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[09:31] <Sachiko> Blue Finn was pretty well-regarded by the musicians (Both makers and lovers) of Katashiba, well enough that it did a decent trade through the middle of the week. There was usually someone on stage, often drawn from the people who couldn't quite make it onto the busier nights.-
[09:31] <Sachiko> … not that 'busier' was necessarily a mark of quality when Spuuki Tanuki still played almost every weekend.
[09:31] <Sachiko> But "quieter than a Friday" still didn't make it an ideal place for quiet contemplation, and so it was hardly a surprise that Sachiko kept getting curious looks when people saw she was wedged in at the least trafficked edge of the bar with a couple of notebooks and a pen. She appeared to be working pretty diligently, even if she'd needed to resurface to fast-talk Finn when he finally decided to try and kick her out of her spot.
[09:31] <Sachiko> She was still at the bar when they were done, so apparently it'd been a draw at worst.
[08:20] <Minaplo> "What is she even doin?" Muttered Finn. "She studying? Is she bringing her schoolwork into my establishment? What will people think? My finely honed speakeasy aesthetic will be ruined by the little nerd and her reference books and note taking."-
[08:22] <Minaplo> He looked around nervously. A regular entered, saw Sachiko studying, and immediately left, visibly creeped out.-
[08:22] <Minaplo> "Oh come on!" Started Finn.-
[08:24] <Minaplo> Fortunately for Finn, an edge of mature grittiness would be restored by the sound of loud, masculine cursing.-
[08:25] <Minaplo> "Fuckin' tease." Shouted a Japanese man, a little unsteady on his feet, his face a little red. He was swearing a string of uncharitable and unprintable things at a woman.-
[08:26] <Minaplo> Not just any woman, though. Miss Smithson! Who stood there arms folded, her expression icy and indifferent.
[08:26] <Minaplo> Finn brightened. "I'm gonna have to ask you to leave, sir."-
[08:26] <Minaplo> "Fuck you-"-
[08:27] <Minaplo> Finn vaulted over the bar, grabbed the man by the scruff of the neck and threw him out the front door. There was yelp arcing in pitch as the man flew into the night.-
[08:28] <Minaplo> "Sorry about that, Miss." Said Finn. "Truly below our standards. Would you care for a drink on the House?"-
[08:28] <Minaplo> "Hah. Sure, why not. Make it a Long Island Iced Tea."-
[08:29] <Minaplo> Smithson moved to sit at the bar- then caught Sachiko's eye. Caught in the awkward situation, she abandoned her original seat and joined Sachiko. "Is this… schoolwork?"
[10:55] <Sachiko> Sachiko had a good long while to adjust to her teacher being there, because she was not in enough of a study trance to ignore Finn hurling a man across the establishment like a surly Superman. She looked split between being horrified and being impressed, but once Smithson spotted her she stuck her pen into her notes as a bookmark and flipped them shut.-
[10:55] <Sachiko> "I prefer think of it as schoolrecreation," Sachiko said, with a kind of hideous cheer that would've turned Blue sour again.-
[10:55] <Sachiko> "By which I mean yes."
[11:00] <Minaplo> "Exam fever, huh?" Sachiko beamed smugly. "Doing schoolwork here is punk rock."-
[11:01] <Minaplo> "It's not." Said Finn furiously. "It's not punk rock. She's being invasively normal. She is bringing normal in here like a preacher dad raiding a drug den."
[11:41] <Sachiko> Sachiko jerked a thumb in his direction. "He puts on a tough front but he hasn't asked me to move yet."
[12:36] <Minaplo> "Well now that Smithy' s Tinder date went up in smoke, the two of you can take that table, hmmmm?"-
[12:37] <Minaplo> "Isn't it a municipal offense to disturb a student studying for her exams?" Said Smithson.-
[12:37] <Minaplo> "Bullshit."-
[12:37] <Minaplo> "It is!"-
[12:37] <Minaplo> "It fucking isn't!"
[12:37] <Sachiko> "No lights on the tables. Hard to read my notes there~"
[12:38] <Minaplo> "Then maybe you shouldn't study in a blues bar?"-
[12:38] <Sachiko> Sachiko laughed.
[12:40] <Minaplo> "Look. I will give you a lamp and a, I dunno, a free sundae, if you move. There are depressed dads trying to avoid being reminded of their responsibilities and right now you are being aggressively responsible in a real malevolent kind of way."
[01:05] <Sachiko> "Aww. Flattery!" she said, gathering up her things.-
[01:05] <Sachiko> "Don't worry about the light, I was pretty much done for today. I'll take the sundae, though."
[01:25] <Minaplo> "Me too!" Said Smithson.-
[01:26] <Minaplo> "Fine." Said Finn sourly.
[01:39] <Sachiko> She swung her legs off the stool, tucking her books under an arm and heading for the nearest table. "Even I'm not about to prod my homeroom teacher about her dating life, but sorry that was your night. What a waste of space."
[01:41] <Sachiko> "And I'm not about to tell anyone about it, just in case you're worried," she added quickly.
[01:46] <Minaplo> "No no!" Said Smithson. She swung around and followed Sachiko. "Prod away!"
[01:49] <Sachiko> "… wait, really?"
[01:54] <Minaplo> "Mhmmm!" She Said cheerfully.
[02:05] <Sachiko> Sachiko gave her a wary look as they pulled out chairs. She hadn't planned for this outcome. "Uh… who was he, I guess?"
[02:37] <Minaplo> "A Tinder date." Said Smithson, plonking down into a chair. This had been Snithson's table- it still had a fair few bottles and glasses on it.-
[02:38] <Minaplo> "I'll tell you a secret… steady relationships are hard to build when you're a teacher, female and over the age of 25. And they're especially hard if you're like me… a special busy person."-
[02:38] <Minaplo> "So I wasn't really looking for love. Just a nice hookup, you know? But…"
[03:02] <Sachiko> "Not sure that's much of a secret," she said, though she gave her a sympathetic smile as she haphazardly shoved her study paraphernalia back into her bag.
[04:41] <Minaplo> "Well you'd never guess by how the students carry on." Said Smithson. "This chunk think you're super eligible, can have anyone you want, and this chunk are cognitively unable to process the idea of you having normal human relationships because teachers don't do that."
[06:08] <Sachiko> "Well, you know what they say about teachers: Separate them from the school that sustains them and they turn to ash," she said knowledgeably. "It impairs your prospects, I figure."
[06:13] <Minaplo> "No one says that, Sachiko. That was a real Schreier-tier witticism."-
[06:14] <Minaplo> Finn arrived. "Here we go. A Long Island Iced Tea for the lady, and…" he sighed. "A double chocolate sundae for the smug pain in the ass who I let into my establishment on a sufferance to two presidents."-
[06:14] <Minaplo> "Mm, gimme." Said Smithson, taking the tea.-
[06:16] <Minaplo> "Now see, Sachiko, dumb statement aside, you realise that teachers are just people, with… I dunno, lives and needs and shit." Said Smithson, sipping her drink. "That's what I like about you. That and your generally sensible head. You keep the others in line… Although you're a little stiff sometimes, people don't like that, aloofness is never a winning strategy. Especially in dating!"-
[06:16] <Minaplo> Smithson frowned at her drink. Give her a minute and she'd remember to start talking about her shitty date again.
[06:26] <Sachiko> "So I'm told," she shrugged. "People have different victory conditions."
[06:29] <Minaplo> "Sometimes you let it get in the way, though." She took a slug from her iced tea. A little too fast to be safe.
[06:42] <Sachiko> "Do I?" she asked, a little distantly. Her attention had shifted from Smithson to the wreckage on her table.
[06:51] <Minaplo> "It's a science." Said Smithson seriously. "Like… I see it. Some people are super okay with displaying weakness. And then some people are like you, the opposite. It's like playing lawn bowls, though- too far and you lose, too close and you hit the… cueball… and lose. You want to get close enough without touching it, that's how you win. You wanna give off the firm but fair vibe, you know, like a cool big sister or a young kickass mother figure-" she scratched her chin- "but sometimes you hit that cueball and you're just a hardass, like you were with Andreas."
[07:17] <Sachiko> She'd zeroed in on Smithson again by that point, a lot harder than she'd been before. "If you think I'm unintentionally stepping over lines, you're wrong. I was as fair with him as I could be, but I meant exactly what I said."
[07:18] <Minaplo> "Didn't work, though, did it?"
[07:35] <Sachiko> "Define 'work'." she asked. "What, didn't pull him out of his misery? That's a two person job, and he wasn't helping. I did my best."
[07:36] <Minaplo> "Choi managed it. How come you couldn't?"
[07:40] <Sachiko> "He had twice the time and only one person to worry about."
[07:45] <Minaplo> "Nah, he had him handled pretty quick." Said Smithson. "It was pretty neat to watch. Besides, wasn't like you were trying to soothe both of them at once- you brought Choi in specifically so you could share the load. That was smart."
[07:47] <Sachiko> "I know. So what's the actual problem?"
[07:47] <Minaplo> "Your delivery, sister."
[08:02] <Sachiko> She gave her a hard look. "Whose fault was it that you had a bad night tonight?"-
[08:02] <Sachiko> "… and I know that sounds like a bullshit deflection, but I'm really trying here," she said tersely. "Was it your responsibility to give that guy what he wanted just to make him comfortable?"
[08:09] <Minaplo> Smithson didn't respond right away. She picked up her glass and took a drink.-
[08:12] <Minaplo> "You raise a fair point. Why didn't I go home with him? I did say I was looking for a hookup." Said Smithson. "And I mean, so was he. One plus one, baby! How is it that two people who both wanted the same thing and maybe kinda definitely signalled at each other that they wanted that- end up like this, with one of them sitting in the bar nursing a cocktail and the other nursing a…"-
[08:12] <Minaplo> "Concussion? I want to say it wasn't that bad, but he flew pretty far…"
[08:22] <Sachiko> A glance toward the door. "He really did…"
[08:24] <Minaplo> "Honestly, it was probably excessive. I just think Finn needed to show off how gritty and real the bar is, to get past the schoolgirl doing her homework at the bar."-
[08:26] <Minaplo> "Here's the answer, though. He didn't really want to hook up with me."
[08:32] <Sachiko> "… yeah?" she asked, a little uncertain.
[08:43] <Minaplo> "Or, well, he did. Like, he definitely wanted it." Said Smithson. "But the thing about hooking up is that even here it's almost never like… flatboard furniture instructions. Put lock into socket. You still want a bit of spark, of… chemistry before you'll go home with someone. You know what I mean? And in this one situation, this guy wanted to take me home. Sound good? Isn't that what I want?"-
[08:47] <Minaplo> "And I was considering it." She said. "But- he wanted to take me home. Now, he could've expressed that in one of two ways. The first was, he could've talked about interesting things, talked about what about me he liked, make me feel comfortable and okay with that. The second way was, he could've talked about how cool and exotic I was, and how good my Japanese was, and oh, wait, he actually is only into me because he has a thing for white girls." Said Smithson. She drained the rest of her glass.-
[08:49] <Minaplo> "And man the spark suddenly wasn't there at all, because what he really made me feel was that the I was not really needed. Wasn't valued. Was… Incidental. I was incidental. And if you find being treated as incidental as sexy then you've got issues."
[11:46] <Sachiko> Sachiko watched with a sickly kind of fascination, picking at her sundae mechanically. "I know I asked, but you remember I'm your student, right?"
[12:51] <Minaplo> "Course I do. That's why I'm teaching you now. This is a teachable moment." She said, reaching over to pluck from Sachiko's sundae victoriously.
[01:47] <Sachiko> "Uh-huh." She shoved the dish closer to the middle of the table.-
[01:47] <Sachiko> "But that's… kind of what I mean. It wasn't his right to dictate your limits. He needed to work with you and prove he was worth what he wanted, and respect your decision if he didn't or couldn't. He failed both steps and thus, concussion."
[02:25] <Minaplo> "Yeah, exactly." Said Smithson, digging into Sachiko's sundae with grotesque enthusiasm.-
[02:25] <Minaplo> "Mmm, ice cream is great."-
[02:31] <Minaplo> She gestured at Sachiko. "That's it. That's exactly it. Except in this parallel, you aren't me. Andreas is me, but less in control."
[02:44] <Sachiko> "No, that's not what I'm arguing," she said, a little more heatedly. "Nobody is just you. We didn't roll dice for attacking and defending sides like it was a game. We're both describing our limits, and we're both assessing whether we want to give more or quit."
[02:46] <Minaplo> "And you didn't want to give more to Andreas? Even though he needed it more than Rio did?"
[02:50] <Sachiko> "At the time? No, not especially," she shrugged and tried to get another spoonful of her dessert before Smithson inhaled it.-
[02:50] <Sachiko> "I still did what I could, and I handed it off to Choi when he needed more than I could offer. Nothing wrong with that."
[03:32] <Minaplo> "I don't want ice cream." Sighed Smithson. She pushed the sundae away. "I want chocolate fondue."-
[03:34] <Minaplo> "Look. I'm not trying to bully you or put you down. I'm doing this because I want you to be the best… manager you can be, for your sake and everyone else's. So here's what I'm gonna say."-
[03:36] <Minaplo> "Firstly: my point isn't that you need to change everything about how you deliver yourself to others. You could've made progress with Andreas through only a small change in approach. Hell, if you had handled him the same way you handled Rio it would've been fine."-
[03:38] <Minaplo> "Secondly: nothing wrong with handing off to Choi, but here's the rub: you made Choi's job harder because your approach to Andreas made it worse. It caused harm. And I don't think that's what you intended, but it will happen again if you aren't careful."
[07:53] <Sachiko> "Which is more likely: That I hurt him by accident trying my best? Or that he embarrassed me, wasted my work, didn't so much as apologise to me for it and then - as I tried to share the blame around in a way he did not actually deserve - he tried to get me to help him wallow in it and I got sick of his bullshit?"
[08:20] <Minaplo> "You don't have the luxury of being sick of anyone's bullshit, Sachiko." Said Smithson. There was a sharpness to her expression that belied the amount of liquor she'd put away. "The margin of error for you is razor-thin. You have a brittle, fragile team going into matchups against opponents who do have that luxury, among others. Being sick of people's bullshit is the exact worst kind of flaw for such fraught teams."-
[08:28] <Minaplo> "He was vibrating with contrition long before the debate ended." Said Smithson. "He embarrassed you? Sure, he did, but you walked out of it with a pretty damn good showing. He didn't. And guess what- he tried his best too. Andreas is a knowledgeable guy, good at composition, bad at thinking on his feet, and dreads public speaking. He prides himself on being cerebral, and getting slammed by Miyamoto is the exact kind of thing that not only doesn't he know how to deal with, but makes him ashamed for having to deal with it at all. It was his work up there as well, and he got the special privilege of watching in real time as his mistakes unravelled his entire team on top of his public humiliation in front of a crowd of schoolgirls and two school presidents, and then to watch his best friend blast him the moment it was over."-
[08:31] <Minaplo> "So with all that in mind, I'm going to generously conclude that you hurt him by accident trying your best, because all of you were trying your best. And if that's the case, then I'm going to give you a bit of advice: spend your time acknowledging where you went wrong and then do better next time instead of digging in and defending your mistakes."
[02:04] <Sachiko> Something ugly flashed across Sachiko's face, though it was hard to pin down what exactly that 'something' was. Not anger, not quite, but Smithson had seen Dinah mid-rampage, and maybe that was closer? She was clearly preparing to share a few thoughts of her own.-
[02:04] <Sachiko> … but something made her clamp down on them an instant before she spoke, and only then with obvious difficulty. She chose to look towards the stage instead while she took a deep breath.
[07:38] <Minaplo> Smithson watched her wrestle with this impulse- then simply nodded and leaned back in her chair.-
[07:39] <Minaplo> "That Miyamoto girl is seriously in a league of her own. I feel cheated that Choi became Pres this year- a debate between those two would be a spectacle, huh?"
[03:23] <Sachiko> "…"-
[03:23] <Sachiko> "I've met her a couple of times," she said. "Seems like she's my designated rival the year."
[03:34] <Minaplo> "Oh, you've met her before? Where?"
[03:44] <Sachiko> "Originally we just ran into each other at a park, and I talked to her and some of her coterie." Her tone was gradually becoming less clipped. "We kinda figured she might be part of their debate team."-
[03:44] <Minaplo> "'coterie'"
[03:46] <Sachiko> "I've put my money on sorceress but I'm open to the vampire hypothesis."-
[03:46] <Sachiko> "Anyway, it turns out she's also the geisha school's pick for Three Hearts Festival, so we'll be running into each other a lot."
[03:55] <Minaplo> "… Wait, what?" Smithson started. "She's the Tomoko Okiya's performer? The Tomoko Okiya doesn't let anyone but its own members compete…"-
[03:56] <Minaplo> "… Of course. She's an apprentice, about a year away from debuting as a maiko. That's why…" Smithson nodded slowly, as though a great mystery had been solved.-
[03:57] <Minaplo> "That's not an easy thing to be, an apprentice for the Tomoko Okiya. That's a lot of work, even before you debut as a maiko. That she's doing that and prepping for Three Hearts and participating in debate club is…"
[04:15] <Sachiko> "I get it, she's very impressive," she said sourly.
[04:15] <Minaplo> "Grumpy."
[04:24] <Sachiko> "Not grumpy. I'd rather beat someone talented than somebody mediocre."
[04:28] <Minaplo> "And you'd rather beat someone talented than lose to someone talented. Right?"
[04:28] <Sachiko> "Obviously."
[04:29] <Minaplo> Smithson snorted.-
[04:29] <Minaplo> "Since you know her better than I do, I'm really curious. That reaction Andreas had to her. Is that an Andreas thing or a boy thing?"
[04:36] <Sachiko> "66.66% strike rate so far says boy thing."-
[04:36] <Sachiko> "… And probably not just a boy thing, but science demands a higher sample size before I get declarative."
[04:37] <Minaplo> "I'm sure someone at Cathy has already done it." Said Smithson. "Who were the 33%?"
[04:38] <Sachiko> A quick smile said she'd thought the same thing. "Honestly it's just Choi. Like I said, sample size problems."
[04:39] <Minaplo> "Ha. Of course it was Choi. How insufferable." Said Smithson, shaking her head with a smirk.-
[04:39] <Minaplo> "Still… You know, now that I think about it, those two would make a pretty solid pair."
[04:44] <Sachiko> "You think?"
[04:46] <Minaplo> "They're both smart, good-looking… She's probably got a history in the arts, and he's grown up as an actor in a family of actors. They'd definitely be a power couple."-
[04:47] <Minaplo> "Besides, it's probably interesting to her, a man who can hold his own against her wild magic."
[04:51] <Sachiko> Sachiko waved a hand dismissively. "Two perfect people being perfect together. Boring."
[04:52] <Minaplo> "I never said it'd be interesting. I said it'd be solid and a power couple."-
[04:52] <Minaplo> "Besides, you know them both. It wouldn't be boring, because it would also be a little scary."
[04:59] <Sachiko> "I mean they'd topple the government, sure, but they'd also do their own composting and want to tell you all about it."
[05:03] <Minaplo> "You're confusing middle-class with perfect."
[05:04] <Sachiko> She laughed. "Yeah, probably."
[05:16] <Minaplo> "Although… Our boy has a bit of a reputation."
[05:22] <Sachiko> "Wait, who? Choi?"
[05:22] <Minaplo> "Indeed."
[05:22] <Sachiko> "What do you mean?"
[05:24] <Minaplo> "Oh, you didn't know this?" Said Smithson. "I guess you wouldn't, this year has been too… Excitable for regular school stuff."-
[05:25] <Minaplo> "You see, Choi is a rarity amidst students. He's been coming to Sophia since he was in elementary. This is practically a second home to him. And in all of that time, he's been known as one thing: untouchable."-
[05:25] <Minaplo> "He's never had a girlfriend. Despite interest. Last year he rejected a very popular senpai. That was a whole thing. I cannot forget it because Spuuki Tanuki won't let me."
[05:43] <Sachiko> "It's not that weird. I mean it's not common, but if you work as hard as Choi does…" she shrugged. "You can only juggle so many plates."
[06:04] <Minaplo> "I handled it." Said Smithson, tossing her hair.-
[06:05] <Minaplo> "But no, fair enough. If it really isn't a priority for him that's understandable. Still, it would be super nice if Spuuki Tanuki could shut up about it."-
[06:06] <Minaplo> Smithson leaned back in her chair and unbuttoned her dress blazer, revealing a stylish yet practical Sophia t-shirt beneath.-
[06:06] <Minaplo> "… You wanna come with me, get some chocolate fondue? I feel like if we don't get some right now the world will end."
[06:37] <Sachiko> "It's nine o'clock on a Wednesday, where are we finding chocalate fondue?" she frowned.-
[06:37] <Sachiko> "… wait, you wore the map shirt on a date?"
[06:44] <Minaplo> "From the chocolate fondue truck." Said Smithson. "Obviously."-
[06:45] <Minaplo> She plucked the shirt away from her chest for a moment before letting it go. "I look pretty good in this~"
[07:17] <Sachiko> "… sure, I'll stop my studying to come and get chocolate fondue with you, education professional," she said, though it did seem to be a joke. She was gathering up her things, at least.
[07:21] <Minaplo> "That's why you're my favourite!" Said Smithson. "Man, the Three Hearts Festival. I didn't even realise we were having it this year… I can't wait to watch! The most dramatic thing the fun community can do, guaranteed."
[07:25] <Minaplo> The Empress Arcana Strengthens…

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