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Reversing Arcana, Chapter 2

Title: Reversing Arcana

Rating: T, for violence and language.

Summary: Persona 4.  Six months after Souji leaves Inaba, he wakes up to his house on fire. The Investigation Team are the only ones who know he survived. But that's only the beginning of their troubles.

Author's Note: It is, technically speaking, Sunday.  And this is a sort of monster chapter, which will make up somewhat for the much shorter chapter following it.

Previous Chapter
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Reversing Arcana

Chapter 2

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They haven't been back to the TV since their fearless leader left Inaba.  There isn't any need to now there are no people who need rescuing.  It’s a peaceful, pleasant place once stripped of Izanami's twisted influences. 
 
Teddie greets them in the open field – the stack of televisions makes for an odd sight amidst the trees and flowers.  The bear is almost giddy with hope and excitement after Yosuke hurriedly explains the situation.
 
“I knew it!  I could sense something had changed!” he exclaims.  “Sensei’s so beary smart!”
 
“Enough with your wisecracks!” Kanji scowls.  “Can you find him or not?”

"Teddie's nose will show the way to Sensei!" he declares.  The enormous eyes sharpen, his nubby paws clench, and his face morphs into an expression of fierce concentration.  “Nnnnhhhhhhhnnnn!”
 
“I’ll look too!” Rise announces, summoning her Persona.  “Let’s go for it!”
 
Everyone remains silent and hopeful as the pair search.  It seems to take an age before Teddie rocks back, features distorted into a frown.  “I can get a general direction, but I can’t get a lock on it!”
 
“C’mon!  This isn’t like the other times – we know him.  You can’t possibly need more information!” Yosuke demands.
 
"I can definitely sense him.  But it's far," Rise explains, brow furrowed with concentration.  "Like, really, really far."
 
"Of course."  Naoto folds her arms and taps her elbow. "He entered the TV world from the city.  If we consider how distorted the space was just within Inaba..."

"But it's so peaceful here now," Chie protests, looking around the lush field with a pout.
 
“That’s not what she means!” Yosuke is exasperated, though more with their lack of progress than Chie’s misunderstandings.  “So, what?  There ought to be some way to get there, right?  There’s nothing more important than this!  It’s Sunday, no one’s going to miss us!”
 
Chie recoils.  “You mean walk?!”
 
“Shame we can’t fit a car into the TV,” Yukiko muses.
 
“Would it even work in here?”
 
“Yosuke’s headphones work, why wouldn’t it?”
 
“Yeah well, guess it doesn’t matter either way, right?” Kanji slams a fist into his palm.  “Lead the way, bear!”
 
 
………………………..
 
 
Junes is brightly lit and filled with cheery music as always.  Doujima thinks it’s maybe the last place he wants to be, but Nanako has been miserable for days now, and he’s willing to try just about anything to cheer her up.
 
Except it doesn’t seem to be working.  They go through the motions of grocery shopping in silence.  “Something catch your eye?” He asks lightly, in an effort to break the dreary pall.  “Get something for yourself if you want, so long as it’s nothing too big.”
 
Then he realises she’s looking at a tower of TaP Soda.  She’s never liked the stuff, but he knows someone who used to keep a handy stash of it.  “Big bro…”
 
Damn.  He didn’t know how to deal with this last time, and experience hasn’t made him any better at it.  “Come on, let’s stop by the food court on our way out,” he suggests instead.  “We’ll get milkshakes.”
 
“Okay.”
 
They pay for their groceries, and laden with bags, head to the food court.  Since it’s Sunday, there are quite a few schoolkids wandering around.  He stops by the burger place and orders two milkshakes – one chocolate, and one vanilla. 
 
“Oh, Doujima-san!  I heard about your nephew and sister.  I’m so sorry for your loss,” the lady at the cashier gushes in a hushed tone.  “Here, you can have these on the house today.”
 
“Thanks,” he replies gruffly, because he doesn’t know how else to respond.
 
That’s the problem with small towns – everybody knows everybody.  Doujima appreciates that they’re trying to be nice, but frankly, he wants to pretend everything’s normal for a while, and having every single damn person he passes in the street stop him or give him those sad expressions is going to send him insane.  It’s the loss of his wife all over again.
 
“The Hanamura kid around?” he asks as she hands over his order.  Nanako seems fond of him, and they all lost someone important to them – it’d be better talking to him than having to accept the shallow condolences of passing acquaintances.
 
“Why yes, I just saw him and his friends head into the electronics department, um… a while ago now.  Where did they go?”
 
Those kids… hanging out at Junes again?
 
A thought niggles at the back of his mind, but he ruthlessly squashes it.
 
“Never mind then,” he sighs.  “Nanako, come on.  We’re going home.” 
 
For once, she doesn’t ask to stay a little longer.  “Okay.”
 
In the end, the Junes outing doesn’t seem to cheer up Nanako any, and all Doujima has to show for the trip are some groceries he doesn’t even feel like eating.  She retreats to her room as soon as they get home – another unusual occurrence – and the detective is left sitting alone on the couch.  The house is so damn quiet now, even with both of them here.  How on earth did his nephew handle living here alone when he and Nanako were in the hospital?
 
He flicks on the TV, just for some background noise.  The weather report again.  He remembers his nephew used to check it almost compulsively.  Damn.  He doesn’t think he can get away from these depressing thoughts.  Seems like everything leads back to that tragedy.
 
What were those kids doing?  His nephew’s friends.  They’re an amazing bunch – he regrets not getting the chance to speak with them at the funeral.  Hanging out in the electronics department again?  Maybe they were reminiscing together.  Word was last year they were seen going in and out of there all the time.  Ogling the gadgets, he’d assumed.
 
He flicks from the weather channel to the news, then back to the weather channel again.  The thought continues to niggle at the back of his mind.
 
TVs, huh?  It was all so unbelievable… but then, his former partner never did explain…
 
Doujima recognises where the thought is going, and stops it in its tracks.
 
He’s lost a loved one before.  He knows what’s going to happen if he keeps dwelling on this. 
 
Naoto’s with them.  Kid or not, Naoto’s a fine detective.  If there are any stones left unturned…  In the meantime, he has to be there for Nanako.
 
His nephew would never forgive him if he neglected his daughter in pursuit of his killer.  Not after all the trouble and arguments they went through.
 
He can’t quite bring himself to entirely squash that sliver of hope, though.
 
A world inside the TV.  Ludicrous.
 
 
………………………..
 
 
“Man, this is taking forever!” Yosuke is complaining again.  Naoto heaves an inward sigh, but doesn’t comment.  She doesn’t need to – others will jump in quickly enough.
 
“Stop griping!  It’s not that much further!” Rise scolds him.
 
“I’m not complaining!  I’m just worried about how long this is taking!  We’d better hope he’s waiting at the entrance, or we won’t find him until way after dark!  Junes isn’t open late on Sundays, you know!”
 
“We should be grateful that at least it’s a walk we can make in a few hours,” Naoto points out, unable to contain a response much longer.  It’s up to her to be the voice of calm and reason now that Senpai isn’t there to fill that role.  “If this were the real world, the distance would be more than what could be covered on foot in a day.”
 
The others don’t have anything to say to that, and fall back into a awkward silence, punctuated only by the tinny beat of music emanating from Yosuke’s headphones.  The ground is patchwork, as one would expect from a world made up of people’s thoughts and hidden desires.  Grassy plains occasionally give way to cobblestone roads, giving way to bubbling brooks, giving way quaint pseudo-towns.  There’s the odd shadow wandering around, but most of them are docile and pay them no mind, and the ones that do fall quickly under a barrage of blows.  It makes their passage quicker, at least.
 
“Hey.”  Chie’s the one to finally break the mood. “Everyone except us thinks he’s dead, right?  How are we going to explain it when we bring him back to Inaba?”
 
It’s a startling question – one Naoto is embarrassed she didn’t think of before.  They’d all been too giddy at the prospect of his survival to consider the practical considerations.
 
“Uhh… couldn’t we just say he wasn’t in the fire after all?  There wasn’t a body or nothin’, right?” Kanji replies.
 
“But then why would he only turn up now, huh?  It’s been like, a week and a half!  And wouldn’t he go to his parents’ funerals?  And where will he say he’s been?!”
 
“Amnesia?” Yukiko suggests.
 
“You really think that’s gonna fly with his uncle?” Yosuke points out.
 
Rise folds her arms behind her head and stares up at the sky as she walks.  “Maybe we could just tell his uncle about it?  He’s a cop, right?”
 
Naoto frowns.  Telling other people about it should be okay… within a select group. “That might be the best way.  I wouldn’t say anything to him until we actually have Souji back with us, though.”  A part of her won’t believe he’s truly survived until he’s there in front of them.
 
“Yeah, or we’re liable to wind up in the loony bin,” Yosuke agrees.  “Did Chie and I ever tell you guys how we got hauled down to the station for carrying weapons around the food court?”
 
Rise rolls her eyes.  “Like, a hundred times senpai.”
 
“Whatever!  Who cares anyway.  Let’s worry about all that after we get Souji back.”
 
It’s surprisingly sage advice from the Prince of Junes, and Naoto’s nerves settle with it.  They fall back into a companionable silence this time, punctuated by occasional remarks about the landscape or school.
 
That is, until Teddie suddenly speaks up.  “We’re heading towards a beary bad area.”
 
“What do you mean, ‘bad area’?” Yukiko asks, picking her way carefully across the rocky ground.  “Didn’t we fix the TV world?”
 
“This is completely new!  It’s not like anything I’ve seen before.  And there are still lots of areas where the Shadows get a bit crazy!  You can’t help it – it’s always been this way.”  At their distressed glances, Teddie protests, “You don’t have to worry - it only becomes a problem when the separation between the two worlds breaks down!  I’ve been studying it beary hard!”
 
“I guess that’s reassuring,” Chie agrees.  “But I sort of thought, you know, after we defeated Izanami that it would be sunshine and flowers and everything everywhere.”
 
“People ain’t that nice I guess,” Kanji grumbles and kicks at a rock.  “You don’t think Senpai is in that area, do you?”
 
It seems obvious to her – then again she’s learnt time and time again what is obvious to a ‘Detective Prince’ is not necessarily obvious to everyone else - but Naoto is interrupted before she can answer.  “Hold up!  It’s some kind of barrier!” Rise warns, five seconds too late to stop Yosuke from crashing face-first into it, headphones clattering to the ground.
 
He retrieves them with a scowl.  “Little more warning next time, please!”
 
“What’s a barrier doing here?” Naoto asks, holding her hand out and testing for the invisible surface.  It prickles uncomfortably under her touch, like a static field, or a Zio running across her fingertips.  “And who put it up?”
 
Rise is concentrating on the landscape beyond the barrier.  Naoto turns her attention to that area, and realises that there’s a twisted warp in the air, grey and black and white.  It’s hard to look at, and she doesn’t think she would have even noticed its presence if not for Rise’s glare.  It looks similar to the entranceways they’d traversed in the past, only much more insubstantial.  Possibly related to the transformation the world has since gone through.  “Senpai is definitely past here,” the idol confirms.
 
“So he made an area, just like the rest of us did when we were thrown into the TV?” Yukiko wonders.
 
Kanji kicks at the invisible barrier.  “What, so he’s keeping us out?  Why the hell would he do that?!”
 
"There's something suspicious about this," Naoto mutters.  Nagging thoughts and troubling feelings are beginning to take shape in her mind.
 
“Of course it’s suspicious!  Why the hell wouldn’t Senpai want us to rescue him?”
 
“What are you thinking, Naoto-kun?” Chie asks.
 
"It’s about the fire.  When I was reading the police report, it bothered me."
 
Yosuke is staring beyond the barrier into the space beyond, worrying his lower lip between his teeth.  “What about it?” His voice is low, and Naoto suspects he might have already reached the same conclusion.  He’s the one who spoke with Doujima, after all – he probably already knows.
 
“Doujima-san didn’t want it to get out until the investigation was finished, but all the reports so far suggest the fire was arson.”
 
A ripple runs through the group at the news.  “Arson?!” shrieks Chie.
 
"Wait... so someone was trying to kill Souji?" Yukiko asks, horror evident on her face.

"But who the hell would want to do that?!" Kanji demands.  The fox whines and paws at the barrier next to him.

"I wish it were as simple as just that.” Naoto remains composed, though it’s honestly a struggle.  "The fire had to have been deliberately lit.  It spread much too fast, and to reach the sorts of temperatures that will reduce even bones to ash – that’s simply not possible for an ordinary house fire.”  She takes a breath, and the delivers the worse concern.  “And it was started from inside the house… but there were no signs of forced entry."  No signs that hadn’t been burned, at least. 

"Maybe they left the door open?" Chie wonders.  "Ooo, or it was a delivery man!"

"Just because it was a delivery man once doesn't mean it'll be a delivery man every time you know," Yosuke jibes.

"Shut up Yosuke!  It could be, right?!"

Naoto is unruffled by their bickering.  If that’s what it takes to keep them focused on solving the mystery instead of falling into irrational grief and rage, she will happily tolerate it for hours.  "Quite unlikely.  It was in the middle of the night, and everyone was sleeping.  Furthermore, their home was protected by an advanced security system.  I believe after hearing what happened in Inaba Souji’s parents installed it for peace of mind."  And that the security company received no warning at all meant they were either dealing with a pro, or it simply hadn’t been tripped.

"So..."

"So the perpetrator entered the house through a means other than the door."

"The window?" Chie scratches her head.

Yosuke slaps her on the back of said head.  "You idiot!  She means the TV, right?!  Wait."  He pauses.  "That means that there's someone else who knows about the TV?"

He is at least quick on the uptake.  Kanji is still looking torn between anger at the news of arson and confusion as to what it all means.  "It narrows down our list of suspects considerably.  Aside from those of us here, there's Nanako, Doujima, Adachi, Mitsuo and Namatame."

"Well, we can rule out Nanako-chan and Doujima-san," Yosuke points out.  “Neither of them really know much, and you saw them at the funeral.”

"And Adachi-baby and Mitsuo are both in jail for murder, aren't they?" Teddie pipes up, happy to be able to contribute something to the discussion.
 
Naoto’s arms drop to her sides.  "Which leaves only Namatame."  Once all other possibilities are eliminated, only the truth remains.

"Whoa whoa whoa," Yosuke interrupts.  "Namatame's free?!  When did that happen?!  Even if he didn't kill anyone, he still crashed that truck and kidnapped Nanako-chan!"

"After Adachi was convicted, Namatame's case reached a settlement.  A substantial fine for his traffic infringements, a number of hours of community service, and mandatory counselling.  He’s on a sort of parole for twelve months.  I understand that Doujima-san wasn't particularly satisfied, but due to the question of mental stability, the case would have dragged on considerably."  She understands Doujima’s frustration, but can’t summon the same anger towards Namatame – he was tricked, just as they all were.  He honestly thought he was helping. 

Rise’s brow is still furrowed in thought.  "But for them to get to Senpai’s house through the TV... I thought only Teddie could make an exit!"

"I don't think we can assume anything in this case.  Senpai was capable of a great number of things in the TV world.  As one of the three chosen by Izanami, Namatame was a similarly unique case.  It's possible that he had the ability to exit the TV at will, but perhaps only discovered it later.  Though if that is the case, it is a fearsome ability."
 
The others fall into a reverent silence.  She knows they’re all thinking the same thing – if it really is Namatame, can they win against him in a fight without their fearless leader?
 
“So… you think this barrier might be put up by him too then?” Chie eventually asks.
 
“It’s a reasonable assumption.  Teddie, Rise?”
 
“Hard to tell.  It definitely wasn’t put up by a Shadow, though!  Only humans can do something like this!” Teddie states, thumping his brightly coloured torso with fubsy arms.
 
Naoto nods.  "The only question that remains then is the motive."  Namatame shouldn’t have any reason to try and kill their leader.  But he has also been left mentally unstable after the strain and guilt and worry of the previous year.  There’s no way to deduce how his mind might work.
 
“There’s only one way to find out then, right?” Yosuke asks, turning his back on the barrier and cutting the air with his arm in a single, violent sweep.  “We go find him and ask him ourselves!”
 
“Yeah!” Chie cheers.
 
Kanji turns and shouts through the barrier.  “Hey Senpai!  If you can hear us, just hang in there, okay?!  We’re going to go bust some ass, and then get you out of there!”
 
“It’s Senpai, after all,” Rise says cheerily, though her smile looks forced.  Naoto finds it telling when an idol’s smile is not convincing.  “If anybody should be able to last in this world, it’s him… right?”
 
“We’ll save him,” Yukiko agrees.  The fox yips next to her.  “We can’t fail him, not after all he’s done for us.”
 
“Right!  Let’s go save Sensei!” Teddie declares, bouncing back the way they came.
 
Only then does it dawn on everyone else how far they’ve travelled.  Yosuke throws his arms in the air. 
 
“Crap, we’ve gotta walk all the way back?!”



Next chapter
 

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
sunnepho
Oct. 1st, 2011 07:09 pm (UTC)
I am stupid, and I went ahead and clicked the cut link, anyway, despite the fact that I have only just ordered this game from eBay and it will not arrive for some time.

List of reasons to play this game: +1. I need to know who this Teddie character is and how he has managed to move a stack of TVs, because I'm picturing a Pooh-coloured stuffed bear saying “Nnnnhhhhhhhnnnn!” with a constipated expression.

I laughed out loud. XD
sinnatious
Oct. 2nd, 2011 01:27 am (UTC)
But- but- the spoilers. In this chapter alone I have spoiled nearly all the best surprises! D:

...I didn't even spare much description on Teddie (Fanfiction has made me so lazy). http://ready-up.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/teddie.jpg
sunnepho
Oct. 2nd, 2011 01:31 am (UTC)
WELL.

I see I was dead wrong about him.

Oh, it's quite alright about the spoilers. I didn't understand a thing. *u* Nah, I again forced myself to stop reading for fear of finding out too much, so it's not a big deal.

Why is it so difficult to find copies of games that are only a few years old?
sinnatious
Oct. 2nd, 2011 01:40 am (UTC)
:/ I know your question is rhetorical, but there's a pretty basic reason for it. The vast majority of games sell most of their numbers in their first two weeks on the shelf. It's only really big or first party titles that get reordered in any significant quantity after that, and the rest on the shelf are ones where they overestimated demand. This is especially true for Atlus games, where they seem pretty good at judging the supply/demand ratio. I had a devil of a time finding Persona 3 when I went looking for it a mere six months after its release. Anything Disgaea, too!
sunnepho
Oct. 2nd, 2011 02:11 am (UTC)
That... actually makes a lot of sense. O.O

I had no idea that games did not get restocked. I never had a stable source of income before I graduated high school, so this makes catching up on all the games I missed as a nerdy band geek more difficult than I initially thought.

Wealth of knowledge, you are!
ojuzu
Oct. 3rd, 2011 08:16 pm (UTC)
I previously had almost no idea of what the Persona games were about, and I will most probably never play any of them. Which makes this another fandom I am entering entirely for yoooouuuu.

I fully expect to enjoy it as much as I have FF7. :D
sinnatious
Oct. 4th, 2011 01:14 pm (UTC)
XD Oh no, but I really haven't taken any measures to make it friendly to newcomers at all. You'll probably be very lost! Haha, but thank you for reading anyway. Um, another score for the fandom?!
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )