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All Smiles

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Okumura Haru was all smiles.

Delicate curls, soft sweaters, a gentle smile; the epitome of grace and compliance. Any man would be lucky to have her as a bride. That was what her father always said.

Anger was ugly. It was grotesque and savage--not at all appropriate for a young lady of her status. That was what her father always said.

Haru wasn't an angry person. Frustration sometimes got the best of her, but she was quick with apologies. Anger was an ugly emotion, and that was one thing that she couldn’t allow herself to be.

Some days she cried. Some days she sobbed until there was nothing left inside of her. Those days came unexpectedly.

Some days she stared out windows. She imagined the feeling of falling. The wind always felt amazing.

She felt guilty.

The windows, the ropes, the razors, and the unimaginable grief it would cause her father. Her mother was dead, but Haru could still think of leaving him behind.

Haru wasn't a sad person. Time was wasted feeling sad. She was resilient and cheerful, like any good wife should be.

She would be a good wife, but she was a deplorable daughter.

Haru got engaged. She was met with the news before she even met the man. It should have made her angry.

She didn't feel angry; she felt numb.

One night she lay in bed after her fiance's wandering hands had burned red marks all over her body. Tears should have been pouring down her cheeks. Instead, her face was dry.

She didn't cry anymore.

Okumura Haru was all smiles. She didn't have any other options.

Then she met Morgana.

Haru wasn't an angry person--she was wrathful. Her Persona awoke with blood and fire. Milady promised freedom and vengeance, and Haru took the offer. She signed a contract of rebellion.

The wrath subsided when she returned to the real world. All that was left behind was shame.

Grotesque and barbaric.

The Phantom Thieves were angry. Each in their own way that came out in combat. Ryuji was an ever-exploding bomb, beating Shadows into the ground and always itching for another fight. Ann, despite her codename, was a viper. Her anger wasn't loud, but her spells were infernos that burned with the heat of a thousand swallowed screams. Akira was the ringleader of their circus of madness. His anger was kept tucked away in a coat pocket, only to be pulled out as a final trump card.

But they were still different from Haru. While they left their anger in the bleeding depths of Mementos, she took hers with. Even Ryuji tired of fighting eventually; she didn't.

It frightened her.

Okumura Haru was all smiles. Most of all when her axe was lodged in a Shadow’s skull.

She returned from the Metaverse trembling. Her father spoke, but his words were TV static. Calm came over her. It was the same calm she felt when facing down Shadows.

Her hands ended up curled in the folds of her skirt.

Haru wasn’t a violent person. Violence was for the desperate and the cruel. She would never resort to it. That’s what she told herself.

Her father died. His soul was gutted from his body on live television. Haru watched her father's death through a screen.

She found that she could cry again.

The days blurred. Her only clear moments were in Mementos. The suffocating air of the subways allowed her to breathe. Watching Shadows turn into dust brought clarity.

She racked up injuries. Why dodge if she could land another hit instead?

The Shadows that attacked her regretted it.

Akira stopped putting her on the frontlines. He didn’t say why, but she could see his worried looks. His visits to the school roof grew more frequent. The plants grew swollen with his pity.

She wanted to beg Akira. If he would just let her kill a single Shadow, then she could feel relief again. The adrenaline rush had become addictive.

Haru wasn’t a hateful person. She was far too in control of her emotions to let hatred slip through. That’s what she used to tell herself.

She hated everything. She hated Sugimura for ever touching her. She hated Akira for holding her back. She hated the public that howled for her father’s blood, then wept when it came. She hated her father for everything that he did. She hated the Black Mask for taking him away from her.

She hated herself.

Finally, she went into Mementos alone. It was impulsive, but she couldn’t stop herself if she wanted to. The Shadows on the first level didn’t stand a chance. Her axe cut down everything in sight.

The Shadows ran. She hunted them down and slaughtered them all. Each blow of her axe brought a glimmer of relief, but it was never enough. She killed until there were none left.

Then she heard the sound of chains. A figure she had only seen in glimpses appeared in front of her.

Haru ran. The Reaper caught up to her. It nearly killed her, but she escaped with a warning. Her right arm was ripped open, almost to the bone.

She was alone with no medicine or healing spells. It took half an hour to stumble to the entrance. The makeshift bandage hardly stopped the blood. Her legs gave out before she reached the doors. Sobs ripped through her throat.

On the cold floor of Mementos, her mind was clear. All of her anger was drained. She didn’t hate anyone; she just didn’t love them. She wanted to love them, but she was too tired. She was too tired for anything.

Okumura Haru was all smiles. Behind that, she was nothing.

She didn’t tell anyone about her trip to Mementos. Makeup and long sleeves hid the injuries. Smiles warded off any questions. No one would find out.

Ryuji went to the roof after school. He was there in Akira’s stead to help her with the garden. She didn’t realize how much she needed his company until a sigh of relief left her mouth. She didn’t trust herself alone on the school roof anymore.

Their conversation was light. They talked about school and Personas and Morgana’s painfully obvious crush on Ann. They discussed tests and detective princes and ways to get Yusuke to eat more. They joked and laughed until Haru’s stomach felt like it was going to split.

Everything was fine until she wiped her face. Ryuji saw the bruises. His expression darkened.

He asked if Sugimura had hurt her. She didn’t know what to tell him.

Even a piece of the truth was too painful. Instead, she asked how he did it. How did he live with the anger?

Ryuji wasn't an eloquent person. He didn’t have to be. He fumbled through a story. It starred a drunken father, a bruised mother, and a little boy hiding under his bed.

Anger festered without direction. It was a corrosive force that ate away from the inside out.

People, was what he eventually said. People to laugh with, people to love, people to protect with every drop of rage that boiled in your veins. His mother, the track team, the Phantom Thieves--he was not without people to defend.

She didn't go home that night. The Sakamotos had an extra futon.

It was lumpy and rough.

But it was real.

Haru didn't know what kind of person she was anymore.

But she was real.

Okumura Haru used to be all smiles.

Now she was a vicious grin, standing before a new family she would protect with her dying breath.