The next morning, the entire school was called into the auditorium. The Student Council for the year would be giving their opening remarks for the year. Amongst the entire student body, nobody doubted the identity of the president, so no one was surprised when Mitsuru was called up on stage to give her speech.
"Well... I guess she IS the most popular girl in school," Yukari commented quietly.
Junpei 'hmm'ed his agreement. "You can say that again! There's like some kinda aura around her... Besides, this school's owned by the Kirijo Group, right?"
Up on stage, Mitsuru began her speech. Minato, too tired from the night before to care, had already turned on his MP3 play and was dozing off by the time she started. He didn't become aware of his surroundings again until Junpei nudged him.
"Hey, did you understand what she was talking about?"
Minato looked up at the stage, where Mitsuru was stepping down from the podium. "Wasn't listening," he said, pulling one headphone off, blinking lazily.
Junpei stared at him in semi-admiration. "Dude... You're such a rebel..."
In response, Minato yawned and put his headphone back on.
The rest of the day passed without event. Minato fell asleep in class, only to wake up with the bell and learn from Yukari that he hadn't missed anything. He let out another yawn as she excused herself and headed off to practice. Minako and Junpei joined him at his desk.
"I'm still exhausted from last night," Minako groaned, sitting on the desk beside Minato's leaning back and staring up at the ceiling.
Junpei yawned as well. "You can say that again."
"I'm still exhausted from last night," Minato mumbled through his sleeves, face buried in his arms.
Together, they packed up and left the building. On their way out, they heard what sounded like giggling girls. A few of them shouted suddenly.
"Look, it's Akihiko-senpai!"
"Wait for us!"
Akihiko, who had just emerged from the school a moment before them, was instantly ambushed by a throng of girls. From the expression on his face, Minato could tell that he wasn't too happy with the attention.
Junpei sighed. "Man, would you look at that? I hear they're always swarming Akihiko-senpai like that. I know he's the captain of the boxing team, but... I mean, come on! You don't even see girls flock like that on TV! I wonder where they're going..."
At that moment, Akihiko seemed to realize that they were watching him. With a jerk of his head, he held up his free hand and beckoned them over with two fingers. Minato blinked once, indicating himself, unsure if the senior was calling to them. When he nodded, the girls all turned around, staring as they walked over. Minato noted that they looked at Minako with some resentment, but she didn't seem to notice.
"Hey, are you guys free this afternoon?" Akihiko asked, stepping away from the crowd of girls.
Junpei was still in shock. "Huh? Who, us! I... guess so...?"
"I want the three of you to meet me at Paulownia Mall. You know where it is, right? I'll be at the Police Station."
"Th-The police station? ...Uh, are your friends gonna come along, too?" Junpei asked, indicating the girls with his eyes.
He lowered his voice. "Who, these girls? I don't even know their names. They talk so much they give me a headache." He raised his voice back to normal. "Anyway, I'm gonna head out. ...Don't keep me waiting." Akihiko walked off, all the girls staring after him. A few of them scowled, but they all dissolved into chatter.
Junpei complained as they walked off the school grounds. "Man, how can he not know their names! I mean, seriously! Just look at them! Well, I guess we gotta go... Sheesh, talk about putting a damper on a guy's afternoon."
Minako gave him a sympathetic smile. "Don't worry, Junpei. Just be thankful you're not one of them," she sighed. "I'd hate to be grouped in with girls like that…"
Paulownia Mall was a large domed building with a wide-open area in the center, surrounded by stores and sporting three large, spectacular fountains. While the mall was only one floor, a Karaoke bar was at the top of a flight of stairs directly across from the entrance and a nightclub, Club Escapade, extended into the ground. A back alley next to the police station led to a utility room, Minato assumed, where the valves for the fountains have been placed.
The police station was small, but looked well manned. Akihiko stood at the counter, talking to a rather intimidating officer in uniform. When they walked in, Akihiko turned around. "These are the guys I was talking about earlier." The officer remained silent, looking them over critically as Akihiko continued introductions. "This is Officer Kurosawa. He helps keep our squad well equipped. And, this is from Ikutsuki-san..." He handed them all 5,000 yen. "You can't fight empty-handed, so find something you like. Officer Kurosawa has connections... But, these things still cost money."
"Of course they do," Kurosawa added, his voice as gruff and intimidating as his appearance. "Nothing in life is free."
"I realize that," Akihiko replied, as blunt as he could be without sounding rude. "Well, I'll see you later. Thanks again." He walked out, waving a farewell over his shoulder.
Kurosawa turned his attention back to them. "I've been informed about you three. My job is to maintain peace in this city, regardless of the circumstances. I'm just an ordinary police officer, but it doesn't take a genius to know something strange is going on here. I'm only doing what I think is right."
"We appreciate the assistance, Officer," Minako said, bowing her thanks.
Minato bowed his head. "We'll be sure to do what we can to help. Thank you."
The three left the station, Junpei looking annoyed. "Pshh, only 5,000 yen... I'm gonna take off, since I'm in a bad mood now... Later." He ambled off across the mall and left.
Minako sidled over to her brother, hands clasped behind her back. "What now? There doesn't seem like much else to do."
"I was planning on walking home. …Over the bridge."
"Y-you really want to go that way? Minato…"
He looked at her. "We'll be walking that bridge a lot. I want to walk it with you as many times as we need to until you get over this."
"I can't get over it. Our parents died there."
"And that's why I'm walking it with you: so you'll know that you never have to walk it alone. How long are we gonna let what happened rule our lives? We're a team. Not just you and I, since we're always been one, but everyone else now as well. We're not alone anymore."
Minako shuffled her feet, walking towards the fountain, swinging her bag by her side. "Fine. Let's get going, then!"
They walked out of the mall together and along the streets. All manner of people passed by them, from little kids to businessmen, each going about their daily lives. Some people were talking on their cell phones, all sorts of conversations being held. One of the people they passed was standing in an alleyway, looking at everyone with a blank look on their face. Everyone avoided the person, but only stared at them with sadness and disdain.
"One of those Apathy Syndrome people, huh? Poor thing," Minako said, watching the person as they passed. "Wish there was something we could do to help."
"I'm not sure if we can. Still, fighting Shadows and preventing them from attacking people will help prevent more people becoming like this."
"By the way, you didn't just want to walk home for the sake of walking the bridge. You wanted to talk to me, didn't you?"
He nodded. "We didn't get much of a chance to talk yesterday or this morning, and I know I'm going to crash when we get back to the dorm, so I want to use the time I'm awake to get things done."
"This is about last night?"
"Yeah. I think I may know what happened."
"With me not being able to summon my Persona?"
"I think maybe we can't summon the same Persona at the same time. I'll ask Igor about that next time we see him, which probably won't be until we go to Tartarus again."
Minako smiled. "I think you've got a few things you want to ask him."
"I suppose so. I want him to explain our powers, how we use this Persona card we picked up, and what role he's got in all of this. What's his motivation? What does he get out of helping us? And also the obvious questions about Tartarus. There's one other thing that's been bothering me."
"Everyone keeps mentioning the word 'Arcana'. I've never heard the word before, but it seems very important. I'm going to go to the library after school tomorrow and do some research. Hopefully, I'll find something that will explain it."
"Do I have to come?" Minako asked, cringing.
"Nope. I know how much you hate libraries. You can do something else. Try to stay out of trouble, though. I don't want to turn around and found you've burned down half the school."
"That only happened once! And it wasn't half the school; it was only half of the science department."
"It doesn't change the fact that no school in the city would take us after that and we had to go live with relatives in another county."
"You're telling me you didn't like living in England?"
"I'm not saying I didn't like it. In fact, I think we'll never fail an English test for the rest of our lives. All I'm saying is that I don't want you doing anything reckless. We moved back here on our own. I don't want to be shipped back to Tokyo so soon after we've left. It would cause problems that no one needs."
Minako sighed. "Fine, fine. I'll be a good sister and follow your instructions."
By that time they had reached the dorm and the sun was quickly falling behind the buildings, casting everything into shadows. When they entered, Mitsuru looked up from her book.
"Welcome back. Perfect timing... I'd like to speak to you for a moment. Regarding our exploration of Tartarus... Akihiko is still on the mend, so for now, I'd like you two to lead the team. You never know when a powerful enemy might appear, like the one you faced the other day. It's best to be prepared, or else you may find yourself in a difficult situation. So, whenever you'd like to explore Tartarus, just let me know, and I'll gather everyone there. Also, since I'm sure there are other things you will need to take care of, you may go out at night if you need to. Well, that's it." She turned back to her book again. "Keep up the good work."
"And if 'good work' means going straight to bed," Minato added as they walked up the stairs, "then I have to agree with her."
At the end of class the next day, Minako dropped down into the seat next to her brother as he packed up his books, a determined look on his face. She recognized the look instantly and smiled. Minato had an intense love for books. He spent a lot of his time stockpiling information in his head, drawing connections and making observations about everything he learned. If there was something they needed to know, she knew he would find it.
Junpei walked over as Minato stood up. "Hey."
"Hey. Later," Minato muttered quickly, slinging his bag over his shoulder before walking quickly out of the room.
"What's up with him?" Junpei asked, watching Minato long after his unmistakable hair had disappeared from view.
"He wants to look up something in the library."
"I didn't know he was such a braniac…"
She chuckled. "Not always. Only when what he's learning appeals to his interests. Why? Did you want him for something?"
"Huh? Oh! I was just wondering if you two wanted to join me for some food…"
Minako instantly shot up, knocking the chair over. It clattered loudly against the floor, causing a few of the students in the class to turn in their direction. "You're going to eat…? Count me in!" She quickly grabbed her bag, picked up the chair she had knocked over, and skipped around Minato's half tucked in chair. "Where are we going?"
Junpei was stunned. "You're still up for it even if Minato doesn't come?"
"'Course. If there's two things you know as an Arisato, it's where to find good food and how much of it you can chow down on. …At least, that's what my Dad always said," she added sheepishly. "Besides, I could do with some food right about now."
"Alright then, off to the food we go! You don't mind if I pick the place, do you?" Junpei asked as they left the school.
"Not at all. I'll enjoy anything right about now."
They rode the monorail back to the strip mall outside Iwatodai Station. The strip mall consisted of a large collection of restaurants and a couple bookstores. Junpei headed up to the second level and entered a restaurant called Hagakure. The moment they walked in, the ramen smell assaulted Minako's senses and she started to drool, the moisture in the large dining area intensifying the smell. There were spaces open at the front counter, so they sat down and Junpei ordered two specials.
"Why the special?" Minako asked as they waited.
"The regular stuff is really good too, but the special? Pure. Awesome."
Finally, the bowls were set in front of them. Minako took a long whiff of the delectable smell before she dove in, shoveling the hot noodles into her mouth. As soon as the burning sensation died away, the full flavor of the noodles and broth set in and she sighed contently.
"Thish is dewlishish," she said, mouth full of noodles.
Junpei mumbled his agreement, his mouth similarly stuffed. They ate in silence until Minako finished her noodles, Junpei only halfway through his bowl. "How'd you finish so fast?"
"I have an iron stomach, Junpei. Believe me, Minato can finish a bowl this size even faster."
"Seriously! Geez… remind me never to enter an eating contest against you guys… Anyway, you feeling better now?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you just transfer here and you end up in the hospital, and then there's everything that's happened over the last few days… I just wanted to make sure your guys were settlin' in alright, ya know?"
Minako sipped some of the broth. "Thanks Junpei. It means a lot. It's been a long time since we were last here. A lot has changed and I guess it's been a little difficult to adjust. Minato, in particular, has been a little touchier than usual…"
"He's not usually this bad? I thought it was just me…"
"Why would you think that?"
Junpei swallowed some more noodles. "I guess I can't help comparing the two of you, since your siblings and all. You're so upbeat and cheerful, and he's… kinda cold in comparison."
Minako patted his shoulder lightly. "Don't think it's your fault. That's how we are. I'm the optimist and Minato is the tough one. I don't want to sounds like a mother or anything, but even if you prefer being friends with me, try to be friends with Minato too. He's a nice guy once you get around his prickly exterior."
"I know. Don't worry about it. If you guys need anyone to rely on, you can count on Junpei," he announced, jabbing his chest with his thumb.
Minako giggled and let out a gasp as a card appeared in her mind, a pair of hands holding a flame in front of a pair of eyes. A voice echoed, "Thou shalt have our blessing when thou choosest to create a Persona of the Magician Arcana..." before everything returned to normal.
"You okay?" Junpei asked, eyeing her with concern.
She smiled. "Yeah. Just drinking too fast. It's still pretty hot."
"Well, be careful. Don't want you burning yourself."
"Right," she replied. It was another thing she'd have to mention to Minato when they got back to the dorm.
Meanwhile, Minato had settled himself in the library. The member of the library committee on duty, a girl two years his senior named Saori, had been very helpful in helping him find what he was looking for. They had compiled a few books, mostly dictionaries and encyclopedias, until Minato found a book specifically on the subject. The book was small, but it had detailed images that Minato asked if he could have copied. When Saori brought the book and the color copies back, he delved into the information, taking notes and taping the images into his notebook as he went along.
"(The Major Arcana or trumps are a suit of twenty-two cards in the tarot deck. They serve as a permanent trump suit in games played with the tarot deck, and are distinguished from the four standard suits collectively known as the Minor Arcana,)" he wrote, copying the book nearly word-for-word. "(Each Major Arcanum depicts a scene, mostly featuring a person or several people, with many symbolic elements. In many decks, each has a number (usually in Roman numerals) and a name, though not all decks have both, and some have only a picture. The earliest decks bore unnamed and unnumbered pictures on the Majors (probably because a great many of the people using them at the time were illiterate), and the order of cards was not standardized. Nevertheless, one of the most common sets of names and numbers is as follows: The Fool (0 or XXII), The Magician (I), The Priestess (II), The Empress (III), The Emperor (IV), The Hierophant (V), The Lovers (VI), The Chariot (VII), Justice (VIII), The Hermit (IX), Fortune (X), Strength (XI), The Hanged Man (XII), Death (XIII), Temperance (XIV), The Devil (XV), The Tower (XVI), The Star (XVII), The Moon (XVIII), The Sun (XIX), Judgement (XX), and The World (XXI). The images on the Major Arcana are often very heavy with symbolism, with far more to the illustration than a mere depiction of the card title. The Major Arcana are usually regarded as relating to matters of higher purpose or deep significance, as opposed to the Minor Arcana which relate to the everyday world and matters of immediate significance.)"
Something shattered in his mind, making him look up, but when nothing happened, he shrugged it off and went back to work. Just as he was finishing, Saori came over to tell him the library was closing. He offered to help her clean up, but she shook her head.
"I don't mind at all," she said, looking around. "You probably have other things to do anyway."
"The school will be closing soon, so you don't have much time left to clean up this." He motioned to the large number of books sitting on the tables and on chairs. "Besides, you were a great help to me. I'd like to return the favor."
Finally accepting his help, they cleaned up the library together. Saori invited him to come back again for a visit, telling him that she enjoyed his company and thirst for knowledge, an offer he accepted. By the time Minato got back to the dorm, he felt exhausted. He found Minako leaning up against the door to his room, staring at the floor.
She looked up at his arrival. "We need to talk."
"Alright." He unlocked his door and they went inside, dropping his bag next to his desk. "What about?"
She shuffled her feet. "I, uh… I made another Social Link today."
"Explains what I felt earlier…"
"You saw it too?"
"No, I didn't see anything. I felt it, though;" he grunted, sitting down at the desk and pulling his notebook out, "the shattering sensation in my head when the card appears. So, which Social Link was it? I can compare it with my research."
"It was… The Magician."
He looked up at her. "Any reason why you seem so hesitant to tell me?"
She twirled around, her uniform skirt twirling with her, and sat down on the bed. "The Social Link is with Junpei. We were out eating ramen and then we got talking… and it just happened. 'Thou shalt have our blessing when thou choosest to create a Persona of the Magician Arcana', you know?"
"Let me check my notes." He flipped to the page with the picture of the Magician card.
Minako jumped to her feet. "That's it! That's the card I saw! It looked exactly like that…"
He looked the image over once before writing 'Junpei Iori' underneath it. "We can keep track of them like this. I've taken notes on all of them and what each one means, so we'll know what to expect from each one. I think each Social Link is based on the Arcana it represents, though I don't know if that means we'll have twenty-two Social Links in all-"
"T-twenty-two! Where'd you get that from?"
"The Arcana everyone keeps mentioning are the twenty-two Major Arcana from a deck of Tarot cards. The Major Arcana are, in essence, the face cards in the deck, with each one having a different meaning and different picture based around their meaning. If someone is associated with that Arcana, then it's logical to assume that they have the qualities of that Arcana."
"That makes sense. What are The Magician's qualities?"
"The Magician refers to scholarly knowledge-"
"We're talking about Junpei, remember?"
"-as well as the potential for adventure. In terms of the knowledge aspect, the book seems to hold The Magician in the middle; The Magician contains more knowledge than The Fool, but the next Arcana, The Priestess, has the interpretation that The Magician is viewing that knowledge incorrectly. There's a lot of potential with The Magician, but there's also a good chance of using that potential the wrong way."
Minako sighed. "I'm still not seeing how this relates to Junpei."
"What if I told you that The Magician is often related to Hermes, which just happens to be Junpei's Persona?"
"The book explained the relationship like this: Hermes was a god of messengers and patron of travelers, making him a guide. In this case, Hermes - as The Magician - is the guide to The Fool, who is just beginning his journey."
"And what about The Fool? We've seen the card and you keep mentioning it."
"All of the Arcana are related to one another, so it's hard to talk about one without referencing another." Minato flipped back a page. The Fool card was taped to one side, 'SEES' written under it, the names of the members listed under that. "The Fool represents a beginner, someone without experience. The whole 'lacking experience' concept ties in with the numbering of the card, the 0, as well as the fact that he's standing on a cliff. It points to how close to falling into utter hopelessness he is."
Minako looked at it over his shoulder. "It's kinda sad, if you think about it. He's happily walking towards his demise and seems completely oblivious to it."
"Minako… The Fool represents us."
"Huh? You mean… the two of us?"
"Igor said that our power was like the number zero. That's what The Fool represents. It's empty, shapeless, weak, but there's so much room for improvement. We're standing at the edge, waiting for something to happen to stop us from stepping off, and now things have started to happen. We've been waiting for our entire lives."
"I know what you're saying. I've felt it too, but… Are you sure?"
He turned his chair, resting one arm on the desk. "Do you know the story of Orpheus?"
"Not at all. You're the mythology buff, not me."
"Orpheus was given a lyre by Apollo, and he played such beautiful music that even rocks and trees would listen. When his wife, Eurydice, died, he was filled with such grief that he went into the Underworld to try to get her back. Hades was so moved by Orpheus' sad music that he allowed Orpheus to return with his wife on one condition: that until they reached the surface, he could not look at Eurydice. As they climbed back to the surface, Orpheus became so happy that he looked back at the first glimpse of light. What he saw was Eurydice being pulled back into the Underworld, since he'd broken his end of the bargain. He was an incredible fool to forget."
"What happened to him?"
"He lived alone without Eurydice for a while until he started speaking out all the gods except Apollo, to whom he owned his art. Some people were so offended by his acts that they killed him, cut up his body, and tossed it a river. The Muses placed his lyre among the stars. The only piece of his body that was recovered was his head."
Minako shuddered. "Creepy."
"But fitting. I actually looked at Orpheus while we were battling. His entire body is made of metal and machinery except his head. Maybe the Personas aren't representations of the myths, but the myths themselves…"
"That's a crazy thought. Who'd believe that Personas are mythological figures?"
"You said so yourself: it's a thought. I never said there was any fact to that." He closed his notebook. "I'm too tired to debate something like that anyway. I'm getting ready for bed."
"Fine, fine. I'll let you get changed." Minako stopped at the doorway. "One more thing."
He pulled off his jacket. "Hmm?"
"You explained Orpheus and Hermes, but what about Yukari's Persona?"
"Io, you mean? She was cast out by her father for refusing Zeus' advances. When Zeus did finally get to her, he turned her into a while cow to protect her from Hera's wrath. He then turned her back into a human once she'd fled to Egypt."
"But what does that have to do with Yukari?"
He glanced over his shoulder. "Beats me," he sighed, closing the door.