Note: This is a New Game + story in which nothing is new anymore. There will be references to alcohol (technically underage drinking, sometimes I forget they're so young; although Asian countries are less strict about controlling underage drinking), sex, and other general debauchery. It's not a pristine world and they're not pristine characters, especially the female protagonist, who has lived through so many cycles (so technically she's not underage?)
4: The Cruelest Month
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create
You wake up, and it happens. Again.
You groan and step out of the train.
Shuji Ikutsuki has the same soft smirk. You wonder how you could have ever thought it a smile.
You are more peaceful than you thought you would be. When he cracks that lame pun, you chuckle, to the amazement of all parties—including the Chairman himself—but they don't understand that you are chuckling at the naivety you had at one point, when trust birthed itself so easily and unearned.
You know that tonight, you will be watched, but you sleep anyway. You have done this enough times to be used to the ever-watchful eyes.
The door appears again, and your feet carry you there without your command. Igor gives his creepy introduction while trying to not scratch his twitching nose. The memorable blueness washes over you, and you can't help the way your muscles relax as the soft, elevator music glides into your ears, each note more familiar to you than Beethoven's Number 5.
You have to admit, it kind of feels like coming home.
Igor chuckles, the tip of his nose quivering, as if he can read your thoughts.
The next night, you try to maintain a believable look of confusion and panic, but a yawn is just behind your throat, fighting to be born. This is getting boring, you think. You know exactly when Yukari will lead you to the roof, and you allow yourself to be guided there. In her fright, she doesn't notice how your feet pick up before she even says anything, and how your hand reaches for the door connecting to the outside automatically.
The air is thin, like you remember, and the dark moving pools with Melpomene's blue masks fit right back in your life.
Hello, you say to Thanatos.
As your consciousness fades, you are presented with the book—your book—and you feel each page underneath your finger, each facet of your personality humming and some fighting to get out. You say hello to all of them, one by one, and this takes quite some time, but that's okay, because time is a tricky thing to gauge, you have learned.
You wake up days before planned, so you close your eyes and struggle to keep your eyelashes from trembling as your to-be-friends visit your bedside.
The Lovers cries a lot, and leaves you with pastel-colored irises. You smile at the nurse and she brings you a book on fluorography. In the long hours by the window, you learn that irises mean good news, and you almost laugh.
The Magician swings by, and when you open your eyes again, the flowers are gone. Later, you learn that he nicks them for this girl that he wants to impress, but doesn't have money to buy any flowers. He justifies it by saying that the flowers are better enjoyed by the waking people anyway. The girl does not end up impressed.
The Empress comes, and you hear her fingers tapping on the nightstand beside your head. It drives you crazy.
One day, Empress brings Star, and you had no idea that he had met you like this. You wonder why he ever entrusted leadership to you, after seeing your pale, thin wrists against the hospital sheets, melting into the great expanse of whiteness. He doesn't say anything, but you know his footsteps by heart.
Pharos visits, and you try to touch his hair.
He dodges, you try again, and after a few times you find that your fingers cannot hold him.
So the two of you just stare at each other. There is something sad about this, but you are far too desensitized by now to be able to say why.
The first real laugh you give in this world is when Yukari calls Junpei a 'poster boy for sexual harassment'.
Yukari stares at you with mild annoyance that slowly is infected with laughter as well.
All of a sudden, you are reminded that these are people, people, and not just a voice in your head with a number ranking, not even just the beautiful forms that brim with energy on a page.
And people, you reflect, are funny.
The first day they allow you back into Tartarus, almost everybody is a little scared by how bright your eyes are.
The lesser Shadows all run away from you, but there are a few that slowly oozed, barely casting a glance at your presence. Those are the ones that you respect and stay away from, although their forms were not any harder to slice through.
The team is confused by the lack of hostility, both from the Shadows and their slashing leader.
You don't explain yourself.
A group of girls shoots daggers at you as you walk to school with Akihiko.
Honey, you want to say to them, you should see him sprawled out against my sheets.
But you are getting ahead of yourself.
Officer Kurosawa gazes straight at you when he hands you Junpei's new katana. There is a heaviness in his sight so for one exhilarating moment, you believe that he remembers.
Until you realize that no, Kurosawa just always had a morose gaze.
At least Igor keeps all your cumulated cash in a trust fund through each cycle. If you had more ambitions in life, you could own a yacht right now around your private island—but what would you do with an island when every night you go back to school like some zombie streetwalker?
You feel like Doctor Faustus would know what you're talking about.
"So which club are you going to join?" Yukari asks you as she flips through the required reading that she's not really reading.
You shrug, "Dunno, they're all so interesting; what about you?" You then space out as she talks about the archery club.
What you really want to join is a martial arts team. You could probably, you think proudly, make the Olympics team if you wanted—and you always have your Personas as a quick cheat. Or a shooting team, where you shoot at cardboard targets instead of yourself. Wouldn't that be a nice change? Your temple is probably tattooed forever with the imprint of a gun barrel. Stained, like those tribal people who never wore shoes and had black soles. Or maybe just a modeling team, where you glare sulkily and make the duck-face pout—you'd probably be good at that too.
But, as always, you join the volleyball team, and run laps till the voice in your head tells you that Chariot has now begun.
You suppose that it's not important to max out all these social links, not when you have Thor, Scathach, Norn, Chi You, and the whole crowd waiting patiently for you. It's not like you will ever use any of your personas except Orpheus Telos, and sometimes Alice for her Die For Me. (You like to be contrary sometimes.)
This is when you remind yourself that Rio is a person, and not just the stepping stone to Thor.
So as an apology to nobody in particular, you take Thor out for a spin that night, and hear Yukari whimper as the hammer obliterates the Rampage Drive.
Junpei practically oozes ressentiment as you made your way back to the dormitory, but you successfully keep your smirk masked behind the cheery smile and the pinned up hair.
On Sunday you visit Akinari, because you might as well just throw yourself at Nyx now if you ever forget to visit the boy, max social link or not.
He knows that death is coming soon, and you don't have to hide the sadness in your eyes. It's the same reason that you prefer the old bookstore couple to any of your peers—old people are always aware of death on the horizon.
There once was a time when you looked up cystic fibrosis and hunted for a cure, but now you understand why Akinari sits under the sun.
It wasn't Hidetoshi's fault that he was born with the downturned, droopy eyes and sunken cheeks that made him look like a small-time lackey to a villain, but the slicked back douche hair certainly does not help. He's a nice kid, down inside. You wonder why he overcompensates so much—you probably knew his thoughts, once; you have just forgotten.
He mistakes the hardened look on your face for strength, and you don't blame him, because all the other SEES members make the same mistake.
Yukari talks about her abandonment problems, and when she tries to be self-deprecating and calls herself a 'pity party', you almost snap at her and say that it is about time she realizes that.
But you don't.
Instead you think about this poem that you read for literature class, and how one dead poet could know so much.
You are dragged to the movies by Junpei on the last day of April. Nothing makes sense in this blockbuster over-CG'ed action flick, and you spend the entire time thinking about how you prefer Junpei's dumb, tactless company to Yukari's false cheerfulness.
But first, before you head back, before you paint Yukari's nails, before Mitsuru sets new ambitions for you because she 'sees something in you', before you allow Akihiko to slink away with a determined blush when you touch his back flirtatiously, before you play Prince of Persia with Junpei and watch your avatar fall over and over again into the abyss—before all that, you show Theo the Paulownia Mall. You turn into the alley, then into the space just beyond the blue, glowing door.
How can Theo be so fascinated by the utterly mundane? You must learn that from him; perhaps that is why he is called the 'assistant'.
But all the coins in the world won't make that fountain magical.