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[01:55] <Sachiko> The day after Asaka's resignation was no better than the first; In many ways it was worse. The multiplying, frequently contradictory demands of the students, and an administration unable to effectively meet any of them had forced the two sides into siege mentality. When combined with the growing attention and the reporters at the gates, the pockets of genuine danger in the school seemed to be expanding.-
[01:56] <Sachiko> Few people in school could direct their anger at the administration directly, and so the student council had done what it'd been designed to do: Soak up the blame. Anyone with so much as a tangential connection to the council was under scrutiny, many had been cornered between classes or bailed up at lunch. Shouting matches had been frequent, fights thankfully less so. Anger had found its level.-
[01:56] <Sachiko> And amid all of this, at lunch Caolan would receive a simple text from SACHIKO: ["What can I do to help?"]
[03:58] <Minaplo> And she would get a reply within minutes. "When you're free, meet me in the council room."
[04:26] <Sachiko> It didn't take her long to arrive. Sachiko stepped into the council room looking tired and a little frazzled, but otherwise intact. Aside from the pants she'd been careful to keep her uniform regulation that day. She shut the door behind her.
[05:31] <Minaplo> The council room was almost empty. The first thing that'd strike Sachiko's senses was the pungent chemical sterile smell of disinfectant.
[05:31] <Minaplo> Càolan was inside, sitting at the meeting table. He looked, perhaps, physically tired; his hair was a little dishevelled, his uniform a little creased and untidy. More pressingly, he had a long, nasty gash on his left arm, which he was currently cleaning with a disinfectant soaked rag. A neat roll of gauze sat waiting for its moment at his side.
[05:31] <Minaplo> Despite his physical appearance, Càolan looked serene, an intense sort or serenity that Sachiko felt she'd seen before but couldn't place.
[05:31] <Minaplo> "Ah, you're here. What do you think of the goings-on?"
[07:03] <Sachiko> "… I think we're a badly judged word away from a riot," Sachiko said, staring at his arm. She came around the table and sat on the edge rather than take a seat. "Probably why everyone but the students have shut up. What happened to you?"
[07:33] <Minaplo> "A student had complaints and tried to communicate it nonverbally." He said drily. "Punching him back is paperwork, so I had to dance around until he winded himself jumping into a table. But I cut my arm on an empty light brace jutting out of the wall."
[07:34] <Sachiko> "Do you want a hand dressing it?"
[08:16] <Minaplo> "That's not why I asked you here, to be clear, but I'd welcome a hand."
[08:26] <Sachiko> "Hm. I don't know, it feels like you just wanted me to help with your dance battle wounds," Sachiko said while she grabbed the gauze. "That's ok, this is a no-judgement zone."
[11:04] <Minaplo> "Haha. That's more for your sake than mine. Anyone who judges a dance battle is not worthy of judging." Càolan shook his head.
[11:04] <Minaplo> "Almost a riot…" he seemed thoughtful.
[11:09] <Sachiko> "You think that's overstating it?"
[11:09] <Minaplo> "No. I think you're right. The thing I question is the 'badly judged word' part."
[11:15] <Sachiko> Sachiko started dressing the wound with the efficiency of practice. "How do you mean?"
[11:28] <Minaplo> Càolan reacted only slightly to the touch of gauze.
[11:28] <Minaplo> "This school has turned into a powder keg. But when you light a keg, you usually do it deliberately." Said Càolan. "A well-chosen word in the right place is all you'd need to set it off."
[11:34] <Sachiko> She stopped mid-motion and looked up at him with undisguised surprise. "You-… ok, there's no way you're suggesting what I think you're suggesting."
[11:35] <Minaplo> "What am I suggesting?"
[11:49] <Sachiko> She glanced around the room before she spoke again, uncharacteristically wary.-
[11:49] <Sachiko> "Shaped charge," she said, keeping her voice low and her eyes locked on Càolan's. "Point the energy in the safest possible direction and then set the keg off ourselves."
[11:52] <Minaplo> "That's an interesting idea." Said Càolan, his tone one of mild curiosity. "If you could control where it pointed, you could blow a lot of things wide open."
[12:00] <Sachiko> She stared. And then she gave him one of those reflexive grins that was equal parts amusement and shock.
[12:36] <Minaplo> "What a delightful expression you have right now." Said Càolan. He smiled, and suddenly Sachiko realised why his serenity seemed familiar: it was a look she'd seen on shogi players when they've just spotted an opening and are doing their best to avoid drawing attention to it.
[12:36] <Minaplo> "I wasn't expecting Asaka to resign. I expect the school faculty will soon move to try and forget about it, which means that your Council role will probably be done away with soon. And I suspect you have little interest in typical Council work."
[12:36] <Minaplo> He side-eyed her, and his smile widened. "But perhaps you feel differently if the work involved your interesting idea?"
[11:50] <Sachiko> She seemed to be reining in her surprise, but the look she gave him suggested a rapid re-evaluation was in progress. "… yeah, I suppose I would be."
[12:09] <Minaplo> "I'm glad to hear it." Said Càolan. "I would love to give you an appropriate title, like Head of Countermeasures, but that would be a little too… Extra, I think." He grinned.
[12:09] <Minaplo> "As President I'm privy to special access to faculty discussions, both online and offline. I've also been reviewing the information the Council has brought in, including that gathered by your recent role. You'll want to hear the highlights."
[12:19] <Sachiko> "I sure would," she agreed as she returned to the task of bandaging Càolan's arm.
[12:35] <Minaplo> "Asaka's change of heart has taken almost all of the faculty by surprise, especially Principal Chen, who reacts sluggishly to incidents such as these." Said Càolan. "The most likely reason for that change is the revelations by the Monster with 21 Faces and the implied threats within the note. That melodramatic note made Chen happy at first, because that made it a police matter, but Asaka's resignation implies guilt, and now the police are involved…" He shook his head.
[12:35] <Minaplo> "If Asaka had held firm, the faculty would be in a more secure position. His capitulation has entirely exposed anyone protecting or covering for him. Whoever this Monster fellow is, they clearly had a better read on Asaka than I did. They masterfully outplayed the school." There was a note of honest appreciation in Càolan's voice.
[12:35] <Minaplo> "So let's talk Asaka's crimes. Most of the accusations against him have been discrimination based on race and sex, unfair teaching, selective provision of resources. Some of them have been more serious- sexual impropriety or harassment. This is where things get knotty. Based on from what I've seen or heard, though, there haven't been any specific accusations of assault directed at Asaka. I don't know if he went that far, but I suspect he didn't based on current information." Càolan's free hand reached up to stroke his chin.
[12:35] <Minaplo> "This is where things involve you. Your tribunal gathered a lot of testimonials and claims, and none of the most serious ones were directed at Asaka. Rather, they were directed at other students." Said Càolan. "Sustained harassment, assault. But the biggest takeaway was blackmail, often information the victims had no idea was known by others. Some names were provided, but many didn't. I'd put that down to shame or fear, but many victims seem to genuinely not know the identities of their attackers."-
[12:35] <Minaplo> "This is the big takeaway from Asaka's activity. Whilst he didn't perpetrate the worst singular incidents himself, his existence acted as permission for the actual perpetrators to act, and he likely took work covering it up or punished any victims who spoke out, reinforcing the belief that they were isolated from official support." Said Càolan.
[12:35] <Minaplo> "That's our main problem. Whilst a chunk of faculty are, wittingly or unwittingly, creating the environment that allows these acts to flourish, there is, I would wager, a network of well-informed predators operating within the student body."
[01:00] <Sachiko> Sachiko finished up and fixed the gauze in place with a fastener. "And they'll be keeping their heads down now that their biggest cover's gone. It'd be tricky to root them out."
[01:09] <Minaplo> "Agreed. Ah, thanks." He patted the gauze lightly and nodded with satisfaction.
[01:09] <Minaplo> "Therein lies the question, Sachiko." Said Càolan. "Those responsible will be trying to hide themselves, protect themselves. Would chaos benefit them? If it would, then wouldn't it be prudent for them to light the powder keg? And if they did it, they'd probably target those trying the hardest to root them out. Which would be…"
[01:26] <Sachiko> "Us," she said, giving Choi's arm a brief glance.
[01:29] <Minaplo> Càolan nodded. "Us."
[01:29] <Minaplo> "I'm open to hearing your recommendations on this issue."
[01:43] <Sachiko> She clucked her tongue thoughtfully. This continued for a while, and she seemed to be in no hurry.-
[01:44] <Sachiko> "Ok. We separate out the incident reports we can't pin on Asaka directly," she spoke slowly at first, gradually picking up speed as the idea solidified. "We look for commonalities and see if we can pick out patterns. Shared homerooms, classes, clubs, that sort of thing."-
[01:45] <Sachiko> "That info might be useful on its own, but we could also cross-reference those patterns with the people who're openly stoking the anger towards the Council, either on s-chat or out in the real world. We do it carefully, because a lot of the results will just be scared, angry people looking for an outlet… but there might be a lead hidden in there somewhere."
[01:59] <Minaplo> "Interesting. A systemic combing of information and motivation. Sounds like a lot of work, though." Said Càolan. "Do you feel confident that you can handle that task with the finesse it needs?"
[02:09] <Sachiko> "Yeah, I'm pretty sure I can," she said after another thoughtful pause. "I might need to use a few of your resources, but other than that…"
[02:14] <Minaplo> "You can have what I can spare." Said Càolan. "It's at moments like this I wish I had a vice-president worth a damn, but you work with what you have, not what you want. This action works to both prepare things for our purposes, and also to isolate the true perpetrators and flush them out… Yes, I like it."
[02:14] <Minaplo> "Ah, look at me." He chuckled. "I was so caught up with all of this that I forgot to ask how you're doing, or if there's anything on your end I can assist with."
[02:47] <Sachiko> She shook her head. "Don't worry, you were already helping," she said. "Watching the mess out there sucked, and I needed something concrete I could do about it."
[03:01] <Minaplo> "Productivity js the best medicine, hm?"
[03:34] <Sachiko> "Depends on the productivity," said Sachiko.-
[03:34] <Sachiko> "If I was smart, I'd just be keeping my head down. My parents already found my name in the news reports."
[03:44] <Minaplo> "And what makes that option so unpalatable?"
[04:09] <Sachiko> "I don't know. I just feel…" She stalled out, eventually punctuating the sentence with a sigh.-
[04:10] <Sachiko> "I promised when I took the job I'd put the rest of the students ahead of the council," she said, with a little more surety. "Well I'm on the council, more or less, and I intend to follow through."
[04:12] <Minaplo> "You want to see something to completion."
[04:14] <Sachiko> "Basically, yeah."
[04:17] <Minaplo> "I find that reassuring."
[04:21] <Sachiko> She let out a quiet laugh. "Well I'm glad one of us does."
[04:23] <Minaplo> "Interesting reaction. You aren't reassured by the desire to finish something?"
[04:33] <Sachiko> She tilted her head from side to side, looking for words. "Not intrinsically, I guess. The need to get something done and doing that something right aren't mutually exclusive, but plot those two on a venn diagram and there's a lot less overlap than you'd hope."
[04:43] <Minaplo> "And you fear this is more a finish it thing than a finish it right thing?"
[05:12] <Sachiko> "I guess so," she muttered, shaking her head. "Don't mind me. It's a good plan, the last couple of days have just been a lot."
[10:25] <Minaplo> "I think I understand." Said Càolan, his smile softening.
[10:25] <Minaplo> "I think of you as a friend. If there's anything you feel like talking about, you can come to me with it anytime."
[11:09] <Sachiko> "Thanks, Choi," she said, real gratitude in her voice. She returned his smile with one of her own.-
[11:09] <Sachiko> "I mean I wouldn't mind talking about why this is the first time I've even heard you mention a Vice-President…"
[11:26] <Minaplo> "Do you hear me talking about unicorns very often? We're supposed to have a VP, but I can't recall ever seeing them around." Said Càolan, shrugging lightly. "The last time I tried to ask the faculty about it, they foisted me onto Mr. Kobayashi, you know, the yankii english teacher with the…" He made an abstract series of hand motions in the air above his head. "… Hair? Anyway, he took a drag on his candy cigarette and said that that was 'punk rock', and 'just how they do it in the US of A', so I've given up on finding a solution to it."
[11:26] <Minaplo> He sighed. "At least our treasurer's pretty decent. And our head of student discipline isn't a nazi, which is a nice surprise in this day and age."
[11:35] <Sachiko> "Standards should never be so low that they pose a tripping hazard."
[11:37] <Minaplo> Càolan snorted. He pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose.
[11:37] <Minaplo> "I'm probably underselling both of them. I have an eye for talent and I don't settle for mediocre. My standards, at least, are quite high." He said. "Speaking of which, you'll find a collated list of reports, notes and other data on this flash drive here."
[11:37] <Minaplo> He handed a small black flash drive emblazoned with the Sophia crest into Sachiko's hand.
[12:04] <Sachiko> "Thanks." She took the drive and slipped it into her pocket. "I'll let you know if I find anything useful."
[12:05] <Minaplo> "Good." He nodded. "Thank you for the bandage. I'm sure it'll do fine work protecting my precious bodily fluids."
[12:25] <Sachiko> "Oh it'll protect the hell out of them. I mean the blood will still leave your body, but they're very absorbent."
[12:37] <Minaplo> "Medicine sounds terrible when you get to the fine details, doesn't it?" Said Càolan; he shook his head ruefully.
[12:37] <Minaplo> "Have a good day, Sachiko. Let me know when you find something. Oh, and." He chuckled. "I think you're the kind of person who believes that unless a job is done right, it's not done at all. I'm confident in your motivations."
[12:57] <Sachiko> She was quiet for a moment, then gave a careful nod. "I appreciate that, Choi. I'll try to keep it in mind."
[12:57] <Minaplo> The Emperor Arcana strengthens…

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