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Reversing Arcana, Chapter 7

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: Not actually related to this fic, but tenshinoakuma has posted A Space Left By You, her take on what happened in the timeline left behind in The Fifth Act.  It is pretty excellent and everyone should check it out.

Previous chapter


Reversing Arcana

Chapter 7


Souji dreams.
Not of a limousine, like he expected, but of a ridiculously ornate lobby.  To a hotel, possibly, but it doesn’t feel like that detail matters.
He looks around in pensive silence, attempting to identify the source of familiarity.  Ahead of him sits a glass elevator, large enough to be a room itself, with royal blue velvet drapes and carpet and wrought iron framing the darkness beyond.  The tall glass doors at his back also lead to blackness, though just before the encroaching gloom waits a gleaming limousine - one he suspects he's seen the inside of before.
Only then does his gaze turn to the concierge desk, and catch sight of the familiar blonde woman, dressed in that same shade of royal blue, waiting behind it.
He crosses the floor, footsteps echoing on the chequered marble tiles.  He stops by the desk, and waits, because he doesn’t know why he’s here and knows that asking won’t achieve anything with Margaret – not unless she offers first.
“It’s… unexpected to see you again, Souji Seta,” she greets, voice as measured and mellow as he recalls.  Her lips are turned in an ever-present ghost of a smile, which widens slightly when he looks around, searching for a certain old man with a disproportionately large nose.  “It is only I here today, I’m afraid.  Your contract was fulfilled.  You have already unlocked your potential.”
Souji nods – he never expected to see even Margaret again, truthfully.  He eyeballs the elevator one more time, wondering why it gives him such a dark, oppressive feeling.
Margaret answers his question before he can give it voice.  "This is a crossroads, a point of intersection that should never have occurred.  Both wildcards have reached their destination.  And yet... my sister searches for new routes still."  She folds her hands in front of her.  "An elevator can travel only two paths, in the end - into darkness, or light.  You, on the other hand, could choose many destinations... many paths.  It is this flexibility she seeks to exploit."
Souji's brow furrows.  He doesn't fully understand.  What does she hope to do?
And what does Margaret mean by ‘both’ wildcards?
“There is little I can do to help you, Souji Seta,” she says, meeting his gaze clearly and seriously.  “But I can warn you of this much.  Gods can be subdued, but the work of mortals… that is something far more powerful.”
Naoto lets her eyes slide across the group, resting on each of them in turn.
With the TV being sold, things have changed.  They can’t get to Teddie.  They can’t check on Souji.
Tempers are frayed.  Paranoia is setting in.  Panic is imminent.
Even she is not immune.
“We can’t just sit here!  We need to do something!” Rise complains.  There’s a sharp twang to her voice, the country accent jutting out from under her normally smooth TV-friendly tones.  “It’s like none of you want to find Senpai-”
“Hey, don’t think you can get away with saying something like that!” Yosuke snaps.  He’s not shouting, but soon will be.  “Of course we want to find him!  You’re hardly one to talk!  You know, maybe it was one of your stalkers who-”
Naoto forgets sometimes that Yosuke’s not as stupid as he often acts – she thought she and Rise were the only ones who had entertained that particular notion.  “Unlikely.  This could very well be an unfortunate coincidence.”
“But what if it isn’t?” Yukiko asks.  “The timing is a little too good, don’t you think?”  Her hands, folded in her lap, twitch briefly, and she keeps stealing glances at Yosuke.
“Yeah, what are the odds it would go missing right when we needed it most?” Chie points out.
“Damn it!” Kanji mutters, slamming a hand against the table.  Everybody jumps, though some of them hide it better than others.
Naoto remains silent.  The timing is a little too inconvenient, and she can’t help but wonder if her friends in the city might already be intervening without her knowledge.  Why they would take the TV, however, doesn’t make any sense.  The only conclusion she can reach is that they might want to keep them from the TV.  She can only see two motivations for such an action – they want to protect them from taking risks, or….
Or they think one of them is responsible.
Her eyes narrow, and she’s not surprised to see some of the others eyeballing each other shiftily.  Yukiko keeps looking at Yosuke, and Chie and Rise are staring at him too.  Kanji doesn’t look like he knows what to make of anything.  Yosuke, for his part, seems oblivious, apparently deciding to place his mistrust…
Naoto blinks when she realises it’s her he’s eyeing suspiciously. 
Does he know that she’s been in contact with other Persona-users outside of their group?  Until this whole fiasco, there had never been any reason to inform them that she’d made contact with others who shared their abilities, and then when such a disaster unfolded in their midst, she thought it wise to keep it a secret, especially when it became apparent there was a risk of them stepping in and taking over.  She knows her friends and senpai well, and is aware that they would react poorly to the idea of handing over the reins of power to someone else, no matter how experienced.  Souji is theirs.
“Is there any way other way we could see who bought the television?  Security tapes?” she suggests.
It takes Yosuke a minute to answer, and when he does, his voice is gruff.  “I don’t know if I can get at them – asking to borrow the computer is one thing, borrowing the security tapes is something else.  And unless something weird happens, the tapes are usually recorded over every 24 hours anyway.”
“Huh!  What good is being the manager’s son then?”  Chie’s tone is as lightly neutral as always, but the choice of words is enough to make Yosuke’s eyes darken.
“Sounds like an excuse to me,” Kanji grumbles.  “It’s for Senpai!  There should be a way, right?  What if we just bust in there and tell them-”
“Let’s not be hasty,” Naoto interrupts.  “There might be less drastic ways of acquiring the same information.  The fact that the TV was there for so long without being purchased should mean that whoever sold it should remember who bought it.  And even if they don’t, there’s a reason why that part of the electronics department is always so empty in Inaba.”
“Oh – you mean, there aren’t many people who can afford a big flat screen TV like that!” Yukiko realises.
Chie chews on her bottom lip.  “Yeah, even after a year and a half it’s still beyond the price range of most people in town.  Maybe one of the doctors at the hospital?”
“I could probably afford one, but it would look pretty stupid in that old house.”  Rise’s face is slightly pinched.
“Oh yeah, I kind of forget sometimes that you used to be Risette,” Kanji mumbles.  “Sorry, senpai, I’m wracking my brain, but there just ain’t anybody in the shopping district with that kinda dough.”
Naoto realises her grandfather could – the estate is plenty large enough – but doubts it, as he’s never had much interest in that sort of frivolity.  She’ll check in case, but doesn’t see the point in bringing it up – especially when Yosuke is giving her that look out of the corner of his eyes again.
“In the shopping district…”  Chie’s expression stills.  “…But what about Junes?”
Yosuke can’t keep looking at her like she’s keeping secrets, because now all eyes are on him.  “Huh?”
“Hey yeah!  Your father manages Junes, right?  It’s no secret you’re loaded!”
Yosuke splutters.  “Wha- We already have a perfectly good TV!  It could be the Amagi Inn too, you know!”
“Hey, don’t drag Yukiko into this!  I visit the Inn all the time – I know they haven’t bought new TVs recently!” Chie leaps to her friend’s defence as always.
“That’s right,” Yukiko states matter-of-factly.  “And honestly, the Inn doesn’t make that much money.  The upkeep is pretty expensive.”
“So what are you suggesting, then?!”
“I don’t know, Senpai.”  Even Kanji is looking a little cool.  “Why don’t you tell us?”
“What the hell is wrong with everyone?” Yosuke half-shouts, hand slicing violently through the air in an all-too-familiar motion.  “I think I’d know if the old man bought that TV, okay?  And if he did, it wouldn’t matter, because then at least we’d know where it is!”  Throwing his hands up in disgust, he turns away.  “Forget it.  I’ll go check the roster to see who was on yesterday.”  His shoulders are hunched as he stalks away, and while he looks angry, the tightness around his eyes makes it look like he’s a little hurt at their insinuations, too.  He glances back only once, and his eyes meet cobalt blue before sliding away again.
Naoto feels bad for him, she really does.  She doesn’t honestly think he had anything to do with the TV’s disappearance.  Everyone’s stressed, and with a lack of external targets, it was only a matter of time before they started to suspect each other.
But even knowing that, a part of her starts to wonder if maybe Yosuke doesn’t know about her dealings with Persona-users outside of Inaba – because how could he, really – and instead might be wary of her for entirely different reasons. 
People with guilty consciences tend to be nervous around detectives, after all.
She’s an old, old woman, and Hisano has seen many people die.  Strangers.  Acquaintances.  Family.  Loved ones.
Souji Seta never precisely fit in any of those categories.  He reminded her of her late husband, but… well, if she were a hundred years younger, she liked to joke.  It does not escape her notice that her sense of humour has taken a new turn for the morbid.  Souji would chide her gently.
She settles by the riverbed, just this once.  She’s allowed, she thinks, because she’s not here to mourn him this time.  She’s remembering someone else.  He wasn’t family, certainly wasn’t a lover, yet more than an acquaintance.  But she feels far too old, and far too removed from the world, to use the term ‘friend’.  Friends keep in contact, for one. 
Her children don’t live near Inaba, so she doesn’t get to visit very often anymore.  Wouldn’t have known the fate that befell him, if it weren’t for the Junes boy coming across her by chance when she was in town to visit her doctor.  Recalled that Souji used to talk to her, apparently, but knew little else, and Hisano quietly approves of the evidence of discretion.  Hanamura – she’d learnt his name then – had hurriedly blurted out the details of a funeral, stayed just long enough to be sure she wasn’t going to keel over from the shock, and hurried away to hide the tears in his eyes.
Hisano has a lot of experience with death, and considers now that perhaps she ought to have said something to him.  Because of that experience, however, she’s certain that nothing she could have done would make a difference.  No one knows the shallow comfort of condolences quite as well as she.  The boy will learn to move on in time.  It took her years, and a healthy nudge from a certain grey-haired child.  But now she wonders if this is backsliding.
“I went to your funeral,” she mumbles to thin air.  The fisherman nearby doesn’t turn  – the sound of the river swallows her words.  “You’ve given me another unpleasant memory.”
A trout jumps in the river, arching in the air magnificently before splashing back into the current.  A moment later, it’s reeled in on a fishermen’s hook, scales sparkling in the sun.
“Don’t be sad for me – it’s just one more.  Perhaps I am Death after all.”
Not an acquaintance, not family, not a friend, but there was an unbreakable bond between them.
She chuckles humourlessly.  “That’s not quite true.”  Her voice is creaky like a broken rocking chair and as harsh as sandpaper.  “Because the bond is broken now, isn’t it?  There’s not much that can overcome Death.”

Next chapter


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 19th, 2011 07:24 am (UTC)
... not if you have a persona, bound gods, have the status of a wildcard and a fulfilled contract and what you're set to do is to find someone who is sleeping.
Oct. 19th, 2011 09:28 am (UTC)
Oct. 21st, 2011 01:30 am (UTC)
asdf;lkj thanks for the pimping! ♥

It's been fascinating watching the Investigation Team pick at each other. Without Souji, the bonds are still there, but now they're tenuous at best.

What I really love is the time taken to explore the other social links Souji had formed, too. For me, because I didn't actually complete any of the non-IT, non-Dojima and non-plotline social links, it's also been a way for me to get to know the people I didn't get to reach out to with Souji.

...I still think Souji's pimp limousine is way classier than Minato's silly elevator.
Oct. 21st, 2011 04:10 am (UTC)
Thanks for writing it! ♥

Aha, I'm glad to hear that. I actually worried I was maybe spending too much time on the social links, but it felt weird leaving them out. I didn't complete all of them either, but that's nothing the internet can't fix! :D

Haha, a pimp mobile for stripper!Souji.
Oct. 22nd, 2011 12:02 am (UTC)
So, I don't know the persona fandom at all but you make me horribly interested in it *__*
Oct. 22nd, 2011 03:59 am (UTC)
Haha, success? :D It's a great game and an equally awesome fandom.
Oct. 22nd, 2011 05:56 am (UTC)
I need to explore this fandom then! I am undergoing fic withdrawal in my main fandoms :C

Sadly I don't have as much time to play videogames and get familiar with the backstory. Curse you college
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )