Author's Note: Y'know, I think some of you actually hate me because I update so slowly, lol. Anyway, it's finally up, and I can't wait to hear your thoughts :) Also, warning on the first half. The timeline might be a little confusing. but everything should sort itself out by the end. Probably.
Chapter 14: Fried Tofu
After Yukiko Amagi was saved, Souji, Yosuke, and Chie needed to make sure that Yukiko would be escorted home safely, and yet being extremely careful as to not be seen as the ones who found her. Souji explained to the group that his uncle was suspicious of him due to the "weapons in the food court fiasco" that Yosuke caused the other day. The last thing they wanted to do was draw any more attention to themselves.
Thus the plan was for Chie to walk Yukiko home and Yosuke would stay behind in Junes to wait for his dad so that they could go home together. Souji would leave after he's walked the two girls out to bus stop at the lower shopping district. Everybody agreed to it and they bid goodbye to Yosuke as Chie held her bestfriend by her shoulders.
Souji made his way back to the Dojima Residence after he waited with the girls by the bus stop, helped Yukiko up when the bus arrived and watched as the bus drove away with Amagi and Satonaka waving him goodbye.
When he reached home, he was thankful that his uncle was not yet back, and only his cousin, Nanako, was there. She greeted him with her usual, "Welcome home," before returning to watching her show. It appeared that Nanako was becoming more accustomed to Souji's presence. She hadn't even realized that he had come home covered in grime and dirt. Quickly taking advantage of Nanako's distracted state, Souji slipped up to the bathroom on the second floor and ran the shower.
Shortly after he finished, Ryotaro Dojima returned home, and he brought along someone else. Souji had just walked down the stairs when he heard his uncle holler that he's home, and then announcing that he's brought a guest. Having her father's guest over surprised Nanako, since her dad haven't brought anyone home with him since her mom died. She hadn't expected this, and she quickly hid behind Souji, burying her face with his shirt.
"What's going on...?" her cousin asked her softly, but she could only shake her head. The teen glanced up towards the door to see his uncle roughly removing his shoes and placing them on a rack. Behind him stood a tall, lanky man with dark hair and wearing a black suit. The man smiled and waved nervously, prompting both Souji and Nanako to do the same.
Nanako might not know the stranger but Souji recognized the man. He recalled meeting him once or twice, but he didn't think he had ever gotten his name. Souji recognized him as being the same man who threw up at the sight of a dead body, and he offhandedly mentioned to him and Yosuke that Yukiko was a murder suspect. He had a hard time believing this man was remotely capable of being a cop.
"You remember Adachi?" Dojima pointed to the man behind him. Adachi was still trying to remove his shoes. Souji peered over his uncle's shoulder and watched as the lanky detective fumble forward and knocking his face unto the wall.
"... Y-Yeah, I remember him," Seta replied calmly.
The four of them all sat for dinner. This time there were no interruptions from the police station calling Ryotaro back on duty. Nanako was obviously happy that her father was home for dinner even if he brought a stranger home with him, and there was also no need to think about anyone's impending death either. This peace of mind and warm family atmosphere calmed Souji.
During the course of dinner, Adachi began to talk about Yukiko's sudden return, "Hey. Isn't it great how that Yukiko girl turned up? But I have to say, she isn't quite off the hook yet." That caught Souji's attention. Adachi didn't seem to notice Dojima glaring at him either as he continued talking. "It's weird. The girl says she doesn't remember anything that happened while she was missing. That sounds like to me she's hiding something . . ."
Before Adachi could continue, Ryotaro hit him on the back of the head. Dojima growled out in an annoyed but calm tone, "Dumbass. Shut your mouth. And don't speak with your mouth full."
"R-Right, sorry..." Tohru apologized sheepishly as his eyes darted between Dojima and Souji. Nanako was thoroughly disinterested as she drank from her little pink cup.
Seta, on the other hand, found Adachi to be a weird little man. The detective liked to shoot his mouth off, something that had probably gotten him in trouble more times than Souji could count. And if everybody from the Police Station's reactions were the same as his uncle's, Souji wondered just how Adachi had earned his badge.
Ryotaro Dojima doubted that Yukiko Amagi could be the killer. She did not fit the profile of someone who would be involved with murder. She did not even seem to be capable of being an accomplice. With a body as frail as hers and the fact that she had alibi-ed out for the first two incidents, Adachi's little day dream about Amagi being a suspect was quickly running out of steam.
However, his thoughts brought him back to his nephew Souji. The murders began shortly after he arrived, not to mention the weapons incident his friend caused at the Junes Food Court made it appear that Souji was into weapons. While Souji did set the record straight, there was something about Souji that Ryotaro could not put his finger on.
The boy had some very peculiar habits and patterns that suggested that he was hiding something, but Dojima refused to believe that his sister's boy had anything to do with the murders. It was a preposterous idea anyway. Souji had barely settled in when Yamano and Konishi's bodies turn up. Also, he had literally no connections with the two of them.
Someone told him that Souji and his friends have been hanging out at the Junes Food Court and the electronics department a lot recently. That in itself was not suspicious because there are plenty of teenagers that hang out at Junes, but something felt off about his nephew being there. After all, it seemed awfully convenient that no sooner had he questioned whether his nephew was getting involved in anything strange, Yukiko Amagi suddenly returned after inexplicitly disappearing like the previous murder victims Mayumi Yamano and Saki Konishi. Based on the pattern, he was afraid Ms. Amagi was going to end up another victim.
... What am I doing? Suspecting my own nephew in a murder case that's totally unrelated to him? I must be getting more desperate than I imagined. The murderer left no evidence behind. It's the work of a brilliant but deranged psychopath, not a god damned high school student!
With the weeks that had gone by, the case had already become cold. Ryotaro had already been bombarded with files from other cases, and the Yamano/Konishi case had been buried under a pile of new cases. But he just couldn't seem to let this one go.
He glanced over to Souji. The boy sitting before him was, like Amagi, a high schooler who was well out of the profile of a murderer. The fact that no evidence was left behind suggested planning, and Souji wasn't around long enough to be able to plan either murders. Amagi was from a well respected family and grew up with a happy and loving family, and also, from all accounts, she was much too busy to be planning anything like murder.
No, no. A murderer is usually cold and calculating. Detached from society. Either because of childhood trauma or recent events. The person would have to be a reject. He hates the world. Only then would he think that killing someone is justified.
Not to mention, this is the same person that that has also been keeping his daughter company whenever he had to work late. They may have only just met a month ago, but he could tell that Souji and Nanako were starting to get along. Dojima trusted him. He's a good kid.
Ryotaro Dojima, you're tired. You're going insane. You were actually starting to believe that your kid nephew could be a killer. What is wrong with you?
Instead of dwelling on that though, he decided to change the subject. Whatever crack hat story Adachi had been telling the kids, Dojima judged that it was stupid and interrupted his partner, glancing over to his daughter, "Now that the missing persons case we had has been settled, it looks like I can finally take a well earned break during golden week."
Upon hearing those words, Nanako's eyes brightened up, "Really? !"
Ryotaro happily nodded, "Yep. Is there anywhere you want to go?"
While Nanako and Ryotaro talked about the possibility of going on a trip, Souji could not help but smile for his cousin. He was simply glad that things had worked out for everybody, though throughout the evening, Souji had noticed that his uncle had been eye balling him.
"Your uncle is a suspicious man..."Izanagi commented, "Be careful."
Yasogami High School
After classes had ended for the day, Yosuke Hanamura approached Souji and patted him on the back, grinning, "Yo partner! Thanks for bailing me out today. King Moron would have torn me a new one if I had gotten that answer wrong."
Partner? Why does he keep calling me that?
Izanagi commented helpfully, "Back in the day, men who work together often bond and become very close. Some of these men become life part-"
"NO." Souji thought sternly, thoroughly unamused.
He decided not to dwell on Yosuke's (and Izanagi's) words too much and sighed, "It's not a problem. You're not the first person I helped out in a situation like that, and you probably won't be the last."
Yosuke laughed at his comment, "I don't doubt that. Anyway, you want to hang out? Let's go get some croquettes at the shopping district."
Souji was hesitant at first, but he decided to go along. He said as he smiled mischievously, "As long as you don't cause another fiasco that can get me arrested, it's fine with me."
"Man, you are never going to let me live that down are you?" Yosuke said almost dejectedly.
Central Shopping District
They decided to simply have an early dinner for the day at the croquette stall next to Aiya's. Souji could not help but admit that was some great tasting steak, unlike the tough slabs of meat Junes served at their food court.
Their meal was going well until two woman passed by. They recognized Yosuke as the son of the manager of Inaba's local Junes Megastore. The comments the two heard were anything but friendly. Souji eyed the two woman as they sauntered past while Hanamura simply sighed.
Yosuke passed off the conversation they heard with a nervous laugh, "Sorry about that. You know me, I'm infamous around here."
Seta wasn't really sure what to say. The only thing he could come up with was, "It must be tough."
Yosuke shrugged, "Nahh it's not really. It's mainly my parents; I'm not personally involved. Anyway, there is nothing I can do about it. I don't think there's anyone in Inaba who doesn't know me at school or around town . . . Not that I mind but . . . It sucks that I always gotta mind my manners."
Hanamura stuck his tongue out at that, as if trying to get the taste of the word off. Souji laughed a little and Yosuke smiled widely, eventually letting off a chuckle or two himself.
As they two laughed together, Souji began to feel like he could understand Yosuke a little better. The difference in personality between the two of them made Souji forget that, like him, Yosuke had been thrust here to Inaba by their parent's work. This was the first time Souji felt that someone actually understood.
No sooner had Souji thought of that, a voice in his head began to speak to him. It was hauntingly low and it sounded astral, and in some ways, it sounded as if it was his own voice. Either way, he had heard it before, the day where he had first met Daisuke and Kou, and like that other day, the voice spoke to him about social links and the like but Souji quickly began to think loudly in his head to try to drown out the voice.
Yosuke seemed to notice his discomfort and asked if they should start heading home. Souji jumped at that and quickly nodded.
"Let's go then," Hanamura grinned.
After Souji and Yosuke parted ways, Seta decided to check out a couple of stores in the south part of the Central shopping district. While he was there, he passed by a girl that gave him a strange vibe.
She had such pale skin it rivaled Yukiko's and she sported chin-length dark hair that framed her face perfectly. Her bright gray eyes watched him curiously and Souji watched her for a while too. She wore a sleeveless white shirt, a short black necktie, and a checkered skirt. The thing that really caught his eye, though, was the blue cap that she wore. It had a button that said "V".
The girl broke eye contact and walked towards Daidara's and at the same moment, a group of teens who'd just alighted from the bus that had pulled over just seconds ago walked right in front of Souji. When the group had passed, the mysterious girl was gone.
He couldn't help but dwell on the girl. He seemed to have seen her before, but he just couldn't remember where. And what unsettled him was the way she seemed to stare back at Souji even when he'd caught her watching.
Despite these feelings, Souji decided it would be for the best not to try to find her. However, he did come across a strange door right by Daidara's store. It appeared that no one else other than he could see this door, and he could feel himself being drawn to it.
Stepping cautiously through the door, Souji closed his eyes as a bright light engulfed him and the next thing he knew, he was sitting in a moving limousine. He found himself back in the Velvet Room.
Across from him sat Igor and Margret, the two who'd come to him in his dreams right before he had arrived in Inaba. Nothing seemed to have changed much within the limo from the last time he recalled being here. Bottles of expensive wine and assorted alcohol sat on a built in shelf to the left of the limo. To the right sat Margaret, looking as impassive as ever, and directly across from Souji sat Igor, grinning creepily as he drank from his glass and wiped the side of his impossibly wide mouth with a scarlet handkerchief.
They congratulated him on taking a successful first step in solving the mystery as well as beginning to expand and strengthen his social links. Souji inquired about the voice he heard, but Margaret only told him that it is part of being the "Wild Card." With nothing left to do, he glanced around him wondering if he was supposed to say anything before leaving.
Or how to leave exactly...
Igor seemed to have read his mind, or at least his less than subtle body language, and gestured towards the door next to Souji. Seta nodded courteously, feeling a wee embarrassed as he grabbed the handle and pushed the door open, revealing a bright light that blinded him.
When he opened his eyes, he was already back in Inaba. Souji checked his phone and realized that not even ten seconds had passed by in the real world even though he had been in there for at least ten minutes. As Igor and Margaret told him when he first entered, time does not pass whenever he enters that room. The silver haired teen decided that it would be a waste of time to even try to comprehend the logic and that he was better off trying not to get lost while finding his way back home.
When Yukiko returned safely, her mother and the hotel staff were beyond relieved.
Chie had brought her home, barely holding her up, and when Chiaki saw them, she'd started crying, running towards the two of them, engulfing them in a bear hug that even Chie couldn't get out of. Soon after, almost all of the workers from the inn had came over to welcome her back. Her mother had been so worried, she'd been bed ridden. Even then, when news of Yukiko's return reached her ears, the elder Amagi had quickly sprung out of bed and ran out to the lobby in her white pajamas.
They did not want to question the good fortune, but they wanted to know what happened to her. Questions were unloaded unto her and the only answer that Yukiko could give them was she couldn't recall. Soon after, the police were called and they were told that someone would be sent to the inn to do a follow-up investigation. Chie wanted to stay, just to keep an eye on what proceeded. Yukiko relented, but only because she didn't want to be alone when the questioning started.
A few minutes later, two police cars drove up to the inn and Detective Dojima came out of the first car. He'd brought a few men along with him, one of whom was dressed sharply in a tan suit that looked mighty expensive and impossible to buy on a cop's salary. The well-dressed man was introduced to be the psychologist under government payroll.
After the psychologist examined her, he concluded that Yukiko legitimately could not remember anything that happened. Something about trauma induced amnesia. This piece of information seemed to frustrate Dojima, as Amagi had noticed. There was a thin frown on his face and his thick brows were crushed together. The man sighed heavily and told the psychologist that he was allowed to return to the precinct to file his report.
Dojima then proceeded to ask Yukiko some routine questions. Chie had wanted to stay with her but the Detective was adamant about questioning Yukiko alone. Satonaka ended up having to sit by the lobby with the rest of the inn workers.
After a round of unhelpful answers, the Detective knew that he had been stonewalled once again and this kidnapping case would likely to go cold, and the culprit never caught. Yukiko had wanted to tell the Detective about the TV world, she wanted to tell so badly, but she knew that he would not believe it, and it would put the four of them under intense scrutiny.
Like Souji said. They didn't want the police to be keeping an eye on them. It just makes what they do harder.
"Alright, miss Amagi," the Detective sighed heavily, "seems like there's nothing else I can ask you. Anytime in the near future, if there's anything that comes back to you, please do not hesitate to call me." He handed over a business card.
"Of course," Yukiko took the card with both hands, politely bowing slightly towards the older man as they both stood up, "I will try my best to retrieve my memories. I'm sorry that I couldn't be more helpful, mister Dojima-san."
"No, that's alright," he sighed again. He then glanced towards Chie and frowned, "I'm sorry but remind me again... Who did you say had found you?"
Yukiko swallowed calmly, recalling the cover story that Yosuke had made them memorize, "Chie was the one who found me lying unconscious on the roof of Junes... Is there something wrong, Detective Dojima, sir?"
"Nothing, just confirming." He replied slowly.
When the detective left, Yukiko felt that a giant weight had been lifted off of her. Chie, who'd been sitting by the lobby, quickly ran over to her and asked her another load of questions. Yukiko told her that she was tired and didn't really want to answer any more questions and Chie said that she understood.
Everyone at the Amagi Inn was thrilled that Yukiko had returned safe and sound, and they wanted to make her life easier. Soon after Chie had left, the inn crew ran around prepping Yukiko's room. Somebody even ran down to Junes and bought the softest futon they had even when she insisted that her old one was fine.
Although she wasn't used to it, Yukiko decided that she could probably use the pampering for a while.
Throughout the week, Yukiko spent a majority of her recovery resting in her room. Nobody dared enter her room unless it was to bring her food and water. Chie brought her homework, but never stayed too long. With so much time alone, Yukiko began to dwell on what had happened to her.
She was still fuzzy on the details of what happened, and she began to question her sanity. The days were dull, with almost nothing to do but rest. The nights were the worst. She had dreams, nightmares that plagued and haunted her.
She dreamt about a metal cage. She dreamt about sitting high up on a throne and staring down at three figures standing in front of her. Slowly, the figures became Chie, Yosuke and Souji, and they were all wearing medieval, noble clothes. And they wore crowns. Like Princes.
Everything in the inn had went back to normal, and even Chie had never once mentioned anything about shadows and personas. Yukiko began to think that it might all been her imagination. That it was all a dream.
For a few nights, that dream of Princes was the only thing that she could think of. It was the first image that pops into her head when she closed her eyes. In the dream, she was simply standing there, staring at their faces.
And then one night, she noticed that the chamber had become dark, and the only source of light seem to have fallen on somebody who had hiding in the corner. She glanced over to the side, where she saw herself, sitting on the floor in her kimono, staring back at her with frightened eyes. Yukiko realized that she was standing in the shoes of her shadow.
Chie, Yosuke and Souji were no longer wearing princely clothing, and instead blood and grime were smeared all over their faces. Sweat rolled down their battered skins and there were scrapes on their knees and red on their shirts.
This was the first night where she'd woken up crying. She glanced out her window where the moon shined on and darkness still reigned over Inaba.
Quite suddenly, a peculiar voice spoke to her. A calm, astral voice that sounded strangely familiar as it whispered to her, "It was not a dream."
Yukiko was startled by the voice, and she said out loud, "Who's there?" She felt her heart beat quickening and her hands shaking.
The female voice chuckled, "There is no need for you to speak with your words out loud. We can speak through your mind."
That statement confused Yukiko more than anything, "What do you mean?"
The voice did not appear to be offended by Yukiko's doubtfulness. Instead, she sounded almost hurt, "Don't you remember? I am you and you are me."
Yukiko thought about what the voice was saying, and it all came back to her. The voice belonged to her Persona, Konohana Sakuya. When Yukiko finally accepted that her shadow back in her castle as a part of her that she had always tried to hide from the world, it transformed into a being that resembled both a woman and a bird that wore a helmet and armor that was a mixture of pink and white.
Yukiko thought to herself, "You're Konohana Sakuya."
The voice spoke in a congratulatory fashion, "That is correct. I am glad you finally remembered."
"So it wasn't a dream. I really was kidnapped." Yukiko was not quite sure why, but she was kind of glad what happened was real. It meant that she hadn't quite gone insane.
"Yes...Yes, you were. And you were dreaming about it, for the past new nights. You imagined that you were in my shoes. But you recall the true events... I can sense that you remember what conspired within the castle." Yukiko's Persona seemed eager to get her to recollect what happened on the day of her rescue.
Yukiko took Konohana Sakuya up on her request. "Okay I'll try." She thought about what happened for a few moments, "I remember that Chie, Yosuke-kun, and Seta-kun came to my rescue. There was another me in the room that referred to herself as my shadow. I became angry with her, and I rejected what she said about me. Then she manifested into a giant monster that the others fought against. After they defeated her, Chie apologized to me, and I apologized to her. Then, I finally was able to come to terms with what my other self was saying. While she may have exaggerated things a bit, there was truth to what she was saying..."
"That's not all. Go on." Konohana Sakuya egged her on.
Yukiko thought hard about what happened after that. "That was when the shadow became you..."
"What happened next?" Konohana Sakuya asked innocently.
"We went through a the tv-"
"No," Konahana Sakuya said, albeit a little impatiently, "immediately after we became one."
Yukiko thought about it for a moment and blushed when she remembered. She had succumbed to the fatigue and felt her knees go weak. She'd actually felt the wind in her hair as she fell, but somebody had caught her, and it was none other than the transfer student, Souji Seta.
Not only that, he also carried her down the castle bridal style because she was wearing a kimono. She remembered that she enjoyed it despite being surrounded by monsters on the way out, and she felt disappointed when he finally put her down.
"I remember first love... I met Ninigi while I was down by the seashore. He was staring, and I was staring and oh, it was beautiful," Konohana Sakuya sighed blissfully.
"W-what do you mean first love! There's nothing going on here!" Yukiko's thoughts were getting flustered and her heart was thumping loudly against her chest. "Seta-kun was the one who'd caught me. Case closed. Let's leave it at that."
Konohana Sakuya sounded disappointed as she sighed, "Ah very well. However, life as you know it is short and fleeting. The game of courtship is fun and exciting, but always know that time is not a luxury you have."
For a second there, Yukiko actually felt bad for slamming the lid on Konaha Sakuya.
"Now if Ninigi had chosen to marry my rock of a sister, then it might have been a different story," the persona teased. "Father always used to say that if Ninigi had married my sister, the rock princess, human lives would have been strong and lasting, like stones." She sneered, "How very... unromantic." then she laughed, "Like you."
Giving in, Yukiko groaned in a mixture of annoyance and embarrassment, "You know exactly what happened anyway. You were there."
With seemingly no sense of shame, Konohana Sakuya proudly replied, "Of course I was. How could I forget the way your prince carried you out of that castle?"
Yukiko was becoming more embarrassed by the second, "Let's just drop this please."
Konohana Sakuya was clearly enjoying this, "Why? Are you saying you didn't like it? I was in your head, Yukiko. You were having all sorts of thoughts while he was carrying you in his arms."
"I would rather not answer that. Can we please talk about something else?" Yukiko knew if she had replied to that previous question it would only give her Persona more ammunition. "I liked you better when you didn't ask me unnecessary questions." She added for good measure.
Her Persona finally decided to take the hint and talk about something else. "In that case, do you think you will be done recovering soon?"
"I think I will be fine in a few days. After that, I am not really sure what I should do then."
Yukiko had been so focused on her recovery that she did not think about what she would do next.
Seeing her at a loss, Konohana Sakuya decided to give her host some advice. "Perhaps you should first talk to your friends about your kidnapping, especially that Souji Seta. Maybe then you will be able to decide what you need to do."
Yukiko sighed, but she knew her Persona was right. "You have a point. They would probably want to ask about the incident anyway."
After they were done speaking, Konohana Sakuya retreated to the back of Yukiko's mind, so she could continue her recovery in peace. Finally having her thoughts to herself, Yukiko closed her eyes and went back to sleep.
This time, the nightmare did not return.
Yasogami High School
Chie Satonaka took her usual route down to school alone.
Usually she would be with Yukiko, but her best friend had insisted that she walk to school by herself today. Normally, Chie would ignore Yukiko's pleas and walk her to school anyway. However, ever since the whole brouhaha with the shadows and the Personas, Chie had learned to slowly let go of the leash that she'd chained on to Yukiko unconsciously.
She quickened her pace, walking past the Tatsumi Textile Shop and Aiya's. Chie did not stop other than to tie her loose shoelace. The air was pleasantly cool today with thick clouds rolling by, shielding Inaba from the relentless sun. The Spring air was crisp and with every breath she took, she could feel the chilly air fill her lungs. Similar to the atmosphere, Chie's mood was calm and breezy today.
She spent the next few minutes of her brisk walk to school trying to get a weird taste off of her tongue, although in the end, she ended up popping in one of her meat gums to distract her from the strange taste. It was quite effective.
"I wonder why people don't like it," she muttered to herself as she chewed blissfully, "these things are awesome!"
By the time Chie reached Yasogami, there was still ten minutesleft before the bell would ring, and she had already chewed through three meat gums. Chie slowed her brisk walk when she spotted Yukiko standing by the gates. Her best friend seemed to be busy with a particular transfer student with the silver hair. She spat her gum into a piece of tissue and threw it away as she cautiously wandered towards the two.
They were chatting, with Souji's back to Chie. The conversation seemed to be rather animated, but the weird thing was that Yukiko was doing most of the talking. Chie could not hear what they were saying. However, Chie could see Yukiko's facial expressions changing from smiling, to depressed frowning, and to embarrassed blushes.
Chie rarely saw Yukiko having such a vibrant conversation with anyone other than some of the younger workers at the inn. It had been a while since she had seen Yukiko in such high spirits.
She did not realize that she was slowly drifting closer and closer to the two until Yukiko suddenly turned in her direction and caught her eye.
"It's Chie," she heard Yukiko announce, a wide smile growing on her face. Yukiko then bid goodbye to Souji, and she approached her bestfriend.
"Heeeey Yukiko," Chie grinned, "What were you two talking about?"
"I was just telling Seta-kun about how life at the Inn had become much easier since I came back," Yukiko said as they walked into the school compound together, "and I apologized to him for having to carry me all the way down from that dreadful place." A blush burned against her fair skin as she said that.
Chie grinned, "Souji's a nice guy."
"He is, isn't he," Yukiko glanced away with a smile on her face.
Yasogami High School Rooftop
"How many times did that happen?" Yosuke asked curiously. There was a crease in Yosuke's brow and a crooked smile on his face. Even when he didn't really know how soccer worked, Yosuke still found Souji's stories of his on-going battle with Akito Hiroshi extremely entertaining.
Souji shrugged and said almost nonchalantly, trying his best to suppress his urge to smile, "Five. Every time I did it, Akito's face just got darker and darker." He finally allowed a wicked grin, "I don't think he likes me very much."
Hanamura laughed. His eyes had an impish glint as he grinned at the transfer student folding his arms across his chest, "Nobody really likes Akito. He's quite the douchebag." He hopped and sat on the raised ledges, "But on the other hand, he's real popular with the ladies and his group of douchey friends, so you gotta watch yourself, Souji."
He's been warned by many others, but Souji couldn't help but feel rather nonchalant about people like Akito. It wouldn't be the first time he's been picked on after all. It was like middle school all over again.
"Sounds like the boys' soccer team has more drama than the girl's," Chie added, listening in on the conversation from her seat on the ledge. The ledge was a little high and her legs ended up dangling like a child on a swing. "I heard of Akito though. He's bad news."
"Oh?" Souji turned his body to face Chie. It was not like him to gossip, but he really did not like that Akito guy, and this was information he wanted to know.
"Yeah! He's really competitive. Saw him getting away with a couple of fouls in his last big game. A little annoying sometimes. But, he's quite popular I think. Although, some guys don't really get along with him. But the other girls seem to like him. He's quite civil off the field."
Yosuke snorted at that as he rolled his eyes dramatically, "Civil my ass! That guy's a bully!"
At Chie's curious look, Yosuke explained exasperatedly, "I've seen him. He's all nice and gentleman-like in front of the girls, but he just pushes people around when it's just guys."
"Seriously?" Chie's eyes widened in disbelief, "Hiroshi-san?"
Souji kept quiet as Chie and Yosuke continued to banter. All he could think about right now was how his next encounter with Akito Hiroshi was going to go. He obviously hated Souji, and Seta was not exactly a saint either. He had purposely targeted Akito when he played defense, always running behind him and always ruining his shots and passes. Even someone as dense as Daisuke had noticed the animosity between Hiroshi and Seta.
With all the chattering going on, nobody noticed that Yukiko had already come back with the food."Sorry to have kept you waiting," she announced.
Souji watched as Yukiko walked towards the group with two bowls of instant noodles in each of her hands. Even with the lids still closed, Souji could already smell the heavenly scent of instant soba and processed fried tofu.
Yukiko smiled down at her best friend, "Your soba's almost ready, Chie."
"Thanks!" she grinned happily as she grabbed her bowl, "Ohhhh! That smells good!"
Souji swallowed his saliva in his attempt to ignore the delicious scent that drifted towards him. Having spent most of his life home alone, Souji had learned that if he did not watch what he ate, nobody would. Unfortunately, he learned that lesson the hard way during his early middle school days when he made very bad lifestyle choices that led to embarrassing weight issues. Now, he pretty much scrutinizes whatever he ate, and he makes sure that any excess came with 30 sets of sit-ups.
It's unhealthy. It's unhealthy. It's unhealthy. God dammit! It's unhealthy!
"C-Chie! Don't eat that yet! It still needs a few minutes!" Yukiko cried out before Chie could gobble down on her lunch.
Disappointed, Chie sighed and slapped the lid down on her soba, placing the styrofoam bowl by her side, prompting Yukiko to do the same.
"Alright, now that everyone's here," Yosuke announced seriously, "We should really get down to business." He addressed Yukiko directly, "Yukiko-san, I hate to be the one to bring it up, but we really need to ask you again. Did you recall anything about the time you were kidnapped?"
Yukiko met the stares of everyone, from Yosuke, Souji and then to Chie, but finally she glanced down at her feet and shook her head, "... No."
She added hurriedly, "I-I thought that I might remember something if I let it sit for a while, but as time passes, it just gets hazier. The more I try to think further back, the more cryptic the memory gets."
"Yukiko, this isn't your fault..." Chie gave her friend a one armed hug.
Yukiko smiled, "Thank you, Chie." She then looked up at Yosuke, "The only thing I can remember was... Well... I think somebody called for me. I went out to the front gate and everything from then on went blank. When I woke up after that, I was already in the castle."
"I'm sorry," she added dejectedly.
Souji smiled kindly, "Like Chie said, it wasn't your fault Amagi-san."
Yosuke nodded in agreement, "The one who's at fault is the asshole who kidnapped you."
"Does this mean that her visitor was the culprit?" Chie asked, her brows furrowing slightly.
At this, Yosuke shrugged as he scratched the back of his head, "I don't know. If that's true then that's one ballsy kidnapper."
"The police are looking for witnesses," Souji commented, "I've heard some stuff from my uncle Dojima when he talks on the phone. It doesn't seem like they're getting anywhere."
Chie shook her head miserably, "I wonder why whoever it is would do stuff like this..."
"Most of the time, they're deranged. They don't know right from wrong." Souji sighed.
Yosuke nodded, "We won't know for sure until we've confronted them ourselves, but pretty much most of the time they're crazy. We can be sure of one thing though. It's no coincidence that people keep ending up in that place."
He shifted uncomfortably on his seat.
"Someone on our side is definitely kidnapping them and throwing them into the TV," Yosuke placed a hand over his mouth as he pondered, "It's murder, all right."
At Yukiko's curious stare, Yosuke pointed a thumb at Souji, "Oh yeah, we never told you. This guy and me, we're gonna catch the culprit ourselves. The police are out of their league on this case, but us," he grinned, "we've got Personas."
Yukiko's eyes widened at that. She had almost forgotten about that whole thing. Throughout her healing period, there was a voice in her head. Sometimes, the voice commented on certain actions she took, and she could sometimes feel it retreating into the back of her mind.
It was through this that she knew that her whole fiasco in the TV was real, and it was not some vivid dream she had. For a day or two, she honestly thought that she might be insane, but thanks to her Persona, Konohana Sakuya, Yukiko accepted that it really happened, and there really was someone out there who had wanted her dead.
"I'm helping out too!" she heard Chie exclaim as her arm shot up, "I can't believe someone out there's doing that. The first thing I'm gonna do is sock the culprit in the face!"
Yukiko was shocked, but she knew that she should not be. She had always known how reckless and impulsive Chie was, but she had never realized how passionate she was as well. There was a fire in Chie's eyes. As Yukiko glanced over to the two boys, she saw the same fire in all of them.
Yosuke was grinning like a kid, and Souji seemed to be excited as well. Souji was still composed and cool, but his face was lit up as his steel grey eyes darted between Chie and Yosuke. They were all talking now. Chie and Yosuke were shooting theories and attack strategies back and forth between each other and Souji was simply watching. Only once or twice did he interject, and every time he did, everybody stopped and listened. Even Yukiko was compelled to listen to him, even though she had pretty much no idea what they were chatting about.
What can I do? They all fought hard and saved my life. I don't have Yosuke-kun's bravery and enthusiasm, nor Chie's fight prowess and spirit, nor Seta-kun's charisma and strength... Am I useless?
Before Yukiko went any further, a voice called out to her, "Do you wish to help them?"
Yukiko knew this voice. It belonged to Konohana Sakuya. The voice was gentle and although Yukiko had never noticed, the voice was pleasing, and it relaxed her.
"I... I don't know if I can help," she thought.
Yukiko could feel the Persona within her. Konohana Sakuya's every movement was now made aware to Yukiko, and it felt strange. Alien, even.
Konohana Sakuya assured her host, "You have strength. I can sense it. You have so much potential."
Amagi blushed furiously at that, "T-Thank you..." By hearing her Persona's words, Yukiko could feel that potential within her beginning to ignite.
"You want to help." Konohana Sakuya urged gently, "I know you do. Just do it. You have the potential to do so much good. Do not waste it simply because you are afraid. There is so much you can do to help."
She smiled at that, actually feeling better after the Persona said that. For a moment, Yukiko wondered if it was silly of her to revere her own Persona, something that had brought out the very worst in her, and yet, also somehow just made her feel better about herself.
I guess I've made my decision.
She had found her resolve. "I want to help too."
It was a voice that none of them had expected to hear. All three teens turned their attention to the raven haired girl sitting by Chie, their eyes wide and ears eager to listen.
"I want to know why this is happening, especially when someone out there obviously hates me so much, they'd want to kill me," Yukiko explained softly, her voice trembling slightly as she started kneading the hem of her skirt, "I... I don't want to run away from myself anymore."
Yosuke glanced at the boy standing next to him, looking to him for his opinion. The silver haired teen had a soft smile on his face and Yosuke then nodded enthusiastically with a grin, "Alright! Then let's all work together to catch this asshole!"
Souji gave a silent, confident nod of approval and Chie was (happily) yelling something unintelligible, prompting Yosuke to yell something back at her, albeit less positively . They were all, in their own way, excited about Yukiko joining them. However, while everyone was thrilled, Souji could not help but worry about the raven haired girl.
He did not want to patronize her, and he did not think of her as a damsel in distress. Souji refused to let testosterones rule his perspective and mindset, but everything about Yukiko just screams fragile.
I feel like I need to put a 'Handle with care' sticker on her.
Frankly, the thought of her going into the TV realm with them flustered him. The manly man part of him wants to plant himself right in front of Yukiko at all times, shielding her from harm. The rational part of him, however, was rolling his eyes at manly man Souji.
Why am I thinking like this? I feel like I am jumping the gun here.
Souji realized that Yukiko should be able to take care of herself. She has the same powers as them now, and she has Chie. And without information about the TV Realm and the murderer, they were at a serious disadvantage. Every time they went inside, there was always a chance that they would not be coming back out. If they're really going to do this whole scooby doo thing, they're gonna need all the help they can get.
"She's a strong asset," Izanagi commented off-hand, "I can sense great potential within her. Also, she has insight. Her memories though..." He sighed, "Trauma forces painful memories back into the deepest recesses of the brain. Unless it is triggered, I will not count on Amagi-san regaining her memories of the kidnapping anytime soon."
Souji came to the conclusion, "Which just means we're back to square one..."
"We don't have a lead." He pointed out exasperatedly, "We can't go hunting when there's nothing to work with."
"Souji's right," Yosuke bit his lips as he folded his arms across his chest, his animated yelling match with Chie stopped abruptly, "Other than the fact that the kidnapper certainly has the balls to go right up the front door, we don't really have anything to go on."
The four were silent for a while as they each racked their brains for something to put on the table. Yukiko furrowed her brows, "Well, I was the third one to be targeted so far. But I have a feeling this isn't the end of it." Her ivory black eyes had a small spark that lit up her entire face, "if we can find a way to figure out who's the next victim, then we might have that advantage over the culprit."
Yosuke nodded slowly, a smirk crawled up his face, "So we outsmart them, huh?"
"Definitely a good place to start," Souji stated approvingly.
"Okay, let's see if we can figure out what ties all three victims together." Hanamura scratched the back of his head, thinking seriously, "First there was that announcer, Mayumi Yamano. Then there was Saki Konishi..." his eyes were downcast as he repeated her name, "Saki-senpai."
For a second there, Souji caught Yosuke's eyes darting towards Chie. He frowned slightly, as if disappointed by something, before he quickly checked off Saki and went on to Yukiko.
"Third was Yukiko Amagi," he nodded towards Yukiko, "Now, what did they have all in common...?"
The four went into deep thought.
Souji started to chew on his lower lip as he racked his brain. He had been thinking about this pressing issue even before they had rescued Yukiko, but he didn't actually make any progress per say. All he had to offer up till now was that the victims were somewhat connected by the Yamano case.
There had to be a reason as to why Yamano was chosen. The story about her affair quickly came to mind, but Souji recalled that the police had shrugged off the affair angle since her lover, Taro Namatame, has had a very solid alibi. But it was just too coincidental that of all the women in Inaba, she was the one who was killed.
Souji continued to ponder over the facts until he remembered one thing they had in common, "Wait a minute... they were all women...?"
First it was Mayumi Yamano, then Saki Konishi and now Yukiko Amagi. They were all women. He had refused to consider gender as a criterion previously since it would be careless of him. However, when Souji glanced at the frustrated faces before him, it felt like he needed to give them something.
Chie was literally knocking herself on the head, trying to force out something useful. Yosuke was uncomfortably rubbing at his shoulders as if thinking was making him physically sick. Yukiko Amagi, though, had her lips pursed. Her face was completely stoic, and she was obviously in deep thought. Souji imagined that a million thoughts, theories and conclusions must be running through her head at this very moment.
After a while, when he decided that nobody was going to say anything, Souji voiced his thoughts. "All of the victims so far seem to be connected to the Yamano case," he then paused for a bit, " and they have all been female."
Everyone nodded and seemed to approve of his theory about the Yamano connections, but once he suggested the 'female' thing, Chie and Yukiko's approving looks immediately soured into something dark and foreboding.
Chie made no attempt to hide her disgust, growling darkly "That son of a bitch!"
"Chie..." Yukiko called out softly, placing a hand on her bestfriend's shoulder.
Chie's voice was sounding angrier by the second,"How could he target females!? That's unforgivable! The culprit must be some kind of pervert!"
There was general consensus on this one. There was never doubt that the kidnapper was a sick person, but if he was targeting females specifically, he was probably some sort of sexual deviant as well. Souji's discrete gaze fell on Yukiko as his brows furrowed. Worry washed over him again but nobody else seemed to have followed his train of thought. They were all caught up on the whole finding the killer thing.
He could tell that the thought had crossed Yukiko's mind though. It was very brief, but he had caught a flash of crippling fear on her usually mild features. The fear disappeared quickly, but it was probably because she was forcing it down. She glanced up, and shecaught him staring. She knew that he saw, but he did not say anything. They both knew that it was not something to bring up right now.
His eyes told her that he understood while hers were thankful that he simply let it go.
"-connected to that announcer," Chie's voice interrupted Souji's thoughts. He panicked a little until he realized that they were still talking about the murders and they were now still in the middle of speculations.
"That's true," Yukiko agreed, she then shot a discrete look at Souji, "So does that mean that females connected in some way to Ms. Yamano's case are being targeted?"
It took him a second to realize that she was subtly catching him up to speed with their conversation. Souji was surprised that Yukiko was able to multi-task between their little eye contact thing and listening to Chie and Yosuke throw theories around.
Yosuke nodded slowly, his bangs flopping down to his face each time he did, "I think that's a safe assumption for now. But there's also another angle we can take too..."
Chie's bright brown eyes lightened up and caught on to what Yosuke was about to suggest, "You think the next victim could appear on the Midnight channel?"
At Souji and Yukiko's wide eyed stares, Chie explained calmly, "That happened right before Yukiko was kidnapped too."
"Yeah. It was hard to tell who it was at first, but what's important is that it happened before the victims were kidnapped," Yosuke continued seamlessly, "Like a ransom note." He scratched the back of his head furiously, "Still don't know why that happens but we'll rely on it for now."
Yukiko nodded slowly, muttering softly, "The next time it rains..."
A small gust of wind blew across the roof and the delicious scent of the instant soba wafted through. Yosuke, having lost most of his concentration by now, immediately eyed the styrofoam bowl sitting next to Chie.
"Hey, shouldn't those be done by now?" Yosuke asked innocently, brown eyes shining and mouth watering. He should have known that skipping lunch was a bad idea. His stomach growled lowly and his lips were suddenly running dry. He had to swallow several times even as he spoke those words.
Chie did not seem to notice, though, as she grinned greedily, "Right! Chow time!" She grabbed the bowl and tore off the lid completely. Yukiko did the same, though less violently.
Yosuke bit his lip nervously, "H-Hey, could I try a little of that?" He watched as Chie's grin soured into a scowl. In response, he pouted, a tactic passed down through the generations of the males of the Hanamura clan. "Just one tiny bite!"
Chie grimaced, "Hands off pal!" But she continued to stare, and Yosuke continued to pout and whimper like a puppy dog. He knew he won when she finally rolled her eyes and made a low rumbling noise, "Rrrrngh... Fine! Just one bite, got it?"
Yosuke let slip a victory whoop and bit his lip when Chie shot him a look, warning him not to push it. As he grabbed and relieved Chie of the bowl, he noticed Yukiko watched them. Her ivory black eyes darted between him and Chie and then she glanced towards Souji, pink lips curling into a small frown as if she was feeling guilty that Souji would not get a bite.
"Would you like to try some?" She asked in a small voice, offering her bowl to Souji.
Souji's steel grey eyes widened considerably. He looked as if he was going to reject her offer, but a loud rumble roared from his stomach, so he accepted her gift graciously.
Yosuke grinned at the boy standing next to him. They both nodded at each other and began to scoop into the delicious instant noodles in front of them. As the noodles touched his tongue, the burst of flavours sent a shudder along his spine. The noodles were the perfect blend of the chicken soup base and perfectly uniform wheat flour noodle strands. Chopped leek and generous fish cake floated about the rich tasting soup base. It was not too salty and it wasn't too oily, the taste sensation was simply divine. As he chewed, Yosuke noticed just how springy and firm the noodles were even though they were mere instant soba.
It was the food of the gods, and he couldn't get enough of it.
"H-Hey! What do you think you're doing?!" Chie shrieked.
" It's soooo gooood…" Yosuke purred between mouthfuls, "The aroma, the flavor, and the texture all combined… This is perfect!"
Next to him, the transfer student nodded furiously. He was slurping it up too!
Chie glanced frantically between the boys and a horrified Yukiko before finally snatching her bowl away from Yosuke, spilling soup n the ground.
"Look what you did! You ate it all!" she growled through gritted teeth. She was so hungry and she had waited three whole minutes for her stupid soba to cook. All that waiting around, wasted, because of Yosuke!
Just as Chie had forcefully removed the bowl from Yosuke, Souji seemed to suddenly snap out of it and quickly realized what he had done. He returned the bowl to Yukiko with downcast eyes, like a child guilty that he had done something terribly wrong. Yukiko glanced down at her bowl, and she found nothing but soup and a piece of floating fried tofu skin.
Souji had never seen such sadness on a girl's face. Somehow, it terrified him.
Yukiko said sadly, with a glum look on her face,"My fried tofu..."
"THAT'S what she was worried about?" he thought incredulously.
Souji could not help the lopsided smile that crawled up his face. This Yukiko Amagi was a weird one. He quickly hid the smile behind an apologetic mask, lest he get caught by Chie.
Meanwhile, Chie continued to scream, and Yosuke was becoming more flustered.
"I hope you guys know what this means!" she growled, taking a dangerous step towards the fluffy haired teen.
Almost immediately, Yosuke sensed that his life was in terrible danger. His self-preservation instincts kicked in, and he no longer had any control over his actions. His hands flew up in surrender, and the words simply flowed out.
"I'LL BUY YOU STEAK!" Hanamura shrieked. If they were up any higher, the whole town probably would have heard him.
The roof was suddenly silent for a while. Chie seemed to calm down. Both Yukiko and Souji were staring at Yosuke.
Yosuke's split second survival instincts apparently saved him because the next word out of Chie's mouth was,"Steak...?"
Yosuke nodded furiously, his bangs flopping wildly against his sweat drenched face, "Y-Yes! The very best! All on me!"
Yukiko furrowed her brows and her ivory black eyes were downcast again, mumbling "My fried tofu..."
Chie and Yosuke watched incredulously as Souji walked over to Amagi and knelt down on one knee just a few inches away from her, "I'll buy you fried tofu. The very best. All on me."
They could just see the sparkles coming from Yukiko and Souji. They were in a world of their own, Souji as Prince and Yukiko as Princess, his one knee on the ground as he offered his heart to the Princess. Of course the offer here was a little less romantic, but Yukiko seemed pleased nonetheless.
"Yukiko... Are you sure it's enough?" Chie asked worriedly, "Aren't you hungry?"
"Fried Tofu plus a big plate of Yakiniku?" Souji offered in a way such that it sounded like a question. His eyes glided over to Yukiko's. She gave him a small nod and Souji thought he caught a hint of soft pink hues on her cheeks.
"...As long as it isn't too fatty."She said sheepishly.
Junes Food Court
"That's just a yakisoba griddle…" Chie eyed Yosuke suspiciously when he presented her with the steak. The fluffy haired teen simply shrugged and laid down a rather sizable plate of Yakiniku in front of Yukiko, right next to her plate of fried tofu. Chie sighed, "Oh well, steak is steak. It's far from a fillet steak, though."
Chie turned to Yukiko, "Yukiko, are you okay with yours? It's not too heavy for you?"
Amagi shook her head, smiling blissfully at her best friend, "I'll eat it. Seta-kun promised to finish up my leftovers."
When Yosuke and Souji had brought over their own food, the four settled themselves as they yelled in unison, "Itadakimasu!"
Each dug into their food hungrily. Souji and Yosuke did so less reverently since they had already sort of eaten. They pecked at their side dishes while the girls ate their meals. Chie was less than lady-like with her handling of the steak. Yukiko, on the other hand, was starting on her fried tofu first.
It was a while before they were finally finished with their meals. Yukiko still had quite a bit of Yakiniku leftover and as promised, Souji started working on it. The words "30 sets of sit-ups" kept screaming at the back of his mind.
"So, back on topic." Chie said as she wiped her mouth with a napkin, "I wonder what kind of person the culprit is."
"If you focus just on the announcer's case, it seems like a revenge thing." Yosuke offered, "Maybe it was her lover's wife."
Chie shook her head, "But Misuzu Hiiragi had a solid alibi, didn't she? And it seemed like she was already separated from her husband."
"Really? You know an awful lot about this…" Yosuke cocked a brow at Chie, who simply grinned proudly. He glanced across the table, at Souji, who was still picking at the Yakiniku, "Okay, what about the second case? Saki-senpai…" He swallowed, "she found the announcer's body. Assuming the same person killed them both, then why target Senpai…?"
Souji chewed slowly as he ran the question quickly through his head, "Maybe it was to shut her up? If that was true, Yamano's crime scene might have been compromised. That's the only reason why senpai might still be a threat to the killer even after she had already given her statements."
He noticed the rest of them staring at him.
Yosuke grinned, "You've put a lot of thought into this, didn't you?"
"Guess this means that senpai would be the only one who would notice if they brought her back to the crime scene or if they showed her the photos," Yosuke said, voicing his thoughts aloud, "So the killer throws her in before it she's brought in again..."
Yukiko shook her head slowly, confusion showing, "But the killer just threw the announcer into a TV, right? The body would've simply showed up hanging... He didn't need to handle anything. This means that there's no evidence left behind at all..."
"My uncle's been rather frustrated at the lack of evidence," Souji agreed, "He pours over the files every night and I'm sure if there is something, he'll find it."
"True... Can't doubt Detective Dojima," Yosuke nodded, thoughts drifting over to that day he got arrested. He turned to Chie to ask for her brilliant input when he caught her staring at something across their table. "What's up?"
Chie narrowed her eyes, "Isn't he that detective?"
At the sound of her voice, the tall, lanky man turned around. Souji quickly recognized him as his uncle's partner Tohru Adachi. He was the one whom Dojima had brought to the house last week and freaked Nanako out.
"Hey, you were at Dojima-san's…" he started saying as he walked towards the table. He suddenly seemed rattled, "Ahaha… I-I'm not…"
"Sure," Souji said simply.
He laughed some more before clearing his throat uncomfortably, " Hey, this is great timing after all. Dojima-san said that he'll be leaving work on schedule tonight. Could you pass that on to Nanako-chan?"
Souji nodded. The man then looked over the table as the high schoolers stared, "Yo! I'm Adachi, Dojima-san's gofer-" His voice got caught in his throat, "Err, I-I mean, his partner."
"Are you this busy every day?" Yosuke asked sarcastically as a lopsided smile begun to form across his face.
Adachi laughed it off, "Oh, well, the public seems to be getting a charge out of these cases, but we can't leave it at that."
"Sorry to butt in, but could it be that the killer targeted Saki-senpai in order to silence her?" Chie asked hopefully.
Adachi's dark eyes widened for a moment. He then started scratching at the back of his head, "U-Ummm, you sure get to the heart of the matter. Yikes…" He pursed his lips," Of course, we're also thinking along those lines. She was killed right after the announcer's body was found. If the killer was trying to silence her, there might've been something at the scene only she would have understood..."
Yosuke and Chie nodded at each other. They noted that the detective had come to the same conclusion as them. Sort of.
"-Which would mean that the culprit may be someone close to Ms. Konishi." Adachi ended off his speech. Souji wondered if he did that often. Thinking aloud isn't what a detective does usually. Adachi continued rambling, "Nothing like that points towards Hiiragi... I might have stumbled on something here..."
The silence seemed to jolt something in Adachi as he suddenly jumped and realized that the students were all staring at him.
"W-Wait, were you listening to that!? Crap! Me and my big mouth…" He bit his lower lip in panic, "D-Don't tell anyone I said any of that, or Dojima-san will flay me alive…"
As he said that, he eyed Souji with pleading eyes. On the surface, Seta was nonchalant, and Adachi simply decided to assume that he had agreed.
Puffing his chest out, Adachi grinned shakily, "Relax, kids, the police are on the job. See ya!"
And with that, the detective was gone.
For a while, the group was silent. Chie shot Souji an incredulous look while Yosuke was simply shaking his head. Yukiko tried distracting herself with the hem of her skirt, kneading them as if trying to get rid of a stain. Obviously, she had lost interest a little while ago.
Finally, Chie sighed heavily as she turned to Yosuke, "You were right, Yosuke. The police are totally useless... Like Junes' grill. The steak was too tough!"
Yosuke narrowed his eyes dangerously at her, growling through gritted teeth, "Could you shut up about the steak for five seconds!"
The only sound in the living room was the wordless chatter from the TV. Souji had long tuned it out by listening to the song playing in his head. For a second, he wondered if Izanagi and the other Personae could hear him play songs in his head, and he was suddenly embarrassed in his recent choice in music.
"I think I might be able to get the 4th and the 5th off."
Souji blinked wildly, and he realized it was his uncle who had spoken. The tall, dark haired man had been sitting at the sofa, reading the newspaper silently, until now.
" Really!?" Nanako's large brown eyes lit up immediately. A big smile was already present on her small, rounded, seven year old face.
Dojima put aside his newspaper, and hesmiled affectionately at his daughter, "What, you don't believe me?"
Nanako's smile faltered into a small frown, "…It's always cancelled."
Souji watched as his uncle's smile disappeared. He had to side with Nanako on this one. His own parents were exactly like his uncle. It took him a while, but he finally came to accept that his parents were simply not available. Work was always more important. It was painful being here right now. Souji felt like he was watching a flashback of his childhood as Dojima proceeded to make promises.
He actually felt bad as he watched Nanako's eyes light up again at the mention of a trip. Souji remembered his own father promising him to take him to the local zoo, only to have the trip cancelled because the older Seta had needed to work on an important proposal due very soon. Promise after promise broken, until one day, Souji learned that his parents were never going to keep their word.
He loved them, he really did, and he knew they loved him. No matter how horrible they were, they always made time for him during his birthday. Souji had always looked forward to that one day in his life where he had the unconditional and undivided attention of his parents. Unfortunately, that all changed when he turned thirteen, and work became more important again. At least, they still sent a card and they always bought a whole cake. Souji would save two pieces for them, and he would eat a portion of the cake himself. This was around the time the weight issue started out. He remembered having to handle that issue on his own as well.
Ryotaro noticed that his nephew was spacing out, and he called out to him in concern, "Souji?"
At the sound of his name, Souji looked up from his own thoughts. "Sorry. I'm just a little tired."
"Alright," Dojima frowned worriedly, "Don't wear yourself out. Anyway, I was just telling Nanako that we could take a trip during golden week. If you don't have any plans, wanna come along?"
Souji's steel grey eyes glided over to Nanako. She was holding her breath in anticipation, cheeks rosy from the excitement and her smile...
"Sure, I want to come."
Dojima guffawed and nodded approvingly. Nanako let out a string of cheers, "Yeah! Let's all go together!"
"Looks like Nanako wants us all to go." Dojima smiled affectionately at his daughter.
Nanako nodded. Her face was practically glowing as she beamed, "Let's bring boxed lunches!"
Dojima nodded as he rubbed his stubbled chin, deep in thought, "Hm? Yeah, good idea. We're always eating side dishes for dinner. But I can't cook…" He glanced towards his little girl, "Nanako's not good enough yet to make them by herself…"
His eyes then glanced over to Souji and quite suddenly, Dojima stood up. He walked over to a startled Souji and placed a heavy hand on the bewildered teen's shoulder, "Well, it'll work out. That's what we've got this guy for, huh Nanako?"
The younger Dojima started to giggle as she nodded to her father's suggestion, "Yaaaaay! Boxed lunches!"
Souji was beyond confused, but as he watched the Dojimas laugh and fawn over the details of the trip, he started to realize that this was going to be his first family trip in his seventeen years of life. At that thought, he couldn't help but get a little excited.
"At least Nanako's pleased." He thought as he watched her smile blissfully.
After toweling his damp hair, Yosuke Hanamura stepped out into his room and jumped straight into his bed, not caring that his hair was still too wet for him to go to bed yet. He sat up lazily as he thought about the events of today.
"I'm one of the group now too. Let's work together, okay?" Yukiko Amagi said to Teddie, her dark ivory black eyes squinting, trying her best to blink away the fog. She could barely see the mascot as it is.
Teddie nodded as he smiled, "Yep! I was thinking the same thing! That's why I got these ready for you, Yuki-chan!"
He pulled on her right hand, and he handed her a pair of red rimmed glasses. Yukiko seemed confused for a while before she decided to put them on. To her surprise, the glasses literally cleared things up.
"So these are what everyone's wearing. Thank you, Teddie." She smiled thankfully, "It's just as if the fog doesn't exist…"
Chie, who had been standing to Souji's left, pointed an accusing finger at Teddie, "Hey, tell me something. How come you have so many pairs of glasses?"
The mascot did not seem flustered at all, "Excellent question! Guess what?" He paused for dramatic effect. "I'm the one who makes them!"
When he saw everyone's confused faces, he decided that he should explain, "I've lived here for a long time. So I came up with some ways to be comfortable here."
It still didn't seem to clear up their confusion as Yukiko furrowed her brows, "I see... But don't you need a pair too...?"
Teddie grinned impishly, "Oooh, good point. Another great question!" He leaned in to Yukiko, as if telling her a secret, "Listen to this! My eyes themselves are lenses!"
Yukiko pulled back looking slightly horrified. Neither Chie nor Yosuke knew what Teddie was smiling about and why Yukiko and Souji seemed to be fore repulsed, but neither of them wanted to know.
At Yosuke's nonchalant roll of his eyes, Teddie glared, "You act like you're not interested!"
"Because I'm NOT interested," Yosuke was not lying about that.
Teddie took offence to it as he huffed, "I'm a really dexterous bear! See how smoothly my fingers move!"
He took a step towards Yosuke, and he began to wave and wiggled his 'fingers'. Yosuke watched with mild disinterest and a healthy dose of 'WTF'.
"What am I even looking at!?" he finally growled out. Teddie took another step towards Yosuke with his weird wiggling fingers and finally, Hanamura shoved the bear on the floor.
Teddie popped back up almost instantly. He glared indignantly at Yosuke, "Ow! That hurt!"
"Hm? You dropped something…" Yukiko said as she picked up an object that seemed to have slipped out from Teddie's suit. God knows how that happened.
"Oh, that's a pair I kinda screwed up on." Teddie told her.
Yukiko's eye lit up as she examined the glasses, away from the others. " Oooh…"
Chie cocked a brow up, and she approached her best friend, "Uhhh... Yukiko...?"
Just as she reached out to tap on her shoulder, Yukiko slipped off her glasses, and shequickly switched it with the one that Teddie said was defective. She turned around and stares right at Chie with the new glasses on.
" Oh… Umm… Y-Yukiko?" Chie blinked wildly.
She snorted a bit, "H-How do I look?"
Yosuke turned to Souji and saw him biting his lip. Chie was rolling her eyes and Teddie seemed pleased. He did not know how to react. The glasses were downright stupid! It was circular and had black spirals in it. It even had a ridiculous big red nose and a curled moustache attached. It was like one of those gag glasses that sold particularly well during April Fool's. For a second there, Yosuke wonder where Teddie got it.
Yukiko turned to Souji, asking innocently, "Hey Seta-kun, how do I look?"
Souji stared for a bit, and then he smiled charmingly, "It looks great on you. It really brings out the colour of your eyes, Amagi-san."
Yukiko finally lost it. It started with a giggle. And then it escalated into snorts and high pitched laughter. For a while she seemed to have stopped, but it was only to catch her breath.
"Do you like that one, Yuki-chan?" Teddie asked with a grin.
Yukiko nodded furiously, "I want to wear this one. It's even got a nose guard!"
"Ohhh no you don't!" Chie glowered at her best friend.
"How bear-y unfortunate. That pair doesn't have the right lenses in. Guess I should've made an actual pair." Teddie shook his head philosophically.
Yukiko shrugged nonchalantly, "Aww, too bad." She slipped off the gag glasses, and she handed it over to Chie, "Here, Chie. Your turn!"
Chie narrowed her eyes at Yukiko. There was a mini staring contest before Chie finally sighed and grabbed the glasses, "Man… All right, fine…"
Yosuke noticed how Chie seemed to surrender to Yukiko fairly quickly without much of a fight. He also noticed Souji chewing nervously on his lip as if he was trying to contain his laughter. When Chie put on the glasses, Yosuke could not help but burst out laughing as well.
Yukiko already had a head start. She was snorting, choking, and laughing so hard her face was positively pink and tears were streaming down her face. Even Souji lost his cool as well as he laughed in noticeable intervals. Teddie, the one who'd caused it all, had laughed till he had fallen unto the floor and had started rolling about. Chie was the only one unamused.
"How'd it come to this?" she sighed heavily.
When Yosuke finally stopped laughing, he realized that Amagi was still snorting and giggling away. This wasn't how he had ever imagined seeing Yukiko Amagi. She was laughing like a hyena. "Y-Yukiko-san? Hellooo…?"
Souji was just as surprised as Yosuke. When he first met Yukiko, she struck him as chronically depressed. The impression persisted when he met her under the pavilion and when they rescued her. However, his interactions with her today showed there was more to her than that. He never would have expected her to laugh like this. Souji asked Chie wryly, "Is Amagi-san going to be okay? You know, it was hard work getting her home alive the last time we were here."
"This is just one of Yukiko's laughing fits. I never thought she'd do it when someone besides me was around." Chie shrugged. She then removed the glasses and switched back to her own, frowning at the big red nose, "These stupid glasses are useless for investigating! I mean, what the hell's this nose for, anyway!?"
Teddie grinned, "Nice work, huh?" At everybody else's questioning looks, he went on, "That's what happens when you guys leave me here alone, and I get bored!"
Yosuke rolled his eyes at Teddie's antics, and heturned to Yukiko's laughing form, "W-Well, I'm glad that she's in high spirits again… I guess…"
"Oh Chie, the look on your face…" she bit her lip, trying so hard to suppress the urge to laugh, but failing and let slip a snort or two, "Snrk… Hahaha, it was so funny! I-I can't stop… laugh-Heehee! Ohhh, my stomach, AHAHAHAHA!"
Chie started rubbing the bridge of her nose while Yosuke grinned. Souji was biting his lip again and a small quiver along his jaw line threatened to unleash his own series of crazed laughter, but he controlled it and focused on chewing his lower lip.
It was then that they had decided that it was time to head home.
Yosuke ran a hand through his brown locks and judged that they were dry enough. He rolled over to the opposite side of his bed and grabbed his calendar, marking off some dates during Golden Week as he sighed. Instead of enjoying his week, he would have to cover for some guys in the grocery department.
"Damn... this is such a drag," Hanamura grumbled to himself, "Those guys picked a real convenient time to cut work."
However, Yosuke knew he was not in a position to complain since his father was still angry at him over the weapon fiasco in the Junes Food Court.
Inside his head, Jiraiya chuckled cruelly, "Y'know. This might be your old man's own way of punishing you for that weapons incident. He was not a happy man when Detective Dojima called and told him that his antique swords were confiscated indefinitely."
"Awwwww maaaaaan, that just sucks!" Yosuke groaned, "and what the hell are you chuckling about? ! If I'm working, that means you're working too!"
"I don't exist in the real world, bub," Jiraiya laughed even harder, "You're sweatin' out there and I'm floatin' around in your psyche like I'm on holiday."
At that, Yosuke growled lowly, and then finally conceded defeat. Mostly it was because he was much too tired to argue with himself, "...Well I guess it don't matter in the end. I can't get out of this. At least, I am getting paid."
After he put the calendar back, Hanamura slipped under his sheets and let the day's fatigue claim him for the night.
Author's Note: Well, I'm back! How have you guys been since the last update? Anyway! I hope you've enjoyed the new chapter! This has been beta-ed by Knowledgeseeker66! Nice guy. I have no idea what happened to my previous beta, but I hope he's okay, somewhere out there. We worked so well together :') I'm glad my new beta is here too tho. The first half of this chapter, all the way to the part where Yukiko comes back to school, was pretty much written by him with moderate changes and editing from me. Anyway, I'd love to read what you guys have to say about this chapter and I do take all of your suggestions very seriously!
Oh yes, I've promised Knowledgeseeker that I'd promote these guys.
Persona 4: The Fool - By Icewind Alchemist
Personally, I really enjoyed this one. I'm not so hot on first person writing, but this is one of the few exceptions I would make. It's a P4 novelization, written with a female protag named Rin. Smart writing. Very cool. Do give it a read!
A Caged Bird - By zetis void
I loved the concept. It writes from both perspective of the social link between Souji and Yukiko. Lil' warning tho. It's written in a script kinda format so if y'all aren't used to it, the story might be a little hard to read. At least for me. But great concept!