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[10:23] <Minaplo> Persona: A Study in Velvet, Chapter One: The Panther, the Worm and the War Criminal, Week Five. May 11
[10:23] <Minaplo> "Such a bustling place," Said Okuninushi, looking out with wonder at the great kaleidoscope that was the Shadow Market. "Yes, I think I will be fine here." He turned back to the group and bowed.
[10:23] <Minaplo> "Thank you very much for everything! I will stay here- please, come visit me when you get the chance."
[10:30] <Sachiko> Sachiko returned the bow and to a lesser extent the smile. "We will. And thanks again for your help."
[10:33] <Ai> Ai bowed her head likewise. "It's… good that you made it out, and are now here. Hope be that you'll integrate well."
[10:33] <Hideki> "So that's it, huh?" Hideki took a long look around the market as well. "Well. Have fun, yeah?"
[10:35] <Dinah> Dinah merely stood by, her arms crossed over her chest. The sour look on her face said that her mood hadn't elevated much from the previous two days, though she at least did spare him a chin-raise in farewell.
[10:41] <Minaplo> "I already have ideas on how to integrate, yes." Said Okuninushi. "I'm a farmer and a healer, and I am sure both of those things are in demand. Perhaps I can try teaching some of them about how to farm? Yes, that might be it. I am sure there are other farmers here, but how many of them are proficient in Izumo growing techniques? I am Okuninushi after all, a pioneer of agriculture, I definitely have something to offer… And I am wise in the ways of magic as well…"
[10:41] <Minaplo> He drifted off into muttering, staring seriously at his hands.
[10:41] <Minaplo> Probably best to leave him to it.
[10:41] <Minaplo> As the team departed their new Shadowy friend and headed for the Sublime Palace, Hideki's roving eye would catch on something familiar.
"Hi! Hideki! Hi!" Squeaked a little fairy girl from the other side of the road. She flew towards him, narrowly avoiding a hawkman.
[10:41] <Minaplo> It was Pixie!
[10:42] <Ai> Ai's head tuuurned.
[10:48] <Hideki> Hidek smiled reflexively. It was taking a little longer than usual to place her, but… "Oh! Yeah! Long time no see! Have you been okay?"
[10:50] <Minaplo> "I have I have!" She floated around the group. "Aren't you missing someone?"
[10:57] <Sachiko> "Yep," Sachiko said, curtly enough to dissuade from further questions. "How've you been?"
[10:58] <Minaplo> "Goooood. Been busy! Getting my wing muscles nice and big!" Said Pixie, doing loop-de-loops in the air to show off.
[10:58] <Minaplo> "Oop. Speaking of! I forgot… Airy Pixie." She shook her head. "I gotta go be somewhere! I'll see all of you later!"
[10:58] <Minaplo> And just like that, she was gone.
[10:59] <Sachiko> "Huh."
[10:59] <Hideki> "Always nice to see someone we helped out before."
[11:00] <Ai> "I-isn't it." Ai said, shaking her head. "And just like that, gone."
[11:05] <Sachiko> "Yeah. Wouldn't have felt right leaving her there," Sachiko said. "Although… remind me to talk to you guys about her Queen when we get out of here. Roy told me a bit."
[11:10] <Hideki> "Sounds fine to me. Let's get started with our main job here, so we can hurry up and get to that."
[11:10] <Sachiko> "Yep."
[11:14] <Minaplo> […]
[11:15] <Minaplo> Gdon waved them through. "He's been expecting you."
[11:15] <Minaplo> And indeed, the beautiful boy Krishna was sitting at the base of his own statue, flute in hand. He adjusted his trilby slightly. "I think the whole Sea felt it when that Theatre collapsed. Impressive work."
[11:15] <Minaplo> "… Hey, you're missing people."
[11:21] <Ai> Ai more or less just whined when Krishna said that, but didn't say much else yet.
[11:23] <Dinah> "We know."
[11:25] <Sachiko> "We do know," she agreed with a small sigh. "I'm sure you'll see him around, if that helps."
[11:25] <Minaplo> "Good to know. I'd miss Roy if he never came back, he's a friend." Said Krishna.
[11:26] <Ai> "Give him time, even." Ai said, slowly. "Just some uh, serious wounds."
[11:26] <Minaplo> "Always a problem for him."
[11:32] <Sachiko> "Luckily he's mending," Sachiko said. "Gdon said you were expecting us?"
[11:35] <Minaplo> "Yes." Said Krishna. "I have a good sense for these things. A Theatre collapses, and the Evokers make their way here sooner or later. What can the Supreme One do for you all today?"
[11:40] <Sachiko> "We had two topics to discuss with you. The first… we used a different method to collapse the Theatre than what Roy and Roy's old group did, and it's had unexpected results in the real world," Sachiko said. "Most importantly, it's affected memories around the Heed differently. Is that something you know about?"
[11:41] <Ai> Ai again muttered, something about 'theories', but only quietly at best.
[11:42] <Minaplo> "Yes," He said, flipping his flute up into the air idly.
[11:45] <Sachiko> Sachiko frowned like she knew what was coming next. "Will you be willing to share with us?"
[11:46] <Minaplo> "Will you be willing to pay?"
[11:47] <Hideki> "Depends on what the price is."
[11:47] <Minaplo> "You remember what we use for currency in the Shadow Market, Hideki." Said Krishna, smiling.
[11:48] <Ai> "…And what scale of experience, then, are we talking?" Ai asked.
[11:48] <Sachiko> Sachiko gestured towards Ai. "As she said. We know the currency, not the price."
[11:50] <Minaplo> "I think… One memory for each of your team." Said Krishna. "With the nature of the memory depending on the person. I will of course tell each of you the kind of memory I'm looking for before we make the exchange."
[11:54] <Sachiko> "If it's possible I'd ask to know now," Sachiko said. "Easier to make the decision if we know precisely what's on the line. After all, we wouldn't want to get two members in and find the third doesn't like what's asked of them."
[11:58] <Dinah> "Assuming we're all going to let you take anything at all. I'm still not thrilled with the idea."
[11:59] <Ai> "Didn't he say before? Or. …Or are we doing some kind of agreed exchange and then hagggling on the specifics after we can't pull out or…" Ai tried to wokr the permutations.
[12:01] <Minaplo> "Yes, that's what I meant, Sachiko." Said Krishna. "I'm no hustler."
[12:01] <Minaplo> "It's not as though I'm forcing anything from any of you. This is a trade. Freely given memories for freely given information." Said Krishna. "I will ask for a memory, one for each of your team, the type of which I specify. Once you give me your memories, I will provide you with information. You may back out at any time, although of course I will not provide you with my side of the deal until I have my price. And of course I will inform you all now as to the nature of those memories."
[12:05] <Sachiko> Sachiko tapped her foot slowly and looked over at Dinah. "Alright. Excuse the questions, this is new territory for us."
[12:06] <Minaplo> "Understandable."
[12:06] <Minaplo> "Sachiko, from you I would like…" Krishna paused, and leaned back on his free hand. "A memory of someone who you'd let lead you astray."
[12:17] <Sachiko> "… ok," Sachiko said. It was clipped, like she had to force the word past her lips and didn't entirely succeed. "If the others agree."
[12:18] <Minaplo> Krishna nodded, then turned towards Ai.
[12:18] <Minaplo> "Ai. For your memory… A memory of someone who seemed to understand everything about you the moment they saw you."
[12:26] <Ai> Ai eventually nodded. "I have it in mind. …Any memory of them, y-yeah?"
[12:27] <Ai> It seemed as if dredging that memory up had some internal consequences for the girl…
[12:28] <Minaplo> "Any memory. But, I'd consider it a kindness if the memory had weight to it." Said Krishna.
[12:28] <Minaplo> "Hideki. For your memory, this one is easy: a memory of someone who you know would choose you, but you aren't sure if you'd choose them."
[12:30] <Hideki> "Hmm." He frowned. "I'm gonna think on that one for a minute."
[12:31] <Minaplo> "Think about a memory, or think about saying yes or no?"
[12:33] <Hideki> "Both?"
[12:34] <Minaplo> "Alright, Hideki. You do that."
[12:34] <Minaplo> Krishna looked over at Dinah. "Dinah. For your memory, I would like… A memory of someone who felt like they cared deeply about seeing you become your best self."
[12:37] <Dinah> Dinah's lips curled into a frown, eyes narrowing at him. "Why?"
[12:37] <Minaplo> "The market?" Said Krishna.
[12:38] <Ai> Ai leaned up, hissing a stage-whisper at Krishna. "Why that one, she means!"
[12:38] <Minaplo> "Yes, the answer is the market, Ai, thank you."
[12:38] <Ai> "…" Whine.
[12:40] <Dinah> "I don't really see how that's an answer."
[12:41] <Ai> Ai pouted even more, wiggling her arms. "P-presumably it means the current commodities demand in the market! The trading future, the most happening stocks!"
[12:43] <Dinah> "Don't need you to guess. We just need him to answer." She crossed her arms again, staring him down. "Why are the conditions different for all of us?"
[12:43] <Minaplo> "I can answer that question, but I'd need an extra memory from you. How does that sound?"
[12:45] <Dinah> Instead of an answer, she just snarled. "Finished your thinking, Bat Boy?"
[12:47] <Hideki> "Yeah. I've got a memory I'm willing to give up. Are we sure this is the thing we want to trade them for?"
[12:48] <Ai> "…I have a viable theory on why." Ai said. "But… at the same time this is a fast way to confirm it? Honestly the price isn't as bad when you remember it can be a decent but not mortally important one…"
[12:52] <Sachiko> "If we were only going to trade once, I'd prefer to get an answer to our second issue."
[12:52] <Minaplo> "Which would be?"
[12:52] <Ai> "…And that's what I was leading to, yes."
[12:56] <Sachiko> "Dinah and Ai got a phone call from a stranger, warning us about an attack by someone with Persona abilities on a person in the Waking World. We were hoping for information on the caller."
[12:56] <Minaplo> "You want me to trace a call?"
[12:58] <Ai> "It's much more complicated than that, arguably?" Ai said. "In the waking world, it is completely abnormal for a phone to previously have not existed, appear, have a call for you with accurate information, then the phone resumes not-existing." She was visibly frowning.
[12:58] <Ai> …A pause. "And we were lead to it."
[12:59] <Sachiko> Sachiko sighed through gritted teeth.
[01:00] <Ai> "H-how is he supposed to even, if I don't…" Ai said helplessly
[01:01] <Minaplo> "Is it really abnormal? Interesting. The Waking World sounds like a very exotic place." Said Krishna smilingly.
[01:01] <Minaplo> "For that service, I'll only need a memory from Ai or Dinah, and of course the memory of being led to the phone, and taking the call."
[01:02] <Ai> She stepped up. "I can fund at least the latter, as long as I retain the memory right now of insisting by my own words that I did do that." Firmly. "And if you don't want to, Dinah? …I can pay all of it."
[01:02] <Ai> Yet. …For all her determination, her voice wavered.
[01:02] <Minaplo> "Of course, a fair clarification. I won't need to keep the memory of the phone, I just need to look at it."
[01:02] <Ai> "…Oh."
[01:03] <Hideki> "That was still really brave, Yoshino. Thanks."
[01:06] <Dinah> Dinah was clearly torn, glancing at Ai and shifting her weight. With a shrug, she didn't even look at Krishna. "Whatever. Between us, we'll figure out the price."
[01:07] <Minaplo> Krishna chuckled. "I can tell that none of you, save perhaps Ai, feel comfortable about this arrangement. And even Ai has doubts, I'm sure."
[01:07] <Minaplo> "Well, I have good news for all of you."
[01:09] <Sachiko> Sachiko watched him warily. "Do you?"
[01:09] <Minaplo> "Indeed. Your arrival in the Sea has not gone unnoticed." Said Krishna.-
[01:09] <Minaplo> "If you find my terms disagreeable, then you're entirely welcome to seek out alternatives."-
[01:10] <Minaplo> The doors to the Palace swung open, and they heard the sound of marching feet.-
[01:14] <Minaplo> Behind the Evokers came a procession of individuals.
[01:14] <Minaplo> At the forefront were twelve tall, lithe figures, armed in glittering silvery armour, with shields and spears. Behind them were a handful of other elfin figures- a lady wearing a slinky black dress, with long blonde hair, floating in the air; a beautiful lady in a green dress with fairy wings; and… Pixie.
[01:14] <Minaplo> The soldiers marched in perfect lockstep as they entered the hall. As the entered Krishna's chamber, they divided into two teams of six and formed an avenue.
[01:14] <Minaplo> One figure was taller than the others. He was a high elf, as one might find in a fantasy novel- tall, fair skinned and beautiful, with long pointed ears and bright green eyes. He bore in his hand a staff of black wood carved with runes, and wore on his body silky, rich-looking robes the colour of cream.-
[01:17] <Minaplo> "In the name of My Lady, the Fairy Queen, Protector of Avalon, Mother of the Qualinesti, Paramount Queen of the Eledhel, Everqueen of Ulthuan, Lady of Lorien, the Dream of Midsummer, Empress of the Summerset Isles, and Lady of the Courts of Seelie and Unseelie, I come as her ambassador." He bowed, as did the soldiers, yet one would get the sense they weren't bowing at Krishna. His voice was melodious and lyrical, and his words sounded like a song.
[01:17] <Minaplo> "I am Prince Idraceyl, the Flowerlord, and bearer of the Black Staff." He said. "Hail to Krishna, the Eighth Avatar. And…"
[01:17] <Minaplo> Prince Idraceyl turned towards the Evokers. "Would you all please give me your full names?"
[01:18] <Ai> Ai stopped. Sharply. And gestured an immediate covering-mouth motion.
[01:18] <Minaplo> Krishna laughed.
[01:22] <Sachiko> Sachiko glanced at Ai, then turned her full attention to the Prince. She made a very formal bow but stayed similarly silent.
[01:24] <Ai> Ai bowed as well, after a while. She uncovered her mouth, and… Spoke, softly. "You'll hear part of my true name eventually if they slip, lordship." She said. "That's fine. For now, know me by my soul - Justice."
[01:25] <Ai> It was. Far more formal and flowery than usual Ai. She had grown all too serious-toned.
[01:30] <Minaplo> Prince Idraceyl waited for a moment at the silence. He took in Sachiko and Ai's answers- a silent bow and a proclamation respectively- and nodded. A soft smile spread across his face, and for a moment where was an expression of deep respect on his face.
[01:30] <Minaplo> "Very impressive." He said. "Very well, I make no claims to your names, but I would enjoy hearing them."
[01:34] <Ai> "…I'll take that as your word. I'm Ai~" She said. "…Come to meet the new folks, or…?"
[01:36] <Hideki> Hideki still chose to keep his mouth shut. He eyed Pixie. So this was the thing she'd had to do, huh?
[01:46] <Sachiko> "We're pleased to meet an emissary for your Queen, of course."
[01:49] <Minaplo> "Most glad to hear it." Said Prince Idraceyl, who seemingly decided to give up on getting names.
[01:49] <Minaplo> "I did indeed wish to make acquaintances of the new arrivals. But I also wished to thank you for rescuing one of our own." Said Prince Idraceyl.
[01:49] <Minaplo> "Hi, Hideki!" Said Pixie, eyeing Hideki back shamelessly. "This is my big friend!"
[01:49] <Minaplo> Prince Idraceyl smiled graciously.
[01:49] <Minaplo> "I am also aware that as new arrivals, you no doubt seek advantages. Information. And that as new arrivals, you both inevitably arrive at the Eighth Avatar's doorstep and find his prices unpalatable." Said Prince Idraceyl.
[01:49] <Minaplo> "Perhaps dealing with the Children of Avalon will be more within your tastes?"
[01:57] <Sachiko> "Maybe," Sachiko said. "I don't think we'd made up our minds about Krishna's offer yet, but why don't you tell me what a trade with your group would entail?"
[01:57] <Ai> "Indeed, indeed." Ai chirped, trying to get a bit more mirth in her. "Let's comparison shop!"
[02:00] <Minaplo> Krishna leaned forward, fascinated by this exchange.
[02:00] <Minaplo> "Avalon does not need memories. Our paradise provides everything we need." Said Prince Idraceyl. "Our greatest priority, then, is the preservation of Avalon. And the preservation of Avalon is in your interests, as well. If you gave us some assistance in protecting Avalon by opposing its enemies, then we would provide you with information."
[02:03] <Hideki> "Which enemies do you mean, sir?" Hideki hadn't returned Pixie's greeting beyond a brief nod of acknowledgement. Somehow, doing much more than that seemed inappropriate.
[02:05] <Dinah> "Kicking the shit out of someone? I think that could work out a little better." She sniffed, cracking her knuckles somewhat as she did. Anything to get away from the idea of losing memories.
[02:14] <Minaplo> Prince Idraceyl smiled.
[02:14] <Minaplo> "There are other areas out in the Sea of Chaos that are opposed to Avalon's existence." Said Prince Idraceyl. "Areas similar in nature to Avalon or the Shadow Market."
[02:14] <Minaplo> "One of these areas is called the Lost Playground." Said Prince Idraceyl. "We know little about it. We would ask that you travel to this region, scout it, take pictures of the denizens, and then return to us with that knowledge. And we can negotiate what you would ask for in return."
[02:16] <Sachiko> [Don't agree to any deals. The Fairy Queen's an Evoker, and Roy says she's one of the most dangerous things in the Sea. We have to play nice, but we either take Krishna's deal or we walk.]-
[02:16] <Sachiko> She began speaking before the message was fully sent: "If you know so little about them how can you be sure they oppose you?"
[02:17] <Minaplo> "They have attacked us."
[02:18] <Sachiko> "Ah," Sachiko said, with an awkward smile. "That would be one way to know. My apologies."
[02:20] <Minaplo> Prince Idraceyl inclined his head, a near-bow.
[02:20] <Minaplo> "We are willing to be generous with you, as you have rescued one of our own, and Her Majesty rewards those who protect her subjects. We will give you time to discuss it. You may find us outside if you have any questions."
[02:20] <Minaplo> With that, Idraceyl turned and left, and was followed quickly by his entourage.
[02:20] <Minaplo> "Interesting fellows, aren't they?" Said Krishna, leaning back and folding his legs into a lotus position. "Scouting things out, taking a few pictures… Sounds pretty easy to me."
[02:22] <Ai> "Easy, yet…" Ai said, lowly.
[02:23] <Sachiko> "There's a reason Roy mainly traded with you. Hidden costs, like the name thing."-
[02:23] <Sachiko> "Nice save by the way, Ai."
[02:24] <Minaplo> "Yes, well done." Said Krishna. "That was a good catch, and not one your predecessors caught. Prince Idraceyl had fun ransoming their names back to them."
[02:24] <Ai> "When you start reading enough fantasy you learn about the fair folk." She said simply, with a raised finger.
[02:25] <Minaplo> "They seem pretty unfair to me, sometimes." Said Krishna, chuckling.
[02:25] <Minaplo> "But yes, Sachiko. You may find my prices steep, but I am upfront. As you learn with the Fairies and Elves of Avalon, in the Sea of Chaos, there is always a price. And if you can't see it, that usually means it's more than you'll be willing to pay."
[02:28] <Hideki> "That name thing is worrying," Hideki muttered under his breath.
[02:30] <Ai> "We really do need codenames, don't we." Ai murmured.
[02:30] <Minaplo> "History repeats." Said Krishna warmly. "Funny how meeting the Elves seems to lead to that conclusion."
[02:31] <Sachiko> Sachiko sighed, but seemed to lack a counterargument to back it up.
[02:32] <Hideki> "Heh. It all makes sense. Our predecessors did it too."
[02:33] <Minaplo> "I should watch what I say." Said Krishna. "Prince Idraceyl, do not misunderstand him. He is an honourable one. He is simply playing by rules you haven't learned yet."
[02:33] <Ai> "Mmmhm. See, the other trait about Fair Folk?" Ai said, holding out her arms?
[02:33] <Ai> "They never go back on their word, once given."
[02:33] <Ai> "Ever."
[02:38] <Minaplo> It was around this point that a procession of gopi- Krishna's handmaidens- entered, bearing tables laden with refreshments. Crisp water, pure milk, hot, fresh naan, rich, sweet syrupy yoghurt drinks, spicy soups, sauced vegetables and flavourful strips of meats were laid out for the guests to enjoy.
[02:38] <Minaplo> "Nonetheless, I am most interested to know what you will all do next." Said Krishna, helping himself to a third bowl of soup. "Whether you take my deal, or whether you go with the Elves, or whether you go home and try to work it out by yourselves. Or find a third party, if such a thing exists."
[02:39] <Hideki> Hideki beamed at the handmaidens~
[02:40] <Minaplo> Several of them giggled and left, shooting him shy glances from beneath their eyelashes as they went.
[02:43] <Sachiko> "I don't think we can deal with the Elves. Maybe we can work on finding our own answers to the memory issue, but…" she hesitated, looking at the group, "I still feel like we need an answer about our caller, but that's not a price I'm being asked to pay."
[02:43] <Minaplo> "It is the easier transaction, isn't it?" Said Krishna. "Perhaps we should get that out of the way first."
[02:45] <Dinah> Dinah seemed a little disappointed that they weren't going to deal with the Elves but it did make sense at least. So with a slight grunt of annoyance, she took a few steps forward. "Fine. What do you want for this? Same deal?"
[02:46] <Minaplo> "A memory from either you or Ai, then to look-not take- the memory of the call. It will be the same kind of memory as we've already discussed, yes."
[02:46] <Minaplo> "I should add, though, that if you give me such a memory, then I will request a different type of memory next time."
[02:47] <Dinah> "Fine." Her curt response was addressed to him, though she shot a look back at Ai that told her to stay quiet. Looking to Krishna once more, she clenched one of her fists reflexively. "How does it work?"
[02:48] <Ai> Ai had even opened her mouth, but… shoved a bit of yogurt-dipped naan in it as soon as Dinah looked.
[02:50] <Minaplo> He took out a small, hollow crystal and tossed it to Dinah.
[02:50] <Minaplo> "I will begin to play my flute. As I play, hold the crystal and focus on your memory in full. It will then fill up the crystal. Once the crystal is full, the memory will disappear from your mind."
[02:51] <Dinah> Catching the crystal, she frowned and narrowed her eyes. "They can't see it or anything, right?"
[02:51] <Minaplo> "No. To your comrades, it will appear as a black smoke."
[02:52] <Dinah> "Good."
[02:52] <Minaplo> Krishna put the flute to his lips. "Are you ready, Dinah?"
[02:53] <Dinah> "Yeah, yeah. Just get on with it already."
[02:54] <Sachiko> Sachiko politely averted her gaze regardless.
[02:56] <Minaplo> And so the boy played.
[02:58] <Ai> Ai became more interested in some meat, now. Flesh. Consume.
[03:02] <Hideki> Hideki watched, transfixed, tense.
[03:08] <Dinah> With her hands on the crystal, Dinah closed her eyes and let out a sigh as the music started playing. The memory played in her mind like it was fresh, causing her fingers to clench harder, her knuckles going white. At some point, as the crystal started filling up, as the black smoke rose, her eyes opened, pensive and…confused? Whatever it was, it was a foreign expression for her.-
[03:12] <Dinah> Soon enough, though, the memory was gone. Her frame sagged, her head shook a little and for a few moments, she was just lost in thought. With a snarl, though, she threw the crystal at him then, turning around, anger wrapped around her like a mantle. With a hard look at Sachiko, she pointed back at Krishna. "You hear him out and tell me what he says. I'm done with this fucking place."-
[03:12] <Dinah> And with that, she stomped out, fists clenched the whole while.
[03:16] <Sachiko> Sachiko's lips were pursed tight, and she couldn't quite bring herself to meet Dinah's glare. She focused on Krishna instead. "You heard her."
[03:16] <Ai> Ai… Ai finally looked up when Dinah left. Her face was in a deep frown.
[03:20] <Minaplo> Krishna caught the crystal, and watched Dinah leave.
[03:20] <Minaplo> He look a little velvet cloth out and polished the crystal tenderly. "So I did, Sachiko." He gazed down at the memory, then tucked it away.
[03:20] <Minaplo> "I regret that the act of giving a valuable memory away often causes such grief for the humans who come here." Said Krishna solemnly, his smile gone. "I do not enjoy the causing of it. Not one bit. But everyone wants something they don't have, and the Shadows here have everything except new experiences, new vitality from a world we see but can never touch. Perhaps this need seems unnatural to your eyes, but this is not a natural place."
[03:20] <Minaplo> He sighed, and for a moment the boyish visage seemed different, aged somehow.
[03:20] <Minaplo> But then Krishna smiled and looked up at Ai. "Are you ready for me to touch your memory?"
[03:22] <Ai> Ai nodded solemnly, standing up from her meal, more straightly. "…I am."
[03:24] <Minaplo> Krishna's finger settled on Ai's forehead. Krishna himself was still on his statue's base, quite far away- but rather, a finger of his had seemingly appeared out of the air to tap Ai.
[03:24] <Minaplo> Krishna closed his eyes. "Interesting. Let me see…"
[03:24] <Minaplo> A moment later his eyes snapped open and his finger pulled back, as though burned on a hot plate. Krishna reeled.
[03:27] <Ai> Ai's eyes suddenly opened much wider than before. "Wh-wh-what happened?!"
[03:32] <Minaplo> It took a few moments for Krishna to regain his composure.
[03:32] <Minaplo> "There is… Something unsettling within your memory, Ai. I am struggling to explain it." He said, his expression serious. "I am struggling to understand it. Yet it feels like I've seen it before…"
[03:32] <Minaplo> Krishna shook his head. "There was something immense moving within that memory. Even looking at it, I felt like I was being seen by something… How exposing. Not enjoyable."
[03:32] <Minaplo> He took a breath, then smiled. "I can't really help with that, and it doesn't seem to affect you as it does me. Perhaps the memory affects a Shadow especially heavily. The good news is, I can trace your caller."
[03:32] <Minaplo> "The better news is, you all get to break the news to Dinah as to who it was."
[03:34] <Hideki> "Why does that not sound like better news?"
[03:34] <Minaplo> "I didn't say it was better news for you."
[03:35] <Hideki> "Well played," said Hideki grudgingly.
[03:36] <Minaplo> "You know, you seem extra grumpy today."
[03:37] <Ai> "…I'm going to guess it's going to be personal." Ai lifted a finger. "Hit like a truck." Second. "And make her want to punch someone." Third… which pinched a bit of meat from the other hand and shoved it into her mouth.
[03:37] <Ai> "So let's calm down a bit more and then have someone durable stand in front."
[03:38] <Ai> But then? "…I know what you mean, I think, Krishna." She noted. "…And believe me when I say I didn't expect this, but I instantly knew why. But as to what I think of it?" Chew.
[03:38] <Ai> "…That's not free."
[03:38] <Ai> A forced grin.
[03:39] <Minaplo> "Ha. We'll see if my curiosity is enough to barter with you for that in the future." Said Krishna drily. "Good to see you integrating well, nonetheless."
[03:42] <Sachiko> "Just tell us who it is," Sachiko said. She sounded done.-
[03:42] <Sachiko> Then she took a deep breath and added a slightly calmer "Please."
[03:42] <Ai> "Yeeeah. Payment delivered, give result." Hand-waggle. "Got some sanity to preserve here."
[03:49] <Minaplo> Krishna chuckled. "Alright, alright."
[03:49] <Minaplo> "You are aware of the existence of… I believe the terminology your predecessors used is 'Barons'? The Fairy Queen is a Baron. An Evoker, like you, but one of such power that they are able to create their own domains, like Dream Theatres. There are a few such Barons around- the Fairy Queen is the most famous, but there's others. Most are not important."
[03:49] <Minaplo> "But somewhere in the sea, in a hidden location, is a domain known as… And this is going to amuse you… The Lost Playground." Krishna's smile widened at the irony. "It is home to strange entities. Shadows, but whose origins are… Peculiar. Schoolyard tales. The things people tell each other around campfires or with flashlights at their chins. The ghosts that creep in abandoned houses on terrible cable television. Stories parents tell each other about the danger their undergraduate daughters will face at college. And the ravings of conspiracy theorists. Myth-like, perhaps, but things that are remembered despite really deserving to be forgotten, is one way of putting it."
[03:49] <Minaplo> "There is one such entity that captures the imagination most wonderfully. I believe humans refer to it as the Mothman." Said Krishna, laughing. "The Lost Playground is the domain of the Mothmen, and at the heart of it is their boss of their gang. He calls himself Indrid Cold, and with that mantle, he claims the power to see the future and contact whoever he pleases. It was this individual who called you and Dinah, Ai."
[03:50] <Hideki> "So our contact - and the reason Scheier had to go through that memory stuff just now - is the head of the Mothman Gang."
[03:51] <Ai> "…That is more aggravating than deeply personal." Ai said, before sighing oh so heavily. "She's still going to punch something, even if I honestly don't blame her now. And I don't even know what they did to her back there!"
[03:52] <Minaplo> "I don't really know what the beef is with her and the Mothmen either. Maybe it's an American thing."
[03:56] <Hideki> "It'll be fine. She hasn't punched anything all day. I think she can restrain herself a bit longer." He regarded Krishna. "But seriously, thanks. It's a little weird, but at least we know what's going on with that stuff."
[03:57] <Ai> A firm nod. "…Honestly, if you guys want, I can try to head shadow market transactions in the future, even if I'm not necessarily paying? I uh, seem to be more comfortable about it so it should keep negotiations going smooth."
[03:58] <Sachiko> Sachiko nodded, but kept looking at Krishna. "Is his future sight the real deal?"
[04:00] <Minaplo> "That's a hard question to ask. I would say… It's not impossible that it is. He definitely has unusually good insight into events that haven't happened yet. But I don't know precisely how it works or its limits." Said Krishna.
[04:00] <Minaplo> "The Lost Playgrounders are extremely good at hiding themselves from things. It's a big reason why the Fairy Queen, who has unnatural clarity, can't find them."
[04:01] <Ai> "…And given how mothmen feel about pictures…" Ai noted, leadingly.
[04:01] <Hideki> "Question is, why would he help us? Maybe he just felt like it?"
[04:02] <Minaplo> "I'm not sure about that, either." Said Krishna.
[04:03] <Ai> Ai closed her eyes, head lowered. "…A few working theories."
[04:04] <Hideki> "Sure? But if his underlings are in the Market still, we could just ask them directly."
[04:06] <Sachiko> "It's an idea, sure. Might let him know we're coming, but I guess there's no avoiding that."
[04:07] <Minaplo> "The charm of diviners." Krishna settled back on this throne. "But you really all should get going, instead of loitering around in my statue room. I'm sure there's places you should all be…"
[04:08] <Ai> Ai snapped her fingers once. It sounded awkward, because she sorta halfway just clicked her nails because she hadn't figured it out completely.
[04:13] <Sachiko> "Got it," Sachiko said. "We can talk more on the way out. Thanks for your time, Eighth Avatar."
[04:14] <Minaplo> "And you as well, Sachiko Kurata."
[04:14] <Hideki> "Yeah, same." Hideki stood up. "Everyone ready?"
[04:15] <Sachiko> "Yep. Let's go."
[04:16] <Minaplo> And so they left.-
[04:17] <Minaplo> Outside of the Palace, they would find Prince Idraceyl and his entourage, plus one: a mammoth western dragon with a hide of purple-blue, curled up at the base. The dragon wore a harness and armour, suggesting it was the Prince's personal mount.
[04:17] <Minaplo> Prince Idraceyl was running his hand along the dragon's snout; it puffed in satisfaction. The Prince turned to look at them as they exited.
[04:17] <Minaplo> What they didn't find was Dinah.
[04:23] <Sachiko> She looked with her eyes first, from the top of the stairs and then from the bottom. After a minute of this she awkwardly remembered there was a simpler solution and summoned Faust for a scan. [Dinah? We're done, where're you?]
[04:25] <Minaplo> Dinah wasn't in the Shadow Market.
[04:25] <Minaplo> Prince Idraceyl watched them with a serene expression.
[04:28] <Sachiko> Faust turned before Sachiko did, a few of the inner shadows chittering and pointing at him.-
[04:28] <Sachiko> And then Sachiko turned and her Persona vanished. "Did we miss something, Prince Idraceyl?"
[04:30] <Minaplo> The dragon's eyes snapped open. They were rainbow-coloured and catlike, and they watched Sachiko closely.
[04:30] <Minaplo> "Your friend came out. She seemed quite animated. She asked me where she could find the Lost Playground, and I explained to her that I could not. I could, however, give her an artefact that reacts to Evokers, allowing them to travel to the Lost Playground. She used that. She insinuated that she was going to bring back many of the artefacts instead of pictures." Said Prince Idraceyl.
[04:30] <Minaplo> "The artefact was a Mothman wing!" Chirped Pixie.
[04:32] <Hideki> "Oh my god." Hideki rubbed his face.
[04:33] <Ai> …Ai looked at Sachiko. Then to Idraceyl. "I see."
[04:33] <Ai> ["…That's. Going to make this even more interesting." Emphasis, a special kind of interesting.]
[04:34] <Sachiko> Sachiko ran her hands through her hair and let out a slow, grating breath. She shut her eyes and by the faint movement of her lips seemed to be internally counting to ten.-
[04:35] <Sachiko> "Had to get your mission done, right?" she said eventually, straightening up.
[04:35] <Minaplo> "The Court of the Fairy Queen respects and expects results, my friend." Said Prince Idraceyl, bowing.
[04:36] <Sachiko> "Right," Sachiko muttered.-
[04:36] <Sachiko> "Got another of those wings?"
[04:36] <Ai> "…three more?"
[04:38] <Minaplo> Prince Idraceyl turned and nodded at a nearby elf, apparently the leader of the soldiers; he turned and nodded to two of the rank and file, who bowed, went to a nearby wagon and came back with a large wooden chest. Walking in lockstep, they put it at the feet of the group and cracked open the chest, revealing a neat stack of mothman wings. More than enough for them to use.
[04:38] <Minaplo> "Those who trespass on sacred ground invariably pay the price." Said Prince Idraceyl. "We have no need for these trophies. May they serve you well."
[04:40] <Ai> Ai managed to kinda-sorta-fake a smile. "…I can't guarantee pictures, but maybe if I'm in the mood, you might get a something something for your time. …If I feel buying. But that's …conditional~"
[04:41] <Ai> "Still, useful."
[04:42] <Sachiko> Sachiko took one, deeply grateful that the outfit of her innermost self had gloves.
[04:42] <Ai> Ai as well, took one. …She tried to just, gently feel the texture without overly focusing on it, before stowing it. Somehow.
[04:43] <Minaplo> The wing was sticky, for some reason, and still warm. It was like touching caramel molasses made of cockroach legs.
[04:43] <Ai> …Instant regret. Away to the depths of her inventory screen.
[04:44] <Hideki> Hideki took one as well, without looking directly at it. "Thanks for accommodating us, I guess."
[04:48] <Minaplo> "If you return with what I seek, then my information is yours. I will leave Pixie behind as a liaison." Prince Idraceyl leapt up onto the saddle of the dragon and settled in. His entourage all piled into the wagon.
[04:48] <Minaplo> "May the Stars light your way home, Evokers! Rise, Latonil!"
[04:48] <Minaplo> The dragon stirred itself, and shook out its long, thick neck before rising onto its four long clawed feet. Greater than any dinosaur could hope to be, it stretched its passenger-liner wings to the full extent and then leapt into the air, the windbeat enough to nearly knock the Evokers to their knees. It loop-de-looped into the air, grabbed the wagon without breaking its stride, and flew off into the distance.
[04:48] <Minaplo> "I could kill that dragon, you know." Said Gdon, emerging from behind her door. "Wouldn't even need help doing it."
[04:48] <Minaplo> The wings' warmth seemed to beckon to them. It was as though there was a part of the wing they couldn't see but did feel, and it was touching a part of their invisible selves… An invitation. If they wanted it, the wing would take them to a secret place.
[04:50] <Ai> Internally, Ai was unsure about a sticky bugleg wing touching her invisible self.
[04:50] <Ai> You get that one for free.
[04:50] <Ai> …But she breathed deeply, and exhaled, after they left. "Well that's just super."
[04:50] <Sachiko> "We have to go, right? We're all agreed on that?"
[04:51] <Ai> "No-one left behind, unless they make it a point to leave themselves behind I guess. Ai said, folding her arms. "…Dinah's not doing that. She's, presumably, just really happy to punch some mothmen maybe."
[04:55] <Hideki> "How do we even use these things?" He held his wing gingerly and glanced at Pixie. "Do we just wander around until they twitch or react to something…?"
[04:55] <Sachiko> "I think if we will it to work we just go. Or at least that's how it feels."
[04:57] <Minaplo> "Dinah just held it, focused on it and let it take her away." Said Pixie. "I think you're right, Sachie."
[04:58] <Sachiko> "Alright. Then let's just get it over with."
[04:58] <Minaplo> The beckoning feeling from the wings intensified. All they had to do was 'let go'…
[04:59] <Sachiko> Short any last-minute interruptions, Sachiko did exactly that.
[04:59] <Ai> …Ai… did as much. "Time for everything to really suck."
[05:00] <Hideki> Hideki didn't reply to that. He shut his eyes and focused.
[05:10] <Minaplo> The world became a kaleidoscope.-
[05:12] <Minaplo> The sensation was as though each of them had two dozen segmented eyes, seeing in every direction. It was sensory overload, and it was literally stomach turning. A wave of intense nausea passed through all of them.
[05:12] <Minaplo> When it passed, they were in... a playground. A dim, dank and dark American playground, abandoned, with overgrown grass, swings turning rustily in the wind and a lonely, spooky abandoned jungle gym in the middle.
[05:12] <Minaplo> It would have been darker if not for the flames.-
[05:15] <Minaplo> Spot fires lined the grass and the tops of the jungle gym, a trail of destruction leading to a distant set of abandoned public toilets, which were glowing brightly with still-lit fire.
[05:15] <Minaplo> Several mothman corpses lay before them, one burned to charcoal, one stomped face-first into the ground, and the third both burned and its face violently caved in.
[05:15] <Minaplo> In the far distance, shadowy shapes observed them, yellow eyes burning bright. On a distant mountain range, dark watchers observed them, tailcoats flapping in the wind, leaning on walking sticks.
[05:15] <Minaplo> It was raining, but the fires refused to go out.
[05:20] <Sachiko> "So much for diplomacy," Sachiko said morosely.
[05:21] <Hideki> "She's lost her mind," said Hideki through gritted teeth, and started off toward the public toilets.
[05:22] <Sachiko> "Possible," Sachiko muttered as she followed behind. "You good taking point?"
[05:23] <Ai> Ai was almost immediately moving in, falling into the back. "I think we may be able to take the excuse of 'forgive us of her deeds, she knows not what she does'. …You're gonna have to finesse it a bit, Sachiko." Ai said with a sigh.
[05:25] <Ai> Beat. "…I don't know tons about American, but if you need something on how to handle urban legends, just ask. B… by the way."
[05:28] <Hideki> "At this point, we might be better off just grabbing her and running." He squinted at the yellow lights in the distant. Eyes?
[05:28] <Minaplo> The more he looked at the eyes, the harder they were to make out.
[05:30] <Sachiko> "Sent a message her way," Sachiko said. "It won't slow her down. Taking her and running is probably our best bet."
[05:35] <Minaplo> The question was, where was Dinah? She didn't seem to be nearby, from what Sachiko could sense… She couldn't quite locate Dinah's coordinates perfectly.
[05:37] <Ai> "…Following the fires isn't enough…" Ai said with a whine, as if anticipating Sachiko's question. "I think this whole place has some Convention for ridiculous secrecy."
[05:38] <Sachiko> Sachiko turned her attention to the wing. It brought them, did it provide any extra guidance now that they were there?
[05:38] <Minaplo> It didn't.
[05:38] <Minaplo> The public toilets in the distance, to which a trail of destruction led, continued to smoulder, the mix of rain and fire causing a lot of smoke.
[05:39] <Ai> …Ai then stared out to the toilets. "A good place to start, and…"
[05:39] <Ai> She closed her eyes for a moment, and then stared with a new perspective.
[05:40] <Hideki> Hideki had started to jog, speeding up his pace as he continued toward the toilets.
[05:41] <Minaplo> The inside of the toilets were a disaster, but they probably always had been. White sinks stained black and red, toilets that smelled, mouldy towels and paper… Dinah had set fire to a lot of it, which improved the smell.
[05:41] <Minaplo> The one thing that hadn't been burned was the bathroom mirror. Huge, wide, and impossibly clean, it didn't actually reflect their reflections.
[05:41] <Minaplo> Sitting in front of it was a candle, still lit, and a hand mirror.
[05:42] <Ai> "Ooh, mirror rituals." Ai said after a more tired jog after Hideki, before biting her tongue softly. "…We may wanna check it if there's uh. …More trails of fire. If not…?"
[05:42] <Ai> She gestured at the mirror uncomfortably.
[05:44] <Hideki> "So, what, this isn't part of an urban legend we can use?" Hideki reached out to touch the large bathroom mirror with his fingertips.
[05:45] <Ai> "…An American one, presumably." Ai said. "…But." She then looked at it more closely, scratching her chin. And then …staring down at the toilet. "I have an idea."
[05:45] <Minaplo> It felt… Weird. Like ice that was hollow, with water beneath. Kind of like water that was thick.
[05:46] <Ai> "Any objections to me uh. Trying it."
[05:46] <Sachiko> "Go for it."
[05:47] <Hideki> "Yeah, fine."
[05:48] <Ai> "…So. Please back off from the toilet itself? P… please." She said, trying to shoo them away, before walking towards the door of the toilet. And… Breathing in. She took hand to it. Knock. Knock, Knock.
[05:48] <Ai> "Hanako-san. Are you there?"
[05:49] <Minaplo> The lid of the toilet lifted up, and a little girl emerged. She bad bobbed black hair and wore a red dress.
[05:49] <Minaplo> "Hai, Hanako desu." She said. She looked up. "Oh, hi. You're probably wondering how to get through the mirror, right?"
[05:51] <Sachiko> "If you would," Sachiko said. As tense as she was she'd still watched Ai's attempt with some interest.
[05:52] <Minaplo> "Okay! Welcome to Hanako-san's introduction to American urban legends! Thank you for joining my class!" She bowed.
[05:52] <Minaplo> "What you have to do is light the candle, wave it at the mirror, then say, three times, 'Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary'."
[05:52] <Minaplo> "If you've found this useful, please tell Ms. Bloody Mary that Hanako-san did a good job! Thank you! Ja ne!"
[05:52] <Minaplo> With that, Hanako-san fell back into the toilet.
[05:54] <Hideki> "How do we get back out?" Hideki asked, but was seemingly too late.
[05:56] <Sachiko> "Doesn't matter," Sachiko said, taking up the candle. "Either we leave Schreier or we go through. We'll work out the rest as we go."-
[05:57] <Sachiko> "Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary."
[05:58] <Ai> Ai did gently bow to Hanako-san for her trouble, before nodding.
[05:58] <Minaplo> A woman appeared in the mirror, a ghostly corpse of a woman with a slit throat and messy hair. She raised her arms and waved them spookily.
[05:58] <Minaplo> "You have summoned Bloody Mary." She said, in a voice that was trying to be scary, but was undercut by the fact that her voice sounded like a kindly grandma trying to put on a Halloween voice. "What is thine wiiiiiish?"
[05:59] <Ai> "First, Hanako-san was really nice for letting us know how, Mary-san." Ai said genially. "…But I think my darker-empowered friend'd be who to ask."
[06:00] <Minaplo> The scary facade cracked immediately. "Oh she did? She's such a good girl. Always doing her best."
[06:00] <Sachiko> "We'd like passage through the mirror, please," Sachiko said, raising a hand. "… or a fast track to Indrid, if that's an option."
[06:00] <Minaplo> "I see. Do you have an appointment to see Mr. Cold?"
[06:01] <Sachiko> "Afraid not. We are trying to protect him, though."
[06:02] <Ai> "I believe if you know of any fire other than the one on your candle, that'd be a good idea of what we want to find." Ai added.
[06:03] <Minaplo> "You're a very good girl, too." said Bloody Mary kindly. A hand reached through the mirror and dropped a handful of hard candies into Sachiko's hand.
[06:03] <Minaplo> "Don't eat them all at once." She said, winking. She swallowed, causing her exposed vocal cords to bulge out of her split throat and for some blood to splash out.
[06:03] <Minaplo> "Oh. I see, yes, that makes sense. You know that other girl? The troubled one who was after the Mothmen?"
[06:04] <Hideki> "We're trying to calm her down. But we have to get to her first."
[06:05] <Sachiko> Sachiko took the candies, out of surprise as much as anything.
[06:05] <Sachiko> They went into a pocket.
[06:06] <Minaplo> "She went to Point Pleasant." Said Bloody Mary. "Would you like to go?"
[06:06] <Hideki> "Yes, please."
[06:07] <Ai> Ai nodded once.
[06:11] <Minaplo> "Away you go, dearies." Said Bloody Mary breezily. The mirror bent outwards, like liquid, and then swarmed around them, pulling themselves into it.
[06:11] <Minaplo> It was actually painless.
[06:11] <Minaplo> When they emerged, they were in a cute 60s American town, with a main road, buildings and old cars, nestled up against a large river, which was crossed by a large silver bridge.
[06:11] <Minaplo> There were Mothmen here. But most of them had fled, were fleeing, or were watching from a distance. Mothmen in suits, Mothboys in little newsboy outfits, Mothwomen in skirts and dresses. There had been a car driven by a Mothman, but it had crashed and was smoking. There were also Mothman greasers, now lying unconscious or dead against a cratered wall.
[06:11] <Minaplo> Everything was in black and white.
[06:11] <Minaplo> In the middle of the road was Dinah, but she was barely visible. Above her was a furry ape-like creature, one with a straight back, arms the size of tree trunks and legs the size of the pillars that held up the bridge. Its feet were like surfboards, and it had pinned Dinah between them, its hands pressing her head against the ground.
[06:11] <Minaplo> "VIOLENCE… BAD!" Shouted the Bigfoot.
[06:11] <Minaplo> In the distance was another Mothman, shouting obscenities down at Dinah.
[06:12] <Dinah> Most people likely would've given up by now. Bigfoot was big enough to intimidate most people and he'd shown he was strong enough to back that up. But 'feral' was likely a good word for Dinah at the moment. Being caught, being held down, it did nothing but make her angrier, writhing under him to get her fists free. A punch against his arm, against his leg against anything she could reach before another thought came to mind.
[06:12] <Dinah> Holding her hand out, she found the reassuring weight of her shotgun enter it, shoving the barrel against him and firing as a last ditch effort to get free. "FUCK OFF!"
[06:13] <Minaplo> The shotgun caused Bigfoot to reel slightly, giving Dinah maybe a half second of freedom before it pushed back down again.
[06:16] <Dinah> The struggling didn't end there, if just because she had tasted freedom for that brief moment. Reloading the rifle, she pushed it against his arm then, firing once more. "I SAID FUCK OFF!"
[06:19] <Hideki> "Uuuuugh." Hideki took point. It was hard to take his eyes off the scenery, but as he moved forward, slowly, hands up. "Hey! Hey, Big Guy!"
[06:21] <Sachiko> Sachiko followed a few steps behind him, attention flitting to the surrounding Mothmen just to make sure they weren't about to get flanked.
[06:22] <Ai> Ai landed and ran about, trying to figure out the best place to stage herself. Or if she was about to need to stage herself. "What… What?!"
[06:22] <Minaplo> Bigfoot looked up at Hideki questioningly, and its arm slacked. By pure misfortune, this meant Dinah's rifle caught Bigfoot in the face. It flinched, and roared in pain, not dead, not even that wounded, but it gave Dinah a chance to escape.
[06:25] <Dinah> Dinah took it and ran with it, literally, going straight for that last, rogue Mothman. Bigfoot had stopped her once but not again. With no Yeti in the way, Montag was over Dinah's shoulder, letting another 'Fwooosh' of fire free straight at the coward that had run here in the first place, with her ready to pounce if need be. Hell, even if it wasn't necessary.
[06:27] <Ai> Ai was… less than happy now, to say the least, and was … was thinking of what to do. She honestly looked a bit frozen up. "…I-if you need something… ask…"
[06:27] <Sachiko> "Ok, enough of this," Sachiko muttered. Faust appeared around her.
[06:34] <Sachiko> Dinah would feel Something curl through her mind. It was dark, and cold, but not quite cold enough.
[06:36] <Sachiko> "fffffffffffuck ok, that didn't bite," There was panic in her voice now. "Nakajima?"
[06:42] <Hideki> "God. Damnit." Hideki charged forward. He sprang past the stumbling Yeti, and tried to grab Dinah around the shoulders.
[06:53] <Ai> …But when it didn't take? Ai carefully measured the surroundings… furrowed her brow… raised a finger a bit… Then? "Mami."
[06:53] <Ai> …A massive shell flew above the melee. And then, detonated right over their heads - the wind and crack of the blastwave was intense enough to blow around hair human and mothman alike from that range. The noise, unmistakeable. -
[06:55] <Ai> At which point Ai waited just long enough to get Dinah's attention for a split second. "Hey! Dinah!" She called out, hands on her hips.
[06:55] <Ai> "This wouldn't happen to involve THE CHAIR would it?! Because fuck fighting these cryptid mythic losers! The hell happened? And how can we fix it?!"
[07:04] <Sachiko> "oh we're all going to die," Sachiko murmured.
[07:06] <Dinah> Dinah's single-minded focus was intent on seeing the Mothman dead. She struggled away from a Yeti just for the single chance of it. Everything in her body screamed murder, to get at it and take it down. Montag laid down the fire, literally, leaving no chance of escape for the Mothman, just like she wanted it. The cut of the cold in her mind didn't even make her flinch. As she felt someone approaching from behind, she juked, throwing him off like she was a football player heading for the end-zone. Her body tensed, ready to leap through the air and bring the Mothman down, to end it once and for all.-
[07:07] <Dinah> The shell, the explosion, it did wrest her attention away, however. And the words stopped her cold in her tracks.-
[07:08] <Dinah> The fire stopped. The Mothman was free. Ignored. Dinah cracked her neck as she turned on her heels, the murderous rage in her eyes once reserved for the cryptids falling on Ai. If looks could kill, they would be in a crater right now. Probably the entire city.-
[07:09] <Dinah> "WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU JUST SAY?!"
[07:12] <Sachiko> "Ai whateve- ugh!" Her head rolled left like she'd been struck in the temple and whatever she was going to say was interrupted as she staggered.
[07:13] <Sachiko> This was probably lost in the chaos.
[07:13] <Hideki> "Thank god." Hideki muttered, and then raised his voice. "Did you finally notice that we showed up?"
[07:14] <Ai> "I said madness!" Ai shouted back, trying her best to stare Dinah down. "But what matters is that something, someone, fucked you right up right hard. I can feel it burning in your bones! Cold in your blood!" She… she, said??
[07:14] <Ai> A pause, maybe too long. "And I'm thinking some GRADE A TOSSER ELF thought it'd be a smashing idea to use whatever the fuck happened in the statue room to play you like a goddamn fiddle! Just 'cause of something burnt and owned up! The hell else am I gonna do?!"
[07:14] <Ai> "Dinah gets pissed. Piss Dinah off. Get Dinah! Now figure out who really has to burn and make your goddamn peace with it, 'cause no matter how punk-ass these mothmen are, they didn't do the first thing, and they aren't the shits in the Library either!"
[07:14] <Ai> She had never cussed this much in her life.
[07:15] <Minaplo> The shell-shocked mothman stared down, barely avoiding being burned to death. It squeaked, turned and ran… And was suddenly collected by the tractor beam of a Roswell UFO.
[07:15] <Minaplo> The UFO hovered over the town, perhaps going unnoticed with all the… Chaos.
[07:20] <Sachiko> [UFO ABOVE OUR HEADS] Sachiko's voice in their heads was loud enough to hurt. She was throwing her full weight behind it, just to try and cut through the emotional background noise. [SIGNAL ABOUT AS STRONG AS KRISHNA AND CAPABLE OF SWATTING US LIKE BUGS. STOP THE BULLSHIT OR WE ALL DIE.]
[07:21] <Ai> "… …" Ai actually looked up.
[07:22] <Dinah> As Ai spoke on and on, Dinah simply walked forward, keeping her glare on her undisturbed the entire time. She actually did flinch a bit when Sachiko's voice echoed through her mind, but it just wasn't enough to stop her. Not now. Not after the events of the last….had it even been hours? She said nothing as she approached, the shotgun falling from her hand and clattering to the ground, possibly to some relief of the others.-
[07:24] <Ai> …Somehow, even as she stared at the UFO, Ai's body instinctively tensed. She knew.
[07:26] <Dinah> Relief that was likely cut off soon after, as Dinah's hand went right for Ai's neck, grabbing her to hold her in place as she towered over her. "You know. I am getting sick and fucking tired of you all acting like you know me. Like you know what I've been through. I'm getting sick and fucking tired of hearing all your bullshit advice and talking points, like you're all fucking role models. Most of all, though? I think I'm just getting fucking sick of you." Her grip tightened just a little bit, her gaze steeling harder. "Don't you ever say another word about that fucking chair."
[07:28] <Minaplo> A gravelly American voice cut into the minds of all present. Disturbingly, Sachiko felt the voice travel on the same mind-network that she used.
[07:28] <Minaplo> [Don't you think it's a little late for that, Sachiko?]
[07:29] <Sachiko> [… (sound of a resigned, psychic sigh)]
[07:33] <Ai> …Ai gurgled in place. She …stared up, for a moment, at Dinah. Tears were forming, and her hands went limp. Wiggle. Wiggle. "…I don't wannanywun t'die…" She whimpered, a bit. Unable to participate in the mind banter beyond uh.
[07:33] <Ai> [AtleastonlyIhavetodouble-dieright? (Frantic, desperate, even her telepathy didn't have much chance to spend on words, and the obvious blaring deep-wounded panic didn't exactly stay off the network. Oops)]
[07:37] <Minaplo> [Yeah, this is enough, I think.]
[07:37] <Minaplo> A beam of light shot down from the UFO, and a pair of figures dropped from it. A pair of young Japanese twin women, beautiful, wearing little more than gossamer camisoles. They fell to their knees and looked upwards adoringly as a third entity dropped from the sky.
[07:37] <Minaplo> A man. Tall and lanky, wearing a very neat suit, albeit the suit had a rainbow zimmerit pattern running across it, whilst the collar of his shirt was checkered red and white. He wore a fedora and a mask- the mask was in the face of a man, his mouth stretched into a wide toothy grin, his eyes flat and black, his hair slicked back.
[07:37] <Minaplo> His clothes had colour, even in this black-and-white space.
[07:37] <Minaplo> The UFO's beam ended. The man straightened his tie and…
[07:37] <Minaplo> Then watched and did nothing.
[07:39] <Dinah> Dinah held on, staring into Ai's gaze until she was sure that she had made her point. By now, her rage had subsided, internalized enough, that she seemed 'normal', if just on the bad side of 'normal'. Shoving her back some, she let go, only then turning around, lazily glancing at the new arrivals without much to say to them.
[07:40] <Minaplo> [See, I knew that'd happen.]
[07:40] <Sachiko> Dinah would get a brief glimpse of the icicle Sachiko'd been forming behind her back before it vanished.
[07:40] <Ai> …For her part, Ai just laid there for a little while, trying to breathe.
[07:41] <Hideki> Hideki had been watching the UFO for a good long while. Now he just regarded the newcomer with an expression of uncharacteristic exhaustion.
[07:43] <Sachiko> "Indrid Cold, I imagine," Sachiko said, slumping to sit on the road. Whatever was going to happen would happen. "Hi. Sorry for the mess."-
[07:43] <Sachiko> The affect was completely gone from her voice.
[07:45] <Minaplo> [Don't worry about it.] Said Indrid Cold.
[07:45] <Minaplo> [Honestly, I'm a little disappointed. A part of me hoped that Dinah would do better than seven mothmen, but I guess I've always been a half pipe kinda guy.]
[07:45] <Minaplo> Indrid Cold walked over to Bigfoot, and patted him on the shoulder. [Go on, big man.]
[07:45] <Minaplo> Bigfoot walked over to Ai, picked her up, and then brushed her off gently whilst holding her in his arms.
[07:45] <Minaplo> [If you're expecting me to kill you… Eh, that'd be nearsighted.]
[07:47] <Sachiko> "Not really expecting much of anything right now, honestly."
[07:48] <Hideki> "As long as we're meeting, do you mind telling us why you helped us before? That -was- you, wasn't it?"
[07:48] <Minaplo> [At least take me to dinner first, Hideki.]
[07:48] <Dinah> Dinah bristled visibly, something sparking in her eyes. "I can keep going."
[07:49] <Ai> …For the moment, Ai just dangled in sasquatch grip, making little chokey noises as she tried not to bawl. [Why…]
[07:50] <Hideki> "Heh. Also, shut up, Schreier."
[07:50] <Minaplo> [Now, Hideki. It's rude to tell Dinah to be quiet. She can't help being weak.]
[07:50] <Dinah> Growling again, her fist clenched as she looked over at Hideki. "You wanna make me, Bat Boy?"
[07:52] <Hideki> "She totally can, though." He regarded her calmly. -
[07:52] <Hideki> "If you want me to, sure. But everyone's sick of your shit today. So how about sitting back, shutting up, and letting us talk before you go on your next rampage, huh? I bet you're pretty tired too."
[07:52] <Minaplo> [Well, true.]
[07:53] <Dinah> "Yeah, we saw how well that went the last time you tried, didn't we?" Without admitting to anything that she was accused of, however, he gaze went to Cold, arms folding across her chest. "So who the hell are you?"
[07:55] <Minaplo> [I'm Indrid Cold. See, if you had stayed in that throne room instead of running out, you would've learned all about me instead of getting dunked on by a high elf like a roadie at a rolling stones concert. The nutshell: I'm the guy in charge. You know me better as Phone Guy.]
[07:57] <Sachiko> Sachiko got up and walked over to the Bigfoot. "You ok, Yoshino?"
[07:58] <Minaplo> "VIOLENCE BAD." Said Bigfoot at Sachiko. He knelt down so Sachiko could reach Ai.
[07:58] <Sachiko> "Violence is bad," Sachiko agreed, slightly more emotion in her voice this time.
[07:58] <Ai> Ai …lifted a hand briefly. Wiggled it. "…C-can I like. …Uh. Over there?" She didn't really point anywhere.
[07:59] <Dinah> "Looks to me like the only one that got dunked on were the Mothmen. Like crater-face over there." Keeping her frown, she simply kept her gaze on Cold, like she was bored of this. "So you're in charge of…what, exactly?"
[07:59] <Sachiko> Sachiko picked a direction and gently led the Bigfoot towards it for whatever ends Ai required.
[08:03] <Minaplo> [This place. The Lost Playground. It's my own domain, a haven for… I guess you could call them bad memories.] Indrid Cold folded his arms. [The High Elf sent you here because he wanted to damage me. He figured the easiest way of doing that was to start a war between you lot and myself. Completely fruitless, we have more to gain from working together.]
[08:03] <Minaplo> [And you handed that to him without any effort on his part.] Said Indrid. [You got dunked on, because you've spent the last hour doing someone else's work for zero reward. You basically rage volunteered to fuck up the only entity in this entire Sea that did you a favour pro-bono.]
[08:03] <Minaplo> [Fuckin' scrub move.]
[08:04] <Dinah> "Like I'm not getting paid for what I did."
[08:04] <Hideki> "Why are you still talking?"
[08:05] <Dinah> "Don't see you asking questions to the big man here."
[08:05] <Hideki> "I asked my question. Quite frankly, it's the only one that matters."
[08:07] <Minaplo> [Yeah, I'm getting to it. Sorry, there's stuff to handle.] Indrid waved a hand; some of the damage to the walls and ground began to fix itself.
[08:07] <Minaplo> [Alright, let's talk answers. Yes, I helped you before. I was the one who gave you the tipoff about the Black Hat who tried to murder your girl.] Said Indrid. [Why I did it? Actually, can I answer an unspoken question first? Can I tell you why I asked Dinah and not anyone else?]
[08:07] <Hideki> "Yeah, please."
[08:08] <Minaplo> [Can anyone guess why? I'll give you a prize.]
[08:08] <Ai> "Brl… Ah…" Ai started, before shaking her head. [Prize…? …Is it 'cause she'd just do it?] …Surely it surprised nobody now, but Ai instinctively tensed and un-tensed at 'saying' that.
[08:09] <Sachiko> "Because she'll charge at any flag you wave at her if it's someone she already dislikes," Sachiko supplied from a distance.
[08:10] <Hideki> "Because you thought things would turn out… the way they did?"
[08:15] <Minaplo> [That's a cool answer, isn't it, Hideki? Everything happened as I foresaw.] Indrid tapped his forehead. [What a cool line.]
[08:15] <Minaplo> [It's kind of true, but it's also not kind of true. Ai and Sachiko are closer, and Sachiko is closest.] He tossed Sachiko a blank key card.
[08:15] <Minaplo> [It's because she's predictable.] Said Indrid. [I'd say she's like an elemental force, but that'd be too generous. No. Dinah is like a Shadow. Her nature burns bright, and she's overly loyal to it. And every heavyweight in this whole fuckin' Sea has far too much experience manipulating Shadows.]
[08:16] <Sachiko> Faust snagged the key card in a wooden fist and passed it down to Sachiko. She bobbed her head in thanks, but then left the conversation to go where it would.
[08:17] <Hideki> "Is that also why you told her about the Egg?" Hideki squinted slightly.
[08:17] <Dinah> As she was talked about like she wasn't even there, she surprisingly didn't react much. Instead, she simply fished out her pack of cigarettes, slipping one between her lips and lighting it with a flick of thought.
[08:23] <Minaplo> A flash of ice rippled over Dinah's cigarette, destroying it.
[08:23] <Minaplo> [More or less. As Sachiko said, I knew she'd drop Adrien. And Adrien helped that along by being pretty suspicious. And I did that because… Let's be fucking honest, Adrien was going to experiment with it and cause a ton of problems and probably get someone killed.]
[08:23] <Minaplo> [As to why I helped you? That's really easy. There are forces in the Sea of Chaos that'd destroy me if they went out of check. Evokers keep them in check. So if I help you guys, then… I'm helping myself, aren't I? See, I'm not that boy up in the Palace, I'm not a Shadow. I'm not that sad old girl who wanted to run away to fairyland so she could drink elf booze all day and ride elf dick all night. I remember enough of my nature to not be a total pain in the ass.]
[08:25] <Hideki> "I'm noticing you aren't trying to charge us for this information, or overtly sic us on another faction, so that's an improvement, yeah."
[08:27] <Ai> Ai murmured something, rolling a bit in place. [No reason to… No weird shadow rules. No might-as-well-be weird shadow rules.] Ai said. [It's… how a ruler would work.]
[08:27] <Dinah> Dinah glowered as her cigarette was destroyed, plucking it from her mouth and tossing it down before going to take another one out with deliberate movements, a glare in her eyes as she lit it up as well.
[08:27] <Minaplo> Ice destroyed that cigarette, too.
[08:27] <Minaplo> [Yeah, well. Fucking had enough of Krishna in my time too, you know.]
[08:30] <Sachiko> "You used to be a Nav, I'm guessing," Sachiko said. She'd positioned Ai the way she wanted to be and then sat down on the greyscale lawn of a greyscale house.
[08:33] <Sachiko> "… or you still are." She waved a hand vaguely. "Not really sure how that works."
[08:35] <Ai> […I don't think it just goes AWAY…]
[08:36] <Minaplo> [Sharp.] Said Indrid, and there was respect in his tone.
[08:36] <Minaplo> [It's a lot of bullshit, the whole… What did that jerk-ass catboy call it? Baron thing.] Said Indrid. [Your Persona changes into something… Else. But no, it doesn't go away. But it does… Evolve. Needless to say, yes, I used to be a Navi, although each Navi kinda evolves differently. I think.]
[08:36] <Minaplo> Indrid raised his left hand, and one of those beautiful twins walked over and handed him a bottle of coke. The other walked around, handing cokes to Hideki and Sachiko.
[08:36] <Minaplo> [There'll be time to talk to you all later. For now, though, it's best if you all leave and get some rest.]
[08:40] <Sachiko> "Thank god," Sachiko sighed. She accepted the bottle of coke with a confused attempt at a smile, and thanked the twin who delivered it.-
[08:41] <Sachiko> "Nakajima, you might have to help me with Yoshino if she's not good to walk."
[08:41] <Minaplo> The twin gave Sachiko an oddly affectionate pat on the cheek. The hand was warm and made Sachiko feel a little bit like hot chocolate.
[08:41] <Ai> Ai …managed to stand up, finally talking with words. "…I can walk. It. …It wasn't physical."
[08:41] <Minaplo> [It fucking looked a little physical to me.]
[08:42] <Ai> "Primary cause…" Pout.
[08:42] <Minaplo> [Yeah yeah yeah.]
[08:42] <Minaplo> Bigfoot patted Ai on the head, then walked back toward Indrid. "VIOLENCE BAD." He shouted at Dinah as he went past.
[08:43] <Hideki> "Well, if you feel dizzy or anything…" Hideki made a vague gesture. He received his Coke, flashed a smile at the twins, and pocketed it.
[08:43] <Minaplo> The twin straightened Hideki's clothes, gave him a big, fond smile, then returned to Indrid's side.
[08:43] <Sachiko> "I'll be back soon," Sachiko said with a tiny, half-hearted wave and then started trudging back towards the mirror.
[08:44] <Ai> For her part, Ai just tried to walk along, keeping her head down.
[08:44] <Dinah> Dinah seemed ready to leave before they were dismissed, simply heading over to the mirror without much aplomb, lighting the candle if need be, mumbling 'Bloody Mary' the number of times it took to summon her. Her tired gaze looked at the old woman, giving nothing away as she simply spoke. "Take me out of here."
[08:45] <Minaplo> [And don't fuckin' touch my mothmen again.] Said Indrid.
[08:45] <Minaplo> "VIOLENCE BAD." Said Bigfoot, settling down next to Indrid.
[08:45] <Minaplo> [Yes, Bigfoot. She is bad at violence.]
[08:46] <Dinah> Her eyes narrowed a little more, a fist clenching. "Now."
[08:48] <Minaplo> "Yes, dearie, alright." Said Bloody Mary, popping into the frame. "Back to the Dead Kid's Playground, we'll be there in a hop, snap and a crack!"
[08:48] <Minaplo> Indrid wrapped his arms around the twins' shoulders and let the UFO pick them back up.
[08:53] <Dinah> As soon as she was back in the playground, Dinah took her gait outside of the toilets, pointedly walking away from the group as she pulled out her mothman wing, focusing on it to get sent back to the Black Market. From there, she walked in silence, lighting up another cigarette halfway there, just to snuff it out before she made it to the dorms. Finally, once there, she went straight to her room, slamming the door and locking it behind her.
[08:54] <Minaplo> Thou art I; I art thou. Thou hast glimpsed a new path of thine heart, with which to rewrite your story. The first draft of the Death Arcana has been written; its refinement will bring you new power in the world to come.
[08:59] <Minaplo> ED

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