Logs: Forest Witch

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Arisa has been here before and can probably lead you guys to the Forest Witch, if she's willing. Otherwise it's a bit of a maze. On the plus side, the demons here don't seem to immediately be hostile towards anybody. They're just chilling. They're not particularly communicative though, negotiations will be difficult (Kandori, if he's coming, will be unable to negotiate with them at all and in fact may be the sole recipient of demon abuse while he's present).

It's a fairly pretty forest. Agastya trees (or Augustus trees) are pretty uncommon in the real world but here? There's a huge forest of them. In fact, the rare breed is eerily common in this place.

Nevertheless, the gingerbread house in which Mai makes her home lays before you should you choose to approach the witch of the forest or, as Aki called her, 'Mai'.

Thankfully, it was easy to find Arisa, especially since she was prone to checking on the group. On top of that, she'd bring over whatever supplies Himeru texted her as needing, though it perhaps only put a dent in the amount of resources the otherworldly grouping needed. Used phones for communication (with chargers), energy bars, bottled water... she's certainly been attempting her best to make sure they're not up a creek without a paddle.

Thus, on one of her many visits and her questions about what's happened, the topic was brought up of Mai, as well as Aki- both names she seemed to know, mysteriously enough. It works in the group's favor, however, as Arisa was rather willing to let some of the group come along to see the mysterious 'Miss Mai'. She seems protective of the 'witch', however, telling the group to not upset her, and that, really, Mai wants nothing more than Aki's influence to be gone. Navigating the woods with only a few mistakes in judgement (it *is* a maze, after all), Arisa leads them to the gingerbread house.

"... She's a child, remember. Don't get her scared- it'd be highly recommended that you try to get her on the same page as you."

Contemplating the strange words of the girl in black the night before, Yu deemed it best to lead a group of his fellow strandees into the woods. It didn't take long, however, for Arisa to offer her guidance. Rather forcefully at that. "I apologize for nto contacting you sooner," he looks a bit disappointed in himself at that as he addresses her, "but I'm glad you decided to help us out after all. This 'Mai' that Aki mentioned. I think she definitely may be able to shed some light on the situation." He gestures to the vague forest trail before them before looking back to the rest of the companions curiously, making sure they're keeping up alright.

He returns his eyes to Arisa with a ready not, "I see. We'll have to choose our words carefully, then." He suddenly remembers having to skirt around sensitive issues with Nanako every one in awhile.

He hadn't even known about this little forest venture until just a little while ago. But in a strange land, when given no clear opportunity to leave, you take every chance you can get to find answers. That's why Blaise is here. Having arrived just at the edge of the woods and waiting for the rest of the 'group' that had been alluded to before, he proceeded to follow Arisa in.

He remembers meeting her. It was a pleasant little encounter, but now was certainly not the time.

Weaving between a few tree trunks, Blaise has taken to walking more off to the side, away from the rest of the group. Though he knows a couple of the people assembled for this little outing, he's rather far removed from the cliques they have amongst each other. Him? He's outside the inner circles. But the other, more prevalent purpose is to keep a sharp eye on their flank.

Demons, they're called. It would take a fool to truly trust something with that name.

Unfortunately, he's not had enough time to acquire a new shirt (nor did he find any real point in it, considering they'd be doing a lot of traveling and probably getting rather hot and sticky in the woods anyway), so he's simply wrapped in a few thoroughly unnecessary bandages. That is really all he's walked away with from the Rebellion HQ. Well... that, and the lightsaber hanging within easy reach at his right hip.

Blaise... simply opts for silence, nodding vaguely to Arisa before turning his attention outwards again - cautious, searching.

Hana Aoki spent the morning trying to make her car go again. She hadn't succeeded, but it had kept her busy for a while.

Now, however, she is back with the group. The fact that she is going through a demon-infested magic (?) forest does not really disturb her. It's no weirder than anything else she's seen here, to be brutally honest. Nor is the fact that she is going to talk to a child. She /likes/ kids. It's not always mutual, but she can dream.

Hana is starting to look a little ratty, because although she managed to get her clothes washed (yesterday, but it beats nothing) she hasn't had a shower today, and she is spending half her time attempting to untangle her hair with her fingers. It doesn't work very well.

Minagi had come with the group, she was actually a survival specialist, and if she got lost, she would no doubt be able to find her way back easily enough. Or maybe not easily enough, but better than most. She hangs with the group, staying particularly quiet. She was tired, but she was better looking than she was the previous day, and no burns had remained on her.

The demons here were mellow...which makes Minagi wonder. Though her wondering is cut off by Yu talking, and she shrugs, offering nothing as far as her opinion goes on the situation.

Though when the sight of the Gingerbread house comes into view, Minagi does her best to not look at it too terribly hungerily.

A whole house made out of cookie...

The stalking wasn't difficult. The chase wasn't too hard. The demons were standoffish, arguably hostile, and therefore To Be Avoided. Luckily, there are powers beyond the purely physical at play on his behalf.

A short way into the forest, a figure stands leaning against a tree. It has a prominent epicanthic fold, strangely large ears, and chubby cheeks. It is about four and a half feet tall and has a childlike glint in its eye. Just another demon?

The creature's hands are on its hips, hooked into the top of drawstring pants as its baggy t-shirt professes "WELAX!" in huge discordant letters.

The eyes, for all their apparent amiability, are black and without break or pupil. Internal assessments seem to occur, and he gives the group one nod in passing, waving a hand and smiling. When he sees the group pass, the little figure leaning not TOO far from the cottage, he says in a whispering voice that sounds old, ancient in fact: "Food or shelter. Not both."

Hinata had returned her party to the school the evening previous, tending to make sure Minato was comfortably resting before turning in for the night herself. It wasn't a restful night, not back on the gym mat and not with the day's events racing through her head. There were clues there, answers just out of reach, and adding everything up was coming up wih something akin to imaginary numbers or quantum physics.

So naturally the next day came up even more aces. Masumi was off elsewhere searching for more answers, so she couldn't pow-wow with him. Minato was still resting, and not only could she not chat with him but that also made her the last member of SEES left standing in the party. When Arisa arrived to bring goodies and lead them through the Lost Woods to go see whatever was hiding in there, she really had little choice in the matter. She needed answers. She had a fairly good idea that she wasn't going to get any, but more clues would always be helpful!

This would also give her the opportunity she had been waiting for to play Captain Exposition with her teammates. After gratefully thanking the St. Hermelin student for her generosity, she started to describe the stuff her player would've scened out at some point had it not been for this job thing. How Aki summoned her giant robot mouse at Gekkoukan and fought off several Persona users before they destroyed it. How Aki had, at that time, seemed to develop a relationship with Wataru. Then came Blaise's Persona game, the appearance of the ghost girl, and the trip to Philemon's place. Then Aigis's report of Wataru attacking her and then being spirited away by Aki. All stuff she wanted to tell earlier, but its not every day you get to play superhero!

No sooner is she in the forest, though, that Hina quiets up. There's a distinct sparkle to her eyes as she admires the trees. They're so beautiful, she thinks, and so abundant! She's never seen this many anywhere! The path is long and winding, but she keeps up with a beat to her step. She can collapse from exhaustion later, she's in a magical forest now!

A truly magical forest, since none back in Port Island have giant gingerbread houses! Hinata's stomach growls, but she's ignoring it and not because of the warning of the stuffed animal. She has bigger dreams. "I'm still thinking that at some point I'm just going to walk up and find Koshien Stadium," she shakes her head.

Wait. Talking stuffed animal? "Ah!" she squeaks in surprise, "Hi there!"

Well at least Kandori's disguise is considerably more, how do we say, Flapjack than what you're going to have to deal with here. At least one demon, which looks like a mummy wrapped in spikes, waves towards Arisa and lets her guide the team around. Mai is not immediately apparent frmo outside the cottage. The door is closed. Mister Bear isn't waiting outside this time. After all, this isn't really an announced visit, but the door is unlocked should anybody endeavour to try it.

At least Blaise is probably not going to be the scariest person of this team, his drive for vengeance having been felt by the easily frightened girl.

The house looks positively delicious today. Frosting drips down, two candy canes have been placed on the doorway. So yummy, so ... tasty.

Minagi looks at the house...

Minagi quickly needs something to distract herself.

The last time she ate something, that was not typically food, but looked delicious...

Flashbacks of the Whole Chariot thing...

Minagi is no longer hungry. She looks at the thing that Hinata is fawning over, not showing too much interest in it. Everything here could be a nasty demon, or Guido in disguise.

Or poison.

"Is this where she lives?"

Yu's eyes rest upon Blaise for a moment with concern. He was badly wounded and didn't even have a shirt. Was he sure he should be coming along? At least Minagi beside him seemed to be in better health. Looking between her hungry eyes and the group's destination, he briefly wondered how she wasn't the fattest girl in Japan at this point with how she eats. Maybe all that energy goes into punching tanks...or something.

As he eyes Hana trying to make herself look pretty, he's tempted to tell her not to bother with how thick this forest was and how her hair would probably end up a mess again. Given that he's hardly well-versed in manners of vanity, however, he remains silent.

It doesn't take long, however, for Yu's silver eyes to fall upon the strange demon. Nodding faintly to Hinata's reaction, he looks to the creature and asks, "Can we help you?"

Hana Aoki appreciates Captain Exposition. She does not appreciate the weird-looking stuffed animal, because it's kind of creepy-looking for a demon. Demons shouldn't be stuffed animals, they should be something alive. (She does not recognize that it may, in fact, be something that /isn't/ a demon.) Yu is talking to it; she doesn't have to.

"Nobody move!" Hana says, abruptly, raising a hand. She thought she saw something else.

Then: "Okay, you can move now. But nobody eat anything because seriously, she is going to be /so pissed/ if we eat her house. I've got, uh, mints in my purse. You can have mints. Instead." Way to make a really lousy offer there, Hana.

Arisa seems used to the demons that wave back at her, waving back as if seeing a friendly neighbor. Or, at least, keeping appearances in order to make the demons not look on these others with suspuscion. Really, it's mostly the latter, in this case. She sees this group as her responsiblity, the valkyrie inside her at peace with the task of guiding warriors through the land of the not-really-dead-or-valhalla.

She takes the duty so seriously that when the... talking bear appears, her hawk eyes glint with apprehension at the appearance, the naginata in her hand moving towards a ready position. Then... confusion as her brain registers the strange character. ... Welax...? For a moment, the girl with the duffel bag seems confused, her naginata hesitating in her grip as she decides- enemy? Or foe? She hasn't seen this one before. Her gaze lingers on the strange... creature, then back to the house. "Let me knock and explain the situation." She looks at Minagi pointedly. "Don't eat on the house. She lives here." Leaving them to deal with the strange creature for now, she knocks.

Maybe Mai'll have an answer.

A stuffy demon. Blaise eyes it warily in passing, but otherwise does just that: passes. He's not here to slay demons. Not particularly, anyway. He's here for answers, for direction. But when the gingerbread house has come into view, he just has to stop for a second. Just... just a second. To comprehend it, you know? It's something every kid in the world must have wondered about some point in their lives, and here it is.

"You've got to be kidding me."

Worse yet, it smells amazing. And how long has it been since he's eaten something good? Or... much of something at all? His mind races back to the last time he ate and realizes it's close to having been a full day!

Thus, Minagi is not alone in her mild trance. But Blaise gives his head a firm shake and proceeds forward, back straighened, the image of stoicism and determination.

The figure is probably not stuffed. It has skin, and appears to be breathing. It's just a small human with pronounced features and weird clothes. Of course these are not guarantees. It locks eyes on Hinata and smiles, slowly. Giving no further response, the little man attempts to fall in behind the group and follow behind toward the house, unless prevented by any force.

The little guy appears to be refraining with difficulty from licking a candy cane, but does not do so. The candy is usually bad for you.

Yu's inquiry is met with a shaking head as the figure walks onward in the wake of the group, absent interference unless some is forthcoming. It seems pleased with the landscape as well, looking on the "friendly" demons with interest.

Blaise looked like hell, and despite her reservations and thoughts of adorable senpais, she did keep an eye out for him on their trek. Everyone's making it back alive, if she has anything to say about it. She even tries to help Hana with her hair as well. Hina's own ponytail is starting to tangle up limp, despite her attempts at keeping it poofy through the school showers. What she'd do for a bottle of Naive.

And yes, the house does smell nice, but years of forcing herself to eat right is paying off just a little. Hinata forgoes the candy canes, instead re-focusing her eyes on the funny stuffed- no, little man. Still wierd. It doesn't totally captivate hers, however, as she jogs over to just behind Arisa. Perhaps having two smiling friendly faces will help than just one!

Meanwhile, this whole time, Yukino Mayuzumi has been tagging along with the group, albeit lagging behind slightly. This whole place is more than enough to put her on edge, and the last thing she wants is to risk being caught from behind by something unfriendly... or worse. With one hand in her pocket ready to draw a blade at a moment's notice, Yuki walks at the rear, occasionally glancing backwards to double-check her rear flank.

The house does look tasty indeed, but Yuki's not exactly hungry. In fact, if Hansel and Gretel didn't teach anyone a lesson, then nothing will. While some might call Yuki paranoid, in a world like this, anything goes.

The door pops open after it's knocked on. As before, the room is well lit and the only person inside the building is Mai, who is at the far end of the room. She is holding a teddy bear in her arms, hugging it tightly. The bear's eyes seem to be looking straight at Arisa's eyes.

The girl slinks back, away from the group, as if...her home had just been invaded by a bunch of scary strangers!

"H...hello." She croaks, her back pressing up against the wall. "Can I, um, can I... what do you want?"

She is dressed in all white, and looks a little similar to Aki. Though her attitude is totally different. She hasn't noticed the unusual KAndori yet, though that's entirely because of numbers.

Yu eyes the little man as he wanders off for now, holding no argument with the being. He watches as Arisa advances and knocks on the candy house's door, then looks back curiously to his allies. It wasn't even just Minagi that was tempted. As for Yu, he never really had much of a sweet tooth, despite his ability to seemingly eat anything in his home's fridge. Would they REALLY be so rude as to start eating someone's home, even if it was delicious. He begins to ponder a bit idly. Wasn't there some sort of fairly tale about that?

Fortunately, he re-attunes himself to reality soon enough and approaches the house shortly after Arisa. Whether the others followed or not was up to them.

As the girl opens the door, Yu looks down to her a bit surprised. She -did- look a lot like Aki. Except without that whole psycho-evil-creepy doll vibe. Nevertheless, he manages a smile and says, "Good evening."

"Be careful." Arisa looks at the group. "You know the fairy tale, right? Of Hansel and Gretel?" She frowns. "Of the two children who, lost in a forest, came upon a gingerbread house? Mai isn't like that witch, but she might be watching to see what you'll do. When I say she's a child, I don't mean 'just a child'. I mean she'll judge you as severely as one would. Her house is what makes her comfortable."

The 'friendly' tagalong continues to worry at Arisa's mind. For one, she doesn't know who he(?) is. She can't account for his(?) nature. If he decides to do something foolish, it will just make things all the more harder to explain it to Mai. At the girl's appearance, Arisa's serious demeanor changes into something far more... sisterly, and gentle. "... I apologize for not warning you ahead of time. These people come from the outside world, like me- only, you didn't bring them over." She doesn't usher anyone into the house just yet- that's Mai's call, and Mai is scared right now.

Arisa wasn't really expecting different. "Would you like to meet them?" She gestures to Yu and Hinata, who are right there beside her. "They can explain what happened. Aki appeared to them and taunted them. Some other things too?" She looks at the two, a question in her eyes. "Maybe they can help us, Mai. That would be good, right? But I wanted them to meet you first." Then, she frowns. "Also... someone I've never seen has just joined the group. Is this one of your friends, Mai? I don't want to be mean to one of your friends, but I don't want to let someone you know is dangerous close either. If they are, I will convince them to go away. Alright?"

And it's because of numbers and the fear he glimpses in the girl that Blaise comes to a realization: he does not look his charming, upbeat self. He looks more like a vagabond, a vagrant, a highway man!

The conclusion he reaches is.. well, in his mind, logical. It has to be this way. He steps up and lifts a hand to gently touch the valkyrie's shoulder.

"Hey. I'm gonna hang back out here - keep security. It'd be bad to be ambushed, and I don't wanna risk freaking her out..."

And at that proximity, he recognizes the girl. The girl who appeared during the Persona game! Blue-grays widen in astonishment, but briefly. He reels his outward emotions back in with a deep breath and returns his attention to Arisa. "Would you, or.. or someone let me know what's said?"

To the little girl, he offers a weak, but hopeful smile. "Heya. ..You don't know me, do you?"

The door opens, and no sooner does Hinata spy the ghost girl in the back that the first 'hey she looks familiar' though slams up against a rush of memories. The ghost at the shrine. Aki. Aki again just yesterday. She hangs there behind Arisa for the longest moment, putting thoughts together then shoving them aside. Priority #1: The girl is scared. Make her unscared.

The first-year spins around to gesture any forming crowd to keep back. 'Wait,' she mouths, tossing the Jedi That Look. Don't rush her and for the love of God don't have her going 'AHHHHH' again, Blaise. Arisa's introduction has her getting a double-take, Mai brought her over too? What the hell. Taking a deep breath and hoping she doesn't press any wrong buttons that will have her winding up in a cornfield, Hina turns to face the scared child with her most earnest and cheerful smile. Maybe this little girl needs someone to accept her too. "Hey! I think we've met before! I'm Hina," she beams with a friendly wave. "I said I was going to help, and here I am!"

Hana Aoki isn't trying to fix her hair /entirely/, just not look like a haystack.

Hana does not enter the house, because Mai did not invite her. She smiles, though, in an attempt to be friendly. She does not offer the mints because it's kind of creepy for an adult to do that to a kid when she is trying to convince said kid to come out and talk, or let her in.

Instead she just tries to radiate friendliness. She's good at that.

Minagi...stares at the girl.

"It's the one from the Persona game." Minagi says, sollemly. "The one that called me death." She says, frowning a bit. Philimon's explanation didn't settle the words used to discribe her, and she herself can't explain why. However, her eyes turn towards the new party member.

"Sorry, we aren't accepting application's into Captain Rebellion's ranks right now, and we aren't his Human Resources department either." She says, towards totally not Kanadori.

This might be code for bugger off or I'll eat you.

Minagi also stays back away from Mai, after all...she is death?

Yuki slinks back a little as she gets a look at the girl inside the house. It just doesn't seem right. She lags back and keeps a stern eye at Mai. Simply by looking at her, Yuki starts to freak out internally. She's too similar to Maki, in fact she thinks she remembers encountering her at least once. It's not a distinctly faint memory, it's almost like she should remember it...

The little man leaning in the doorway smiles the same smile, having piled into the house under cover of numbers and positioned himself peripherally to the group, the little man claps his hands. Rejection from a few, questions as to his presence from others, but still the bare assumption of a mood of entitlement managed to cross the space for just long enough. Sometimes even a bald lie will win out. "Not my most clever of attempts at integration - but I was pressed for time. Can't have things going badly for Aki too soon. Times are just getting interesting." His voice is a hoarse attention-drawing whisper.

"Thank you for bringing me in here, though. You all kept her from noticing right away. I just wanted to know what the fuss is, I'd heard things."

The man begins to warp and change, hoarse whisper becoming a more gentle but still menacing chuckle. The shape morphs, as if seen through a distortion lens, and becomes a different figure with the same eyes trained on the witch and her bear. The sword by his side glistens, and its handle seems to be of bone.

No longer be-suited, Kandori is wearing a thick down jacket, track pants, comfortable sneakers, and a t-shirt. His suit has been stowed somewhere safe, not the most practical of forest survival gear.

He stands there, hands still folded in front of him, leaning against a gingerbread door post and says aloud:

"Hello. Let's all be friends." He gestures a languid hand at the group of assembled heroes, smiling that damn smile with a calm he just /knows/ will shortly be broken by assault and bearery.

What Yukino knows: Maki is a sick girl whom Masao likes. She is in the hospital and hasn't been in school very much. She does not look like Mai because Mai is practically a toddler. Mai could be any number of little japanese girls. She is not particularly striking in appearance. See the Persona 1 plot for more details!

But Mai knows Yukino. This is not immediately evident because Kandori draws all her attention, now that Arisa has pointed the fellow out. She seems to think most of the other people are, at least, alright--she bobs her head briefly at Yu anyway--but she doesn't get much time to have introductions before she starts freaking uot.

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeek!" She screams, crawling over to the corner of the room, shivering visibly.

"Get him away, he hurts me, he hurts us, he tricked Aki!! He's scary! He's going to hurt us more. The drugs, the drugs..." Mai shakes her head rapidly, "That's why, that's why..." She scoots her feet up and huddles, arms hugging the bear tightly. "He's a bad man. He's naughty. Aki's wrong, he's not our real father!!"

She fumbles, drawing out a compact, and lifting it into the air. "Help! Help me, Mister Bear! ERUSAER TSYMMOM!"

The bear hops out of Mai's hands and grows, grows, grows--until he nearly reaches the ceiling, letting out a small roar.

"Oooh you're going to get a beeaaaarry bad beating!" He says, stuffed paw punching stuffed paw. He seems mostly concerned with Kandori.

But that leaves the rest of you with a choice. Are you going to destroy Mr. Bear? Or are you going to help him kick Kandori out? Or are you going to try and find a third option?

"Naoya..." Mai cries tearfully, "Where is he, help me Naoya!"

Bearware: Actions may have consequences.

Hansel and Gretel! Yes, that was the story. No matter. It's clear this girl, while no ordinary child, was no wicked witch. Returning to the matter at hand, Yu looks between Mai and Arisa. Clearly, the two held some manner of prior relations, apparently cordial ones. It seems some of the group was reluctant to show themselves, Blaise and Minagi in particular. Smiling to Hinata's enthusiastic greeting, he gives one of his trademark nods before resting his eyes once more upon the strange little girl.

His attention before long, however, is drawn to the strange creature. Just -what- did it want. An expression of curiousity soon turns to a bitter grimace as Kandori unveils his true self. "What are -you- doing here?" he asks bitterly to the SEBEC CEO.

At Mai's reaction and summoning of giant teddie bear-thing, Yu's eyes widen. Hopefully, it would be on their side. Inured to it's horrible pun thanks to Teddie, Yu unsheathes his blade and turns to face Kandori. Looking up towards the bear's huge frame, he proposes, "We've got your back, big guy."

If things weren't weird enough already, they've certainly become weird now. Yuki immediately recognizes Takahisa Kandori as one of her arch-enemies, and almost immediately her face contorts into a fierce scowl. She steps towards him slightly, her boots remaining close to the ground as she simply slides her foot forward for the most part. Her one visible fist comes up to show that Yuki means what she's about to say.

"You SEBEC losers just never learn," Yuki comments, her eyes narrowing to turn into a glare sharper than her blades. "Honestly, though, I can't say I'm surprised to find YOU here!" She continues to stare at him, waiting to see what happens next.

That voice...

Sweat beeds down her face, she knows that voice...

She turns slowly, her fists tighten into balls, her skin visibly pales. Of all the people to face, here...and now...

It's not hard to see that she's visibly shaken, rather it's rage or fear...or even if it matters. Forcing herself to take a breath, she steels her resolve, and lands next to Mr. Bear. Minagi's stance is feral, wild...and with no sword. She stares up at Kandori, breathing quite a bit heavily.

"Leave. There is no point of fighting here, and you could ruin your own fun." Minagi says, not sure why she is even falling on the diplomacy option.

Maybe she really is afraid of Kandori.

Yep, aces /all over/.

The mention of Aki has Hinata deflating, and it takes a good deal of willpower not to use some of her favorite on the field words in front of the little girl. "I had been giving you the benefit of the doubt," she speaks in a very tired tone that matchines the slow turn she takes to face Not Gendo. She can hear Mai's screams, the hurting, the.. drugs?, the call for her bear to help her. And then there's something behind her that reminds her both of Teddie and Alex Ramirez combined. That's a really big bear you have there. "But I guess all my friends were right about you, Kandori-san."

Its then that she reaches behind her for one of the two weapons strapped across the giant blue '51' on her back. The black baseball bat is taken in hand, the other - a bloodstained axe - left where its at for now. She needs that hand for the evoker pointed at her head. "I said I was here to help Mai, and I meant it! SKULD!" An explosion, a flurry of blue mist, and the veiled valkyrie arises with her shield...

... before Mister Bear?

COMBAT: Hinata Itoh hits Maki Sonomura with her Rakukaja attack. COMBAT: Maki Sonomura has been healed. COMBAT: The Vitality Up status effect has been added to Maki Sonomura. COMBAT: Hinata Itoh has finished their turn.

What /Hana/ knows: Not a lot.

She doesn't even recognize Kandori at first, though the shifting of the ... thing into an actual person is not exactly easy to overlook. It makes her stomach twist a little. "Ech," she says, before stepping back -

She bumps the wall not far away and probably gets her back all sticky. "Naoya isn't here, I'm sorry," Hana says, without even knowing who Naoya is - other than someone who she's never met, which means he's not here at all. "But you don't need to be frightened..."

Normally Hana would be in favour of people wanting to be her friend. Kandori, though - everything she's heard about him is bad, even though she's never met him. The information is spotty, but even so.

"..." When Blaise asks Arisa, she nods. "Go ahead. I will, don't worry." Looking at Hinata, Arisa nods again, then blinks. "You know Mai?"

It's a question that remains unanswered for now. When Kandori reveals himself, Arisa grits her teeth. "*Damn it*. Mai! Get behind inside the house! I'll protect you." Arisa positions herself protectively in front of the house's door after the bear has moved into the fray, naginata at the ready.

Sure, Arisa was thinking about having Mai meet Kandori, but the plan was for Mai to go to wherever they trapped him, not invading her *own home*. And not with any element of surprise. Really, with how he welcomes them, it's... not all that different from the picnic incident. "Damn it..." She cups her forehead. Kandori... does rather like a good fight now and then, doesn't he?

Drugs. Maki mentioned... drugs. It's odd, to think of Maki again at this time when the connection hasn't been clear. ... Is there a connection? "Well. I suppose this may be a good oppurtunity...." she mumbles, then looks behind her. "Mai. I'm gonna ask Mr. Kandori some questions, just so you know. Don't worry- I'll protect you." Naoya, whoever he is, isn't here, but Arisa is.

She then raises her voice over the din of the gathering battlefront, directing her words towards Kandori. "Mr. Kandori! What is your connection to Aki? Do you agree with Mai's accusations about your part in all this?" She frowns. "You were whisked here with everyone else. You're not as much in control of all of this as you might act."

Hinata's given Blaise a look. The Look, to be precise. It, however, is met with little more than blandness, and perhaps a touch of bitterness at the would-be reproach. Taking a backseat has gotten him very little in Japan, and the last thing he needs is to be bossed around. He'd thought she understood that.

But this, in reality, is a very minor thing. The short demon is what takes the mainstay of his attention, and the saber handle is in his hand in a flash. The rich blue beam is, however, not yet ignited - he's hesitating. What did the little girl say? Naoya...?

Rather than engage Kandori immediately, his attention diverts to the side to look at the girl through one of her windows. Hee, candy windows! "Who's Naoya? I might find'em...!," he suggests. It's.. one potential way to be of use here. The area's way too congested for efficient lightsaber combat without destroying parts of the girl's home.

"And this bear is any better for her? The facade used to face the world indeed. It's so nice to be able to crystallize the world into black and white. You beat the bad guy, he "goes away", and then there are nothing but positive consequences to doing so. A wonderful take on things that will lead you to nothing but victory and happy times - hugs, puppies, and other assorted things." The smirk is almost audible, and it is bored. Kandori's blade is undrawn, hands still folded.

A brief aside, to Arisa.

"I think Mai, like everyone else, lacks a full understanding of the circumstances and would not much believe even the truth if it were presented to them by me. I did not want this situation to happen, now that is HAS - I play my part in it. I was not the trigger for this situation, but it was probably inevitable. I don't expect you to fully understand. I'm not "acting" in charge, I'm just one of few people who knows or cares what's going on, and will have to deal with the world we return to - if there is one when this ends. Failing the power to end this by force of will, I settle for enjoying myself." Behind him, a darkness grows and warps the air, spreading on the wall of the little cottage. "I'm here to confront something you really don't fully understand. Inasmuch as there is a struggle here, it is not a struggle where rejecting ME will lead you to victory."

Gesturing to Mai in the corner, Kandori states: "But surely by defeating me, you'll show yourself up as her ally - yes, little girl, we'll make the monsters go away. Oh, we're on your side." A laugh, cold and cruel. "But is what you do now any less self-serving than what I do? Your intention is to use her to solve your problems, and thus to kill her - to make her go away, forever."

The air around him becomes darker. "The thing about monsters is, they always come back. The monsters in the shadow are a part of you, as she is a part of what Aki is a part of, of what the Maki who was so disposed toward that shirtless cultist is - a part of a whole. But if you're forcibly re-merged into that whole, are you still you? No. You're a facet of something larger. I understand it is uncomfortably like being eaten, like dying, like assimilation. You live on as part of something larger, but you are not you. Will you kill the girls to save the world?"

His form almost wholly obscured in a rush of shadow, Kandori looks out at the bear, and nods.

Time to get beaten into a bloody pulp for his ideals. Walking into this den without reinforcement, with the powers of the Haunter mostly undisplayed. To what end? COMBAT: Takahisa Kandori hits The Climax) of his Dramatic Speech attack. COMBAT:Takahisa Kandori will grin and bear it. COMBAT: The Surprisingly Unsatisfying Boss Fight status effect has been added to Takahisa Kandori COMBAT: Takahisa Kandori has finished their turn.

Mai seems genuinely terrified of Kandori. She doesn't really want to listen to his philisophical waxing either but of course it's very frightening philisophical waxing, pretty understandable that she wouldn't be just gushing after Kandori. Still, beating up Kandori is probably not the worst thing you could be doing right now. You could be beating up a little girl and her teddy bear. But is it the BEST thing you could be doing?

"Stop...stop..." Mai begs. "She's not ready..."

Mr. Bear is beary adorable and swings down at Kandori with the punniest of attacks first, a big flat whallop from his paw. He is a lot braver than Mai is, who is cowering helplessly AND uselessly. But hey, she's just a kid, right?

But Kandori seems to have figured things out. And Mai finally notices Yukino. "Yuki?" She blinks some tears away as she spots her. "Where's Naoya?" She turns her head to Hinata, sniffs once at her, and then hugs Arisa's leg tightly, too terrified to actually run away--but hey, it's a nice place to grapple, Arisa's leg.

"Oh ho! You're a beary special young lady, to summon Skuld!" The bear says, "And a pretty one too, would you like to be my bearenstein?" He practically only speaks to make terrible jokes like these. COMBAT: Maki Sonomura hits Takahisa Kandori with her Un-bear-able Attack attack.

Kandori's words may have a point to them. He really didn't seem at all in control of things when the DVA was activated, so it's possible he's not some sort of grand mastermind behind all of this. But if not him, then who? For now, Yu lets the bear pound on Kandori, while assumes a defensive posture over the helpless Mai. Were they really, in protecting her, as bad as him?

Perhaps it's best to ask the man himself. He stares Kandori down as he asks bitterly, "If you're such a font of wisdom then, what -should- we be doing? We want true answers, and right now I trust her far more than I do you."

A crystalline card appearing at his side, he crushes it with a shout, "PERSONA!".

Izanagi, rather than attacking the threat before them, seems to make a motion of shielding between the bear and the girl before dispersing. Apparently, the silver haired-boy intended to stay on the defensive to at least hear him out. What was this about the monsters being a part of her? And Aki and Mai and Maki being one? Was that girl from that night at the SEBEC building somehow tied to all of this? COMBAT: Yu Narukami hits Maki Sonomura with his Rakukaja attack. COMBAT: Maki Sonomura has been healed. COMBAT: The Vitality Up status effect has been added to Maki Sonomura. COMBAT: Yu Narukami has finished their turn.

This is the time for the villainous gloating. The taunts, the catcalls, and above all the ever-present questions of Why She Fights. The words that always brought Hinata's defiance to the fore, and brought out her best. There was never anything better to motivate her than 'No You Can't.' Yes, She Can and the jersey she wore was her ever-present reminder and testment.

Kandori doesn't play by that book. There's no defiance to what he espouses, no hackles raising at what almost seems boring and trite. He's not gloating at all, he's explaining in no uncertain terms. This leaves the girl blank. Confused. She's never encountered this before. There is a flare at the mention of a 'barechested cultist', thoughts of laughter, searing pain, and nearly losing herself sending a shiver down her spine. What keeps her chilled, however, is her next thought: What if he is right?

The evoker wavers in her hand, jaw slack for a moment as brown eyes dart across the assembled party. The bear's compliment gets a very shaky nod from the girl, if only to recognize he said something. Who can she trust? Who's here she can look to for the right answer? Where are they? Minato? Akatsuki? Shinjiro? Kanon? Masumi? ... Ran?

None of them are there. Hinata's on her own, and she's lost in the woods.

Minagi pauses...

While Guido is a lot of things...

He hasn't actually ever lied to her, and this brings a whole new perspective to mind. Guido doesn't force anyone to do anything, he just gives them the tools to do it themselves. Well, except when he is screwing with other people's TV Dungeons. Minagi is thinking hard, and it all comes back to what Philemon said.

"Death is a part of us, some more than others." Minagi repeats, aloud, as she turns away from Mr. Bear and Kandori. She walks over towards Mai and sits down next to her. "Why are you so afraid anyway? You have that big bear to protect you. I don't think Kan-kan-san can actually hurt you. Why are you so afraid of him?" Minagi asks.

"... Then my theory was correct- you're as trapped here as the rest of us." Arisa lowers her naginata, a free hand placed against Mai's head, attempting to comfort her. "Also, Mai, like any of us would in her circumstance, has a limited understanding of what's going on." Her expression saddens. "... Sad thing is, she probably had a better understanding than I did- and she tried to bring in people to help her, people more clueless than she was. And I still don't know what's going on. But I intend to find out."

... She's not ready? Who isn't? Arisa looks worriedly down at Mai, then back up. No, she has to continue on. "... That was the other part of my theory. If you were brought here with everyone else, you can't be the entire source of the problem. After all, why should we expect things to go back to the way they were just because you were defeated? This isn't a game." She narrows her eyes. ".... You didn't come here just to attack, did you... sure, you're welcoming it, just like you welcomed that one girl's attacks at the picnic. But you're letting go of enough information to make us all think instead of fall into our roles."

She tilts her head. "Well, here's your forum, Mr. Kandori. The more you talk, the more information we have, and the more we'll be able to figure out a solution. One that helps all of us, Mai included. What is Maki's role in this? How are Aki and Mai related?" She frowns. "I'm here to protect Mai, but that means seeing the entire chessboard before making my move."

To be honest, Hana had already thought of some of the things Kandori is saying. She came up with them last night, and the night before: if they left here, if they opened a way out, would it erase what happened inside? How do you /know/ which is real? Maybe this place is real and she came from a strange bubble in space.

She wavers for a moment, balling a fist and digging her formerly-manicured nails into the meat of her palm with enough force to sting. Pain brings her back to where she is now... here, where nobody is actually attacking but Mister Bear, and he seems more focused on Mai's fear than anything else.

Hana turns to Mai. "Can you make your ... guard bear... stop attacking? Please?" This isn't going to work. She turns to the bear next, and believe it: she feels /really/ weird talking to one. "Please calm down! We're not solving anything by attacking each other! Even if you are scared, you don't need to hit everything that's scary just because it is!"

While Yu stands in front of Mai, Yuki stands not too far away from Kandori, albeit off to the side a little. She's still got one hand in her pocket, ready to draw a blade if necessary, should Mr. Kandori try anything funny. She lets Yu do the talking, since Yuki's more about using brute force. Not that she wants to hurt Kandori, but after all he's done, Yuki's got no patience for him at all.

Questions unanswered, it leaves Blaise feeling rather... out of sorts.

But he does have this unusual delimma. His immediate reaction was to draw his weapon, but not yet ignite the saber. Should he assault Kandori, he stands a strong chance of ousting himself as Archangel, the one who infiltrated KNOWS and attacked him. Of course, that's assuming Kandori doesn't already know it was him.

Blaise glances to the handle in-hand, then back to Kandori, then to the handle again...

Until Arisa speaks.

She's right. She's absolutely right. This doesn't really fit together - not perfectly, anyway. It would just be too easy, too convenient.

Finally, the lightsaber handle is slipped back into its holster. "..She's right. What do you know? We're stuck in this same situation, the lot of us."

"Trust is never easy." Kandori stretches himself tall, taking the blow from the bear by catching it against his shoulder, which dislocates with a sickening snap and then returns to its original position with an even more sickening one. He smiles and moves so his back is against the wall, one hand drifts to his blade as the bear strikes.

"Oh? Now violence ISN'T the first answer?"

Kandori's glare conveys scorn even as he rotates his shoulder and rests one hand on the blade. "The next strike from that bear will not go unanswered. If someone wants to, get in its way?"

He makes a dismissive gesture, and then closes his eyes. The beast in the darkness tries to leap - for Mai, for Mr. Bear, and finds itself confused, hitting the walls of Kandori's own purpose and the man's promises of fresher, more delicious despair in future.

His eyes move to Arisa. "You. You're interesting at least." He seems less bored, though his smirk is still there. "Besides, why would I give you the answers? If I give you the answers, they're lies from a villainous rogue's mouth. If they're your conclusions, they're things your subconscious tells you. That doesn't mean they're true, it just means they are lies that make the world bearable..."

Kandori nods toward Mai, cowering in the corner. "None of them can tell you the whole truth. Are you really this slow? I will have to talk to Sudou about the schools."

Contemptuously rolling his shoulder from the pain the bear inflicted before he backed away, the CEO continues: "Why lie? The triumph of lying to someone to engineer their downfall is trite, it means I've dominated you, sure - but dominance is nothing. The right word, in the right place. All of the words true. And the world is still thrown into chaos. But I have no interest in destroying the world - too many of my interests are IN the world. The domain of the mind - in fact, this domain. That's where I make my home."

He's not half cryptic, but Kandori has not drawn his blade. His eyes are on the bear. "One more truth, for free, then you must tell me all YOU know to get all _I_ know. Destroying me here would not be of help to this place, or this situation, considered wholisticly. Nor are all of Mai's fears justified. Mai, Aki, even Maki - children. Children in the same way, I don't know, that the Id of the mind is like a demanding child which nags and tugs at a parent's arm..."

Mr. Bear is still content to whallop at Kandori. He hasn't been given an order to stop. If the others don't help, well, that's their business. Doing nothing is also a choice, but aiming for a third option can be tricky. There aren't as many hints.

"Why are YOU scared of him?" is Mai's counterargument to Minagi, "You're all terrified of him too, I know. Even if you're brave enough to fight him. But I'm not that brave." Mai lowers her head, "That's why I have Mr. Bear."

"Please think nothing of it, Miss Mai!" Mr. Bear says.

Mai seems to be calming down a little bit, even if the bear hasn't stopped fighting yet. "He's already hurt me. If Shinjiro here he'd tell you. You heard of Lib, haven't you? That's why Aki's so strong in here, now. She was always stronger...but I only have Mr. Bear now."

She lowers her head again and adds, "He has us hooked up to something. It's okay to hit him. If I didn't know it was pointless, I'd hit him myself. We're going to die anyway." She looks towards Hana, and then Arisa. "He doesn't want to help us, he just wants the DVA System." She listens to Minagi and adds, "I don't wanna die, but Mistuh Takaya says it's nothing to be afraid of." She wrinkles her nose, "Why are you fighting anyway? What are you fighting for? If it's not to stop bad guys like him, then what is it? What is your reason for living?"

Pleas to stop on their own won't be enough. COMBAT: Maki Sonomura hits Takahisa Kandori with her Silly Old Bear! attack. COMBAT: Maki Sonomura has finished their turn.

Yu curses under his breath, sheathing his blade without having used it, noticing that Kandori's isn't yet drawn. A battle may not be what Kandori was seeking, but he certainly was getting a kick out of baffling everyone. Just what was his motive in coming here? He grimaces at all the mocking and toying, yet does not move in to attack again.

"The realm of the mind?" he echoes, "So this is a manifestation of someone's thoughts?" Could that someoen be this 'Maki'? She did seem to be on Arisa and his lips a lot.

Listening to Kandori's metaphor regarding Maki's crisis explains as much as it befuddles. When a whole bunch of humans and demons are stuck in one's mind, it sure is an awful time to have an identity crisis.

"What -we- know? You've asked a low price at the rate we've been going," he admits, figuring it couldn't hurt to tell him what he likely already knows, "we know that there's some Harem Queen on the east side of town. Your precious Aki seems to think beating her is the ticket out of here." He swallows hard. Was that -really- safe to tell him after all.

"That's about the extent of what we know," Yu states plainly, "Now you tell us what -you- know about getting out, and," he pauses to give a worried expression back to Mai. She really did remind him of someone other than Aki. "And how to help bring peace to Maki's...struggle."

Grrk. The fighting isn't stopping. Attacking Kandori isn't the option Blaise is choosing, but attacking that insistent bear isn't a great way to gain faith or answers - not from a little girl anyway. Otherwise, he wouldn't have many qualms against beating information out of something. The girl is talking with Arisa, Minagi.. the lot of them.

Odd man out.

But in this case, it may work in his favor.

Crouching a little, the young knight dashes forward and attempts to dive right past Kandori - and at the bear. This bear is likely larger than him, so he's relying pretty much entirely on the force of the hit to bring the bear down. And once attached to the bear, he does something he hopes no one will ever speak of again.

He huggles it.

"Hiiii, there! How'd you get to be such a big bear!?"

Hopefully it'll be enough to distract the crazed stuffy from attacking. Distracting with <3~!

'Course, this could go completely sour for him really fast... but it's an effort!

Minagi thinks about this...

"I'm afraid that I will bring his wrath down on my friends." Minagi says, slowly, "Or that he will find a way to turn me back into a killing machine." Minagi says softly. "I'm afraid to go back to what I was, I don't want that, but I don't have any special powers to stop him, just what I learned...and my own natural stuff. I guess I am less afraid of him, and my own powerlessness." Minagi says, and forces out a weak smile.

"Death isn't to be feared, it does come for us all eventually, but I rather face my fear and death head on, then to hide behind others and do nothing...to let them shoulder my burden for me. It's easier to do that, to let others tell you what to do, to let them do for you...but it's not living. Freedom to be what you want to be...that is why I live, the freedom to make my own path. To change the world, or at least, make an impression on it through the people that are dear to me."

She thinks a little more. "I guess I don't have a reason to live. Do you really need one? Is such a thing important? Or maybe I just haven't found it yet. Yeah, that's it...it's out there, waiting for me to find it." Minagi says.

"Uh...so I hope you were expecting anything philisophical from me, cuz like, I am bad at it." She says, "But Aigis says I am pretty good at hugging. How about we try that and then find a way to go home?"

Violence is never the first answer, Hana thinks, but doesn't quite have the guts to say.

She elects not to contradict Mai on the 'death is not scary' part, because, to be fair, she's never done it. It might not be scary when you actually get there. "I don't know what a DVA is," Hana admits. "Mostly I want to go home. And then I want to help people, but... it's hard, a lot of the time. That's why I'm helping, I guess."

She's not sure /who/ to help here. Mai, who is a local, apparently? Yu? Herself? Kandori? She'd like to go for everyone but she's not entirely sure how to do it.

A couple of them are grabbing the bear. Hana had been about to try slightly more extreme options, but theirs is probably better; she leaves that part of her mind quiet, silent, out of the way. It's probably for the best. "Sorry I couldn't answer any better," she says to Mai, not really wanting to draw Kandori's attention by chiming in with Yu.

"... You invited the violence on yourself, Mr. Kandori." Arisa frowns. "There are better ways to give us information than surprising us. If I hadn't met you before, I'd probably be running at you myself." And really, it's not that she's totally trusting him to not attack, as evidenced by the fact that her naginata is at the ready. "Mai," she then says, looking down at the little girl, ".... it's okay. Here's an idea- have Mr. Bear be on guard, instead of on offense. ... If Kandori attacks you, he'll be ready then. We'll also be rea-.... dy...." She stops, looking over at everyone going over to... hug the bear. She sighs, rubbing her head. "... Guess I should be glad everyone's stopping to think about things," she mumbles to herself worriedly, then looks down at Mai, stroking her head to lend her comfort.

".... Bare-chested..." She blinks, then looks up at Kandori, her moment of clarity rendering her almost comical in how she tries to work the logic out. ".... w-wait. You mean, that guy you told me spiked the punch at that ball? That bare-chested guy? Or someone else?" She's desperate for answers now that she's gotten a taste of the truth, and it shows. When Kandori's stare moves to Arisa, the girl feels queasy, almost... doubtful. Should she really have made herself stand out like this? Perhaps it would have been better to obey the urge to just run at him like a true big sister protecting her... her... No, *this* is protecting her.

It's okay to hit him.

"...... No," Arisa says, almost pained in having to say it. ".... No, I made that mistake too, Mai. If we beat him here, it... really doesn't do anything." Anise was right. Kandori *isn't* some wizard that'll whisk them all away if they beat him up. " She pauses for a long while, tears beginning to come to her eyes. Dying? Nothing to be afraid of? "...... It's true that we'll all die someday." She shakes her head. "But that *isn't* a reason to want it to happen to you! Mai, you know why I was in that hospital, right? When you first came to me?" She looks down at the little girl, then kneels down, hands on the girl's shoulders, if the girl allows her. Then, assuming Mai doesn't stop her, she'll attempt to hug her. "Please, I came here to help you, not to die with you..."

Of all people, its the lost child that starts to break Hinata's mind free. Philemon's words, repeated by Minagi, return her mind back to that night and just why she followed Shiki here in the first place. Arisa and Yu's directness chip away even further. Neither of them have any problems with what Kandori says, why is she wavering? And then there's Blaise who isn't flipping out and Hana trying to play nice. Kandori says some more, he's offering and waiting to see if they'll take. Then Maki says the one word she never thought she'd hear in this place. "... Shinjiro-senpai?" Was this /that/ drug?

Its the question, however, that brings the sudden stirring to her heart. The answer has been with her all along, hasn't it?

And then Blaise throws himself on the bear. An action she should have taken had her mind been in its right place. Its a really cute bear, after all, and it likes her!

The fog is lifted, and with it the girl's spirits. Hinata turns to the scared little girl with that same warm smile, though there's now an edge to it. "I fight for my friends. I fight to protect my family. I do what I can to make sure everyone has a bright future." The reason for that edge comes with her next words, "You took Anise from our world and put her here. Why? So she could protect you too? And you told Shiki to come, and now he's..." She pauses to catch herself, "He's not himself because you asked him to come. Itsuka's a /wreck/ because he's not himself. Why? Why him?"

Now that smile turns to Kandori, and the warmth is quickly fading. "And your Aki took Itsuka and Dark O and Ikki and she's over in that half of the city. That's where everyone else is, isn't it? Those are my teammates over there. They're my /friends/. I'm not leaving without any of them."

There's one last glance between the two before Hinata choses the third option: She re-slings her bat and stuffs her evoker back in her jeans. "I don't know whether to trust either of you. I just want my friends back. And I'm going to do everything I can to bring them back home. I believed in them. They believe in me. And I'm not going to let any of them down!" With that, she just starts hiking back towards the exit in the woods. "If you're not going to help us, then screw it."

"Look at the girl. She's resigned to die. If this IS what you just concluded it was, if this is the domain of the mind, is this part of the mind the right part to ask? A poor, abandoned fragment, left alone and deserted? If it is what you think it is... then isn't this piece bound by the rules of this place?"

Kandori's eyes once more closed, he moves his blade a little bit out of its sheath, not drawing the tip. "If you conclude she IS bound by the rules of this place, and you seek her out because someone else who is bound by the rules of this place said so - then are you not enslaving yourself to those same rules? And if you believe implicitly everything she says... then aren't you just players on a stage?"

"I have been a word in a book." Oh no, shit just got /real/ because Guido is quoting the Black Book of Caermarthen.

"I am that no longer. I AM a man. Are you?. Books lie peacefully on the shelves, full of their words, gathering dust and fighting change. Men live, and read the books and give them meaning. You are the channel for your generation's consciousness."

Kandori watches Hinata storm out, and his mouth forms words, perhaps inspired by some inner darkness or perhaps by his own thoughts given shape after butting against the barrier It's a few muttered words, said for Hinata's hearing and with Kandori's back to the bear. Is that wise?

Mai avoids looking at Hinata directly, shivering again. She's a big ol' scaredy cat, easy to intimidate. "I didn't take Anise." She protests, "She came because of you guys." That's right, there's lots of fingerpointing going on but this one is actually true. She didn't summon Anise. She's terrifying! Anise is probably one of the last people someone like Mai wants. She's a hunter. She might try to EAT Mr. Bear! SCARY! "And Shiki's himself." She raises her head, "He's like us. That's why I asked for him to come." She frowns, "Oh...but I didn't want to say that...now he's in danger too." She looks to Kandori, and then down at her feet.

"If you're seeing something of Shiki you don't like, then...then maybe you just didn't know him as well as you thought you did."

"It's okay," She tells Minagi, "I...think I'll be okay, maybe." She stumbles up to her feet, and rubs at her eyes.

Hinata is very scary. Mr. Bear throws a paw down, intending to squash Kandori while his back is turned, who isn't even really defending himself, but then something unbearable happens--he gets hugged! By Blaise! He cuts off his assault and says, "Oh my, you're more than meets the eye, aren't you? Ho ho ho!" He turns around, "Such a goofy little child." He pats Blaise on the head. "It's okay, Mr. Bear." Mai says, "I think... Arisa says we should stop, they all do, so... let's...let's not fight him now." The bear bobs his head and turns into an adorable stuffed bear. Which Blaise is now holding. Quick everybody! Look at the big bad Blaise hugging the teddy bear! It's SO CUTE! Put the pictures up on Myspace and Facebook!!!


"...Aki wants to make him into God." Mai says, returning Arisa's hug. "So he can help us. She said we were liars. I guess...we kind of were."

A pause, and then. "The Harem Queen controls the barrier leading to the outside world. You have to save her--or defeat her--to get out of here."

"And Shiki. He protects the DVA System. I couldn't trust ourselves with it...so I thought... He was so brave and he had the potential--"

Yu can't help but quirk a brow at Blaise's bear hug. It was rather sudden, and he certainly was not expecting it. Hopefully it -would- buy time, though.

The silver-haired kid looks back once more towards Mai as she speaks. "I live to...enjoy life. I have friends who care about me and fun times to share with them," Yu sighs as he explains, "there's more to life that dying. Yes, death is a certainty, but what is life if you focus on nothing but death?" His words seem to echo the ones he had said to Chidori earlier today. Fortunately, though, Mai wasn't brandishing a fire axe at him...yet.

It's quite ironic for him to be saying this, he thinks idly. Before he came to Inaba, he never would have even had these thoughts himself. It would have been just another move to just another town. "That's...why I think I fight. To keep safe life from those who bring to it nothing but misery."

At Kandori's words, he glances back to him and retorts, "You belittle our intelligence, but talk in riddles to confuse us further and yet -still- claim to hold the truth. I don't care if I'm a player on a stage, so long as I can make this right. This girl you speak of needs our help, as do the others held captive here. If there is nothing else, you had best begone."

Yu frowns at Hinata's sudden departure. Kandori -didn't- take anyone here, it seems. There was clearly more to it than that, but what...? Luckily, what Mai follows with elucidates some, but again opens many questions which Yu wastes no times asking. "Save her? Save her...from what?"

When she mentions Aki wanting to make Kandori god, he struggles to retain his composure. Kandori as a god. -There- was a scary thought, "How do we stop Aki from making that happen? And why would Shiki attack us, then? Isn't he a member of SEES?"

While clinging to Mr. Bear(!), Blaise glances over towards Kandori, and ipso-facto, the departing Hinata. His expression shifts a little - sadness?

But then, Mr. Bear(!!) is addressing him! So Blaise turns some amazingly HUGE, ROUND BLUE-GRAY EYES up at the giant stuffy with a tiny smile. "What can I say!? You just look so huggable! Even a tough guy like me can resist only so much~!"

Shrink-shrink-shrink, voila! Shirtless Jedi Blaise is left squeezing a teddybear. His eyes are still huge, but for a completely different reason.

It's less for manipulative adorables, and more of a deer-in-headlights look.

Quickly turning, Blaise kneels before the girl and Arise, holding out the bear. "H-here ya go!"

My God, the sweatdrop.

Kandori holds up his cell phone and snaps a picture, before going back to considering people's remarks.

Minagi's hand was already out, snapping the photo before Blaise could return the bear.

That is going on her wall paper.

Minagi stands up, "So The Harem Queen controls the way out...but Shiki controls the DVA system? Hmm..." Minagi isn't sure what to think of all this.

"I am tired. I am going to go back to the base and eat something and think about this."

Minagi says without much thought!

"Well, if you are ok now Mai. But I guess you never answered my question...oh well, I guess you will when you are ready? Anyway, g'night."

Hana Aoki comes to two conclusions.

One, Kandori is crazy.

Two, Mai is confusing.

"We'll save her," Hana says, looking balefully at Kandori. She still doesn't trust you, mister - even if, honestly, he hasn't done anything too bad in her presence /yet/. From the way Yu and Yosuke and the others put it, though...

She still isn't familiar with the DVA system. Or anything else here. And so Hana leaves it, letting Yu pick up the information. She heads toward Hinata instead. That girl is hurting inside, and Hana is in a better position to help her than... well, understand. She can listen and talk to Hinata at the same time. But she doesn't want to go /too/ far... "Don't go on your own! It's dangerous - it's like, that girl, last night..."

Anise. Arisa. Hinata's great with faces. Names that are too damn similiar, that's another matter.

Her retreat freezes as she catches Kandori's words whispered on the wind. She glances back at him just as Mai speaks, and her gaze catches the little girl as well. Dimples form, there's a twinkle to her eye. "I said he wasn't himself." Another breath, and she shakes her head. "I've seen the dark side of the one person who... My Nee-chan. And I love her even more now. We all have our shadows," her gaze shifts again to the SEBEC head. "Things won't be the same. It doesn't mean I won't care for them any less."

There's another pause as Mai tells everything, and suddenly the dots connect into a total picture. Her heart hangs heavy for a moment, hand running through unkempt hair. It wasn't a gambit, it was frustrtation and pain. And she had got what she wanted, but at perhaps a price. The first-year pauses as Hana steps towards her, she can almost see the blue highlights in her tangled hair. There's a soft smile ready for the older woman, a squeeze of her hand before the ponytailed first-year steps back over to bow to their host. "Thank you, Mai-chan. I'll... I'll do what I can to help all of you too." The path is clear. She knows what to do. And she'll guard their destinies with all she's got.

And now there's Blaise with a bear. Minagi's ready to fall asleep standing up again, this requires decisive action! CLICK. She'll thank Arisa later for the cameraphone~

"... Then, perhaps, you and Mr. Kandori have something in common." Arisa smiles at the girl. "... But you were willing to listen. That's a part of solving your own problems. Mediation. If it comes down to you going against Aki, that's going to be something you can use. She's convinced she's right, isn't she? But she's not. But perhaps, there's a solution that will fit both of you. We just need to fit the pieces together, and then, we'll be okay. I'm going to help you, Mai."

Arisa looks to Kandori. "... While I hate how you handled it, I'm glad you didn't let this go on for too long." She dislikes him, but he.... does seem to stand by his actions, something she's tried to do herself, with some success and some failure. "... Everytime I try to stick a definition to you you just make me have to think it over again, and it's really irritating." Her nostrils flare at the utter pain it causes to her pride to admit these things. ".... But I suppose that, because of that, I was hesitant to just go after you like I wanted to. However. If you become Aki's 'god', I *will* try and fight you." She motions with her naginata. "Maki and Mai are my concern. If Aki's going to be included, I'll need to figure out the how's and whys."

Finally, she turns to the group. "....... Thanks. For... well, trying to decipher things a bit. .... I'm here because of Mai, and... I'm going to need your guys' help to make sure we can resolve this. Things might not return to the way they're supposed to, but... if we work it out, we can figure out what we need to do. For now, though... I think I'll stay with Mai. If you need me, uh, you guys have my phone number, right?" She looks a little lost. "... I think I put it in those phones..."

Guido's eyes sparkle. Mission accomplished. He files several things away for reference, along with a bonus nugget. Then "She wants to. Oh. Hmm. I COULD help a lot of people." The man folds his hands then leans against the wall. "So that's the road to the outside? And Shiki knows where the System is... Shiki." There's a flash in Kandori's mind, of a young man, then silence. He'll have to check the reports when he gets home. But this is unimportant. He then speaks aloud: "The system is probably in the same locked state it was in when they got sent in. If some catharsis can be reached, a return to normalcy may occur."

Yu is, for the moment, addressed directly - something he didn't get most other times the two have come face to face. "Think about it. If I told you the "truth", would you believe it? If I saw things that provoke you to think and the answers come from within, then they're YOUR answers. I worked hard to learn what I know, why should you get it for free? You're the one who said your information had little value. Frankly, you were right. Mine has great value, and that's why you have to work to divine it. If the voice in the darkness tells you the answer to the question, then is it a test? Everyone would be worthy. Besides. You're not asking the right questions. Still, you stopped the bearserker rush." Did he say bearserker? Couldn't be.

"And that pleases me."

Looking at Hinata. "You're right. Things being different /doesn't/ mean your feelings won't be lessened." Jungian slip?

The CEO's blade has returned to its sheath completely, his hand is off of it.

Then Arisa speaks. "You pay me high compliment. When this is over - if you paid attention tonight and are able to make it end..." He raises his eyebrows and lets the sentence peter off into: "We'll have to meet, and see. At least you're willing to revise your definitions. Most people are not. Most people arbitrarily fight for the status quo, and choose evil by its shoe size or the color of its hat." An inexplicable bow, and then he moves out the door, if anyone fails to stop him. There is a backward glance toward Mai and the teddy bear.

Maybe it bleeds stuffing in the one form and blood in the other. A mystery for another day. He leaves, heading out with intent to find Aki and become a god because - well, come on. Who doesn't want to be a god?

But thanks to certain people, he's got some other thoughts. Kandori takes out his cell phone, and dials a number.

He hopes he doesn't get Hanamura's voice mail. The Junes theme always bothered him.

So much Blaise abuse!

Nevertheless, Mai doesn't have any answers regarding Harem Queen. She doesn't actually KNOW(s). She can't read the Harem Queen's mind. She can't read anybody's mind. But she knows something has to be done to free these people from within the barrier and stop the nuking of Japan. Mai doesn't know about that. You don't either. Maybe the eastsiders will explain. Yu seems to talk in a way that reminds her of Takaya. She has calmed down now. She is less scared. She isn't determined to help fight herself, but soothing this aspect of Maki's mind and getting her to talk to you can't have been harmful. Who'da thunk you'd have found all this stuff out by listening to AKI.

Aki, who has managed to pinpoint Kandori's position--and will be paying a visit soon and his godhood will be assured. The only resistance to his total and ultimate victory over the human race?

Shiki Ichimonji. Fuck.

But that is a terror for another day. Mai says, "Thanks, sis--" to Arisa, rubbing her eyes one last time. "I think I get things a little better now. I'm really sorry for involving you... But i think I better talk to Ritsue."

You have found out a lot of information. But having knowledge and using it properly are two things altogether. For today, though, the day is saved.


Mai takes her bear back. She thinks Blaise is too dorky to be scary now.

Hinata nearly swallows her tongue. /She's/ here too!? So that's where Nee-san went!

Giving Mai a tiny half-smile, Blaise nods his head at her. "There ya go. And things'll be okay. You'll see!"

He raises to his full height and nods to Arisa as well. "..Same goes for you."

That said, he turns to take his leave, facing the forest again. ...Hinata. He should chat with her. She talked to him when he was feeling pretty craddy, when he was feeling alone. That qualified her as one of his only friends - so he can't let her run off upset, or hurting. So he starts into the woods, heading back for the city. Minagi's safe and sound, he's sure - she's tough. He'll catch up with her soon enough.

Hana Aoki did her bit. Such as it is. She does feel a little useless, though. Like a third wheel. She's got to find her place here. She's got to.

Hana straightens up, eventually, just as Mai says her last words. Ritsue? Probably a different one; there's a lot of Ritsues out there.

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