Friday, April 4th, 2014


The view was lovely. The girl sighed and leaned her head against the window, watching as the world rushed by. It was so green, with so much open space, and the sky was so vivid. It was a beautiful shade of blue. She closed her eyes with a smile.

When she reopened them, the view outside the windows wasn't much more than a hazy bluish-gray. She sat up, puzzled, and looked over at her father—except he wasn't there. Where there should have been seats, there was only space. She found herself in a vast room, draped in rich shades of blue, and she was on the only seat. The blonde girl gave a start; she was not alone, however.

"Hello," a young woman said politely, coming up behind her and placing a hand on the back of her seat.

"Welcome," added a young man, looking strikingly similar to the woman. They could have been twins—well, they probably were. They were also severely out of place, pale-skinned and light-haired, contrasting sharply with the dark blues all around them.

"Hello," she replied dumbly. The pair walked past her, movements fluid and a little unnerving. "Um, I'm sorry... I seem to be lost."

"Not at all! You are supposed to be here." She jumped again at a voice to her right. Head snapping around, she found a man in a suit—with an absurdly large nose. It was more than a little distracting. She tried her hardest not to stare, and he didn't seem to mind, but it was quite attention-grabbing, in her defense. "Welcome to the Velvet Room," the man said. His tone was warm and civil, though a little... off. She couldn't quite place how. His nose was still distracting her. "My name is Igor, and these are my assistants, Atticus and Octavia."

"I'm—Hisako. Hisako Fujihara."

"Do not be alarmed, you are but in a dream." She wasn't sure if she just looked that nervous or if he could read minds. But, if it truly were a dream, she supposed it didn't particularly matter. Igor continued, "You have been brought here... Perhaps by your restless soul, perhaps by the Fates themselves. But you have been brought here nonetheless for a very important purpose."

"...Oh?" Unable to help her curiosity, she stood up as Atticus, the male of the pair, beckoned to her. Octavia, on Igor's other side, seemed to be restraining a smile.

Igor didn't look up as she approached; instead, he shuffled through a deck of large cards, and then set three out, face-down, on the table before him. With a wave of his hand, they flipped over by themselves. "Ah, yes. I know these cards well, and they tell the truth to those who listen. Will you be one to truly listen to the cards?" He didn't wait for an answer and instead flicked his wrist. The cards rose into the air, shown off for her. Each had an illustration. Descriptive, but not entirely helpful. She could barely recognize them as tarot cards, let alone what they were supposed to depict. "You have a troubled future, but you may still seek peace."

"What do you mean?" Hisako asked. She wasn't worried, but still curious. Weird dreams were fascinating, especially ones taking place in blue trains with such odd people, she decided. She just wished it wasn't all happening so fast.

"There will be choices made," Octavia said suddenly, pale eyes piercing. She wasn't smiling anymore. The girl fought the urge to shrink away.

"And someone must take responsibility for them," Atticus said, just as quick, almost eagerly.

"Everyone will play a part in this, but it appears as if your role will be especially important," Igor patiently explained, drawing the cards back into the deck. "You will soon awaken to a new power, and with that... I wonder. How will you shape the future?"

"I'll... Um, you ask an awful lot of rhetorical questions," Hisako replied, puzzled by all of the cryptic words. Igor chuckled, seeming genuinely amused by the remark.

"Perhaps. But a young girl such as yourself... I'm very curious. I hope you'll make the best of this gift," he said. She relaxed a bit at his smile, even if it was a little creepy, but that didn't answer many questions, either.

"I'll try?" she guessed. Atticus made a sound that maybe, if she imagined hard enough, could have been a laugh. Perhaps.

"You'll awaken to your power, your Persona, soon enough. I, and my assistants, will be here for you in the future, but I'm afraid our time together now is at a close. Until we meet again..." Igor smiled at her again, and Hisako suddenly felt a hard yank around her middle. She yelped and staggered forward, against it, but the jarring movement came again, and next thing she knew, she was in a heap on the floor.

"Are you alright?" her father asked in surprise.

"Yes." Reddening, Hisako sat back down, smoothing her skirt around her knees. The train gave another jerk, nearly upending her again. The blues were all gone, as was the weird dream.

"I think we're almost there. Oh, I hope they're not having problems..." Koichi Fujihara murmured. "Ah, I'm sure they'll be fine! I wanted to let you sleep a little while longer, but since we're so close, don't go back to sleep, alright?"

"Yes," Hisako repeated. The view outside the window had changed. There were houses now, power lines, streets, cars, and the sky wasn't so bright anymore. Wait—the sun was lower. Had that much time really passed? It seemed like it had barely been fifteen minutes in that strange blue dream train.

No, not really a train. Just the Velvet Room...

"Papa, are you nervous about moving?" she asked, distracting herself. She had better things to think about than bizarre dreams, no matter how real it had felt.

"Me? Oh, no, of course not! The movers will be here tomorrow with the rest of our stuff, but tonight, how about we be lazy? We can sleep wherever we want, order some delicious unhealthy food, and stay up late watching bad movies!" He grinned, proud of these decisions.

Hisako was less impressed. "You're supposed to be eating healthier, remember? The doctors told you to watch your diet!"

"Relax," he replied and nudged her with his elbow. "Ma-chan, it's okay to be irresponsible for a little while. Let your father take care of his diet and this move. You don't have to take this so seriously. You'll adjust. You're allowed one night off."

"I'm not worried about adjusting," she lied hastily, turning away from him to hide her face. Outside the window, it looked as if they had entered city limits. More buildings, more streets, more vehicles, more people. It would certainly be a change.

"I've already talked to the school, and they're fine with everything. You get to start on Monday, just in time for the new term, too, so think of this as a long weekend!" Koichi pointed out excitedly.

"It'll be spent unpacking," she replied.

"Try not to think of this as too boring. It can be an adventure! I lived in the city during my youth, and I wouldn't trade it for the world."

"I'll be fine, papa. Just don't go so overboard trying to cheer me up that you end up in the hospital, overdosed on junk food."

"I make no promises."

They got off the train at their stop, and Hisako pretended like she wasn't marveling at the city sights. They grabbed their bags. They had packed what they could to take with them, the movers bringing the rest the day after. She had a duffel bag and a backpack, mostly full of clothes, and clung to them both nervously as they wound their way through the crowd. Her father assured her that it was only a short bus ride to their apartment complex, and that she could ride the same bus to school. She focused on not getting stepped on.

Hisako was ready for this move, and she hadn't been dreading it or anything. But it was their first major move in her memory. She had never switched schools before. For all her smiles and reassurances for her father, she was a little nervous. Just a little.

Their apartment complex was in a fairly residential neighborhood. There was a convenience store and a bus stop on the corner, she noted with a sharp eye. Potential job. It seemed nice, though, and quiet. She couldn't see much of the sky.

They passed a woman with a small dog in her arms in the hall, and she couldn't help but ask hopefully, "They allow pets?"

"Some small ones, although you'll have to talk to the landlady. Let's settle in and get adjusted before we think about such things," her father replied as he fumbled with the keys to their place. It was nearer one end than the other, on the side near the street. Not bad. But it wasn't like the home they'd left behind.


Monday, April 7th, 2014


Monday morning dawned and Hisako felt ill. "It's just nerves," her father declared, and it probably was. It didn't make her feel any better. "Don't worry. I've talked to the school. You will be okay, and if you're not, then we will switch schools. Please, don't be nervous," he said, nearly begged, and pressed his lips against her temple.

"I'll be okay."

At least my uniform is cute, she reasoned, trying to cheer herself up. The weather was warm, even in the city, so she started out with her summer uniform. Her stomach clenched as she smelled the eggs her father had painstakingly made for her. He wasn't a great cook, but he had tried. She would try, too.

She forced a couple bites down and made a show of drinking her milk. "I'll be getting more groceries today, so if there's anything else you need, text me."

"Papa, you're condoning texting during class!"

"It could be during lunch! Don't you have break periods?"

Hisako sighed and smiled. She couldn't win against father logic. "If I think of something, I will be sure to text you. Be careful unpacking the rest of the things, okay?"

"There's not much. I'm sure I'll get done today," Koichi replied with a bright smile. "Now off to school with you! You wouldn't want to be late on your first day, would you?"

Hisako kissed him goodbye, grabbed her backpack, and darted out the door. Her stomach still felt queasy, but it lessened once she got outside and got some fresh air. She could do this. She forced a smile and waited at the bus stop, alone. The convenience store behind her had a 'Help Wanted' sign in the window. Score!

The bus was crowded, full of commuters. Men in business suits, women in sharp skirts, and a couple of students in various uniforms. She spotted two others with her school's uniform. Come to think of it, she wasn't sure how large her new school actually was. She got off at the correct stop—infinitely reassured when she saw the other two get off there as well—and marveled at the large building. There were a couple trees in the front, forming a bit of a buffer between the city and the school, but it was huge and had many students milling about.

Hisako skittered inside the gates, looking around herself with equal parts anticipation and nerves, and decided it would be best to use this time before the bell to find her classroom. And her locker. And everything.

She got inside the doors, just in time to catch the tail end of a very loud argument. Several other students were watching avidly as a furious girl shouted at a tall boy. "—and you're a jerk, an elitist pig!" Hisako edged around the argument, scanning the lockers for her name. No, it wasn't on that side, or that one... "I can't believe you! And why aren't you saying anything back!" Not on that side, either. She had the sinking sensation... It was going to be over by the arguing couple, wasn't it.

"I can't really say anything in my defense. I don't want to talk about this, and you can't force it," the boy replied. Hisako kept her distance from them and continued looking over lockers. She still hadn't found hers, and that feeling was getting worse. Perhaps it would be safer to simply leave her shoes and things in some quiet corner and hope they didn't get stolen.

"I never want to see your face again!" With that, and most surprisingly at all, the girl threw a cup of red paint at him. She stormed off. It dripped down from his face and his shirt, and it had streaked several lockers behind him as well. He just stood there, shocked into silence.

Hisako stared, incredulous, at the sort of display that this school would allow. She couldn't imagine what he had done to deserve that, but surely this couldn't happen every day. ...Right?

She also had the distinct feeling that her locker was one of the scarlet ones.

"Where did she even get the paint?" a snobby-sounding girl behind her asked.

"Probably from him!"

"No, she got it from the art room. I saw her in there earlier, ransacking the place!"

"God, she's such a stuck-up bitch."

"Oh, and you think Kikuchi's much better?"

Well, the images of the snotty rumor mills that television held about large schools were certainly true. Hisako checked her phone. She had about ten minutes before classes should start. That was more than enough time to find her classroom, which she ought to do. But her locker... Shoes in her hand, she stared at the boy, who had just begun to wipe the paint off of his face.

Her locker was going to be there. There was no avoiding it. And really... She felt sorry for him. He hadn't seemed like a jerk or an elitist pig or anything else from the numerous things she had called him. And she knew she wouldn't want to be standing there with paint drying while people laughed or looked on.

"Excuse me," she murmured, setting her stuff down a safe distance away from the paint. Oh, what now? She had his attention, but it wasn't as if she had magical paint-cleaning powers. Or any sort of cleaning powers, for that matter. "...Uh, I couldn't help but notice that little... display."

"Right," he said, looking down at his red-covered hands. He had managed to smear most of it off his face. "Damn. This is certainly a mess."

"Um, if you could point me in the direction of the janitor or something, I'll go get some rags and stuff. Or, at least, someone needs to be notified of... this," Hisako said with a vague gesture.

He accompanied her to what was some sort of faculty room, telling a strict-looking woman about what had happened. He left out most of the argument. Hisako trailed behind him, trying to memorize the layout, indelibly linked to the situation and unable to get away without making matters worse. She was told to escort him to the bathroom to make sure he didn't make more of a mess, and she had to wonder if this sort of thing did happen regularly. No one seemed all that surprised about the girl throwing paint on the boy.

"Sorry about that," the boy said, clearly chagrined.

"It's okay. I mean, no one else was volunteering to help you out, and I'd hate it if that stained or anything," she replied nervously. She doubted it would be polite to tell him that she only wanted to find her locker. Oh damn—she had just left her shoes and stuff on the floor there!

"...You can go, if you'd like. It's not like you can follow me in," he said, and she realized that they were standing in front of the boy's bathroom. Hisako flushed and nodded.

"Um, yes! Right. I'm going to go retrieve my things then, see if I can't help out, uh, there!" She ran for it before it got even more awkward. She hadn't known the boy, and she hadn't wanted to get involved. Only help. Thankfully, she found the entrance without much trouble, and even more fortunately, her things were still there. The floor had already been mopped, still wet and faintly pink, and there was a man scrubbing at the topmost locker that had gotten splattered.

She scanned over this side of the lockers as well, but still didn't see her name. Surely they had given her one! She didn't know anyone else to share one with for the day. Hisako squinted over the man's shoulder, looking at the paint lockers, but her name wasn't there, either.

She finally found it across from where the mess was. Safe and sound, but on the top shelf. Looking down the row, it looked like the top was mostly given to boys, but she could shove her stuff in if she stood on the tips of her toes. Did all big schools have problems like this? Hisako locked the door and reopened it once to make sure she had the right code memorized. It opened perfectly.

And then the bell rang.

Hisako froze in place, unable to comprehend where the time had gone. She'd had time to explore! To help! To find her classroom! And there, gone, like a butterfly out the window.

"Looks like you'll be late, too." She squeaked and turned to find the boy from earlier, hair damp and looking decidedly less red overall. The paint hadn't come out of his jacket, she noted. "You're the transfer student, aren't you?"

"Huh?" How did he know? Did she look out of place? Wear her hair wrong or something? Wasn't this fashionable in the city?

"We were told last week we'd been getting one in our grade, and I don't know you. Don't know too many girls willing to associate with me these days, either," he told her with a shake of his head.

"Oh." That wasn't as interesting as something like mind-reading powers, but at least it meant she didn't look weird. Hisako smiled uncertainly. "My name is Hisako Fujihara. I'm in class 2-B."

"Oh." There was something about the way he said that innocuous little word. She narrowed her eyes. "Yeah, so am I. Thought so. We can be late together. I'm Yuri Kikuchi, by the way."

"Pleasure to meet you," she said with a small bow of her head.

"They gave you a top locker?" Yuri asked suddenly, clearly confused by this. "Normally that just goes to the guys. Wanna swap?"

"What?" She hardly knew him, though it'd be nice not having to reach so often. Wait, was that even allowed? The last thing she wanted was to step on toes or break the rules on her first day of classes here. ...Then again, she was already late.

But as she opened up her mouth to reply, he nudged a lower locker with his foot. "This is mine down here. If you ever get tired of stretching, we can switch." With that, he turned and started away. It sounded so simple. "...You coming?" She tore her gaze away from the lower locker. It was tempting.

"Y-Yes! Sorry, um, Kikuchi-san. I'm obviously new, and you've had a rough day already..."

"May as well share the misery. But please, don't call me anything formal—sets my teeth on edge. Yuri's fine. Really."

"Yuri-kun," she amended awkwardly. He half-turned and gave her a pleasant smile. He seemed like a nice enough guy, definitely not those admittedly creative terms the girl had called him. It was better not being alone on her first day, at any rate. "Um, is this a nice school?" she asked to fill the silence.

"Oh yeah. Weird stuff happens from time to time, like this morning. But it's nice enough," Yuri replied and shifted his bag to his other hand. "Since we're in the same class and you're new and all, if you want a tour of the school during lunch, feel free to ask."

"That'd be great," Hisako said, immensely relieved. A guided tour would be far better than randomly wandering on her own. He led her to a door, and only afterward did she see the nameplate. It seemed so tucked away, not at all like her previous school.

The classroom wasn't as large as she'd been fearing. Hisako smiled widely, trying to hide her nervousness, and Yuri filed in behind her. He mumbled some excuse to the teacher, but his red uniform seemed enough reason. "Oh! I see Kikuchi escorted you here, and better late than never. Class, I'm pleased to say that we have a new student with us now." The teacher was a plump woman, almost motherly, and it seemed as if she wasn't in any sort of trouble. This wouldn't be hard at all! "If you would please introduce yourself to the class...?"

"My name is Hisako Fujihara," she said, giving the other students a quick, embarrassed bow. "It's a pleasure to be here."

Most of the students said something in response, but it was a mixture of "hello" and "welcome" and something else she couldn't identify. Clearly, they didn't get many transfer students, or they hadn't rehearsed. Or maybe they weren't very structured. She had looked into this school and it was supposed to be quite good, but what if—

"You can sit by Kikuchi there, behind Sakuraba." The teacher gestured to one of a couple empty seats, towards the middle of the class. Well, she wouldn't have a reason to be antisocial then. The girl in front of her smiled as she passed, and Hisako sat down next to Yuri.

And then she realized that the girl from that morning was on her other side.

They were in the same class? she realized with horror, now well aware she had just planted herself in the middle of a war zone. The honey-haired girl on her left gave her a slightly apologetic nod, sensing what the new girl had gotten into, and resumed glaring at Yuri. So much for never seeing him again, Hisako thought morosely. She hadn't signed up for school drama.

Her teacher, Norita Yamashita, took some time to have a brief review period after attendance. It seemed as if she was the history teacher in addition to their homeroom one. She asked to see Hisako after their morning classes to help make sure she was ready for the new term, giving her materials she would need. She willingly agreed; the school seemed very nice and everyone was so welcoming.

Ignoring the teenaged girl boring holes into her skull on her left.

It felt like a lifetime before lunch arrived. It wasn't as if she was hungry; she simply wanted to get out of the glaring match. Ms. Yamashita gave her some outlines of the information they had covered so far, telling her not to worry about minor bickering in the class. Evidently, Yuri didn't have the best luck with the girls, and rather famously at that. "Do you think you'll like it here?"

"Oh yes. It's very... lively," Hisako said brightly. The woman smiled, clearly relieved. "Thank you for all of your help. I'll do my best to keep up in my classes."

"Looking at your transcripts, I have no doubt you will do fine. If you ever need any help, please, feel free to come to me," Ms. Yamashita said, tone kind. But Hisako knew what she was referring to. She nodded in understanding.

"Hey, can I borrow this now?" Hisako squealed as she was lifted up under the arms. Yuri dropped her quickly with a pleased smirk.

"Kikuchi, with your track record, I don't see how you can have the courage to treat your fellow students like this," their teacher scolded sternly. She waved her hand dismissively at the both of them. "Please, don't get any more paint anywhere."

"That wasn't my fault," he replied with a shrug.

"Oh, um, thank you again," Hisako called over her shoulder as she was herded out the door. "A-And thank you, Yuri-kun, for showing me around." Already she could feel the stares of various students as he led her through the school. It seemed he had quite the reputation, but she couldn't place what exactly it was. Maybe some sort of womanizer? And even the teachers were aware of it...

"Here we have the library. I don't come here much outside of finals, but some kids love it, so whatever works for them."

"Yuri Kikuchi!"

"And here we have a harpy," he said with a wince. Hisako recognized the voice at once, too: the girl from that morning... Glaring at him during class wasn't bad enough? "I'll try to calm Mika down, you can go eat or explore or what you'd like. Sorry I couldn't show you as much as you probably wanted."

"No, I'll be fine." She edged away as the girl, Mika—it was nice to have a name to put to the face, finally—stomped towards him. Maybe he really was a womanizer, even in high school. Hisako all but ran for it, careful to stick to the main hallways. She easily got back to her classroom, and could make it to the entryway from there. That wasn't so bad.

Hisako ended up spending lunch in the courtyard on one of the benches. There were a couple others milling around, most of them just chatting and enjoying the sunshine. It was a beautiful day out. As she ate, she mused on the move. She and her father would cope—they always had. A new school wasn't so bad, especially now that first impressions had been made. She wasn't sure she wanted to get in too deep with Yuri and Mika, particularly if it involved more paint. But surely not all of the students in the school were so crazy.

Her father was out of the hospital for now, but they had moved to the city specifically to be closer to a special hospital for him. She could apply to some local, smaller places for a part-time job in a week or two, when things were more settled. Maybe she could pick up babysitting again. Then, it was just a matter of balancing studying and earning money. That was what she was used to, and that she could do. She liked routine.

Wow, they had a long lunch period here. Or maybe she had eaten too quickly. No, she had talked to Ms. Yamashita and then Yuri for a little while... Hisako sighed and packed up her things. According to her phone, she had four minutes, but she didn't want to awkwardly sit in class, alone, until the bell actually rang. Maybe I'll see if I can make it back to the library by memory, she thought idly and made to stand up.

The world around her spun and she barely caught herself on her feet. The dizzy spell passed, slowly, but it passed nonetheless. It was just... strange. "Maybe I should have eaten a bigger breakfast..." She didn't feel ill again, though. Hisako pressed the back of her hand to her forehead. She wasn't feeling warm.

"Oh my. Are you alright?" She blinked and looked up at a finely dressed man standing before her. He looked deeply concerned. She took a moment to process his out-of-nowhere arrival.

"I-I'm fine," she replied hastily, but the man pressed his hand to her forehead, far too close for her comfort. Hisako stepped away, fighting a reddening face. "I'm fine," she repeated.

The man smiled sadly. He looked like one of the suave classy types, but he wasn't dressed like the typical teacher or school staff. He opened his mouth, but then closed it again with a shake of his head. She was pretty sure she heard him sigh.

"If you'll excuse me..." Being harassed by randomly appearing men was not something she was used to. Was this something that happened regularly in the city? What if he was some sort of pervert—why was he allowed on school grounds? Hisako backed away from him, clutching her bag, and glanced back towards the school.

The man made no move to follow her. "I'm sorry," he said, sounding genuinely apologetic. Suddenly, she was seized with paranoia—what if this sort of behavior was normal in the city? Had she just offended some sort of rich patron of her new school? "I just worry about you. Please, be careful, my dear."

Nope, definitely a creepy person.

He waved pleasantly as Hisako retreated into the school building. She should probably report him, but to whom? Would it be okay to just mention him to a teacher, or would she have to talk to the principal or someone else? She couldn't help but sigh as she reached up to her too-high locker again. She had wanted a normal first day, not one filled with red paint and weird men.

"Hey, new girl!" She jumped, nearly dropping her bag, and turned to see one of her classmates. She only recognized the girl because she sat behind her. What had been her name? "I was hoping to catch you, but Kikuchi was hogging you. I'm Suzuka Sakuraba!"

Perfect timing. "I'm Hi—"

"Hisako-chan, got it!" Suzuka chirped, looping their arms together and dragging her back towards the classroom. Hisako briefly wondered if everyone at her new school was so physical; would this set the tone for the rest of the year? She wasn't sure she necessarily liked it. She carefully took her arm out of Suzuka's, giving her an apologetic smile. Suzuka didn't seem bothered. "Since we sit close, don't be afraid to ask me about anything, okay? Class or social or whatever!"

"Um, okay. Thank you."

"Are you always so shy and quiet? I mean, some girls do that and it's cute on them, but gosh! Don't be afraid to speak up a little!" Suzuka said with a laugh. Glancing around, she then leaned in and added conspiratorially, "And maybe watch out for Yuri Kikuchi, okay? He and Kuroki—Mika—are kinda infamous together, but he's hurt his share of girls."

"How?" Hisako asked, hopeful to finally get a couple hints about the class she'd just been dropped into.

"He's a painter. In the Art Club, I think, or he was at one point. He's really good, usually wins a ton of awards at inter-school competitions and stuff."

...Was creativity shunned in the city or something? She could only stare blankly at the redheaded girl, trying to figure out how painting would be so chauvinistic that several students and a teacher had to warn her. Although it did simplify that morning's incident and Mika's weapon of choice.

"Oh!" Suzuka chuckled again, letting Hisako go outside of their classroom. "I guess that didn't really answer your question. He's a painter, and he likes to paint beautiful girls and women. Some people say he's even painted models before. But the thing is, he'll ask to paint a girl, and then come up with some reason why she's not beautiful or pretty enough, or he can't paint her, or it comes out wrong, or anything! Most girls don't take kindly to the implication that they're not pretty enough to be painted."

"Has that happened to you?" Hisako asked, eyes large. That did answer some questions about Yuri and Mika, and she could see more of Mika's side of the argument now. Yet here she'd wanted to stay out of the drama, and she was asking more about it...

"Haha, once! Only once, but I guess that's all it takes, huh?" Suzuka followed her into the room just as the bell rang overhead. "It was a couple years ago, but you know what he painted? A big splotch of red, all swirls and blobs! He's not an abstract artist, let me tell you, and normally his paintings are—oh, hello Mika-chan!"

Mika, hands on her hips, intercepted them before they could safely sit down. Suzuka smiled nervously, eyes on the ceiling instead of her classmate; too late, Hisako wondered if she should be avoiding eye contact as well. "New girl," she said sharply, nearly making Hisako jump, "...I just wanted to apologize."

That hadn't been what she was expecting. Evidently, neither had Suzuka. "Woah, really? Sweet sunshine, should I get my camera out to mark the special day?"

"Not to you, to her," Mika spat. She turned back to Hisako and her gaze softened a bit. "I am sorry for my behavior this morning, and I know it didn't paint me in the best light." Suzuka snorted back another laugh. "And I'm really sorry you got put between us in the seating chart. Yuri and I will eventually cool down, but I figure this can't be fun for you."

"Um, no, that's okay. It was just... really surprising," she replied lightly, but Mika kept her serious expression. "Thank you for the apology?" she guessed.

"If you want, I can give you a proper tour after school, since I interrupted your earlier one." Hisako nodded enthusiastically. "And stick closer to this one than Yuri," she added with a nod towards Suzuka. "He may seem quiet and harmless, but he's not."

Hell hath no fury indeed. They sat down and she noticed that Yuri had already sat down to her right; how much had he heard? She didn't like talking about others, and while she wasn't about to ignore their advice, he hadn't seemed so bad. He didn't pay her any attention and messed with his phone as the stragglers filed into the room.

Class offered her some peace and quiet. Mika and Yuri both ignored her and each other, and once Suzuka unsubtly turned around in her seat to ask her the answer to the question the teacher had just asked her. The English teacher, Mr. Akiyama, was clearly not impressed with the antic, but let it slide since Hisako gave her the correct answer. He didn't seem to mind the new student, nor was he overly strict. So far, none of her teachers seemed too bad.

It was after class, at her too-tall locker, that she saw Yuri again and he didn't ignore her. "How'd you like your first day?" he drawled and knelt down to unlock his.

Hisako looked around quickly for any sign of any of the girls in their class. She didn't want to seem like she was picking sides, and she certainly didn't want to start any more drama. They had enough of that around. "It was... hectic," she decided and looked down at his lower lock. Bending down wouldn't be fun, but at least she could reach it... "Yuri-kun, if I can ask, um, is the locker switch still... available? Is it against the rules?"

"Kids have done it before with no real penalties." And judging by his nonchalant attitude, he wasn't worried. She relaxed a bit. "Wanna trade, then?"

"Oh, yes. Please." She sagged in relief and carefully knelt beside him. Her locker was already empty, her things near her feet. He simply reached into his and dragged out a messy pile of papers, notebooks, and several paintbrushes. She had only thought these were for purses and shoes and bags, but he had certainly taken advantage of the space.

"So, they finally warned you, huh?" Yuri asked and shuffled out of the way.

"About... you?" she asked in reply. He seemed like a straightforward guy, and she didn't want to beat around the bush. She still had to meet Mika by the library in a couple minutes, if she could remember where it was... "Yes, I've gotten warnings. Is any of it true?"

"It's all true," he replied and nudged his old locker again. "The combo's 1-14-22. At least you won't have to completely forget your new one, since I bet you haven't memorized it yet."

"Thank you," she mumbled and dug around in her backpack for the slip of paper where she'd written her combination down.

"Going to ignore me now?" Yuri asked, simply. He didn't sound mean or sad; it sounded like an honest question.

Hisako fixed him with a serious look and held out the piece of paper. "I'm not going to buy into rumors until I see evidence. Don't be a jerk, and I don't see why we can't be friends."

He looked down at her, a comical mixture of surprised and faintly embarrassed. She did her best to hold his gaze. She was supposed to be making friends at this new school, and they'd already been through a paint fiasco and a locker trade together. Rumors were just rumors, anyway, and Suzuka didn't sound as if she was actually mad at him like Mika was. It was all probably overblown high school drama.

"Yuri, leave her alone." And then Mika arrived. Of course she arrived; checking her phone, Hisako saw that she was already four minutes late for what was probably just down the hall. She quickly stepped out of the way as Mika marched up to him and jabbed a finger into his chest. "You probably think you're tough shit, but I won't have you breaking more hearts!"

"I told you, I can't paint you. I'm sorry," he said tonelessly, eliciting a brilliant blush from her. Hisako edged away from them. Maybe she had already gotten in too deep.

"Wh-Why the hell not! So you want the new girl now, is that it?! Set your sights on the latest model? You skirt-chasing, perverted libertine!" Hisako was curious about where Mika got her terminology, she really was. It wasn't the average high school student's vocabulary. She shuffled away from them, hoping her escape was relatively inconspicuous, and spied Suzuka peering around the corner of the hallway. She gestured to her.

Hisako decided it'd probably be safer to run for it. Suzuka seemed like the safer bet, and there wasn't yelling in her direction. The redhead broke into a huge grin as they ducked back around the corner, out of sight. "Isn't she just... They're so funny sometimes."

"Is that this school's idea of humor?" People—girls especially—loving drama as entertainment was nothing new to her, but she hadn't expected it from Suzuka.

And thankfully, she shook her head. "No, not that! It's just... She gets so worked up when it comes to him, doesn't she? If you ask me, there's more than some hurt feelings over a painting between them. She's always been a little prickly when it comes to Yuri painting other girls, anyway!" Oh. Hisako listened to the argument for a moment longer; she could see the spurned lover angle from Mika. But did Yuri?

"So... I guess he doesn't like her back?"

"Who knows? A friend and I have a bet going about it," Suzuka said and shrugged. She led Hisako down the hallway, gesturing to the classrooms in turn. "They're complicated, but funny sometimes. If you get past the shouting, but to be fair, that only started about a week or so ago. Usually our school's much more boring. And over here we have the boring classrooms!"

"Sakuraba, I heard that," called their homeroom teacher from inside. She chuckled sheepishly and hurried down the hall.

"And here are some bathrooms. Equally exciting. I guess what really matters now is not the bickering couple, but the fact that I managed the steal the honor of the tour guide right under both their noses!" Suzuka strutted in front of her, puffing up her ample chest with pride. Hisako couldn't help but laugh. Encouraged, Suzuka leaned in close and said lowly, "The best part about this is that neither of them will expect me as the thief! I'm supposed to be at practice right now, but it got canceled."

"Is showing the new kid around such a big deal?" she asked as Suzuka showed off their 'also boring' library.

"Yeah! We only got one last year, and you were a surprise this year. I know this is a city, but there's so many schools here and transfers are so uncommon that we hardly ever get new blood. Haruka's in the exchange program and here in a couple months we're tradin' her, but it's the chance to make a totally new friend, right?" Suzuka said cheerfully. Though her back was to her, Hisako nodded and smiled nonetheless. At least most of the people here were friendly.

Her school tour was once again cut short as a tall girl with twin braids came calling for Suzuka. She couldn't help but be amused. Maybe she was destined to only get through the first floor of the school, or maybe she'd just keep adding pieces with each new person she met.

"See you later, Hisako-chan!" Suzuka called, not at all fazed by the fact that she was being literally dragged away.

This school was weird, Hisako finally decided.


Hisako finished unpacking her room, moving things to their permanent spots. Her new room was smaller than her old one, but at least she was done. It already seemed cozier. It was still too early to start making supper, but she wasn't sure when her father was due home from work. She didn't really have anything else to do but homework, which was more than a little disheartening.

She breezed through her homework; most of it seemed like review for the new term. She studied a bit of English, since it was far from her strongest subject, until her dad finally returned home. To her surprise, he'd gotten take-out on his way, so they spent the rest of the evening watching television and eating together. Most everything around the apartment was unpacked, though it'd all take some getting used to. In their old home, the TV was on the other wall, but this wasn't so bad. She slurped down the rest of her noodles and rested against her father's shoulder.

"How was your first day here?"

"Exhausting. City people are... eccentric," she said tactfully. She wanted to be defensive of her potential new friends, but some of the antics she'd witnessed were more than a tad strange.

"I'm sure you'll tough it out."

"The teachers mostly seem nice."

"Make any new friends?"

"Um..." There was the question she'd been half-dreading. She thought of the bickering pair, Yuri and Mika. She thought of the sunny Suzuka. And then she thought of that awkward man she'd met during her lunch break. "I'm sure I'll make some. The class was very welcoming."

"I'm glad to hear that," Koichi replied and pressed his lips to her hair.

"I think I'm going to go to bed early tonight, papa. Today has worn me out, and we both have a full week ahead of us, so you make sure to get your sleep, too."

"Haha, who's the parent here?"

"I am," Hisako said and puffed out her chest. "Now off to bed with you."

"Yes ma'am," he said and stood up. He gathered up their trash, took care of it, and gave her another kiss goodnight. "Sleep well, Ma-chan. Sweet dreams."


Knowledge: level 1/5 (+4)

Confidence: level 1/5 (+0)

Charm: level 1/5 (+0)

Empathy: level 1/5 (+0)


Author's Notes: And here we begin Poison Tree Frog, which, while ridiculously named, will largely not be a ridiculous story. A lot of work has been put into this, an embarrassing amount really, and my darling MundaneJester has been helping me with it. It's our child. This story, as you've hopefully noticed, is an original Persona fanfiction, and while it will contain references to canon games in the series as well as fandom jokes, we're hoping that it's not necessary for you to have necessarily played them. It's going to be an enjoyable ride, trust me, if we can include even HALF of the stuff we want to.

Warnings: swearing, sexual themes, exploring sexuality and gender, implied sex of teenagers, violence, death, a lot of mythology, sweater bunnies, slow updating speed, and this will be a very long story. If you have issue with any of these, I'll not judge you for leaving, but later when we get into it and if you complain about anything other than legitimate concerns, I will judge you.