gonna kiss my girlfriend, who I love equally as much as baseball. Are you good in here, or do you feel like coming and hanging out with us?"
[04:24] <Minaplo> Adrien glanced around the room expectantly. Then, after a moment, frowned and went "Sure, I'll come down. Lemme grab my chicken."
[04:24] <Hideki> "Outstanding. Let's go!”

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