note!! this app contains spoilers for persona 4, parental death, struggles with gender identity and hints of sexism.
i: mother and father.
(where's mother and father? why are they not home?)
there are very little memories of your mother and father. you remember gentle summers and waiting for them to come home, eagerly anticipating the latest stories of their detective adventures that you so quickly grew to love. father was a tall, almost imposing man. always in uniform with glasses and a stern frown that could be turned into a smile when he swung you around in his arms. mother is small and gentle, yet could be as almost as intimidating as your father -
(grandfather always chuckles and tells you your mother could cause thunderstorms)
but she encourages you to follow your dreams. even though you are so young, with that memory, you always remember that she told you to be whoever you wanted to be. and father, in all his strict glory, always did the same.
sometimes the worst things happen to the best people.
you are one year into primary school. even though you are in your first proper year, your teachers have always been complimenting your quick wit and intelligence. albeit, they worry for the fact that you cannot seem to connect very well with other children, in the favour of making detective kits and pretending to go around solving mysteries, but you are doing well, and that's what matters.
(they are real mysteries, you insist, although you cannot tell quite what they are)
mother always comes to pick you up. sometimes, even father comes too. you always look forward to it.
except one day, they don't come. mother had specifically told you that morning, you insist desperately to the teachers, that she and father were coming that day. you, a tiny, tiny child, in your little waistcoat suit that you adored so much because it made you look like your father, stood out in the cold anticipating their arrival. even when you were the last child waiting for them to come, your teacher worriedly watching you from the classroom window, you waited.
a detective came, but it wasn't your mother. or your father. it was an unknown man in a detective uniform.
(i don't go home with strangers, you tell him firmly. he looks troubled, and eventually talks to your teacher alone, because you will not budge)
he sits you down and tells you, very quietly, very gently, that mother and father will not be coming to get you. he tells you that they have passed away in a car accident, and how sorry he is.
his words are lost on you, in that moment. no sorries can fix the fact that your mother and father will no longer be coming home.
he takes you home to pick up as many things as your little arms can carry, and tells you you can come for the rest later.
(you only want the photo of you and mother and father, in that moment. everything else is irrelevant)
he takes you to grandfather's. he is the only one left, now. you cry into his chest that night, and he holds you in the gentle way that old people do, even when he is in shock that his son has passed away before him. he puts you to bed in a large, unfamiliar bed that is too big for you, in a house that is too big for you and too empty. it doesn't have your parents' laughs in it, not anymore.
(i want mother and father, you cry. i know, he replies. there is nothing left to say.)
grandfather resembles father, in many ways. he is strict and imposing with other people, but with you, he is kind and gentle, and raises you in the same way a father would have done - the same way your father would have. grandmother passed away a few years ago - you were too young to remember, but her face is all over the house, immortalised in photo frames - and there are people who serve your grandfather, and by proxy, they serve you.
(the house isn't lonely. not really.)
school becomes more difficult. not in terms of academia - if that was ever difficult, then you wouldn't be happy with yourself - but it's more lonely than staying at home. whispers of orphan naoto float around the school, and you grit your teeth and get on with it. alone.
it's easier to have no friends if they don't want to be friends anyway.
(that's a lie. you try making friends and you can't make them. why would you admit you can't actually make friends because of your dumb detective pride?)
instead, with the name shirogane attached to your first, you strive to be like your parents. to make them proud.
you diligently make detective tools based off of the information you have from your parents and your grandfather. he doesn't do investigations anymore, but he's more than happy to help you with yours, even as you grew older and threw away the investigations as petty games.
(he keeps your detective kits, your toys. you just don't find out until later. he really loves you.)
as you grow up, you display the typical knack of the shirogane detectives, the more you hone your skills throughout your schooltime -
alone. no one beside you
with all the people you needed backing you up. you tried to visit the police as much as possible, especially when you got into your teens. they comment how much like your mother you are, when you are that much younger. it angers you, because as much as you are a help to the police when you can be, they laugh at you. they patronize you and pat your head incessently, even when you slap their hands away and storm off in a fury.
(you're not a boy. if you were a boy, surrounded by other men, then they might treat you better)
and so begins the saga of the detective prince. not princess, but prince. even though your grandfather tries to discourage you, you start practicing making your voice deeper, you wear your waistcoat suit over a bound chest (it took a lot of practice, and the first couple times it really hurt), and grandfather changes your school so you start over as naoto. the boy.
(when you go to the police, they seem surprised - but perhaps they just thought you were a boy acting feminine all this time)
you grow up. you build a reputation. rather than becoming a regular police officer, you become a detective at the humble age of fourteen.
you are fifteen when you're sent to help on a case that will change everything.
inaba is a small, sleepy town that was more alert than it had been in many, many years.
you are skeptical about the case. people going missing and reappearing? two already dead? a mysterious fog? it sounded more like one of your investigations of your childhood than it did an actual case, but the police were stumped on leads and they needed your help.
you analyse the case information that you have. you meet a number of detectives on the case that you have differing opinions on.
(they're all the same. they ridicule you when your back is turned)
dojima is a good man. he's gruff and vaguely reminds you of your father in several ways, and occasionally you butt heads, but he is a good man. you find out from some background sources about the circumstances surrounding his absent wife, and you feel for him.
after all, you know what it feels like to lose someone precious to you.
(in some ways, you understand his want to find who did it to her. who did it to him. who did it to his daughter.)
but emotions can't get in the way of a case. it hinders your judgement, after all.
adachi's an idiot. that's honestly the most you can get from him. his conduct doesn't impress you, and like dojima says, he acts like a rookie at the best of times, but at least he does his job vaguely well. it doesn't mean you get on with him all that much, though. you have a strange mutual understanding of not really wanting to talk to each other, even though you work together.
inaba is the source of everything. it's a small town with not a lot to offer, and you go back to your grandfather's in the evening, lighten your voice, take away the bindings, and relax for a short while after pretending for so long before you go to sleep.
and then you repeat the cycle again. the same way that everyone does in this small town.
no one here knows you. no one here knows the truth. you can pretend to its entirety here, and pray that someday, they will take you seriously. you're young, and they hate that. you think that they hate it, your formal mannerisms and your age and your attitude, and in turn that makes you grit your teeth and get on with it without having friends there.
(the same way as always.)
iv: tatsumi kanji.
it all begins with a very tall, blonde, angry young man by the name of tatsumi kanji.
you deduce, by the pattern of the tvs, that he may be the next victim in this strange case. so you deem it necessary to go and talk to him first, because you might be able to gather further clues towards the truth.
(is it the truth? or just the conclusion?)
you talk to him, and you feel like you should have been intimidated by his demeanour. his ripped jeans, his dyed hair, his leather jacket and his tendency to shout a lot, but you just sort of... looked at him. there was nothing to be intimidated by. and after a while of speaking with him, with being upfront about wanting to talk to him further, he gets flustered.
(you have no idea why. you just want to talk about the case. nothing frivolous)
there are others doing the same job as you, though not as strategically. it's almost amusing, their amateur ways. you don't pay as much attention to them at first. they seem to be irrelevant.
(of course, you have no idea how relevant they will be)
as you predicted, kanji disappears.
there is panic amongst the police, thinking that it might result in another murder this time. you go along with your own investigations in the meantime, talking to his mother, finding out about him, but almost as soon as you've done that -
and those children you thought weren't relevant suddenly seem a lot more relevant.
v: kujikawa rise.
the idol by the name of kujikawa rise is the one to next throw a wrench into the works.
soon, the same events surrounding tatsumi kanji occur centered around her, and while you conduct your investigations, they appear again.
silver, orange, red, green - and now black, because he seems to be with them now, too.
this time, you watch while you investigate. you observe.
when she goes missing, after appearing on the television, despite the police protection - (did adachi mess up? again?) - this time, you are confident that she is going to reappear.
and who does she reappear with? who does she enrol into school with?
the group you thought were irrelevant.
you confront them, one day, when the police and they alike are discussing the possibility of a student suspect, and rather than talking with them, you chastise them.
they're playing a game, you tell them. you hate seeing your occupation treated so childishly. their efforts are just a game, and it's going to end soon, and it will return to normal.
it is kujikawa rise that gets angry and tells you that you're the one playing the game.
you're taken aback.
(but when you think about it, it's not wrong. maybe it's even true.)
you bite your lip and try your best not to cry. crying is a childish thing to do, after all. after all, you tell them, it may be. after all, you tell them, with sadness, detectives are just there to be hired to help and when everything is solved, thrown away like an unwanted toy.
she ignites a similar fire in you to what your mother had. you're not playing a game. you're making your parents proud. you're being who you want to be. you're going to solve this case and go back to being yourself, with your grandfather, go back to being
the top detective. you scorn them. but it doesn't stop you going back to your grandfather, going back to the police, and demanding that you be enrolled into yasogami high.
vi: the investigation team.
everyone at the school is laughable. already you have boys and girls alike whispering about your presence alongside the likes of kujikawa rise and tatsumi kanji, girls making odd requests of you and you simply turning them down.
they don't like that very much. no one ever likes what you say very much.
but they reappear again, to try and talk to you too. you question their motives. the first time, you say you have to return home to grandfather. you did promise, after all.
the second time, on the school trip, you find out things you're not particularly sure whether one, you should have found out (judging by some of their behaviour) or two, were actually true (judging by their childish, immature behaviour, and talk of things that are nonexistant).
shortly after, mitsuo is called upon as a suspect. and then he disappears. you are skeptical. and then he is found by the same people. he is arrested.
you remain skeptical. you are not convinced that this television world they speak of is finished with yet.
you tell them so. for once, they are skeptical of you. angrily, you tell them that this case was never a game for you, and you will do anything to make sure that it is properly resolved. that's as much as you can do as the detective prince.
you go on the television show for an interview. you remember the doorbell ringing. you remember some substance being pressed over your face, and you vaguely recall being thrown into something. when you wake up, you're in a strange new secret base, with -
someone who looks like you. a child, in a science coat, blabbering about how you wanted to change and that you just wanted someone to play with you. you scorned it. this wasn't you. you tried gaining clues from it to no avail.
and then they showed up.
of course they showed up.
but then everything goes wrong. you remember everyone finding out the truth, and your panic and rejection causes the child to change. you remember passing out. and then when you woke up, it was waiting for you.
when you finally accepted the truth you had been denying for so long, you gained inexplicable power inside yourself that you never thought you had. it seemed accepting yourself made some amazing changes.
(on the way out, you leave, but your legs are so heavy and tired you collapse. but rather than hitting the floor, it is in tatsumi kanji's arms - no, just kanji's arms - that you fall into. they feel warm. and safe.)
it seemed, after all, that the case was not quite over. and once you had recovered, once you had formally introduced yourself to everyone - you still remained in the boy's uniform, but news travelled fast in inaba - you officially became part of their investigation team.
(it felt nice, having friends.)
vii: narukami yu.
narukami yu. senpai. he is a strange, strange person.
you can't read him. you can read yosuke, chie, yukiko, teddie, rise, kanji (especially kanji, for the most part) like a book, but you cannot read senpai.
as time passes, you arrange a checkup for everyone at the hospital to make sure no one is having any negative effects from being in the tv world. you fight shadows with everyone so that you all gain practice, so that you all know what you're doing and so you can get used to sukuna-hikona.
you're unwillingly signed up for a beauty pageant (you want to punch yosuke, but kanji is... oddly enthusiastic about it?), and somehow you win despite dropping out of a section (swimsuit? you were going to kill teddie), and for once in your life, you have fun with your friends.
you get to know them. senpai helps you with an odd case of your own that just turns out to be your grandfather trying to help you find the fun in what you do again. the memories of the detective kit that he kept so treasured and away from you come rushing back. it could almost make you cry. but your grandfather knows you well and it does the job he desires.
but then dojima nanako is taken, and everything is ramped up a notch, even though you saw it coming too late. you run to the dojima residence when senpai is at the police station, tell everyone to go there - and you find the door open and nanako gone.
in that time, you all deduce it was a delivery van. you deduce it was naratame taro.
dojima nearly dies.
nanako is in the tv world.
dojima begs you to save his daughter. knowing what he's already been through, you, and senpai both, make him that promise.
you do exactly that. you bring namatame taro to justice. you rescue nanako. but something goes wrong along the way, with the tv world having too much of an effect on nanako.
you didn't save her, not really. if you had stopped namatame talking as much as he had, then you might have kept her alive.
everyone is angry. they nearly push him back into the tv world with his shadow, where he belongs. but of course, it's senpai who dissolves the situation. who makes sure that you find out his side of the story.
desiring to find the truth you all wanted to find.
viii: seekers of truth.
finding out what namatame really thought he was doing was the important part. and then there were the letters that senpai was keeping hidden from dojima until everything happened.
some things needed explaining, and you were going to use your authority to get them.
you find out information from him that was necessarily crucial. that he had no reason to murder yamano mayumi. that there was no chance that he had been the one to send konishi saki to her death. that he had been the one to push the others into the tv, the one to take nanako, but until that point, he had no reason to believe that the tv world had taken them closer to death than further away from it like he had originally believed.
he had apologised. it didn't fix what he had done, but you can tell he was genuine. that he was telling the truth, and that was all that you had wanted.
and more importantly, he had no idea what the letters were. that he had never seen them in his life, and that they certainly didn't fit with his rhetoric.
adachi warns you that they will be moving namatame in a few days to a new, safer hospital, considering the way that dojima is acting. by some miracle, nanako reawakens, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. they are happy, for that short while.
you sit and discuss what you have found out, but you can't get an answer.
(you hate not being able to work out the answer. it messes with your head.)
you go out into the snow, and the slowly rising fog, to try and find the answer. yosuke and senpai join you. it's cold, and you're so desperately trying to find the answer. and then senpai is the one to utter a name.
and as much as you don't want to believe it, as much as everyone laughs about the idea - everything adds up. everything adds up, and suddenly the jigsaw pieces fall into place.
ix: adachi tohru.
you confront him at the hospital. kanji looks like he's about to punch his lights out - in that moment, you admire kanji's quiet, even sinister accusation of his guilt - and as much as adachi tries to defend himself, he slips up. and dojima is the one to notice that mistake.
that he never took the letter for testing.
(because it would be an admission of his guilt)
and he ran. he ran and disappeared into the tv world. dojima is left confused, but you tell him that you will bring him back. because dojima has been betrayed too, betrayed by someone he trusted, and someone that had put nanako in danger. and dojima is a good man, and a good detective. he wanted him to be brought to justice.
you follow him into a bloody, destroyed version of inaba that you never wanted to see again. even now, when you still have quietly recurring nightmares of what you had seen in the tv world, you didn't want to see the real world overtaken by shadows and turned into this.
it was almost nightmarish.
but you all fight your way through the numerous hordes of shadows that he sends after you, complete his ridiculous quests, and stand on the end of the road, confronting him about what he's done.
"you're nothing more than an immature, egotistic brat."
they are probably the harshest words that you have ever spoken to someone, especially someone so dangerously volatile, but his logic angers you as much as others have also angered you.
you stand and throw all your power at his reapers, at him. you feel senpai fighting him with all of his power, and all you can do is pray that he will win. because unlike adachi, and once, unlike you -
he has friends.
and he is defeated. you take him back to inaba. everything seems to go back to normal, and you seem to have found the truth.
you wake up, and you don't know where you are.
where's grandfather, you ask yourself. where is senpai, where is kanji, where is rise, where is everyone - and you come to the hollow, saddening conclusion that they are not here. this is not inaba. you do not know where this is or who is here or anyone here, but you realise that once again, you are alone.
you don't think you are dead, at the very least. there seems to be no possibility of that.
you ask about, and they all give you the same answer: elysion. go pick up a brochure and choose somewhere to live. you're not leaving.
people are different here. people of varying outfits, of speaking mannerisms, of attitude, of occupation and memories. you don't know where they're from and you don't ask. instead, you settle in terminus - a seventeen year old girl at the time, and went to the nearest detective agency and offered your services. after all, it was better to do what you knew best.
and you stayed. and you lived. and you carried on. but there was no forgetting what you had left behind, as much as people urged you to forget. even though it should have been an opportunity to make more friends, you made none. because without them, there was no point in making the effort with people. at least here, they seemed to take you more seriously. when you could have gone back to dressing more femininely, tried to accept yourself more than you already had done, you stuck with regular old naoto. naoto who couldn't make friends and was short and looked and talked like a boy.
it was almost as if you had just given up on being happy.