Persona: Sins of the Fool

By Azrael Eternum


Disclaimer: I do not now, nor have I ever owned Shin Megami Tensei or the Persona series. They are the property of Atlus.

Chapter 5 – Among Friends

~January 2nd, 2018~

Chie was trying really hard not to laugh. She chastised herself as she covered her quivering grin with one hand, her shoulders twitching with each barely concealed chuckle.

"Chie, come on," groaned Yukiko, for once not laughing along with her friend. "It can't be that funny."

Chie took a deep breath before lowering her hand, still grinning. She rested her elbows on their table in the back of the Junes food court, glancing sheepishly at Yukiko. "Sorry, I just can't imagine you vaulting over the front desk, especially in a kimono. You're lucky you didn't end up flat on your face." She felt another giggle rising up at the thought, but the innkeeper's exasperated sigh brought Chie's mood back down.

"Still, I'm surprised," Chie started, straightening up and stretching her arms out in front of her. "I thought you were still pretty upset with him, after all that's happened."

Yukiko nodded. "I am still upset, and there are some things I still need to say to him. But when I saw him standing in the doorway last night, I…I just couldn't stop myself." Her shoulders sagged as she let out a frustrated sigh. "If you had asked me five minutes before, I'd have said that I wanted to confront him, to find out why he left. To tell him how bad he hurt all of us." She paused, looking down at the table before whispering, "How bad he hurt me."

Yukiko was quiet for a few seconds, trying to make sense of her actions the night before. "But then he was right in front of me," she said, her voice strained in frustration, "and the only thing on my mind was making sure he didn't run away again. I couldn't think about anything else."

"Then we'll just have to make sure that he stays put," Chie said with a grin. "And if he does try to disappear again, he'll have a fully qualified police officer on his tail." Chie cocked her arm out, proudly pointing thumb-first at herself. "I'm sure the Chief would sanction a manhunt for his favorite nephew, right?"

Yukiko couldn't stop the smile spreading across her face. While she knew her best friend was only kidding around, Yukiko could easily picture Chie bringing the full power of the police force to bear on Souji if he so much as left town without saying goodbye, just so Yukiko wouldn't be hurt again. Before Yukiko knew it, her smile had grown into full blown laughter. Chie lowered her hand back to the table and joined in, glad to see her friend cheering up a little.

"So," Chie started as the laughter died down, "do you think your surprise guest is awake yet?"

Yukiko shrugged. "I don't think so. He seemed incredibly exhausted when he arrived, like he hadn't slept in days. I know he was still asleep when I left the inn after lunch." Yukiko pulled her phone out of her coat, quickly checking it. "I told Hirasawa-san to have him call me when he woke up anyway, so he must still be resting."

Chie checked her watch. It was getting close to dinner time. "Well, if he's not up yet, he will be shortly. Yosuke should be there any time now."

Yukiko nodded. "Kanji-kun should be joining us shortly as well."

"Yeah," Chie added, "and Rise-san texted me an hour ago saying she was already on the train, so she should be getting in about the same time."

"Then we'll just be waiting on Yosuke-kun to get back." Yukiko finished. The gurgling sound of an empty stomach echoed across the table towards Yukiko, followed by Chie wrapping her arms around her midsection in mock agony.

"I sure hope they get here soon," the young policewoman groaned. "I'm starving!"

The only light in Souji's room was the soft glow of his watch as he double-checked the time. "I can't believe I slept through the entire day," he muttered with a sigh, wiping the sleep out of his eyes with one hand. He put his watch back on the floor with the few personal effects that had come with him to Inaba the night before. As he slowly sat up, he silently noted that he should call the Tokyo airport to see if his luggage had made the trip to Japan in one piece.

The door to Souji's room flew open with a bang, catching the lone occupant off guard. Souji's head spun to face the blinding light coming from the open doorway. His whole body tensed as a soft object smashed into his face at high speed.

"About time you woke up, man," came an angry voice from the doorway. "Now hurry up and get dressed, you're making me late for dinner."

Souji relaxed as he lowered the offending object, which he identified as a plastic bag full of clothes, and caught sight of that familiar sardonic grin that he'd not seen for over three years. "Nice to see you too, Yosuke-san," he said, rising to greet his former best friend.

Yosuke strode across the room as Souji stood, and without warning swung hard with a right hook. His fist caught Souji in the side of the face, the impact sending the silver-haired young man to the floor. Souji's hand immediately shot to his sore jaw as he rolled onto his back and faced his assailant. Yosuke stood over him, arms crossed, his face showing no sign of its former mirth.

"That's for not saying goodbye, jackass," the Junes manager said with a growl. Then before the Souji could react, Yosuke grabbed him by the arm and hauled him to his feet, pulling the silver-haired young man in for a tight, one-armed embrace. Yosuke pat his stunned friend on the back before releasing him, once again all smiles. "Damn, is it good to see you again, man!"

Souji smiled nervously, wincing at the painful reaction from his jaw. "It's good to be back, Yosuke-san," he said, rubbing his sore jawbone. "Though your choice of greeting is a bit unexpected, if not well deserved."

Yosuke laughed, clasping his hands behind his head. "It was either me or Chie. And trust me; you do not want to get on her bad side now that she's got a full course of police combat training under her belt," He let out a low whistle. "Though I have to say," he added with a sly grin, "it's made things a lot more interesting in the bedroom."

Souji's eyes widened at his friend's surprising admission. "You mean," he started as Yosuke's grin grew even wider, "you and Chie-san are…"

"Yep," Yosuke confirmed happily. "We've been engaged for three months now, getting hitched this fall."

"Wow," Souji said, surprise and excitement overcoming his drowsiness. "That's great. Congratulations, Yosuke-san."

"Okay, dude, cut it out with the formalities," Yosuke admonished, narrowing his eyes at Souji. "We're best friends, don't talk to me like a complete stranger. Seriously, you keep that up and Chie will have to smack you around a bit."

Souji broke eye contact, glancing away from Yosuke's sharp gaze. "Sorry, Yosuke," he apologized. "I didn't want to piss anyone off by being too friendly. I don't deserve you guys' friendship after leaving like that."

Yosuke rolled his eyes with a laugh. "Geez, dude, lighten up. What do you think I decked you for?" he asked, throwing an arm over Souji's shoulder with a grin. "Just make sure to say something before you go and pull another disappearing act," he added. "Besides, you'll have your opportunity to apologize. I know everyone's dying to hear your excuse for the last few years, anyway."

The brown-haired manager gestured towards the bag of clothes on the floor. "I grabbed you some new clothes from Junes since I hear you showed up without any luggage. I hope they fit; I just grabbed some stuff in my size. Now c'mon, hurry up and get changed while I go wake Lazy the Bear." Yosuke said, moving towards the door. "The others are waiting for us at the usual spot, and I doubt you want to show up to our big reunion in clothes you slept in."

"You think Teddie's still asleep?" Souji asked as his friend stepped out the door.

Yosuke turned around, an annoyed grin on his face. "I lived with the guy, remember? If I hadn't made sure to wake his lazy ass up everyday, we'd never have finished our investigation back then." He turned away again, beginning to slide the door shut behind him. "Meet us at the front desk when you're ready."

"Will do," Souji replied as the door slid shut behind Yosuke.

A few minutes later, Souji emerged from his room clad in a long-sleeved white shirt and black pants. The Junes logo emblazoned across the front of the shirt was partially hidden by Souji's open black jacket. Carrying the plastic Junes bag now filled with his clothes from the day before, Souji made his way towards the lobby where Yosuke was struggling to talk on the phone and free himself from Teddie's vise-like hug at the same time.

"Oh, Seta-san!" called the brown haired young woman at the front desk. "I was asked to have you contact Amagi-senpai as soon as you awoke. If you don't mind…"

"No worries, Hirasawa-san," Yosuke spoke up, putting his phone away, "I just got off the phone with Yukiko-san. She knows we're on our way." Finally disentangling himself from Teddie's grip, Yosuke waved to Souji and gestured towards the front door. "Let's go. My car's right out front. Kanji's already there and Rise-san's on her way."

"What about Naoto-chan?" Teddie asked, looking up at his former roommate.

Yosuke grimaced in frustration. "No one's been able to get a hold of her." Shrugging, he added, "She's probably in the middle of a big case or something in Tokyo. She usually drops off the grid when she's in full investigation mode. Now c'mon, I promised Chie I'd buy dinner and she's gonna kill me if we're the last ones there."

Junes hadn't changed much since Souji's last trip to the superstore years before. The arrangement of products was different but the layout was the same, including the familiar collection of tables and chairs in the food court. One table in particular near the back of the food court was bustling with activity as its occupants rushed to greet the silver-haired man that had just arrived with Yosuke and Teddie.

"Souji-senpai!" squealed the high pitch voice of one of Japan's most popular idols. Rise was the first to her feet, practically throwing herself at Souji and wrapping her arms around his neck in a tight embrace. The rest approached in a much more casual manner, though their excitement easily matched that of the bubbly redhead currently dangling from Souji's neck.

Kanji stepped up behind Rise, extending a hand to Souji. Rise stepped to the side as Souji reached out and shook the tattooed young man's hand, and Kanji wasted no time in pulling Souji in for a quick, one-armed embrace. "Welcome back, Senpai," he said with a smile, stepping back from Souji.

"Sheesh," Chie said, leaning back after also wrapping Souji up in a tight hug. "You had us all so worried." She hugged him again before stepping back with the others towards their old meeting spot.

Yukiko stood from the table as Souji approached. "Hello, Souji-kun," she said, bowing lightly. "You're looking much better this evening. I hope you enjoyed your stay at the inn."

"I'd say he did," Yosuke spoke up, taking a seat between Souji and Chie. He patted his silver-haired friend on the back. "Dude was barely awake when I showed up."

The telltale sound of hunger emanated from Chie's stomach, causing the young policewoman to blush brightly. She smiled through her embarrassment as the others laughed lightly. "Well, it's a good thing we're all here," Yosuke said with a grin, "'cause it sounds like someone's starving. C'mon, let's eat." Chie led the group as they stood, heading quickly towards the counter to order up some sustenance.

"Dinner's on me, guys," Souji said as Yosuke started to pay for their meals. He quickly passed his credit card to the attendant before Yosuke could protest.

"In that case," the young manager added, "drinks are on me. We can introduce Souji and Rise-san to the best bar in the country." Everyone chimed in with approval as the former investigation team gathered once more at their old meeting place.

Conversation at dinner flowed smoothly, as if no time had passed since Souji's disappearance years ago. The others took the time to catch their leader up on current events. Chie told him about her work as a police officer while Yosuke shared his experiences as Junes' youngest manager. Together they told the story of their courtship, leading up to Yosuke's proposal three months before. Souji laughed heartily at Yosuke's embarrassment as Chie continually referred to her fiancé by his pet name. Souji laughed even more when Kanji mentioned that their bartender had taken to using it to annoy Yosuke every time the group went for drinks.

Rise shared stories of her last three years, most of which were spent on tour and recording two new albums. She regaled the group with tales of concert snafus and living on a bus as she traveled all over the country for shows. She confessed that she was ready for a break after three exhausting years, and she was very glad that the chance had come along to reunite with her friends. Apparently, her new manager had supported the idea wholeheartedly, and had worked to clear the idol's schedule for the foreseeable future so Rise could stay in Inaba as long as she liked.

Kanji just shrugged off questions about the past few years, claiming that things hadn't changed much at the textile shop since Souji left. And while Kanji still took part in the conversation, Souji noticed that the tattooed young man visibly tensed for a second whenever Naoto's name was mentioned. The former leader decided not to press the issue, doing his best to steer the conversation away from the female detective.

Everyone was especially curious about how the last few years had treated Souji. He indulged them with stories of his life in New York City for the last three years, though he left out a lot of the details. He was enjoying their lighthearted reunion too much to bring it down with his problems. Eventually, he would tell them the whole truth, but for this moment he just wanted to enjoy seeing their faces again.

Yukiko spoke little, though she couldn't help but smile as she watched Souji reconnect with their friends. Though his disappearance had significantly hurt all of them, Souji's actions had also played a role in shaping them into the people they were today. Yukiko was glad that he could see them now that they had all had a chance to grow up.

After dinner was over, Yosuke led the group to the shopping district and his new favorite hangout, Soul Phrase. He ushered Rise and Souji into the packed bar, excited to introduce them to the proprietor and bartender.

"Junpei!" exclaimed Teddie, diving into the bartender for one of his now common hugs.

"Ted, long time, no see, buddy. Glad to have you back," the ball cap wearing bartender said as he glanced up. "Hey, it looks like Hana-chan has some new friends, too!" Souji and the others laughed loudly as Yosuke facepalmed. "Nice to meet ya," he continued, ignoring Yosuke, "I'm Junpei Iori. Welcome to Soul Phrase."

"Thank you, Iori-san," Rise replied, reaching out to shake Junpei's hand. "I'm Rise Kujikawa."

"Woah," Junpei exclaimed. "I thought I recognized you! It's not often that my bar gets celebrity customers," he added with a bow. "I'm honored." He took her hand in his and lightly kissed it with a grin, eliciting a string of giggles from Rise. "Oh, and please," he added, "call me Junpei."

At that moment, a pregnant woman with long, flowing red hair approached the bar carrying a tray of empty mugs. Setting it down on the bar, she grabbed Junpei by the ear and pulled, causing the bartender to grimace and quickly let go of Rise's hand.

"Now Junpei," she said with a mock-serious tone to her soft voice, "How many times do I have to tell you to stop hitting on the clientele." She twisted his ear lightly, bringing forth a painful groan from the bartender.

"Sorry Chidori-chan," he said with a nervous smile as the redhead let go of his ear. "You know me, always trying to be friendly." He turned back towards Rise and Souji. "This is Chidori, my wife and soon-to-be mother of my child. She keeps this place running smoothly while I work on public relations." He grinned widely at that last part, causing Chidori to roll her eyes. "This is Rise Kujikawa, the famous idol," he added, indicating the shorter redhead.

"Nice to meet you, Kujikawa-san," Chidori responded politely. "What brings you to Inaba?"

"Rise went to high school with the rest of us," Yosuke spoke up, stepping forward. "She's another member of our little group."

Junpei's face was aghast. "You went to school with Hana-chan?" he asked, covering his mouth in shock. "I'm so sorry, that must have been a terrible ordeal." Everyone laughed as Yosuke glared at the bartender, though Chidori still managed to reach across the bar and smack Junpei on the back of the head.

Rubbing his injured skull with an overacted grimace, Junpei nodded towards Souji. "And who's this other new face, then?"

"I'm Souji Seta," the silver-haired man replied, extending his hand to Chidori and then Junpei. "I'm another old friend of Yosuke and the others."

Junpei shook his hand, nodding. "Ah, so you're the dude these guys were talking about last night." Before Yosuke could protest, Junpei shrugged, adding, "I'm not trying to eavesdrop, but you guys aren't exactly quiet, and the bar's not big place." Focusing once more on Souji, he continued, "It's good to meet ya. You've got a nice bunch of friends here." The barkeep's normally jubilant expression momentarily became serious, though it still carried a smile. "Don't take 'em for granted." He glanced sidelong at Yukiko for a split second before letting go of Souji's hand with a final shake.

"Alright, alright, enough of that," Yosuke interjected. "We're here to celebrate Souji's homecoming, and that's exactly what we're going to do. Junpei, beer's all around."

"I'll have some wine, please," Yukiko added.

"Oh, and make mine a margarita," said Rise.

"Do I get a beer too, Yosuke?" Teddie asked.

"And a soda for the youngster," Yosuke finished, quickly steering Teddie towards a table by the opposite wall.

"Aw," the bear whined, "why don't I get one?"

"Because you still look like a fifteen year old and you don't have ID," Yosuke hissed. "Besides, last time you had any alcohol at my place, you fell asleep for three days."

"I can't help it," Teddie grumbled, "I'm a light weight bear."

Everyone was laughing as they took their seats, their conversation quickly picking up again. Before long, Chidori brought their drinks: red wine for Yukiko, a salt-rimmed margarita for Rise, two pitchers of beer for the rest to split and a pitcher of soda for Teddie.

"Thank you, Chidori-chan," Teddie smiled, foregoing his mug and draining the soda straight from the pitcher. "What?" he asked as Souji stared at him dumbstruck. "I'm bear-y thirsty." Yukiko laughed while the others all groaned.

As they recovered from another of Teddie's bad puns, Rise spoke up. "Souji-senpai, you still haven't told us why you left the country." The table quickly grew silent as all eyes turned towards Rise and then to Souji. Yukiko broke the silence first.

"Souji-kun, if you'd rather not talk about it right now, you don't have to," she comforted.

"Yeah," Chie added, "Tonight's was supposed to be a chance to relax. I doubt Souji-kun wants to be dredging that up right now."

Souji sighed, taking a long pull from his beer. "No, if I put this off, it just makes it harder to do later," he said. "I appreciate the concern, but it's best if I get this out in the open so we can clear the air." He refilled his beer from one of the pitchers, leaned forward onto the table and, taking a deep breath, began.

"You all remember how my power was…unique, right?" he started.

"Of course," Kanji answered, "Your ability got us out of a lot of tight spots. Without you, we wouldn't have stood a chance against Izanami in that last battle."

Souji nodded. "Well, as much of a blessing as it was at the time, the long term effects were less than pleasant." Souji rubbed his temples; just the memories of the last few years seemed to bring his headache back. "It started about a year before I left. You all know I was complaining of headaches up until I took off. At first, I though it was nothing, and chalked it up to a lack of sleep or dehydration. As it turns out, it was my power rebelling against me."

The faces around the table all showed shock and confusion, so Souji continued before anyone could speak up. "It turns out that my power, the Wild Card, was never meant for humans to wield. It was slowly tearing my mind apart. I was starting to hallucinate regularly, seeing Shadows and Persona and all sorts of things. Then, near the end of that year, I started to lose control. I started drinking frequently, as that seemed to dull the effects. But then I burned down Yosuke's apartment and almost killed three of my best friends."

Yosuke cocked his head to one side in confusion. "But that whole thing was ruled an accident," he said, "The fire department said you must have knocked a candle over while you were drunk. It's not like you meant to do it or anything."

Chie, on the other hand, was staring hard at the table, the memories of that night still fresh in her mind after all these years. Suddenly, her eyes widened and her gaze snapped up toward Souji. He wasn't going to tell them about…no, he couldn't…

Souji avoided her gaze, staring into the tabletop as he continued. "The truth is, while I was…intoxicated…I lost control of my powers. To put it simply, I accidentally cast an Agidyne spell in the apartment. Usually alcohol helped to prevent this, but it apparently wasn't a perfect solution. Luckily, Chie was still sober enough to help me drag Yosuke and Kanji out of the building, and nobody else was hurt in the fire."

"I couldn't let something like that happen again, so I left as quickly as I could. I traveled around the country for a while, trying to find a way to fix my problem. I couldn't stay in one place for long, since I brought destruction with me wherever I went. I bounced back and forth between all sorts of drugs until I got my hands on something that worked."

He reached into his jacket pocket and produced a bottle of red and white pills. "These were apparently part of some abandoned experiment by the Kirijo Group a few years back. I don't know what they were used for, but they got rid of the crazy. I had control back without having to drown in alcohol." Placing the bottle back in his pocket, he continued, "But there was a downside, of course. These pills were abandoned for a reason. Over time they are guaranteed to kill the user."

The table exploded. "What the hell, man! What were you thinking?" yelled Kanji, banging his mug on the table. Yukiko and Chie both covered their mouths in shock, tears rolling slowly down Yukiko's face. Rise was openly crying next to Souji, her face buried in the sleeve of his jacket. Teddie looked scared and confused, but was otherwise speechless.

"Calm down, everyone," Yosuke spoke over the noise, trying his best to be loud without drawing any more undue attention to their table. "I don't think Souji was too wild about it, either. Go ahead, man."

Souji nodded. "You're right. At first I was afraid to keep using them. But they were the only thing that worked reliably. I also discovered that when rationed and used with alcohol, the effects lasted longer without taking as many pills. But at this point, I'd become a drug-dependant alcoholic. I couldn't stand the thought of any of you finding me only to see me in that state, so I decided to truly disappear. New York seemed a good a place as any."

"So I lived in New York City for three years," Souji continued. "I worked as a private investigator to make ends meet, but spent most of my money on the drugs and liquor. I had to keep up a daily intake of both to keep my powers in check, and it only seemed to get worse with time. I even started hearing voices when I was sober, which eventually coalesced into a persistent hallucination of Izanagi following me around. I was circling the drain, and I didn't have a lot of time left, I don't think."

"I'm so sorry, Senpai," Rise cried, still clinging to Souji's arm. "I…I didn't realize how bad it was, how…but…I'm so sorry!"

The despair around the table was palpable, drawing concerned glances from other patrons. Yukiko fought down the urge to run to Souji and comfort him. There had to be more to his story, she knew. Otherwise he wouldn't have come home.

Chie felt the same thing, and she asked, "So what made you decide to come back now?" Rise glared at her angrily, still clasping on to Souji's sleeve. "I don't mean that in a bad way," Chie stammered, wishing she'd asked in a more delicate fashion, "but you said yourself that you didn't want us to see you in that condition. So what changed?"

"Do you remember Margaret?" Souji asked, earning confused looks all around.

"Yeah," Yosuke said after a pause. "She was that strange woman who wanted to test us before we went off to fight Izanami."

"Oh yeah, her," Chie chimed in. "Whew, I'm still surprised we made it through that fight in one piece. She was just as tough as Izanami, maybe tougher."

"Yeah, and even though she was the one to admit defeat, she looked like she hadn't even broken a sweat," Rise added between sniffles.

Souji nodded. "She also told us about her sister, who had gone off looking for somebody."

"Uh huh," Kanji agreed. "Something about a seal of some kind. It didn't make a lot of sense to me."

"Well," Souji said, "Two nights ago, Margaret's sister, Elizabeth, showed up at my office. She said she'd finally found a way to free this guy, but she needs our help to do it without destroying the world in the process. Apparently, he used his soul to separate Erebus, a creature made up of humanity's negative thoughts and feelings, from Nyx, some supernatural being that would bring about the end of life on Earth given half a chance. As long as his soul remains to power the seal, Erebus can't reach Nyx and the world keeps on turning."

"So why exactly are we wanting to mess with this seal thing?" Kanji asked. "Sounds to me like if we leave well enough alone, then the world isn't in any danger." The others nodded, looking to their former leader.

"Two reasons," Souji replied. "First off, if we succeed, Elizabeth can get rid of this power that's slowly killing me. She's already given me a gift that helps me control it. However, she'll only be able to act once her plan comes to fruition. I know it's selfish of me," he added, shoulders sagging, "but I wanted a chance to see everyone again. As my true self, not the drugged up version."

"Second," he continued, "it seems that some outside force is willing to do anything to keep Elizabeth's plan from succeeding, regardless of who's involved. It was powerful enough to turn the entire airport in New York into a maze filled with Ghouls. Me and Teddie barely made it out alive, and only after Elizabeth sent someone to intervene on our behalf and then transported us here. That's the short version of how I ended up in Inaba ahead of my flight."

"So to answer your question, Chie," Souji continued, looking around the table at all his friends, "I'm here to ask for your help. Elizabeth seems to think that whatever it is I'm going up against is powerful enough to take us all on, and that I'll need all the help I can get. If you don't want to fight with me, that's fine. You have no stake in this, and you'd likely be risking your lives."

"Don't be stupid," Yosuke interrupted. "Of course we have a stake in this. This might be the only chance to fix what's wrong with you, right? Then we have to do everything we can to help."

Souji started to protest, but words of affirmation echoed around the table, stopping him short.

"You're friends have a very strong will," Izanagi spoke from behind him, "The coming storm will be easier to weather with them by your side."

Souji grinned. It seemed all his worrying was for nothing. Even after all these years, his friends were still willing to come to his aid, no matter the cost. He cursed himself silently for walking away all those years ago.

"So who is this guy that we're trying to save, Souji-kun," asked Yukiko from across the table.

"His name is Minato Arisato," Souji answered, "and he's a Wild Card, just like me."

The group made plans to meet up again the next night to go over their new mission. Afterwards, the conversation slowly made its way back into more casual territory. A couple of hours later, they decided to go their separate ways for the evening. Teddie accompanied Yosuke back to his apartment while Rise and Souji decided to walk back to the Amagi Inn with Yukiko.

When the last of the group filed out of Soul Phrase, Junpei flipped open his phone. He quickly dialed a number and held the phone to his ear, his eyes carefully watching the door with his back to the bar.

After only two rings there was a response.

"Hey, it's me," Junpei replied.

"Good, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to skip the formalities this time. I've got some news you're going to want to hear."

"Yeah. I overheard one of my customers talking, a guy named Souji Seta. He mentioned something about Nyx and Erebus, but I thought I was hearing things. But then he mentioned his name. And something about a 'Wild Card'."

"That's what I thought too. What do you want me to do?"

"Alright, I'll see you soon then."

"You too, Mitsuru-senpai. Goodnight." Junpei snapped his phone shut and returned to tending the bar.

Author's Note:

The big reunion! It looks like Souji's got some help for the coming challenges. And the team has welcomed him back with open arms. But what's happened to Naoto? And what about Yukiko? And Chie? You'll just have to stay tuned to find out.

I spent a good deal of time in this chapter messing around with the honorifics. I like using them, but since I'm not exactly overflowing with knowledge of the Japanese language, I want to make sure I'm using them correctly. I'm already checking multiple online sources, but if you see any honorifics out of line, please let me know and tell me what I did wrong so I can fix it properly. Thanks!

Once again, comments and criticisms are always welcome. The story only has a few more easygoing chapters like this before things really start heating up. The road ahead might be rough…

Much appreciation to Gryphon117, Xoraan, KeRose, XoreandoX and Astrih Konnash, my all-star reviewers for chapter 4. Thanks a bunch, your reviews give me the fuel to keep this thing going.

Next chapter coming soon!

-Azrael Eternum