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Eye of the Beholder

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“You know, I’m not sure whether to be insulted or thankful my name isn’t on that list.”

Chie and Yukiko looked at their friend, classmate, and leader of their investigation team, Yuri Narukami. The girls had walked to school together that day and noticed a small crowd in front of the announcement board.

The girls had worked their way to the front to find two sign-up sheets were posted, one for the Miss Yasogami pageant and one for the “Miss” Yasogami pageant during the school festival. And four of the six participants had been listed all in the same handwriting on the Miss Yasogami pageant. Chie and Yukiko had been signed up, along with the newer members of their team Rise and Naoto. The only two listed in different handwriting were the girls homeroom teacher, Noriko Kashiwagi, and their classmate Hanako Ohtani.

“Don’t you also think that this handwriting looks familiar?” A cheery voice asked from behind.

Startled by this question, the three girls looked behind them. They had been joined by a furiously blushing Naoto and an oddly calm Rise.

Chie looked down, then returned her head back. Yukiko returned her gaze to the sign-up sheet. Yuri began rummaging through her bag.

“Yeah, though I can’t really place it at the moment.” Yukiko said, drawing her words out as her brain tried to place where exactly the handwriting belonged.

“Got it.” Yuri pulled a slip of paper out of her bag. The bottom half of the paper ripped as Yuri pulled it out.

“Ah, there’s still the crowd. Maybe we should move into the hallway?” Yuri suggested.

The girls nodded, and moved towards the first years classrooms.

Chie, Yukiko, Naoto, and Rise glanced at the paper.

“Senpai, is this a shopping list with aisle numbers on it?” Naoto asked, not entirely maintaining to keep the skepticism from leaking into her voice.

“Yes, but what I was really looking for was on the back.”

“The… back?”

Yuri flipped the list, revealing a handwritten conversation.

So partner you know how you have access to all these Personas?

Yes.

Is there like a limit on how many you can have or do you just like have one for say Yukiko and one for Kanji if they are part of the backup team?

There is a limit. I do try to cover everyone’s weaknesses just in case. Why are you bringing this up?

I was just thinking about the time Chie got knocked down and how you whipped out this little snowman looking guy and just broke the shadow in like 2 moves. You just looked so cool that I knew we would definitely solve this case even if it took all year.

Thank you Yosuke, that means a lot coming from you.

Although the note clearly continued as there were markings below what was readable, the rest of the conversation had been torn off.
Yuri pointed at the two instances of her friends names on the note.

“This looks very familiar.”

Chie was the first to react. “OH, THAT BOY IS SO DEAD!”

Yukiko said nothing, however the look in her eyes confirmed that if Chie did not finish the job, she would.

“Aw, you’re so cute Senpai! I wish I could pass notes to Naoto-kun and Kanji-kun but every time I try the teacher calls on me to answer a question.”

“You really should be paying attention Rise. You never know if this information could be helpful to our investigation.” Naoto countered. Rise playfully pouted, then returned to smiling.

“Back to the sign-up sheet,” Naoto continued. “Do you guys know who is the teacher supervising the events?”

“I heard that Morooka was in charge this year, but since he died that would mean Kashiwagi would be in charge, right?” Yukiko offered.

“Then we just need to go and ask her if we can remove our names from the list.” Naoto said.“Yes, but what if she won’t let us take our names down from the list?” Yukiko asked. A silence fell over the girls as they felt a chill graze their hearts. As comfortable as they were with their bodies, most were not comfortable with the idea of having the school’s undivided attention in such a manner.

“I’ll think of something, don’t worry.” Yuri said, while giving a look to the group that conveyed her sympathy and her willingness to do anything for her friends. The group felt a sense of calm enter their hearts, and willpower in their veins.

The girls nodded, and after school made their way to the faculty offices. They found Kashiwagi at her desk, grading papers while simultaneously working on lesson plans.

Yuri moved herself to the front of the group, and cleared her throat before addressing her homeroom teacher.

“Kashiwagi-senpai? My friends and I were wondering if we could have a moment of your time.” Yuri had somehow made herself appear small, appealing to Kashiwagi as one would in a time when hardship and pride have fought and hardship prevailed for far too long.

Kashiwagi ate it up.

“Of course Narukami-san. How can I help your little mind expand today, hmm?” Kashiwagi punctuated the end of sentence by crossing her arms, as if in a mocking challenge to the group of students.

Yuri responded, noting the movement yet not letting it phase her.

“This is about the Miss Yasogami Beauty Pageant. My friends here were all signed up against their will or knowledge by a classmate and we were all wondering if you would be so kind as to remove their names from the list? We would be very grateful.” Yuri ended her request with a deep bow, the rest of the team quickly, and almost simultaneously, following suit.

Kashiwagi waited a second before responding.

“I’m sorry girls, but since participation for the event had been in decline the past few years, the rules have changed to that once a participants name is on the list there’s no going back. This rule, of course, also applies to the cross-dressing pageant as well.”

Kashiwagi then lifted her right hand, and winked.

“It’s not like any of you are going to win anyway, since you’ll be competing with my natural beauty.”

Chie groaned, “We don’t have time for this. I’m going to go and try to get my mind off this. Yukiko, want to come?”

“Yeah, I forgot I promised to help out at the inn today anyway. Thank you for the information, Kashiwagi-sensei.” The two girls left, full of tension at the thought of what was to come during the school festival.

As soon as Yukiko and Chie cleared the room, Rise’s cell phone began going off.

“Oh shoot. I’m sorry I forgot I promised my grandma I would help with the store today. Thank you for your time, Kashiwagi-sensei.” Rise bowed and quickly left.

“I’m sure my grandfather is wondering where I am. Thank you again, Kaswagi-sensei. This information was helpful, if not disheartening.” Naoto left, leaving Yuri alone with Kashiwagi. Yuri again addressed her teacher, a mischievous gleam in her eyes and a gentle, yet wicked, smile gracing her lips.

“You mentioned something about the cross-dressing pageant?”

Kashiwagi returned Narukami's smile with one of her own.