As of this writing, I am 150/402 pages through the main translation and at about 32,300 words. b Still on part 1/5 of chapter four, but it looks to be pretty long and, like I said, GakuPuri.
Black and White
. . .
April 1 Yagokoro High School Rooftop
After school, I removed myself from the public eye and visited the roof at twilight, and the first words to leave my mouth were to quietly, perhaps cruelly, tell the red and black-clothed person whose large body that was hunched over small before my eyes:
“...Just as I promised, I will tell Touko-san about this.”
I took my cell phone from the pocket of my uniform and:
“No, don’t! Wait, wait! Listen to what I have to say first!”
Sousei-san panicked and stole my cell phone from me.
“…Are you trying to say that there is any legitimate reason at all in this world for you to brazenly invade the girls’ changing room?”
I hit him with my cold gaze as with an uppercut, and:
“Ah, no, I really wasn’t thinking. I know it was wrong. But! I definitely didn’t do it because I wanted to peek or anything!”
Sousei-san stared at nothing and mussed the hair on the back of his head as if he knew he was in a bad situation.
“...In that case, what are you saying was the reason?”
I stole back my cell phone. Then Sousei-san whispered with a serious expression.
“I thought I would do my own investigation while you were in class, Naoto...”
Sousei-san quickly cast his gaze around. There were only two shadows, one long and one short, stretched out across the concrete floor. After making sure that no one else was nearby, Sousei-san called out.
“–Come out! Tsukuyomi!”
When I laid eyes on the jet-black existence that manifested behind Sousei-san, I unconsciously spoke. “Persona...” It was a Persona with a massive body, matching that of Sousei-san, and its special characteristic was a design reminiscent of an electronic marquee on its head.
“The ability of my great Tsukuyomi is the ‘power to hear the voices left behind by the dead’.”
“That old man Tsuge called my ability something like ‘Past Reading’.”
“Wow...” My admiration slipped through. It was a very interesting ability.
“Hmph, but after all it’s a silly power, just being able to detect the past conversations of dead guys and transcribe them.”
“Um, I’d just like to make sure, but are you saying you can’t transcribe the conversations of living people?”
“In the end it’s only if they’re dead. Then it’s ‘transcribing’ like I said, so what I can detect isn’t a picture or voices but just ‘words’. Instead I can visualize the words and a third party can read them. Look at Tsukuyomi’s face. The words that I detected are scrolling on this black part.”
It seemed that, just as it appeared, Tsukuyomi’s head played the role of an electronic marquee.
“It’s truly an amazing ability.”
There were limits, but if we figured out how to put it to practical use, it seemed like it would be an ability that would be of great help in the investigation.
“Hmph! This ability! I can’t stand it!”
It was a compliment that I truly meant rather than flattery, but Sousei-san shook his head with a grim expression. Judging by Sousei-san’s arrogant personality, it seemed that he was not simply being modest.
“...I see. In other words, Sousei-san wandered the school in order to detect the conversations of the dead?”
“Yeah.” Sousei-san grinned as he continually nodded.
“Think about it. What if the two students who disappeared aren’t in this world anymore?”
“...Ah, you mean the possibility that you would detect and transcribe their conversations?”
“Exactly.” Sousei-san thrust out his chest proudly.
It was unfortunate, but I could only conclude that Sousei-san’s deduction was not off the mark. About two weeks had passed since the disappearance of the two students. From experience, I had to say there was a high probability that the two were no longer alive.
“Naoto, you’ve got pretty good judgment, don’t you? Doesn’t look like you’re stupid. You’re qualified to be partnered with my great self.”
“...Thank you,” was my only reply, and, “I’m also relieved that you’re not as much of a fool as I thought,” did not leave my mouth, but I kept it to myself.
“So? How is this related to the incident in which you invaded the girls’ changing room?”
If his goal had been to see if he could detect Miyuki Midorikawa’s past conversations, it would have been completely unnecessary to do so while the female students were changing clothes.
“...That’s because my ability, uh, doesn’t have a really wide range of effect, or to be more specific, it’s good for a five-meter radius around me...”
Sousei-san spoke with an expression like he was sulking.
“You’re a Persona-user too so you know, right, Naoto? You’re concentrating really hard when you’re invoking your ability...”
“...In other words, something like this? You were concentrating on using your Persona’s ability and weren’t really looking around you, so you inadvertently entered the girls’ changing room?”
“Yeah! It couldn’t be helped!”
“...You astound me,” I grumbled from my heart at the boy whose white teeth were showing in a smile.
“...I don’t think it’s the case, but you didn’t let anyone see your Persona, right?”
“Don’t say stupid things! Like I’d screw up like that! Even if I saw those brats in their underwear, I wouldn’t let them see my Persona!”
I pressed my fingers against my temples. I withdrew my previous remarks. This person may have been much more of a fool than I thought.
“So? What did you accomplish, along with causing a riot?”
“...Hey, it’s like how the sun can’t always make every day clear and bright. Things don’t always go that well, you know?”
I gave a sidelong glance at Sousei-san, who was gazing distantly at the setting sun, and let out a large sigh. I could not help but feel that I had sighed enough for a year in today alone.
“Oh, by the way, what kind of ability do you have, Naoto?”
Sousei-san asked. Because of all the commotion, I had been putting it off completely, but because it was his partner’s Persona, I should have revealed it to him sooner.
“‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’ isn’t it?”
I nodded at Sousei-san, and with the words, “–Give me power, Amatsu Mikaboshi,” I summoned my own Persona.
“...Hmm, so that’s your Persona, Naoto?”
It was a Persona with an appearance similar to that of a conductor directing an orchestra. That was my Amatsu Mikaboshi. It was non-combative and not particularly gallant, but rather, its smart appearance well pleased me.
“Well then, Sousei-san. Try using Tsukuyomi’s ability.”
“Huh? Me? Even though you haven’t shown me your own ability?”
Sousei-san’s suspicion was pointless.
“Yes, that’s why ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’”
I smiled, and Sousei-san furrowed his brow and began to concentrate. Several seconds later. Tilting his head, Sousei-san looked back over his shoulder at me.
“...Oi, oi? What’s going on?”
Sousei-san’s expression was full of surprise.
“My detection range is wider than usual... It’s doubled to ten meters... No, it covers the whole roof, could this be... My true power has finally awakened!”
Sousei-san shouted with wide eyes. Of course, when he realized my palm was resting on his back, he said, “...there’s no way, right?” and shrugged his shoulders slightly.
“I get it. That’s how it is. The reason my Tsukuyomi’s ‘Past Reading’ is powered up is because of the power of your ‘Amatsu Mikaboshi’, right?”’
“Yes.” I nodded.
“This is the ability of my ‘Amatsu Mikaboshi’ – the ‘power to tune a Persona’s ability’.”
It was something I had experienced before. In the moment I summoned my Persona, all the information about “Amatsu Mikaboshi” was within me. It was a similar, instinctual knowledge as knowing that fire was hot without having to be told. This may have been due to the fact that my Persona could be called “my other self”.
“When I talked to Tsuge-san about my ability, he named it ‘Ability Tune’.”
“...Still, it’s a pretty boring ability.”
“Is that so? I like it. This power.”
That was because the power I had wished for was the ability to support someone.
“But you know, if you’re alone you can’t count on it, right?”
“On the other hand, my ability can be more than helpful if I’m with another Persona-user like you, Sousei-san. How is it now? What is your impression, having used your strengthened Persona?”
Sousei-san sent a glance at his own Persona standing behind him. “...Well, you’re right, this is new.” He nodded, wearing a complex expression. I couldn’t help but feel proud at his reaction.
“Well then, we know each others’ abilities, so let’s work together and begin the investigation immediately.”
It was clear what we had to do.
My “Amatsu Mikaboshi” would strengthen Sousei-san’s “Tsukuyomi”. Then we would go around and do an exhaustive search of the school premises. If we did not detect anything, then that was that. On the other hand, if we detected past conversations, it would be proof that someone who had once existed at this school had died. If the conversations were those of the missing students, the contents may be related to new findings unknown to the police.
“Well, let’s go.”
There was no time to lose. Well aware of the limited time we had in which to work, I took the initiative and headed for the entrance to the roof.
“Wait! Detective Prince! Before we go somewhere else, it’s not too late to take a look at ‘the past conversations detected here’, you know?”
*read “here”, written as “on the roof”
I stopped walking and looked back. My gaze was directed at Sousei-san, the corners of whose lips were tilted upward confidently.
“I’m saying don’t be impatient. From the conversations I’ve detected, only one person has died. But you know, I haven’t been able to figure out if it’s from one of our targets or not. In the end, all ‘Tsukuyomi’ can detect are ‘the words of dead people’.”
“Yes, please leave the detailed investigation to me. I’ll see what I can infer about the person from the contents of the conversations.”
Deducing the truth from a limited amount of information – it was the perfect opportunity to display my detective spirit.
“Got it. Then I’ll show you my skills.”
Sousei-san held his palm over his head, toward Tsukuyomi, and on the marquee on its head, words that seemed to be the contents of the conversation appeared one after another one and scrolled through. It was a dizzying but exciting experience.
“...That’s right. Please allow me to ask a basic question. As far as the conversations of the dead go, about how far back in time can you detect?”
“If it’s just me, about half a year. This time I can pick up conversations from close to a year ago ‘cause you’re supporting me, Naoto. If you feel like it, it looks like we can go back two or three years? How ‘bout it?”
I shook my head.
“No, there’s no need to go that far back this time. What we’re interested in is the contents of the conversations just before the disappearances. Most importantly, Miyuki Midorikawa would not have matriculated into Yagokoro High School before two years ago.”
Sousei-san squinted one eye and snorted. “That’s true.
“Fine, I’ll go back to the beginning.” Sousei-san flicked his finger in thin air as if he were manipulating a touch panel, and the words shown on the marquee rapidly scrolled back. “...Next, please.” At my signal, he sent out the words in turn. During those moments, my eyeballs were surely moving restlessly back and forth.
“...Me being a slut... Why is that sort of baseless rumor on the ‘Midnight Site’...? T-that’s terrible! It’s all lies! The stuff this Uzume guy is writing is all bullshit! He’s gotta have something against me... Yeah, that’s right... Everyone will get that it’s just a misunderstanding...”
“...How could... Why... Why is everyone falling for the rumors? Why are they believing the weird things posted on the site over the words of the person herself? I really, don’t get it...”
“...That Uzume guy, he knows a lot about what I do at school... He’s definitely a student here! This is impossible, I can’t get a break... I haven’t told my brother about it... I don’t want to worry him for no reason...”
“I can’t trust anyone anymore! They say things that sound like they’re worried but they don’t get how I feel at all! I can’t take this anymore! I’d rather they insult me to my face! Give me a break! Anyone around me could really be Uzume... I’m jumping at shadows... Even you, Takizawa-san... Ah, sorry... Forget it... I’m sorry... I’m being weird...”
When the words disappeared from the marquee:
“So what’s your reaction, Mr. Detective?”
Sousei-san peered into my face critically.
“It is truly valuable information.”
I was quietly excited at the results, which were beyond my expectations.
“Oh! You mean you found a clue to the disappearance case?”
“No, I don’t know yet.”
“Huh? I don’t get it. Then what the hell is valuable?”
“That I’ve determined who the past conversation belonged to. From the speech style, we can be fairly sure she was a female student. If my logic is correct, her name should be – ‘Kaoru Hioka’.”
His face screwed up, Sousei-san stroked his chin. It seemed he had no idea.
“Ah, I apologize. It’s a name that wasn’t in the case file we received from Touko-san. It’s information that I myself only obtained during lunchtime today–”
I explained the “train accident” that had occurred half a year ago, in which a female student of Yagokoro High School named Kaoru Hioka had died, to Sousei-san. Sousei-san was lost in thought, his expression one of having a small bone lodged in his throat. However, he soon gave up. “...Well, whatever.” I glowered at Sousei-san.
“Sousei-san? No matter how detailed it seems, please say it without reservation. When we combine information and do a detailed investigation together, we’ll approach the truth faster.”
If we did not cooperate, there was no use in having a partner.
“Nah, I just felt like I’d heard the name Kaoru Hioka before. I’ll tell you if it comes to me.”
Sousei-san did not look embarrassed. Because of that, my throat also began to feel as if something was lodged in it.
“From the rumors of the students, it seems that Kaoru Hioka was worried about slander on the ‘Midnight Site’.”
When I heard the name “Midnight Site”, I naturally recalled the “Midnight Channel”. If it were a simple case of copying the name, that would be a relief, but if its substance was similarly suspicious, it could be nothing but trouble.
“That point is in agreement with the contents of the past conversations. In addition, when we consider that her death has already been confirmed, it fulfills the condition for your ability to detect ‘the words of the past conversations of the dead’, Sousei-san.”
“Hey, no, in that case, what do you mean, because it’s already been confirmed? What’s the good in investigating something not related to the disappearances! It’s a waste of time, right?”
Sousei-san shook his head exaggeratedly and snorted.
“I just wanna solve this case fast and concentrate on what I should’ve been doing in the first place.”
“Even if you say that, we have no other method, so it can’t be helped. Right now, we can only carefully scrutinize every piece of information before us and steadily search for clues related to the disappearance case.”
“Geez, you’re too perfectionist!” Sousei-san pouted like a child.
“They say ‘haste makes waste.’ In any case, let’s spend a little while collecting a large amount of information.”
Honestly, who was it that said at our first meeting, “You’re making someone as great as me babysit?” I completely felt like throwing those words back at him.
“It’s because we’re lucky and have ways of obtaining information that even the police couldn’t discover during their investigation.”
Could it be called a chemical reaction between fellow Persona users? Was there value in keeping with this partner even if I had to turn a blind eye to his behavior?
He may have been conflicted, but Sousei-san ruffled his hair with a grimace.
“...Yeah! I know! We’re together, so say it! Where do we go next? We’re going around the school collecting past conversations, right?”
Despite his complaints, it seemed Sousei-san respected my opinion.
“Listen up! In return, you better power up my great Tsukuyomi perfectly!”
Could it be that he was acknowledging me a little? In any case, it was a step forward. And so I smiled and answered.
“As expected, Sousei-san. I’m glad we resolved that quickly.”
My words were somewhat sarcastic.