OKAY HERE'S THE DEAL.

It's been an achingly long time since I've posted a chapter to this story, and after my triumphant return, too.

The reason for that is not that complicated; I left the country for a while, and I was mentally ill.

I was in the middle of a couple of conversations with some of you when I vanished, and you have every right to resent me for disappearing like I did. I don't blame you if you don't want to talk with me anymore, but on the off chance you still remember me, I will do my absolute best to keep it together.

If you still want to read this story, despite the fact that it is very silly, I'm going to continue writing it. I can't guarantee an update schedule, because the last time I did that, I left for about a year, but I decided that Persona is something dear to me, that helped me through some bad spots, and damn it I like Kasumi.

Again, I'm so sorry for my disappearance.


Chapter 19

August 6th

You'd think there would be more to do on the day of a Full Moon Shadow Smack down, like, I don't know . . . training, or going over battle strategies.

And yet, what did I spend the day doing? Playing some crappy MMORPG and sleeping. It was a surprisingly boring day.

When the Dark Hour finally rolled around, I made my way up to the fourth floor with the other juniors. Everyone clustered around the coffee table, with Ikutsuki at the head, and I noted with a smile that the group seemed almost like a family gathered for Christmas dinner.

. . . Then I remembered that we were here to slay a giant monster, and my smile quickly disappeared.

"Well, it's a full moon once again." Ikutsuki, ever the 'no nonsense' type (what a bold-faced lie), started the meeting.

"Any luck, Yamagishi?" Mitsuru addressed Fuuka, who summoned her Persona and began scanning the city. While she searched for the Shadow, I drummed my fingers against my knee and let my mind wander.

What kind of Shadow would appear? Would there be more than one? More importantly, who would be chosen for the elimination team? Because, not gonna lie, the idea of being left behind sounded seriously boring. Thoughts of the Inaba case tried to weasel their way into my brain, but I stubbornly pushed them away. As important as that was to me, I had to focus on the task at hand.

"Yes, I've located it . . . and this time, it's not just an ordinary one." It didn't take Fuuka long to pinpoint our target. When she spoke up, I snapped myself back into attention.

Akihiko straightened himself as well, cracking his knuckles. "Now that's more like it."

"It's by the deserted houses in the northern part of Iwatodai. But, there is one thing that's strange . . . It seems like it's underground . . . almost ten meters."

I frowned at that. An underground Shadow? That could be tricky. "Maybe it's in a basement?"

Our resident robot spoke up in response. "According to my records, there is no structure in the area that matches those criteria. However, in the past there was an underground facility that was used by the military."

Yukari arched an eyebrow. "The military? Is that true?"

No, Yukari. The robot is lying to you. Why wouldn't it be true?

Ikutsuki spoke before I could, however, so my sarcastic remark was lost. "Well, the architectural and geographic data for the area were uploaded into her memory bank. Then again, the information hasn't been updated in a decade."

"That is correct," Aigis confirmed.

It was decided that we would wait until we arrived to decide who would be deployed, as we weren't entirely sure what the situation was.

It was a short, silent trip to the Shadow's location. Even I could read the mood well enough to know that I needed to behave seriously.

We reached a rather large building in a matter of minutes, and then it was only a matter of finding a way underground. Aigis was the one that located the trapdoor, and we climbed down the ladder one at a time. We found ourselves in a huge, dusty, old cavern, giant metal doors directly in front of us. They were, thankfully, open.

"The target should be around here . . ." Fuuka spoke as we walked through the doors, the ground beneath our feet changing from dirt to metal. I couldn't help but stare wide-eyed at the environment around us.

"Well done . . ."

Suddenly, a voice echoed behind us. I spun on my heel, practically jumping out of my skin at the sound. There, just behind the entrance, were two strange-looking men. One had blue hair similar to Minato's, but styled differently. He wore a green jacket, carried a briefcase, wore glasses, and looked like a huge nerd. The other man, the one that spoke, wore only pale jeans almost the same color as his icy skin. His arms were tattooed, and his hair silvery and long. He had piercing, frightening yellow eyes.

'He is anything but a nerd. Actually, he reminds me of an albino Jesus.' I nodded slightly. Yes, Albino Jesus seemed like an appropriate name for the mystery man.

"This is the first time we've met in person." Albino Jesus continued to speak while we all stared at them. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Minato clench his fists.

"Who are these guys?! Lucia didn't sense a thing 'til now!" Fuuka gasped quietly, taking a step backwards.

"My name is Takaya. This is Jin." I personally prefer Albino Jesus and Nerd Guy, but whatever. "We are known to some as Strega. We've been keeping an eye on you . . . from what we hear, you've undertaken a 'righteous' battle to save the world. But we've come here tonight to put an end to that dream."

My blood ran cold. I knew when I joined SEES that I would be putting my life in danger, but for some reason, being threatened by these creepy guys calling themselves Strega made me realize how dangerous our job really was. I half expected him to pull a gun on us and shoot us down then and there.

"You've gained new allies, yet this land still crawls with sin. Tartarus is towering as beautifully as always . . ."
Junpei was the first to speak up, in his brash way. "But why the hell would you wanna stop us?!"

"Simple . . ." The nerd called Jin answered, "If the Shadows and the Dark Hour disappear, then so will our power. And we can't let that happen, now can we?"

"Power . . .?" Mitsuru spoke softy. "Don't tell me you're Persona-users as well!"

"Why don't you use that pretty little head of yours for a change? Only a select few wield the power of a Persona . . ." The albino's words were cold.

I didn't want to agree with to agree with the enemy, but they must've had the Potential, since they were standing in front of us during the Dark Hour. Mitsuru should've known that. I shook my head slightly, clearing out those thoughts as Takaya continued to speak.

"And the Dark Hour is a frontier that is ours alone to explore . . . just like the Tower of Demise . . ."

Next to protest was Yukari, who sounded very angry. "That's your reason?! Are you crazy?! There's no telling what will happen if we don't do something about the Shadows!"

"What difference does it make . . .? There will always be disasters, whether they are caused by Shadows or arise from human folly. No one can predict the future, anyway. But that is all beside the point . . . Surely you will acknowledge the sense of significance the Dark Hour has given you."

"You think I like this!?" Yukari practically screeched.

"Is it not so? How about the rest of you . . .? Do you also wish to return to your pathetic, ordinary lives?"

Takaya cast his frightening gaze over all of us, and when he glanced at me, I narrowed my eyes. He wasn't wrong when he mentioned a sense of significance. For the past three years, I had been living a boring, empty life where nothing I did affected anyone. But when I joined SEES, I was given a way to do something that mattered with my life.

"But . . ." I started slowly, trying to work through my thoughts. "It's not about what we want, or how we feel . . . It's about doing what's right!"

At that, Jin turned to look at me. "You've each got your own reason for fighting. 'Justice' is only an excuse. And that makes you all hypocrites! So I say, to hell with you!"

I tensed at that, afraid of what was about to happen and desperately trying not to think about what he just said. The two men turned around to stalk off, but before they left . . .

"Have fun in there."

The metal doors, our only way out, slammed shut and locked. We were trapped.

With a shout, Akihiko ran forward, slamming his fists against the metal. "Dammit!"

Surprisingly, it was the Robot Girl that calmed everyone down. "We will be alright. Rather than wasting our energy, I suggest we deal with the Shadow first."

Everyone nodded in agreement. I gripped my sword tightly, ready for whatever was going to come.

Fuuka told us that the Shadow had started moving, and that it was time to get going. Minato chose Akihiko, Aigis, and myself (thank god!) for the party, and we headed down into the bunker. Before we left, Fuuka gave us one last word of warning.

"There's something different about this Shadow compared to the others we've fought. Please be careful."

The metal floor of the bunker again changed as we entered a long, dark tunnel. We kept moving in relative silence for what seemed like forever, going down deeper and deeper into the earth. Every now and again, we'd stumble across skeletons of long-dead soldiers. I tried not to look at them, or think about them for too long.

There was only one path down the tunnels, but even if we were to get lost, we were able to follow strangely fresh tire tread marks to our destination.

At the end of the tunnel, our enemy waited.

I'm no stranger to weird-looking Shadows, but this one was definitely something. It didn't even look like a Shadow, really. It just looked like a tank. Which explained the tread marks, I guess. Fuuka told us that the Shadow was using the tank as armor, and then the fight began.

"It's Arcana is Justice . . . Wait, it's Chariot? What the – why am I sensing two entities? It doesn't make sense!"

"Well that sounds promising, doesn't it?" I took my battle stance as everyone began to attack the enemy.

Minato, the Jack-of-All-Trades, fell into a support role, keeping everyone else alive and healthy while we threw everything we had at it.

"Hestia!" I hit the target with a blast of fire, jumping back to avoid its counterattack. Aigis used her Persona's Kill Rush skill repeatedly, injuring herself and the Shadow, while Akihiko did what he did best. And by that, I mean he punched the tank. A lot. We were doing fine for a while, holding it off with relative ease, until it decided to pull some shenanigans on us. The turret of the tank separated from the main body, and just like that, I realized the obvious.

"The turret and the vehicle are different types: one's Chariot and the other's Justice."

"Great! Two Shadows! Perfect!"

It was decided that Minato and myself would focus our attacks on the Justice turret, while Akihiko and Aigis continued to attack the vehicle. The strategy seemed to work very well, and we were able to dispatch the Justice in a matter of moments. Our victory was short-lived, however, when Chariot revived its companion.

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me! That's not fair! Oh wise leader, a suggestion!"

Minato glanced at me briefly. "We're gonna have to take them out at the same time, and the turret isn't nearly as sturdy as that one. Let me fight that, and you three concentrate fire on the main body."

He nodded, approving my plan. Wait. He actually approved my plan. How 'bout that?

I tried to draw the Justice's attention away from the others, while they cornered the Chariot. This plan seemed to work better for a while, until the turret attacked using Myriad Arrow to hit all of us at the same time (Which I still stand by is cheating). I was nearly knocked to the ground by the force of the blow. I managed to remain standing, but my vision swam and my body ached.

"Kasumi-chan is in danger!"

Suddenly, a warm light covered my body – a Dia spell. Bless you, Mina-kun.

"It was a good plan, but it isn't working. You can't go off by yourself." He stood beside me, sword raised as he stared down the enemies.

"If they'd unite again, we could kill them both while they're connected."

"Or we can just hit them both at the same time. Can you use maragion?"

"Pfft. Can I?"

" . . . Can you?"

"Of course I can!" I straightened up proudly.

He rolled his eyes. "Then use it a lot. Akihiko!"

The senior turned to face us. "Yeah?"

"Hit them both at the same time." He nodded, and switched from punching to using his Persona.

"Aigis!"

" . . ."

"Keep doing what you're doing."

"Understood."

And with that, we redoubled our efforts, hitting both of them as hard and as fast as we could, desperate to take them out at the same time. With our combined skills, we were able to defeat our enemies. After what seemed like ages, the tank and turret fell to the ground, empty vessels once again.


August 8th

Waiting in a dark, creepy military bunker to be rescued by Kirijo Group men is not the best way to spend your night, and believe me, it is murder on the back. I stretched and rolled over on my bed. I stayed in bed all day yesterday, doing literally nothing but mope and complain that my shoulders were killing me, and even then I was still tired as the sun rose this morning…

I was intent on spending today the exact same way, and yet . . .

"Shirogane, it's me." Mitsuru Kirijo, killjoy of the century, knocked on my door.

"Yeeees?" I had no intention of getting up.

"I'm sorry to bother you while you're resting, but can I have a minute? I need to tell something to everyone, but I think it would be best if you could see it for yourself. Come to the meeting room tonight, okay? I'll see you then." If she had any objections to my disrespectful attitude, she didn't show it, leaving as quickly as she arrived.

"Great. That sounded mildly serious . . . I'm totally gonna go back to sleep."

And that is the story of how I literally slept all day until I had to drag myself to the command room that evening.

"Does this mean we have a new mission?" Aigis asked us when we were all assembled.

"I dunno. But the alarm's not ringin'…" Junpei trailed off as he noticed the thing our Senpai were standing around.

"Koromaru?!" I was excited and very confused at the same time. I admittedly hadn't thought much about the poor dog's condition after we rescued him, but now that he was here, I breathed out a sigh of relief.

. . . And then I noticed his arm.

"Um. What's with the new collar? And why is the dog wearing a SEES armband?"

Mitsuru, always to the point, explained. "That collar is designed to help control his Persona. In other words, it's an Evoker for dogs."

. . . An Evoker for dogs. Just gonna let that one sink in for a minute.

"Wait, does that mean he'll be going into battle?" Yukari asked what we were all thinking.

"It was a surprise for me as well. But according to the tests, it's quite possible. In fact, it was the Chairman's suggestion. ...We'll be looking after him here in the dorm."

"Is that okay with you, Koro-chan?" Fuuka crouched to talk to the dog, who barked once in answer.

"He said, 'I'll return the favor.'"

Thank you, Aigis, for translating dog-speak.

I was still trying to process the fact that we were letting a dog into SEES, but then I realized that it would be really awesome to have Koromaru around the dorm.

"Oh! Oh! This is gonna be great, Koromaru! We can go on walks, and hang out together! I'm so excited!"

Junpei laughed along with me, "The more the merrier, right? I'll take him for a walk! It's summer break, after all!"

"Yes, it is." Mitsuru's voice held something in it that made me immediately stop cheering. "Enjoy your vacation while you can; summer classes start next week. I'll see to it that you graduate."

Yep. There it is. I immediately deflated, shoulders sagged in defeat.

"H-hey . . . Good one, Senpai. You almost had me there."

"Oh, it's no joke. We'll be taking intensive courses. I've already applied for all of us. I know how difficult it's been balancing school and our late night excursions...you haven't had much time to study. I apologize for that. That's why the Chairman agrees that this is a good idea. ...I thought I told Takeba and Yamagishi."

"Are you serious?! This is the first I've heard of it!"

"Wait! But Mitsuru-senpai!" I spoke up when I realized there would be a conflict in scheduling. "I'm supposed to be leaving in a couple of days to visit relatives in Inaba! I can't just go to summer school!"

"I'm sorry, Shirogane, but I made these arrangements well in advance. Is there any way you could reschedule your trip? You have the rest of summer break, after all."

"But I've already had to reschedule! Oh . . . damn it all."


"The sixteenth? Why the delay?" Naoto held the phone loosely while she listened to her sister prattle on.

"I'm really, really sorry, Naoto! Mitsuru sprung this whole 'summer school' thing on us last minute, and I know I already pushed back the date, but she's adamant that we go!"

"Hey, hey. Slow down, Kasumi. Really, it's quite all right. I'm afraid with the suspect apprehended, nothing at all relevant to the case has come up. You can take your time getting here. Besides, summer school might be good for you."

"Hey! I resent that!"

Naoto laughed lightly at her sister, before politely ending the call. It was unfortunate that Kasumi had to delay her trip, and not because of any pressing murder case. Truth be told, the detective just needed a break, and the company of another person that wasn't her grandfather or the police force.

Naoto missed her sister.


August 16th

I stared at the blue haired boy that sat across from me in the train car as I wondered for the seventeenth time that day how I got myself into this.

Summer school had dragged on for what felt like ages, but that was over and done with. Finally. Earlier this morning, Minato and I loaded up our luggage onto the passenger train headed for Yasoinaba station, and we were off. My companion refused to explain to me why he wanted to go with me so badly, despite my constant badgering. To be totally honest, I thought I was an annoyance more than anything. And suddenly he wants to go on a trip with me?

Boys are weird.

"Hey, sorry you had to miss the summer festival. I'm sure you had to leave a trail of broken-hearted women behind you."

Minato glanced at me briefly. "You're still on that player thing?"

"Ehehehe . . . yep."

'This is gonna be a long ride.'


Minato wasn't necessarily 'anti-social.' He was just better at silence than constant chatter. That being said, he really didn't mean to fall asleep, leaving Kasumi slightly offended at the unintentionally rude gesture as he drifted into dreamland.

He also didn't expect to wake up in the Velvet Room.

His feet made no noise as he walked towards his familiar chair in front of the long-nosed man. If Igor had summoned him in his dreams, it wasn't without reason, and it wasn't for idle chitchat. As he moved to sit down, his vision flashed white.

"Agh . . ."

For a fraction of a second, the Velvet Room seemed much, much smaller, and he could've sworn there was someone else – someone that wasn't Elizabeth – sitting in the chair. Gray hair and gray eyes, a serious expression . . . The boy vanished in an instant, and the Room was an elevator once more.

"Ah, my apologies, my young friend. It's not every day we host more than one guest."

"More than one?" Minato slid into his seat as Igor spoke.

"Yes. It seems your destiny is even more complicated than even I originally predicted. Where you are going, you will meet another, and you will find yourself faced with another challenge. One that is not your own. It would not be shameful to turn your eyes from it and return to where you belong."

" . . . "

"This happened because of the one who is not supposed to exist. However, your fate is still your own. If you choose to continue down this path, keep your contract in mind as you do so."

He only nodded at the mysterious man. He had other questions to ask – who was the one that shouldn't exist, for starters – but he was jerked awake before he could.

"Minato? Hey! Mina-kun. We're here."

Kasumi stood in front of him, eyes bright. Outside the window, Inaba waited.


After waking up Minato (he has some nerve, falling asleep on me like that), we gathered our things and left the station.

"Thank god it isn't raining." It was a miracle. While it was still unnaturally foggy, the sky was free of rain clouds.

"Hey, sorry, but we have to walk to my grandfather's house. It isn't that far, but . . ."

"It's fine."

And on that note, we set off. I stared around my old town as we did so, pointing out this that and the other. If he was annoyed, he kept it to himself.

"There's Junes. It's new – wasn't here a few years ago. I've never actually been, but apparently it's got everything. Like, literally everything! But it's also putting a lot of strain on the Shopping District, which is a shame, because there are so many cute stores there that might go out of business."

"Mm." The boy nodded slightly.

"Hey, are you all right? I mean, not that you're usually a social butterfly, but you seem really out of it. Need I remind you that you asked to come with me?"

Shaking his head, Minato only smiled slightly. "Yeah, I'm fine. Still sleepy."

"Ahh. Well, we're almost there! Oh, fair warning, my grandpa is a little . . . eugh. Also I might not have told anyone that you're coming with me."

"Wh- Kasumi."

"Whaaaat? Just slipped my mind, is all."


"Grandpa? Naoto? We're here!" I poked my head through the door, looking around curiously. "Anyone home?"

The sound of footsteps echoed from upstairs. "Kasumi?" After a moment, my sister appeared at the top of the stairs in the foyer. "Exactly what do you mean by 'we're' here?"

I stepped fully into the room, gesturing for Minato to join me. "Nao! It's great to see ya! This is my friend, Minato. I kind of sort of told him about the case."

"You did wha-"

"He said he wanted to help if he could. Sorry for bringing him over uninvited, but…" I shrugged.

The irritatingly charismatic boy spoke up, bowing politely. "It's nice to meet you."

Sighing, Naoto returned the greeting. "Likewise. Well, you came all this way, and I'm not about to send you back. Besides, I didn't think my sister was capable of making friends. I hope she isn't driving you too crazy."

"Hey! What's that supposed to mean?!"


Minato, Naoto, and myself gathered in the library. Naoto sat in an armchair, Minato took the couch, and I sprawled on the ground in the middle of the floor between them, my arms behind my head.

"So! How's the case going?"

"I'm sorry to drag you out here and have so little news, but . . . Unfortunately, the interrogation is not going smoothly. The police can't get a straight answer out of the suspect, and then there's the evidence . . . "

"Evidence?" Minato seemed a bit confused.

"Oh right! I didn't tell you!" As quickly as I could, I caught Minato up to speed with every detail I could think of about the case. When I was done, he nodded, seemingly deep in thought, and I gestured for Naoto to continue.

"Well, they were able to definitely link Mitsuo Kubo to the murder of Kinshiro Morooka. However . . . There is no way to connect him to Saki Konishi or Mayumi Yamano. Simply put, it's obvious he is the murderer of one, but not all three victims."

"Maybe there's another?" Surprisingly, Mina-kun had the next word.

"It's a possibility I had considered, yes. But if that is the case, there is still a murderer on the loose. And the police are not searching for them."

I frowned, something just now occurring to me. "Hey, I have a question, Nao. With the case solved, in the eyes of the police, at least . . . Where does that leave you? You're only staying in Inaba because of police work, right?"
"That's right." My sister sighed. "But because I'm not satisfied with this resolution, I've decided to stay in Inaba. Grandpa agreed, on the condition that I enroll as a student here."

"Ooh, really? That's surprising. My little sister's gonna be a student again, just like me!"

"Oh, quiet, you."


August 17th

I never would have guessed it. The three of us make an unlikely group, but Minato and Naoto seemed to get along very well. And since we weren't spending every waking moment pouring over details of the case, my sister and myself were able to talk like friends for once. We were . . . having fun.

Weird.

On a whim, we decided to go to Junes. Minato claimed he could cook dinner if we went out and bought the ingredients.

However . . . things haven't exactly gone as planned.

"Yeah, no, I have no clue where we are."

"Seriously, Kasumi?"

"Hey, I'm sorry! I swear, this place is built like a maze! It's all part of their plan to trap us and make us buy more things!"

"Kasumi. How do you get lost in a supermarket?"

"I don't need your sass, Naoto!"

" . . . "

"Is she like this all the time, Minato-kun?"

"Unfortunately, yes!"

"Okay, I don't need my sister and my good friend gossiping behind my back!"

"It's not behind your back if you can hear us."

I groaned, slamming my forehead into the handle of our shopping cart. "Ow…" Straightening up slightly, I frowned. "Why don't we just ask for directions?"

"We shouldn't need to ask for directions in a store."

"Well, if you're so confident, then you lead us to the checkout counter."

My sister was silent for a few moments, looking slightly uncomfortable. "I wasn't paying the closest attention when we entered this section."

I laughed. Although we were still lost, I had won the argument, and that was a victory for me. "Then we'll ask for directions! Excuse me, sir!"

At the time, I didn't realize that I was asking for help from the infamous Souji Seta, the mysterious transfer student that might or might not be a murderer. Honestly, I'd almost forgotten about his involvement in the case.

"How can I help you?" Credit where it's due, Souji didn't miss a beat, completely neutral when he saw an Ace Detective and her two loser friends legitimately lost inside Junes.

"Yeah, hi. How in the hell do you get out of this god-forsaken store?"

"The checkout area is that way, take a left." The silver-haired boy pointed us in the right direction, and after a polite word of recognition to Naoto, we were finally able to escape the evil clutches of the Corporate Empire.

"Well that was unexpected." I sighed, shifting a few of our groceries in my arms. We divided the load between the three of us.

Naoto shrugged. "In a town this small, is it really so surprising to find a high school student working a part-time job?"

"I guess not, but what are the odds it'd be him?"

"Who was he?" Minato interrupted, quite uncharacteristically. "That boy."

"Mina-kun? Um. Souji Seta might be involved in the murder case, but we can't say anything for sure. Why?"

Our friend's usually blank face was clouded by some undefined emotion. "It's nothing."


August 19th

Souji should've just put it out of his head. It wasn't that big of a deal.

And yet, he couldn't shake the feeling that he knew that blue-haired boy that was with Naoto Shirogane the other day.

But why? And why did it feel important?


Minato was having trouble sleeping. He couldn't stop thinking about the boy Souji Seta. He was convinced it was the same boy from the Velvet Room. The one that was sitting across from Igor, exactly like he usually does.

He shook his head. He didn't want to worry about that now. To make up for making him miss the Summer Festival in Port Island, Kasumi was taking them to the Inaba festival tomorrow.


August 20th

I'd never been to a festival in Inaba, but somehow, I expected there to be more people. At least a few more. However, the shrine was sparsely populated, although there were plenty of stalls set up.

"I suppose with all the talk of murder, not as many people wanted to venture out." Naoto answered my unspoken question. "You can hardly blame them."

"Yeah, but . . . Ah, well. That means there's more food for us!"

"Hah, I suppose. Don't give yourself a stomach ache, Kasumi."

Minato hadn't said much the entire time, opting instead to look around at the other festival-goers. "Hey."

"Yeah, what is it?" I turned to see what he was staring at, and blinked in surprise. "Hey, it's the mysterious group of crime fighting slash murdering teenagers."

Sure enough, Souji Seta and his group of friends were standing around talking. Actually, from the looks of it, they were arguing about something. Before long, the girls of the group split off, along with one of the boys, leaving the other three standing around awkwardly.

"Wanna go over and say hi?" I offered. "Making new friends is important. Besides, they're gonna be your new classmates, right, Nao?"

"Perhaps we shouldn't. I wouldn't want to interrupt their good time."

"Ah, well. Hey, Mina-kun?" The guy was still staring at the group. More accurately, he was staring at Souji. "Okay, what's the deal? Does Mina-kun have a crush?"

"It's not like that."

"Oh, whatever." I didn't want to waste my time at the festival staring at some group of high school kids. "Hey! Let's go try and catch goldfish! I love that game!"

"Kasumi, if you catch one, you have to take care of it."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah!"


August 21st

Minato and I stood outside the Shirogane manor, our bags packed.

"It was a pleasure meeting you, Minato-kun. And it's always good to see you, Kasumi." Naoto wasn't one for tearful farewells, so our goodbyes were quick.

"You, too."

"You should come to Port Island next time, Nao! You'd love it!" I waved as we headed towards the train station.

"We'll see, Kas."

Once the train had taken off, and Inaba was fading in the distance, I sighed and stretched. "Well! That was a lot of fun. Actually, I'm shocked. It wasn't the stressful event I thought it would be."

"What were you expecting?"

"Drama and intrigue, mostly. Last time I visited, we thought someone might be kidnapped . . . It was crazy. But yeah. This time, it was nice. I haven't spent quality time with Nao – like, actual quality sister time – in ages. More than three years, actually."

"Why's that?" Minato seemed mildly interested, shifting slightly in his seat.

"Hah . . . Well . . . The family business, mostly. And my grandfather being disappointed in me and showering Naoto with praise and affection. It's why I ran away from home and started living on my own in Port Island." I realized I was progressing further and further from my usual stupid self, and into a weirdly serious Kasumi, a transformation I was not comfortable with at all. "ANYWAY. So, what did you think of Inaba?"


Minato stared at the sleeping girl across from him. They weren't that far from their destination, but it was pretty late. He didn't blame Kasumi for passing out. Kasumi's Social Link – the Fortune Arcana – had grown significantly during this trip, which was one of the reasons he'd decided to go with her. He'd had a good time with the Shirogane sisters, and Inaba was an interesting town. However, he still couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. Igor's words still bothered him.

"'This happened because of the one who is not supposed to exist.'"

Could that mean Kasumi? She was the reason he went to that town, after all. The one who shouldn't exist? But why? And that boy, Souji Seta? Was he the "other one" he was supposed to meet? And the other challenge? There was a lot going on, and the boy wasn't sure what to make of any of it. He had enough to worry about when it came to the Twelve Full Moon Shadows.


"I'm here, too! I exist, too, damn it!"

"You know what? FINE. You can stay here and play detective with Gramps all you want. I'm DONE WITH IT."

"No, I'm leaving. I'd rather live on my own than live with people who can't even be bothered to remember their own family's birthday!"

I stretched as the train pulled into Port Island station. I hated dreaming about that fight three years ago. It was one big, uncomfortable, miserable memory I'd rather forget. And yet, I almost spilled all of that to Minato. Honestly, there was something about that kid that made you feel like you could spill all your deep, dark secrets to him. It was annoying as hell.


~~Author's Note~~

So yeah. I'm back. Hopefully for real this time.

Again, I'm so so so so sorry for vanishing and I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.

Oh, and if Kasumi doesn't seem as … out there as before, this story and character are two years old. When I was a sophomore, I was really shy, so I wrote a really crazy OC. It's a bit harder for me to get into the same mindset, but I'll try to keep up with Kas's antics as best I can.

Sorry if this chapter isn't what you were hoping for after such a long absence, too. Eugh. My life is a goddamn mess.

(bonus points to whoever spots the RWBY reference)