[09:21] <Minaplo> Persona: A Study in Velvet, Chapter Two: The Curious Case of the Schoolboy in Space. Week Seven, May 23rd. Elsewhere.
[09:30] <Syntax> The rain was pouring down hard that day, and the combination parking-lot-and-press-blockade outside Sophia Academy was mostly lifeless at a distance. Whenever someone flitted between the trailers and tents, they did so under a raincoat or umbrella.
[09:35] <Syntax> But Akira Kotsuhara and Kishou Tsunemori had left the shelter of the parking lot behind, garbed in rainboots and heavy, hooded plastic coats that covered their backpacks, too. The terrain they were traversing was rough, having been turned into a muddy mire by the ongoing storm.
[09:35] <Syntax> Again, war correspondents had it easy.
[09:37] <Syntax> "You can still turn back, Tsune," Akira managed in between her heavy breathing as they marched onwards. "It's a risky job, and I can handle it by myself."
[09:42] <Minaplo> "Aight." He promptly turned on his heel.
[09:50] <Syntax> She kept walking. "I mean, the web content has been holding back the paper anyway since the shift started. If I blow this one wide open and completely shift gears, I can just sell the story to the highest bidder. Probably come out at a profit even after the non-compete clause fines. If we're already selling our souls to the devil, what's a little corporate infidelity?"
[09:53] <Minaplo> "You really think it's gonna be that big?"
[09:57] <Syntax> "How many layers of coverups and go-betweens have we waded through by now, Tsune? Even without any substance, this is still A-tier municipal coverage. The Nōbi would've killed for a piece like this on its deathbed."
[09:58] <Minaplo> "I mean, sure, sure, it's just…"
[10:07] <Minaplo> Some Time Ago…
[10:07] <Syntax> "It's just a little too good to be true."
[10:10] <Minaplo> The Latin boy was tall, gangly-stick thin. He was a young man whose hair was short because he cut it, not because he was old. He had no beard. He looked something like the main lead from The Raid.
[10:10] <Minaplo> "People who have a habit of thinking that tend to settle for mediocre outcomes. Sometimes good is good."
[10:14] <Syntax> "Sometimes source criticism is critical. And let me guess, you're an anonymous source?"
[10:21] <Minaplo> The waiter, his face hidden by the late Greek war mask he wore, approached their table. "The LORD has granted unto you… One Kamehameha's Revenge and two bottles of Cylon Tea."
[10:21] <Minaplo> He placed it down onto the table. "Give thanks to the LORD."
[10:21] <Minaplo> "Praise be." Said the tip-off. "And of course I'm anonymous, but you can call me… Sergio."
[10:25] <Syntax> "Great." Akira slid the recorder closer to the middle of the table. She was glad Tsune wasn't with her for this one. Every man has his limit.-
[10:26] <Syntax> "Now, Sergio, you said you had information about the ongoing events at Sophia Academy. Please start from the beginning."
[10:29] <Minaplo> "Did you just say my name whilst turning on your recorder?"
[10:31] <Syntax> "Did you just say your real name after "you can call me" and a pause?"
[10:32] <Minaplo> "Even if it's a fake name, it's still clearly Latino. I'm a Latino. What would you have done if it wasn't a Latino name? That's prejudice. Actually, I think that's racism."
[10:36] <Syntax> "Someone else is covering that angle. I can give you their number. We'll start over." Akira pushed a few buttons on the digital recorder. "Sophia Academy, ongoing events. Please tell me what you know."
[10:37] <Minaplo> Sergio nodded slowly, clearly impressed that Akira hadn't buckled.
[10:37] <Minaplo> "The Council's mismanaged everything and now people want to start a fucking war."
[10:40] <Syntax> "What did the Council do?"
[10:41] <Minaplo> "They should've worked with the students to launch an investigation. Instead they just set up tame counselling sessions with students."
[10:42] <Syntax> "I see. Is this after Asaka resigned?"
[10:43] <Minaplo> "No, this was their initial response. It remained unchanged the entire time."
[10:44] <Syntax> "And the 'war' you referred to?"
[10:46] <Minaplo> "Asaka has supporters. They're fighting the people who want an inquiry into the faculty and the Council. There's been violence." He pulled back his collar to reveal some nasty scrapes and gauze on his collar bone.
[10:46] <Minaplo> "… Stating for the record that the source is pulling back his collar to reveal some nasty scrapes and gauze on his collar bone." He added.
[10:49] <Syntax> "Confirmed. How long has it been since these violent incidents started?"
[10:51] <Minaplo> "The first few began before his resignation but now they're spiking."
[10:52] <Syntax> "Any police involvement, as far as you know?"
[10:52] <Minaplo> "The school's been wanting to avoid 'em as much as possible."
[10:55] <Syntax> "Mmhm. Do you know any details about the strikes? Who's organizing them, when they're happening…?"
[10:56] <Minaplo> "They're being cagey about it. My suspicion is that it's higher students, maybe even… University students… Stirring up the middle schoolers."
[10:58] <Syntax> "Does that happen?"
[10:59] <Minaplo> "Shouldn't happen. Does, though. We're an escalator school, and we're a prestigious school. Students here who go to university here… They never really leave."
[11:01] <Syntax> "You mean alumni have lines of contact to… what? The Council? Teaching staff?"
[11:03] <Minaplo> "University students can talk to high schoolers. Or middle schoolers. They act as mentors and tutors, and… Well, they have agendas, of course."
[11:08] <Syntax> "I see. A bit early to get into lobbying, but that's what a system'll do, I guess."
[11:10] <Minaplo> "There's going to be a strike. A big one, soon. And you can see one of the leaders at it. Her name is…"
[11:10] <Minaplo> The waiter snapped back to their table. "They fell from Heaven and unto the Earth, corrupting it with their profane natures!"
[11:10] <Minaplo> "Fuck me!"
[11:10] <Minaplo> "… Here are your napkins…"
[11:10] <Minaplo> After the horrifying cataphract server was gone, Sergio picked up his dropped Cylon Tea and grabbed a slice of pizza.
[11:15] <Syntax> "You know, there was a Byzantine Pizza not far from where I grew up. The fact that they're still thriving is one of the more compelling arguments for there not being a god."-
[11:15] <Syntax> "The name, please."
[11:16] <Minaplo> No less than six different waiters turned and stared at Akira when she said there wasn't a god.
[11:16] <Minaplo> It wasn't comforting.
[11:16] <Minaplo> "Yua Tsukuda. She's kind of… Eh."
[11:17] <Syntax> Akira was not unfazed. "'Eh'?"
[11:17] <Minaplo> "She's a meddler. And she's, you know. A bit of a walking sex scandal."
[11:18] <Syntax> "A lot of rumors around her, then?"
[11:19] <Minaplo> "Yeah. She had a kind of altercation with Asaka in the past, apparently."
[11:19] <Syntax> "Do you have any details on that?"
[11:30] <Minaplo> "It was as much ideology as anything. You don't need to go digging deep into the history of this school to find the scars of ideological warfare."
[11:30] <Minaplo> He leaned in and put a hand on the recorder. "They're keeping you guys out. But I know a way in. Tell me, how good are you when wet?"
[11:31] <Minaplo> The present…
[11:31] <Minaplo> "… This all seems a little too Uzumaki for my tastes is all." Said Tsune.
[11:51] <Syntax> "Well, point of no return," Akira said, stopping. The lights of Sophia Academy shone up ahead through the rainfall. "Just like he said, the stormdrains flush out a path leading up to a low point in the perimeter. It's a blind spot for the cameras, and that means plausible deniability for us. You in or out?"
[11:55] <Minaplo> "… I guess I'm in, but if we're caught I'mma pretend I'm blind. Or Korean."
[12:00] <Syntax> "Great. Glad to have you. Up we go, then. We'll dump the raincoats and boots, and no one will expect we've waded waist-deep through the backhills."
[12:00] <Syntax> "Actually, no one will ever know, because we'll never talk about this."
[12:05] <Minaplo> "Unless."
[12:07] <Syntax> "Just doesn't have the same flair to it as sneaking into an illegally-operating power plant."
[12:08] <Minaplo> "School's haunted."
[08:31] <Syntax> A short while later, the two were rid of their drenched rain gear and officially past the point of no return. Akira was back to her neat business casual outfit, and Kishou back to whatever passed for presentable in his world. Their luggage, already significantly lighter, now only held their recording equipment, which was quickly assembled under the shelter of a smoking area by an Academy staff entrance.
[08:32] <Syntax> "Anyone asks, we've got permission already."
[08:40] <Minaplo> "Ah. Just play it cool. Got it." Tsune adjusted his rust-red hoodie and cap.
[08:40] <Minaplo> "Based on the blueprints, we should be heading in… that direction."
[08:40] <Minaplo> He pointed off toward a dense collection of buildings. Faculty members were outside, trying to keep the peace as an endless parade of restive gakuran and seifuku marched within to join the ongoing strike.
[08:46] <Syntax> "Uh… huh. Detour from the inside, or just stride through? What do you think?"
[08:48] <Minaplo> "Detour."
[08:55] <Syntax> "Good call." Akira picked the nearest door and headed inside. Her press badge was obscured inside the folds of her jacket, but the lanyard was still visible over it to lend an official air to the outfit.
[08:56] <Minaplo> Ten minutes of baffled wandering in twisting turning snakenests of corridors later…-
[09:01] <Minaplo> They eventually found their way by following the shouting. They opened the door to reveal a huge assembly hall, all varnished wood with a raised dias on one end, the walls bedecked with trophies and the banners and standards of Lion Hall.
[09:01] <Minaplo> The noise was enough to shake even this grand edifice. Hundreds of middle schoolers roaring "Dig up dirtbag teachers!" At once. Akira could hear, mingled into that noise, people shouting about sacking the Council or replacing every teacher.
[09:01] <Minaplo> It was mostly middle schoolers here, in neat traditional scarlet and gold gakuran and seifuku. Mixed in amongst them were older individuals, some wearing the blazer of a high schooler, some in plain clothes.
[09:01] <Minaplo> The teachers were near the main exits, watching completely powerlessly.
[09:11] <Syntax> "Okay. Grab some B-roll, but don't blow it. I'll see if I can shake something loose out there." Akira stayed at the fringes of the clamoring crowd, grabbing the attention of some of the students wandering to and from the protest.-
[09:12] <Syntax> "Where did you hear about this protest?"-
[09:13] <Syntax> "What are your demands?"-
[09:14] <Syntax> "How long do you expect these protests will continue?"
[09:14] <Syntax> Truth be told, she wasn't expecting straight or consistent answers out of this crowd, but maybe there was something to grab onto.

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