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[12:10] <Sachiko> Sachiko had slept. She had not slept well, but that wasn't exactly a rare occurrence.-
[12:11] <Sachiko> Having Mari there had clearly helped. By the time the morning had rolled around Sachiko was looking a little more present and alive. They'd gone walking to find somewhere to get breakfast, and after a slow, tentative decision-making process, Sachiko had decided to return to the dorm. Whether she'd stay there or not in the long term still seemed up in the air.-
[12:11] <Sachiko> She'd never been much of a hugger, but when Mari dropped her off at the door Sachiko gave her a truly massive one.-
[12:11] <Sachiko> While she might've been back, she had no idea how even to start with the dorm's occupants. In this Soejima's normal quietude was a blessing: If anyone noticed her return on her way up to the library, they didn't do anything about it.
[12:17] <Minaplo> Adrien's egress had been hurried and a little haphazard, but he hadn't gone out of his way to damage the library. A fair few books had been misplaced and it was hard to be sure if some had been taken or merely missing, but any physical damage had been incidental- accidents, not targeted.
[12:17] <Minaplo> The Velvet Room door sat to one side of the actual door, as though the library doors were double doors, one of which was the velvet door. Not quite on the ground, it hovered there, fixed in space. It was impossible to miss, yet in its own way unassuming. It was a place you invited yourself into.
[12:51] <Sachiko> And miss it Sachiko did. She knew the door was there, of course, but after a couple of weeks the nervousness of that second visit had cooled and she'd grown used to not paying it much mind.-
[12:51] <Sachiko> Yet this time, when Sachiko had finished collecting her laptop and charger and turned to leave, catching sight of the door made her stall. She frowned at it as though might be able to make it disappear through force of will.-
[12:51] <Sachiko> And yet…-
[12:51] <Sachiko> She sighed and set her laptop back on the table; She'd heard what happened to the people who stepped through the door, and she didn't want to replace her laptop. Once that was taken care of she rolled her shoulders, straightened up and stepped through the blue door.
[12:56] <Minaplo> There was a quiet rhythm to the sound of the Velvet Room. The regular, reliable clicking from the printing press at the back as it printed pages. The scratching of a quill as William wrote away. The faint sound of the aria being sung from somewhere, from nowhere, almost as though the sound were something intrinsic to the atoms in this place.
[12:56] <Minaplo> Igor was here, of course, behind his desk, which was heavy with books. William glanced up at her, sighed slightly, then returned to his book.
[12:56] <Minaplo> "Welcome to the Velvet Room." Said Igor.
[01:08] <Sachiko> Sachiko gave a tentative wave as she readjusted to her surroundings. This place made her brain itch - if the Velvet Room was the sun, her Navi powers were warring over whether to stare directly into it or blind herself entirely.-
[01:08] <Sachiko> "Hi. It's Igor, right?" she said, drawing a little closer. She pointed at the grouch of a scribe. "And…William."
[01:15] <Minaplo> "That is correct." Said Igor cheerfully, his supernova-popping eyes focusing on her.
[01:15] <Minaplo> "And you're Sachiko." Said William.
[01:23] <Sachiko> "Regrettably," she said. She ran a hand over the cushion of her chair and sat.-
[01:23] <Sachiko> "Is there different etiquette I should be following? I feel rude just barging in unannounced."
[01:27] <Minaplo> "Not at all, dear guest." Said Igor. "We are here for your benefit. We are always ready for you."
[01:27] <Minaplo> "This place exists between dream and reality. It's not as though you can book ahead." Said William. "What are you going to do, sleep with your phone and hope you dream about making an appointment?"
[05:27] <Sachiko> "You're saying that like it's measurably weirder than anything else to do with your pocket dimension, but I'm not exactly convinced."
[09:47] <Minaplo> William snorted.
[09:47] <Minaplo> "Regardless, you have a booking. And it's always 'soon'."
[02:11] <Sachiko> "Ominous." Sachiko said, brushing some hair out of her eyes. "… so where's your other attendant? I didn't catch her name last time around."
[04:07] <Minaplo> "Eliana sees to the needs of two other guests." Said Igor.
[04:07] <Minaplo> "You'll only see Eli if you come here with either Ai or Hideki." Said William.
[04:15] <Sachiko> "Why the split?"
[08:04] <Minaplo> "It's how it's always been, for as long as I can recall." Said William.
[08:04] <Minaplo> "Is there something we can do for you?"
[08:11] <Sachiko> "I mean you can answer some questions. That's what I thought we were doing."
[08:40] <Minaplo> "If you've come here for answers, then I hope you're satisfied to walk away with some disappointment. I can answer some things."
[10:20] <Sachiko> She gave him a shrewd look, attention flickering to Igor for a second before returning to William. "Right."-
[10:20] <Sachiko> "What are you three to us? I've heard the bit about "Caretakers of Power", but that leaves a lot to be desired and none of the deeper explanations make much sense." She started ticking off options on her fingers. "If you're mentors, you're mentors who apparently can't meaningfully guide us. If you're metaphysical functionaries - just conduits for fusing Personas - why bother with meeting us face to face at all? Why bother with having a face, for that matter? Ditto if you're guardians."
[10:54] <Minaplo> "'Why bother with having a face'?" William made a sour face, then shook his head. "I bet you're the kind of person who nods in satisfaction when she sees people ditching books for e-readers. Seriously."
[10:54] <Minaplo> He looked back down at his gigantic tome again, scribbled a few lines out with his giant quill, then sighed and put his work aside.
[10:54] <Minaplo> "We're caretakers of power." Said William. "And in this context, that power means the Wild Card. You're a navigator. No doubt you've sensed that the nature of this place is boundless, even by the standards of the Sea of Chaos. That's because the Wild Card, too, is a boundless power. Like all things, it starts small, even contemptible. But it has unlimited potential. Such power is best stewarded by beings like us, lest it overwhelm the humans who possess it. But we're more than just facilitators of fusion. We are also charged with helping the possessors of the Wild Card to realise their potential."
[10:54] <Minaplo> "This is where you and your teammates clash with beings like us, it seems." Said William. "Much like your team's reaction to that old Evoker, Roy, you look at us, know that we know more than we're telling, and want us to tell you everything. Well, we're not going to. That's not how your power grows. Telling you every single thing would be doing you a disservice, because even if it helped you overcome threats now, ultimately you would prove weaker in the future for our overreach. You will become much more powerful if you reach your own interpretation of things, find your own truth, rather than have it dictated to by us."
[10:54] <Minaplo> "So we fuse Personas, and we record Personas, and we witness you, and we test you, gauge your strength, mark your progress and encourage you to move forward. We may offer advice or ideas on how to correct your course, but the course remains one that you discover yourself."
[10:54] <Minaplo> "Besides." He picked the quill back up again and rubbed its nib. "We're far from omniscient."
[11:11] <Sachiko> Sachiko's smile once he was done suggested she'd gotten what she wanted.-
[11:11] <Sachiko> "So if the Wild Cards are a flower, your room negotiates and manages the relationship between flower and root. Accurate?"
[11:16] <Minaplo> "In a sense."
[12:07] <Sachiko> "So all paths to cultivating that power are equal in the eyes of the room, as long as that flower grows?"
[12:10] <Minaplo> "It's not as though we'll deny our services to a guest." Said William. "But ultimately, that power tends to grow best when paired with the guest's growing realisation of who they are."
[12:26] <Sachiko> "Exactly my point. Realising who you are is a value-neutral experience, and doesn't require any particular path" she said quickly. "Assuming you're telling the truth and that's all that matters to you, you really don't have a goal in mind for us."-
[12:26] <Sachiko> "Which means you're probably not the one who chose us, and maybe that you and that blue butterfly aren't quite the same thing."
[12:28] <Minaplo> "I mean. I can just walk out of here, you know."
[12:30] <Sachiko> That slowed her down. "… wait, what?"
[12:30] <Minaplo> "Yeah, look."
[12:30] <Minaplo> He stood up and walked out the door.
[12:35] <Sachiko> Jarred by the loss of momentum, she gave a Igor a perplexed, wrongfooted look that was likely to be wholly useless.-
[12:35] <Sachiko> Failing any better options, Sachiko followed him out once it became clear he wasn't coming back.
[12:38] <Minaplo> Igor smiled backwards, his eyes twinkling.-
[12:41] <Minaplo> And yes, there he was, William, standing out in the middle of a hallway in the dorm. He had a phone in his left hand.
[12:41] <Minaplo> Except on inspection, Sachiko would realise it wasn't a phone exactly. It wasn't a phone in the same way a picture of a pipe wasn't a pipe. It was as though William was holding someone's 2d drawing of a phone, a drawing that had been made, somehow, solid and three-dimensional.
[12:41] <Minaplo> William was dialling a number. "Yes? Hello? Is this the pizza shop?" He said, smirking. "Yes, that's right. I would like to order one a pizza, please."
[12:41] <Minaplo> "…"
[12:41] <Minaplo> "Oho. Which topping? A clever question to throw me off! I would like pizza toppings, of course." William smirked and stroked his chin, as though he'd just delivered a devastating argument to an inferior rival.
[12:41] <Minaplo> "…" "W-What do you mean there's more than one!? How can pizza have a non-pizza topping and still be pizza? Have you considered the etymological and ontological implications of this, pizza man?! Hello? Hello!"
[12:41] <Minaplo> William looked at Sachiko, his eyes narrowed in outrage. "He hung up on me! So much for the customer is always right!"
[12:47] <Sachiko> "What is happening?"
[12:48] <Minaplo> "I'm as shocked as you are. Imagine someone considering my philosophical critiques as being some schoolboy prank! The nerve!" William huffed and eyed his phone for a moment.
[12:48] <Minaplo> "… Gonna try it again." He began dialling numbers.
[12:50] <Sachiko> "how would you even pay for i-"
[12:56] <Minaplo> "Good day, sir!" Said William, changing his tone to a more fulsome, authoritative one. He puffed up his chest. "Yes, now see here, I would like to order a single a pizza from your establishment."
[12:56] <Minaplo> "…"
[12:56] <Minaplo> "Toppings? Yes… I'll have… The standard."
[12:56] <Minaplo> "…" William blanched. "A margherita?! That sounds extremely dangerous. No, sir. What's your next standard?"
[12:56] <Minaplo> "…"
[12:56] <Minaplo> "I see. Yes. Oh, I understand. Pizza topping is a taxonomic definition! If 'pizza' is the taxonomic empire, then pizza toppings would be the taxonomic kingdom, with multiple topping phyla beneath that. Or would 'food' be the empire? No, food would be the taxonomic universe- hello, are you still there? Yes. Give me five of your most common topping phyla, please!"
[12:56] <Minaplo> "…"
[12:56] <Minaplo> "No, I still do not want a margherita. I'm not suicidal."
[01:03] <Sachiko> "Margherita's not a topping, it's a style…"
[01:04] <Minaplo> "Yeah, execution style." Said William darkly. "Yes, twenty minutes, see you then." He hung up.
[01:05] <Sachiko> Sachiko stared at him. "Why are you in our dorm?"
[01:06] <Minaplo> "Well that's where the door leads, Sachiko." Said William patiently. "I would think the ontological implication there to be obvious."
[01:07] <Sachiko> "Why, not how."
[01:08] <Minaplo> "I don't want to be in your dorm specifically. It means nothing to me." Said William. "I simply wanted to demonstrate that I could leave the room."
[01:10] <Sachiko> "How does that follow from what I was talking about, William?"
[01:14] <Minaplo> "It follows," He said, slowly and clearly, "Because it sounded like you were under the impression that perhaps I was some kind of purely symbolic entity? One that might, for example, turn into a blue butterfly if they left their strange little room. The answer, of course, is obviously no, I don't need to be a butterfly here. I can just walk around. I'm just me."
[01:14] <Minaplo> "A blue butterfly, though, hm?" William pulled his quill, magician-like, out of his sleeve, and began to swiftly sketch in mid-air. He was drawing a chair, the ink hanging in suspension until he was finished- when the chair, mysteriously 3d all of a sudden, fell to the ground. He sat on it.
[01:14] <Minaplo> "Strange. I don't recall seeing a blue butterfly, but the topic makes me feel oddly nostalgic."
[01:17] <Sachiko> "I actually said I was pretty sure you weren't the same thing," she said flatly. "Though thank you for proving the hypothesis, I guess."
[01:18] <Minaplo> "But you considered that I might be a blue butterfly at some point."
[01:25] <Sachiko> "Yeah, but only loosely. Didn't have many data points to work with." She walked over and gave one of the chair legs a gentle tap with the toe of her shoe. "That's what the questions were for."
[01:25] <Minaplo> It felt solid, at least through a sock. The texture remained a mystery.
[01:25] <Minaplo> "Aha, I see. Then I have been of help."
[01:27] <Sachiko> "Kind of?"
[01:30] <Minaplo> "Hmph."
[01:31] <Sachiko> She leant against the wall with her shoulder, arms folded. "Why are you pouting?"
[01:32] <Minaplo> "I'm worth better than a 'kind of'." Said William airily.
[01:36] <Sachiko> She sighed then assumed the sunniest disposition she could manage. "Gee whiz, Mr. William, you were amazing!"
[01:36] <Minaplo> "Gah. That's even worse. You look like the proverbial uncanny valley."
[01:38] <Sachiko> She instantly reverted to her usual self. "That's how you know the sincerity's working."-
[01:39] <Sachiko> "What do you mean by it feeling 'nostalgic'?"
[01:41] <Minaplo> "I suppose it feels like I've been asked about a blue butterfly before. Maybe your predecessors…? I can't remember."
[01:45] <Sachiko> "Hm," she murmured.-
[01:46] <Sachiko> "Which of the two was yours? Back then, I mean."
[01:47] <Minaplo> "Rowan."
[01:54] <Sachiko> "Yeah, I had a hunch," she said. She glanced around and gestured back towards the library. "Come on, let's not have this talk in the middle of the hall. Roy has good ears."
[01:55] <Minaplo> And so a moment later they were back in the Velvet Room.
[11:55] <Sachiko> Sachiko remained standing this time. "Couldn't you have done anything to stop them?"
[12:04] <Minaplo> "Stop them? How? Why?"
[12:13] <Sachiko> Her eyes narrowed. "Because they killed each other over some internecine bullshit, mainly. Seems like poor caretaking."
[12:27] <Minaplo> "And what should I have done? Separated them? Subjugated them? Sent them to bed without supper?"
[12:45] <Sachiko> "Why not? You helped arm children, surely you have some responsibility to make sure they don't blow their brains out."
[02:35] <Minaplo> "What a dramatic statement." Said William. "You must've needed help climbing such a high horse."
[02:35] <Minaplo> "The guests of this room are here of their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions." Not William this time- Igor.
[03:20] <Sachiko> "Great." She shook her head with disgust. "Really great. So you're just cosmic paperclip maximizers, huh?"
[09:32] <Minaplo> "You're kind of used to everyone else doing for you, huh?" Said William.
[09:45] <Sachiko> "You want me to cultivate power for you without caring if I live or die in the process. Project harder."
[10:51] <Minaplo> "You're assuming a lot of things there, Sachiko. You're assuming I don't care. You're assuming I have a use for your power. I do care and I don't need your power." Said William flatly.
[10:51] <Minaplo> "You're making the same mistake you did earlier. I'm less metaphysical than you assume. I have feelings. If you die, I'll definitely cry."
[11:11] <Sachiko> "I'm sure those tears really comforted Durand and Campbell."
[11:24] <Minaplo> "Sachiko, you belittle yourself with your heartless words." Said William sternly. "You condemn me for not acting as though you have all the answers. If I intervene, you lose. It's as simple as that."
[11:51] <Sachiko> "'Heartless words'?" she repeated, practically vibrating with anger now. "I wanted nothing to do with this, I told you both that from the beginning. The only person from the last group who survived got an even worse fate, and all you can tell me when I ask about it is that you'll cry if the same thing happens to me!"
[12:21] <Minaplo> "Then why didn't you leave?" Snapped William. "No one forced you to stay. No one told you you had to stay. You went into the Library of Endlings, you were faced with the possibility of death and mental hell. You chose to stay. You could have left whenever you wanted. You still can!"
[12:21] <Minaplo> William had risen to his feet. "No one's making you stay. I'm definitely not. You're free. Congratulations."
[01:09] <Sachiko> "You know it's not that simple," she said, jabbing a finger at him.
[01:18] <Minaplo> "And so do you." Said William. "You're more than a dumb animal! Stop pretending like it's everyone else's fault that you're here and take responsibility for your actions. I refuse to accept the blame because you won't grow up and figure out what really keeps you here."
[01:29] <Sachiko> She stared and, for just a moment before she turned and headed for the exit, frustration seemed to overtake outright anger. "Collect your own damn pizza."

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