-Summer Day 9-

It was another busy day at the Inn, a rather large family had decided to take their family reunion vacation to the Amagi Inn. Yukiko found herself with her hands full and with no way of going out to aid the investigation team. Being the team's designated healer, the plans for today to go into the TV were cancelled. Chie offered to come and help if needed, but Yukiko politely declined, only really needing her company in her free moments (if any). Back and forth, Yukiko hurried as fast as her work kimono would allow her to go. Balancing tableware and glasses became something of a talent for her while making her way to the kitchen to have them washed up.

Children were troublesome, despite only being three kids, they managed to run around every which way, getting into things they shouldn't, and making it difficult to get around safely with some peace and quiet. The three elder teens tried their best to keep them in check, but eventually they simply gave youngest of those teens preferred to stay on his laptop, he kept to himself and it was refreshing.

There certainly were many more adults who tended more to the two babies, luckily. What was most bothersome was in the middle of the day and it seemed as though most of the family had already become drunk, being loud and rancorous as they retold stories of their family history. While these stories seemed interesting enough, Yukiko had no time to stay and listen before someone requested a refill of drinks or food. If not for the other employees, she surely would have run herself ragged by now.

Chie turned out to be more of a help than expected, providing excellent emotional support during a tea break. In fact, she unintentionally told a joke which caused Yukiko to spit her drink and laugh until she turned blue. That single moment of relief was enough to get Yukiko through the day. Chie got various texts from Yosuke and the others, surprisingly not much about the case. Despite all their anxiety, perhaps what they needed was a breather. Of course, Yukiko had no time to rest, not until the family all slept, even in which case she would still have to wake up early once more.

Until then, Chie hung around, helping in any way possible, while Yukiko silently prayed for the loud-mouthed uncle to fall asleep soon with how roaring drunk he was. Managing an Inn was no easy task, Yukiko knew this from day one, but even so, some days were more manageable than others. It was a miracle when it seemed the family finally seemed to quiet down and seemed ready to call it a day. To this, Yukiko gave a grateful sigh. Changing into night clothes, she prepared to end her day on a tired, strained note.

"Man Yukiko, you're a superhero." Chie admired with a coo, "I know I could never keep up with things the way you do. It's amazing." she sighed.

With a hint of a blush, Yukiko brushed her long hair back over her shoulder, "Haha, it's not that big a deal, I've been doing it a long time so I'm just used to it."

She then crawled over to Chie, who was sitting on the floor, and leaned on her to the point of pushing her over.

"No more talk about work. Let's do something else." she muttered.

At this, Chie jumped up and grinned, "Oooh, ooh, I brought the new Jade Dragon movie: The Battle of Young-Yoo!" she hurried over to her bag and pulled out the DVD cover revealing a cheesy and cheaply made kung-fu movie that Chie absolutely adored.

Yukiko smiled back and nodded, giving Chie the ok to put in the movie.

Sadly, not even 5 minutes in an Chie found Yukiko softly snoozing away at her side. It was alright, she worked hard today, she deserved a good rest. Shutting the movie off, Chie scooted her friend over with gentle pushes into her futon before slipping into the bed roll beside her.

Yukiko was an amazing girl. Chie admired her for all she did. Tomorrow would be a new day with her best friend. A new day and another opportunity to find and save Souji.

- o O o -

Yukiko expected the dream. She often dreamt when she was extremely tired before she slept. Now normally she could control the direction of her dream to a certain degree, however, she wasn't expecting several new surprises. For one,she wasn't in her usual dream of cherry blossoms. It was dark, but not really cold. She furrowed her brows and bit her was unusual and it made her uneasy.

There was nothing there or around her, but this was the most unsettling thing of all. When Yukiko opened her mouth to speak, no sound came out. Funny, her throat didn't hurt or feel hoarse. She pinched her cheeks for good measure. It didn't hurt, so she was dreaming, but it seemed too surreal for her.

A soft chirp caught her attention and she turned around clumsily in the dark. Seeing Sumeo-Okami with all her radiant beauty calmed her nerves and sent her into a feeling of relaxation. However, beside Sumeo-Okami was a man she had never seen before. But she could not see his face. It didn't matter, Yukiko's persona glided up to her and gently cupped her face in her hands. Odd, She had never done this before. and despite her lack of a face, Yukiko could hear it, a faint murmuring in her ears. But it was muffled, like trying to speak through glass. But she seemed desperate from her high pitch.

Seeing Sumeo-Okami distressed was another reason to worry. She was desperately trying to pass on a message, but of what?

'I can't hear you!' is what Yukiko would have loved to say, but still no sound came from her throat.

Suddenly a harsh wind blew, like the coming of a storm and distant thunder could be heard. It seemed Sumeo-Okami had given up trying to relay the message and had taken to shielding Yukiko tightly in her arms as the wind blew more fiercely than Yukiko could ever have imagined. It was a wonder they weren't swept away, but her persona seemed to keep them perfectly grounded.

Yukiko tried to peek behind her Persona at the man she didn't see, but he was gone. What she could see was that there was indeed something crawling in the darkness, something racing towards them with it's gaping maw ready to swallow them whole.

Yukiko woke up before it reached and her Persona.

Looking out at the sun rising, she yawned and rubbed her eyes, glancing to Chie before deciding it best to go back to sleep. The events of the dream on constant repeat in her mind, otherwise she would forget it.

- o O o -

"Chie I had the weirdest dream last night," Yukiko murmured out, eyes staring blankly into the sky.

"Y-yeah?" Chie swallowed hard, that look on her best friend was a little unnerving.

"Yeah. Like it was really weird. Sumeo-Okami was there and everything, but it was crazy. I've never really interacted with her outside of battle… And I think she tried to speak to me Chie." Her gaze fell on her hands.

Chie gasped, "Woah are you serious Yukiko?! But our Personas have never said anything to us before!"

"That's just it." she shrugged, "They don't talk, and we don't see them outside of battle. Chie, do you think our personas could do so much more?" she looked to Chie with a worried expression.

The question caught her off guard, "I uh.. I dunno Yukiko… I mean that would be more of a question to ask Marie-chan, but y'know… She's missing too." she tilted her head.

Suddenly an idea popped into her head, "Hey what about that guy, the uh.. The red one, Sudou or something?"

Yukiko gave a small noise of surprise, "Oh you mean officer Suou?"

Chie laughed to herself, "Yeah, close enough. You think he'd know? He said he had more experience with Personas than we do."

"I don't know. I guess it's worth a shot? I mean it can't hurt to ask."

"Yeah, but first let's get dressed and meet up at the food court, we still haven't heard of any progress for the past few days."

"Right."

With a nod, both girls got dressed.

The family would be leaving today, so the rest of the inn staff assured Yukiko that they could handle it. And so with that they both left for Junes. Chie called Yosuke and confirmed that the whole gang was there. Even Officer Suou had been seen around, though he wasn't there specifically. Perfect.

They hurried over to their secret headquarters.

- o O o -

"You want to know if Persona talk?" Tatsuya looked at them from his coffee.

"Yeah." Yukiko nodded, "Because I had a dream, and my persona tried to speak to me and I just thought.. Well I never saw her outside battle, not even in my dreams. I mean, I've always known she was there, but this is a first."

Tatsuya was silent as he took another careful sip of the hot coffee before speaking, "That's surprising."

Rise tilted her head, "Why is that?"

"Because I thought you already knew. Just because they are a manifestation of your psyche, they still aren't entirely you. They are they're own being. Are you all saying you've never spoken to your persona?"

Kanji folded his arms with a huff, "Well it's not like they've been very talkative until this point."

"Perhaps you just haven't been listening." Tatsuya tugged on his ears.

Kanji frowned and rolled his eyes.

"Quite frankly, I can't get mine to shut up really." Tatsuya sighed looking tired.

'Excuse you?'

"And I can't talk back to him, otherwise I'll look crazy."

'You are crazy child. Allow me to explain-'

Teddie's mouth hung open, "That's so cool, is he saying anything right now?"

'-Let's not forget the haunting memories that still linger-'

"Yes." he replied almost bitterly.

"What's it saying?" Chie leaned in eagerly.

'Are you becoming irritated yet, or shall I go on because according to you I just can't seem to shut up.'

"Nothing important." he laughed casually, although mentally cursing Apollo.

Tatsuya set down his coffee and cleared his throat, "Well the main point is that perhaps it's better you all become closer with your persona. Perhaps you already felt close enough because you felt it was like knowing yourself, what more is there to learn?" he shook his head, "Well you're wrong. Think of it as making the closest friend you've ever had. Not only will you learn more about your persona and about them, you might just learn even more about yourself."

Naoto played with her hair, "But why now? Why are they just now trying to speak to us?"

"Maybe it's not the first time." Yosuke sat up from leaning back, "Our personas were once our shadows, and we all know that our shadows were desperately trying to call out to us. They were certainly trying to talk to us then."

"But then why stop once they became personas?" Rise frowned, furrowing her brow,

"Maybe that's our fault." Kanji piped up, "Like Officer Suou here said, once we accepted them maybe we felt there was nothing more that we needed to know. So it's not that we tried pushing them away, but we felt they didn't need to get any closer. I dunno, something like that?" he looked to the table for any sign of confirmation.

"I.. Suppose that is a valid reason…" Naoto looked to him in surprise.

Kanji's face turned a bright red as he scoffed, "W-well yeah it is. It just makes sense, y'know."

"Well then that's gonna be our assignment for tonight!" Teddie stood with a finger jabbed in the air, "Operation: Get in touch with our Personas!"

"Ok! That sounds fun!" Rise stood up beside him, finger also raised high above her head.

"But hey, are we gonna check the TV world today?" Yosuke frowned, "I know you say that getting in sync with out personas would be like, 'making the closest friend ever.' right? We already have someone like that."

And with that, silence fell.

"Y-yeah." Yukiko swallowed.

"I'll go in today." Chie raised her hand.

"Me too." Yosuke's hand shot up.

"Me three!" Teddies hand went even high on his tip toes.

"Me four!" Yukiko hastily raised her hand.

"Alright, so Naoto and I will stay behind then." Kanji nodded.

"Let's get to it then!" Rise smiled as she led the TV team off into Junes.

Kanji and Naoto bid a farewell to each other and to officer Suou before heading back home.

- o O o -

Naoto spent her night lying on her bed, looking at her ceiling intently, brows furrowed and lips pulled into a tight-lipped frown. She seemed to be trying to concentrate intently on something. She tried summoning her persona, but at the same time, not. How did this work exactly?

"Yamato Sumeragi." she breathed out, "Uh, are you… There?"

There was no response.

"Mmmmmmm." she whined out burying her face into her pillow.

This was harder than it seemed. What was it like to summon her Persona in battle? It was warm, she felt calm, protected, and she knew she had nothing to fear from the shadows. When she first accepted her shadow and Sukuna-Hikona appeared, she had never felt more relieved. Like she was gently floating on ocean waves. It was a pleasant cloud nine feeling.

"Perhaps…" Naoto took her face from her pillow and and closed her eyes, taking in deep breaths and tried to imagine the same waters and floating freely without a care. It took a minute, and she was certain she fell asleep, but she heard it, the soft waves crashing upon the shore. She let a grin overcome her with eyes still wasn't until something pulled her under the water that she gasped out.

Yamato Sumeragi was there, hair fluttering beautifully in the water. She reached up and gently pat her face. Naoto closed her eyes once more. It was surprisingly nice. With the water rushing in her ears and her persona taping so gently on her skin it almost felt like….

Naoto shot up from her bed, eyes wide and her breathing rushed. She whipped her head around to see that it was indeed raining outside. Swinging her legs over her bedside she propelled herself from the edge and rushed to her TV, practically falling in front of it. She watched the screen intently and looked at the clock..

It had just turned midnight.

The screen flickered to life, at first showing only static. Nothing different. How odd, the weather forecasts didn't call for rain tonight, this was unusual.

But just as she was about to dismiss it as nothing, there was a faint voice lost among the static.

" dsdjhblwda 'lo? skjdanf;][.maa.a,sdmaw"

"What?" Her eyes widened and her breathing was caught in her throat.

"Welsdjfkwoeome to our presdnkejntoion!"

"We ho[,aspdknmew you[.a';sdmep the sh[a,mlewm"

This broadcast was making no sense, but she could see a figure appearing on the screen. It's voice became clearer, as well as the image.

"Hello all you curious watchers out there!"

Naoto's heart stopped. It was Souji on the screen again. But how? This time, he was wearing an elegant outfit, with a top hat. Considering he had a wand waving around in a gloved hand, she assumed he was a magician.

"Sorry to say our previous program is now cancelled. Couldn't quite handle the competition." at that, the shadow on the screen gave a malicious sneer. "But fear not! As your gracious host, I assure you that this one will be even better! Besides, who doesn't like a good magic trick?" He then clapped his hands on his wand and when he parted his palms, what appeared was a sword in it's place. It swiftly swung the sword through the air with a loud 'whoosh' before he was jabbing it the air above him where a flashy title appeared.

"The Amazing Silver Tongues' Magic Show!"

Naoto squinted before recognizing it as the sword Souji frequently used when they went into the TV world!

"Humans are so easily fooled. Just simple distraction and you can pull anything over their heads. It doesn't take much, sometimes all it takes is even some sweet honeyed you butter someone up with sweet nothings, then it's so easy. So come on viewers, see if you can see past the illusions, let's make it a challenge shall we?" He seemed to be looking right at Naoto as it zoomed in on his face, yellow eyes glowing brightly, "Tune in next time~!" he hummed.

The screen went blank. Naoto sat frozen for a moment more, desperately trying to swallow a lump in her throat and trying to remember how to breathe. Eventually she stood and wobbled over to her bed and lay down in it's warm comforting sheets. She trembled slightly and tears stung at her eyes. She tried to imagine the sweet waves overcoming her once more. Once she felt she was being pushed and pulled by the waves, she allowed herself to relax as she felt Yamato Sumeragi pull her into a gentle embrace and stroke at her hair.

It was cloud nine all over again