Disclaimer: I don't own Persona 4 or Persona 4 Arena or any of the characters, etc.
Author's notes: This takes place after the events in Persona 4 Arena. I wrote a fic where Naoto and Kanji fight in P4A, titled "The Hardest Battle" and this will be a continuation from that, but it isn't necessary to read my other fic, I will do flashbacks. Please read and enjoy.
Chie sighs; the walk to school feels like it is taking forever. No one is in any rush to get back to school after being off for Golden week. Who wants to sit at a desk all day after having fun all week? Yukiko swings her bag back and forth as the pair heads towards the school. "It's too bad that Yu-kun couldn't stay longer. I wish he was going to school with us again this year. "She laments.
"I know," Chie echoes. "We'll just have to make the most out of the time he can get here though."
"He said that he should be able to come for part of summer break in a few months."
"Yeah, but I'm not sure what we're going to be doing until then. All the talk about getting the "Investigation Team" back together made sense when Yu-kun was here. But I'm not sure how we're supposed to do things when he is off in the city with his parents."
"I know what you mean." Yukiko sighs.
"I mean it was pretty straight forward last time. Jump into the TV kick some shadow's butt and save whoever got thrown in. But trying to figure who threw Labrys in is a lot more completed."
"We should probably see what Naoto has in mind."
"Yeah, you're right; we can talk about it at lunch."
As the girls walk into the school building Chie bumps into another girl, who is taking off her shoes at the lockers. "Oh I'm so sorry," Chie says. "I didn't see you."
The girl looks up at Chie and her eyes widen. "No, my fault." She says, as she slams she locker shut and runs away with her school shoes still in her hand.
"What was up with that?" Chie asks, Yukiko.
Yukiko shrugs as she pulls off her own outside shoes and trades them for her school shoes. "I don't know. She looked like she was scared of you."
"Now why would she-" Chie gets a far away look on her face. "Oh shit, I had forgotten about that!"
"The midnight channel," Chie whispers. "She probably saw it over Golden Week. So much has happened that I'd forgotten about that."
"Oh my, I wonder how many people saw it."
"My guess would be a lot." Chie says, glancing around at the students in the lobby.
As Kanji arrives at school he notices that most of the kids are acting different, looking at him and whispering. He shrugs it off as just his imagination and finds his seat at the back of the classroom. He glances over and sees Naoto already in her seat writing in a notebook. She is almost always reading something, or writing something down between classes and before school. Most of the time he just sits back and watches her, but not sure what has come over him he walks over to her desk.
"Uh… hi, Good morning." He says stiffly as he leans against the desk next to hers.
"Good morning, Kanji-kun."
"So, whatcha doing?"
"I'm compiling notes into a timeline of events leading up to the incident involving Labrys. And what we know about the Kirijo group."
"Oh, I see."
"I figure we could go over it with the rest of the team at lunch and see if anyone has anything else to add."
"Uh, yeah, that's a good idea…"
"Sadly without Yu-sempai here to compare notes I feel as if we are at a disadvantage."
"Yeah, we all wish he was able to stay."
Naoto nods, just as the teacher walks into the class and the bell rings. Kanji gives her a small wave and heads back to his seat. The class takes a while to settle down, for there are students having conversations in every corner of the room. Kanji's eyes glaze over as the teacher starts writing math problems on the blackboard. He glances over at some girls that are giggling and already passing notes; one of them catches his eye and turns back toward the other girl, laughing harder.
"Would you like to share the joke with the class?!" The teacher asks her.
The girl instantly sits up straight as possible and all the humor drains from her face. "No sir!"
With that taken care of the class gets back to its normal routine of boring math problems, and Kanji tries his best to keep up, while Naoto looks board, having already finished the problem on the chalkboard before the teacher is done explaining. Kanji runs his hand threw his hair. I'll never understand this shit. He thinks. I just aint smart enough.
"Yes Kanji!" The Teacher calls out. "What is your question?"
"I uh…. Well… I still don't understand why you'd do that last part."
The teacher sighs and explains the process for solving the problem again, Kanji nods his head as the teacher looks at him, even though he still didn't understand what the teacher was saying. Needless to say, for Kanji the day was already looking like it was going to be a big pain in the ass.
By lunch time Kanji knew that he was the butt of some joke that everyone else seemed to know about, except him. Between classes he caught several groups of kids, boys and girls, looking at him, then laughing. Of course once he went up to them and asked what was so funny they would run off without telling him anything. So by the time Kanji headed up to the roof to meet his friends for lunch, he was not in a good mood at all.
Kanji sees Yosuke, Chie and Yukiko off to the side and walks over to them. "Hey, you guys notice anything weird about the way people are acting?"
"I was just saying that." Yosuke says. "People have been giving me the cold shoulder all day."
"Seriously?!" Chie asks. "You guys don't remember?"
When both boys give Chie blank looks she can't help but sigh and shake her head. "The Midnight Channel showed that commercial for the P-1 Grand Prix, with all of us having embarrassing taglines."
"Oh shit!" Yosuke yells. "With so many other things going on I had forgotten about that. Half the school must have seen it!" Yosuke sits down, hiding his face in his hands.
"That bites…" Kanji says. "But you know I still don't get what my tag line about 'beefcake' was about. What the hell is a beefcake anyway, some kind of meatloaf?"
"Beefcake refers to a well-muscled male model posing for a nude or mostly nude photo." Naoto states calmly as she walks up behind Kanji.
Kanji turns in a flash. "WHAT?!"
Naoto continues in a deadpanned level tone. "From what I understand, it can also refer to male porn for both men and women."
"OH HELL NO!" Kanji shouts, his face bright red. "I aint like that!"
"Well your Shadow was running around a bathhouse in nothing but a towel…" Yukiko says, trying to hide her smile behind her hand.
"Will you guys just drop that?! I told ya all, It aint like that!"
"Hey!" Chie says, her hands in the air. "It's not like we put the taglines on. Mine is pretty bad too, you know. People keep running away from me like I'm going to bite them or something."
Naoto watches quietly as the group of teens gets into a heated debate about who had the worst tagline and can't help but sigh. As she predicted without Yu-sempai here to act as mediator it is nearly impossible to bring this group to focus on their real problem.
"Enough everyone!" Naoto shouts to be heard above the rest of them. "As embarrassing it is for all of us the fallout from that commercial is going to continue for some time, so I suggest we discuss more important things." She hands each of them a copy of the notes and timeline that she was working on before school. "This is what I've come up with about the events surrounding Labrys' high jacking. I've included the information that I was able to get about the Kirijo group's development of Anti-Shadow weapons. I figure it must be someone within the development for those weapons that knew about Labrys to throw her into the TV."
"Will that be a lot of people?" Yukiko asks.
"Sadly yes. The Kirijio Group was working on their humanoid Anti-Shadow Weapons for many years, starting over 15 years ago. And there is no telling if the culprit now is connected directly or indirectly with them."
"So you're saying there is no way we can solve this?" Chie asks.
Naoto sighs. "That may be true. If I had access to all the Kirijo group's records and information I would be able to narrow the list down significantly, but as it stands, we just don't know enough about the background to be able to formulate a concrete theory of the identity of the culprit."
Kanji throws down the papers, "This is just giving me a headache."
Naoto sighs and picks up the papers. "I know for some of you this isn't what you're best at, but I thought that the more people we have looking at this and thinking, maybe one of us will come up with something. I'll be e-mailing a copy of this to Rise-chan and Yu-sempai as soon as I can. I'll also be doing my best to get what information I can about the Kirijo group from my sources, but that may take some time."
"Who knows, with all the resources they have Kirjio-san and Aigis-san could have this all sorted out before we hardly scratch the surface, and we wouldn't even know it." Yosuke says, looking over the papers that Naoto has given him.
"At the very least I think that Kirjio-san will inform us if they manage to capture whomever is behind this, since they did say that they would be targeting Persona users. They wouldn't want us to worry about that. Plus I would be able to tell when they pulled the security detail off of us."
The rest of the group looks up at Naoto in shock. "What security?!" Yukiko asks.
"What do you mean?" Chie asks at the same time.
Naoto looks at each of her friends. "You haven't noticed? Two days after Kirijo-san left Inaba a small group of men in nondescript clothing have been watching us from a reasonable distance. I believe them to be part of the Kirijo group. So far that I've noted they don't fallow us into any buildings to note what we do, but they are making sure we don't disappear for any length of time. I would assume that if one of us were missed they would report it to Kirjio-san."
"You sayin' we have truant officers fallowing us around?" Kanji asks.
"I wouldn't put it quiet like that. But as mentioned we were threatened, and I know that the Kirijo-san and the Shadow Operatives that she works with take the public safety very seriously."
"Damn, I was thinking about ditchin' the last half of classes today." Kanji mutters.
"I doubt that they would care if you were to do so, Kanji-kun." Naoto points out. "But since you have a hard time keeping up with your school work, it would be advantageous for you to stay for all of school."
"So if we went to Junes and into the TV, as long as we came back at a reasonable time they wouldn't consider that odd, right?" Chie asks.
"Probably." Naoto admits. "Since Junes is the closest thing to a mall here, they would see no reason to think it odd if we spent a few hours there. What do you have in mind, Chie-sempai?"
"As you said, we don't have much of a chance to catch this guy, unless he strikes again. And I want to be ready to kick his butt if he tries anything. I think we should be going into the TV to train and keep up our skills." Chie says, looking around at all of her friends.
"Hell ya!" Kanji says pumping his fist. "If there is one thing I'm good at its kicking some ass!"
Yosuke nods. "I think Chie has a point."
"I agree," Yukiko says.
"The idea has merit, but I think we shouldn't be spending too much time there, or it will start to look suspicious, once or twice a week at most." Naoto says.
"I'll call Yu-kun tonight and ask him what he thinks." Yosuke says.
Everyone nods; Naoto opens her mouth to start talking again, when the bell rings. She closes her mouth instead and sighs. Turning towards the stairs she says "Well we should get back to class."
As the group descends the stairs Kanji finds himself walking just behind Naoto. Looking at her head bouncing up and down he can't help but smile and a slight blush creeps over his face again. As they reach the second floor where their class is they find themselves walking side by side. Before they enter the classroom Naoto turns towards Kanji and stops to look up at him.
"You know Kanji-kun. If you are in need of assistance with any of your school work I would be happy to help you."
"Uh…." Kanji says, taken aback. "What makes you think I ...uh… need help?"
"This morning, even after the teacher went through the math problems, you still looked like you were lost."
"I'm always lost. I'd just drag you down or hold you back if you'd help me."
"Nonsense, reviewing the material is never a bad idea."
"If you say so." Kanji says, looking away and running his hand threw his hair.
Naoto shrugs and heads into the class, with Kanji not far behind. When Kanji sits down his mind starts to race. Why would Naoto want to help me with my school work? He thinks. If I let her help me then she'll know how dumb I am. She already knows I'm stupid, what would it matter. I do need help. But with her next to me I wouldn't be able to think anyways. What if I start to ramble? What if she wants to talk about our fight in the TV? But I want to spend more time with her….
Kanji's thoughts were interrupted by the Teacher. "Kanji Tetsumi! Please read for us the next paragraph." Kanji looks around startled, and pulls his English book out of his book bag and starts to read what he think is the right page. "You weren't paying any attention were you?" The teacher says.
Kanji swallows the lump in his throat. "Yes ma'am."
"I want a one page essay on my desk after school tomorrow, on the importance of paying attention in class. Now, Naoto Shirigani, will you please read the correct paragraph."
Kanji sits back down and puts his hands in his face. This day just keeps getting better, he thinks.