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Reversing Arcana, Chapter 8

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: Social link pov making a plot sandwich.  The pacing on this fic is odd, events seem to happen a lot sooner than I planned them.  Although, wait, are we up to chapter 8 already?

Previous chapter

Reversing Arcana

Chapter 8


Eri smiles as Yuuta runs across the playground with the other children.  A part of her sighs at the grass stains on the knees of his pants, but she doesn’t mind the extra work like she once did.  She’s becoming used to being a mother, alien though it is.
It gives her something to do other than watch TV, besides.
The other mothers chat around her.  She’s new to these play dates with other parents, and Eri still feels on the outside of the group.  She’s younger than most, and has technically never been a mother herself, doesn’t have the same experiences of childbirth and nappy-changing.
She’s trying, though, and the distance feels a little smaller each time.
“He was such a good worker,” one of the other ladies who also used to take her children to day care comments.  “And such a way with children.  I suppose he must have been used to it after dealing with his cousin.”
“You mean little Nanako-chan?  My daughter is friends with her at school, I don’t know how the poor girl copes.  She must be simply heartbroken.”
“I’m surprised she doesn’t come to the day care, actually.  Her father’s a detective, isn’t he?  He must work long hours.”
“She’s such a mature young girl, she’s always very well behaved when she comes to visit.”
Yuuta trips and falls, and Eri is about to rise from her seat in alarm, but he scampers back up a moment later, dirt on his nose and not a care in the world.
She sighs.  It takes a lot of getting used to, being responsible for someone else.
“-spoke to him quite a lot, didn’t you Minami-san?”
Surprised, she turns her attention back to the conversation.  It takes her a moment to realise they’re talking about poor dear Souji-kun.
“Yes.  Since we were both new to town.”  She spends a moment searching for appropriate words.  “It’s a shame.  He was such a kind and understanding boy,” she says.  They all murmur their agreement and condolences.
Eri had been tempted to go to the funeral, actually – out of gratitude, mostly.  It would have been difficult to explain to others, though, how the current thawing relationship with her stepson is due largely to the part-time worker at the after school care.
She’s glad she at least had the opportunity to thank him properly. 
She feels sorry for those who didn’t.
Souji wakes up on what he’s almost certain is a hospital bed – he’s spent enough nights working as a janitor to recognise the sterile tang of industrial-grade disinfectant and the feel of crisp, starchy sheets.
When he opens his eyes, though, he knows it’s no hospital.  There’s no TV in the corner, no soft watercolour paintings, no windows or call buttons or the usual accruements to be found.
There is, however, the shuffle of a turning page.  He rolls his head towards the sound, and sees the woman he’d glimpsed in his last moments of consciousness.
At his attention, she closes the book and sets it down.  “I see you’re finally awake.”
He nods, slightly, and tries to sit up.  Exhaustion drags at his limbs – dimly, he recalls it often took the others at least a couple of days to recover from their time in the TV – but he manages.  Hopefully his experience with the TV world will cut down on the recovery time, even if he had been without his glasses.
Or shoes, for that matter.  He looks down at his feet, clad in now thoroughly dirty socks.  His clothes are a mess, too, dirty and torn.
“You’re in Iwatodai,” she informs him primly.  It takes a minute to place the name – this is where they had their class trip.  It’s still a long way from where he’d been living with his parents, though.  “You collapsed immediately after we pulled you from the TV.  Do you remember?”
He nods, and she studies his face, searching for something.  Whatever it is, she seems to find it.  “Kirijo Mitsuru,” she introduces herself.  Her voice is like sharp steel – it matches her appearance, with the perfectly presented business suit, manicured nails, and glinting crimson eyes.  “I gather you must be Souji Seta.”
Souji nods, again.  He’s tired, and wants to go back to sleep, but Margaret’s warning rings in his brain.
Then she drops the next bombshell.  “You’ve been officially dead for over three weeks.”
And it feels exactly like a shadow has thrown an Agidyne at Jack Frost.
“…My parents?”  The words crinkle like paper, thin and dry, and she hands him a glass of water.
“…I’m sorry.”
He stares at the starched white sheets, and slowly sips the water.
It isn’t like he hasn’t experienced it before.  He’d been nearly mad with grief in that short period when they’d been convinced that Nanako….  But this is the first time someone he cared about actually died.
The ugly thought had been lingering in the back of his mind ever since he made his escape into the TV.  A part of him struggles and swears against it, shouting denials.  After all, they’d been wrong about Nanako, hadn’t they?  Somehow, she’d come back.  This couldn’t be real.
Souji takes another slow sip of water, and sets the glass by the bed.
She watches, waiting for a reaction no doubt, and when one doesn’t come, asks, “Are you alright?”
“Can I call my Uncle?” he replies.
This time, she hesitates.
“We’re working on how to go about that,” she eventually explains.  “As I said, the authorities think you’re dead.  And we cannot simply tell the world that you came through our TV.”
That brings up another issue.  “You know about the TV world.”
“And Persona,” she confirms.  “The Kirijo Group has been investigating the existence of Shadows for many years… likely since before you were even born.  It's long been our belief that the phenomenon was oriented around a research accident-" The word sounds loaded with history. "-and confined the majority of its affects to Iwatodai." She crosses her legs, then her arms, and leans back in her chair.  “Our awareness of the TV world is relatively new.  With the assistance of someone familiar with the events that occurred in Inaba, we have managed to breach into the world, though there is still much we’ve yet to understand.”
That explains it, then – the reason for the cold, soulless, mechanical dungeon.  It’s a created space – not a world given life and form by Izanami, shaped by psyches unlucky enough to find themselves trapped in it.
…How is that he fell into it, though, from half an hour’s train ride away?
“We’ve been having some troubles with it, honestly,” she says, standing.  “I hope you will assist us with them.”  She studies him more carefully, thoughtful now.  “Your eyes remind me of…”
A knock on the door interrupts them, and the thought goes unfinished.  She goes to answer, and confers with a man wearing an expensive-looking business suit.  It occurs to Souji that he has no idea how old she is – at first glance, she can’t be more than a couple of years out of high school, yet it appears as though she’s running the company.  But running a conglomerate like the Kirijo Group?  It makes the Junes franchise look like a small fry.
“Excuse me,” She says to him after a moment.  “You should probably get some more rest.  There’s food in the fridge if you’re hungry.  I’ll return later.”  She disappears outside, and Souji is left alone, and only marginally less confused.

The door is, of course, locked.
Naoki Konishi watches Yosuke Hanamura storm through the shopping district in a huff.  The crowd parts for him, the whispers follow, but he doesn't think Hanamura notices.  He's probably used to the murmurs and pointing fingers in the shopping district, and doesn't realise that their purpose has changed.

He knows about 'Hana-chan', of course - his sister used to complain about him on the phone to her friends.  He guesses that's why Hanamura has never treated him like glass - he probably had a crush on her, or something, and was grieving himself.  It's a weird thought to entertain, but the distance of a year and a half lets him examine the possibility objectively, the way Souji used to. 
He wonders if Hanamura ever knew how much she despised him.  Would it make it worse or better to know?

He watches the crowd of eyes following the 'Prince of Junes' with more interest than Hanamura himself.  It's weird to be on the other side now.  People have forgotten about Saki - her death buried in the subsequent murders and the closing of the case.  By the time it all wrapped up, he couldn't even summon any anger at the detective who confessed.  He did his mourning, and people have stopped giving him those pitying looks - those are reserved for Hanamura, now.  Everyone knew Souji and 'the Junes boy' were practically attached at the hip. 
It's an interesting perspective - he can understand the pitying expressions now.  If he feels this desolate about Souji's fate, how much worse must Hanamura feel?
It's with this thought that he puts himself in the senior's path.  "Hanamura-senpai."

The gaze that snaps up at him is as sharp as steel, but Naoki's excellent at feigning indifference.  "What do you- oh, Konishi-kun.  Hey.  What's the matter?"  The words are casual, but his voice and smile are strained.

"You don't need to pretend with me.  It's okay to be upset.  It's also okay not to be upset."

The words are blunt, but he's nowhere near as smooth a talker as what his senpai used to be.  Stark, uncomfortable truths are more his style.
It’s curious, watching Hanamura’s expression go from confused to guarded.  “What are you talking about?”
“Souji-senpai, of course.”  He flinches.  “It doesn’t make you weak to be upset.  And you shouldn’t worry if you’re not as upset as you think you should be, either.  It’ll probably hit you later.”
“I can’t just-”
“You want some beef skewers?  My treat.”  Not the sort of thing he’d normally do, but he remembers Souji taking him for beef skewers not too long after they met, and it had been the first bright spot in what felt like months of darkness.  “It’ll make you feel better for a while, maybe.”

"What- It's not like that, he's not- if I don't-" Hanamura keeps interrupting himself, looking about ready to tear his hair out.
“Yeah, I know,” he replies in a droll tone.  “Two sets of beef skewers, please.”  The lady waves away the change with a pitying look at Hanamura.  He knows that expression, alright.  It’s free food, though, and for a good cause.  Maybe those pitying shopkeepers are on to something.  He hands over the second skewer without a word.
Hanamura takes it out of reflex, but doesn’t even look at it.  “Dude, you are so weird.”
Naoki has heard that before.  “Souji-senpai’s the weird one.  He did this for me, when I was still feeling down about my sister.”
There’s the expected flinch.  “Ha, yeah… sorry for, uh, never saying anything back then…”
He shrugs, and doesn’t comment, pale eyebrows furrowing as he reaches the end of his beef skewer and Hanamura has yet to take a bite.  It’s not really going like he thought it would.  He almost regrets stopping him.  Maybe it was a bit arrogant, thinking that because he’d gone through the same thing, was going through it again right now, that he might be able to help Hanamura the same way his senpai once helped him.
Selfish motivations in the end after all.  He’s no better than anyone else.  He just wants to feel better about how he’s dealing with it by using someone else.
Hanamura lingers for another minute or two, before awkwardly handing the now lukewarm beef skewer back to him.  “Um, thanks Konishi-kun, but I really gotta… I’ve got some stuff I’ve gotta do.”
“…Okay,” he agrees, because what else can he do?
They part ways with a nod, and the Prince of Junes continues through the shopping district, though he looks gloomy instead of angry now.  Naoki finishes the second skewer, then shoves his hands in his pockets and stares up at the gathering rain clouds.  It’s been raining a lot lately.
Why can't he do anything?  Was he like this when Souji dealt with him?  It fills his mouth with a bitter taste. 

He thinks maybe he liked it better when he couldn't feel anything at all.

Next chapter



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 23rd, 2011 02:43 am (UTC)
NO YOSUKE. DON'T UNDO ALL THAT TIME SPENT FIXING NAOKI the whiner. *cough* also, I'm seriously glad to see the mother. D: she seriously gave me a hard time.

Buh buh buh house arrest, Souji. No TV, they know you better than that. Also, creepy. He's going to be a science experiment for the good of learning more about shadows and retrieving Minato. Grey area, grey area, Mitsuru.

I love love the bit about Souji trying to accept the grief and how characteristically brief it was, but at the same time, how worrying. ;A; Waiting for the next awesome part, as usual.
Oct. 23rd, 2011 02:55 am (UTC)
Oh wow, you're fast.

Naoki IS a whiner. Yeah, the mother was an odd social link. I'd been conditioned to expect all the girls to hit on Souji by the time I got around to her so it felt kind of awkward!

You are a canny reader. I'm glad, I was worried that maybe some of the subtext and implications were being lost.
Oct. 23rd, 2011 03:12 am (UTC)
Lol. You update on my Sundays, which is a free-for-all for me, so I get to read it when I get the notifs.

I wanted to drop his SLink right THERE. Oh man. It was creepy enough with the old lady and the nurse, but when it got to charming the newly-wed, new-mother I was just very iffed out. lol

Thanks, but it's all because I know that you're a very efficient writer. No element out of place that has no reason for being there.
Oct. 23rd, 2011 02:55 am (UTC)
Awwww Naoki :( His S-link was one of my favourites. I liked how he tried to reach out to Yosuke.

Poor Souji. Stuck in a TV for goodness knows how long, now stuck in a room with goodness knows how long (too bad he can't warp into other electronic devices XD). You love torturing your protagonists, don't you XD?

I wonder what Mitsuru and the others want with him :/ Waiting eagerly for the next installment!
Oct. 23rd, 2011 03:11 am (UTC)
Haha, you're right, I really do like tormenting my protagonists. XD Hey, I did warn that it wouldn't be a fluffy fic.

I guess he can't fit into a phone. :P Heeey, I wonder if Persona 5 (if it ever got made) would focus on cell phones?
Oct. 23rd, 2011 03:44 am (UTC)
XD Oh well, it makes for a better story? XD!

I was thinking more of the fridge, actually... (proof that my brain is always on crack)...

Hmm I thought P5 was already in production? I thought I saw something about it.
Oct. 23rd, 2011 05:49 am (UTC)
...Fridges.... interesting. The pathway to the meat dimension?!

I seem to recall an announcement about some people who would be involved with it, but that's all, and that was ages ago. :( As far as I'm concerned, it's vaporware until there's a trailer.
Oct. 26th, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)
D: Instead of a TV studio it's a meat packing facility?

Hmm, I've read about it here and there, but you're right, there's still no trailer :/ *sad* Are you playing/planning to play the P2 remake?
Oct. 23rd, 2011 04:17 am (UTC)
Since the others have already said what I wanted to say, in better words, I'll also add that because I'm in the middle of editing a P4/TWEWY crossover chapter, it took me a while to realise Eri =/= Shiki's friend |||OTL

But in her section, these two lines stood out most too me.
She’s glad she at least had the opportunity to thank him properly.

She feels sorry for those who didn’t.

Oct. 23rd, 2011 05:53 am (UTC)
Ahahaha, future!Eri marries a businessman who dumps a kid on her. Have you started posting that yet? I'm so excited for it.

The fun part about this is I can write tragic things like that, but it's not really tragic because Souji is, after all, still alive.
Oct. 23rd, 2011 06:01 am (UTC)
Nope, not yet! Since I'm pretty slow at writing, I want to get more written before I start posting! Well, that I'm quickly reviewing the social link sequences xD

All the non-IT S.Links: /STRANGLES
Oct. 23rd, 2011 06:14 am (UTC)
Good plan, chapter buffers are invaluable. I shall wait patiently for it.

It makes me wonder - is it illegal to fake your own death? You know, presuming that there's no insurance payouts involved and you're not running from a crime etc etc.

LOL, I just looked it up on Yahoo Answers and it had one of the best responses. 'Yes. Good luck!'
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )