Showcase02

[07:36] <Minaplo> Persona: A Study in Velvet, Chapter Two: The Curious Case of the Schoolboy in Space. Week Six, May 15th. Elsewhere.
[08:06] <Syntax> The collection of media vans and assorted personnel had been a fixture of Sophia Academy long enough for secondary markets and food tents to pop up. People were still constantly flowing in and out, and there was even a police presence now, ensuring everything stayed civil.
[08:06] <Syntax> A woman in a blue casual business suit stepped out of a corporate utility van, slinging a heavy black duffel bag onto her back, slamming the van door shut and gazing out at the chaos they'd waded into. The noise and traffic here were worse than anything a war correspondent would deal with. God, she should've just been a war correspondent. She bristled with the thought of spending another fruitless week here and barked an order to her driver. "Tsune! You finished packing your gear yet?"
[08:23] <Minaplo> Her driver reached behind and scratched the back of his neck. He was tall, with the face of a younger man and the haircut of a more depressed one, black and shabby. He was wearing a rumpled button-up t-shirt and a padded vest over slacks. "Uhh… I think gremlins got one of the cameras."
[08:27] <Syntax> "Gremlins went extinct in the war, Tsune," Akira called out to him, fishing out some sunglasses from a suit pocket and putting them on. It was a great day to be out, but not out here. At least it wasn't the height of the summer heat quite yet. "Can we get the B-roll or not?"
[08:30] <Minaplo> "Maybe the war never ended here, Kotsu." Said Tsune seriously.
[08:39] <Syntax> Akira rolled her eyes, slipped off the duffel bag again and clambered halfway back onto the van's passenger seat. She reached over and slammed the eject button on the cassette deck. The antique monstrosity, its wood-imitation design clashing with the rest of the van's indoor controls, spit out the CCR cassette and silenced the speakers. The white noise of the hubbub outside reigned supreme once more.
[08:39] <Syntax> "Look, would it kill you to get some nice enka in once in a while instead of the same American crap on loop all the time?"
[08:42] <Minaplo> "Last man I tried to buy an enka tape off sold me haunted enka." Said Tsune. "Only ever played well near shinto temples. Didn't like that one bit."
[08:49] <Syntax> "You ever think about why that only ever happens to you?" Akira re-slammed the door shut and grabbed the bag of lighting gear again, circling around to the back of the van, where Tsunemori was battling his gremlins. "Wait. Did you curse my career, too?"
[08:55] <Minaplo> Tsunemori pulled a slightly battered-looking shoulder camera out and did a quick check. "I don't do curses." He said churlishly. "That would be bad karma. I simply can't help but see them around. And no, I didn't curse your career. You just make bad decisions."
[08:58] <Syntax> "Bah. Whatever, let's just get in there. Maybe today's the day."
[09:01] <Minaplo> Tsune sighed, which added just an extra bit of droop to his already burdened shoulders. He glanced up at Sophia Academy dubiously.
[09:11] <Syntax> And so, Akira led the way into the press encampment. Things were much the same as they had been the day before. A lot of people were sitting at folding tables under parasols or fancier sunshades, reporting on what little they could glean from the Academy's current state, pooling resources to research its history, or just writing their memoirs and trying to make use of their time however they could.
[09:11] <Syntax> Out closer to the Academy gates, the throng was quite a bit more dense. The senior official the school had demoted to press liaison duties was out again, likely offering the same circuitous excuses and official statements. Still, it was a ritual every outlet here had to go through every day to have an official source.
[09:14] <Minaplo> "The situation inside the school has not sufficiently changed as to warrant extra media intrusion." Said the official- a pallid Japanese man with ear-length brown hair and a short, puggy nose- "This is a school, and our students deserve freedom from media attention in order to focus on their studies."
[09:23] <Syntax> "Alright, get rolling, Tsune." Akira made sure her press badge was visible, straightened out her ponytail and raised her voice to match the crowd. "Sir, what measures is the school taking to address the complaints of the student body?"
[09:33] <Minaplo> Tsune promptly started rolling. He adjusted his name tag, which red 'Kishou Tsunemori'.-
[09:33] <Minaplo> "The school is taking all appropriate measures." Said Puggynose.
[09:39] <Syntax> "Sir, according to historical data, it seems like the school's 'appropriate measures' are, in fact, 'ignoring everything and hoping the tensions go away'. Are you expecting more resignations from the teaching staff?"
[09:44] <Minaplo> "No." He said curtly.
[09:49] <Syntax> "Does the school maintain that all issues are resolved with Asaka's resignation?"
[09:50] <Minaplo> "Of course-" Said Puggynose, stopping a split second later as he realised how close he was to saying too much. He paused for a moment, then his expression became stonier. "No comment."
[09:56] <Syntax> "Amazing," Akira muttered. "One more question. Has the school received formal demands from the student council or other representatives of the body?"
[09:57] <Minaplo> "No comment!"
[10:01] <Syntax> "Fantastic. Thank you for your time, sir. How're you for lunch, Tsune?"
[10:10] <Minaplo> "I imagine I taste bad." Said Tsune.
[10:13] <Syntax> "No doubt. I smelled barbecue on the way over, let's try and track that down."
[10:17] <Minaplo> And indeed, there was one food tent nearby, operating a barbeque, the smell of sizzling, roasting meat attracting many a hungry media falcon. However, this food tent was attractive in more ways than one- some extremely astute business students from the University had set this particular food tent up, and were attracting reporters simply by being open about their status.
[10:29] <Syntax> The lunch rush wasn't quite in full swing, yet, so it was still easy enough to get the vendors' attention. "Ahoy. Two takoyaki sets on the company card, please. What's the scoop today?"
[10:34] <Minaplo> "Two takoyaki coming up." Said the first university student.
[10:34] <Minaplo> "The scoop is that the teriyaki skewers are good." Said the second student. "Especially when bought in sets of six."
[10:34] <Minaplo> The teriyaki skewers were about 300 yen each. This was a swindle.
[10:39] <Syntax> "I'd be astonished if the takoyaki lived up to its name, but I'm honor-bound to try — no offense. Does the teriyaki come wrapped in the contact information of the kid who's organizing the strike?"
[10:46] <Minaplo> "… It might."
[10:49] <Syntax> "I'm not gonna expense 2000 yen for a lead lottery ticket on a dead-end story, sorry. I'm sure someone here will, though."
[11:07] <Minaplo> "You're not just paying 2000 yen for a story. You're also getting teriyaki skewers. They're done in the local Katashiba style, you know. They attract wisdom."
[11:07] <Minaplo> Tsune perked up at this obvious bait.
[11:09] <Syntax> "Right. Here's your mediocre octopus, Tsune. Let's see if we can barter for a parasol outside."
[11:12] <Minaplo> "Mediocre octopus is the best kind." Said Tsune, happily popping a ball of takoyaki into his mouth. "Mmm. Not quite hot."-
[11:14] <Minaplo> "What if they did have a lead, though?" Said Tsune. "Could miss a scoop."
[11:17] <Syntax> "Journalist's creed, Tsune. We're better than that. If it's just to line someone's pockets, it ain't worth it." Akira tried her share, stepping out of the tent and its sauna-like heat. "Huh. Could be a lot worse. Maybe today is the day."
[11:43] <Minaplo> "Looking for something, Miss?"-
[11:48] <Minaplo> Now here was a young man, although it was hard for Akira to pin if he was a high schooler or a university student. He was of average height, and he was overweight enough that he'd needed a uniform customised for his size. It made his face round. Round too were his large, luminous grey eyes. Most distinctively, perhaps, was the mole beneath his left eye which, along with an unfortunate array of pimples, gave him a set of dots on his face that looked uncannily like the constellation Orion.
[11:57] <Syntax> "The foodstand of my childhood from Osaka, and a school that doesn't guard its drama like wartime secrets," Akira started. "Akira Kotsuhara, Aichi Times. This is my partner, Kishou Tsunemori. Are you a student here?"
[11:58] <Minaplo> "What, you think this uniform's to pick up the cosplay chicks?"
[11:59] <Syntax> "I don't know. Is that uniform to pick up cosplay chicks?"
[12:00] <Minaplo> "Unless you're cosplaying as a reporter, you shouldn't have to ask."
[12:05] <Syntax> "Can I help you with something? Do you have something to share with us about the recent events here?"
[12:07] <Minaplo> "Sure. But I'm not gonna talk about it right here."
[12:10] <Syntax> "Alright. What're your terms?"
[12:12] <Minaplo> "There's a family restaurant in downtown called Wild Duck's Revenge. Meet me there after school."
[12:13] <Syntax> "Is it your family's restaurant? I sort of have to ask."
[12:16] <Minaplo> "No. When I say 'family restaurant' I mean it's a fast food franchise that sells unhealthy food."
[12:17] <Syntax> "Sure, we can meet you there. Can I get your name?"
[12:22] <Minaplo> "I'm Masaru Katsuki. Pleased to meet you. Take good care of me."
[12:28] <Syntax> "Likewise. We'll meet up with you later, then?"
[12:30] <Minaplo> "Of course. Have a good one, Miss!"
[12:30] <Minaplo> Once Masaru was gone, Tsune frowned. "School's haunted."
[12:32] <Syntax> "Yeah, wild duck's onion revenge, I guess. As far as second locations go, it's not a bad one to die in."
[12:32] <Syntax> […]
[12:38] <Minaplo> Wild Duck's Revenge, however, was a terrible place to die.
[12:38] <Minaplo> The entrance was guarded by a tall duck statue, wearing twin six shooters, bandoliers criss-crossing its chest, whilst a cowboy hat was pulled low over its eyes. The place looked like an uneasy mix of a school cafeteria and some Japanese shmuck's fourth-hand idea of what a wild west saloon looked like. Hovering over the front counter was, inexplicably, a funeral portrait picturing a smiling, stately green duck.
[12:38] <Minaplo> "Absolutely just cursed everything." Said Tsune. "Ooh, duck burger."
[12:45] <Syntax> "Agreed. What kind of twisted mind… Okay, I've got my recorder, so we can just post up here until we see the kid. I'm not really in the mood for a duck burger, anyway."
[12:46] <Minaplo> "You think this brat's legit?"
[12:47] <Syntax> "Nah. Honor-bound to try, though."
[12:47] <Minaplo> "That journalist's code again?" Tsune snorted.
[12:48] <Syntax> "Yeah. Also, we're shit out of luck otherwise."
[12:53] <Minaplo> "… I don't want to go home to the boss with nothing again."
[12:57] <Syntax> "Well, the old EIC wouldn't have posted us on this wild goose chase to begin with."
[01:12] <Minaplo> "Surely you mean wild duck chase, Miss?" Came a voice. Masaru Katsuki had arrived, now with his schoolbag over his shoulder.
[01:17] <Syntax> "Well, what do you know. Thank you for coming, Masaru. There was something you wanted to discuss?"
[01:22] <Minaplo> Masaru awkwardly shuffled into a seat opposite Akira. "So you know about the strikes going on in the school. Right?"
[01:24] <Syntax> "Nebulous reports. We know there is one, and it's somehow related to the Asaka debacle. That's about it."
[01:27] <Minaplo> Masaru folded his hands into a bridge and rested his chin on it. "And the Asaka debacle. Teacher is accused of harassing female students and foreigners. Suddenly it blows up out of nowhere, and after a few weeks, he has a sudden change of heart and resigns."
[01:34] <Syntax> "Right. Before we go any further, can I get your consent to record this interview?" Akira placed a pocket recorder on the table in front of them. "You can just state your name and occupation, if you'd like. If not, you can also choose to be anonymous."
[01:36] <Minaplo> "Of course you can record. But my name and occupation stays anonymous, sorry."
[01:39] <Syntax> "No problem." Akira pushed a button on the digital recorder and leaned back. "Now, can you please tell us what you know about the events surrounding Mr. Asaka's resignation and this ongoing strike at Sophia Academy?"
[01:41] <Minaplo> "It all started in the new term. Asaka's never been popular, and there've been whispers for years that he likes to harass foreign students and girls. Even rumours that he assaulted some of them. Things really started to boil up this year when he went after two students in particular."
[01:43] <Syntax> "Which students are these?"
[01:43] <Minaplo> "The first one is Dinah Sarah Schreier. American. Daughter of a famous actor. She has a terrible reputation on campus."
[01:47] <Syntax> Scribble, scribble. "And the other?"
[01:49] <Minaplo> "Sachiko Kurata. She's the scion of an up-and-coming renewables company. She's sort of part of student council. Close to the President. She's pretty aloof. People kind of tend to see her as being arrogant."
[01:53] <Syntax> "And do you know what happened between them and Asaka, in particular?"
[01:55] <Minaplo> "During the opening ceremony, President Choi was making a speech about his promises to the students. Asaka looked unhappy, and Dinah shouted out in the middle of his speech that Asaka was eyeing him. Asaka became livid and sent her to detention."
[01:55] <Minaplo> "As for Kurata? She has a habit of wearing pants instead of a skirt at school. Asaka's notorious for pulling the girls up on clothing infractions. He hit her with the skirt infraction, she fought him. Detention."
[01:57] <Syntax> "Did anything else happen before he resigned?"
[01:58] <Minaplo> "Yes, actually. There was the email."
[02:00] <Syntax> "Email?"
[02:02] <Minaplo> "It would've happened two weeks ago. Every one in the university mailing list got an anonymous email listing Asaka's crimes, the reason why he turned out the way he did, and challenging people to reject him and his beliefs. The email was signed from 'The Monster with Twenty-One Faces'." Said Masaru. "I can show you the email if you want, it's on my phone."
[02:04] <Syntax> "I see. That would be very helpful, thank you."
[02:05] <Minaplo> Masaru took out his phone which, Akira would note, was decorated with a Sailor Moon covering on the back. Sailor Mercury, natch.
[02:05] <Minaplo> He called up the email and showed it to her.
[02:07] <Syntax> "I'll just read it out loud for the recording, if that's fine. We can get a properly sourced copy down the line."
[02:08] <Minaplo> "Sure."
[02:12] <Syntax> A minute or so later, Akira finished going through the e-mail. "And the message ends there. Was there any official response from the school to this?"
[02:14] <Minaplo> "They started shutting down discussions about it on the forum and teachers tried to restore order, but nothing that much."
[02:14] <Syntax> "And then Asaka just resigned?"
[02:15] <Minaplo> "Out of nowhere."
[02:15] <Syntax> "When did the strike begin?"
[02:16] <Minaplo> "Well, after he resigned, all hell broke loose. Students were furious because his resignation meant that there was truth to the actions. Police were going to get involved. There were fights between students because some supported Asaka and thought he'd been blackmailed or threatened. The actual strikes began to form about late last week."
[02:23] <Syntax> "Do you know who organized the strikes?"
[02:27] <Minaplo> "The strikes… Hmmm. I don't know exactly, but I know that whoever it is will be at a strike next week some time."
[02:30] <Syntax> "That's a pretty reasonable assumption. Do you know any other details about the upcoming strikes?"
[02:31] <Minaplo> "It's mostly middle schoolers. Oh, and they want a full investigation into the faculty. Some want the principal removed."
[02:37] <Syntax> "Hm. I see. Is there anything else you'd like to share about these events?"
[02:39] <Minaplo> "There is one thing. It's a weird coincidence, but Sachiko Kurata and Dinah Sarah Schreier? They're friends. And more than that, they're roommates."
[02:46] <Syntax> "Sure. Are you saying that's connected to the events?"
[02:49] <Minaplo> "That's the thing. They're also roommates with a guy, named Hideki Nakajima. And he's the boyfriend of a girl named Yi Ji-hu, who some people say is behind the swell of rumours that set all of this off in the first place."
[02:52] <Syntax> Akira frowned for a moment. "That's a lot of connections. I understand that school rumor mills work fast, but all of this sounds very specific. Did you piece this together just from the scuttlebutt?"
[02:53] <Minaplo> "Honestly?" Masaru looked embarrassed. "It was kind of an embarrassing accident that I found out at all…"
[02:53] <Syntax> "Can you tell me about it?"
[02:55] <Minaplo> "Our school has an official newspaper, run by students. But I don't really like it that much." Said Masaru. "My friend runs a kind of alternative newspaper, and my friends say I'm pretty good at writing, so he wanted me to contribute an article. But I had no idea what to write. So we chose at random, and the answer was… Occult writing."
[02:55] <Minaplo> Tsune's eyes widened. He leaned forward a little and unconsciously wet his lips.
[02:59] <Syntax> "I see. And you were investigating… what, exactly?"-
[03:00] <Syntax> was so close to being a story. IT WAS A STORY AND THEN HE CURSED ME AGAIN//
[03:00] <Minaplo> Masaru also leaned forward. "Have you heard of the 1988 Disappearances?"
[03:01] <Syntax> Akira closed her eyes for a moment, took a deep breath in, and exhaled. "No," she said.
[03:02] <Minaplo> "In 1988, nine students went missing, without a trace. Including the student council president."
[03:06] <Syntax> "You mean from Sophia Academy?"
[03:06] <Minaplo> "Yeah."
[03:07] <Syntax> "Okay. There would've been a wide police search, then."
[03:11] <Minaplo> "Yeah. But nothing was ever found." Said Masaru. "It's like they vanished into thin air."
[03:11] <Minaplo> Tsune was hooked. He was even vibrating a little.
[03:11] <Minaplo> "The thing is, the nine of them had a whole dorm apartment building to themselves. And they were all roommates, and they all went missing."
[03:11] <Minaplo> "Roommates." Breathed Tsune excitedly. "Kotsu, they're just like Nakajima and whoever!"
[03:11] <Minaplo> "Not only that. The apartment building the 1988 students had?" Masaru paused. He waited for the drop.
[03:11] <Minaplo> "Is the same one occupied by Nakajima, Kurata and Schreier now."
[03:11] <Minaplo> "Dorm's haunted." Said Tsune. He let out a short whimper of excitement.
[03:11] <Minaplo> "Of course it's not. That's all just rumour and nonsense. BUT, because I was investigating it, I did notice that they all live together." Said Masaru.
[03:17] <Syntax> "Right, yes, thank you. Tsune, we're not pitching this angle on the story, neither of us has a hair's breadth of slack in our contracts right now to dip our toes into haunted house bullshit."-
[03:17] <Minaplo> "But-"
[03:18] <Syntax> "Again, thank you, Sophia Academy's strikes are one step closer to being resolved, now, since it seems like internal pressure isn't getting anything done over there. If nothing else, those of us camped outside will be able to move on with our lives, thanks to you."
[03:19] <Minaplo> "I'm very happy to be of service." Said Masaru.
[03:20] <Syntax> "Then, if there's nothing else, we can conclude the interview and go our separate ways." Akira stood up, smoothing out her jacket and offering a handshake to Masaru.
[03:21] <Minaplo> Masaru took it and shook it. It was a firm grip.
[03:21] <Syntax> "You have a nice day, now." Akira reached over, stopped the recorder and pocketed it.
[03:22] <Minaplo> "You too. Please do the right thing, Miss."
[03:23] <Syntax> "Count on it."
[03:23] <Minaplo> Masaru remained seating as they left.
[03:23] <Minaplo> […]
[03:23] <Minaplo> "So… What do we do now?" Asked Tsune.
[03:24] <Syntax> "We stalk a couple schoolkids, I guess. Try to get that email corroborated."-
[03:25] <Syntax> "I can't believe this might be a real story."
[03:25] <Minaplo> "Tell me about it. We might finally get some insight into the 1988 Disappearances!"
[03:29] <Syntax> "You can get B-roll if we check out the dorm. But if you want to die on that hill, you do that story with Togawa."
[03:29] <Minaplo> "No way. Togawa'll steal my credit."
[03:31] <Syntax> "Can't steal credit if you ain't got a story."
[03:35] <Minaplo> Tsune huffed.
[03:35] <Minaplo> "So what is the hook for our story, then? Schoolkid rebellion is justified?"
[03:38] <Syntax> "For now, it's what the hell the administration is doing trying to keep radio silence on the whole thing. But there's always a better one."-
[03:38] <Syntax> "In the end, the hook's always the same. Something true and interesting that everyone else isn't already writing about."

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