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[12:29] <Minaplo> Roy reclined in the makeshift medical room that someone had had made up. It was really just a bed with a first aid kit next to it. He was moving around a little more these days, although still obviously stiff and painful. Bowls of meat and water had been left nearby, and he was at least able to reach those just fine.
[12:35] <Hideki> Peace and quiet was all well and good, but it needed to be broken up every now and then. That's why Hideki was here! Lingering outside the door! With popcorn and a laptop with movies on it! That would put Roy in a good and receptive mood, right? He knocked.
[12:42] <Minaplo> "Come in." Croaked Roy.
[12:43] <Hideki> And so Hideki came in. "You feeling okay tonight?"
[12:44] <Minaplo> "Everything is pain, but sure." Said Roy. "Asahina got me the good cat drugs."
[12:51] <Hideki> Hideki plopped down next to the bed and opened the laptop. "Feel like watching some dumb buddy cop movies to pass the time? I have the entire Lethargic Weapon series ready to go."
[12:53] <Minaplo> "It can't be worse than these." Said Roy, nudging a stack of old comicbooks. "I dunno who snuck 'em into my room, but I'm not a huge DC reader. Superman doesn't really get me going. Hit me with that trash movie."
[01:03] <Hideki> Hideki gleefully did just that! He also passed a bowl of steamy popcorn onto the bed, so that it was well within Roy's reach. "You're gonna love this. I mean, there's a chance you've already seen it before. But what's not to love?" -
[01:05] <Minaplo> "The lead actor's a racist motherfucker?"
[01:07] <Hideki> "Yeah, but this was made way before everyone figured that out…"
[01:10] <Hideki> The iconic movie began in a chaotic police station, zeroing in on two officers sharing a small office. One was an older fellow with a stern face, busily filling out a mountain of paperwork. The other… was asleep in a hammock, snoozing away with a sleep mask over his eyes.
[01:11] <Hideki> "Huh." Said Hideki, as the older officer glared at his partner. "Did I ever tell you I have a little brother?"
[01:12] <Minaplo> "Little nerd, isn't he? Plays with models and shit like that?"
[01:18] <Hideki> "Yup. How'd you know?"
[01:29] <Minaplo> "Ji-hu."
[01:34] <Hideki> "Makes sense. She likes him a lot." He shifted his weight.
[01:37] <Minaplo> "Does she, now?"
[01:41] <Hideki> "Yeah. By chance, did she talk about him before or after she realized you weren't a regular housecat?"
[02:05] <Minaplo> "Whyzit matter?"
[02:14] <Hideki> "It doesn't, I guess. I… guess I expected her to forget everything about our little group here. But it''s like she didn't forget a thing. Including that."
[02:15] <Minaplo> "Yeah. She remembered a lot. That worry you?"
[02:22] <Hideki> "Heh." He shook his head. "She's trustworthy enough, don't you think? Only thing I'm worried about is the danger to her. Stuff like Black Hat."
[02:24] <Minaplo> "We still don't know what his deal is." Said Roy. "How did the visit to Krishna go?"
[02:31] <Hideki> "Uh." Hideki took a big handful of popcorn.
[02:32] <Minaplo> "… Okay, what broke?"
[02:36] <Hideki> "More like 'who' broke. Some shadows ended up dead. Also, Schreier might have throttled Yoshino…"
[02:37] <Minaplo> The popcorn ended up all over the floor. "WHAT?!"
[02:43] <Hideki> "Shit." Hideki brushed a some popcorn out of his lap. "Maybe I should start from the beginning. Roy, I need you to stay calm. Are you calm?"
[02:52] <Hideki> "Ok, could be worse." Hideki sighed. "We went to the Black Market. Ran into that Pixie girl - more about her later - and we saw off Asaka's last remaining head demon. Then we dropped by Krishna's place. Started haggling. The price for answers about the memory stuff was too steep to start out with, so we talked about other options."
[02:59] <Minaplo> "Other options besides Krishna? A phrase that fills me with dread! What did you do?!"
[03:05] <Hideki> "So, funny thing. That Pixie? Went and told her friends from the Fairy Queen's court alll about our arrival. So they turned up at Krishna's too. And they were all, like, 'Help defend us against our enemies, and we'll give you all the information you want.' Don't look at me like that, we didn't take the offer!"
[03:07] <Minaplo> "Oh fuck me, you got the Elves involved. Who was it? Who'd they send as an emissary?"
[03:08] <Hideki> "Some prince. Idraceyl."
[03:09] <Minaplo> "Godfuckingdamnit."
[03:09] <Hideki> "You know him."
[03:16] <Minaplo> "Of course I know him. The Fairy Queen meddles in every part of the Sea, but when she wants results she sends Idraceyl. He's a terror. There aren't many Shadows that went toe to toe with us and won."
[03:21] <Hideki> "He's that strong? Him? Seriously?"
[04:39] <Minaplo> "'Him? Seriously?'" Said Roy sarcastically. "It's not that he has raw power, although he has some. He's smart, and he's unnaturally good at reading weaknesses. Especially psychological ones."
[10:26] <Hideki> "Yeah… he was showing that off, actually."
[11:56] <Minaplo> "What happened, Hideki?"
[09:29] <Hideki> "Let's back up a minute, because there's some information you need to know before this makes sense." He paused a moment to gather his thoughts. In the meantime, a car chase scene took place on the laptop, with the sleep mask cop recklessly driving into oncoming traffic, much to the dismay of the hardcase partner who was sitting in the passenger seat. He was still wearing the sleep mask. -
[09:44] <Hideki> "So your Queen lady has her own domain made out of her own imagination where she rules. It's called Avalon, right? There are other similar places scattered around, created by other Evokers… or former Evokers. One of them is called the Lost Playground, and apparently it's at war with Avalon. You know what else is happening in the Lost Playground? Mothmen. Lots and lots of Mothmen."
[10:24] <Hideki> "Your boy Krishna tipped us off about this place after the Fairy crew said what they wanted to and went outside to hang out. But first he… did a thing to Schreier's memory. So he could see what was going on with the mysterious phone call she got a while back. You know, the one that told her what to do about the Egg? Spooked her the hell out and sent her running outside, but we got a little information. The call came from the Lost Playground."
[01:58] <Minaplo> "The call came from the Lost Playground?" Said Roy, anger ebbing away and giving way to mystification.
[01:58] <Minaplo> "I've never heard of it in my life. And it's at war with the Fairy Queen? How has she not wiped it out yet?"
[11:47] <Hideki> "It's weird. She has a way of getting there, and it seems like she has the firepower, but instead she sent a diplomat to ask us to fight her enemies for her. So it's probably a cold war, or there are restrictions preventing them from going there, or maybe they aren't -actually- at war but I made the assumption they were based on the absurd stuff that happened next."
[11:49] <Hideki> "So Schreier was alone with Mr. Prince for maybe 15 minutes while the rest of us finished up with Krishna. When we went outside, she was gone. To the Lost Playground. And guess who had shown her how to get there."
[11:52] <Minaplo> The anger was back. "Fuckin' Idraceyl!" Roy fumed. "Goddamnit. If I'd been there I woulda known to not let anyone be alone with him."
[11:55] <Hideki> "It was our screw-up," Hideki muttered. "She was probably in a weird place after having her memory… I dunno, extracted and looked at. One of us should have gone with her when she left."
[12:00] <Minaplo> "Probably you, Hideki." Said Roy.
[12:00] <Minaplo> "Goddamnit." He yowled. "And Dinah hates the Mothmen, so she just showed up and started blasting. And somehow you all survived being used by the Elves to wage a proxy war."
[09:46] <Hideki> Hideki slightly lowered his head at that first remark, but then lifted it when Roy brought up the proxy war. "There's more. We met the Mothmen's boss. He was surprisingly chill about Schreier killing seven of his men. Like he knew exactly what was going on. Because he did."
[09:50] <Hideki> "Also admitted to being the guy on the phone who told her about the Egg because he could predict exactly what she was going to do. So, yeah. He manipulated her into keeping the Egg from Delacour, which led to him splitting from the group."
[10:31] <Minaplo> Roy sighed.
[10:31] <Minaplo> "Did he say why he did that?"
[10:47] <Hideki> "Because he didn't trust Adrien to not screw with it hard enough to set off some reality-melting chain reaction. You see, everything the Bossman described himself doing was oh so helpful and magnanimous.""
[11:03] <Minaplo> "You don't trust this guy."
[11:11] <Hideki> "Why should I? He didn't kill us, and he tipped us off in time to help Ji-Hu when Black Hat was after her. That's great! I'm genuinely grateful. But all it took for him to influence someone in our group was… what? A sentence or two? Whispered over a phone line? He knew who to target, what to say, how it would play out, and he hadn't even met any of us in person yet."
[11:13] <Minaplo> "Yep." Said Roy, nodding. "That's a lot of power with a lot of big effects, and we know nothing to even that disparity out. He can touch us but we can't touch him. There's no such thing as a selfless Baron."
[11:13] <Minaplo> Roy shook his head. "You shouldn't trust this guy. I definitely don't. He can play at being magnanimous, but everything in the Sea comes with a price. Especially the assistance of the powerful."
[11:18] <Hideki> "I guess that's why you rely on Krishna. At least you know what his price is up front."
[11:22] <Minaplo> "Exactly." Said Roy. "And the Fairy Queen has her own hidden agendas and tricks. None of them are fun to deal with, but Krishna is the safest."
[11:22] <Minaplo> Roy shifted his weight slightly to avoid some pain in his legs. "I take it, then, that since Dinah went off and started this whole mess and everything's kinda murky that now the whole team is pissy and angry and angsty and that's why they sent you, Mr. Stability, to talk to me."
[11:27] <Hideki> "No one sent me. I came because I decided to."
[11:30] <Hideki> "You're right about the angst, at least. Everyone's got some stuff to figure out."
[11:34] <Minaplo> "Mmm." Roy grunted.
[11:34] <Minaplo> "I think it's time we had a big team talk. A true, proper heart to heart. Everyone in this team has a problem with someone else, some more than others. We need to get it all out in the open and try to resolve it, or at least promise to try better." Said Roy.
[11:34] <Minaplo> "I'm getting real tired of the fate of the world being jeopardised because someone can't control their anger or because someone's got a real judgy high horse." Said Roy. "Dinah especially needs to learn to rein her shit in or she can go live somewhere else and find her own way to handle the Metaverse."
[11:41] <Hideki> "When we found her in the Lost Playground it was like she couldn't even hear us over her own rage. Then she went and choked Yoshino after she snapped her out of it. How do you even fix that without a seasoned psychologist on hand?"
[11:43] <Minaplo> "Well it's not really our job to fix her." Said Roy. "The best we can do is either see that she changes, or she becomes someone else's problem."
[11:57] <Hideki> "Hmm." Hideki leaned against the edge of the bed. "All right, Roy. Maybe we can try it soon. No one is really in the state of mind tonight, though. In fact, Kurata ran off somewhere."
[12:01] <Minaplo> "Did she?" Roy flattened his face into the bed.
[12:01] <Minaplo> "I'm so tired."
[12:05] <Hideki> "I think she's coming back," Hideki said gently. "Eventually."
[12:18] <Minaplo> "She probably will." Said Roy. "I'm just so tired, Hideki. I was glad when new Evokers arrived. It meant that I wouldn't have to carry all of this on my own for the first time in a long time. That maybe things would be easier."
[12:18] <Minaplo> "But they aren't. Things are actually harder now than they used to be. And I have to somehow handle the Sea of Chaos whilst also trying to organise a group of assholes who throw tantrums and argue and break down and fight at the drop of a hat." He said bitterly.
[12:18] <Minaplo> "I've spent thirty years sacrificing almost everything on an almost impossible to comprehend scale, for the sake of the world and everyone in it. Memories, time, my whole fucking life as a human being, I lost all of it! Nothing that any of you can ever possibly understand!"
[12:18] <Minaplo> "And what do you all do? You fucking hound the Wild Card to leave, you bitch and moan and when I can't hand everything to you on a silver platter, somehow I'm the asshole." Shouted Roy. "I can't do anymore than what I'm already doing! I had to learn everything as I went along! I did my best to pass on what I knew, give you guys the edge, and all I get for it is abuse and shit."-
[12:21] <Minaplo> "I'm tired of having to deal with Dinah's selfish, self-centered fury making problems for everyone else. I'm tired of Yoshino having beef with me for how I act after fighting for 30 years when she crumples like tissue at the first sign of stress, and I'm tired of Kurata resenting me for the sin of experience. None of this is my fault. I'm not the asshole who brought you all here. If it's really so fucking terrible, then quit and let Adrien do it."
[01:01] <Hideki> Hideki was a quiet for a few minutes after his explosion. Almost awkwardly so. Finally, he just hung his head. "You're right. We don't have your perspective, and there's a lot we don't comprehend - including all the stuff you went through. I can apologize for the group, but that won't mean a damn thing until everyone resolves to stop throwing dumb tantrums and work together." -
[01:05] <Hideki> "But imagine what we could do if we did that. In spite of all the dysfunction, we still beat Asaka and made the miasma die down, so there's some potential there! Right? It's just that drawing it out is taking time, and it really sucks in the meantime."
[06:59] <Minaplo> "Of course there's potential. I'm just tired of trying to draw it out."
[06:59] <Minaplo> "You know what I want, Hideki?"
[11:11] <Hideki> "What?"
[11:16] <Minaplo> "I want you to take me home." Said Roy. "Back to America. And I want you to find my mom, who'll be in her seventies by now, and I want you to explain to her that the cat you're carrying is actually her baby boy, who was reported missing, presumed dead in 1988. And I want you to convince her that I'm really her kid."
[11:22] <Hideki> "Wouldn't you rather see if we could figure out a way to change you back first?"
[11:24] <Minaplo> "Yeah, that would be nice." Said Roy, spitting. "If you find one, let me know! Until then, I have to live with the fact that no one can take me home."
[11:24] <Minaplo> "I'm never going to see my family again. And I can't even cry about it because cats don't cry for emotional reasons, and the fucking pipes don't work."
[11:37] <Hideki> "Getting you home isn't the problem. Finding your old address, seeing what your mom's up to, getting you on a plane… all those things are fine. It's the… the convincing. If it doesn't go the way you planned, would you really be okay with it?"
[11:48] <Minaplo> "Of course I wouldn't, Hideki." Said Roy quietly.
[11:52] <Hideki> "I think you deserve to go home, and retire, and spend the rest of your life with your family instead of fighting here. I think that's what you're really asking for. It's a goal that I - and probably everyone else here - should try to figure out. Because it's the right and decent thing to do."
[11:53] <Minaplo> "I can't even bring myself to believe that it's possible."
[12:14] <Hideki> "I don't even know myself yet. All we can do is try."
[12:17] <Minaplo> "Yeah." Said Roy, his voice soft. "All we can do is try."
[12:27] <Hideki> "Don't go falling off any more staircases before we can figure it out, alright?"
[12:28] <Minaplo> "I can't promise that."
[12:32] <Hideki> "Damnit. Why not?"
[12:33] <Minaplo> "Because I can't guarantee that it won't be necessary at some point, Hideki."
[04:34] <Hideki> Hideki quietly searched Roy's face for a moment, before pulling back and repositioning his head as if he was watching the movie again. The silhouette of the sexy love interest filled the door of hotel bedroom. She pranced to the side of the bed in black lace lingerie, only to be greeted by a snore. Her face twisted with rage. -
[04:35] <Hideki> "Then that means we've gotta hurry."
[09:43] <Minaplo> "… You really think it could be possible?"
[11:15] <Hideki> "We're playing with forces that can change reality. Like those Egg things and the Miasma… Why wouldn't it be possible?"
[11:17] <Minaplo> "I mean…" Roy shook his head. "Yeah, it's possible, it definitely is. But it'll come at a cost, you know? Like using an Egg. Regardless of where you use it, it unleashes a lot of miasma into reality."
[11:19] <Hideki> "We're going to have to do something with them anyway. Bad things will happen if we hoard them."
[11:20] <Minaplo> "Yeah. But we can use them to grow the Tree…"
[11:22] <Hideki> "All of them? What if we saved one for you?"
[11:27] <Minaplo> "… Would that even be ok?"
[11:29] <Hideki> Hideki gave him a slightly puzzled look. "I mean, I'd be fine with it. I think most of us would be fine with it, granted that we can do it safely."
[11:30] <Minaplo> "We shouldn't waste one is all."
[11:38] <Hideki> "Teammates should help each other, right? Then it's not a waste."
[11:39] <Minaplo> "…" Roy went quiet. He stared at the movie.
[11:43] <Hideki> Driving an unmarked van stuffed full of cocaine, two bad guys barrelled at the hard-case police officer at top speed. "Hit that cop son of a bitch!" one of them yelled. -
[11:47] <Hideki> Hardcase cop aimed, shot the driver, and then dove out of the way as the van careened out of control and flipped over. After a moment it exploded. A fine white mist shot high into the air, and began to sprinkle down on the streets like snow. -
[11:48] <Hideki> "I'm too old for this shit," the cop muttered, as curious passersby began to gather.
[11:49] <Minaplo> "Damn this movie is dumb as hell. At least it's realistic."
[11:52] <Hideki> "Realistic?"
[11:54] <Minaplo> "White dude takes it easy, lets the black dude do all the work, then takes the credit."
[11:58] <Hideki> "Oh. Not the parts with the cops freely beating up people without consequences?"
[12:02] <Minaplo> "I mean, that too."
[12:07] <Minaplo> "Damnit, Kowalski! You may have disabled that rookie wannabe mobster, but you're a damn fine cop!"
[12:15] <Hideki> Hideki snorted with laughter. "Wait until you see the body count during the climax. The entire department is 100% culpable."
[12:15] <Minaplo> "Any trials?"
[12:16] <Hideki> "You know there aren't."
[12:21] <Minaplo> "Like I said! Realistic!"
[12:25] <Hideki> "Want me to grab some more popcorn? We can clean up this stuff when the movie's over." He gestured to the kernels lying all over the floor.
[12:34] <Minaplo> "Yeah, for sure."
[12:40] <Hideki> "Right!" he hopped up, cheerfully and made for the door. "Be right back!" And for at least a few minutes, Roy was left alone with his thoughts and a very dumb movie.
[01:08] <Minaplo> The Hanged Man Arcana Strengthens…

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