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Faded Away (Persona 3 Sibling AU)

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Baneofmyexistance: I’m goin on a run, u want anything from da store?

Me: about time u started again, ur getting ffat

Baneofmyexistance: Haha, ur getting’ nothin’

Me: ffat an cranky

Minato’s stomach churned as Minako munched happily on her fresh bagel. The two approached the school gates at a leisurely pace considering their activities the night before. Mitsuru was right when she said that the Dark Hour sapped the life out of them.

How his sister could get up early and go for a run was beyond him.

As if to add to his dilemma, Minato’s stomach growled loud enough for Minako to hear. She smirked and used her free hand to pat him on the head. “This is what happens to brothers who call their sisters fat and cranky.” Minako practically sang, adding to Minato’s annoyance. “The bakery smelled really good this mornin’ too! The nice couple that own the place even gave me a coupon for next time.”

The sour junior huffed and looked the other way. “Whatever, I’ll get something from the school store.” He dug into his messenger bag to scrounge up any spare change. “And stop spending all our money on pastries and candy. You’ll need to run twice a day if you keep it up.”

Minato heard his sister let out a frustrated yelp. He quickly ducked as her hand palm sailed over his head. The failed attack caused Minako to stumble into him.

“Watch it!” Minato protested, pushing her away.

“You shouldn't have ducked, nerd!” she complained, motioning with her now crushed bagel. “An eye for an eye, so stop your bellyaching!”

Minato groaned but continued forward. Other students who went on their merry way barely spared the bickering siblings a second glance. They simply carried on as if nothing had happened.

The two reached the gates in one piece. Minako had finished off her breakfast when a boy spotted them and stood in their way.

“Hey, you’re Minato, right?”

Both siblings stopped in their tracks. The newcomer beamed at them, waiting for an answer to his question.

“Um. . .” Minako trailed off, pulling away from her brother. “I’ve got something to do early today. See ya’ after school, nerd.”

Without so much as a wave, she hurried towards the shoe lockers. Her still damp hair from her post-run shower bounced as she withdrew from the situation.

His own sister had left him to the wolves.

Minato turned back to the task at hand. The student remained patient, shoving his hands in his pockets and standing more arrogant now that their senior had left him behind.

“Yeah. . .” Minato confirmed, “Why?”

The student was somehow able to grin wider than before. He was giving Minako a run for her money with how excited he looked. "Man, I knew it. I heard from Junpei that you're pretty close with Yukari-san-.”

“Have a good day.” Minato walked past the student, knowing where the conversation was going. It had only been a few weeks since he and Minako arrived, but suddenly everyone and their mother wanted him to hook them up with Mitsuru or Yukari.

The student immediately got in front of him, reaching out his arm to block Minato. “What's up with that?” He drew his arm in and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, I guess it doesn't matter. I'm looking for someone with a little more experience anyway. By the way, I'm Kenji Tomochika. Nice to meet you.”

Minato quirked an eyebrow and inwardly sighed. The last thing he wanted to happen that morning was to meet new people and strike up a conversation.

Unfortunately, the Minako-esque voice in his head screamed at him to be civil, even if he was dealing with an obvious idiot. Minato forced himself to be polite and nodded to Kenji.

It made every inch of his skin crawl.

“Pleasure’s mine.”

The first bell rang, signaling for students to get their butt’s in gear. Minato had never been so relieved to be saved by school start times.

Kenji jabbed a thumb at the school. “There's a morning assembly, so we better hurry.” He dashed ahead, leaving Minato to walk alone. The now thoroughly peeved teen ambled at the pace of a drunk honey badger towards his doom.

It was going to be a long day.

“That concludes the main portion of today's assembly.”

An audible sigh swept throughout the crowded auditorium. Even Minato couldn’t help but let his shoulders slump now that the monotone student delivering the morning speech finally released the school from his torment. Teachers lining the walls had to shake out their heads in order to wake up and pay attention to the rest of the assembly.

Junpei yawned and stretched his legs out with what little room there was. “I thought that would never end.” He leaned back, his hands behind his head. “When are we getting out again?”

Minato made sure to shift so they wouldn’t bump into one another. “Beats me, but I think we have a little more to go.”

“That’s just fantastic.” Yukari nearly hissed, crossing her arms over her chest. “This is torture! Who let this guy on the mic anyway?”

Said boy cleared his throat to silence the side chatter. The microphone hummed for a moment before he leaned in to speak. “Next, we'll hear a word from the Student Council. Please welcome the new president, Mitsuru Kirijo, from Class 3-A.”

Minato had never been more relieved for someone to stop talking in his life if he discounted Kenji from earlier. He would have rather listened to nails on a chalkboard with Minako singing Bohemian Rhapsody backward while tap dancing on bubble wrap.

Everyone clapped respectfully as Mitsuru stepped up from behind the previous speaker. Her calm expression took in the applause without coming across as arrogant. She even threw a humble wave to her fellow seniors as they chanted her name.

It was a performance befitting a young woman of her station.

Yukari refused to uncross her arms and join in with the rest of her classmates. “So, she did get elected.” She stared daggers at her upperclassman as if she could make her disappear with a simple thought. “Well, I guess she is the most popular girl in school.”

“You can say that again!” Junpei chimed in, diminishing his cheers for the new president “There's, like, some kinda aura around her. Besides, this school's owned by the Kirijo Group, right?”

Minato could practically hear Yukari’s jaw grind over the ecstatic crowd. He glanced over to see the fiery brunette glaring at the floor.

“Yeah, I try not to think about that.” she seethed.

Teachers called for the students to quiet down. A hush fell over the auditorium as the attention was all on Mitsuru. She adjusted the microphone before taking a deep breath.

“As I begin my term as Student Council President, I'd like to share with you my vision for this coming year. It is my firm belief that each of us must accept the responsibility of bettering our school.” Mitsuru looked out over the different grades with a serious expression. “However, change cannot occur without sustained effort and an unprecedented level of commitment. That is why we must restructure our daily lives to accommodate this lofty goal.” She smiled and placed a hand over her heart. “I'd like each of you to dig deep into your well of motivation, and re-evaluate your convictions. To imagine a bold new future without losing sight of the realities around you. That is the key.”

Junpei was on the edge of his seat, jaw gaping for all to see. Many of the other members of Class 2-F mimicked his expression.

Minato remained stone-faced along with Yukari.

Her voice soared over the stunned students. They ate up each word as the speech hit its peak of passion. “I am certain that many of you have your own visions of the future. For us to reap the full benefits of our education, your participation, ideas, and enthusiasm are essential. Thank you.”

Another fit of applause rumbled the foundations of the building as Mitsuru stepped away from the podium. Teachers frantically tried to keep their students in line, but even they were in complete shock over the power her words held.

Minato clapped numbly along. He heard more than enough grandiose speeches from Minako that all others seemed to be a repeat.

Junpei bumped shoulders with Minato, still marveling at the stage. “Dang, that was freaking amazing!” he breathed, chuckling to himself. “So, do you have any idea what she just said?”

Minato shrugged and stuck a headphone in his ear, lazily shuffling through his songs. “I was barely listening.”

“Dude, you’re such a rebel!”

Much to his delight, Miss Toriumi was the teacher that day. Minato already had space in the margin of his notebook to write down new book suggestions.

“All right, today we'll be going over Meiji-era literature. Open your textbooks to page twelve. . .” she paused before flipping her teacher’s copy of the textbook closed. “Hmm, I don't really like this author. Okay, never mind. I've got a great poem we can cover instead. Close your textbooks, everyone, and listen.” The sharp woman waited until everyone had followed directions before opening her pink binder. She cleared her throat and began to speak in a soft and cool tone.

"Beyond the seas, high above in the skies. . . "

Miss Toriumi’s usually no-nonsense demeanor transformed as words of heavenly landscapes came to life in Minato’s ears. The inflection of each stanza, coupled with a dramatic flare left him drifting off from the peacefulness that was laced in every breath. Her delight, as well as her sage-like love for literature, was showing through carefully crafted rhythms and rhyme.

In Minato’s opinion, it was far better than the speeches given at any assembly.

Unfortunately, his fatigue from last night came creeping in. Hazel eyes began to droop, the promise of sleep was almost too tempting.

Maybe if he only put his head down for a moment. . .

Minato pinched his arm as hard as he could. The sudden jolt of pain was almost too much to bear, but in a moment he was wide awake.

His perfect school record wouldn’t be tarnished by some tower. Minato would sooner eat his own shoe then see that day.

He would stay awake even if it killed him.

Miss Toriumi suddenly banged her fist on the podium.

“All right, Kenji, you'd better not be sleeping back there! You should be ashamed of yourself, taking a nap while I pour my heart into reading this poem! For that, you get another essay along with your regular assignment tonight! I'll expect a slice of cake when you turn it in, too!”

The boy from the gates shouted, jumped out of his desk, and did his best to apologize. Unfortunately, his punishment was bumped up to a full cake.

Minato’s resolve to keep his eyes open was strengthened. Essays were not his strong suit.

Sports were something that Minato often found to be counter-productive to his education.

While physical activity was seen as a good way to blow off steam, moving from place to place most of his life put a damper of “teamwork”. Even being in SEES was still a hard pill to swallow considering his lone-wolf mentality. Having Minako by his side throughout the whole ordeal did nothing to relieve the sudden social whiplash.

That’s why it was surprising when Minato found himself wandering around the sports center during his lunch break, admiring the numerous trophies and awards the teams had won over the years.

Gekkoukan High were no pushovers when it came to its athletic department. Despite many of the students signed-up for filling a time slot in their day, they ended up staying for the top-notch coaching and social atmosphere.

It was almost as if the glittering cases screamed for students to join in on the success.

Minato continued down the hall, eyes scanning the different competitions the teams had dominated. In no time at all, he reached the end of the cases. Multiple doors led to different sections of the campus: the track, archery range, tennis courts, an indoor gym with a conjoining pool, and boxing room.

From the wire protected windows or open doorways, the curious junior could see various students getting in a quick workout before heading back to class. Loud electronic music blared from loudspeakers to help pump up the athletes. A distinct stench of chlorine hung over a majority of the area. Sign-up sheets were posted next to every door. In big, vibrant letters, they advertised open slots on their teams. Many of the lines meant for names were filling up quickly.

Many of the sheets barely caught his attention. They all were the same. Benefits, cheesy quotes, and all sorts of empty promises seemed to pass by in a blur. Nothing stuck out or deviated from anything that came before it.

Finally, something did catch his attention.

Minato stopped in front of a plain sheet of long paper. Names stretched nearly half-way down under a small block of text with a picture of a cartoon sword fighter.

Join the Kendo Team/Recreational Club!

No experience necessary, just a good attitude and a willingness to get better are required here. Learn basic self-defense as well as character building skills in the discipline of a classic sport deeply rooted in our culture.

Those who are looking for an individualized experience rather than a serious, competition based environment, don’t worry! Everyone is welcome to try out our Recreational Club. Get a good workout with a flavor of excitement. For veterans of the sport (or the courageous rookies), join our competition team. It speaks for itself.

There is always room on both routes. Practice begins on April 28th so come check us out!

For more information or to connect with the team, contact the club supervisor in homeroom 1E.

-Yuko Nishiwaki (Team Manager and Competition Team Student Coordinator)

Minato read over the short summary of the club once or twice.

Joining Kendo would help boost some of his skills with a sword. Although it was one hour, exploring Tartarus was taxing and he was still new to proper combat etiquette. Yukari was already honing her skills in the archery club, Junpei loved playing baseball, and Minako was an avid distance runner. Just about everyone who was able to explore Tartarus had some kind of daily exercise except Minato.

If they wanted to stay alive, it would be in everyone’s best interest to take up a sport. It would mean sacrificing a bit of comfort, but at least it was something.

Minato’s eyes darted to the cartoon fighter decked in full gear.

Without another word, he signed his name on an empty slot. He wrote the date the first team practice began on his wrist so he wouldn’t forget.

Me: Junpei an me r goin 2 the mall, u game?

Baneofmyexistance: sure, we should check out da karaoke box

Me: I’ll brin’ meh headphones

Baneofmyexistance: Har Har, u suk

Me: @ least I can sing

Classes seemed to fly by for the rest of the school day.

Soon, Minato and Junpei walked out of the building together, chatting over the day’s events.

“Can’t believe Kenji got the shaft. He never gets caught, the lucky bastard!” Junpei chuckled to himself. “It’s about time he got his just desserts.”

Minato sighed at the pun, checking his phone for the time. “If I hear one more pun, I think I’m gonna hurl.”

“Come on, that was a good one!” Junpei protested, throwing an arm over the shorter boy’s shoulders. “At least it wasn't creepy like the Chairman. Seriously, what’s that guy’s deal?”

The two stopped at the gate and continued to mull over their day while waiting for Minako. They discussed Miss Toriumi’s assignment, an upcoming video game release, and even what they planned to do over the weekend.

Last night’s mission was never mentioned. Mitsuru had pounded into the new recruits that any and all discussions of the Dark Hour were prohibited. They didn’t want anyone outside of SEES to become a liability in their missions. Anyone who leaked confidential information was threatened with ejection from SEES, even the school depending on the severity of the information leak.

Minato couldn’t afford a suspension in high school.

After ten minutes, Minako finally exited the building. Their male upperclassman, Akihiko Sanada, was listening to her discussing something with a neutral expression.

Always the same nonchalant expression, never subject to change.

That's when it crossed Minato's mind that his sister had been chummy with the popular captain ever since they first met him, it was almost concerning. Sanada’s laissez-faire attitude towards everything but boxing made conversation an absolute nightmare. Girls seemed to follow him at all times of the day, giving anyone within ten feet a headache. Not to mention the fact he cut an imposing figure that gave even the bravest of students nightmares for weeks.

Guys like him didn’t talk to girls like Minako.

Minato would have to pay extra attention to this new development.

When the two seniors were close to reaching the gates, a mass of girls seemed to flock from nowhere. They advanced on the pair in unison while squealing to the end of days.

“Look it’s Akihiko senpai!”

“Oh my god! He’s so cute today!”

“Get him!”

Minako had foreseen the attack and dodged the fangirls with ease. Minato could see her petite frame maneuvering the minefield that swallowed her companion whole. Unfortunately, one of the harpies had grabbed her arm and shoved Minako away with an angry glare.

“Move hussie!”

Minato and Junpei came to Minako’s aide as she began to topple to the pavement. They grabbed her arms and pulled her away from the ensuing chaos.

“Easy now, sis.” Minato said while gripped his sister’s arm. “You’ll win his affections someday.”

Minako waved him off, straightening her jacket. “Haha, nerd. At least I’ll get a boyfriend before you do.”

Minato looked away from her, shoving his hands into his pockets. “I’m not gay.”

“Sure you’re not.” Minako shrugged and gave him a sly wink. “So that crush on Haru Tachibana was just a phase, huh?”

Minato felt himself grow hot at the mention of his former middle school classmate. It had been an offhanded admiration for his intelligence, wit, and skill with a basketball. Sure, the boy was somewhat handsome, even charming to most others-

Now he was playing into Minako’s evil hands.

Minato rounded on his sibling, but he tried his best to keep his emotions to a minimum. His voice barely quivered, but he felt the fury in each syllable that left his mouth. “Just a PHASE, so shut up already.”

Junpei chuckled at the exchange before turning to the Akihiko being assaulted from all sides. “Have you noticed how popular Akihiko-san is with the ladies?” he sighed, but a fire was lit behind the feigned distaste “Man, take a look at that. I didn't use to talk to him much, but now I've got a good excuse. I know he's the captain of the boxing team, but who woulda thought he'd be such a chick magnet!? I mean, come on! You don't even see girls flock like that on TV!”

Another reason to be careful about rubbing elbows with Sanada: the fact he attracted trouble like a beacon of destruction.

If Minako was starting to hang around the guy, Minato would be the one to be caught up in the action.

Akihiko somehow pushed through the mighty throng and stood before the trio. The fangirls formed a uniform semi-circle around the object of their affection, continuing to call out for him in their annoyingly high pitched squeaks.

“How irritating. The screeching never ends,” he muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. The boxer glanced over at Minako. “You okay Arisato?”

Minako gave a miniature salute coupled with a cheerful smile. “Tip-top shape, so don’t worry ‘bout me.” She turned to Minato and Junpei, her bag clasped behind her back. “Why don’t you tell them what you told me? Can’t leave them out of the loop when there’s stuff to get done.”

Akihiko nodded and turned to the pair of juniors. “You guys free this afternoon?”

Junpei broke into a cheesy grin and cracked his knuckles in a comical fashion. “Hell yeah! Whatcha got in mind?”

“I want the three of you to meet me at Paulownia Mall. You know where it is, right?” Akihiko asked, rocking anxiously on the back of his heels. “I'll be at the police station. There’s someone I want you all to meet.”

Junpei gawked, fidgeting with the brim of his hat. “Th-The police station? You mean, we're not hangin' out with your friends?”

Akihiko denounced his connection with the fan-club behind him, but Minato was too lost in thought to pay attention. The only thing he registered were his uneasy feelings towards the entire situation. First, a mysterious death tower that was the real-life equivalent of Hell, now they were consorting cops of all things. For all he knew, Mitsuru was paying off the police to keep them out of her family business.

What was SEES: a vigilante mafia group?

He glanced over at Minako who seemed more than happy to go along with anything her classmate said. Her face was bright as always, Minato could tell that she was listening with a certain intensity that contradicted her rosy disposition.

Behind the facade, her chin remained at a respectable angle, a show of dignity and poise that many students failed to recognize.

Minako may have the emotional guise of a six-year-old, but Minato knew she could step into the ring with monsters the size of buildings. Nothing shady slipped under her radar once she decided to investigate.

It was a motto the two followed: never approach a situation without careful consideration.

Minato let himself relax and focused back into the conversation at hand. If his sister was on boards, there was no reason to be so uptight.

As a younger brother, he decided to follow her lead.

Akihiko had finished denying his involvement with his fangirls. Without paying said group any mind, he turned heel and threw a small wave to the group.

“Anyway, I'm gonna head out. Don't keep me waiting.”

When the senior left, the fangirls all let our a well-rehearsed cry of distress.

“Awww, why can't he be more friendly?”

“But that’s what makes him so cool!”

“After him ladies!”

Minato, Minako, and Junpei watched in amusement as Akihiko was chased down the school hill by a pack of hormonal females. Many of the other students parted the walkway for the pursuit to continue uninterrupted.

Minato was more than happy to admit that the scene was gratifying.

Paulownia mall was bustling as usual. Teenagers shuffled between the arcade, karaoke boxes, and Chagall cafe while chatting with friends. Adults coming off of work checked their watches while carrying bags of gifts or commodities for their families. Couples clung to one another as they enjoyed one another’s company while making fellow shoppers uncomfortable.

Minato simply enjoyed the white noise that was Junpei and Minako arguing over which iteration of Featherman Rangers was the best.

In the end, while riding the escalator to the main floor, they agreed the original first season was a happy compromise.

“So, anyone know where the Police Station is?” Minako asked. “We’ve only been to Game Panic, but I never explored the other shops.”

Junpei pointed to a neon-lit sign once they stepped off the escalator, entering the main area of the mall. “It’s right next to Be Blue V. Cute little place, they sell antiques and used stuff.” He chuckled to himself as he led the way. “I get all my old consoles and games there for peanuts. We should check it out sometime.”

Just as he said, Minato saw the police station to the right of Be Blue V. Wanted posters were pinned outside on a glass-protected cork board. Glass doors and pristinely cleaned windows gave everyone that walked past a clear view of a white tiled lobby. He could see Akihiko talking to a stern-faced officer when they were close enough to make out finer details.

It was all the more unsettling that the officer had a constant frown.

Minako opened the door and ushered both juniors inside. Minato had to stick out his tongue at her when she said in a fake accent “After you, madame”.

She responded in kind.

The air inside the station was just as chilling on the inside. An air conditioner hummed above the reception desk, but the atmosphere remained stiff. Akihiko turned around when the three approached the desk cautiously.

“Oh, these are the guys I was talking about earlier.” He stepped aside so the officer could get a good look at the newcomers. “I was waiting for you guys. This is Officer Kurosawa; he helps keep our squad well-equipped.”

Officer Kurosawa observed the students with a sharp glare. Minato briefly made eye-contact, but soon regretted it. All he could see were pools of grey steel with a heightened sense of forewarning. It was fitting for someone who lived under the law.

It told him that this man was the one in charge.

Minako stepped up first to take a bullet and break the ice. “It’s a pleasure to meet ya’, Officer. My name is Minako Arisato and I’m currently the SEES field leader.” She bowed respectfully with a smile. “Thank you for helping us get set up.”

The officer wasn’t swayed by her decorum and remained stoic. Minako stood straight but shifted from foot to foot when no response came.

At last, someone Minato could relate to.

Akihiko coughed to break the awkwardness. He opened his school bag and took out bills of yen, passing one out to each person. “This is from Ikutsuki-san. Use it wisely ‘cause you only get this once a month.”

“Really? Sweet!” Junpei exclaimed when he got his allowance. “Come to papa!”

When Minato received his own bills, he examined the money. It was newly minted with a five thousand stamped on the top two corners. He folded it neatly before stashing the money in his jacket pocket.

“You can't fight something empty-handed, so find something you like. Officer Kurosawa has connections.” Akihiko explained, closing up his bag. “But, these things still cost money.”

Finally, Officer Kurosawa spoke. His voice was akin to a razor blade cutting that added to his dangerous appearance.

“Of course they do. Nothing in life is free.”

Akihiko nodded in response, unfazed by the almost threatening tone the man used. “I realize that.” He threw a wave the frozen trio. “Well, I'll see you later.”

Without another word, he left the station. The door shut quietly behind him.

All Minato could think was how the fangirls were right, he really was cold as ice.

“I've been informed about you three.”

Minato was brought to attention when Kurosawa broke the fragile silence. He crossed his arms over his chest and trained his sights on the group.

“My job is to maintain peace in this city, regardless of the circumstances. I'm just an ordinary police officer, but it doesn't take a genius to know something strange is going on here. I'm only doing what I think is right.”

Minako once again took up the role as the groups' spokesperson. She stepped closer to the officer and flipped from perky to business mode. A coy grin kept her from crossing the thin line between being afraid and being enthusiastic.

“Nice to know we’re all on the same page.” She laid her money on the desk. “We actually could use some help, if ya’ don’t mind.”

For the first time since they entered the station, the Kurosawa nodded and pulled out a large catalog from under his desk. He slid the book across the desk to the girl. “Not at all. Take a look for something you like.”

Minako thanked him and set to flipping through the book. Junpei made himself at home, flanking to the leader’s side and pursuing the options for himself.

Minato huffed before he locked eyes with the Officer.

The older man observed him from his feet to blue hair. He seemed to be looking for a reason to chew Minato out but remained steady and fair in his assessment. The brim of Kurosawa’s hat shadowed a majority of his upper facial features, but there was a certain crinkle of his nose that gave away the fact he was deep in his own head.

An introverted thinker knows his own kind after all.

Once the gentleman was satisfied, he nodded to the boy.

“Impeccable choice of shoes. Oxfords will take you places, boy.”

Minato felt a tug at his lips and his feet moved to join his friend and sister.

“. . . Thank you.”

Minako stared at her ceiling, her hands resting neatly on her stomach as she took in the peacefulness of her room. Her window was cracked open to let the spring breeze filter out the stifling air. Cream colored drapes swished in time with each gust of wind that carried a hint of freshly cut grass.

The dorm was mostly silent, save for Junpei and Yukari’s occasional bickering from downstairs.

She had just finished her homework and taken a nice shower. It was a blessing that it was a private bathroom: no one could walk in on her by accident. There was also space for her to store her toiletry items without having to commute them back and forth between her room and bathroom.

With Minako’s wet hair strewn across her pillow, it was the perfect moment to let her mind quietly recount the events of her day.

School was just as boring and trivial as ever. She spent most of her time listening to lectures, scouting for a club to join, or writing new story ideas. Her focus was mostly on enjoying what little time she had after class and planning out a new route for her morning jog.

It had been so long since she and Minato lived in Tatsumi Port Island. Nothing felt the same since they arrived, even streets that she had walked down before being forced to move away.

Junpei, Minato, and her visit to the police station went well. Officer Kurosawa had made sure to stock them with new equipment including a new sword for each of the boys, work gloves for protection, and extra attachments for their belt holsters.

As for Minako’s small dilemma, Kurosawa had promised to find her a two-handed weapon that was well balanced on all ends. His supplier was a friend in the military who knew how to match a person’s fighting style to the tools they carried.

Everything was promised to be delivered tomorrow.

Minako sighed and closed her eyes.

Her thoughts seemed to run wild with images of the night before. Monsters with knives for teeth danced across her memories. The distinct sound of metal colliding with leathery flesh echoed as if they had happened moments ago. Even the stench of the blood-stained marble plagued her senses and made it difficult to concentrate.

One night had turned her mind into a trap for nightmares whenever Minako found a moment of rest. The whole situation was difficult to take in: a hidden world that appeared after midnight was something straight out a horror movie.

Not only that, but innocent people were in danger. They could be dragged into the Dark Hour against their will, becoming lost and living the rest of their days as a walking corpse.

Now the fate of strangers weighed down on her shoulders.

It was an overwhelming feeling, one that felt too heavy to carry.

Her fingers brushed over the cross she wore, her mind flipping to Igor and the Velvet Room. His words of destiny and expectation seemed to soothe her troubled soul. He had assured both Arisato siblings to be a guide and teacher in this new world they navigated. Such a role made the journey ahead less daunting and more exciting.

Minako believed in a purpose for everyone who lived. It was no coincidence to her that such an opportunity laid before both Minato and herself.

There was a soft knock on Minako’s door, breaking her thoughts.

The teen rolled herself off the bed and stretched with a yawn. “It's open!” she called.

The door swung aside and Mitsuru stepped in.

“Good evening, Arisato-san. I hope I’m not interrupting anything important.”

Minako stopped yawning and threw on a smile. “Kirijo-san, this’s a surprise! You’re not interrupting a thing; I was just thinkin’ about some stuff.” She straightened out her lopsided sweater. “What brings ya’ to this neck of the woods? ”

Mitsuru stepped further into the room, pulling out a chair from Minako’s desk. “Do you mind if I sit? I'd like to speak to you for a moment.”

“Go ahead, I’m all ears.” Minako responded, sinking back down on her bed. “What’s on your mind? Am I in trouble?”

Mitsuru shook her head. “No, this is regarding our exploration of Tartarus. There are some details I would like you to be made aware of. Please interject if you have any questions.”

Minako perked up at the mention of Tartarus, folding her hands on her lap. “I’m listening.”

The student council president took a small breath before diving in. “As you know, Akihiko is still on the mend, so for now, I'd like you to lead the team.” she explained with the precision and tact of CEO. “You never know when a powerful enemy might appear, like the one you faced the other day. It's best to be prepared, or else you may find yourself in a difficult situation.”

Minako felt her heart sink knowing the responsibility that now officially rested with her, but she had to remain composed. It was inevitable that the oldest member who everyone respected would be chosen.

It was an honor to be the field leader.

She should be happy that Mitsuru bestowed such a title on someone as inexperienced as Minako.

So why did she just want to clam up and hand off the position to someone else?

Where was her backbone when she needed it most?

“I understand, I’ll do my best.”

“Good, I trust you will do fine.” Mitsuru crossed her legs and continues. “So, whenever you'd like to explore Tartarus, just let me know, and I'll gather everyone there.”

Minako nodded and thought for a moment.

“We should probably go back tomorrow.” She bowed her head and started thinking over her decision. “It would be smart to get used to the Dark Hour as soon as possible. I’d also like to get a gauge for everyone’s abilities so we can start to organize plans of attack.”

Mitsuru smiled. “You’re already settling in. I was worried for nothing.” She stood up and pushed the desk chair back into place. “Also, since I'm sure there are other things you will need to take care of, you may go out at night if you need to.”

Minako nodded and played with the hem of her pajama shorts. “Is there anythin’ else I should know?”

“That's it. I will notify the others in the lobby about tomorrow.” the older senior affirmed. She excused herself to the door, stepping halfway out before giving her a friendly wave. “Keep up the good work.”

When the door closed behind the leader of SEES, Minako finally let herself relax. She flopped herself face first on her pillow, hugging it tightly.

“Maybe if I sleep it off. . .” she mumbled before drifting off into a deep sleep. “. . . I’ll feel better in the morning.”

Her usual studying was pushed aside for the night.


Have you ever wondered what it’s like to hate someone for no good reason? I used to wonder what it felt like. I’ve never actually hated anyone in my life, even if they’re annoying or stupid. Pure and unadulterated loathing has never crossed my mind.

I stopped wondering after today.

There’s a student in my class who I just met and I already can’t stand him. He’s like an off-brand Junpei, but without a shred of kindness or humility. He screams arrogance just by opening his mouth.

Just. Met. Him. Today.

Just thinking about him makes my skin crawl, ugh. I’d rather admit Minako is better than me, which she’s NOT.

I pray to whatever god is out there that I never talk to that idiot again.

Um. . .

I also signed up for the kendo team. It looked like something that could help me. Practice begins April 28th.

That’s it.

-Minato Arisato