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[10:40] <Minaplo> Persona: A Study in Velvet, Chapter One: The Panther, the Worm and the War Criminal, Week Five.
[10:40] <Minaplo> The 9th of May opened on a chaotic Sophia Academy.
[10:40] <Minaplo> The residents of 5 Soejima would witness the havoc the moment they got to school. Reporters and camera crews surrounded the front gates, creating an unintentional barricade and bottleneck. Students were arriving almost haphazardly, as though in a daze, wandering stupefied through this gauntlet of cameras and shouted questions, only feeding into the press of students already trying to push through. Teachers and guards tried to restore order, to no avail.
[10:40] <Minaplo> Behind Sophia's white walls, it was quieter, but it was a tense, anxious sort of quiet. The media outside gave everyone the sense of being under siege. When people talked, they did so through murmurs and mumbles, and any loud noises or shouts seemed to spook everyone nearly.
[10:40] <Minaplo> It wouldn't take long for people to start talking, however. And for undercurrents to rise.-
[10:46] <Minaplo> It was a good chance for the Evokers to learn what people remembered. And through mismatched rumours and gossip, an image would form.
[10:46] <Minaplo> People wouldn't remember Ji-hu's video, and many of the events after that video seemed to be poorly remembered or misremembered. Forum posts, when viewed through normal phones, would be edited or altered, but when viewed through smart tomes, would reveal the original posts in their context. Many people struggled to recall how Asaka had been highly absent for a few weeks, and weren't sure why…
[10:46] <Minaplo> Except that they latched onto a lattice of events before the video, namely Sachiko and Dinah's reprimand. And this seemed to attach itself to the ever-present rumours around Asaka's behaviour.
[10:46] <Minaplo> And of course, for some reason, everyone remembered the message from the Monster with 21 Faces. Before long, people were talking about Asaka, his misdemeanours and his indiscretions, and wondering what exactly he'd done, how far he'd gone, what would happen now?
[10:46] <Minaplo> With every passing hour, the question became more intense and fevered. Until finally, a message went out around 2 PM, stating that Mr. Taro Asaka was going to resign, effective by the end of the week, although his teaching role would end immediately. And that he would talk to the police about it.-
[10:50] <Minaplo> This seemed to only fuel speculation and anger. A few places here and there, fights broke out amongst people, sometimes a nervous reaction to the tension-laden air, sometimes the result of two people with differing views meeting. Those who supported Asaka clashed with those who wanted him gone. A student who had been poorly remembered, yet remembered nonetheless, as supporting Asaka was surrounded by a gaggle of middle schoolers and depantsed, with the characters for SHAME and CRIMINAL painted on his buttocks. A shouting match broke out at lunch time, which led to about a hundred students joining in. It almost became a riot. A few teachers had classes grind to a standstill as students demanded a full investigation.
[10:50] <Minaplo> By the time school ended, almost everyone was happy to leave, to get out of that powder keg and go home.
[10:50] <Minaplo> There had been no sign of Adrien all day.
[10:50] <Minaplo> Soejima was a blessedly quiet and peaceful place compared to school. Asahina wasn't around or at least, wasn't making herself known. As everyone arrived, they'd receive a gentle 'welcome back' telepathic nudge from Roy, who had apparently woken up.
[11:16] <Sachiko> Sachiko had to be careful, that much had become clear alarmingly quickly when some of the reporters at the gate recognized her on sight. She found her mask quickly, and tried to work out how fucked things were based on the questions asked.-
[11:16] <Sachiko> The situation hadn't improved when she got through the gates and into a school where nearly everyone knew who she was. There had been frequent, probing questions from complete strangers and vague acquaintances alike, and she was forced to bear them calmly, though by lunchtime she'd needed to scare away a few of the more dogged amateur sleuths.-
[11:17] <Sachiko> The mask held. She kept to herself and remained outwardly calm. Eventually school ended.-
[11:17] <Sachiko> … but Roy's pleasant little mental prod once she set foot inside the door split that calm clean in two. The anger seemed to roll off her in waves, and her return send was simply that: No words, just a blast of pure uncut anger down the psychic line.
[11:20] <Hideki> Hideki had been brimming with energy all day! His attempts to convince Ji-Hu to stay at home that day had ended in failure… although now it hardly seemed like an issue, as everyone's attention had firmly been focused elsewhere. Now, in Soejima's front hallway, he received the greeting just like everyone else… and cocked his head at the immediate response.
[11:20] <Hideki> [Let's meet up in one hour,] was his suggestion.
[11:24] <Ai> Ai… Ai took coming to Sophia in that media circus with a deep amount of stress. Her response was more to hide, to be nervous and shy. Fortunately, it seems to even be a specialty of Ai's to hide, keep her head down. She avoided at least, fights, too many probing questions? But. …There was a tension she couldn't ignore when she did get asked something, got involved in conversation. Honestly, opinions split on whether Ai was okay with Asaka, wanted him gone, or some mysterious third option. Which, she was worried, might come off as suspicious? A strange pity, like she agreed he wasn't right for being around students, but that nobody got that bad without some bad reason for it, a wound. If anyone clearly remembered how she acted around him, other than the Evokers?
[11:24] <Ai> …They may well be the most suspicious.
[11:24] <Ai>
[11:24] <Ai> The cloud of paranoid caution evaporated when she left, even if it lingered in her mind on the way back. To then hear Roy's proof that he was awake? …Ai directly replied with her own […Please…], which was loaded with an unspoken tension, nervousness, and feeling that the situation incoming was a lot more delicate than Roy may hope it'd be.
[11:37] <Minaplo> [Roy's reaction, to all of them, was a mix of confusion and shrinking apprehension.]
[11:54] <Sachiko> Sachiko sent back her agreement and ensconced herself in her room. People who passed by in the hall might hear snatches of a fairly terse one-way conversation through the door not too long after she closed it.-
[11:55] <Sachiko> But at the appointed hour she was down in the common room, in her normal seat. She was outwardly calmer now, but she still had an expression like a storm cloud.
[12:00] <Ai> When the hour hit, Ai was. …Ai was just there, quiet, subdued. Not serene, but scared. She just took a seat, fairly far from Sachiko, even. …Yet, despite her obvious fear of that anger, she gave them a… sadly knowing look. She could guess why Sachiko was furious.
[12:05] <Hideki> Hideki finally arrived after a short detour, slowly descending the stairs with the man of the hour gently cradled in his arms. Apparently he had made arrangements in the common room before the gathering - a large, floofy cushion had been arranged on one of the larger chairs, and it was here that he deposited Roy before finding a seat of his own on a couch.
[12:06] <Hideki> "All right," he said calmly. "I think we'd better begin by explaining what happened after Roy fell down. Guy's totally lost, am I right?"
[12:12] <Minaplo> "Asahina explained some," Said Roy. He struggled to move, and flinched whenever he did. "But she wasn't there and she's at work now, so yeah, go nuts."
[12:26] <Ai> Ai swallowed air.
[12:26] <Ai> "…So. First of all. …What you did gave us the time to do what had to be done. I climbed that ladder, reached the Heed, and immediately seized it. …From there, Issun-boshi fused with Asaka, and. …We sent him on his way, the threat basically neutralized completely. He was at as much peace as anyone could ask." She began, with a solemn lightness.
[12:26] <Ai> "…However."
[12:26] <Ai> She gestured with her arms. "Adrien, in the midst of having awoken quite possibly the least safe-sounding Persona we have yet? Moved to go after the Egg. …Dinah stopped him, at the time we had no idea why? (Did you ever tell me, I forget). …And we got into an argument. I was scared and fired a warning shot at his feet. Dinah held the egg against him. Hideki seemed to be the only person he wasn't growing angry with, and… …Something. I think they must've shared something before? …And then Sachiko tried just straight-up diplomacy." She… frowned, looking around at the others, and just trying to keep going.
[12:26] <Ai> "…He demanded he have it because we couldn't be trusted with it for our drives or impulses, claimed it was whispering to Dinah…, and we … we forgot, or didn't know (…didn't Igor…? But I didn't remember at the time…) what it did initially anyway. It got tense, uh, I tried to read bonds and understand what was going on, the egg didn't seem to have intentions or bonds… uh. Eventually the whole thing defused."
[12:26] <Ai> Sigh. "At a cost. He just, left. Something about finding his own way in the Sea. …And as you already know, he took a ton of notes and books, including Ji-Hu's notes on persona catalyzation (…Why would he even need it? Is a pure wild card that different that he couldn't just…)" Ai held her forehead, and let a beat fall -
[12:27] <Ai> "Sorry for, uh, going all-in. I think Sachiko has Other Problems, like how people did not in fact forget everything about Asaka and the incident and now the police and media are looking for… us. Or, now, Adrien's uh, 'organization'. And I bet some of her questions are going to be some of mine."
[12:31] <Minaplo> "Huh." Roy grunted. "So our Wild Card's gone rogue. Great. Wonderful."
[12:31] <Minaplo> He sighed. "And people haven't forgotten everything and stuff's going around. Cool."
[12:35] <Ai> "…One of them has." Ai suddenly said, firmly.
[12:40] <Hideki> "You wanna elaborate on that?"
[12:43] <Sachiko> Sachiko watched silently for now, though her foot tapped steadily as she followed the conversation.
[12:44] <Ai> "…I had forgot a lot about it for a while, but. Remember when Krishna unlocked more minor personas in our tomes?" She …had an oddly determined expression. "And that we found the Velvet Room after, for the second time?"
[12:44] <Ai> And then she closed her eyes - it would've been smug if she wasn't so glum. "Igor and the attendants said it. …We four share the second Wild Card of this batch. That's why we can even go there. …I dropped in to talk to Eli the other day, even."
[12:44] <Ai> Sigh. "…It's bad, Roy, but it's not impossible."
[12:47] <Minaplo> "I see." Said Roy glumly. "So the four of you share a Wild Card. Okay."
[12:51] <Sachiko> Sachiko nodded slightly before speaking up. "Yoshino's being polite about what Delacour said, for the record. He also said that he didn't trust you, and that he'd found out something in the records from your time that spooked him."
[12:52] <Ai> Ai nodded, slowly. "…Which I already have theories about, but…" She sighed. "There's a line. He's become almost dangerously disillusioned… but. You've… been really cagey."
[12:55] <Hideki> "It -will- be okay, "Hideki chimed in, "but you've gotta talk to us. We can take anything you've been holding back."
[12:59] <Minaplo> Roy was silent for a few long seconds.
[12:59] <Minaplo> "I get it." He said eventually. "Adrien doesn't trust me, and you guys think he has a point."
[01:04] <Hideki> "That's not what this is about. Delacour said something weird before he bailed. We have to follow up on it. That's it."
[01:06] <Ai> "It's about the what, not the personality. …I get that you're in pain, just. ……" Ai didn't know what to say about that. "…It's simply 'hey something bad happened' and we don't remember you telling us what. … …"
[01:06] <Minaplo> "Okay. Out with it, then."
[01:06] <Ai> And Ai looked to the other two.
[01:09] <Sachiko> "The last case in the notebooks say that your target died," Sachiko said. "That true?"
[01:09] <Minaplo> Roy sighed. "Yeah."
[01:10] <Sachiko> "How?"
[01:10] <Ai> Ai blinked. …It was as if this wasn't the answer she expected. Or maybe, the… secret?
[01:11] <Minaplo> "We mishandled the Heed."
[01:12] <Ai> "…Did one of the wildcards do it…?" Ai asked, probingly. "…If the answer's 'no, it was me'… I'm… I don't think it'd matter much? …J-just in case you're worried."
[01:15] <Minaplo> "Hah. No, it wasn't me." Said Roy. "You want to know what happened? You really want to know?" He reared up a little bit, his little cat face bristling at the pain.
[01:15] <Minaplo> "The two Wild Cards fought over it. Nearly fucking killed each other, and in the crossfire, they disrupted the Heed so much that they violently tore the Shadow apart. The man died with black sludge bursting out of his eyes, and everyone in Katashiba had nightmares for a week."
[01:17] <Ai> And Ai remained silent for a bit. …At first, she just took it like someone told her the plot of a movie, maybe. Until she started to understand. "…T… teachable moment. And it's really making my theories uncomfortably s… supported…"
[01:20] <Sachiko> "Fighting over who had the choice to reform the Archetype?"
[01:22] <Minaplo> "Kinda." Said Roy. "Eggs of Possibility: super-concentrated batteries of miasma, waiting to be shaped. You can get one from an Archetype, but the Archetype has to do so willingly. Whoever controlled the Heed controlled the Archetype and so whoever controlled the Heed got the Egg."
[01:23] <Ai> …Ai sat up a bit straighter.
[01:23] <Ai> "…At the time there was uncertainty over what you guys did with them."
[01:27] <Sachiko> "Oppositional wild cards fighting over an Egg," she muttered. "Weird coincidence."
[01:27] <Hideki> "Yeah," said Hideki quietly. -
[01:29] <Hideki> "Yoshino brings up a good point. What did you guys do with them up to that point? It couldn't have been the first time you got one."
[01:31] <Minaplo> "... There's a lot I was planning on telling you." Said Roy. "But I didn't want to overwhelm you. This is one of the things I planned to tell you after we //had// an Egg and it wasn't just a hypothetical. This is going to take awhile. Are you all ready?"
[01:32] <Ai> "I've been ready for days." Ai said firmly. "…We already could die or see the world end around us. …What's a little uncomfortable truth among friends?"
[01:34] <Sachiko> Sachiko just offered a pretty terse "Yep."
[01:35] <Hideki> Hideki simply nodded.
[01:45] <Minaplo> "Thirty years ago, the Sea of Chaos surged, and began flooding into the Library of Alexandria and the Waking World. Then as now, Evokers awakened to stem the tide. There were nine of us."
[01:45] <Minaplo> "We don't know why or how the Sea began to surge, but it did. We could defeat Shadows all day long, but our work would never done until we could stop the surging. We didn't know the cause, but we found a way to stop it." Said Roy. "The Tree of Wisdom, in the Library: Sophia. It's a living thing, the crown of which sits in the Waking World whilst the roots sit in the Sea of Chaos. We found that if we sacrificed an Egg to the Tree, it would grow stronger, reinforcing Alexandria. Its crown would grow larger, absorbing Miasma from the Waking World. And the roots would grow deeper, allowing us to go safely deeper down into the Sea of Chaos, with the idea of creating a bridge to the cause with those roots."
[01:45] <Minaplo> He shifted a little, seeking elusive comfort for a body in pain. "Once we found the cause, we'd seal it, causing the Sea's surging to stop. And we'd be finished with our Evokerhood, able to go on with our daily lives."
[01:45] <Minaplo> "That's the path we chose, thirty years ago. To empower Sophia, find the heart of the Sea of Chaos and seal it shut." Said Roy.
[01:45] <Minaplo> "We succeeded… Partially. We weren't able to find the cause, but we were able to go very, very deep into the Sea. There we put a Seal on the Sea of Chaos, and the surging stopped." Said Roy. "But we weren't able to do a proper job. The seals began to decay within a year or so. I expected them to last ten years, until the late nineties or so. But, I gathered what knowledge I could and resources I had on hand to maintain the Seals, and… Well, I extended their lifespan." Said Roy, sounding exhausted.
[01:45] <Minaplo> "But the rate of decay continued to shrink, and so did Sophia's roots. According to my predictions, the Seals are in their last few months of life now. It's starting to surge again. And so Evokers have been awakened, once again, to stop the surging."
[01:53] <Ai> Ai waited, thinking. …And as he finished? As she… listened? She began to purse her lips. "…Something is different with this team. I don't know enough about Adrien's side of it, but. …Divided Wild Card? …Finding a third option to handling an Archetype and putting it into effect? The Sea is stories, of course." Ai said.
[01:53] <Ai> "…This is basically the setup for plain-classic JRPG plots. 'In the past, a great evil rose, ancient heroes were forced to seal it. That seal is beginning to break as the new generation has to put right the wrongs left undone.' All we need are some cute mascots and it not being real life and lurid mythopoetic… stuff, and you could put it on the super famicom and make bank." She… was shifting her eyes around.
[01:53] <Ai> "…We have to try to find the cause again. That's the only answer. …Just like when I got the Heed. I could've chosen anything, but I had a clear just answer. So the infinite choice of what I could've done with him was no choice at all."
[01:58] <Hideki> "So… do we use the Egg to give us a clue about how to do that? Or do we use it to strengthen the seal and buy time to figure it out, like the other group did?"
[02:01] <Sachiko> "No. Stop getting caught up in the heroic narrative and think about what's going unsaid," Sachiko said. She was done hedging. "'We' succeeded in building the Seal. Now it's just you, as far as you've told us. Is the Seal why?"
[02:03] <Minaplo> "… No. It isn't." Said Roy.
[02:03] <Minaplo> "Everyone else died."
[02:06] <Sachiko> Sachiko sighed. For a moment she wavered on the edge of something, but eventually she tipped over into a decision. "I'm sorry, Roy. I have to ask how."
[02:06] <Ai> "…Sorry…" Ai began to say.
[02:08] <Minaplo> "They fought each other." Said Roy, his voice breaking. "They took sides, four on four, and fought and fought and fought until the walls of the roots collapsed and the Sea of Chaos flooded around us and they all washed away into the Sea."
[02:14] <Ai> "F… four on four…" Ai then said. "Roy. …Is." Ai tried to gather herself, it was clear that the previous exchange must've hurt. "Is this just more of forgetting that even if we're … kids… w-we're also Evokers? That we can't handle the … the truth?"
[02:14] <Ai> "Please… All of this might happen all over again now. Adrien wants his own team and'll try to make it himself. I already think it's some kind of like. Like." Gesticulating, helplessly. "Thing that two wildcards is going to lead to explosions. I thought one of yours was why everyone died. I was terrified Adrien awakening… f… freaking V meant history was gonna repeat."
[02:14] <Ai> "If we don't know, we die too."
[02:16] <Sachiko> "If you'd died in the fall we would've been fucked," Sachiko said, folding her hands over her face and leaning back in her seat. "Completely in the dark."
[02:17] <Ai> "Un." An immediate nod, shaky and concerned.
[02:19] <Hideki> Hideki stayed silent, simply listening for now, a deep frown etched on his face. He'd folded his arms thoughtfully.
[02:26] <Minaplo> "I know. I know it might happen again and I know that it's a good thing I lived." Said Roy bitterly. "I know that because I lived, I was able to maintain the seal and help all of you do it properly."
[02:26] <Minaplo> "But I don't know how to stop it happening again, and it probably will. Whatever Adrien was hoping to find with us, he didn't find it, and now he's gone to make his own team. And chances are he will make his own team and he will fight us over Eggs." Said Roy. "Adrien was lying when he said that the Eggs whisper to you, but that doesn't mean that they don't have an effect. The more time goes on, the more things happen that you wish you could take back, or change, and the more reasons you have to use the Eggs."
[02:26] <Minaplo> "I wish I could give you all more." Said Roy, his tone pathetic, his eyes lowering in shame. "But there's so much I wasn't told, and so much I don't understand. I don't know why the Wild Card is divided this time. I don't know why Adrien woke to a second Persona. I don't know what that Black Hat guy is and I still don't know why the Sea is surging and how to really stop it besides doing the same thing we did last time and hoping that it was a flaw in execution, not concept."
[02:26] <Minaplo> "… All I can really tell you is who my teammates were, why they fought, and what I did afterwards."
[02:31] <Hideki> "I think… that would be helpful. Especially the 'why they fought' part." Hideki lifted his chin a little. "Even if you don't have all the answers, you know way more than any of us, so don't think that the stories you're telling us won't have any weight."
[02:37] <Sachiko> "Better late than never," Sachiko said faintly.
[02:46] <Ai> "…Everything matters to be told to us." Ai said plainly. …Gently. "We can use it. Who knows, maybe some of us are reminiscent of some of them? Or maybe Adrien's more like the old guard and we'll be able to understand who he picks because something something about what it takes to be an evoker is similar or."
[02:46] <Ai> She sighed. "Y-you get the idea. Listen and learn."
[02:56] <Minaplo> "Mmm."
[02:56] <Minaplo> "As I said, there were nine of us, although we didn't all join at the same time." Said Roy. "The original six were the two Wild Cards, me, our Navigator, and two others." Said Roy. "The other three came later, and two of them became Evokers because they came face to face with their own Shadows."
[02:56] <Minaplo> "Our two Wild Cards…" He sighed.
[02:56] <Minaplo> "The first was Olivie Durand, codename: Chanson. Student Council President for 1988. She was our leader, and she was the one that ended up writing most of the records and logs." Said Roy. "Intelligent, in a precise, sharp way. A violin bow. And charming… Everyone loved her. She was a magnificent singer." He sighed, and buried his head in his cushion.
[02:56] <Minaplo> He remained silent and still for a full minute before raising his head.
[02:56] <Minaplo> "The second was Rowan Campbell, codename: Beowulf. He was a wild card, alright." Said Roy, a trace of warmth entering his brittle tone. "Brash, scrappy, rowdy, irrepressible. He did his own thing and everyone loved him for it- he was so friendly and energetic. Everyone underestimated him, I think- he was smart in a wild, brilliant kind of way, and had a great head for maths and money. "
[02:56] <Minaplo> "The two of them worked together, and agreed to empower the Tree." Said Roy. "They were the heart and soul of our group. They led us, they protected us. They were powerful, so powerful. And they got along so well, at first."-
[02:57] <Minaplo> "It was Olivie's idea to undertake the Sealing. She did a lot of the ground work. She figured out that you could power up the Tree with Eggs, and that if you had enough of them you could Seal the Sea. It'd solve everything. Things would go back to normal, including us. We wouldn't be able to go into the Metaverse anymore. We wouldn't have Personas anymore."
[02:57] <Minaplo> "We all went along with this at first, but after time, Rowan began thinking about the downsides. He began to wonder if maybe we were seeing the Sea the wrong way. That maybe it could be an opportunity for us- and for humanity. He wanted to find a way to… Tame the Sea, not to weaken it or reduce it but to control it, for humanity's sake. He thought that if we did things right, the Sea could be used to heal humanity psychologically. Inspire people, make people more noble and honest. Certain people could find Personas and reach their true potential. And you could find all kinds of things in the Sea. Shadows, of course, but if you controlled the Sea you could make just about anything in there- a Dream Theatre where you could safely experiment. Or use the Eggs to solve problems. Cure diseases, fix environmental crises, unlock incredible technology…"-
[03:00] <Minaplo> "At first Olivie was receptive to the idea, but felt it was too risky. Rowan asked if he could do a bit of experimenting, and he did, and he seemed to like what he saw. As time went on, he became more sure that he could make the Sea safe, and use it for humanity's benefit. But Olivie started to shy away from what he was doing. She wasn't sure if he could manage the precision she felt was needed for something so wild." Said Roy.
[03:00] <Minaplo> "It started as genuine and honest feedback and criticism between friends. But as time went on, we came closer to a resolution, and they both started getting more desperate." Said Roy. "Olivie was afraid that Rowan's experiments could disrupt the Seal, or the team, so she asked him to stop. He did, but then eventually restarted in secret. The rift between them grew. The rest of the team started falling in line with one or the other. The disagreement between the two of them boiled over into a huge argument, and… Well, there was bad blood from that point on that only got worse."-
[03:03] <Minaplo> "Their disputes became fiercer, and they both became less willing to listen to any alternatives. Then they started jostling for control. Then it became open violence. They made peace after that guy died, but it didn't work out and the team was, by then, properly fractured. They both kind of blamed each other for it anyway."
[03:03] <Minaplo> "When we went to finish the Sealing, Rowan wasn't there at first. But he showed up at the end to try and contest it and take Olivie's stockpile of Eggs. That's when they fought… And… Everything happened."
[03:11] <Hideki> "I'm sorry, Roy. That must have been the worst thing to watch. Were you in the middle of it all? Or did you favor one philosophy over the other?"
[03:12] <Minaplo> "…"
[03:12] <Minaplo> "I thought they were both wrong. That there had to be some other way. But I was. I was… I was too scared to tell them."
[03:17] <Hideki> "Because you were worried it'd cause another rift?"
[03:17] <Minaplo> "No… I was just too much of a coward."
[03:20] <Sachiko> "Were there commonalities between the people who picked each side? Similar feelings about their Evoker status, maybe?"
[03:28] <Minaplo> "Kind of. I don't know if that's it." Said Roy. "The ones who went with Olivie were… More content, I guess. They wanted to succeed on their own terms or they just wanted their old lives back."
[03:28] <Minaplo> "The ones who went with Rowan felt stifled, I think, in daily life. Too much responsibility. Or… No. Rather, responsibilities they didn't ask for and didn't know how to handle. They wanted to change society. Or the world. Their old lives were something they found no meaning in."
[03:31] <Sachiko> "Yep," she nodded. "That makes sense."
[03:36] <Ai> Ai had been lost in thought, for a while… until it surfaced. "…And so the people that tried to help Adrien… and the people that couldn't stand him." Ai frowned even deeper. "In the end, neither side worked because they locked out the others' experiences."
[03:36] <Ai> …At that, she suddenly looked straight-on at Sachiko.
[03:36] <Ai> And then nodded once.
[03:39] <Hideki> "I don't think our situation is quite the same."
[03:39] <Sachiko> Sachiko looked pretty puzzled by the nod, truth be told.
[03:41] <Ai> "…It's not. We're already breaking some of it."
[03:49] <Hideki> "Even from the beginning we didn't… Look, nevermind," Hideki shook his head. "Point is, we don't have to do things the way the old team tried it. We can look for that third option you wanted, Roy! And we can figure out a way to avoid fighting Adrien or that faction everyone's convinced he's going to create."
[03:51] <Minaplo> "How?"
[03:59] <Hideki> "Well I don't know -how-. I just know that our group split before things reached that critical point, and that we still probably have a similar goal in mind. Couldn't we end up working parallel to each other to achieve that goal instead of clashing over it?"
[04:02] <Sachiko> "Do we have a similar goal, though?"
[04:03] <Hideki> "You're suggesting we don't?"
[04:05] <Sachiko> "I don't think we know one way or another. Did it seem like he thought we did?"
[04:07] <Ai> "…There's…" Ai was constantly opening and closing her mouth before this. Unsure. "…There's a lot of really unsettling stuff that happened there. What do you know that we don't? …'cause, we don't."
[04:09] <Hideki> "You both were there too. When he left, he made it sound like it was for interpersonal reasons. Because of trust, and relationships, not because he no longer believed in our goal. Like he was trying to find his own path to it."
[04:10] <Ai> Ai paused. "…Do we even have a goal other than 'save the world, don't die, try to have a life while doing it'…?" A frown. "He sounded like he was thinking about ambitions to do something. Or, worried we'd have them."
[04:12] <Sachiko> She gestured at Ai. "We didn't have a goal beyond 'Beat Asaka' until about ten minutes ago. But he had a plan of some sort."-
[04:13] <Sachiko> "He wanted us on-side. We said no. I'm not saying he's out to play supervillain, but I think the idea that we're on the same page might be a little naïve."
[04:19] <Dinah> The slam of the door against the wall informed them that someone else had arrived, while a quick head count at any point would have given them an idea of just who wasn't there. Whether it was a blessing or a worry was hard to pin down, though it was certainly more toward the latter from one look at her expression. Fury etched into her features like she was molded from it, not easing as she stepped inside and slammed the door behind her. Her feet stomped with every step she took closer to the group, with her gaze fixated on the focus of them all at the moment: Roy.-
[04:19] <Dinah> "You mind telling me what the fuck all that was about today?!"
[04:20] <Minaplo> "uh oh."
[04:20] <Ai> Ai raised her smart-tome carefully. "I could text the logs."
[04:20] <Ai> She was 100% serious.
[04:24] <Sachiko> "Mm. I'd actually like some answers on that one too," Sachiko said. She leant forward, a little bit of that early anger creeping back in.
[04:27] <Hideki> "That's one way to switch topics." Hideki leaned back on his couch. "Have a seat, ok? Roy… uh, this is about the memory thing."
[04:29] <Sachiko> "… sorry Nakajima," Sachiko said. "I promise we'll get back to it."
[04:30] <Hideki> "No worries. Memory stuff is a pretty big deal."
[04:30] <Dinah> "No."
[04:31] <Dinah> "We're not sitting down and having a chat." She glared angrily over at Hideki, jabbing a finger out at him. "And by the way. Next time I tell you to fucking grab someone? Do it."-
[04:32] <Dinah> She turned her attention back to Roy then, glaring daggers down at him. "I asked a fucking question."
[04:35] <Minaplo> "I don't know what happened today, Dinah, okay?" Said Roy. "I don't fucking know. We took the Heed, we influenced the audience, they shoulda forgot everything and I don't know why they didn't. The only other time this sort of shit has happened is when we accidentally destroyed the Heed, or when a creator accepted their own Shadow and didn't want things to change."-
[04:38] <Sachiko> "… the backup," Sachiko murmured, shoulders sagging. Then louder. "It's because we reformed with the backup instead of direct intervention, isn't it? Goddamnit."
[04:38] <Minaplo> "If we did things the way we usually did them, then everything should've been perfectly fine and no one would've remembered a thing." Said Roy angrily. "So maybe it fucking is, Sachiko, I don't know! There's a reason I try to do things the same, it's because I know what the fuck's going to happen at the end!"
[04:39] <Minaplo> "You wanted a different way of doing it, a more humane way? Well you got what you wanted and this is the price you pay. And if you think you could do it without paying some kind of price, then welcome to the fucking Metaverse! There is always a price!"
[04:43] <Sachiko> "Hey Roy, since we just got done learning how well your way ended maybe you should chill out in your glass house, hm?" Sachiko said, acid creeping into her voice.
[04:48] <Dinah> "Clearly, all this fuckin' wealth of information you've got in your head did us a world'a fuckin' good! Adrien fucked off because nobody told us about the fucking Egg beforehand. I had to get a goddamn cryptic message from a voice on a phone as a heads up, otherwise who knows what would'a happened, what the fuck he would'a done! Then I get to school, have to shake a bunch of fuckin' reporters all goddamn day, while the kids keep starin' at me and whispering shit. Some kid had the fuckin' balls to say I killed Asaka and this was all some kind of coverup and I couldn't even do anything about it because of all this shit! I had to break some fucker's camera just so I could come home!"
[04:52] <Hideki> "Wait… what phone message was this?"
[04:54] <Minaplo> Roy attempted to get a word in edge wise, but after a snarled, messy swear, he coughed, a little gobbet of blood hucking out of his throat.
[04:56] <Dinah> Dinah bristled a bit and then sniffed, frowning but a little less angry now that she had to explain herself a bit. "Back at the Black Hat attack. That call Ai and I got, the phone guy told me that when we defeated Asaka, that I had to grab his Egg. That our Wild Card absolutely could not have it."
[04:58] <Ai> Ai was busy… clutching her head, even. And then. "…You don't sacrifice for safe operations that hard." It was… it was colder than it needed to be. …Then she turned to Dinah, surprised.
[04:58] <Ai> "…It was him."
[05:00] <Minaplo> "It… Was who?"
[05:01] <Ai> "…Phone guy. I just didn't know he gave her a tip about that. And something about him was in…herently… trustworthy…" She began to blink. "…It lead us to Ji-Hu."
[05:03] <Minaplo> "And y'all just… Listened to him, Dinah?"
[05:06] <Dinah> "Yeah. I did. I didn't even know what the fuckin' Egg was gonna be until we saw it. But I knew somethin' was gonna happen. And as soon as I saw the way Adrien wanted it, I knew he couldn't have it."
[05:07] <Minaplo> "What a load of bullshit."
[05:08] <Ai> "I'm sorry you're a cat." Ai just, said.
[05:08] <Dinah> Dinah narrowed her eyes, fists clenching as she looked down at the cat. "I must have misheard you. Wanna run that by me again?"
[05:10] <Sachiko> Sachiko had to stop herself staring at Ai because of the imminent cat murder.
[05:10] <Hideki> "Holy shit. Both of you, stop. Go to your respective corners of the ring."
[05:12] <Ai> …It actually looked like Ai really wanted to finish whatever statement that started. And just, couldn't. BEcause imminent murder.
[05:16] <Minaplo> Roy gave Ai a split second look of utter confusion before looking back at Dinah.
[05:16] <Minaplo> "I said, that's a load of bullshit." Said Roy flatly, right over Hideki. "Before you came storming in because you had a bad day, we were talking about trying to avoid the past repeating itself by having our Wild Cards tear each other's throats out. And you know what would've been a real fucking swell thing from you, Dinah? If you gave Adrien the time of day literally once in your time here. You didn't like him? Well too bad! He was your teammate! He was an Evoker, and when it came down to it, at least he made something of an effort! At the end of the day, you kicked his ass and then threw a tantrum whenever he tried to play rough back at you! You put a random phone call ahead of him! Adrien was a lot of things, but at least he wasn't a coward like you."
[05:16] <Minaplo> "Go ahead and hit me, then, Dinah. I don't care and I'm not afraid of you." Said Roy. "I've spent thirty years doing everything I can for the hope that things might turn out better this time around. Thirty thankless years keeping everyone alive. I'm too tired to care anymore."
[05:19] <Sachiko> Sachiko had got to her feet by this point, for whatever good that was likely to do.
[05:20] <Ai> Ai… was left stunned for a second, left torn between anger, terror, and… disappointment? She was actually sliding her chair back rather than trying to get up. Just. Slouching towards the wall, slowly.
[05:25] <Sachiko> "Hey Dinah, you know how I backed you on the Adrien thing? Can I cash that in to have you step back and cool off before this escalates?" Sachiko asked.
[05:27] <Dinah> "That's real fuckin' funny, hearin' you of all people call me a coward." With a rumble in her throat, she brought her foot up onto the chair that Roy's cushion sat upon, shoving it back and then advancing the couple steps created by the move. "You're the one that's been through all this before. You know how it all fucked up the last time. You had the chance to make it right this time."
[05:27] <Dinah> Again, she brought her foot up, shoving the chair back again and advancing.
[05:27] <Dinah> "And what do you do? You pick and choose what you tell us. You walk us all into situations where we don't know what's gonna fuckin' happen but you do. Because, what? You think you're gonna have the chance to jump in and play hero?"
[05:27] <Dinah> Lift, kick, advance. Words rolled off of her, far from her ears as her focus was just on the cat.
[05:27] <Dinah> "Well that fucked us all over. You knew an Egg was gonna show up. Did you know Adrien was gonna want it that bad? Did you know why he wanted it so much that he was willing to fight us all for it? Did you realize we all could've gone in there and fuckin' died because you held out on us?!"
[05:29] <Ai> "…He was trying to protect us." Ai said in a small voice. …But it soon grew.
[05:29] <Ai> "But that's not the protection we need. And it can hurt us. …It's not your fault, but we had no idea you were working off of all this… data we didn't have. Or even that the data we had was abnormal."
[05:33] <Hideki> "You did the exact same thing." Hideki had pulled out his smart tome now, and had opened up an app on it.
[05:40] <Sachiko> Sachiko found the gap between the kick and the advance and inserted herself between them. "Hey. I agree with you. Doesn't change the fact that we need him, and if you kill him we're royally screwed. And that's not a hard thing to do right now, even if it's by accident."-
[05:41] <Sachiko> "So I'll ask again: Let me cash in my favour to get you to back off and cool down for a second?"
[05:43] <Ai> …Watching this, hearing what Sachiko said about Roy's condition… Now Ai wasn't scooching. She stood right up, and walked over to Roy. …Just. Staring down at him, heedless of Dinah.
[05:43] <Ai> "Roy." Firm, again. More than normal. "You're very tired and everything hurts in your soul, and it seems like everyone's mad at you and nothing you're doing is working to keep up hope." But then she closed her eyes, and just. Tried to kneel to the side of the confrontation.
[05:43] <Ai> "Don't make us your suicide method. P… please."
[05:44] <Minaplo> Roy's responses to all of this were, mercifully, cut short by the fact that each time he was nudged, he hissed in pain. By the time Sachiko intervened he seemed to be completely out of breath.
[05:44] <Ai> …Ai frowned, falling onto her butt rather than keeping kneeling. "A…h…"
[05:47] <Dinah> With Sachiko stepping in, Dinah's face screwed up slightly, like she was coming out of a sort of haze, with her muscles relaxing, her entire body slouching somewhat. It was just a moment, however, as he frown returned, yet she did back off. "I still want to hear the answer. What would've happened if I hadn't gotten that call? Or if I ignored it? What would Adrien have done with the Egg while we didn't know a fuckin' thing about it and you had no way to tell us anything we needed to know?"
[05:48] <Ai> "…Give him a sec. …And if he can't answer, I will."
[05:50] <Sachiko> Sachiko stood her ground for a few moments after Dinah backed off, then followed suit.
[05:52] <Minaplo> It took Roy awhile to muster up an answer. When he did, it was telepathically.
[05:52] <Minaplo> [I don't know. I can't read him. I don't know if any of us really can. I don't even know if he knows how to use it.]
[05:55] <Ai> Ai closed her eyes. "…He read the books. That might not have the method but. …Adrien seems the kind of guy that doesn't take 'well I don't know how now' as a reason to hold off. …It's good if he's not being really scary. …But, uh." Ai pouted. "He is. But by context, he really sounded like he wanted to just use the egg for some heroic gesture. …That I'm not sure would end well."
[05:55] <Hideki> "Why didn't you tell anyone about the phone message until now?"
[05:57] <Ai> Ai gave Hideki a Look.
[05:58] <Hideki> Hideki did not see the look, as he was still focused on his phone. "We could have talked to Delacour, or figured out what the Eggs were and come up with a plan for it."
[05:58] <Minaplo> [It probably wouldn't. The Eggs shouldn't be used recklessly…]
[05:58] <Dinah> "Because." She said it simply, like it was obvious. Her gaze flicked to Sachiko for a moment, before carrying on. "The whole thing was about Adrien. You all know I didn't like him. I tell you that something's gonna happen with Asaka, an Egg is gonna show up and he can't have it. What the fuck are you all gonna do with that information? We go into that fight and nobody trusts anybody. That fight could've gone worse, even if you all don't think it could've."
[05:59] <Minaplo> [We should be grateful Adrien didn't feel like fighting… That probably would've ended badly…]
[06:00] <Ai> "…I can imagine worse, no." Ai said, softly. "Roy almost died. Without his horror anarchist persona, Adrien would've been a sitting duck for that too. And if Roy didn't almost kill himself dropping that ladder? …How much longer would the shadow've taken to stop? At what cost?"
[06:02] <Ai> "…So, I believe you. …He has a point about you doing the same thing, but it's. …Not as important as just moving on already!" …Louder, again. "If you really really wanna hold judgement on him, help us find Adrien again, Hideki. Just drilling into Dinah about her ripping into him is … not gonna get the answers you want…"
[06:04] <Hideki> "Who's drilling into her? I'm pointing out that this is a fundamental issue. With Roy, with her, and with I don't know who else on this team. Concealing information isn't making our situation better."
[06:04] <Hideki> "So maybe we can agree not to do that shit anymore? Please?"
[06:05] <Ai> Ai …frowned harder, rocking in place on the floor. "…You're just, s-still asking. You're the only person here that is. …It's bad, but. …I…"
[06:05] <Sachiko> "Agreed." Said Sachiko instantly, even as Ai spoke.
[06:05] <Ai> Eventually she just plopped her forehead on the couch armrest. Armrest good.
[06:08] <Dinah> "What I did and what Roy did ain't the same thing and you know it, Bat Boy." Turning her glare to Hideki then, it looked like her anger was going to flicker up again, until she just sighed. "This was a fight thing. I know fights. I didn't like Adrien but I knew he had our backs. I thought he did anyway. And I know you all had his back. If I took that away, he might not have even been there in the fight. Or he would've known we were gonna go for the Egg first and he would have fought us for it. And we wouldn't have made it out of there."
[06:10] <Hideki> "What if we hadn't sided with you back then? From our perspectives, you were both acting weird."
[06:11] <Minaplo> [I don't know if this helps.] Said Roy. [And it's just stirring Ai up more. Adrien is gone and our actions are done. Let's stop keeping secrets. Can we agree on that from this point on?]
[06:11] <Dinah> "Quite frankly, if you wouldn't have sided with me, we'd all probably be dead. Or at least I would be."
[06:12] <Ai> "Please." Ai muttered from the couch. "I did fact-checking. I did the rightest thing I could. How can you not understand what's so wrong about what happened to Adrien? …How could I have ever treated their weirdness as equal, when I e-even caught him in his lie…?"
[06:13] <Ai> "So please, stop. I'm trying not to embarrass myself any more, and this is going nowhere."
[06:19] <Hideki> Hideki looked up from his phone. "You took a chance and got lucky this time, Schreier. That said, I'm willing to drop the matter. And yeah. Fewer secrets all around would be nice. Less risky."
[06:20] <Ai> "…Okay."
[06:24] <Dinah> "I didn't get lucky. I did what needed to be done. Because I don't know where your heads are all at but it's like I've been saying this whole time. This is serious. We're putting our lives on the line. We didn't get where we got because I didn't tell you some fantasy scenario. We got where we got because we didn't get told the fucking fundamentals of this whole goddamn operation. Maybe if we would have, I would've talked about the fucking Egg thing." With a sniff, she crossed her arms, content with what she said. "But fine. No more secrets about this shit anymore. Someone tells me that one of you is gonna put a knife in our backs, you'll hear about it and then we'll see what happens."
[06:25] <Minaplo> [… If we're all sounding good on that, then I might know what we can do next, whilst we wait to see if and when another Theatre emerges.]
[06:27] <Ai> "…Try to get far away fr-from each other for a few days so we don't k-kill each other from paranoia?" Ai said. …And let awkwardly long of a pause pass. "…Eli thought some r-recreation time sounded good for the weeks until the next one comes up. …I dunno, I trust her, she's not as smug as the other one."
[06:27] <Ai> "The paranoia was uh. A… a bad joke."
[06:27] <Minaplo> There was the sound of a door slamming.
[06:28] <Minaplo> A moment later, after perhaps a spike in panic, people would hear the shuffling of Asahina climbing into her desk booth.
[06:28] <Ai> …Ai had nearly collapsed into a heap on the floor after squeaking in fright, yes.
[06:30] <Minaplo> [… We might be able to find answers to the memory problem and the phone call if we ask Krishna. Memory manipulation is his speciality, and he also knows many things he really shouldn't.]
[06:31] <Hideki> "Nice. Black Market field trip?"
[06:32] <Dinah> Dinah just spared a wary glance over to the Box, frowning before turning her attention back to the conversation. "Going to Krishna would've been my suggestion, yeah."
[06:32] <Ai> Ai pursed her lips. "Interest of not keeping secrets, I have another insane theory about phone guy, but. …Asking Krishna is a good idea."
[06:33] <Ai> A shifty glance, as she sat up fully again. "…I doubt you want to hear it just yet."
[06:33] <Minaplo> [Ai, I don't have any problems with your theories. I don't think many of us do, except for the freestyle jazz you add to it.]
[06:34] <Ai> She … didn't even know what that meant. And the stare proved it. "…Simply: What if one of the old team didn't actually die when the sea took 'em. And they somehow survived to become phone guy."
[06:35] <Minaplo> Roy hissed a sharp intake of air.-
[06:35] <Minaplo> [That- no- what did they sound like?]
[06:37] <Ai> "…Not… uh…" Ai fished through her mind. "…A-American. Crunchy. Sorta matter-of-fact?"
[06:38] <Minaplo> [… Okay. None of them sounded like that so that's something. It could be a- no, it doesn't matter. Thank you for your theory]
[06:39] <Ai> "U… uuu. It doesn't. It was easy to test at least." She slowly nodded. "So once again our faith lies in the world's best butter thief."
[06:41] <Minaplo> [I won't be able to come with you this time. Best be on your toes.]
[06:41] <Sachiko> "We'll take Okuninushi over at the same time," Sachiko said, speaking up for the first time in a while.
[06:42] <Minaplo> [Wait, that dude still exists?]
[06:42] <Sachiko> "Somehow, yeah."
[06:42] <Minaplo> [What the fuck?]
[06:44] <Ai> Ai looked over to him. "I'm almost positive it's because of our Third Option. …The backup… We didn't rewrite the shadow. We didn't kill it. …Asaka himself basically rewrote himself with my approval on the Heed. …And Okuninushi is a part of Asaka that rebelled against the dark stuff the Shadow represented." She held her hands out in a sorta-shrug.
[06:45] <Ai> "It only makes sense that a happier kid-Asaka might still have a bit of the put-upon not-a-samurai still inside him, you know?"
[06:46] <Minaplo> [Aight, that makes sense.] Said Roy, faceplanting into the cushion, more from exhaustion than exasperation.
[06:55] <Minaplo> [There's really only one thing left to say. After the Seal ritual went messy, it was up to me to maintain it and strengthen it. I wasn't able to do it by myself… I had to work with Krishna and the Fairy Queen to make it work. So they are aware of this situation, so keep that in mind.]
[06:55] <Minaplo> Roy sighed. [Take me back to bed, Hideki?]
[06:57] <Hideki> "Sure." Hideki stood up. "Good time for a break, I guess."
[07:05] <Minaplo> ED

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