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Reversing Arcana, Chapter 9

Title: Reversing Arcana

Rating: T, for violence and language. Spoils everything.

Summary: Persona 3 and 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: This chapter gave me a headache.  I do apologise for using such a super cliché chapter ending.  And I keep being mean to Souji.  Sorry about that, too.  Not sorry enough to stop doing it, though.

Previous chapter


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Reversing Arcana

Chapter 9

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Naoto’s phone rings that night.  A quick glance reveals the caller – a number she’s made pains to memorise.
 
Her thumbs reaches to answer, but then suspicion and anger flare in her heart, and she hesitates.
 
She can already see the conversation play out in her head.  No matter how she struggles, she won’t be able to refrain from showing her hand, from flinging accusations over the missing TV.  And in the face of that, even if they deny it, she won’t believe them.  She doesn’t want to believe them.  Because if she does, then that means she has to keep suspecting her comrades, and that’s not a pleasant notion at all.  Guilt and suspicion has dogged her in equal measure all afternoon, ever since Yosuke stormed out of their meeting with hurt eyes.
 
There are numerous holes in their logic, suspecting him.  Naoto knows that.  Rise, Yukiko, Chie, maybe even Kanji… anyone that might have once held a romantic interest in Souji would be a better suspect.  Even Teddie, or Doujima-san.  They shouldn’t rule out people based on disposition – they should rule them out on alibis, on evidence, and if nothing else, motive.
 
It’s hard, though, when it’s Junes they’re frustrated with, and the memory of Yosuke’s dark threats to Mitsuo and Namatame flicker in the backs of their minds.
 
Naoto’s having a hard time trusting in her logic, lately.  Old doubts are resurfacing.  Old fears and insecurities.
 
What can she do?  Kirijo will only demand more information and offer none in return.  Even if they were the ones who took the TV, and she could get them to admit to taking it, she doubts they would give it back. What she really needs is a warrant, and the powers an official investigation can afford her.  Without them, she’s just a civilian.  Her usual tricks aren’t enough to get around a corporation as powerful as the Kirijo Group.  They’re apparently not even enough to deal with a group of fellow high-schoolers.
 
The phone continues to ring.  Naoto lets it, and eventually, the room falls silent once more.
 
It’s not smart to talk to sources when your emotions are threatening to take control.  When you don’t have warrants or subpoenas or evidence, and have to rely on people’s cooperation and testimony, a botched interrogation can destroy a whole case.  Better to wait, until you understand the situation properly, and know what lines of questioning to pursue.  You often only get one chance.  Her grandfather taught her that.
 
But she’s not sure if it’s her grandfather’s lessons that stay her hand, or simply childish petulance.
 
 
……………………
 
 
Whoever the Kirijo Group truly are, Souji soon begins to suspect that he has exchanged one prison for another.
 
He sleeps most of the first day.  For most of the second, he doesn’t see the outside of his room – there’s an ensuite bathroom attached, and snacks in the bar fridge in the corner.  It’s hard to tell whether it’s meant to be a panic room or simply an overnighter for late-working executives.
 
Either way, when he bangs on the door, nobody comes to answer.
 
On the third day, they bring him out for a few hours - apparently at Kirijo’s insistence.  She asks him more questions about the TV, and about his Personae, and sidesteps his queries in turn.  She looks troubled, but determined.  They finally give him a fresh set of clothes, complete with shoes.
 
They take blood, and do brain scans.  He feels faintly alarmed when he notices the gun holstered around Kirijo’s waist.
 
They lock him back up when they’re done, promising that they’ll keep him ‘safe’, and telling him he should rest more.
 
He dreams of the hotel lobby again, that night.  Margaret isn’t there.
 
The empty elevator fills him with foreboding.
 
And Souji realises that he needs to escape.
 
 
…………………….
 
 
It isn’t until after school two days later that they manage to get the whole group together again.  Everyone is understandably antsy, and there’s still something weird about Yosuke’s expression, but the question of what to do remains.
 
Naoto takes charge.  “I’ve looked into what I could find out about the TV, but it’s proven difficult.  Did anybody discover anything when they were asking around?”
 
She’s greeted with only a collection of gloomy faces.  “Might have gone better, if some people didn’t run off on their own and leave us short a person,” Chie remarks pointedly.  Yosuke’s scowl deepens, but he doesn’t say anything.  If anything, that sends off more alarm bells.  He’s among the chattiest of the group, and his silence is telling of exactly how bad his mood must be.
 
If that’s the only reason he’s silent.
 
She gives herself a small shake.  This is stupid.  They’re falling apart.  Yosuke is right to be suspicious of her – she’s been keeping things from them, and even if he doesn’t know what he’s probably observant enough to pick up on it.  The simple truth is they can’t continue like this.  Battles can go badly very quickly when things aren’t going smoothly in the team.  Unless they work together, there really is no hope of saving Souji.
 
“This is a problem, then.  We’re no closer to finding Senpai, but the longer we wait, the more dangerous it becomes.”  She crosses her arms and taps her elbow.  It’s never far from their minds that their fortunes may rely on the weather forecast.  They’ve been lucky so far – the rain has been frequent, but brief – and their luck will not hold forever.
 
“And we’re back at square one.  This stinks,” Rise complains.
 
“Not really square one.  We gotta check the TV first, right?” Kanji asks, uncertain.  “If Senpai made it out, that’s good and all, but if he didn’t then something’s up with the Midnight Channel, yeah?  And that means we’d better be busting our asses to get to him fast.”
 
“Kanji’s right.”  Yukiko is fretting, now.  “Everything’s wrong with this.  We have to find a way to check the TV.  It’ll take too long to check the real world first.”
 
The tension and worry is set to explode again any minute, but Naoto is helpless to stop it.  She still doesn’t understand how Souji used to keep them so focused, how he kept his cool even when Nanako was thought dead and Yosuke was goading him into throwing Namatame into the TV.  Even she had been almost convinced it was a good idea.
 
The voice is so uncharacteristically quiet, she almost doesn’t hear it.  “There’s still a way.”
 
It takes the others a minute to stop talking, but they do, one by one, and stare at Yosuke like he’s grown a second head. 
 
Rise’s the first to react, though she’s oddly cautious.  “You’ve got an idea, Senpai?”
 
Yosuke shoves his hands in his pockets and stares at the ground.  “Yeah.  We just go ahead and enter the TV.”
 
“What, are you stupid?  This is the problem!  The TV’s gone!” Chie exclaims.
 
“So?  Why does it have to be that TV?”  He’s still not meeting anyone’s eyes.
 
“What do you mean, of course it has to be-”
 
“Why?  We’re not exactly helpless anymore, are we?  And the TV world in Inaba is peaceful now.  I’ve got a pretty big TV in my house.”
 
“You’re suggesting we go in from another TV?  But what about an exit-” Yukiko clutches Chie’s arm, the only visible sign of nervousness at the proposal.
 
“Did you guys forget Teddie’s there?  He can make an exit any time he wants.  The Junes one was just convenient.” He’s practically babbling now, but his eyes are still trained on the floor.
 
“I don’t know…” Chie’s the one being cautious now.
 
“Look, I know it’ll work!”
 
Naoto studies him thoughtfully, then finally asks, “Senpai… what did you do?”
 
He flinches.  So she’s right.
 
Rise switches her attention between them.  “Wait, what are you talking about Naoto-kun?”
 
She remains silent, gaze fixed steadily on the senior.  He’ll crack, eventually.  He looks so close to breaking already.
 
“….’nt int’ the TV.” 
 
“Huh?  Speak up, Senpai,” Kanji orders, though it comes out more like a threat.
 
“I said that I went into the TV, okay?”  His head snaps up, and his eyes are practically blazing.  “I was at home last night, and I couldn’t stand just not doing anything, so I went into the TV!”
 
“You what?!  Alone?!” Chie looks like she’s about ready to kick his face in.  She wouldn’t be wrong to.  “Are you stupid?!  That’s really dangerous!”
 
“I know, okay!  Shut up – that’s not the point!”
 
“You made it back out again,” Rise observes shrewdly.  “So there is a new exit.”
 
“Yeah!  Yeah, there is.  I kind of… Teddie found me, I told him what happened, and he made a new exit.”
 
It’s good news, the first good news they’ve had for a while, but Naoto isn’t done yet.  Why would Yosuke keep their new option a secret until now?  Even if he’s embarrassed by his recklessness, the solution to their roadblock is more important.  “Did Teddie say anything about Senpai?”
 
The question rattles him, and Naoto fingers the pistol hidden under her shirt jacket.  “No, not… I can’t really remember, I was kind of…” His shoulders slump.
 
Right again.  Sometimes she gets tired of it.  “What happened?”
 
“Nothing exactly happened, but it’s kinda…” Here he stops, rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously.  “Dammit.  Maybe it’s better just to show you.”
 
That certainly doesn’t sound promising.  “Lead the way.”
 
 
…………………….
 
 
Late on the third day, they bring him out again.  More tests.  More questions.
 
He suspects he’s at risk of becoming a guinea pig, at the very least.  The memory of the elevator flickers to the forefront of his thoughts, along with Margaret’s warning.  But that doesn’t matter.
 
There’s a TV in the room.
 
They’ve been careful about it until now – he hasn’t seen so much as a screen in most of the rooms he’s been shuffled between.  They’d asked him to stick his hand in one TV while they took some readings, but it had been even smaller than the one he had in his room back at the Doujima’s place.  No way would he have fit through.
 
This one, though, looks like it could be the same one he tumbled out of when he made his escape from the TV world.  It’s standing on a trolley in the corner.  A big flat screen, the exact same model as the one in Junes. 
 
They’re watching him carefully, so he bides his time, waiting for a clear path.  He’s been the very paragon of cooperation so far, quiet and deferential, taking cues he’s become so adept at reading to make them relax around him.  He spies a pair of glasses, unguarded, on the table, and slips them into his pocket when nobody’s looking.  Possibly they’re just someone’s reading glasses, but he’s hoping that if they’ve been researching the TV world, these are designed off Teddie’s creations.
 
The elevator arrives with a ding, and Kirijo steps out into the room.  Several of the researchers turn to see.
 
That’s when Souji acts.
 
He leaps up, dashing straight for the TV.  Everyone is too startled to do anything more than manage a shout.  Fingers brush the back of his shirt. 

"Wait-!"

"How did that TV get in here-"
 
Kirijo yells, “No, it’s not safe-!”
 
Then Souji is falling, dizzyingly, down that familiar hall of screens.  He hits the grey, featureless ground with a bone-jarring thud. 
 
For a moment, he doesn’t move – he’s still not entirely recovered from his previous stint in the TV, but he had to take the chance when it presented itself.  Better the TV, where he can move, and he can fight, and can call on Personae to restore that depleted strength a little bit at a time.  And with the glasses still nestled safely in his pocket, he’s sure he’ll be able to find a different exit.  Or Teddie.  Anything, really.
 
That’s when Souji suddenly realises that he’s not alone.
 
“Well, well.  Look who decided to come back.  Did you miss me that much?”
 
His throat turns dry at the familiar voice. 
 
Then something slams into his head, and Souji falls into darkness once more.
 

Next chapter




Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
croix_souillees
Oct. 26th, 2011 11:51 am (UTC)
The phone continues to ring. Naoto lets it, and eventually, the room falls silent once more.

OTL OTL OTL OTL OTL

Watch the row of followers worshipping the ground.

Whoever the Kirijo Group truly are, Souji soon begins to suspect that he has exchanged one prison for another.
-sidesteps his queries in turn. She looks troubled, but determined.
They take blood, and do brain scans.
He suspects he’s at risk of becoming a guinea pig, at the very least.
A big flat screen, the exact same model as the one in Junes.


Dun dun dun dun. The biggest danger to anyone, anywhere is other human beings who can think, who can strategize, who can be cruel because it can be justified, and nothing is wrong if it can be rationalized away.

Better the TV, where he can move, and he can fight, and can call on Personae to restore that depleted strength a little bit at a time.

In the end, fighting monsters is easier. *hums* Two guesses for the person at the end: Adachi (unlikely) or Souji's own Shadow. Considering the turn of his thought processes, the many things he's submersed as of late in order to survive/keep sane (death of his parents, separation from his friends, the clinical cruelty of people whom he, in turn, can read out of experience), I'm betting on the latter.

... Yum. >3
sinnatious
Oct. 26th, 2011 12:43 pm (UTC)
I often wonder how frustrating it would be to go from defeating gods and saving the world to settling back into a school routine and doing what your parents and teachers tell you. You can do all this crazy magic, but in the 'real' world you're back to being a helpless kid with no rights!

Also, that getting grounded could actually mean they can't save people from the TV.

Thanks for reading as always! :D
croix_souillees
Oct. 26th, 2011 12:56 pm (UTC)
Very, I'd imagine. As it is, don't you think it's already frustrating to juggle them both at the same time, much less do that, save people as they're being attacked inside the TV AND still be treated as if nothing changed about you. Ah, society.

Lol. It's a lesson they should have learned ages ago.

XD o> Can't wait for your Sunday update!
argentum_luna
Oct. 26th, 2011 11:14 pm (UTC)
probably sputtering curry at the screen in helpless excitement
D: D: D:!

Will Souji end up:

a. beaten, bruised and barely alive
b. mentally tortured and emotionally scared for life
c. taking a trip to crazytown
d. all of the above


....I like it. *rubs hands in glee*

Also Yosuke... :/ I wonder what happened to him in there. Did his shadow surface again? What is he hiding?

And like croix_soulilees above, I wonder if it's Souji's shadow D:
sinnatious
Oct. 27th, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC)
Re: probably sputtering curry at the screen in helpless excitement
<3 I'm glad.

All good questions, all answered next chapter! Unless I feel mean and just fill the whole next chapter with social link interludes. :)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )