Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4: Pursuing My True Self

by Victorio Osaria

Monday- April 11, 2011: Welcome to the Velvet Room

Dad, I might kill you for this, Yu Narukami thought as he sits on the train's seat for who knows how long. He couldn't nap on the train without being reminded that his parents kind of screwing him over. His mind went back by two days to recall a short conversation with his parents regarding a business trip (which is something that often occurred practically every few years).

"Another one?" asked the deadpan Narukami. "Not surprised in the least."

His father, just as tall as the already-rather-towering Yu was, simply smiled. He calmingly tried to reassure his son. "Well, now you actually have a choice in the matter."

"I never get much of a choice, even when you say so." Yu looked to his mother, Itsuko, on her laptop talking to a client on her cell. Yeah, she's busy, he thought. Can't ask her.

"I promise you..." Raiden Narukami raised his hand in mock reassurance, at least in Yu's eyes. "There will be no tricks up my sleeve."

Probably in your jacket pocket, though, Yu scoffed in his mind. You better not pull something out of your a-

"Your mother and I are traveling to America once more."

...and he just did. The same trick as always. He's gonna say that only he and Mom are gonna be the ones going to America, and I get to stay at home, but then they sign me up on the plane at the last minute. What for? Just so I could watch them make out again on the job? I can't believe it's been happening since I was ten...

"You see, your mother and I talked about leaving you with your uncle near Okina City."

Yu's eyes widened a bit. Now that's a bit different.

"I see that got your attention, Yu-kun," said Raiden. Indeed it did. Yu heard some pretty good things about Okina City. That, and the fact that he wasn't told to stay at home felt pleasantly surprising, as that also meant that he wasn't going to be dragged to America with his parents at the last moment. Yu thought that it didn't matter whether or not his parents arranged it just to finally be able to drop him off somewhere distant from their destination. He was going stay in that familiar, bustling, and bright city spot that he would be able to get used to a lot easier than when he first went to New York. Everyone there was obnoxious, he thought. Girls were kinda pretty, though.

"So, what'll it be? Bring you along with us to America again, or stay with your uncle?"

Then there was the fact he was staying with his uncle. Yu barely met any member of his extended family, and even then the moment was extremely fleeting. "What's my uncle like?"

Raiden answered his son's question non-mockingly this time. "Ryotaro Dojima is your maternal uncle. You two had actually met before, but you were only around a few months old at the time." He paused, then chuckled a bit. "Heh. He told us this funny story when he was changing your diapers-"

"Okay, I think I've heard enough," interrupted Yu. "What else is there?"

Raiden nodded as he was about to speak. "He's an experienced police detective who always puts the case first. No joke, he's a real detective."

Yu's interest grew a bit. He had liked mystery stories, be it in live-action TV, films, anime, manga, video games, even western-style novels. Meeting a real detective in person, a close relative at that, could make his stay much more lively. Yu decided to loosen up a bit. "Go on," he said.

"Ryotaro has a young six year old daughter, named Nanako, and your little cousin, who is very well-behaved and does most of the housekeeping."

This surprised Yu. A little cousin? Doing most of the housekeeping? That's strange, he pondered. Considering how Uncle Dojima's a detective in the city, he must work a lot. If what Dad's saying is true, then it will be another mystery. How does a six year old take care of herself? I've never met a child that strong. Yu's interest in this year-long stay had peaked. He questioned, "So when am I leaving?"

Raiden smiled. "Good. I didn't take waste as much breath this time. You've always been smart enough to look through my words, Yu-kun. I'm so proud of you." He patted his son's head as if he were petting a dog. Yu obviously didn't like this. But he didn't care. His parents couldn't lie to him directly very well, and so this potentially worthwhile experience could actually be true. Raiden answered Yu's question, saying that Yu would start leaving on April 11 early in the morning.

That was April 9, 2011.

Yu recalled that yesterday was his last day in the same school for the year. Yu's homeroom teacher had announced to the class that he was leaving. Everything after that was very forgettable to him. His "friends," if he could call them that, had only said to him a very indifferent, barely-caring "Hey, man. We're gonn a miss you." Many girls in the school also kind of acted sad, if not truly. Although Yu Narukami was obviously a popular student, both to staff and fellow classmates, that was mostly due to his cool appearance, athleticism, and high grades. Those many, grey-shaded youngsters dared to dub him their "friend," something that Yu himself wouldn't call any of them since they hadn't even noticed how socially awkward he actually was. He was never tactful and was always very blunt, so he didn't think he was good with girls, and he thought he'd just make the guys want to punch him in the face. That fact should have ended a conversation or date before it came to be. Since that didn't happen, Yu assumed, correctly, that all those people that came talking to him just wanted to look cool. That made him lose interest in the students in his school.

So, Yu Narukami had never made any real friends that cared about him. The fact that his parents worked a lot (excluding business trips) and left him alone in the large, several-roomed apartment didn't help. But friends didn't matter to him. He just wanted something different in Okina City. He didn't realize that he wasn't going to get exactly what he hoped for.

"Yu-kun," said Raiden as he and Yu were waiting at the station. "What I told you earlier was the complete and honest truth. But maybe I hadn't told you everything..."

What is he talking about? Yu squinted in confusion. But then he remembered what his Dad said to him when they first talked about the trip. Yu looked at the school uniform he was wearing in closer examination. A familiar-looking insignia was on the collar. He bit his lip and shuddered. "Dad, you said that I was going to stay near Okina City, not in it... right?"

"Uh-huh," confirmed Raiden.

"So... where exactly am I staying?"

"I'm glad you asked, son." He gave Yu a very plain, uninteresting brochure. The heading was labelled, "Welcome to Inaba." Yu instantly knew where he was going, having seen and read the brochure before.

"Almighty gods in the sky, NO!"

"What's the matter, Yu-kun?"

"I am not staying in a tiny, flat, rural, boring, uninteresting town that is barely in touch with society!"

"Well, it can't be that uninteresting and out of touch with society if you actually know about it." Raiden mockingly smirked.

"I don't care! I am going home!"

"Woah there, Yu, what about our deal?"

"Deal's off! I'm leaving! When's the next bus to home?!"

"I don't think you'll afford a bus trip for that far."

"Excuse me?" Yu checked his wallet. Not enough yen to buy him a trip for a mile, let alone back home. "When did you do this?"

His father explained, "The long trip to Inaba is fairly expensive. Since we needed to pay in cash for me and your mother's trip, we couldn't afford your trip. So, we decided to take a little bit of your pocket money to pay for the train ride, which we had already paid for earlier today."

Yu thought this was a load of bull. His wallet agreed. But he supposed that going to a place far away from his parents was at least worth the trip to a boring town. Might as well, since it was his money. The train had suddenly chugged right past him. With a grunt, Yu Narukami stepped onto the train, vowing revenge on his father.

Returning to now, his thoughts cleared, Yu Narukami suddenly felt his eyes droop. He had imagined that they weigh around 12 tons. It's a long trip, so I think I can risk it, thought Yu. He closed his eyes as he tried to forget everything that happened this morning. The train's fast, rhythmic movement lulled him to sleep...

Yu Narukami slowly opened his eyes to see-

"W-what the he-?!" Yu was befuddled. He saw a strange-looking old man with a long, pointed nose, eyes locked with his own, sitting hands closed together as he smiled a shocking grin. Yu frantically looked around the area for familiarization. He seemed to be in a blue velvet-lined limousine which, given the view through the window, was traveling through a strange, foggy void. On the left of his view was a shelf of several alcoholic drinks. On his right... a beautiful woman. Yu wondered how she was not the first thing he saw when he mysteriously ended up in this strange situation.

"Ah..." started the old man. "It seems we have a guest with an intriguing destiny." He chuckled.

"Where am I?" Yu asked quickly, using the generic question.

"Welcome to the Velvet Room, Mr. Yu Narukami."

"How do you-"

"How I know your name is not important, Mr. Narukami." Yu decided to stay quiet, as he expected that his questions will only raise more. The old man started to speak. "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Igor... I am delighted to make your acquaintance."

Yu found that name familiar, like a horror movie icon. He thought that was fitting.

The long-nosed man who called himself "Igor" then gestured his hand to the air. "This place exists between dream and reality, mind and matter..." He placed his hand back to where it was. "It is a room that only those who are bound by a 'contract' may enter." He paused, staring into Yu's eyes as if he were piercing Yu's soul. "It may be that such a fate awaits you in the near future. Now then, let's take a look into your future, shall we?" Igor placed his palm on top of the table in front of him. A flash of light emitted from his hand and revealed a deck of tarot cards. Yu didn't understand what was going on, but it did not seem to be a dream. He felt perfectly aware of his surroundings and pinched himself as hard as he could. It hurt. A lot.

"Do you believe in fortune-telling?" Igor asked. It seemed to Yu a rhetorical question, as Igor then made a spectacle out of arranging the cards without touching them.

Like he used the Force, Yu thought.

"Each reading is done with the same cards, yet the result is always different." Chuckling whimsically, Igor followed his statement. "Life itself follows the same principles, doesn't it?" Igor flipped one card over. The Tower Arcana.

"What does the Tower in the upright position represent?" Yu asked.

"Ah, it seems you know your Arcana," Igor smiled wider, as if intrigued by Yu's question. "To answer your question, it represents the immediate future..." he paused, his grin slightly lowering. "It seems a terrible catastrophe is imminent." Yu lowered his eyebrows in concern. Igor continued his supposed fortune-telling. "The card indicating the future beyond that is... the Moon in the upright position. Very interesting indeed." Yu remembered that the Moon Arcana could represent hesitation or mystery.

"What type of mystery would await me in a small, sleepy town?" Yu questioned, feeling that the question was appropriate. He wondered why he didn't think to ask any questions on who Igor is or why he was here anymore, but decided to ponder upon it later.

"Well..." Igor started, "It appears you will encounter a great misfortune at your destination. Once you understand what has happened, the great mystery you ask of will be imposed upon you." He shifted. "In the coming days, you will enter into a... contract, of sorts, and after which you will return here. 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."

Yu had wanted to ask more questions revolving around the "coming mystery" and his "destiny," if he could believe it, which he may. But he decided to stay quiet for the time being. If Igor's going to be even more cryptic the more I ask questions, I should shut up and listen.

"Ah!" Igor seemed to remember something. "I have neglected to introduce my assistant to you."

Now here comes the only thing that matters in a dream, Yu jokingly thought, forgetting he wasn't in one.

"This is Margaret," Igor gestured his hand to Margaret on his left. "She is a resident of this place, like myself."

"My name is Margaret, assistant of the Velvet Room. I am here to accompany you through your journey."

"Accompany" me? Yu said with surprise. Er, I didn't think what I thought was going to happen. Now that it is, I'm not sure if I feel comfortable having an unfamiliar woman walking around wi-

Margaret chuckled and let out a small smile. "Oh no, not like that, you naughty boy."

"Oh," Yu expressed both relief and disappointment. He turned to Igor. "So when exactly does this mystery take pl-"

"We shall tend to the details another time," Igor responded.

"Wait, I still-"

"Until then, farewell Yu Narukami..." Yu then felt his entire body freeze. His view was replaced by a swirl of colors and lights, dizzying him but not driving him unconscious. He frantically moved his body around trying fruitlessly to escape...

Yu woke up to see the afternoon sun shining upon his face, with only a few hours away from setting. Looking at the signs, he knew he was getting close to Inaba.

"Was it all really a dream...?" Yu thought about what he had experienced. There's no way it wasn't. I'm not diagnosed with any psychological disorder, I haven't had anything to drink, I pinched myself and it really f***ing hurt, and I certainly have-

Yu felt something vibrate in his pocket. He looked to his right pocket and widened his eyes. It was periodically glowing with a blue light. Reaching into it, he pulled out what looked like a tarot card; the same type of deck pattern he had seen in the mysterious Velvet Room. It stopped glowing once he had looked at it closer. He flipped the card over; what was once a blank side slowly painted itself a picture: The Fool Arcana.

"So it wasn't a dream," Yu confirmed. He looked up into the roof of the train. "The Fool, huh?" As his train chugged closer to its destination, Yu Narukami starts to look on through the window as he ponders on what awaits him in Inaba...