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Reversing Arcana, Chapter 13

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: Supanova over! And here we are at lucky 13.  Chapters are getting longer too.

Previous Chapter


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Reversing Arcana

Chapter 13


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The entire Investigation Team is in shock.  Even Naoto finds her composure shaken.
 
“What…?”
 
“Oh!  Um, you never actually saw it before, did you Naoto-kun?” Chie asks.  She sounds rattled.  “Teddie didn’t always have a Persona.  When we first came here, this happened, and boy…”  Her laugh is uncomfortably high-pitched.  “Were we freaked!”
 
Yosuke pales.  “Teddie!  Are you saying… you’ve lost your Persona?”
 
The bear suit wags his arms, stuck on his back like a turtle.  “Yoooosuke!  Help me up!”
 
“Right, right.”  He puts Teddie back on his feet. 
 
Naoto looks down, wide-eyed, at the head by her shoes, and with shaking fingers picks it up.  “Thanks, Naoto-chan!”
 
Her voice is confined to her throat.  She can’t help but stare, fascinated, as Teddie’s eyes continue to move, and his voice comes out loud and clear, even with the head detached from his body.
 
With some careful manoeuvring, the suit is whole again… and a lot less creepy for it. 
 
“What happened, Teddie?” Yukiko asks gently, in that enviably feminine manner only Yukiko can.
 
“It’s unbearable!” Teddie wails.  “Ohhh, Yukiko-chaaaan!  Sensei!  Poor Sensei!  And I was stuck out here and couldn’t do anything and it was even worse than back when I was just a shadow and I just got so beary sad and-”
 
“Whoa whoa whoa!” Yosuke pats him on the back again, a little more gingerly this time.  “Slow down there, buddy!  What happened?”
 
“Oh!  Well… it all started after you fell into the TV again Yosuke!  What bear you thinking?  You didn’t learn anything, did-”
 
“Alright, alright!  Enough already!” Yosuke interrupts.  “Just tell the story.  And stop it with the bad puns!  They don’t even make any sense!”
 
Teddie’s ears flop and his face droops, but he keeps going.  “I thought I’d head over to that weird dungeon again!  To keep an eye on things for everyone!  But just when I was nearly there, I realised Sensei had escaped!”
 
“What?!” Chie squawks.
 
“If he made it out, that would explain why he didn’t show up on the Midnight Channel that time,” Yukiko reasons.
 
“But that means he found an exit.  I didn’t realise anyone other than Teddie could make exits,” Rise points out.  “Teddie?”
 
“I don’t know!  I thought I was the only one.  Bear my nose doesn’t work so well with this weird dungeon!  It’s not like the others.  It’s unnatural.”  He puts an unnecessarily spooky emphasis on the word.  “But I was so happy when Sensei escaped the TV all on his own!  Sensei is so beary smart!”
 
“Hold up, if Souji made it out after all-” Yosuke starts.
 
He doesn’t get to finish, as Teddie’s expression crumples.  “But that’s just it!  Then Sensei came back and all these strangers keep bearing into the TV world, and then the weird dungeon changed and now Sensei is-”
 
“Wait,” Naoto interrupts again, before Teddie can run off on a tangent and leave all the actually important points behind.  “What do you mean the dungeon changed?”
 
“It’s more like a normal dungeon now!  And Sensei’s in there, and-”
 
“And what’s that about strangers?” Rise demands.
 
“Hey guys!” Kanji shouts over all of them.  When they fall silent, he jerks his head towards the entrance.  “The barrier’s gone.  Are we gonna stand around here or get on with saving Senpai?”
 
“What?!  Let’s go!” Chie says immediately, storming straight into the dungeon.  As though they’d learnt absolutely nothing from all the previous dungeons they’d encountered.  It leaves the rest of them no choice but to hurry to keep up.
 
Naoto’s thoughts are whirling anyway, and she can’t spare the attention to call them out on it and demand they stop and thinks things through first.  She’s on the precipice of figuring it all out, that same sensation she gets whenever she gets all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, or all the evidence on a case.
 
Exits where no exits should exist.  Unnatural dungeons.  And strangers, in the TV.
 
It can’t be.
 
It must be.
 
The Kirijo Group.
 
 
……………………….
 
 
“Fuck!”
 
Adachi kicks the shadow in the head.  It disappears in a squeal and whirl of black smoke.  A weakling.
 
Damn weakling or not, why are the shadows suddenly attacking him?
 
“What the hell did you do, you damn brat?”  His abdomen aches from that one terrifically solid punch he never expected the kid to still have in him.  It took him near half an hour to get his wind back, and moving still hurts.
 
On top of that, the hallways have changed.  The sterile grey corridors have been replaced, melting seamlessly into a new form.
 
Now it’s nothing but mirrors.  Floor, ceiling, stairs, all gleaming silver.  The only variation is the occasional door made of frosted glass.  The effect is disorientating and more than a little unnerving – not that Adachi would admit it.
 
It’s the Shadows, though, that are the strangest.  Most of them are just the standard weak fare you could find anywhere in the TV world.  But the others…
 
Then he hears voices, echoing from a distant corridor.  Familiar voices.
 
Adachi’s mad grin is born anew.  Perfect.
 
There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
 
 
……………………….
 
 
Her dad is home for dinner.  It’s been more common this year – ever since Christmas – but the novelty has yet to fully wear off for Nanako.
 
Even if they’re only convenience store meals, they taste so much better than eating alone, quietly fearing her father is going to disappear while he’s out of her sight.
 
Just like her mother.
 
Just like big bro.
 
They eat in silence, the TV turned up loud to smother the awkwardness.
 
It isn’t real to her.  She still believes, somewhere deep down, that her big bro isn’t actually gone.  He’s just in the city, too busy to call or send her letters or care packages filled with cute stationery or charms or whatever weird knick-knacks he’d discovered that would fit in a parcel, like he used to. 
 
She knows she lost an aunt and uncle too, but she’d been much too young when she last met them.  She tries to summon a memory, but she can’t even picture what they look like.  They had pictures at the funeral, but in black and white and she didn’t have eyes for anything other than the picture of her big bro.
 
They’d been strangers at first, but for that one year, she was a little less lonely.  It had been scary, that November, and the hospital had been frightening, but she doesn’t remember those parts that well.  She’d been sick, and everything is blurry in her memories.
 
She remembers that funny boy, Teddie, though.  And her big bro’s friends, all of them so kind, visiting her and letting her sit with them when they came over.  It made her lucky - some of her friends from school had older siblings who never wanted anything to do with their little sisters.
 
Most of all, though, she remembers her big bro, and his kind smile, and how he never berated her for anything and just always seemed to understand.
 
Her eyes start to water, but she blinks the tears away, and stares forlornly at her now-finished bento.
 
“Do you want some more?” her dad asks.  “I bought extra so we’d have leftovers.”
 
“No thanks.”
 
Nanako had been much too young when her mother died to really understand what it meant.  She missed the idea of her mother more than her mother herself.  She’d wanted someone to greet her when she came home from school, to help her with her chores and homework, to listen to her, and to cook homemade food.
 
Now, though, she’s actually lost someone she knew, who filled so much of that void.
 
Her big bro wasn’t the same as having a mother again, but he’d been almost everything she’d wanted anyway.
 
Her dad switches the channel over to the weather, and stares at it for a long moment, then gets up from the couch.  He pauses in the doorway as though in afterthought.  “Did you want anything else from the kitchen?  Some juice?  Maybe some dessert?”
 
She shakes her head, mouth already puckering into a small frown.
 
He’s going to be drinking again.  She doesn’t like it when he drinks. 
 
While he clatters around the kitchen, the weather forecast completes its loop.  Nanako reaches for the remote, and changes over to one of the variety game shows that are always playing in the evenings.  Nanako hums along with the opening theme tune, a small smile taking root on her face.
 
He comes back in a moment later, beer clutched in hand, and his face darkens.  “Nanako, don’t-” Her dad snatches up the remote and changes it back.
 
She hunches her shoulders, melody dying in her throat.  “I thought you were done,” she mumbles.
 
He sighs – that annoying, adult sigh she’s heard far too often in her life, and quietly hates.  She’s told him before that she doesn’t like it when he does that, but it never makes a difference.  He doesn’t listen.
 
Not like her big bro did.
 
“Why are you always watching the weather channel?” she asks instead, when another loop finishes and he doesn’t make any move to switch channels.  It’s boring.  It’s not going to change if he keeps looking at it.
 
“…I have no damn idea,” he mutters.
 
They sit in the living room in silence, but for the quiet murmur of the weather report.
 
Nanako goes to bed early, stares at the ceiling, and makes wishes she knows will never come true.
 
 
……………………….
 
 
"This... is Senpai's dungeon?" Rise whispers.
 
It’s mirrors.  Endless, misty corridors of mirrors. 
 
That’s not the worst part.  It’s their reflections.
 
Their Shadows stare back at them, with creepy yellow eyes and twisted expressions.  Sometimes they’ll match their every motion perfectly, and then will abruptly move in an unexpected way.  Rise tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, watching her Shadow do the same, trying not to be unnerved by the demonic eyes and the sultry smile on her face.  The reflection suddenly blows her a kiss, and Rise’s fingers twitch and muscles jerk, as though her hand wants to rise and do the same.
 
“What the hell is this?!” Kanji sputters.  He steps back from the wall, jerking when he turns away only to find the reflection behind him with an arm on its hip, leering at him.  The image flickers for a moment, and though the odd smile and amber eyes remain, it copies his movements like a regular mirror once more.
 
It’s disturbing.  What does this say about Senpai?  What part of himself is he denying?  What does it mean?
 
“Shouldn’t we be able to hear a Shadow?” Chie wonders.  “Before, there was always a Shadow taunting us, right?”
 
“But he never had that!  He’s already got a Persona.  Like, a million of them, in fact!” Yosuke complains.  He scowls at his Shadow self in the mirror, and it gives him a dark grin in return.
 
“Can you sense anything, Rise-chan?” Yukiko asks.  She’s obviously trying her best not to look at the walls, but it’s hard to avoid, when it’s not just the walls but the floor and ceiling, too.
 
Rise tears her gaze away from her reflection to check, but Himiko can barely make anything out.  The Shadows are different, though.  There’s something fundamentally wrong with this dungeon, in a completely different way to any before.  “Sorry guys.  I’m picking up hardly anything… There’s too much interference.”
 
“Who cares?” That’s Yosuke again, predictably.  He flips one of his daggers in his hand, and starts forward.  “We’re in, all we gotta do is find him!  We can worry about what it all means later!”
 
“Yeah!”  Kanji brandishes his shield and follows.  “All that matters is getting Senpai outta here!”
 
Rise glances at Teddie, who’s standing next to her looking rather unsure of himself.  Unnervingly, he doesn’t seem to have any reflection at all.  Maybe because he’s lost his Persona.  “What about you, Teddie?”
 
He shakes his head, despondent. “My nose doesn’t know what to make of any of it.  I never thought Sensei would…  If Sensei can’t, then bear can I…”
 
“C’mon, we’d better hurry before those two idiots run too far ahead and get themselves killed.  Geez!  You’d think we’d never run a dungeon before!” Chie complains.  Yukiko gives her an indulgent smile – as though Chie hadn’t done the exact same thing less than ten minutes before.
 
Naoto is, as always, implacable in the face of uncomfortable weirdness, drawing and checking her gun before following at a slightly more cautious pace.  They're all doing their best to ignore their reflections, difficult though it is.  “Teddie, you hang back and guard Rise.  We don’t know what to expect in here.”
 
Teddie salutes, steam – actual steam – rising out of his ears.  “Yesbear!  I won’t let anything happen to the lovely Rise-chan!”  He seems to have bounced back relatively quickly from the loss of his human form, at least.  Teddie is, at the end of the day, a simple guy with a terrifically short attention span.
 
“Thanks, Ted.”  Rise gives him one of her winning TV smiles – he’s earned it, if he can keep on being his goofy upbeat self in the face of a setback like that.
 
“Rise-chan is so lovely~!”
 
Then they have to hurry, or they really will be left behind.
 
It doesn’t take them long to catch up, though, and soon Naoto drops back to guard them as well – Teddie doesn’t pack much punch without a Persona, and the Shadows are causing trouble.  It's a rude wakeup call - Shadows that normally would have been a cakewalk take ages to wear down.  And every enemy that is resistant to wind they come across is suddenly a toil.  Yosuke's the only one with a wind affinity, and Jiraiya just doesn't have the same hitting power they've come to expect from Susan-O. 
 
Those creepy reflections are distracting, too.
 
“This one’s weak against fire!” Rise calls out.  Yukiko nods her thanks, and lets loose an impressive inferno – flames dance in the reflection of her glasses, and her black hair is tossed about by the waves of heat.  The princess of the Amagi Inn looks pretty demure most of the time, but like this, Rise can’t help but think she could be totally badass, like one of those hardcore rockers with a diehard cult following.
 
She really has to stop trying to cast her friends as potential bandmates.  And now’s probably not the time.  “This one’s strong against electricity!”  Kanji scowls, but backs off from the Zionga he’d been prepping.
 
The Shadow goes down, but it takes too long.  They’re already tired, and have a long way to go yet – Kanji and Yosuke and Chie are all dragging their feet after biking their way here, all three of them too ‘macho’ to let someone else do the pedalling.  And by Rise’s estimation, it would be nearly midnight outside the TV by now.  They should have stopped and rested before entering the dungeon.
 
Too late now.  They’ll have to push through, at least until they find an area they can bunker down in to catch some rest.  The fox has disappeared, and they expect she’ll have scouted out a safe area up ahead.  In the meanwhile, Rise has enough TaP sodas on hand to keep everyone energised, even if not at peak efficiency.
 
Then something new shows up on Himiko’s radar, and Rise nearly falls over.
 
“Guys!”  Her voice comes out shrill, in a way that would have had her vocal coach yelling at her.  “Heads up!  Teddie was right!  We’re not alone in here!”
 
And then comes the voice.  One oddly familiar, one none of them ever wanted to hear again.
 
“About time you finally noticed.  I was starting to get bored,” Adachi says, and steps around the corner.



Next chapter




Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
killiara
Nov. 9th, 2011 07:25 am (UTC)
... I don't know weither to say you're EVIL when it comes to cliffhangers, or just really, really good at them. Neither does the Sephy in my icon, really.
sinnatious
Nov. 9th, 2011 09:03 am (UTC)
Ahahaha, I have missed that icon. :3
killiara
Nov. 9th, 2011 07:16 pm (UTC)
It's my favorite, I just don't have many chances to use it.
croix_souillees
Nov. 9th, 2011 09:41 am (UTC)
SCREAM. ... I spoke too soon. Also, lol Adachi. Actually, would be interesting if Adachi counts as Souji's shadow haha.

Also, at work, argh, want to leave a longer comment but

YAY DOJIMA FAMILY crai they're so dysfunctional again Souji Souji be a good big bro come back

gdi grey area, Kirijo grouppp

I love how Rise just wants to cast her friends as bandmates. That would seriously, seriously rock.
sinnatious
Nov. 9th, 2011 10:31 am (UTC)
Doujima's family is so crazy dysfunctional I don't even get how it works. How long has Nanako been a latchkey kid anyway? Guess in small towns it doesn't matter so much. When you think about it Souji is more everybody's counsellor than friend or family member.

Well, Kanji at least already has the look to be in a grunge band! XD ...why hasn't somebody ficced this yet? I thought Band!AUs were like a fandom staple or something.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )