Chapter 12: Down Uncertain Roads
Wednesday, September 16th: Raining
The entries became monotonous.
It seemed that the "old" Homura just wrote down whatever came to mind in her diary unless it was Thursday where she would instead talk about this Narukami Yuu instead.
Homura couldn't help but grimace at that.
Because this unknown Narukami Yuu had entered the "old" Homura's life, she seemed to have fixated on him as her only friend.
The fact that she had done the same with Madoka did not cross her mind.
Madoka was completely different.
From what she read, this Narukami Yuu was only interested in the old her's stories and since she has no plans to continue writing them, nor any idea of anything the "old" Homura had even written, the boy would go away sooner or later.
With that thought in mind, she nodded her head and read the next entry.
I was really surprised today! During one of my walks I saw a room with Narukami-san's name on it! I carefully looked inside and it was him.
He was with a white haired girl though. For a moment I thought she was his sister but the way they were talking didn't sound like people who knew each other.
From what I gathered, she was thanking him for saving her life or something and apologizing for him being injured. Was he hit by a car? She was also calling him "Leader." Were they in the same club or something? I couldn't ask.
At that point Narukami-san saw me and invited me in and introduced me to the girl who wasn't his sister but someone he just met a few days ago.
Her name was-
Homura stared at the name with wide eyes as the diary began shaking in her hands.
It wasn't possible.
Why would she be here?
"Mikuni Oriko!" Homura breathed.
If she was associated with someone who was supposed to be Madoka's cousin then the chances that she doesn't know about Madoka are zero.
She needed to get out of here and...
All she had was her weak body to work with. No guns, no Magical Girl powers, no Soul Gem.
She couldn't do anything.
She couldn't even reset time if she wanted to.
No she shouldn't think of it like that.
She needed to calm down and think it through.
If she no longer had a Soul Gem due to this loop, there was a high chance that Soul Gems didn't even exist in this loop...or world...or however one would describe this strange situation she found herself in.
No Soul Gems meant no Kyubey.
No Kyubey meant no Magical Girls.
No Magical Girls meant...
It meant that Madoka had little to no reason to associate with her.
"No..." Homura said shaking her head. "That doesn't matter."
Yes, it didn't matter.
What matters is that Madoka would be safe.
That is all that ever mattered.
She would worry about the unimportant things when they came to pass.
Besides, it wasn't as if she couldn't try and be her friend the normal way.
With nothing else, she continued to read the diary, if only to gain more knowledge of this new world.
Saturday, May 30th: Cloudy
Yuu stared up at the ceiling with a soft sigh.
He was under the covers, his body wracked with sweat and cold compresses were stuck across his body to help his aching everything.
He didn't really know what happened after he passed out, but here he was staring at the unfamiliar yet at the same time familiar ceiling.
He then recognized it.
It was a ceiling of a hospital room.
He was in the hospital.
But that didn't really bother him. It was a toll he willing took in order to save Oriko after all.
What bothered him was something else. Well, two things really.
The first was that he was troubling his relatives with this sudden injury of his. They were good people and he had hoped that he wouldn't cause them too much trouble during his time freeloading at their house, especially not when they seemed to have their hands full with Madoka and Tatsuya.
The second thing that bothered him was much more serious and troublesome to him.
"I'm bored..." he sighed.
Mikuni Oriko woke up to a pleasant smell flowing around her. She was feeling tired but a lot more rested than she had in the last few days.
She was currently lying on a sofa in an unfamiliar apartment with someone's hand in her own.
Turning her head to the side, she saw her friend, Kure Kirika mumbling on the ground, completely wrapped in a sleeping bag except for her extended arm which was holding onto Oriko's.
"Heh heh heh..." the black haired girl giggled in her sleep. "Oriko~"
Oriko couldn't help but smile at her friend.
Her only real friend.
One that risked her life to save her from that strange world.
"Oh, are you awake?" a kind voice asked.
Oriko turned toward the voice and saw the owner of the apartment standing at the entrance way of the kitchen, peeking her head out toward her.
Her name was Tomoe Mami, a classmate of Kirika's that had helped her find where Oriko was in the first place.
She was wearing a yellow apron over what looked like the uniform of her and Kirika's school and was probably cooking something in the kitchen.
"I'm sorry, was the couch too uncomfortable?" Mami asked, wiping her hands on her apron as she walked toward Oriko.
"No...it was fine," Oriko replied. She then hesitated for a moment, looking around as she tried to figure out what to say next before deciding on, "Thank you."
"For what?" Mami asked.
"For...saving me. For helping me. For doing so much for me...even though you didn't need to."
"I suppose so," Mami nodded as she took a seat on one of the cushions at the triangle-shaped glass table in front of the couch.
There was a moment of silence as Mami pulled out a phone and began typing out a message to someone on it.
"Why?" Oriko found herself asking.
"Why did you help me?"
"Was there a reason I shouldn't?" Mami asked curiously.
Oriko could only grimace and look to the side, suddenly feeling very awkward. Thankfully, Mami continued talking on her own.
"I don't know much about you, Mikuni-san," she said. "I only know that you are a student at Shirome and are a friend of Kure-san. That's reason enough for me to help you and no reason that I shouldn't."
At the mention of her school, Oriko's grimace grew even deeper.
"Was," she said suddenly.
"Was?" Mami repeated.
"I was a student at Shirome."
Mami nodded as she put her phone away.
"Well, with that updated information, I guess there is another reason why I wanted to help you," Mami said, causing Oriko to look back at her.
"Another reason?" she asked.
"I was in a similar situation myself," the blonde replied. "Waking up all alone in a strange place with nothing but fog surrounding me with no idea what was going on or how I got there. I don't know what would have happened if Narukami-san and Kaname-san and Kaname-san hadn't found me. That's why I wanted to help them help others. Because I understood how scary it is being in that situation."
"That foggy place..." Oriko muttered, her thoughts drifting back to her clone and the things it had said, along with the utterly fantastical things she had seen Kirika and the others do. "What exactly is it?"
"I don't know much about it," Mami admitted with a sigh. "Everything I know is second-hand information from Kyubey or third-hand from Narukami-san and Kaname-san."
" Narukami and Kaname? The boy and the pink girl?"
She hadn't been paying much attention to the other people's names, only picking up bits and pieces of the conversation as she tried her best not to fall flat on her face like Narukami Yuu did on the way to Mami's apartment.
"Yes. From what I heard, Narukami-san was the first one to awaken his Persona and he saved his cousin from her Shadow. Oh!" Mami said suddenly as she held a hand up to her mouth. "Perhaps I should wait until Kure-san is awake before I explain."
"Very well," Oriko nodded before turning her head at Kirika and then back at Mami. "Were you cooking something?"
"Just a fairly normal breakfast. Ah, since you are up now. How would you like your eggs?"
Oriko opened her mouth to respond, only for a hand to shoot up in the air in front of her face and a voice to shout "Scrambled!"
Both Oriko and Mami turned to the room's third occupant to see her wide awake and grinning up at Oriko, who sighed.
"Kirika, how long have you been awake?" Oriko asked.
"Since you started talking about that foggy world and other complicated things," Kirika replied with an airy smile. "I stayed quiet because I didn't want to interrupt. So...breakfast?"
Mami and Oriko turned to look at each other, the latter giving the former an apologetic look. Mami simply smiled as she stood up.
"Of course," she said. "Please wait a moment.
"So Narukami-kun's sick?" Sayaka asked Madoka as they plus Hitomi took their normal route to school. "And on top of that, he's hospitalized?"
"Yes..." Madoka nodded sadly. "He has a high fever and he says his body aches so Papa took him to the hospital just to be safe."
"So the that means he wasn't an idiot after all..." Sayaka hummed in thought as she held her hand up to her chin.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you know how they say, 'Idiot's don't catch colds?" Sayaka clarified.
"Come to think of it" Hitomi began innocently to Sayaka's right, tapping a finger on her chin. "I don't recall you ever staying home due to a cold, Sayaka-san."
"That's right. So w-" Sayaka began before pausing with her mouth open. She then turned to make a face at her other friend who simply smiled back innocently.
"But Yuu-kun was in the top ten of the third years during the exams," Madoka said.
"Being smart and not being an idiot are two different things!"
"And where does a person who only got sixty points fall in?" Hitomi asked again.
"Hey, I got sixty-THREE, thank you very much!"
"You got over double your previous score," Hitomi smiled at her. "It looks like the study sessions with the so-called idiot paid off after all."
"I...really am an idiot..."
"Hitomi-chan, did something happen?" Madoka asked as Sayaka wilted. "Your comebacks are a lot harsher than usual."
"Hmm...nothing in particular," Hitomi said after placing a finger on her chin in thought. "I suppose I'm just feeling a bit catty today." She clawed at the air with her hands for emphasis before lowering them in front of her like a proper lady. "So has Narukami-senpai's condition improved overnight?"
"I'm not sure," Madoka replied. "The hospital didn't update us on his condition this morning. So I really don't know."
"I see. I wonder if it would be all right to visit him after school."
"If the hospital would let us, I don't think there's a problem," Madoka thought out loud. "Although I don't know if Yuu-kun would be okay with it."
"Three cute girls coming to visit him while he's sick?" Sayaka asked, folding her arms across her chest. "I don't think he'll mind. Unless...you know, he's not into girls."
"He is...right?" Hitomi asked with a serious face.
"I...don't know?" Madoka replied honestly as she tilted her head to the side.
"Come to think of it..." Sayaka began, her voice just barely a whisper, causing the other two girls to lean in closer to hear.
"Come to think of it?" Hitomi repeated.
"He did seem very close to Katou-kun didn't he?"
"Isn't that just because they're friends?" Madoka asked.
"Yeah but he actually jokes around with him a lot and the two of them aren't shy in wrapping their arms around each others shoulders..."
"But don't you do that to me all the time?"
"Yeah but it's all in good fun..."
"So why can't they do it 'all in good fun' then?"
"Then why hasn't he fallen for a beauty like Mami-san yet? They're always together aren't they?"
"I don't know...what do you think, Hitomi-chan?"
Madoka and Sayaka turned toward Hitomi who had dropped her bag on the ground and her hands on her cheeks with a look of horror on her face.
"W-what's wrong, Hitomi?" Sayaka asked.
"Seeing each other everyday, perhaps they reached a point where they can now understand each other without saying a word..." Hitomi mumbled under her breath. "Oh my! To think that only barely a month the two of them have already reach that level of intimacy. Is this a fated love?"
"H-Hitomi-chan?" Madoka asked. "Are you okay?"
"This can't happen!" Hitomi shouted, dropping her bag onto the ground. "They're both boys! It's a forbidden love! Boys can't love boys!"
And with that she ran off, causing people around them to follow her with their eyes as the girl ran down the path, still muttering to herself.
"Hey, you forgot your bag!" Sayaka called after her.
"Hitomi-chan's acting a lot like you today, Sayaka-chan," Madoka sighed.
"What the heck is that supposed to mean?"
Oriko sighed as she looked up at the clock on the wall.
She was currently alone in Mami's apartment as she and Kirika had gone off to class.
Kirika wanted to skip but neither Oriko nor Mami would let her so Mami ended up dragging the dark haired girl kicking and screaming out of the apartment.
Not literally of course, but the feeling had been there.
Thus Oriko was left in a position not unlike before where she was alone in her own home, but at least this place was much warmer and she was...accepted she supposed.
It still didn't stop her from feeling restless though.
As her eyes wandered away from the clock, Oriko thought about what she wanted to do now.
The first thing she had to do was find a new place to live.
Wallowing around in her own misery at her old run-down home was not productive at all, meaning she would have to look for a cheap apartment complex somewhere.
She also had to decide whether or not she was going to continue her schooling, or if she even could, considering the less than pleasant turn her relations with her old school had taken.
It might be best if she looked for a new school...maybe Kirika's?
Finding a source of income would also be needed, but that part might not be as difficult as the others.
Mami had said that that strange white creature, Kyubey or something, was paying them to destroy those "Shadow" things inside the TV using the "Persona" that they acquired.
From what she saw, the pay was incredibly good for a few hours of "work" even if the work itself was life-threatening. But it seemed that Kirika's schoolmates worked well together as a team despite only going in there whenever someone mysteriously found themselves inside and a few days after so their new "party member" could learn the ropes.
They haven't really been using it to achieve a fortune for themselves however. She supposed the money wasn't worth the risk. Mami did say that they were always going in blind most of the time.
However, something inside Oriko told her that if she were to help them, that would no longer be the case. It was if her...Persona...was trying to tell her about itself.
Her eyes then turned to the TV in the living area.
"I wonder..." Oriko muttered as she stood up and walked over to the TV.
She stared at the flat screen and then down at her hand.
Hesitating a bit, she raised her hand up and placed a finger on the screen.
Immediately her finger went right through the screen and she pulled it back in surprised.
"It really is a portal to another world..." Oriko muttered as she stretched her hand through the TV screen again. "I see. So overcoming your 'Shadow' and awakening to your 'Persona' allows you to access this portal to the other world."
Oriko withdrew her hand again as she placed it on her chin in thought.
"But...for some reason, Naraukami Yuu did not face a Shadow prior to awakening his own Persona, no, that's not correct. He did face one, it just wasn't his own Shadow but rather his cousin's, Kaname Madoka's Shadow."
Folding her arms under across her chest, she let out a hum in thought.
"Who is the special one then?" she wondered. "Narukami Yuu or Kaname Madoka?"
Oriko turned toward the clock on the wall and saw that it was just an hour before noon.
Perhaps she might be able to understand something if she went out.
Yuu continued to stare up at the ceiling.
Even though his fever seemed to have gone down, his body still ached whenever he made too many sudden movements.
He should look at the bright side of things.
They managed to save Oriko from her Shadow and allowed her and Kirika to get closer with each other now that they spilled everything out in front of the other.
He also learned that Synchronizing with Chronos causes a great strain on his body due to its relatively overwhelming power compared to his other Persona.
He wondered why that was though.
The Fortune Arcana supposedly represented his bond with Kenichi, who he supposed, was his first friend since arriving in Mitakihara.
Was that really the reason or was it simply the luck of the draw?
"I should probably ask Kyubey next time..." he mumbled as he shifted a bit to get more comfortable, only to fail miserably.
He needed something to do.
As soon as he thought that, he spotted a deck of playing cards lying on his nightstand.
The bus ride to the hospital took the better part of an hour but Oriko managed to arrive using the money that Kirika insisted she take.
"I only got this because I was trying to save you so it's yours!"
Oriko had initially refused to take it, and had returned the money to Kirika, but as she was just wondering how she was going to get to the hospital that didn't involve walking halfway across the city, she found several bills and coins hidden in her shoes, no doubt courtesy of Kirika.
How the girl managed to achieve that without either Mami or Oriko noticing was something else.
Well, she'd focus on visiting Narukami Yuu for now and thank Kirika later.
At that idle thought, she stopped just short of the hospital doors themselves.
Now that she thought of it, it would be the first time she'd be visiting a male acquaintance that wasn't her teacher or a friend of her father's.
Then again, all those other acquaintances don't want anything to do with her anymore.
Come to think of it, should she even be here?
Sure she was just going because she wanted to ask about the other world, but then it wasn't as if she knew him in any way, shape, or form save for the time they ran into each other at the cake shop a while back. Kirika had also kept saying they were just classmates meaning she probably didn't interact with them all that much either.
Oriko quickly shook her head to clear it as she took a step inside the hospital.
It wasn't good to think too much. She needed more information that didn't involve diving headfirst into a situation blind and she might as well thank Narukami Yuu while she was at it.
And thus she was now in front of his room.
"Impulsiveness really isn't my strong suit..." she sighed as she knocked on the door and opened it. "Narukami-san, may I talk-"
She froze with the door halfway open.
Laying on the bed was Yuu, who froze when the door opened.
He was lying on his back, dressed in a pair of hospital pajamas and was building a castle of cards on his stomach which extended out and up his leg, which had been propped up on top of several pillows, in perfect balance.
The two of them stared at each other for a short while before Yuu lifted up his leg, causing the cards on it to slide down perfectly down right side up and catch it in his hand before scooping up the rest of the cards and setting them aside on the table next to him.
"Can I help you?" he asked, slipping under the covers as if nothing happened. "Mikuni...right?
"Ah...yes..." Oriko nodded as she closed the door and walked on it. It was probably best if she removed the previous scene from her mind. "Are you feeling better?"
"It doesn't hurt if I don't think about it," he replied.
Well, he was probably fine for the most part if he was able to joke around like that.
"Well..." Oriko cleared her throat before continuing as she walked up to his bed. "First of all, please let me thank you once again for rescuing me."
"Ah...yes, you're welcome," Yuu replied with a nod. "But I think Kure did most of it. I just followed up behind her."
So he was the modest type. She didn't hate that but in this case it would be better to accept credit where credit is due.
"But from what I heard, you also saved Kirika all by yourself before coming for me, didn't you?" she asked with a soft smile, causing the boy to rub the back of his neck in embarrassment.
"That did happen I suppose," Yuu muttered, looking away.
The smile remained on Oriko's face as she pulled one of the folding chairs up to the bed and sat down on it.
"If you don't mind, I would like to ask you some questions," Oriko said as Yuu turned his head back toward her.
"All right," Yuu nodded. "Go ahead."
"I see..." Oriko muttered, placing a hand over her mouth. "So you have no idea either?"
"No," Yuu replied. "Kyubey said it was rare but not unheard of to awaken without dealing with a Shadow first."
"Hmm. Shadows manifest as a side that people want to keep hidden from the world, correct? And to manifest a Persona you must first accept that side of yourself completely and without hesitation, right?"
"That's how it seems."
"Perhaps you didn't manifest one because you've already accepted your hidden side before coming to this city?" Oriko suggested. "Or maybe you never had one?"
"I don't know," Yuu replied as he scratched his head. "I just say and do whatever I feel like."
"Because you are so open and have nothing to hide that you don't have a Shadow. What marvelous strength of character."
Yuu simply scratched his cheek in response.
"I can't tell if you're making fun of me or not."
Oriko chuckled into her hand as she looked around for a moment before transitioning into another question she wanted to ask.
"Have you noticed anything different about yourself since you've awakened your Persona?" she asked.
"Hmm..." Yuu folded his arms together in thought. "How do you mean?"
"Like for example...on the way here, I was noticing nearly every little detail about people..."
"What do you mean?"
"Like...for example, when I look at you, I can tell that you are bored, due to the fact you were building such an...interesting castle of cards on yourself. You're trying very hard not to move your left leg, which means that you're still hurting a bit there. You have a red stain on your collar, so I suspect you just had some sort of soup for lunch...from the faint smell...tomato?"
Yuu silently stared at Oriko for a moment before he nodded his head.
"That was...amazing," he said as he nodded his head.
"Really?" Oriko asked. "Does that mean I got it all right?"
"Almost. My left leg doesn't really hurt. It's just asleep."
"Hmm...well, not bad for a trial run..." the girl shrugged. "So...anything like that happen for you?"
"I...talk more?" Yuu wondered. "I guess I'm also more fit but I haven't noticed much else."
"Is that right? I wonder if I'm just over thinking it or if its something unique to me. The latter of which I'm not too happy about?"
"Is it bad? Noticing things like that I mean."
"No...not really, but I do not want something happening to my body without my permission."
"That makes sense..." Yuu nodded. "I guess you should ask Kyubey about it when we head back into the TV."
"Back to that place, huh. I suppose it would be too much to hope that what happened to me won't happen again would it?"
"Unfortunately. It's been going on since the school year started. That we know off anyway."
"Hmm..." Oriko fell silent as she placed her hand on her chin in thought. "I understand. Then, I would like to help you as well."
"If this new...habit of mine is related to that world, then I believe I can be of assistance. And I cannot just stand aside and watch if other people go missing like that. Therefore, the only thing I can do is help you in that world."
"I see. Then, let me be the first to welcome you to the team, Mikuni," Yuu said as he held a hand out to her with a smile.
"Thank you...'Leader' is it?" Oriko asked as she shook his hand.
"Come now, a leader should show more confidence shouldn't they? You shouldn't let your insecurities show on your face or the people who chose to follow you would become nervous and unsure of themselves as well."
"You...have a point there," Yuu nodded as he looked up at her. "Are you speaking from experience?"
"Hmm, perhaps," Oriko replied mysteriously.
"I see. Well, I won't pry...hmm?"
Turning his head away from Oriko for a moment, Yuu saw that his door was slightly open.
"Is someone there?" he called out, causing Oriko to turn around just as someone let out a squeak in surprise and for the door to close shut.
Oriko then stood up, walked over to the door, opened it, and peered out into the hallway.
"Hello," she greeted. "Did you have business with Narukami Yuu-san? Or were you just planning to hug the wall?"
"Eh?" a familiar voice called out. "Um...no, not really..."
"That voice..." Yuu muttered. "Is that you, Akemi?"
Oriko turned to look back inside the room and stepped to the side as a familiar black haired girl peeked her head into the door frame.
"Why didn't you just come in instead of just peeking?" Yuu asked.
"I...um...didn't want to intrude..." Homura replied, looking at Oriko.
"Oh, don't worry," Oriko said. "We just finished our talk..or rather...how much of that did you actually hear, I wonder?."
"O-only the last part!" Homura replied. Quickly as she waved her hands up at Oriko.
Oriko and Yuu exchanged looks. This was one girl who definitely could never become a criminal.
Turning toward Homura, Oriko raised a finger up as if lecturing the girl and said, "Akemi-san, you should say that you didn't hear anything if asked that question even if you did."
"B-but that would be lying..."
"My my, what a kind hearted girl you are," Oriko commented as she placed a hand on her cheek. "Oh, but where are my manners. My name is Mikuni Oriko." She then held her hand out to Homura,
"O-oh...umm...I'm Akemi Homura," Homura replied. "A pleasure to meet you."
"The pleasure is all mine. In any case, Narukami-san. As our conversation has finished, I should be heading back for today."
"Okay," Yuu nodded. "See you later then?"
"Hmm...when you are well enough to be discharged perhaps. I won't be going anywhere. Until then."
With that, Oriko gave them a quick bow and took her leave with Homura staring after her in awe.
"Who exactly was that person...?" Homura asked as she turned toward Yuu.
"I don't really know. I only met her twice before today," Yuu replied truthfully. He also received two distinctively different impressions of the girl at both times.
Before the recent events that led up to the current time, Oriko seemed extremely confident in herself and had a sort of energy to her. Now though, she just seemed tired even if she tried hard not to show it.
Not that he could blame her. Her father killed himself after all. Yuu wondered if she was trying to find a reason to keep going and is looking for it in the TV World.
Either way, they were teammates now, so he'll help her in anyway he can.
Chapter's End Corner:
Harouki: I'm alive! And Back! For how long, who knows?
Sayaka: This is your shortest chapter yet...
Harouki: I can't help it. I got stuck. At least you showed up.
Sayaka: And got called an idiot again...
Harouki: And you have no one to blame but yourself.
Sayaka: You wrote this crap!
Harouki: So I did...anyway, see you next time.