Half an hour until the clock strikes 12.
Yosuke Hanamura, part-time retail lackey and struggling high schooler, sat by the television set and waited. His video games only proved a mild distraction until the hours, minutes, seconds, drew closer and those pixels grew tiresome. His handheld lay abandoned by his half-finished homework, the pencil lines heavy as the regurgitated information passed through him.
25 minutes remaining until Midnight descended.
Honestly? Yosuke had little hope of nailing this test. Between his job and trying to solve a small town murder mystery, things like passing the grade, and pleasing his parents seemed like a distant dream, an alternate reality far detached from his own. Ironically, Mommy and Daddy Hanamura expressed nothing short of the greatest disappointment in their only son, while dismissing the possibility that the sole target of their discipline was already shattered, and stressed, and completely done.
And Yosuke was the class clown. Funny joke.
20 minutes before the Shadows came out to play.
Speaking of jokes, Yosuke felt like the butt of a giant, cosmic one. When was the last time he felt… relevant? (There’s an impressive word for the English exam.) In the early days of the Inaba Investigation Team, Yosuke considered himself important.
Formerly Jack-of-all-Trades, Part-Founder of the Investigation Team.
Current status? Deadweight doormat. Captain Perma-freaking-Reservation Team.
How many times had he been shafted to the Back Up Squad in the last few weeks? What was he, chopped liver?
Totally chopped liver.
Chie kicked ass.
Kanji smashed things with thunder and fists.
Teddie was the ultimate back up buddy in a mascot suit.
Naoto bossed it up on and off the battlefield.
And Partner. Yu could do anything.
Where did that leave Yosuke? Anything he thought he was good at, his friends could do better. Yu once called him the brains of the I.T, but was that really true anymore?
15 minutes and the curtains rise.
Partner. Yosuke often wondered what his best friend saw in him sometimes. They had been drawn together, seemingly by chance, in a quaint little street. Rolling around in a garbage bin, no less. Self fulfilling prophecy for the Trash King, right? Compared to Yosuke, Yu was… perfect. A stellar student, a hit with the ladies, the Wild Card with the ability to summon Personas with ease, he’s smart, and funny, and strong, and kind and -
...Everything Yosuke isn’t.
That realisation always hurt.
He was there that day, exposed to the very worst of Yosuke in a carbon copy form. He got a taste of exactly what kind of person Yosuke was, a spiteful, angry boy, bored and bitter at the world. His initial jealously of his best friend came from a dark place of self-loathing, realising that no matter how hard Yosuke tries to impress, to laugh, to stay positive, it’s all smoke and mirrors because he’s really just a coward and a dumbass.
Heh, maybe the Prince of Junes is a Magician, after all.
Not that it matters.
Someone like Yu should never have been friends with someone like Yosuke.
Someone like Yu should never have gotten in trouble because of someone like Yosuke.
Someone like Yu would never want to be Yosuke’s -
Tears pricked at his widened eyes, that all familiar surge of panic shot through him. Spasms of adrenaline and fear seized hold of his lungs, labouring the very breath of his denial. It was messed up, he knew it was messed it, but it kept happening and he felt powerless to stop it.
A swirl of panic reigned in his stomach, his nerve endings, and his overactive imagination a nesting ground for hysteria. Only the worst case scenario was welcome and he was living it.
Suddenly, the crackle of static awakened the television, enveloping the bedroom in an eerie glow. As Yosuke turned towards the screen, accompanied only by the heavy downpour outside and his own shallow breaths, his eyes widened as a very familiar figure flickered on screen.
Midnight. Show time.