I didn't really think much about Souji Seta when I first saw him.
The day he came to school, he caused a huge fuss. And who wouldn't make one? He was someone from a far off land-that was how the city was to people who lived in a small town like Inaba. Of course I was from there too, but by six months not only had that been forgotten by nearly everybody but I had become more hated than liked just because I had ties to a store driving the shops out of business.
At the time I was too preoccupied with two things-the throbbing pain in my groin after an incident that had to do with a yellow death trap (AKA, my bike), and the rage that was sure to come when I returned Chie Satonaka's DVD-broken in half (I don't feel like saying how it happened). So with those on my mind, I didn't really pay mind to him. He probably didn't take note of me much either.
The next day we were properly introduced to each other. Once again, I had crashed-this time landing in a trash can (Was it better or worse than last time?) which he pulled me out of. Afterwards, things just spiraled from there-I offered to treat him, Chie jumped in so I could pay off her DVD, and we learned about the Midnight Channel. That day was also the last day I saw Senpai-the first person I could say I was in love with-alive; and in this world.
Other things happened between that day and the one after. We saw the inside of the TV; a foggy world inhabited by Shadows and Teddie, the latter much friendlier than the former. And after we escaped, I watched the Midnight Channel that night-and finally recognized why the image looked so familiar.
It was Senpai.
I didn't think much about it; part of me was probably hoping that the Midnight Channel really DID tell you who your soul mate would be. But then the principal made an announcement-Saki Konishi, Senpai, was dead.
It was in the same manner as the announcer-Mayumi Yamano, whoes body she found-was found in. And Chie had mentioned that one of the students had seen Yamano on the Midnight Channel the other day. So I had made the connection that the Midnight Channel was somehow showing the victims. And that the other world had something to do with their death-Teddie had even mentioned that people were getting thrown in.
After telling Chie and Souji this, I convinced Souji to help investigate. I said I wanted to know why Senpai had to die, but that wasn't completely it-more on that later. So the two of us went in and, after convincing Teddie that we were here to learn about what happened to Senpai, started our investigation. We found a replica of the Shopping District and the store Senpai's parents ran. Shadows attacked us, but Souji managed to fend them off thanks to his discovery of the Persona.
Inside, I was shocked to hear Senpai's father berating her for working for "the enemy." She never seemed too upset about it when she was at work, so I never knew. But Fate wasn't done torturing me; the next thing I heard were her own words.
"I always wanted to tell Hana-chan...that he was a real pain in the ass."
Shock prevented me from saying anymore as she went on about how she treated me nicely only because of who my father was and her disgust that I took it the wrong way. She said that she wished everything would disappear-her parents, the stores, and Junes. I tried to convince myself that it wasn't true until I heard another voice; my voice.
"It's...It's so sad...I feel so sorry for myself..." Sure enough when we looked, I was looking at a double of myself with yellow eyes and a condescending sneer. "Actually, I'm the one who thinks everything's a pain in the ass!" it laughed.
I argued with it, trying to make it stop spilling my inner thoughts(I wouldn't admit it at the time)-how I only acted the way I did so that I wouldn't be alone, that I was only here because there was nothing to do in Inaba, and that Senpai's death was only being used as an excuse to be here. This only made it laugh.
"Why so panicked? I thought I was just spouting bullshit." it smirked. "Or...maybe I DO know what you're thinking! Why's that? Because, I AM you!"
Naturally, I did what lots of people would do when their darkest secrets were practically being shouted to the world-deny it.
"YOU CAN'T BE ME YOU SON OF A BITCH!"
This only resulted in it turning into a monster. I passed out, so I don't remember what happened afterwards. All I knew was when I woke up, I saw Souji and Teddie checking on me, seeing if I was alright. The replica had gone back to normal and was staring at me-like he was asking "What will you do, now?" Teddie told me it came from me and if I didn't accept it, it would beserk again. But it was Souji's words that really pushed me.
"No matter what, you're still you."
It was hard-the hardest thing I had to do in my life at the time-but I admitted everything it said was true, and that it was another side of me. The other me just nodded and turned into my Persona-Jiraiya. Before this, I would've been thrilled to have the same power as Souji-I was kinda thrilled at the time-but exhaustion and shock from the past events were still there. And...I was also worried about what Souji would think. I must have seemed like a shallow jerk to him, now. He didn't say anything as he helped me up, and he only spoke to Teddie when we made our decision to save any victims who were thrown in. He was silent as Chie screamed at us both for our stupidity and stomped off, and he didn't reply when I told him I was heading home.
I approached him the next day, a bit anxious he wouldn't want my help. But he seemed glad he wouldn't be the only person fighting and a faint bond formed between us.
Days turned to weeks, then to months, as we continued to rescue others who joined the investigation afterwards. Between them, Souji would sometimes hang out with me or help work at Junes when I was told to find extra people to help work. There were times when I would tell him my feelings as they changed-or more I discovered what they really were. I wasn't the least bit uncomfortable telling him; he had seen the worst of me, after all. Around others, I kept these emotions bottled up and continued to wear my everday facade-a cheerful, clumsy goof ball. Yet...there was something I never told him. About some of my feelings that were really changing.
One day, two co-workers started saying bad things about Senpai while complaining to me. Souji had gotten up and said he felt bad for her, trying to get them to stop. But then they turned on him, telling him to shut up. I was surprised when I finally snap.
"You shut up!"
They were shocked as I practically spilled my heart out-only the parts that involved Senpai without including the other world. After they left, I did as well after telling Souji I would see him later.
And that's how I ended up here-at the edge of the Samegawa.
My rear is going to be covered in dirt and muck once I finally sit up, but I don't really care. All I'm really focusing on is the sticker with me and Senpai on it. It was surreal; in it I was completely oblivious to how she felt. I didn't think for a second that she secretly hated me. I was just happy-happy that I might have found something in Inaba that wasn't so bad.
I turn my gaze back to the river. My insides are twisting up so much it hurts. The only thing that hurts as much is my rear-time to get up. But as I do, the wind snatches the sticker I was holding. I chase after it along the river-if I lose it, I'll lose my only physical evidence that Senpai had lived. My voice shouts, futilely telling it to stop. The sticker glides through the air over the dock, coming dangerously close to the water's edge. "NO!" I shout, reaching out to grab it. It suddenly blows towards the shore, safe from the river. But I can't stop running and-
A hand grabs my arm and pulls me back in time. And for the first time, I hear something I never thought I would.
Souji...calm, level-headed, won't-let-anything-do-more-than-annoy-him Souji, is shouting at me. His fingers dig painfully into my arms, his eyes furiously gazing into my own. "Why? What makes you think it's okay to end your life?" he growled, his voice calmer but still holding the same heat. The sticker is in the grass not too far from us. I break away from him quickly, rushing over to grab the sticker before the wind blows it away again.
I ignore his call and practically pounce on the sticker. He dashes over to me, but his anger has evaporated-he seems to now understand I was chasing after a fragment of a memory and not running to my death. Still...if he hadn't been here. "How'd you find me?" I ask.
"I had a gut feeling you'd be here." Souji explains. "All of the sudden-out of the blue-I thought you needed help. And instead of going to your usual spots, I found myself running here." He was quiet for awhile before he spoke again. "Something's bothering you, isn't there?"
My eyes shoot up in shock, but I should've expected what he asked me. "...I don't have anything left after this case..." I finally say. "I've focused so much on it that I forgot-I wanted to forget-that nothing will change. I'll still be living a boring life here, and....Senpai won't come back." My eyes are watering up. "Why...Why'd she have to die?"
Souji is silent. I only hear footsteps as his response and feel a pair of arms wrap around my body. They are protective and comforting, but at the same time I can slip out of them if I was uncomfortable. Which I should be-but I'm not. "You dumbass...This is for girls." I protest weakly. "It hurts, dammit." Before I know it, I'm hugging the idiot back, sobbing into his shoulder. The hand resting on my back rubs soothing circles while the other travels to the back of my head and tangles its fingers into my hair. I still don't protest.
"While I can't answer that last question-no one but her killer can answer that-I can tell you what you have after the case." Souji says gently. "You have your family, the team...and me." The last part is so quiet I almost didn't hear it.
I hug him tighter. "Don't leave me, then. Not yet..." I whisper into his shoulder.
Souji turned his head so he could whisper back into my ear. "I'll always be here."
It took me awhile to really understand what Souji had told me-he was going to be leaving in March, so he couldn't always be here.
I decided maybe he meant...he'd be in my heart. Corny, I know. But it's still reassuring.
As I'm here, sobbing in his shoulder, I think back to everything that had happened. While others might have turned away in disgust after seeing my Shadow and hearing it speak, Souji accepted every part of me. What's more, he seemed determined to help me out of this dark void I had begun to descend into.
And what he said before...about a gut feeling leading him here...
I remember hearing somewhere about guardian angels-about how they keep a watch over a specific person and protect him. Not to say Souji is a guardian angel-he wasn't with me my whole life (not something to blame him for). But...he's sort of an angel, nonetheless.
My angel of mercy.