Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to Persona 4. Atlus does.
"Are you going to pray for something, Souji-kun?"
A silvery-grey-haired teen stood next to a girl with long black hair in front of Tatsuhime Shrine. Although it was a particularly hot and humid day, Souji decided to accompany his friend on her trip to one of her favorite places. He looked around the old shrine, taking in how neglected it was while the girl watched him expectantly.
"…for everyone," he finally replied. His friend gave a hearty giggle.
"That's just like you!"
It was Souji's turn to look at her now. "How about you, Yukiko-san? What are you praying for?"
"I'm wishing for everyone's health," she said as she turned away from him to gaze at the shrine. "For Chie, for you, for the others… And for everyone at the inn, too. And…" she shifted uncomfortably as her cheeks began to glow red, "I'm wishing to become a woman worthy of you… Souji-kun."
Souji kept his eyes trained on her. If he was surprised at her confession, he did not show it, but Yukiko turned to look back at him with a smile. "Finally, I wish for everyone to be able to smile together…"
Their eyes met with a silent understanding. With all the murders and kidnappings lately smiling has become one of the more difficult things to do. Souji nodded in agreement with Yukiko.
"Let's begin our prayer," she said, and the two bowed their heads in silence. The two stood silently for a number of minutes without moving. Yukiko finished praying before Souji and waited quietly so as not to disturb him. A few moments later he completed his prayer and was greeted with some welcoming words.
"I've decided not to leave Inaba."
Souji was caught off guard. He watched her quietly as she looked at everything else but him. "I never really objected to being the inn's manager per se…" she said as she shifted to a more comfortable stance "I just didn't like the fact that it wasn't up to me… I felt that my life was on rails. And I thought running away was the only choice for me…"
Her head tilted toward the ground, a determined gleam in her eyes. "But no longer. I want to protect the family inn." With a smile she added "After all, it's near to my heart…"
She turned her face to Souji, who never took his eyes off her. "…Thank you, Souji-kun. I think it's because of you that I realized this. Because you were always by my side…"
She began to blush again and had to look away once more. "U-Umm, I wanted to ask you this before…"
She started tracing circles on the ground with her toe. "Wh-Why… Why are you always with me…?"
Souji turned to face her, feeling the air around him growing warmer. Only a second later he realized his heart was racing form being put on the spot so suddenly and that the sudden increase in temperature was not from the summer heat. The girl before him tilted her head to the side.
"I-Is it okay… for me to ask…?"
A light breeze blew around them, and finally Souji gave his answer.
"Because… I really like you."
Yukiko's breath caught in her throat at his words. "Y… You like… me?" By now her face was a brighter red than the red sweater she wore to school every day. Her mind went numb as she replayed his words over and over in her head. At long last she was able to give him an answer.
"I-I feel the same way, so…"
She could not bring herself to say 'I like you' to him, at least not yet. She was mentally kicking herself for not saying those little words when she heard a soft chuckle.
She looked up to see Souji smiling back at her, and she couldn't help but giggle—his smile held a warmth that spread to his grey eyes. It was a smile he used only when he was around people he was very close to, but only now she realized that he had been smiling like that at her even before they were as close as they are now.
"Um… could you stay with me, just a little longer?" she asked shyly, not caring anymore if he saw how much she was blushing. With a quick nod the two of them sat on the steps of the shrine with Yukiko resting her head against his shoulder. They sat like that for awhile, fingers intertwined with one another as they enjoyed each other's company. No one ever approached them or even noticed they were there, and even the summer heat was barely noticeable. It was as if they had their own little world there at the shrine.
"Yukiko-san, it's getting late," Souji said gently after a long while. Yukiko lifted her head from its resting place with a frown.
"Yeah, I guess you're right," she sighed as she released Souji's hand and stood up. As she brushed off her clothes Souji also stood up and did the same. They gathered their school bags and silently left the shrine as the sun began to set.
As they walked along the Samegawa Flood Plain Souji reached over to hold her hand. He gave it an affectionate squeeze and she returned the favor. Yukiko decided to break the silence.
"Souji-kun? Could we keep quiet about us for awhile?"
The young couple's pace slowed to a stop. The sunset's light cast a golden glow to the scene around them. The heat and humidity lingered in the air as they stood there, still holding each other's hand.
"Is something wrong?" he asked with concern in his voice.
"Huh? No, nothing's wrong, it's just," Yukiko set her school bag down and took Souji's hand in both of hers, "I don't want to make it a huge deal, even to our friends."
"Yes, even Chie. It's a little complicated but—"
Yukiko was interrupted by Souji suddenly taking his hand away.
"Souji-kun? I'm sorry if I—"
"I guess it would be a problem, considering you're one of the most popular girls at school," he said as he walked around her. "All your fans might come after me for keeping you all to myself."
"What? I don't think—"
"Not to mention the same for you. There are a lot of girls in school who might want to harm you if they found out about us."
He snatched up Yukiko's school bag and tucked it under his arm with his own bag. "Now, I'd better get you home before Chie-chan kills me for keeping you out late," he said as he held his hand out for her to take. "C'mon, we've fought countless shadows and we're still okay. I'm sure we can handle keeping us a secret with no problem. Besides, we can be together when no one's around, right?"
Yukiko was lost for words. Without a doubt most guys would have been disappointed in not being able to show off to their friends on who had accomplished the Amagi Challenge, but Souji was different from most guys. This was one thing she liked about him, the way he sees the world differently. With a few glances around them, Yukiko took his hand almost greedily. With another look around she hooked her arm around his and smiled bashfully. As they approached the inn they relinquished each other's arm. Souji handed over her bag and as she took it she leaned in and gave him a peck on the cheek.
"Good night, Souji-kun," she whispered, her face a brilliant red from her little stunt. Souji's hand flew to where she had kissed him, a stunned look on his face. Yukiko ran happily to the entrance of the inn and gave him a final wave before disappearing inside. Souji stood there for a few moments before turning around and heading home. The sun had set completely by the time he reached his uncle's house, yet he stood outside the front door, his hand back on the cheek his girlfriend had graced with a kiss.
"Hide our relationship, huh?" he said as he looked up to the evening sky. "I guess it's called the Amagi Challenge for a reason…"