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Reversing Arcana, Chapter 12

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: Posting today instead of tomorrow as I'm not sure if I'll get the chance tomorrow.

Previous chapter


Reversing Arcana

Chapter 12


It’s late before they manage to gather at Yosuke’s house – excuses made, just in case.  Sleepovers, camping trips, weekend study sessions – whatever it took.  This time, they’re not leaving the TV world until they have Souji back. 
“Is everyone here?” Chie calls out, perched on her tip-toes, counting heads.
“Yeah, we’re all here, Senpai,” Kanji answers.  Even the fox yips, and Yukiko barely hides her giggle at Yosuke’s distraught face, freaking out about his parents finding fox fur on the couch. “And I’ve got my equipment right here too.”  He hefts a heavy shield in his hands.  Everyone nods – Yukiko brought her fan, Chie’s wearing armoured boots, and Naoto is always armed.  All of their equipment is new and shiny – Daidara must have done some good business these past two days.  Even Rise has been busy – she might not need weapons, but she’s filled a backpack with soda and snacks and bandages and all those weird remedies that gossipy lady in the sundries store sells. 
“Yosuke-kun?” Yukiko prompts.
“Huh?  Uh, yeah.”  He twirls a dagger on his finger to show, which is slightly nerve-wracking when he doesn’t appear to be paying the least bit of attention.
“We should hurry,” Naoto implores.  Their excuses won’t do them any good if Yosuke’s father comes home and finds them all hanging around his living room. 
“Right.  You guys bring yours?” Yosuke asks.
Kanji and Chie lug their bicycles into the living room.  “You sure this is gonna work, senpai?” Kanji asks gruffly.
“It better!  But, um, maybe someone should stick their arm in there while we’re doing it, just in case.”
Dutifully, Yukiko sticks her hand in the TV – the screen pools around her wrist, and she can feel warm, stale air on the other side.  It’s a weird sensation, and she wiggles her fingers while Yosuke painstakingly manoeuvres his bike into the wide-screen TV.  Rather than follow it in, though, he hangs back, hovering anxiously as Chie and Kanji follow suit.  Chie manages to knock over a vase.  “Eeek!  Sorry!”
“Maybe I can fix it,” Yukiko offers – it’s only cracked.  “I used to knock things over all the time at the Inn.”  She feels the need to be extra-nice to Yosuke now, especially after her doubts when the TV had been sold.
“Forget it,” Yosuke groans, and mutters something about how ‘the old man won’t even notice.’  He turns it around so the crack faces the wall.  The fox hops into the TV with a dainty jump, and Yukiko follows.
The TV world around Inaba, at least, doesn’t appear to be any different at first sight, but Yukiko’s not the one who would know.  “Teddie?” she asks Rise.
“Over by the barrier.”  The pop idol is squinting into the distance, as though troubled by something but unable to put her finger on it.  Himiko’s satellite dish tracks back and forth, seeking.  “Something’s different, though.  I think we should hurry.”
“Well that’s why we brought these!” Yosuke declares, untangling the bikes.  “Even if we have to ride tandem, it’s gotta be faster than walking.”
“Yukiko, you’re with me!” Chie calls out.  Yukiko smiles.  She learnt how to ride on Chie’s bike, and they’ve ridden tandem plenty of times before, so it’ll be a cinch.
“Uh, Naoto-kun, if you, um, if you want…” Kanji stutters, face bright red.
Their Detective Prince, for her part, simply inclines her head.  “Thank you, Kanji.  I’m afraid I never had the need to get a bicycle for myself in Inaba.”
“Woo!  Looks like I’m with you then, Yosuke-senpai~!” Rise practically leaps on him, and pokes him in the cheek with her finger, lowering her voice to a sultry tone.  “Take good care of me, won’t you?”
She’s teasing him, obviously, but Yosuke looks like a startled deer.  Yukiko stifles another laugh – if she starts, she won’t stop, and it’s not even that funny.  But his face…!
He’s rescued by a short bark.  Yosuke looks at the fox.  “I guess you can ride in the basket,” he grumbles.  The fox gives him a severe look, and jumps in nimbly.  It’s a tight fit, but she settles herself regally on her haunches, red-orange fur poking through the wire mesh.
“Right!” Kanji yells, filled with bravado – probably a lot of it to do with Naoto sitting at his back.  “Let’s go save Senpai!”
Everyone cheers, though some of their cheers are more uncertain than others.
This is the first time they’ve set out to fight on their own, without Souji leading them. 
Yukiko can’t help but feel a little nervous about it. 
Adachi’s snarl of rage echoes through the dungeon.
Souji stumbles onward.  He has to keep moving.  Has to get away.  Because Adachi will follow, eventually.  That hit he gave him won’t slow him down forever.
He lost his bar at some point, he can’t remember where – he probably dropped it when he got pulled out of the TV.  All he has left to fight the shadows with are his Personae and his fists.  It took up a lot of his strength get even this far from Adachi.  Physically, he’s reaching his limit.  He hadn’t even recovered from his first stint in the TV when he’d thrown himself back in here.  And then…
“Keep running and hiding, you coward.  I’ll find you eventually.  You can’t escape – I control the exits here.  All thanks to a neat bit of technology our buddies at the Kirijo Group whipped up.  And if I don’t get you-” He cackles.  “-the shadows will.”
But Souji has a trump card.  One he’s been keeping safe, protected in his pocket, all this time.
The glasses.
They’re cracked, and sit crooked, but when he settles them on his nose, the fog thins.  The throbbing headache recedes, if only a little.
“You’re powerless here, you hear me?  You can’t do anything about it.  I was the one who set that fire, did you know that?”  Another bark of laughter.  “And the best part?  I never would have been able to if it weren’t for you.  You’re a thorough kid, Souji-kun.  That one letter you sent about Izanami had your new address right there for me to see.”
Once more, he forces himself not to think about it, not to contemplate those vicious words, the same way he forces himself not to think about his parents.  He tries to reason through things rationally, but soon he can’t even do that, as that starts to bring him to things he can’t afford to contemplate either.  Not if he wants to retain any control at all.
“Of course, I can’t give you all the credit.  Our buddies at the Kirijo Group had their part.  They’re the ones who hauled me out of prison so they could play with gods.  Of course, I didn’t feel like sticking around for everything that bitch had planned.”
That horrible doubt lurks at the back of his mind, though.  That horrible, hurtful thought, that he knows is wrong, knows is unfair, but Souji also knows that he might soon be reaching the limit of his understanding.
Logic hasn’t been serving him too well lately. 
“And do you know who told them about the TV world in the first place?  It was your little buddy, that ‘Detective Prince’.  Sure sold you out fast, didn’t she?  Bet she never even told you about it.”
Darkness begins to creep in at the edges of his vision, and he jerks for a moment, expecting a shadow, but is met only with more fog.  Even with the glasses, it seems to get thicker by the hour.
The fog, the deceit that clouds human hearts.
He’s starting to think that perhaps the Truth isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
Even with the bikes, it takes them nearly two hours to reach the strange dungeon. 
They shouldn’t complain – even if the laws of space are somewhat warped in the TV world, it’s a long way.  It took them half a day walking last time.  In the real world, it’s at least an hour by train.  They’re lucky it doesn’t take days.
Yosuke’s legs are pretty sure it’s been days already though.
“Hurry up, Yosuke!  We’re nearly there!”  Rise’s voice is shrill in his ear.  The damn fox yips, too.
“Shut up, both of you!  I didn’t see either of you offering to pedal!  You’re heavy!”
“What?!! Are you calling me fat, senpai?!”
“What- No!  I mean-!” No sane man would call Risette fat.  “Arggh!  You’re still a whole person!  It’s not like you’re a bag of feathers!”
“Yosuke-senpai is so horrible!”
Just to make matters worse, Chie drops back to eye the commotion.  “Hey, this jerk giving you trouble, Rise-chan?”  Her voice turns syrupy sweet.  “I still owe you for Trial of the Dragon II, don’t I, Yosuke?”
It’s a conspiracy.  He’s convinced of it.  “Kanji!  Help a brother out over here, would you?!”  Even if it’s Kanji, beggars can’t be choosers.
No good.  Kanji’s face has been beet-red the entire trip.  Yosuke’s pretty freaking sure those are actual stars in his eyes, like he’s been taking lessons from Teddie or something.  He’s expecting him to break out into sparkles and cherry blossoms any minute.
Yukiko seems to be struggling to suppress another giggling fit.  No help at all.
For just that moment though, even with that big gaping hole in the group… it feels a little bit like the Investigation Team is together again, that they’ve recaptured that easy camaraderie they enjoyed six months ago.  And Yosuke can forget about Susan-O and Jiraiya and this whole ugly mess.
It doesn’t last for more than a minute.
“Hey, isn’t that-” Chie squints into the distance.  The fox’s ears perk up, though her expression is deadly serious.
Yosuke follows the line of sight, and catches a glimpse of the blue and red blob just up ahead.
They all put on one last mad burst of speed, pedalling up to where Teddie’s frantically waving at them.  Yosuke ditches his bike, the fox giving him a displeased look when he nearly lets it topple before she can jump down.
“Everyone came!” The mascot’s practically dancing in agitation.
“Teddie?” A note of uncertainty creeps into Chie’s voice.  “Did something happen…?”
“It’s so beary, beary bad!  It’s the worst!  I don’t know how… it’s dreadful!”  He bursts into comedic tears.  “You took so long!  I couldn’t bear it!  I didn’t know what to do!”
A little alarmed now, Yosuke forces his tired legs forward.  “Hey, Teddie, relax!  Just calm down and spit it out, okay?”  He thumps him on the back – a little bit harder than intended.
“Ah, wait-!” Teddie starts to cry.
With a pop, the head comes free, and rolls to stop next to Yosuke's feet.

The suit is empty inside.
Souji rubs at his eyes, then removes the glasses for a moment, just to check they’re still working.  The longer he uses them, the more apparent it becomes they’re not as good as Teddie’s.
A Shadow slithers around the corner, and rears up with a shriek.  They’re formless, in this dungeon – black, writhing messes of arms and eyes and teeth.
It doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous.  Or large.
A massive, clawed black hand lashes out at him.  Souji steps back, barely evading the sweep, and crushes a card in his palm.  “Loki!”
Loki doesn’t come.
The next attack smashes into his shoulder, and throws him halfway across the hallway.  The shadow slithers after him, screeching.  Frantic, Souji scrambles for another – something, anything, with a one-hit kill.  “Dominion!”
There’s a pause, but the angel springs into action.  The golden glowing sigil of Hamaon surrounds the shadow.  With a shrill scream, it vanishes in a flare of light and smoke.  Dominion fades a moment later.
It takes him a minute to get his breath back, and then another minute to struggle back into a sitting position.  His shoulder is dislocated.  His eyes are screwed shut, and his breath comes in ragged gasps, but he forces himself to focus through the pain.
“Daisoujou.” He mumbles, reaching for the familiar Persona.  He needs to keep moving, to get away, but without at least a Diarama, he won’t be able to move. 
The Persona doesn’t appear.  He takes a deep breath, and focuses harder.  “Daisoujou!”
This time, it materialises before him, though its form is ghostly.  The skeletal Persona barely remains long enough to cover him with a healing light, and the spell seems weaker than normal, but it’s enough to chase away the worst of his pain and fix his shoulder.  Souji forces himself to his feet.
There’s something wrong with the Arcana.  There has been for a while, but it keeps getting worse.
Mada of Magician won’t come, though Pyro Jack will bounce out with a little coaxing.  Nor will Beezlebub of the Devil, or Mahakala of Death, or Sandalphon of Moon.  Isis, of the Empress, is one of the few that seems not to have diminished at all.  Those of the Hermit seem fine too, still eagerly rushing into corporeality at his touch, but so many others lay dormant, quiet, and reluctant.
It doesn’t matter.  None of it matters.  All he needs is to escape, to find some kind of exit. 
He just needs some time.  Some space.  Another way out.
He lurches down the dull hallways, scarcely aware of the world seeming to twist, change, morph around him.  As he keeps walking, there’s a curious lack of further Shadows, but he’s so concerned with keeping some distance on Adachi that he doesn’t care. 
Adachi’s gone quiet, the past few hours.  He doesn’t want to think about what that means.
No more.  No more.  He’s tired.  He’s dealt with too much.  He wants to go home.  Except home is…
Something breaks, but Souji keeps walking.

Next chapter


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 5th, 2011 01:42 pm (UTC)

He turns it around so the crack faces the wall.
This detail is hilarious, and also surprisingly effective. A lot of people won't realize that an ornament is broken if it's... turned.

...is together again, that they’ve recaptured that easy camaraderie they enjoyed six months ago.
Beautiful. And yes, I noticed it even before it was pointed out, but it's something that's been missing throughout the fic and it made me so happy to see it again. But..

It doesn’t last for more than a minute.
That's what makes this whole thing so sad. Souji's arcana is fading because of the lack of his presence, but I wonder, now, how much of their strength was born of their own development and how much of it was actually born from Souji's trust in them.

One thing that did strike me as odd with the Social Links is its seeming permanence and one-sidedness. It's always the SLink that trusts and forms a solid bond toward the MC/Souji, but not quite the other way around. It disturbed me, but I lost the other implication:

What if that was the case because Souji's accepted the wholeness of the changes in the relationship from the very beginning. This chapter made me realize that, and made me worry about the implications: just how much of the Investigation Team's dwindling powers were caused by Souji and not by just them?

Something breaks, but Souji keeps walking.
STOP IGNORING YOURSELF, SOUJI. ;A; Something bad will happen. Something very bad.
Nov. 5th, 2011 02:33 pm (UTC)
Better than late?! :D I'm anticipating being out for most of tomorrow and probably not feeling coherent enough for posting by the time I'm home.

<3 I love your meta thoughts as always. The social links are kind of one-sided, aren't they? I'm reminded of hiimdaisy's P4 comic, where you hit Rank 1. 'You've formed a social link with Yosuke! Yosuke will now die for you.' Surely that should have been a Level 10 thing.
Nov. 5th, 2011 02:39 pm (UTC)
Excuse my change of journal. True, it's certainly better than late, but I keep getting notifs of updates and I'M NOT MENTALLY READY. Hope tomorrow's a good day. Is it a good day?

You keep making me think meta thoughts, so I totally blame you. And yes, they definitely are. *ponders* In a way, the Social Links are very creepy in that they are very strong and yet very intense. It's fine in a fluffy way, but when you really think about it, it does have really scary, dark implications.
Nov. 5th, 2011 03:00 pm (UTC)
...XD How on earth do you handle all the authors who don't have any kind of schedule at all?

I think changing the lighting and music for all the social link encounters would be the only thing you'd need to do to create a very different impression.

It's a bit depressing, though, isn't it? Imagine not being your best friend's best friend. (And who IS Souji's best friend really?)
Nov. 5th, 2011 03:09 pm (UTC)
Simple! By forgetting the fics exist. That's the problem of being an author with a reputation (in my mind, at least) of having an update schedule and sticking to it. That you actually FINISH them is what makes you rank pretty high in the expectations list. Sorry! XD;

Oh man, this is very true. ... I wonder what would happen if you mute parts of the game and play creepy music.

That happened to me when I was younger haha. So crushed, so very crushed. (The wolf, of course. the only one who didn't talk. Sob.)
Nov. 5th, 2011 05:44 pm (UTC)
It makes me wonder how Souji's going to greet his friends when they finally catch up with him. Will it be with laughter and relief, or, will it be with hurled accusations towards the Detective Prince? He seems close enough to the breaking point where I'm willing to bet the latter. Q.Q
Nov. 7th, 2011 10:43 am (UTC)

Thanks as always for reading and commenting!
Nov. 5th, 2011 09:35 pm (UTC)

a;sdlkfja;ksdfjas;df it was so heartbreaking to see Souji try to call personas that won't come ;;

Well, I'm not very good at conveying my thoughts and conjectures other than keysmashing, so I'll leave it at that.

I just hope that Souji's friends will help fix him the way he helped them ;;
Nov. 7th, 2011 10:43 am (UTC)
I feel really mean for making Teddie sad. Like the worst bully ever. ;A; Teddie must be the Persona equivalent of the lovable pet.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )