Home Sweet Home, of a sorts

[13:24] <PersonaGM> [A three note chime sounded as the train sped on.-
[13:25] <PersonaGM> [… Then became fainter as the train passed. A few moments later, the train-road crossing boom rose and the lights turned green. The driver took his foot off the brake and passed the tracks.-
[13:29] <PersonaGM> [The car was roomy. Comfortable. The seats were soft white leather- the sort that showed up every little stain and mess. The front dashboard looked like a space shuttle cockpit, all buttons and displays, each more confusing than the last.-
[13:30] <PersonaGM> [The purpose of one such display was actually pretty clear, mainly because it routinely reminded the driver and his passenger as to its purpose. "Two kilometres to- 5 Soejima Road," said the GPS in a pleasant feminine voice. "In one hundred metres, turn right."-
[13:31] <PersonaGM> [The driver adjusted the gearstick and glanced up at his rear view mirror, toward his passenger. "Nearly there, Miss Kurata."]
[13:59] <Sachiko> "Miss Kurata" - Sachiko - was curled into the space between the corner of her chair and the door, the crown of her head resting on the window. She wore jeans and a long-sleeved green shirt despite the relative warmth of the day outside the well air-conditioned car, and a set of sunglasses hid her eyes. She had one earbud jammed into her left ear, while the right one dangled lazily from
[13:59] <Sachiko> her neck, tapping occasionally against the door whenever they hit a bump.-
[14:00] <Sachiko> "Yeah, ok."-
[14:00] <Sachiko> It was not the first time the driver had repeated the GPS' reports back to her since the drive began, and she was trying not to let it - among many other things - wear on her nerves. She watched the train vanish out of sight and shut her eyes.
[14:10] <PersonaGM> [Sachiko felt the texture of the journey. The bump as the car went over the rails… The slight shift in gravity as they turned a corner… The spin in the wheels as they overtook another car.-
[14:10] <PersonaGM> [They didn't do a lot of overtaking. Not a lot of traffic out today.-
[14:12] <PersonaGM> [It seemed, however, that between the ear bud and the closed eyes, the driver took the hint. The next time he spoke, it was to say "We're here, Miss Kurata."-
[14:12] <PersonaGM> ["… Or are we?" She heard the doubt in his voice. Buttons being pressed as he began jabbing at the GPS. "That can't be right."]
[14:15] <Sachiko> … that earned a bit of curiosity. She opened her eyes and took a look around.
[14:18] <PersonaGM> [They were outside of what was recognisably a dorm building. A five-floor building made of what looked like cheap white stone, with a perimeter wall and wooden gate. The building looked, not quite dilapidated, but generally neglected. Even the tree, visibly over the perimeter wall, looked kind of depressed.-
[14:19] <PersonaGM> [Yet despite this, the front plaque on the wall said in flaking gold on black: 5 Soejima Road Student Dormitory.-
[14:19] <PersonaGM> [The driver looked at the plaque and narrowed his eyes.]
[14:28] <Sachiko> Sachiko's smile was slow to form - the right side of her mouth didn't seem to move in lockstep with her left, despite her best efforts - but quite thoroughly amused when it did. "Home sweet home, huh?"-
[14:28] <Sachiko> Not bothering to wait for her driver to recheck the GPS a third time, Sachiko opened her door and began the slow, careful process of climbing out of her seat.
[14:31] <PersonaGM> [The driver looked back at her. "W-wait, miss, you can't be staying here…"]
[14:37] <Sachiko> "Is this the address, Katsuo?" she asked, her shoulders tensing as she got to her feet.
[14:38] <PersonaGM> ["Well yes…"]
[14:38] <Sachiko> "Then I don't know what to tell you."
[14:39] <PersonaGM> [Katsuo watched helplessly as Sachiko finished exiting the car.-
[14:40] <PersonaGM> [Eventually, he seemed to make peace with his situation. He popped the boot of the car, climbed out and put Sachiko's luggage down on the curb.-
[14:40] <PersonaGM> [He still eyed the building dubiously.]
[15:08] <Sachiko> He didn't need to move all that much to the curb. A large, wheeled piece of luggage, naturally, and a laptop bag. The only other item was a long, padded rectangular case with handles and a strap for carrying it.-
[15:09] <Sachiko> The dark glasses made it very hard to tell whether Sachiko was staring at Katsuo or her luggage, but a moment after he was finished unloading the bags she began to carefully arrange them in such away that she could carry them herself. She set the laptop bag on top of the luggage, propped it up on its wheels and then, after moment of hesitation, picked up the duffel case with her left hand.-
[15:09] <Sachiko> She stood tall and confident despite the load. "I guess I'll see you later."
[15:15] <PersonaGM> ["Er, yes, miss." Said Katsuo. He bowed. "Thank you very much."-
[15:15] <PersonaGM> [With that, Katsuo returned to the car and slowly drove away- leaving Sachiko outside of the dorm's perimeter wall.]
[15:25] <Sachiko> She didn't bother waiting until the car had pulled away to start moving inside, and was passing through the wooden gate before it had made it out of sight.-
[15:25] <Sachiko> … and as soon as she was certain there was nobody inside, she lowered the instrument case to the ground with extreme care, dropped the handle of the luggage and leant against the gate's frame. Her posture was immediately different, the confidence gone and the weight taken off her right leg as she took a moment to breathe very carefully.-
[15:25] <Sachiko> It took her a minute or so to move again. "Alright," she murmured, looking critically at her luggage. "You wait there-"-
[15:26] <Sachiko> Looked at her duffel. "You're coming with me."-
[15:26] <Sachiko> Limping along with the bag in one hand, she made her way towards the front door… just, y'know, slower this time.
[15:27] <PersonaGM> [The courtyard was barren of growing things besides the bare tree and the enervated grass.-
[15:29] <PersonaGM> [Yet, it wouldn't be a lonely one. When she was halfway across the courtyard, she'd see a black cat appear in one of the first-floor windows, leap down and pad over to her fearlessly. "Meow."]
[15:41] <Sachiko> She gave it a curious look and glanced over at the window it came from. There's no way they'd let students keep pets, surely?-
[15:41] <Sachiko> Either way, she wasn't able to slow down long enough to give it the petting it was looking for. She had to step around it to get to the door, keeping her pace steady. "Sorry."
[15:42] <PersonaGM> [The cat took the dismissal in stride. Instead it walked over to the rest of her luggage and settled down amidst it.-
[15:42] <PersonaGM> [In a further blow to Katsuo's beliefs, the key Sachiko had been sent worked perfectly fine on this front door. Turns out she was where she was supposed to be.-
[15:44] <Sachiko> A brief moment of relief. That saved her an awkward phone call.
[15:51] <PersonaGM> [The first floor of the building was the lobby, dedicated to serving as a mix of common area, dining room, check-in and kitchen. This gave it a kind of mismatched, patchwork feel, with greenish linoleum of the 'check-in' area and kitchen giving away abruptly to the dusty red carpet of the living room, which was otherwise home to an eclectic collection of rummage sale reject furniture.-
[15:51] <PersonaGM> [The kitchen, at least, had its own room behind a door, although the door was open and swinging slightly.-
[15:54] <PersonaGM> [Directly to Sachiko's right was the check-in counter. It looked like any other check-in counter she'd seen, with a single exception: built into the corner of the counter and the right-hand wall was an enclosed booth, much like a box office, albeit one with hard, solid, utterly opaque wood instead of windows. The door to the booth looked solid and very locked. A little slit had been cut open where the booth met the counter- and it was in this slit that the check-in book resided.]
[16:03] <Sachiko> "Huh," she muttered. She had to admit, this was not exactly what she'd expected. She limped around to the "front" of the counter, moved the check in book to one side and, for lack of a better idea, leaned down to peer into the slit in the desk.
[16:04] <PersonaGM> [It was too dark to see anything besides a vague shape.-
[16:05] <PersonaGM> [That promptly poked Sachiko in the face with a small stick of wood. "The booth is off-limits to tenants!"]
[16:07] * Sachiko jumped back on instinct, hissing in pain as she stumbled. "What the hell?" she snapped, a little more venom in her voice than she intended.
[16:08] <PersonaGM> [The voice that replied was a mix of grumpy and alarmed. "Tenants aren't allowed in here! Not even to look! If you need something, call for Miss Asahina!"]
[16:09] <Sachiko> "Who is- … are you speaking about yourself in third-person?"
[16:10] <PersonaGM> ["No, I'm introducing myself. If I didn't, you wouldn't know who to call for."]
[16:18] * Sachiko directed an extremely irritated at the wood paneling roughly where she imagined Miss Asahina's face to be.
[16:26] <PersonaGM> [This produced the effect expected of scowling at wood, which is to say, no effect at all.-
[16:26] <PersonaGM> ["… You should sign in." Said Miss Asahina, shoving the check-in book toward Sachiko with her little stick. "I'm sure you must be tired from your trip."]
[16:36] <Sachiko> "… yeah. Fine," she said eventually. She set the case at her feet and signed the book left-handed, and even moving carefully the characters were uneven.
[16:37] <PersonaGM> [There was only one other name in the book so far. Hideki Nakajima. Vaguely familiar.-
[16:38] <PersonaGM> ["You're in room 3-A." Said Miss Asahina.]
[16:44] <Sachiko> If she knew the name, her brain wasn't helping her remember why. It didn't matter. "Ok. Is there a key?"
[16:44] <PersonaGM> [There was a metallic rattle. Then, a small, tarnished brass room key was pushed stickwise out into the open. A little '3-A' was listed on it.]
[18:32] <Sachiko> "Thanks."-
[18:32] <Sachiko> "… so do you need me to push some food through the slot or something?"
[18:33] <PersonaGM> [Silence.]
[18:34] <Sachiko> That's what she got for trying to be nice.-
[18:39] <Sachiko> She saw the stairs first, and tried to ignore the wave of relief she felt when she saw the elevators a second later. She abandoned one bag beside the lift and went back outside for her others.
[18:40] <PersonaGM> [She was greeted with the sight of the cat shoving against her luggage.-
[18:40] <PersonaGM> [Somehow, through some bizarre fluke, the cat had managed to nudge her bags about a metre or so closer to the door without knocking it all over.]
[18:54] <Sachiko> That couldn't be right, could it? Far more likely her memory was lying to her. Cats weren't that helpful even on a good day. But as she stood in the doorway she could see the bag wobble ever so slightly closer… and again… and again. She frowned.-
[18:54] <Sachiko> "Hi, little… uh, guy?" she hazarded, wandering over. She wasn't about to check, so it'd have to do. She bent at the waist and tried to separate him(?) from the bag.
[18:56] <PersonaGM> ["Meow." The cat permitted himself to be helplessly separated from the bags. So separated, he turned and ran back inside the building.]
[18:57] <Sachiko> "…" Well, if it didn't live in the building before, it did now.-
[18:58] <Sachiko> She grabbed her bag by the handle. Back inside and to the elevator! The third floor awaited, such as it was.
[19:00] <PersonaGM> [The third floor looked unsurprising. There were about eight dorms, with bathrooms at the end, and more of that red carpet.-
[19:02] <PersonaGM> [The key to the room worked just fine, at least.-
[19:08] <PersonaGM> [The room itself was even better. Good-quality burgundy wallpaper, the soft carpet was a navy blue. A big bed, some bare but very clean wooden bookshelves, a big desk over by the window (with thick black curtains that'd make dawn look like night), a modern, wall-mounted television in the corner opposite the bed- and even had bedside tables.-
[19:08] <PersonaGM> [The room was otherwise featureless, except for a brown paper parcel on her desk.]
[19:26] <Sachiko> She left her luggage by the door and took a critical look around. She was ready for mismatched furniture and peeling paint, but this was… surprisingly presentable. Admittedly "mismatched" would describe the wallpaper and carpet choices pretty well, but she could live with that. It did make her wonder why the rest of the building wasn't kept to the same standard, though…-
[19:27] <Sachiko> She spotted the package as about to set the duffel bag down on the desk. Weird… did it have her name on it?
[19:28] <PersonaGM> [It did, on a little tag.]
[19:29] <Sachiko> -Very- weird. Maybe her parents sent something ahead…? No, that wasn't their style…-
[19:29] <Sachiko> She set down her bag and took the package over to the bed, sitting down on the edge and setting about unwrapping it.
[19:31] <PersonaGM> [Ah, it was a start-of-year welcoming parcel from Sophia Academy. The centrepiece was a new academic diary with her name on it, containing her class schedules, reminders about holidays and the list of names of everyone in her class. Her home room teacher was Ms. Smithson, apparently. Class 2-B.-
[19:32] <PersonaGM> [There was also a calendar of the school year- it came with its own non-marking adhesive strips, so you could stick it on your wall without pissing off the landlord.-
[19:34] <PersonaGM> [There was a tourist's guide to the city of Katashiba, the cover of which was a snapshot of about half a dozen cliches of the city. There was also a t-shirt! A white t-shirt, with the school crest on the front and a map of the school grounds on the back. Stylish, yet practical.-
[19:35] <Sachiko> … how was a map on the back of her shirt practical?
[19:36] <PersonaGM> [That logical puzzle, the narration will leave to you.-
[19:36] <PersonaGM> [There was also the first edition of the school newsletter, which mentioned the results of the student council elections- apparently won by a Caolán Choi.-
[19:37] <PersonaGM> [Finally, near the bottom of this pile of goodies, was a smartphone. New, with the plastic still on the screen, and bearing no discernible developer's logo.]
[19:39] <Sachiko> All very standard, questionable mapping choices aside… except, of course, for the smartphone. She went back and checked through the papers again, assuming she'd missed something explaining why she should have a new phone in her care package. She hoped some hapless admin assistant hadn't left their phone inside the box…
[19:41] <PersonaGM> [No papers. Weird.]
[19:43] <Sachiko> Well… It couldn't hurt to trying turning it on. If there was a passcode she'd take it down to the jerk in the box on the first floor.
[19:43] <PersonaGM> [The phone turned on, showing the Sophia Academy symbol, before fading into a white screen.-
[19:44] <PersonaGM> ["Congratulations!", chirped the phone. "You've been randomly selected to be a beta tester for the new Sophia Academy Student Smartphone Programme. Using this phone, you can access the Sophia Academy intranet and special services, such as S-Chat or the Sophia E-Marketplace. You can also connect with other beta testers as well."-
[19:44] <PersonaGM> ["Please enter your full name to log in."]
[19:50] <Sachiko> … what sort of login system used just your name? She stared at the empty field for a while, before typing "Hideki Nakajima" in a moment of pique.
[19:53] <PersonaGM> [There was a short, harsh 'error' sound, before the name erased itself and reset to the empty field. Apparently no.]
[19:55] <Sachiko> Worth a try. "Sachiko Kurata" then, she supposed.
[19:56] <PersonaGM> [This worked! It resolved to a menu screen, showing the usual phone functions, as well as a search engine, a messenger, a map database… As well as special apps for S-Chat, the Sophia E-Marketplace, and a new, unexplained one simply labelled 'Tome'.]
[20:01] <Sachiko> Ah, a map. She supposed she wouldn't need that helpful shirt after all!-
[20:02] <Sachiko> The basic functions only got a half-hearted check before she moved on to the stranger ones.
[20:04] <PersonaGM> [S-Chat introduced itself as a mix of forum and chatroom network, unique to Sophia Academy. Its functionality would be enabled on Monday.-
[20:05] <PersonaGM> [The E-Marketplace, in turn, was some sort of digital marketplace for the school students, where they could sell or buy things from each other, or request favours and set up tutoring. It, too, wasn't functional yet.-
[20:06] <PersonaGM> [Tome didn't even explain itself. It just sat there, empty and inert.]
[20:26] <Sachiko> Pretty bare-bones. Maybe it's be better by Monday, maybe not - either way she threw it further up her bed, to be looked at later.
[20:27] <PersonaGM> [Which meant that she now had the time to herself. What would Sachiko do next?]
[20:50] <Sachiko> … that was a good question, and one that she felt surprisingly unequipped to answer now that it came to it. She'd been looking forward to this for months, it'd sustained her through the… everything, but now she was here she wasn't really sure where to even start.-
[20:50] <Sachiko> … maybe she could find that Nakajima kid and see what his deal was. Would that be weird? Probably. Hm.-
[20:50] <Sachiko> She glanced at the piano case on the desk, then down at her right hand and… yeah, the faint tremble, sure enough. Supposed she'd pushed herself too hard. Shoulda just let Katsuo carry her bags… not smart.-
[20:50] <Sachiko> She sighed, and, for lack of a better idea, found her earbuds in her pocket and eased herself back onto her bed.
[20:56] <PersonaGM> [The bed was pretty comfortable.-
[20:57] <PersonaGM> [Honestly, the room itself was comfortable. There must've been some form of ducted air conditioning or, failing that, good old architectural genius, because the room was pleasantly cool despite it being around 2 PM.-
[20:58] <PersonaGM> [No driver, no parents, no helpers or workmates or mentors or weird stick-wielding caretakers or…-
[21:00] <PersonaGM> [Sachiko started to drift off. She spent a little bit of time in that dazed twilight of the consciousness, where thoughts came slowly and went quickly. She made a mental note to check the clock on her bedside table for the time, only for that thought to mutate into asking why there was a weird blue thing near it, but that too faded before the incredibly guileless mind of the sleepy.-
[21:00] <PersonaGM> […-
[21:06] <PersonaGM> [Sachiko felt… Light.-
[21:07] <PersonaGM> [Like the extra gravity reality seemed to reserve for her alone had dropped, and gave her a bit of give for good measure.-
[21:09] <PersonaGM> [Sachiko was lying on her bed in her dorm room, comfortably warm and content as it was, although with every second that sweet, cloying sleepiness faded away.-
[21:10] <PersonaGM> [It was her room, yet also clearly had changed. The window showed nothing but an opaque, purplish fog. Bright, clean light shone from beneath her window. The sheets on which she way were blue velvet, as was the wallpaper and carpet.-
[21:14] <PersonaGM> [The furniture had changed, too. Gone was her desk chair, replaced instead by a black piano stool, with a rich wooden frame, a black leather seat with golden upholstery. Subtle yet ornate golden filigree was embedded in the wood as well. It stood out by virtue of not being blue velvet.-
[21:15] <PersonaGM> [But it drew the eye, and with that she noticed what sat on her desk. Nothing- except the little smartphone the school had given her, and the sign-in book, which lay open.]
[21:25] <Sachiko> She drew a little closer to the desk. She felt brief confusion and apprehension, but it felt muted and distant, and then even that passed.
[21:28] <PersonaGM> [The phone's screen was off. The book, meanwhile, was open to the sign-in page, yet she saw neither her name nor Hideki's there, as though she'd never signed in the first place. Instead, she glimpsed what looked like a new page of text opposite the missing entries, but she'd need to be closer- practically sitting- to read it.]
[21:30] <Sachiko> … well that was simple enough. She did want to read it, after all.
[21:32] <PersonaGM> [Sachiko had seen enough contracts in her life to recognise one when she saw it.-
[21:35] <PersonaGM> [That said, for the life of her all she seemed to recall later were a few lines: that the book before her was a chance for her to find assistance and succour in seeking power over her life and her actions… But the responsibility for those actions, and the path she took, was forever her own and nobody else's. If she agreed, all she had to do was sign.]
[21:40] <Sachiko> That seemed fairly reasonable to her. She grabbed the pen with her right hand and signed quickly and confidently.-
[21:41] <Sachiko> … the pen had definitely been there a moment ago, right? Looking at it now she wasn't quite sure.
[21:41] <PersonaGM> [It was hard to tell. The phone was also gone, although Sachiko hadn't seen it leave.-
[21:42] <PersonaGM> [But she heard a sound from behind her. The door to her room opened. She heard the creaking of another door above her, too.-
[21:42] <PersonaGM> [The light became stronger, never a glare, yet more permeating than before. Now that she could see outside, Sachiko would realise it was coming from the staircase, leading up.]
[21:55] <Sachiko> … this seemed to bother her just a bit more than the previous peculiarities, though not enough to stop her. She climbed the stairs quickly, finding herself smiling without quite knowing why.
[21:56] <PersonaGM> [The fourth floor barely even seemed to be there. Before she knew it, she was standing on the fifth.-
[21:56] <PersonaGM> [A lot of closed rooms here, all except for one- 5-E. It was open, blue light shining.]
[22:01] <Sachiko> Much like the fourth floor, the fifth floor hallway barely seemed to exist. She was stepping through the door almost as soon as she finished climbing the stairs.
[22:07] <PersonaGM> [Within was… A room.-
[22:07] <PersonaGM> [It was obviously a room bigger on the inside than on the outside. The walls were lined utterly with bookcases that went right up to the roof… Although as far as Sachiko could tell, the roof was so high as to be shrouded in fog.-
[22:07] <PersonaGM> [There were many things in this room that could drew Sachiko's attention. There was a globe that permanently spun at a slow and steady rate, yet was completely blank. At the far end of the room was a giant printing press that worked unceasingly, churning out page after page after page, each joining a stack of pages…-
[22:07] <PersonaGM> [The floor was universally carpeted in a plush blue velvet carpet, with a blue velvet rug sitting in front of the door- a rather homely touch for such a strange place.-
[22:07] <PersonaGM> [Indeed, blue velvet seemed to be the theme. Each book in this place was covered in a blue cover, and the bookcases seemed to be blue as well.-
[22:07] <PersonaGM> [But most unusual was the sight near the back of the room. It was a study desk, large, heavy and ornate, made of wood- a rich red mahogany, rather than blue. It groaned beneath the weight of what must've been hundreds of books, each stacked neatly on top of one another to form huge great and dubious towers.-
[22:07] <PersonaGM> [Yet a space had been cleared, allowing Sachiko to see the occupant of such a desk.-
[22:07] <PersonaGM> [It…-
[22:07] <PersonaGM> [Well, it was a man, albeit a man whose looks were so bizarre as to invite comparisons with goblins or fairies. He was short, yet gangly, thin and spindly. He had pale, waxy skin, and silver hair, although most of his head was bald, leaving only a fan of hair near the back. He had huge white eyes, a little bloodshot, his pupils tiny pinpoints. His eyebrows were thick, bushy, wild and set at an aggressive angle- as were his pointed, thin ears. He had a massive grin, showing perfectly square white teeth. All of this served to frame his nose, which was incredibly long and pointed, approaching nearly a foot in length at least.-
[22:07] <PersonaGM> [The man wore a neat black suit, with black leather shoes and white gloves. His seat was a high backed blue velvet desk chair.-
[22:07] <PersonaGM> [The man leaned forward, one hand resting under his chin.-
[22:09] <PersonaGM> ["Oh! How delightful- another guest." Said the man. "A most curious guest indeed, with a most rare path behind and ahead."-
[22:10] <PersonaGM> [The man gestured to a seat a few metres away from the desk. Sachiko would recognise her ornate piano seat. "Make yourself at home. My name is Igor, and I am most happy to make your acquaintance."]
[22:21] <Sachiko> Sachiko seemed to be staring everywhere at once, with a particular focus on the goblin-man once she'd glimpsed him through his book fort. Then she glanced down to realize she'd taken her seat (And it was her's, she felt quite certain of that) without conscious thought, which seemed to startle her.-
[22:21] <Sachiko> "Uh… yeah. Yours too," she said, though she didn't sound so sure.
[22:27] <PersonaGM> [Igor chuckled, which was a sound that managed to sound subdued and playful at the same time. "I'm sure you must have many questions, but to answer one in advance- you are indeed asleep. This place exists between dream and reality, mind and matter. To enter this place, you must first sign a contract, which I believe you definitely have."]
[11:26] <Sachiko> "So you're the one who holds the contract…?"
[11:31] <PersonaGM> ["You may find it more useful to think of me as a witness, or better yet, an individual bound to provide services to those who sign the contract. Indeed, we are here to assist our guests."]
[11:36] <Sachiko> "We?"
[11:39] <PersonaGM> [Igor gestured off to his right. "Allow me to introduce you to one of my assistants."-
[11:42] <PersonaGM> [Sitting at a writing desk was a skinny, pale young man with short silvery-blonde hair and bright yellow lamplike eyes, his face twisted into a frown. He wore a long-sleeved blue robe tied around the waist with a white cloth. He held in his hand a truly enormous quill, which he was using to write in an equally gigantic book. At being mentioned, the man put down the quill and gave Sachiko a short western-style bow. "My name is William. I'll be assisting you in the coming future."]
[11:53] <Sachiko> "Uh, hi," she said. "Nice to meet you, I guess."
[11:53] <PersonaGM> [William eyed her for a moment, then returned to his book.-
[11:55] <PersonaGM> [Whilst Sachiko had been looking at William, Igor had run a hand over his desk, causing a handful of tarot cards to appear in a cross-like position, with two cards overlaid in the middle. These two cards were already revealed. "Are you familiar with reading fortunes in a deck of cards?"]
[11:59] * Sachiko was frowning at William's back when Igor spoke again, pulling her attention back. "I had a girl in my class who used to do them, but I never bothered with it."
[17:12] <PersonaGM> ["They can tell of things most fascinating, the cards." Said Igor, waving a hand over them. Where there were six cards, a seventh now appeared, to the right of the cross. "This reading began truly for the intent of all of our guests, yet each one has added a little of their own. We began with a reversed fortune in your current situation and a reversed star as for the cause- that is, that our guests appear to have surrendered control of their destinies and are stuck in a most lamentable situation, because something that brings you hope and guides you has been lost."-
[17:14] <PersonaGM> ["The guest before you brought with him the Tower for the future, revealing that unless you gain control of your destiny, something calamitous awaits you."]
[17:22] <Sachiko> Sachiko eyed the cards - and Igor - skeptically. Even in this place she had a hard time buying into that. "How vague."
[17:26] <PersonaGM> [Igor chuckled. "The future, it seems, prefers broad strokes. Perhaps we can find sharper details with our next card?" He gestured to a fourth card, which remained face-down. "Shall we?"]
[17:27] <Sachiko> A faint shrug. "Sure."
[17:33] <PersonaGM> [Igor turned his hand over. The card flipped over of its own volition, revealing a devil's head, hanging ascendant over the heads of a man and woman, both framed in chains. The card was upside down, as most of them seemed to be.-
[17:42] <PersonaGM> ["The Devil reversed, placed in the position of strength and foundation." Said Igor. "The Devil reflects struggle and worthy rebellion, often against domineering powers, testing that which binds you and rejecting the bonds that rob you of power. It would imply that your strength comes from challenging the world and the people around you, keeping only that which empowers you. In this way, you create the foundations for overcoming your future crisis."-
[17:49] <PersonaGM> ["Yet at present, it appears that this strength is corrupted in some way. It seems unfocused, too ready to forget true substance, and accept the assumptions that feed the situation our guests now find themselves in. Remember that the Devil's rebellion has cause, and without it, is meaningless chaos." Igor folded his hands together. "A most challenging spread of cards, so far. Nonetheless, we are here to assist our guests in their upcoming trials."]
[18:05] <Sachiko> … less vague. She felt prickle of discomfort as she tried to match Igor's stare. "I think I'm done with trials for a while."
[18:07] <PersonaGM> [Igor lowered his pupils for just a moment. His eyes remained as poppingly wide as ever, but there was a hint of sympathy in their wild look. "I believe you, dear guest."-
[18:08] <PersonaGM> ["The following week will be very eventful for you. Nonetheless, the next time you come here, it will be when you choose. At that time, we will discuss this place in greater detail."-
[18:08] <PersonaGM> ["Until then… Farewell."-
[18:09] <PersonaGM> […-
[18:09] <PersonaGM> […-
[18:09] <PersonaGM> [Sachiko was stirred to consciousness by the sound of a cat scratching relentlessly at her door.-
[18:10] <PersonaGM> [Her dream faded into a mix of vague fog and surprising clarity- around some things, at least. The alarm clock said, in bright red numbers, that it was a quarter to eight in the evening.]
[18:35] <Sachiko> Real consciousness came slowly, though. She had plenty of time to muzzily wonder what was making that noise, and to process that the lightness of her body in the dream hadn't followed her back into the waking world. She sat up slowly and carefully.-
[18:35] <Sachiko> Eventually the door swung open just enough to let her glare down at the disturbance on the other side. "What?" she asked sharply, with a tone that seemed to suggest she expected a response.
[18:39] <PersonaGM> ["Meow." Said the cat. It was sitting next to a tray covered in a handful of small covered dishes, as well as a pamphlet.-
[18:39] <PersonaGM> [Her attention sufficiently got, the cat walked off.]
[18:41] <Sachiko> "… you're pretty helpful for a cat," Sachiko muttered as it disappeared behind the corner. She collected the tray, nudged the door closed again with her hip and retreated back to her room.-
[18:42] <Sachiko> She settled down at the desk this time instead of the bed. The bed was treacherous and crafty.
[18:43] <PersonaGM> [Once Sachiko was done slandering innocent furniture, she'd have time to process the tray's contents. The dishes seemed to contain a mix of various seafoods- fish, some mussels, helpings of squid, with a side of rice.-
[18:43] <PersonaGM> [The pamphlet, it seemed, contained rules from the caretaker.-
[18:43] <PersonaGM> [Read it…?]
[18:49] <Sachiko> No reason not to, she supposed. She nudged her case back against the wall and balanced the tray on the thin sliver of desk remaining, trying to assess how long the seafood had been sitting unattended in the hall.
[18:49] <PersonaGM> [It seemed warm still, so not very long.-
[18:49] <PersonaGM> [The rules were printed, but had a crop of hand edits and little details changed in bright red ink. Frequently throughout the list, the caretaker had crossed out words like 'me' and replaced them with 'Miss Asahina'.-
[18:50] <PersonaGM> ['Rule One: Curfew is from 12 AM to 5 AM. During curfew, the front gate is locked and the building's external doors are bolted. If you believe that you will stay out past curfew and know in advance, due to accident, planning or circumstance, ring me Ms. Asahina in advance and I she will keep the back door unlocked for you.']
[19:02] * Sachiko squinted at the edits for a while, trying to parse whether she was currently the victim of some elaborate joke.
[19:04] <PersonaGM> [Whilst Sachiko ate fish and wondered if there was beef, more rules were there for the reading.-
[19:04] <PersonaGM> ['Rule Two: Your rent and utilities is paid by the school. The following extras are also provided to tenants free of charge: daily breakfast, nightly dinner, sanitaries. Submit any dietary or sanitary requirements to me Miss Asahina within a week of arriving'. Today was Friday the 30th of March, so that meant… the 6th of April.-
[19:04] <PersonaGM> ['MONDAY: Breakfast is rice, grilled fish, buttered toast. Dinner is boiled bamboo shoots with steamed rice.'
[19:04] <PersonaGM> ['TUESDAY: Breakfast is rice, grilled fish, buttered toast. Dinner is Beef Mapo Tofu.'
[19:04] <PersonaGM> ['WEDNESDAY: Breakfast is rice, grilled fish, buttered croissant. Dinner is curry pizza.'
[19:04] <PersonaGM> ['THURSDAY: Breakfast is leftover pizza. Dinner is pork and chicken curry.'
[19:04] <PersonaGM> ['FRIDAY: Breakfast is kare-pan. Dinner is seafood mix. (Fish, mussels, squid etc.)'
[19:04] <PersonaGM> ['SATURDAY: Breakfast is rice, takoyaki. Dinner is spring vegetable medley (bamboo, rapeseed, sprouts etc.)'
[19:04] <PersonaGM> ['SUNDAY: Breakfast is continental on sundays ending in an odd number and Full English on sundays ending in an even number. Dinner is pork cutlet and steak with a mix of Italian pasta dishes. Dessert is provided: taiyaki and strawberry desserts.'-
[19:04] <PersonaGM> ['IN FUTURE MEALS MUST BE COLLECTED FROM KITCHEN AT 7:30 AM (breakfast) AND 7:30 PM (dinner)'.]
[19:10] <Sachiko> Seemed fairly standard. Was there anything else…?
[19:10] <PersonaGM> ['Rule Three: No smoking.']
[19:19] <Sachiko> Her choked laughter was loud enough to make it out into the hall, where it would no doubt encourage Hideki's very ghost-centric assessment of their building.
[19:23] <PersonaGM> [Not that that needed encouragement.-
[19:23] <PersonaGM> ['Rule Four: STAY OUT OF THE BASEMENT.']
[19:24] <Sachiko> "Oh come on," she said. That wasn't fair!
[19:25] <PersonaGM> [Well wait for the next one: 'Rule Five: STAY AWAY FROM ROOM 5-E.']
[19:27] <Sachiko> … for a moment she entertained the idea that if she were to try either Forbidden Zone, she would barely have the door open before a stick emerged from the darkness to jab her in the face once again.
[19:31] <PersonaGM> [She would be right about the next rule, then: 'Rule Six: STAY OUT OF THE FIRST FLOOR CHECK-IN BOOTH.']
[19:50] <Sachiko> This was entrapment, at this point.
[19:57] <PersonaGM> ['Rule Seven: I Miss Asahina welcomes friends of the tenants from outside the dorm to stay as guests. However, they must obey all the rules. Also, if you inform me Miss Asahina a week early, and space permits, a spare room will be prepared for them for up to three days, as will meals. Longer stays depend on circumstances.'-
[20:05] <Sachiko> And what a tempting offer that was. It hurt her a little just thinking about it. Would she actually leave the check-in desk for that, or would Sachiko have to shout around the sign-in book and hope her dormmates were pretty relaxed…?
[20:06] <PersonaGM> [Depending on the day and time, she'd be doing it during an underwear party populated by ghosts, so… Probably.-
[20:07] <PersonaGM> ['Rule Eight: Treat fellow tenants with respect. Any complaints or grievances should be solved amicably between the two individuals. If this cannot be gone, I Miss Asahina am is available to mediate.'-
[20:07] <PersonaGM> [And finally…-
[20:07] <PersonaGM> ['Rule Nine: Be nice to the cat.']
[20:11] <Sachiko> A little shrug. As far as she was concerned, the cat was the most helpful creature in the building, so she supposed she owed it that much.
[20:15] <PersonaGM> [As she reached the end of the list of rules, Sachiko would hear a few ambient noises- the sound of the cat meowing, someone shuffling into their room downstairs, some very faint music being played somewhere, the odd thud or clang as someone in another room put away clothes… It seemed as though the occupants were settling in.-
[20:15] <PersonaGM> [Sachiko would have the weekend to herself before she went to school on Monday. The rest of the day was her's as well, although it didn't seem like anyone else was in the mood to say hello.-
[20:16] <PersonaGM> [Did Sachiko have a plan for the rest of the night? Or was she tired enough to go back to bed…?]
[12:31] <Sachiko> Not yet, thankfully. She had some time before fatigue got the better of her again.-
[12:31] <Sachiko> The tray of food, still only half-finished, was quickly set on the floor as she set about unpacking the padded case. The full-scale digital piano dominated her desk space, but she didn't seem to mind. She had enough good manners to plug in her headphones before she set to playing.-
[12:31] <Sachiko> She found herself playing a Chopin Ballade out of habit - a favourite of her old piano teacher, and one she knew exceedingly well. It started well enough, slow as it was, but as the speed picked up it became rapidly evident that her right-hand melodies were not matching the confident articulation of her rhythms. Her fingers were too numb and stiff to keep pace, and she was forced to
[12:31] <Sachiko> abbreviate phrases just to keep up, before slipping so badly that she had to stop altogether.-
[12:31] <Sachiko> She screwed her eyes shut and tried to tamp down a sudden burst of rage. It took a while.-
[12:31] <Sachiko> It'd have to be something different. When she started again it was altogether different - something light, loose and more jazzy than classical. That looseness seemed to help, and within a minute or two she had regained enough confidence to begin improvising.-
[12:31] <Sachiko> For a while, the world stopped mattering. Already smiling, she played until it was time to sleep again.
[12:40] <Minaplo> […-
[12:42] <Minaplo> [Morning came quietly in 5 Soejima road. The sun's rays barely penetrated the blackout curtains, and there was hardly much in the way of noise. The place sounded empty.-
[12:42] <Minaplo> [At least, for a saturday morning.-
[12:43] <Minaplo> [For Sachiko, it'd mean no fighting over bathrooms, and it'd mean that if she felt like it, she could go down to the kitchens, where a plate of food- rice and takoyaki balls- was waiting for her on a tray, a post-it note with her name hastily written on it slapped on the side.-
[12:44] <Minaplo> [Someone had also slipped a flyer onto her tray as well.]
[12:54] <Sachiko> If she had the showers to herself she was going to take the option while she had it. She assumed that would not be the case going forward, but… well, she'd cross that bridge when she came to it.-
[12:54] <Sachiko> She took as long of a shower as she thought she could risk, dressed and went down to collect her food. She'd already popped one of the takoyaki balls into her mouth by the time she'd noticed the flyer. Was it just the same one again…?
[12:57] <Minaplo> [No, fortunately. This one had production values.-
[13:00] <Minaplo> [It seemed to be an advertisement for a local music shop. "Tony's Tune Emporium", it called itself. It claimed to sell anything a musician needed- instruments, songs, notation, paper, stands… Anything except an audience. It was nearby, in fact, just over on Shigenori Boulevard.]
[13:07] <Sachiko> Huh. Well that sounded nice. It would be a good excuse to explore a bit, she supposed, even if she'd have to do it slowly.-
[13:07] <Sachiko> She took the tray and left the kitchen for now, munching another takoyaki as she went. Although she did pause long enough to give the basement door a long, thoughtful look.
[13:08] <Minaplo> [The door was nice and quiet and there.]
[13:09] <Minaplo> […-
[13:09] <Minaplo> [Tony's Tune Emporium was the sort of shop that one would describe charitably as 'homely'.-
[13:10] <Minaplo> [For starters, the sign was written in English, except presumably whoever painted it had gotten confused and had inscribed Tony's Tuna Emporium instead, which someone else had presumably had to edit and had done a poor job of doing so. Sachiko could clearly see the A still.-
[13:14] <Minaplo> [The inside of the store had been organised at some point into roughly three areas- areas with instruments, areas with music, and areas with supplies- but the actual areas themselves were rather haphazard. The ideal had been for the instruments to be grouped by type, but that didn't stop guitars being found deep in the forest of brass, or indeed, Sachiko witnessing the rather ominous sight of a flute balanced on top of a harp.-
[13:15] <Minaplo> [Despite that, the instruments themselves were all of good quality and well-taken care of, odd placements aside. And the shop itself was pretty spacious.-
[13:20] <Minaplo> [A fact reinforced by it being nearly empty.-
[13:22] <Minaplo> [One of the only exceptions was the proprietor, a tanned older latin man in his fifties, who wore a pair of black shades and was in the habit of tapping his fingers against his counter. When Sachiko entered, she set of a little jingle, which caught his ear. "Hello! Welcome to Tony's Tune Emporium! You a maker or a lover?"]
[14:12] <Sachiko> Sachiko had eschewed her dark glasses on a whim, but the look she gave him (Tony, she had to assume) wasn't all that much easier to read for it. "… maker, I guess," she said. "They're not really mutually exclusive, are they?"
[14:45] <PersonaGM> [Tony chuckled. "No they ain't."]
[14:57] <Sachiko> "Your organisational structure has… character," she said, undercut ever so slightly by the hint of a smile.
[15:01] <PersonaGM> ["It's a big damn mess, huh?" Said Tony; he grinned. "You a student at the school? You looking for a job?"]
[15:14] <Sachiko> With a great amount of care, she excavated a bass guitar from beneath a deadfall of recorders and gave it a critical once-over. "Just looking in general," she said, "But yeah, I'm a student."
[15:29] <PersonaGM> ["Nice. What you play?"]
[15:59] <Sachiko> "Piano, mostly, with some guitar mixed in," she said. The bass seemed to pass muster, but lacking a better option she set it down on the bed of cheap woodwind instruments.-
[15:59] <Sachiko> "What about you?"
[16:07] <PersonaGM> ["Oh, lots. My big one is the guitar, though. Last few years I've been doing stuff on the koto."]
[16:20] <Sachiko> "The koto? Really?" She seemed to brighten up all at once. "What sort of style are you working in…?"
[16:31] <PersonaGM> ["Well the thing about living near the Academy is you get some real rare picks coming around. So I started with Yamada style, but last year there's a man up there who does really old Yatsuhashi style." Said Tony. "Good fit for a man like me," He said, tapping the side of his head.]
[16:45] <Sachiko> "I can't really say I know much about the koto at all, but it's pretty cool that you're trying it."
[16:45] <PersonaGM> ["Thanks."-
[16:49] <PersonaGM> [At that moment, the front-door jingle sounded as a teenage girl walked in.-
[16:50] <PersonaGM> [The fashionable and practical Academy welcoming t-shirt she wore marked her as a local student.-
[16:51] <PersonaGM> [The rest of her, though, marked her as someone Sachiko knew. Long brown hair'd been cut short and she was a little taller and a little thinner, but she had the same eyes and the same freckles and the same mole just below her left eye.-
[16:52] <PersonaGM> [Sakurako Nagisa. Sophia Academy. Played flute in the music club.-
[16:52] <PersonaGM> ["Hello! Welcome to Tony's Tune Emporium! You a maker or a lover?" Asked Tony.-
[16:52] <PersonaGM> ["It's me, Sakurako." Said Sakurako cheerfully. She looked around, her eyes turning to surprise as she saw someone else in the shop.-
[16:53] <PersonaGM> [… And then to shock. It looked as though Sakurako had been punched hard in the gut. "Oh my god."]
[17:30] <Sachiko> .Should've brought the glasses, damn it.-
[17:31] <Sachiko> There wasn't all that much to see, really. The surgeons had done good work, and Sachiko's style of dress meant there wasn't all that much exposed skin to stare at. The texture of the skin along her face and neck wasn't exactly perfect, but thoroughly passable.-
[17:31] <Sachiko> Though she realized Sakurako was staring at where her collar had slipped slightly to reveal a less repaired patch of scar below the neckline, and she found herself adjusting her shirt to hide it before she could make herself stop.-
[17:31] <Sachiko> "Hi Saku," she said.
[18:17] <PersonaGM> [Sakurako flushed. "Oh… H-Hi. We didn't know you were coming back."]
[18:54] <Sachiko> "Nobody asked."
[18:56] <PersonaGM> ["Oh. R-Right." Said Sakurako. Sachiko could tell from the way Saku's whole face seemed to twist and turn that she deeply regretted this conversation.-
[18:56] <PersonaGM> ["So… Are you joining music club…?"]
[19:06] <Sachiko> "Oh absolutely," Sachiko said, and she gave a broad smile… though, again, the right side of her mouth didn't quite match the left. "I've been looking forward to hanging out with you all again! Do you still have the same mobile number…?"
[19:12] <PersonaGM> ["I uh, don't."]
[19:30] <Sachiko> Sachiko's phone was in her hand by this point, and she looked like she was trying to pass it over. "Would you mind…?"
[19:37] <PersonaGM> ["I d-don't give my number out to just anyone." Said Sakurako. "N-Not that you're nobody, but…"]
[19:53] <Sachiko> The phone hung between them for a moment before dropping back to Sachiko's side, her expression twisting with hurt. "Oh."
[19:57] <PersonaGM> [Sakurako had the good grace to look ashamed. "S-Sorry. I mean. Let's… Uh, just… Go slow…?"]
[20:00] * Sachiko nodded slowly, still looking a little pained. She tried to play it off by turning her attention to her phone.
[20:03] <PersonaGM> [A moment later, Sakurako's phone rang.-
[20:03] <PersonaGM> [There was a split-second look of near-rapturous relief on Sakurako's phone… Until she took it out and looked at the number.-
[20:04] <PersonaGM> [The colour drained from Sakurako's face, then rushed back in. She gave Sachiko a look of social terror, hung up the call and stuffed the phone away. "I-I have to go."-
[20:05] <Sachiko> Sachiko was grinning from ear to ear, any hint of hurt thoroughly vanished.
[20:05] <Sachiko> "Bye~"
[20:06] <PersonaGM> [Sakurako left in a rush, the door clattering in her wake.-
[20:06] <PersonaGM> [Tony let out a long, low whistle.]
[20:11] <Sachiko> "She was never too bright," Sachiko said mildly.
[20:12] <PersonaGM> ["Good musician, that girl." Said Tony. "Little too focused on the mechanical, last year. Very competitive. Not that I want to sound cliched. Music loves all types."-
[20:12] <PersonaGM> ["I take it you're the one who called her?"]
[20:18] <Sachiko> "An average musician at best," Sachiko said. She found an alleyway and ventured a little deeper into the shop, raising her voice to compensate. "And yeah, it was. Pretty confident she was lying, and if I was wrong she -still- would've been guilty about that conversation for weeks. Win-win."
[20:19] <PersonaGM> [Tony chuckled. "Mean thing to do, miss. I get it, though."]
[20:28] <Sachiko> "Yeah. 'Mean' is relative."
[20:28] <PersonaGM> ["Well yeah, coulda cost me a sale."-
[20:28] <PersonaGM> ["I mean, she was probably just going to browse, but still." Tony chuckled.]
[20:34] <Sachiko> A brief, contemplative silence. "If I buy a guitar will we call it even? The amp will have to wait, but fair's fair."
[20:35] <PersonaGM> [Tony let out a long, crooning laugh. "Well if you're gonna buy an instrument every time you bust a student trying to buy note paper, then yeah, it's even." Said Tony.]
[20:36] * Sachiko was still hidden, but her voice lowered a notch. "Don't tell anyone, but it's just a good excuse for me to do what I was coming here to do anyway."
[20:37] <PersonaGM> [Tony cackled. "Oh, you're gonna have a good year here, ol' Tony can feel it!"]


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