Disclaimer: Persona 4 and related characters are property of Atlus. Rusei Norimoto, however, belongs to me.
I adjusted the bag slung over my shoulder as I dug through it, cursing myself for packing my music player in it and then stacking other stuff on top of it. When I finally found it, I pulled it out, closed my bag and set my headphones around my neck when a sudden ad on a nearby TV Screen caught my- Oh god no…
["I'm tired of diets, enough with going to the gym! Good thing there's something even I can handle!"]
I suppressed a groan and rubbed the bridge of my nose. Today had been going oh so well until one of those damn adds featuring Rise Kujikawa popped up at the train station. Ugh… Just relax, it's fine. You'll be in Inaba soon enough and you won't have to see those things every ten minutes… Okay, I've calmed down now. And hey, my train's arrived. Perfect timing.
I climbed aboard and, due to lack of seats at the moment, simply stood and held onto one of the hand grips hanging from the ceiling. The ride was short and I got off to climb onto a different train, which took another half hour or so before I got onto the third and final train that would take me to Inaba. I hummed quietly along to 'Pursue my true self' because despite my dislike of seeing Rise's face everywhere, I do like her music. Although I do like a lot of music... Eh. I leaned back in my seat slightly and closed my eyes to try and possibly get some rest, when I noticed my music slowly became a slow, orchestral soundtrack with a woman wailing opera in the background.
I sat up, opening my eye- that is a very large nose. Very, very large… wait, are his hands clasped under it…? They are, and his nose is going past them...
"Welcome, to the Velvet Room." said the bizarre looking man as he opened his eyes. They look bloodshot. Perhaps he doesn't get much sleep?
"Ah… It seems we have a guest with an intriguing destiny…" he continued with a whimsical tone and a chuckle. I took a moment to look around. I appear to be sitting in a royal blue limousine with a sort of glowing mist swirling around the outside of it. To my right is a large sofa that continues towards a small divider with several glasses and bottles on it, which brought my attention to the attractive blonde woman sitting near the man who was speaking to me. She was dressed in blue an had a very regal air about her, and a heavy tome sat on her lap with her hands resting on top of it. On my left was an assortment of glasses and drinks, possibly alcohol, arranged on a long shelf. There also appeared to be a small television directly opposite the divider on the other side of the vehicle.
Am I dreaming? This doesn't seem normal...
"My name is Igor." stated the long nosed man. "I am delighted to make your acquaintance." He motioned slightly to the interior of the limo. "This place exists between dream and reality, mind and matter. It is a room that only those who are bound by a 'contract' may enter."
"If that's the case, then may I ask why I'm here?" I inquired. "I'm certain I haven't signed any sort of contract recently…"
"Then perhaps such a fate awaits you in the near future, my young friend." replied Igor, then he chuckled lightly. "Oh, my apologies. I haven't allowed you to introduce yourself."
"My name is Rusei Norimoto. Pleased to meet you, Igor-san."
Igor laughed once more. "Well, you are certainly polite, but you needn't uphold such formalities here. I do not mind. Now, let's take a look into your future, shall we?" He held his hand over the small table infront of him and a stack of cards appeared in a small flash of blue light, then he gave me a slightly curious look, though I noticed he kept smiling. "Do you believe in fortune telling?"
"To an extent." I stated with a shrug. "I'm not sure I believe the future can be predicted, but I'm open to the possibility."
"I see…" He murmured, then he waved his hand. Seven cards arranged themselves on the table from the deck in a short flourish of movement. "Well, each reading is done with the same cards, yet the result is always different." Igor chuckled again. "Life itself follows the same principles, doesn't it?"
I nodded slowly in agreement. "I suppose it does."
Igor made a sort of flipping motion with his hand, and one of the cards turned over. It had the picture of a tower being struck by lightning and part of it falling off.
"Hm… The Tower in the upright position represents the immediate future." he noted. "It seems a terrible catastrophe is imminent."
I felt a pit form in my chest and I instinctively reached up to grab hold of the hexagonal pendant around my neck.
"The card indicating the future beyond that is…" began Igor as he made the flipping motion again, a different card turning itself over. It had the image of a crescent moon on it. "The Moon, in the upright position. This card represents 'hesitation' and 'mystery'… Very interesting indeed." He returned his attention to me. "It seems you will encounter a misfortune at your destination, and a great mystery will be imposed upon you. In the coming days, you will enter into a contract of some sort, after which you will return here." His already large grin grew wider. "The coming year is a turning point in your destiny… if the mystery goes unsolved, your future may be forever lost. My duty is to provide assistance to our guests to ensure that does not happen."
I glanced over at the woman sitting next to him. "What about her?"
"Ah!" he exclaimed, waving his hand and causing the cards to vanish. "I have neglected to introduce my assistant to you." Igor turned his head to look at the woman. "This is Margaret. She is a resident of this place, like myself."
"My name is Margaret." She stated. "I am here to accompany you through your journey."
I'm not sure what she means by journey, but I hope that this 'catastrophe' Igor mentioned isn't what I think it is. I'm not sure I could keep it together.
"We shall attend to the details another time." said Igor. "Until then, farewell…"
I awoke in my seat on the train with a start, music still playing in my headphones. I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket and pulled it out.
I guess Uncle Dojima responded to the message I sent before I got to the train station. 'Meet us outside Yasoinaba Station at Four PM'. Wait, 'us'…? Oh, he must be bringing his daughter with him. I've never met her before from what I can remember.
I closed my phone and tucked it back into my pocket as the train went through a tunnel. I blinked and flashes of the dream raced through my mind. I blinked again and the train had exited the tunnel. That's… not normal. At all.
I looked out the window at the landscape as the train crossed a bridge. There's not a view like this back in the city, that's for certain.
A voice came over the intercom as the train began slowing down, alerting any and all passengers to the train's proximity to the station. I stood up, adjusting my shirt slightly, and pulled my bag down before I made my way off the train. Seems I was the only one aboard. I walked off the platform over to a set of stairs and looked around.
"Hey! Over here!"
I turned in the direction of the voice. Looks like that's Uncle Dojima, going by partly vague description of him Mom gave me. I walked over to him, and he held out his hand to me. I shook it.
"You must be Rusei. Well, you're more handsome in person than in your photo." He said once he let go of my hand. "Welcome to Inaba. I'm Ryotaro Dojima. I'll be looking after you." He rubbed his neck nervously. "Let's see… I'm your mother's younger brother… and that about sums it up."
I chuckled quietly. "It's nice to see you again. Mom mentioned we met once or twice when I was a baby."
"She did? Heh. Trust your mom to remember that sorta thing." laughed Dojima, then he looked down at the little girl sort of standing behind him and stepped aside. "This is my daughter, Nanako." he gently nudged her a little in my direction. "Go on, say hi to your cousin."
She blushed. "…'lo." Nanako then scurried back behind her father. The fact I'm staring at her like I'd seen a ghost likely isn't helping.
Dojima just chuckled softly. "What're you so shy for?"
Nanako seemed angry and smacked him on the leg. Hard.
"Ow!" He griped, still laughing.
Nanako just huffed in response.
"Well, let's get going." he suggested, pointing over his shoulder with his free hand. "My car's over there."
I snapped out of my minor trance, then nodded and followed the two of them.
I like the look of this town. Nice, quiet, peaceful… nothing like any of the other places I've lived. Of course, I've never really stayed in a rural area before, though I suppose that couple of years in America was somewhat like this.
We pulled into a Gas station and Dojima looked back at Nanako as he reached for the handle on his door. "Can you go to the bathroom by yourself?"
Nanako nodded. "Uh-huh."
Dojima was the first out of the car and he stopped infront of an attendant who, for the life of me, I could not tell if they were a man or a woman. Strange, that.
"It's in the back, to your left." I heard the attendant say. Can't even tell by hearing their voice! "You know which way's your left? The side you don't hold your chopsticks in."
"I know…" Nanako grumbled. "Geez…"
Part of me wants to point out that Nanako appears to be left handed, but instead I simply exited the car to stretch my legs instead. Feeling a bit cramped at the moment.
"Are you taking a trip?"
"No, we just went to pick him up." Dojima replied to the attendant's question. "He just moved here from the big city."
"The city, huh…?" mused the attendant with an odd sort of interest in the tone of their voice.
"Fill up my car while you're at it." Dojima added. "Regular's fine."
The attendant nodded. "Right away, sir!"
Dojima sighed and walked away slightly. "Good a time as any for a smoke…"
I raised an eyebrow. He smokes? Must have a good reign on the habit, because he certainly doesn't smell like he does.
"Are you in high school?"
I turned my attention to the attendant, who seemed to be addressing me. I nodded in response. I still haven't gotten my school's uniform, so I'm wearing a light gray long sleeve, button-up shirt with the ends of the sleeves rolled back once and buttoned over a blue t-shirt, jeans held up my a black belt, and gray shoes.
"Does it surprise a city boy to see how little there is out here?" they continued. "There's so little to do, I'm sure you'll get bored fast. You'll either be hanging out with your friends or doing part-time jobs. Speaking of which, we're actually looking for part-time help right now."
"Is that so?" I asked. "I'll have to keep that in mind."
"Yeah, just give it some thought if you want." said the attendant, taking a few steps towards me. "We don't mind if you're a student."
The attendant held out their hand and, being polite, I shook it only to get a vague rumbling feeling in my body. I shuddered slightly and shook my head as I pulled my hand back.
"Oh, I should get back to work…"
The attendant walked past me just as Nanako appeared standing near the from of Dojima's SUV. She seems to be staring at me... Ugh, why do I feel dizzy all of a sudden...?
"…Are you okay?" she asked, walking over to me. "Did you get carsick? You don't look too good…"
"I don't feel that well…" I replied shakily, rubbing my face. "Maybe I just didn't get enough sleep last night…"
"Oh… okay…" Nanako bobbed her head a little, then scurried around to the other side of the car and got back in. Dojima was approaching, smelling faintly of cigarette smoke, so I climbed in as well while he paid for the gas before he got in the driver's seat and the car drove out of the station.
"We're here." Dojima announced once the car came to a stop. "C'mon, let's get inside."
I got out of the car and pulled my bag out with me, slinging it over my shoulder before I shut the door. I followed Dojima and Nanako. I paused to examine the house as the two of them went inside. It's a nice, quaint looking building with a simple, dull color scheme. Nothing extravagant. I should get used to the sight of this. I'm going to be staying here for at least a year.
"Hey, Rusei, what's the matter?"
"Hmm?" I looked to see Dojima giving me a perplexed look from the doorway. "Oh, sorry. I spaced out a little."
"Ha, it's fine." He said dismissively as I walked in and slipped off my shoes. "Just go take your stuff upstairs while Nanako and I get dinner ready."
I smiled. "Thank you."
I headed up to the room I'll be using for the duration of my stay in Inaba. It's mostly full of boxes at the moment, so I'll have to take the time to unpack later. Two boxes stood out, though. One because I marked it specifically to find it quickly, the other because I didn't recognize it. I set my bag down and inspected the unknown box, finding several uniforms inside.
Ah, this must be for my school. Makes sense considering I didn't get them before I left for Inaba. I like the style.
I set the uniform back in the box, then took off my button-up shirt and tossed it onto the small stack of boxes infront of the black mini sofa under the window. I sighed slightly, then headed back downstairs. Dojima and Nanako were already sitting at the table with some food and drinks set out. Looks like instant microwave dinners, actually. Maybe I should cook for them sometime while I'm here...
"All right." Dojima began as I sat down and grabbed the can of pop that'd been set out for me. "Let's have a toast."
I shrugged, then held up my drink for a moment before I took a sip and set it down alongside the Dojimas.
"So… your mom and dad are busy as always…" said Dojima, clearly trying to get a conversation going. "They're working overseas, was it?" I nodded. "I know it's only for a year, but getting stuck in a place like this because of your parents…" he winced. "It's rough being a kid."
I laughed quietly. "No, I don't mind. It's admittedly kind of neat to see a lot of different places."
That seemed to surprise him. "Really?"
"Yeah." I nodded once. "I suppose I just have an optimistic personality."
"Ha, I guess so…" Dojima chuckled. "Well, it's just me and Nanako here, so it'll be nice having someone like you around." He smiled. "So long as you're here, you're part of the family, so make yourself at home."
I smiled back. "Thank you. I'll do that."
"Well anyway, let's eat." He said, reaching for his chopsticks only for his phone to ring. " Ugh…" He scowled. "Who's calling at this hour?" He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. "Dojima speaking."
He hummed once, then stood and took a few steps away from the table.
"Yeah? I see…" Dojima continued, his back to the two of us. "So where is it?" There was a short pause, then he gave a tired sigh. "All right, I'm on my way." He flipped his phone shut and tucked it into his pocket.
"Looks like I made the right choice to skip the booze…" he muttered. I was barely able to hear him say it. He turned around. "Sorry, but I gotta go take care of some business. Go ahead and eat without me." Dojima started towards the door, and I saw regret flash across his features for a moment. "I don't know how late I'll be." He paused mid step and turned his head back to look at us. "Nanako, you help him out, okay?"
"…Okay." She replied sadly.
I heard the front door open.
"Nanako, it's raining out." Dojima stated over the sound of rainfall. "What did you do with the laundry?"
"I already brought it in!" she reported. I blinked. She does the laundry…?
"…All right. Well, I'm off." The door shut a moment later.
Nanako sighed and sat back down, then turned on the TV as I began eating my food.
["-for this week. Next, let's take a look at the hourly breakdown of tomorrow's weather. With storm clouds moving in from the west, expect rain throughout the day tomorrow in most areas."]
I glanced over at Nanako, who'd likewise begun eating. I may as well strike up a conversation with her.
"It's tough, isn't it?"
She looked up at me, slightly confused.
"Having your dad away at work a lot." I clarified. "It's tough."
Nanako sighed again. "Yeah… but I'm used to it. He's a detective, so he has to investigate crime scenes and stuff."
I winced. That reminds me of myself at her age, and I don't like that.
["And now for the local news."] our attention shifted to the TV as the newscaster began talking about that scandal involving secretary Namatame. It's been on the news for the past three or four days, actually.
"This is boring." Nanako commented, hitting a button on the remote to change the channel.
["At Junes, every day is Customer Appreciation Day. Come see for yourself, and get in touch with our products!"] Announced the woman in the commercial. ["Everyday's great at your Ju-nes~!]
"Everyday's great at your Ju-nes~!" sang Nanako, swaying back and forth with her chopsticks in hand.
Wow, that… was too cute for words. I'm amazed I can even form a coherent thought right now after witnessing it.
Nanako looked over at me curiously. "Aren't you going to eat?"
"Hmm? Oh, right. I got distracted, sorry." I apologized, then I continued eating my dinner.
I ate quickly, then helped Nanako clean up before I went to my room. I stopped to get a better look at it this time. Futon in the far corner on my left, desk to the right of the miniature sofa. Across from the sofa was a large dresser with a small TV sitting atop of it with a small table in the middle of the room, scooted slightly closer to the couch. I shrugged, then carefully took off my pendant and set it on the box of uniforms before I set the alarm on my cellphone and placed it on the dresser, then shut the light off and climbed into bed, I yawned quietly.
Jumping right into things this time around, seeing as school starts up tomorrow. Going to quiet the interesting ordeal, I'm sure.
Author Notes - Hope you liked the chapter! Had to rework it from the original version so Rusei's narration wasn't almost identical to Roy's.