Full Summary: Even the residents of the Velvet Room have no idea what caused it. One day, the heroes and heroines of a future time simply appeared in the place between consciousness and unconsciousness, even those who had never entered into any sort of "contract." When the entire Investigation Team finds itself crowded into a blue-velvet limousine, Yu Narukami's world is turned upside down in more ways than one — for Igor informs them that they have not only passed into the Velvet Room itself, but over three years into the past.
Now the Investigation Team is stranded in Iwatodai, circa 2009 A.D., the year during which Narukami's predecessor leads a different team of Persona-users against a different threat. Chronologically displaced, the teenage saviors of Inaba are left with only one course of action: join up with S.E.E.S., and try not to derail events so severely that they accidentally cause the end of the world. But how can eight additional Persona-users avoid changing the timeline when they don't even know what the timeline looked like in the first place?
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona
The Heartless Wanderer
- V -
Disclaimer: Shin Megami Tensei and the Persona series belong to Atlus, not to the Heartless Wanderer. All related characters and concepts are the intellectual property of said company. The Heartless Wanderer is merely an Internet nerd who writes works of fanfiction in his rather scarce spare time and happens to be a on a bit of a Persona kick at the moment. He claims ownership only of the fan-work itself and nothing else.
"A Time Lapse of Epic Proportions"
Yu Narukami was… floating. That's what it felt like, anyway. It was an oddly familiar sensation, but his mind was a bit too hazy at that moment to identify it. It was like sleeping, only not. All he really knew was that it was impossible to be alarmed by it. It was a comfortable sort of feeling, natural; it did not feel "wrong" at all.
Then vision faded in and all he saw was blue — first an indistinct haze of it, but then the haze clarified into a ceiling, luxurious seats along the side of a long, room-like structure. The soft hum of a car's engine was the most prominent sound, and he realized the room was vibrating slightly. He was inside the car he could hear, then.
Wait. Then this was…
"Welcome back to the Velvet Room, my dear young man… I wish I could say I have some solid inkling as to why you all have come here on this particular occasion, but, alas, that is beyond even our scope of comprehension for the present…"
Yes, it was. He had come here of his own accord more times than he could count, and this time he was here as well, the long-nosed old man hunched over his table at the far side with his fingers steepled together and his wide, bloodshot eyes gazing intently at Narukami as they always had on those occasions where the gray-haired Persona-user had come here to take advantage of the Velvet Room's particular "services" — the fusion and creation of new Personas, which had proven to be a vital asset in solving the paranormal murder case he had been involved in last year.
But how had he come to be here? Had he been summoned in his dreams again? He remembered going to school — he couldn't remember falling asleep at any point…
Then he registered that he and Igor were not the only people in the room at the moment.
Margaret was conspicuously absent, which was a bit of a switch from the last time he'd been called here. On that occasion — during the course of that ludicrous "P-1 Grand Prix" — Igor had been absent, and the only one to greet him in the Room had been Margaret. He hadn't been able to use the Velvet Room's services at that time (it seemed the only thing he'd been called there for was a chance to get his head on straight), but nothing involving this place ever happened without purpose.
So why were Yosuke Hanamura, Chie Satonaka, Yukiko Amagi, Teddie, Kanji Tatsumi, Rise Kujikawa, and Naoto Shirogane all here in the Velvet Room with him?!
Teddie was curled up like a cat, presently in his human guise, on the floor at the feet of Yosuke and Chie, who were huddled rather closely together on the seat where Margaret usually sat. Chie's head was drooping onto Yosuke's shoulder, and for someone who insisted she hadn't discarded her womanhood, she was snoring in rather unladylike fashion. Yukiko was likewise resting on Chie's opposite side, looking rather adorable with a peaceful little smile on her face. Naoto sat asleep straight-backed with her arms crossed over her chest and her head bowed forward so that the brim of her hat covered her eyes. Kanji was slumped backward with his arms splayed out over the back of the chair, and Rise —
…Yu blushed. Rise was cuddling up against his own right side. How had he not noticed the feeling of breasts against his torso? Well, it wasn't as disconcerting as it should have been. Perhaps one's libido did not operate at normal intensity in this place. His dominant thought, at any rate, was not Ooh, squishy! but rather, That is just so Rise. So his faculties weren't completely impaired…
"You are wondering why your companions have followed you into this Room, when they were in fact several train transfers away from your place of learning… correct?"
Igor's patient prompting brought Narukami's attention away from musings about breasts and hormones and back to the important matter of what the entire Investigation Team was doing in the Velvet Room to begin with. The team leader looked Igor directly in the old man's bloodshot eyes (the time when those eyes had finally ceased to make Narukami uncomfortable had long since come and gone). Igor seemed less at-ease than he normally was, which made Narukami a bit anxious as well.
"I can only offer my own speculation on that point," Igor mused in ponderous tones. "Whatever force removed you all from your own where and when seems to have brought you all into this domain and, perhaps due to your own connection to this place, you all drifted here like moths to a flame… or more accurately, you to this place, and they, in turn, to you."
Narukami blinked, but knew Igor well enough to resist the urge to press him with questions. Either the man knew what was going on and would be maddeningly vague about it, or he didn't and there was no point pestering him. Bottom line: questions would be pointless. Igor's role as an observer only allowed him a certain degree of leeway when it came to dispensing information.
"I am most troubled by this surprising turn of events," murmured Igor. "Not least because we have no inkling as to the cause of it. But it is fortunate that your trip through time has brought you here before you had a chance to awaken; it gives us a chance to clarify matters with you."
Trip through time?! thought Yu Narukami with a visible start, but before he could break his resolution not to interrupt Igor's monologue, there was a groan and a stirring from next to the old man: Chie was waking up. She groaned, her eyes fluttered open, and then she was blinking blearily at the object across from her, which happened to be the Velvet Room's G.P.S. She looked left, and saw Narukami. "Yu, izzat… m'I dreamin'?" she slurred, then seemed to notice that she was leaning on someone. Shifting her head to look this person in the eye, she found her face intimately close to Yosuke's.
"…WHAT THE HELL, YOSUKE?!"
Her shriek, which Narukami had expected, didn't startle him, but he winced and actually felt a sympathetic pain in his own jaw when Chie's fist slammed into Yosuke's face. Yosuke, in turn, yelped a curse of his own and toppled onto the space directly next to Igor, who viewed this scene impassively over steepled fingers — seeing Yosuke's brain shut down in utter incomprehension as the headphone-wearing teen's eyes fixed themselves on Igor's long nose effectively drove all questions from Narukami's mind. Yukiko was thrown off of Chie by this sudden movement and directly into Naoto, who tumbled into Kanji like a domino block, who in turn managed not to budge. While that hilarity ensued, Chie launched a blind, reflexive kick that woke Teddie, connecting quite squarely with the blonde womanizer's cranium.
A soft "Mmmmmmm…" from Narukami's immediate right reminded him that he, too, was currently in an unintentionally intimate position with someone who might get the wrong idea in a completely different direction.
"Ooh, senpai!" moaned Rise sleepily as her eyes fluttered open. "Don't stop… please don't… do that thing again with the electricity and the toothbrush and the… huh?"
Rise blinked the sleep from her eyes, staring a blushing Yu Narukami in the face from approximately three inches away. Then she cleared her throat.
"I'm not… still dreaming right now, am I?" she asked in an uncharacteristically small voice. Yu could only shake his head in the negative and look desperately to Igor.
Kanji and Naoto, the latter quite alert and the other rubbing sand from his eyes, looked alternately from the cringing Yosuke to the writhing Teddie and to the entangled Narukami and Kujikawa. Teddie's yelps of "Ow, ow, ow, Chie-chan, what was that for?!" cut through everyone's thoughts like a hot knife through butter; even Yosuke tore his eyes away from that impossibly long nose and pushed himself back into a sitting position to have a look.
Rise gingerly disentangled herself from Narukami, her face quite red now, and simpered, "Ooh, Teddie, are you alright?"
Kanji ejaculated a loud "What the fuck? Where are we? Wait, senpai?! How'd you get here?!" as Teddie likewise pushed himself up into a sitting position from his place on the floor. Naoto adjuster her hat, the better to see, and then focused on the one person in the room who was a stranger to her.
"You… who are you, and where are you taking us?" the high school detective demanded in a low, serious voice. She didn't sound quite hostile just yet, but there was a threatening undercurrent to her tone all the same. This question brought the entire Investigation Team to attention, and everyone in the room focused simultaneously on Igor, who only now shifted his fingers around as the chaos of the team's awakening faded into tense silence.
"My name is Igor," the proprietor said graciously, "and I welcome you all to this Velvet Room. It is, as always, a delight to make the acquaintance of new guests… as to your second question, young lady, I am taking you nowhere. This place is merely a brief stop on your way to another place and time, and my understanding of matters is unusually limited."
Naoto bristled visibly at being so easily identified by this stranger as a female. Perhaps she was associating Igor with the malevolent entity who had engineered the incident during Golden Week… seeing potentially dangerous waters ahead, Yu decided to steer things down the right path and spoke up abruptly: "Don't worry, everyone. Igor's on our side."
A mix of incredulous exclamation and polite puzzlement sounded in a jumble from his friends; after a few moments during which they all attempted to speak over each other and Igor remained silent and unperturbed by their distress, Yosuke cleared his throat and the others looked to him to voice their concerns in a more orderly manner.
"Er… not to say we don't trust you, Partner, but what makes you so sure?"
Narukami shifted uneasily and glanced at Igor, who merely smiled indulgently and gestured for his guest to go on. Sighing, Narukami looked Yosuke in the eye and said, "I know because he's been on our side from the very beginning, since just before I arrived in Inaba last year."
Everyone was struck speechless by that. Finally, Yosuke spoke: "Whoa. You serious? Who — what — how — when — what?!"
"Ooh, I remember this place now!" Teddie suddenly exclaimed. "Yeah, this was where I met Sensei after I went missing that time! And Sensei told me that Nana-chan was still — oh! But, why did I only just remember? Bear-y strange, indeed…"
"You've been here before, Ted?" Chie asked, looking from Teddie to Igor with a dubious look on her face. "So you know who this guy is, then?"
"Nope!" said Teddie happily. "The only ones in the room then were Teddie and Sensei!"
Chie very nearly face-faulted at that. Narukami took the opportunity to cut in before more questions could muddle his explanation.
"This place is called the Velvet Room," he said quickly. "It's kind of like… how do I put it… a place between consciousness and unconsciousness, and Igor called me here while I was on the train to Inaba to warn me that I'd run into trouble when I got there. During the case, he helped me hone my Persona ability by fusing different Personas into more powerful ones and so forth."
"So why are we only finding this out now, senpai?" Kanji interjected with a slight edge to his voice. He apparently didn't like that Yu was hiding things from his friends. For the first time, Narukami felt a twinge of guilt over that, but honestly, he'd only refrained from saying anything because he'd doubted they'd believe him.
"…No one but me could see the door," Narukami said in a quiet voice, "and I didn't want to worry you all by making you think I'd gone insane or something, I guess. Sorry."
Though most of the team looked unsatisfied with that, Naoto nodded in understanding and said, "That makes sense. But that doesn't explain what we're all doing in this room now…" and she turned to look the long-nosed proprietor in the face again. Igor's eerie grin widened.
"As I said before the rest of you awoke, I do not yet know what removed you all from your original place and time," Igor said. "And make no mistake, you have all very much been removed from the time and place in which you belong. A little over three years into the past and to a city that all of you have been to before, if I am not mistaken."
The silence that followed this pronouncement was so silent it was actually quite loud.
Then, from Kanji: "…The fuck?!"
From Yosuke: "What the hell, man, don't play with us like that!"
From Chie: "…Ah… ha ha… that's a good one, Mister… Long-Nosed Person… but seriously, now…"
From Rise: "…Huh?"
From Yukiko: "What? The past? How — what?!"
From Teddie: "Wait, to a city even Teddie's been to? Ooh, does this mean Teddie gets to be king again?!"
Naoto had remained silent, brow crinkled in thought as she continued to look intently at Igor, but when Teddie spoke up, she shifted in surprise. "Tatsumi Port Island?" Naoto said. "But three years ago — the Apathy Syndrome epidemic that Kirijo-san told me about!"
The Investigation Team turned as one toward Naoto, perplexed by her sudden comprehension of the situation — even more so when Igor replied, "Just so…"
Naoto looked from one friend to the next and said seriously, "You remember the Shadow Operatives, don't you?"
"Dude, how could we possibly forget?" Yosuke scoffed. "So this Apathy Syndrome thing has to do with them, right?"
"Kirijo-san was brief in her explanation, but Apathy Syndrome was a growing problem in the Iwatodai area in 2009, and then around February of the next year it simply… stopped," Naoto said. "According to Kirijo-san, Shadows were the cause of the epidemic. Her team of Persona-users was initially formed specifically to put an end to that very problem. It was only later that they became an organization with government support; at the time, they were only backed by the Kirijo Group itself, and operated under the guise of school club."
"Huh," Chie said. "They sound kinda like us, don't they…"
"Yeah," agreed Yukiko.
"Our previous guest was an important part of that same team," Igor put in unexpectedly. Narukami looked to Igor in surprise; it was unlike him to volunteer information such as this. "But as to why you have all been placed in that where and when, I can only guess. I suspect it was no accident, however…"
Igor sighed softly and shifted his steepled fingers one last time.
"Time marches on in the real world; I should keep you no longer. I only wished to warn you of the circumstances so that whatever choices you may make, they at least be informed choices. Keep in mind, however, that those choice are your own and no one else's. Abide by our contract as always, young man," added the proprietor, speaking directly to Narukami now, "and you may come here of your own accord whenever you have need. We will aide you accordingly."
The Investigation Team watched the exchange in mild puzzlement as Narukami nodded in solemn understanding, worry etched on his face.
"I wish you all the best of fortune," Igor said. "Until we meet again… farewell."
And the Investigation Team, to a man, felt their consciousness flutter away…
Author's Note: Sorry I've been neglecting to update my other two stories; between schoolwork and an untimely hard drive failure, I haven't had as much time to indulge my muse as I'd like. I should have time over the next couple of weeks to update both of the other stories; I decided to start this one first to give myself a little "exercise," if you catch my meaning.
As the mentions of the P-1 Grand Prix and Shadow Operatives suggest, this story takes place after the events of Persona 4 Arena. It also assumes the protagonist of Persona 3 was male, so I apologize to all Minako and/or Theodore fans out there for their total absence from this story.