Souji sprinted down the hallway, barely able to dodge various cultural festival displays in his haste.
He had no idea why, but his Partner was screaming bloody murder, and all he could do was get to his side as quickly as possible.
“Yosuke!” Souji yelled breathlessly, but Yosuke’s unintelligible screaming merely continued.
However, it was worse when the screaming stopped. Souji no longer had a sound to run toward, and he could only assume something terrible had happened to make Yosuke go silent.
“Yosuke!” Souji yelled again desperately.
“Partner!” Yosuke choked out from somewhere nearby. “Save… me!”
Souji ran even faster, his right hand reflexively falling to where the sword would normally be at his side in the labyrinth, but he realized there was nothing there.
The scene that unfolded before his eyes was not what Souji had been expecting, but he immediately recognized the gravity of the situation; his Partner was in real danger.
Rise, Yukiko, Chie, and Fuuka were all standing in front of Yosuke, each holding a small container of what looked like sauce and wearing an expression of either guilt or confusion.
Minato was off to the side, looking like he wanted to blend in with the wall behind him.
And Yosuke was on the floor, curled up in a ball and holding his throat as he choked violently.
“It can’t be that bad!” Rise exclaimed. “Stop exaggerating!”
Chie chimed in, “Yeah, stop acting like such a wimp!”
“I don’t know,” Yukiko said uncertainly. “It seems like a genuine reaction. Perhaps our dipping sauces aren’t as good as we imagined.”
Fuuka asked worriedly, “Shouldn’t we do something to help him?”
Chie huffed, “He’s fine—don’t waste your worry on him.”
“But Chie-chan, he doesn’t look fine!”
Yukiko observed calmly, “He is a rather unnatural color.”
“Oh no, you’re right!” Rise exclaimed, not having noticed Yosuke’s abnormal hue. “What do we do?”
The girls all recoiled when Souji appeared out of seemingly nowhere, rushing to kneel beside Yosuke.
“Yosuke! Breathe! I’m here. Just breathe.”
Once Yosuke seemed to remember how to breathe, Souji looked up and shot an uncharacteristic glare at all four of the girls, causing a chorus of yelps.
“What did you do to him?” Souji asked, the tightness in his voice distinctly intimidating.
Yukiko, apparently the bravest of the group, stepped forward. “We all made dipping sauces for Yosuke to try-”
“That’s enough,” Souji snapped, not needing any more explanation. Helping Yosuke up off the ground, Souji turned to Minato and instructed, “There’s a disposal container for hazardous materials in the science lab. Take the girls there and make sure all of this dipping sauce is properly disposed of. I’m counting on you.”
Minato nodded dutifully.
Rise started to complain, “But Senpai, we-”
“Enough,” Souji said again sharply.
“I think I’m gonna be sick, Partner.”
“Try and hold it in, okay? You’re gonna be fine,” Souji said, supporting Yosuke’s weight against his side and walking him forward.
Frozen in place, the girls watched the two of them leave, wondering how something as simple as dipping sauce could have caused such a commotion.
“Could it truly be that bad?” Yukiko asked, still not convinced. “Maybe I should try it, just to make sure.”
Fuuka said, “I could be wrong, Yukiko-chan, but that doesn’t seem like the best idea.”
“Yosuke was probably just being Yosuke,” Chie said indignantly. “He doesn’t know a good thing when it’s right in front of him.”
“That’s true,” Rise mused. “But Senpai seemed really upset. I’ve never seen him like that.”
Looking at her shoes, Chie said, “Yeah, he seemed pretty pissed.”
“He’s usually so even-keeled,” Yukiko said. “I feel bad for upsetting him.”
Minato suddenly asked, “Shouldn’t you feel bad about poisoning Yosuke?”
“Poisoning him?” Fuuka gulped, holding her sauce a little farther from her body.
Chie asserted, “Psh, if Yosuke can’t handle what we dish out, that’s his problem!”
Minato shook his head grimly. These girls were ruthless.
“Maybe we were a bit forceful with him,” Rise admitted, running back over the scenario in her mind.
“I’m gonna try it,” Yukiko decided, lifting the sauce to her mouth.
“No!” Minato shouted, swatting the sauce container out of her hand.
It crashed to the floor, the ceramic shattering into pieces and the sauce splattering across the floor.
“Back away slowly,” Minato said, holding out his arms in front of the girls to protect them.
They all watched in horror as the sauce ate into the top layer of the wood floor, somewhat like a potent acid.
Fuuka cried, “Is that what’s happening to Yosuke-kun’s insides?!”
Launching into full-on leader mode, Minato commanded, “I’ll clean this mess up. You girls collect every last bit of leftover sauce you have, and then we’re all going to the science lab.”