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[12:45] <Hideki> The group discussion had started off well, but had… not ended at planned. And now Hideki was stuck jogging after a furious Ji-Hu as she barged from the 5 Soejima dorm. He had both phones with him, of course, in case of an emergency, but he was confident that he would be able to talk - wait, was she getting in a car? -
[12:47] <Hideki> "S-stop!" He put on the jets, and managed to clear the short distance to the sedan before Ji-Hu shut the curbside back door. "What are you doing? Where are you going?!"
[12:50] <Minaplo> "The temple-school! Either get in to help me or get your own damn car!"
[12:53] <Hideki> "Tch." Hideki climbed in without another thought. "You're doing the thing again, Ji-Hu."
[12:55] <Minaplo> "Yeah, I am, and assholes are gonna feel it this time. Hit the gas!"
[12:55] <Minaplo> The driver meekly hit the gas; the car sped away.
[01:02] <Hideki> "But the problem is, you're going to feel it too. Don't you remember what happened the last time you did something without cooling down and thinking about it carefully?"
[01:04] <Minaplo> "What happened??"
[01:05] <Hideki> "The thing with Asaka? The hate mail you got…?"
[01:07] <Minaplo> "I don't remember doing the thing with Asaka." She snapped. "But you know what? He's fucking gone and I don't care that I got hate mail!"
[01:09] <Hideki> "You cared when you were getting them! You were really upset and scared, and I don't want to see you like that again! Please, I'm begging you, whatever you're planning to do now, just think about the consequences. We can go through them together if you want!"
[03:34] <Minaplo> "What, in the car, with the stranger?"
[03:46] <Hideki> "Well. When we stop and get out. In the meantime we could talk about what happened back there with Kurata."
[04:16] <Minaplo> "No."
[04:19] <Hideki> "But why not?"
[05:22] <Minaplo> "Because I'm not stopping."
[05:23] <Hideki> "You're acting like Schreier."
[06:46] <Minaplo> "Dinah gets shit done."
[10:40] <Sachiko> [Blue butterfly sighting as you left.] Sachiko's voice sounded in Hideki's head all of a sudden, quieter and more cautious than normal. Maybe trying not to surprise him? [Yoshino and Schreier are ready to go, text on your tomephone if you need help. I'll go if there's trouble, but I don't want to make things worse.]
[01:26] <Hideki> "I'm not sure where you're getting that from. She -thinks- she gets shit done, but usually she just complicates things. Like the Mothman stuff we just went through, or the Adrien thing. Why do you think that is?" -
[01:30] <Hideki> [Nothing weird yet. We're on the way to the temple school. Will text if bad shit goes down.]
[11:09] <Minaplo> "So that's what I'm doing, huh? Just complicating things? Making it harder for you and the others? I should just meekly go back to watching everyone else fuck up basic shit and take my licks like a good girl? No, fuck off. I'm not doing that, and if you keep pushing it I will kick your ass out of this car."
[11:38] <Hideki> "Then what -are- you doing? It's not like you haven't been actively helping us already. Are you trying to one-up Kurata? Are you trying to force her to listen? What is it?"
[11:41] <Minaplo> But Ji-hu ignored him until they arrived on campus.-
[12:49] <Minaplo> When the car pulled up, Ji-hu shot out and started at a sharp clip through the grounds.
[12:49] <Minaplo> "Dinah's a fucking wild animal. She's good at hurting things but that's not a rare skill. If she ever fights Adrien in the Sea, he's going to completely eat her alive."
[12:49] <Minaplo> "Ai already sees the world through tropes and stories and the Sea basically just indulges that. She puts people into archetypes and doesn't get how disrespectful that is. She also doesn't handle people well who she can't categorise."
[12:49] <Minaplo> "And Sachiko," said Ji-hu, her voice darkening murderously, "Is the kind of smart that makes her really fucking stupid. She's like Dinah and the Mothmen, refusing any nuance and just rejecting the Sea. She's doing the exact shit Chanson did- she's rejecting the Sea to an extreme. She's an idiot who wants to make things harder for herself because it's easier than realising that she's an idiot who did idiot things."
[07:23] <Hideki> Hideki kept pace with her, quietly for now, giving her the time to say what she wanted.
[08:02] <Minaplo> "What they need is someone to show them how to do it right. An exemplar. And they'll never listen or learn it properly unless I'm an evoker."
[04:31] <Hideki> "What makes you think they listen to other Evokers?"
[04:56] <Hideki> "Like, you've been paying attention, right? You get more respect than anyone else who was sitting in that room. Having a Persona has nothing to do with it. If anything, they're probably going to start treating you like a newbie."
[10:32] <Minaplo> "Then I'll kick their asses and make them listen!"
[10:32] <Minaplo> She was making good time, power walking or even jogging through the school. It wasn't long before the dilapidated temple-school came into sight…
[10:32] <Minaplo> There was someone else in sight too. Miss Smithson emerged from a nearby school alley. She looked around quickly and saw Ji-hu.
[10:32] <Minaplo> "Oh Lord. Miss Yi, where are you going? You can't go in there!"
[10:32] <Minaplo> Ji-hu ignored her. Smithson started to walk after her.
[10:32] <Minaplo> Ji-hu began to walk faster. Smithson sped up.
[10:32] <Minaplo> Ji-hu broke into a run.
[10:32] <Minaplo> "Wait!" Shouted Smithson, running after her.
[03:29] <Hideki> A teacher. A teacher who was chasing a single-minded Ju-hu right into the mysterious mysteries surrounding the library and the metaworld. -
[03:31] <Hideki> Hideki broke into a sprint of his own, and tried to pass Smithson. Would his morning jogs finally pay off? -
[03:32] <Hideki> "Don't worry, Ma'am! I'll bring her back! Leave it to me!"
[04:43] <Minaplo> "If you were going to stop her already you would've by now!" Shouted Smithson; she too broke into a sprint. She has fast. Real fast, a little faster than Hideki.
[04:43] <Minaplo> Ji-hu just passed the outer wall when Smithson caught her, grabbing her by the shoulder.
[04:43] <Minaplo> Ji-hu reflexively twisted and shoved Smithson backwards. Smithson nearly tripped; her ponytail came loose, sending her red hair cascading in sheets around her.
[04:43] <Minaplo> Ji-hu froze in shock for a second, then tried to flee.
[04:43] <Minaplo> Smithson rushed forward, swept Ji-hu's legs out from under her and, in a sudden feat of alarming strength, grabbed Ji-hu, suplexed her into the dirt and pinned her down. "You pain in the ass, Yi! Holy shit!"
[04:43] <Minaplo> "Oww! Brute teacher! Get off me!"
[04:43] <Minaplo> "No way!"
[09:35] <Hideki> Hideki had caught up, and he stood, watching. Smithson was kind of awesome. On the other hand, Ji-hu was too. "Huh."
[09:37] <Hideki> No way to intervene without getting super ultra detention, or a angry girlfriend continuing to mess with terrifying forces. Better to just hang back for a minute.
[10:02] <Minaplo> "//Hideki.//"-
[10:15] <Minaplo> A sudden cloud of black butterflies burst out of a rotting timber in the temple. Hideki felt a sudden spike of energy across his skin- miasma, strong enough to support his Persona.
[10:15] <Minaplo> But the voice hadn't been talking to him. A Persona formed out of the air, closing off the entrance to the temple-school and trapping them within.
[10:15] <Minaplo> The Persona was Dorian Gray, but the mirror was broken. The corrupt demon-visage had burst out of it, burrowed through human Dorian's arm and up into his torso and head. The face now hung loosely from the demon's grotesque face. The rest of human Dorian hung, stitched poorly together by chains around the tumorous stomach and chest. Wine oozed from boils and sores across its distended abdomen.-
[10:16] <Minaplo> Black Hat emerged from the butterflies. He held a hand out, revealing a small black orb.-
[10:29] <Minaplo> "Freeze in time's amber the dreamless ones."-
[10:32] <Minaplo> And… Silence. Ji-hu and Smithson froze, literally perfectly still, their expressions in shock.
[10:32] <Minaplo> Time had stopped and only Hideki and Black Hat were free from it.
[10:59] <Hideki> Hideki had snatched out his smartome at the first few butterflies, and now, muddling through the shock of seeing this new Dorian Gray, his thumb moved briefly over it. Ji-hu and Smithson… their state right now was nearly just as upsetting. They were easy targets. Unless someone could defend them. -
[11:03] <Hideki> Could he manifest the normal Dorian Gray? His metagear? He tried both, but only after he had sent his text. -
[11:03] <Minaplo> He could.
[11:05] <Hideki> [SOS. It's BH.]
[11:12] <Hideki> He eased between Black Hat and the frozen fugures. The familiar dark red cape settled over Hideki's shoulders, and the true Dorian Gray lounged behind him in the gilded painting frame without a care in the world. Neither attacked. Hideki merely braced himself.
[11:16] <Minaplo> "Yi Ji-Hu's Persona awaits within. It is powerful. She will be of great aid to you in the coming battles."
[11:16] <Minaplo> Black Hat cocked his head. "But you want to stop her. Even though it is her choice?"
[11:21] <Hideki> This… was a first. Of course Black Hat could talk. Nothing had indicated that he -couldn't-. Of course. "Why are you so interested in Ji-Hu?"
[11:24] <Minaplo> "If she chose to become an Evoker, would you prevent her from doing so?"
[11:28] <Hideki> "No. But I can't trust her when she isn't thinking clearly. And I can't trust you if I don't know what you want with her!"
[11:29] <Minaplo> "Interesting answer. You really wouldn't stop her? What if we made a deal? A deal that ensured her safety from anything and everything?"
[11:34] <Hideki> "Can we really make a deal if we don't trust each other? How's that gonna work out?"
[11:37] <Minaplo> "You trust Power, of course." He closed his fist around the orb, and it vanished. A moment later he withdrew a second orb. It glowed with a darkly purple light, which streaked off it to form the shape of a man hanging upside down from a tree.
[11:37] <Minaplo> "The Egg of the Hanged Man. When properly activated, it can ensure many things. The absolute protection of another, at a price. If you will not trust me, then trust the ability to rewrite reality."
[07:33] <Hideki> "Are… Are you a Baron?" -
[07:39] <Hideki> Hideki's eyes were wide. "What -is- it with you guys? It's like you can't help yourselves from messing with us! Do you want to know what I really want?"
[07:54] <Hideki> "I want you to leave her alone. She's smart and strong, and can reach her potential without your help. No fishy handout personas. No reality Eggs. Just sit back and watch!"
[10:02] <Minaplo> "Interesting answer." Said Black Hat.
[10:02] <Minaplo> It was time to discuss Black Hat's voice. It was masculine, it seemed, but it was distorted because each time Black Hat spoke, he spoke with dozens of voices, some fast, some slow, some drawling, some of whom were female. The basic voice rasped with a simple coldness, not of boredom but something else…
[10:02] <Minaplo> "If she is truly so, then you should trust her even when she is upset. Trust her heart, even as you know she cannot trust yours. Irene is waiting…"
[10:57] <Hideki> "You're pretty confusing. One day you're attacking us, and the next day you're giving relationship advice. Also, who's Irene?"
[11:34] <Minaplo> "The dream waiting for Yi Ji-hu to dream it."
[11:34] <Minaplo> Black Hat put away the Possibility Egg of the Hanged Man. "Interesting answers. Should I force you to choose, Lovers? Let us see how you react."
[11:34] <Minaplo> A black butterfly flew into his hand, and elongated into a long, thin stiletto sword. "I will take Yi Ji-hu's life in this moment, unless you swear to bind your love and life to her until you die. How does that sound?"
[10:13] <Hideki> "Holy shit. It sounds like you want me to marry her! Are you at least gonna tell me why? What is she to you? You know this won't make her happy, right?"
[11:22] <Minaplo> Black Hat began walking forwards, slowly, raising his sword up in front of his face so that it visually split his gaze. "Which will it be, Lovers?"
[11:37] <Hideki> Hideki scowled. "Fine. It's not like it's a hard choice. I don't want her to die, so I'll swear."
[11:39] <Minaplo> Black Hat paused. "Really? Interesting choice."-
[11:47] <Minaplo> The Black Hat lowered his sword- it transformed back into a butterfly and went to join the dozens of others floating around their makeshift arena. "Well then…"-
[11:57] <Minaplo> Suddenly, Hideki heard a small, high chime. A glowing blue shape flew in beneath Black Hat's Hideki and fluttered up in front of him.
[11:57] <Minaplo> A small, blue butterfly.
[11:57] <Minaplo> "You…" The Black Hat stared at it. There was intensity in that mask somehow- for the first time since his arrival, Hideki no longer felt like the centre of attention. "Still making things difficult."
[11:57] <Minaplo> He jabbed his hand outwards at the blue butterfly. The black butterflies stopped, turned as one, and charged towards it. The blue butterfly took off at high speed, a long trail of black butterflies led by this blue one like a strange, swirling christmas tree.
[11:57] <Minaplo> A second later, a blast of fire struck Black Hat's Hideki in the square of the back. It flinched and cried outwards, gobbets of blood wine gushing out of its mouth, oozing through the hollow nose holes of its macabre mask. It became static-like for a moment, allowing someone to burst through it and enter the arena. Someone wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.
[11:57] <Minaplo> Adrien. He drew a pair of swords and struck upwards at Black Hat, who leapt backwards to avoid him.
[12:14] <Hideki> Hideki stared, gobsmacked, stumbling back a step or two. His instincts kicked in after a second, though. "Sukunda!" The true Dorain Gray downed a half-glass of red wine and raised its other hand. The frame surrounding it lifted, revealing its own monstrous visage for just a second before a dull, sickly glow surrounded Black Hat and quickly faded.
[12:26] <Minaplo> Black Hat's movements immediately became slower, and the next time Adrien swung he caught Black Hat against the chest, a blow only barely intercepted by the flickering Persona Hideki. Black Hat moved into a wide, martial stance and struck Adrien square in the chest with the palm of his hand, sending Adrien backwards- he nearly fell on his back, but caught himself at the last moment. Black Hat raised his hand, and Persona Hideki struck out, vomiting a blast of corrosive wine towards Adrien. V manifested, taking most of the blow, steaming like acid and starting to collapse.
[12:26] <Minaplo> "Amazon!" Shouted Adrien, hissing in pain.
[12:26] <Minaplo> A moment later, a new figure- a woman in a costume- leapt into the courtyard and launched a flurry of punches and kicks at Black Hat, a few of whom caught him, slowed as he was. He grunted in pain, the last punch knocking him through the courtyard wall.
[12:26] <Minaplo> The butterflies abruptly abandoned their chase and swarmed around Black Hat, creating a barrier. The next time the new figure struck out, she missed, and was struck a moment later by Black Hat catching her in the throat with a kick. She staggered backwards, coughing.
[12:26] <Minaplo> "Enough…" Black Hat fell backwards into the swarm of butterflies, who quickly sped away. He was nowhere to be seen. Persona Hideki vanished a moment later.
[12:26] <Minaplo> "Shit." Said Adrien. "You ok, Hideki?"
[12:26] <Minaplo> The new figure approached Ji-hu and Smithson, still frozen for now. She was of average height, maybe a little shorter or taller, it was hard to tell, but she wore armour like an ancient Greek, with a bronze-gold chestplate and a mid thigh-length long leather skirt. Big bronze boots over black socks covered the rest of her legs, and her arms were similarly armoured with bronze gloves with bands of gold around the wrist. She wore a helmet which had its own face mask in the shape of a beautiful Greek goddess.
[12:33] <Hideki> "Delacour! What the hell, man?!" He eyed Ms. Greek Goddess, and edged uneasily closer to the two figures himself instead of going to Adrien, which seemed like the more appropriate reaction. "Where have you been? Who is this? Where did you guys even come from? I have so many damn questions!"
[12:37] <Minaplo> "'Thank you for the save, Adrien, you're my hero!'"
[12:40] <Hideki> "…" Deep breath. -
[12:40] <Hideki> "Ok, yeah, sorry. I'm a -little- wound up. I'm grateful, seriously. But I'm surprised, too."
[12:43] <Minaplo> "That's better." Said Adrien smugly. "Okay. So. For your questions. I've been busy doing Wild Card things. This is the new member of The Monster with 21 Faces, you can call her Amazon. And I'm here because Sachiko texted me telling me you were in danger."
[12:45] <Hideki> Hideki tipped his hat in Amazon's direction, but he was quite distracted. "I'm surprised she would do that. Not that I'm complaining…"
[12:46] <Minaplo> "Me too. She must've been scared." Said Adrien. "A lot of pride for her to swallow, you know?"
[12:46] <Minaplo> He eyed Ji-hu and Smithson. "I think that'll wear off in a moment. That's enough time for me and Amazon to make our escape."
[12:49] <Hideki> "Yeah. Before you do, though… Look. Things have been weird. I'd like to meet up for coffee with you or something and just talk some more. Would that be cool? You can come too, Amazon."
[12:50] <Minaplo> "I'm not letting you see my teammates' civilian identities, Hideki, nice try." Said Adrien drily. "But…"
[12:50] <Minaplo> "Okay. You really want to meet up and talk? I'm not coming back to you Sailor Scouts, no matter what you say, but sure, I'll be down for that. On one condition."
[12:50] <Hideki> "Yeah?"
[12:51] <Minaplo> "Don't tell the others about Amazon's existence. Just say it was me and me alone."
[12:54] <Hideki> Hideki sighed. After a long moment, he shook his head. "I can't be keeping important secrets from them. That's how things got so fucked up to begin with. Besides, they've already kind of guessed that you might be making more Evokers."
[12:55] <Minaplo> "Hah. Team player Hideki, huh? I admire that, man, I really do." Adrien gave Hideki a nod.
[12:55] <Minaplo> "I'll see you around then, Hideki. Probably in the Sea. Probably during a fight."
[12:56] <Hideki> "Stay alive, alright?"
[12:59] <Minaplo> "Never been a hassle." Said Adrien. He gave Hideki a thumbs up. "You should look out for yourself more, dude. See you around."
[12:59] <Minaplo> And the two of them departed.
[12:59] <Minaplo> A few minutes later, Ji-hu and Smithson unfroze. "Gah!" "Aaaah!"
[12:59] <Minaplo> Ji-hu looked around, her eyes wide and panicked. "What? Where!? Where did he go?!"
[12:59] <Minaplo> "What on Earth…" Smithson rubbed her head and eyes. She was so shocked that she let go of Ji-hu, who got to her feet.
[01:05] <Hideki> Hideki, who had let his metagear and persona dematerialize when the Monster with 21 Faces left, looked around himself, pretended to be shocked. "I-I dunno! But maybe the three of us should get out of here for now. Okay?" -
[01:05] <Hideki> He shot Ji-Hu a long, meaningful look.
[01:06] <Minaplo> Ji-hu nodded shakily. "Y-Yeah. Let's talk on the way back."
[01:06] <Minaplo> Smithson also got to her feet. "Good idea. I'm going to go… I dunno, have a drink or something. You guys shouldn't come here alone in the future."
[01:08] <Hideki> "Yeah. Yeah, we're sorry. C'mon, Ji-Hu, let's go."
[01:10] <Minaplo> Smithson headed away, looking shocked and a little harassed.
[01:10] <Minaplo> Ji-hu followed Hideki. She was quiet.
[01:13] <Hideki> So Hideki started talking, quietly, as they walked. "I'm going to tell you everything. Then when we get back to the dorm, I'll explain it to Kurata in the rest. Oh, Kurata…" He took out his phone to text an update. It was brief. -
[01:13] <Hideki> [We're ok. Coming back. Delacour helped!] -
[01:14] <Hideki> "Okay. So. Let's start from the minute Black Hat showed up…"
[01:19] <Hideki> So he told her. About the time freeze, and the conversation, and the confusing questions Black Hat had asked him. -
[01:21] <Hideki> "Then Adrien showed up. But right before he did, Black Hat told me to make a final decision. Either he would kill you or I had to swear to love you forever. So I said I would, you know?"
[01:22] <Minaplo> "W-What?" Ji-hu had been listening intently throughout the discussion, but at this her face suddenly became hot.
[01:25] <Hideki> Oh shit. He suddenly put himself in her shoes, listening to all of this, and coughed. "C-cause, uh."
[01:30] <Minaplo> "…" She looked down at her shoes.
[01:35] <Hideki> "…" Hideki rubbed the back of his head. "I like you, and I don't want you to die, so. Uh. So, Delacour showed up with his new teammate, and they drove Black Hat away. Then you guys woke up."
[01:36] <Minaplo> "O-Oh. I see."
[01:39] <Minaplo> "W-Wait, what?! He has a new teammate?!"
[01:41] <Hideki> "Yeah. Some lady in a flashy ancient Greek getup. He was pretty protective of her. Didn't want anyone knowing who she was."
[01:42] <Minaplo> "Damnit. He's already using my research to make new Evokers!"
[01:43] <Hideki> "Yeah, that seems to be the case." Hideki sighed. "He didn't say what they were up to, either. We only got a minute to talk."
[01:43] <Minaplo> "Typical. Ugh. Maybe I should become an Evoker after all."
[01:47] <Hideki> "What was your plan back there at the temple-school, anyway?"
[01:47] <Minaplo> "I don't know. I just figured something would happen."
[01:52] <Hideki> "Alright. We can take our time and figure it out. And figure out that Black Hat guy too."
[01:54] <Minaplo> "Yeah. We can go and talk it over with the others."
[01:55] <Hideki> Hideki nodded. Casually, he extended his hand to her.
[01:56] <Minaplo> Ji-hu took it and held it.
[01:56] <Minaplo> A few seconds later she shuffled closer to him and rested her head on his shoulder.

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