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[03:23] <Hideki> Hideki handed the money to the guy behind the convenience store counter and grabbed the plastic bag with their stuff in it. It felt weird to celebrate after everything that had just happened. Still, at least some good had come out of the battle. He left, walking a little more stiffly than usual, bracing himself against the chilly spring air. The sun hadn't come up yet, and the streets were deserted aside from him and one other person…
[03:27] <Minaplo> Ji-hu walked alongside him, her hands in the pockets of her coat. Her hair was down, as it usually was, but at this late at night was starting to revert to its secret, true form: slightly wavy and frizzy.
[03:27] <Minaplo> "Can't believe he stole my essays."
[03:38] <Hideki> "It's hard to think about." He fished something out of the bag… it was an ice cream bar. Green tea-flavored. "Are you angry?"
[03:44] <Minaplo> "Of course I'm angry! Apparently he's gone rogue? And his Persona is now icon-of-anarchy V? And he has my notes, to make Personas with! Did you ever see that movie?"
[03:48] <Hideki> "Nope!" He held the bag out to her and shook it a little. Apparently, there was more in it than frosty sweet treats.
[03:55] <Minaplo> "You know that he takes a woman into his secret dungeon and converts her into a follower through psychological torture, right?" Said Ji-hu, peering irritably at the bag.
[04:09] <Hideki> Perfectly serviceable savory crackers. Bottled drinks. sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. And yes… more ice cream. "It's not like making more evokers necessarily requires… all of that, right?"
[04:09] <Minaplo> "It might!"
[03:00] <Hideki> "Man. All right. Say that's all true. Delacour is a madman, bent on creating a lot of Evokers. What do we do about it? What's the first step in countering him? Should we counter him…?"
[03:05] <Minaplo> "Kick his ass!"
[03:08] <Hideki> "I'd like to talk with him first."
[03:21] <Minaplo> "… I guess." She said with a huff, grabbing a stick of ice cream. "What'd you say?"
[03:28] <Hideki> "I think I'd apologize first." Hideki tossed the wrapper of his own ice cream into a public trash can. "And then, you know, ask what's going on with him."
[03:29] <Minaplo> "Apologize?"
[03:39] <Hideki> "I think part of this is a reaction to how badly we screwed with him. Not you specifically… you were nice to him, and it sucks that your work was stolen. But the rest of Team Monster was freakin' hard on him. Often. During a time when he could've used support."
[03:42] <Minaplo> "So he feels bullied?"
[03:55] <Hideki> "That's simplifying it." Hideki bit into his ice cream and, shivering, took a second to deal with the delicious coldness on top of the regular early morning coldness. "He spent his life being rejected. He hoped for more this time. There's a lotta layers to this type of hurt."
[10:37] <Minaplo> "Mgh. I just want to be mad at him, and you're not letting me. It's so frustrating. You're too sexy when you're all mature and responsible like this." She muttered irritably.
[05:02] <Hideki> "Well, it's hard to celebrate if you're mad," Hideki pointed out, nodding to himself in a most mature way. "Even though we lost a lot, there are some things we should still be happy about."
[05:05] <Minaplo> "Damnit. That's also true and mature."
[04:19] <Hideki> "Now I can only speak for myself, but I'm pretty relieved we overcame this whole Asaka thing. It means things can go back to normal for you!"
[03:43] <Minaplo> "Well. There's still a psycho in a mask out to murder me."
[03:56] <Hideki> "W-well, yeah. Maybe. We stlll don't know much about that guy. I was thinking more about the stuff going on at school…"
[06:13] <Minaplo> "But now school feels like a public address from Park Geun-hye."
[02:35] <Hideki> "Atmosphere could be better," Hideki admitted. "A lot better. How long do you think it'll last?"
[03:59] <Minaplo> "That… depends. I think it'll burn out in a week, honestly. The school could cool it down by handling it better."
[04:24] <Hideki> "Like doing what, for example? Having their own official press conference and telling the reporters to back off?"
[09:22] <Minaplo> "A big investigation would help, with regular press conferences."
[02:03] <Hideki> "Or they could profit from it." Hideki dramatically raised his half-eaten ice cream at a street light as they passed underneath it, "'Now that we have the spotlight, I would like to direct everyone's attention to all the really smart kids enrolled here. And our sports teams! And our art students. Please give us more money so we can better protect them.'"
[02:03] <Minaplo> "Damnit, Hideki…"
[02:10] <Hideki> He lowered his hand a little sheepishly. "Sorry, sorry. That was a little cynical."
[02:50] <Minaplo> "You were doing so well, too! Ugh, I bet someone's thinking of profit right now."
[02:50] <Minaplo> She sighed. "Sorry. This is extra hard on you too…"
[03:58] <Hideki> "The last couple of days have been sad and disappointing. But I meant what I said earlier. We had a big victory, and I don't want to forget that."
[03:59] <Minaplo> "That's smart. What should we do?"
[04:07] <Hideki> "Well, we have food." He rustled his plastic bag again. "All we need is some music and dancing. That would make this a real celebration!"
[04:09] <Minaplo> "You want that karaoke, huh?"
[04:09] <Hideki> "It… can't be karaoke. But what about a regular party? With a dance contest?"
[04:11] <Minaplo> "A dance contest? Alright, where?"
[04:16] <Hideki> "We could keep it between the two of us and have it right here~"
[04:17] <Minaplo> "What, in public?" Ji-hu smirked.
[04:22] <Hideki> "Well, if you're looking for someplace warmer, I have some ideas."
[04:27] <Minaplo> "The riverside?"
[01:04] <Hideki> "Eh? That's… warmer?"
[01:06] <Minaplo> "No, but being dunked in cold water might do you some good, right now." She said slyly.
[01:11] <Hideki> "How mean! I'm just trying to cheer the both of us up."
[02:08] <Minaplo> She eyed him.
[02:08] <Minaplo> "You know… Many people get the wrong idea about you, don't they, Hideki?"
[02:20] <Hideki> "Do they?" He tilted his head a little.
[02:29] <Minaplo> "I think some people see you and think that you're blasé, or careless." Said Ji-Hu. "Or that you don't really pay attention that much to things around you. I know I've had fights with some of my friends, because they'd describe you and me as 'the Smart Girl with her Dumb Guy'." She shook her head ruefully.
[02:29] <Minaplo> "But you're actually much smarter than a lot of people think. You pay a lot of attention to everything, more than people realise. And I think a lot of people realise that when you act carefree or light-hearted, you're doing it for their sake, not for your own. You have a deep, serious side to yourself, and a lot of that is focusing on how to make sure everyone around you feels comfortable and at ease."
[02:55] <Hideki> Hideki turned slightly pink around the ears. For a minute, he didn't say anything. Instead, he interlocked his fingers and stretched deeply, lifting his hands above his head. Conveniently, this would have blocked his profile from anyone looking at him from the side. -
[02:57] <Hideki> "What's up with this all of a sudden?" he mumbled.
[03:06] <Minaplo> "I just wanted to share it with you." She said, giggling. "I've been watching how you interact with the others. How you act in serious, life-threatening situations…"
[03:20] <Hideki> "Well… I've never known you to miss much when it comes to watching other folks." He decided that it was safe to drop his arms again. "Any critiques?"
[03:23] <Minaplo> "I think sometimes, people would appreciate it a lot more if you totally dropped the blasé act. Show off how you really feel. Show a little bit of fear and worry, and engage with the seriousness of it. People can't appreciate your bravery if they can't see your fear."
[03:31] <Hideki> "Sounds difficult. Maybe a little bit at a time…"
[03:33] <Minaplo> "Yeah, don't push yourself too hard. Just some honest critiques."
[04:01] <Hideki> "Thanks. Seems like you're the one looking out for us now."
[12:13] <Minaplo> "I'm doing my best. I literally owe everyone my life…"
[12:30] <Hideki> "I wasn't completely joking about the dance party, you know. Maybe we could have a small one at the dorm. An actual party," he added. "No euphemisms."
[12:33] <Minaplo> "Reckon it'd work?"
[12:36] <Hideki> "Maybe. Once things die down at school."
[12:37] <Minaplo> "Promise?"
[12:37] <Hideki> "Of course!" He beamed.
[12:37] <Minaplo> She held out her pinky.
[12:38] <Hideki> Hideki grabbed it with one of his own.
[12:48] <Minaplo> The Star Arcana strengthens…

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