Cutscene: A Fish Returned

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IC Date: Tuesday, November 30, 2009

Characters Involved: Shiori Hibiki

Location: Somewhere near a mountain road in Inaba.

Shiori descended the winding path, empty bucket in hand.

Shiori climbs up the winding path, bucket in hand, half-filled with water and one dragon koi.

She tried to make her way down safely, but a slip of the foot caused her to slide downhill until a flailing hand caught a low branch, the bucket clattering against the tree trunk. She had already picked up her fair share of minor scrapes and bruises in this place, but her errand was over.

She tries to keep the bucket stable, steady, taking her time. She does not want to disturb the fish in the bucket more than she already has; taking him out of his fishtank and into a smaller version, putting him in a car all the way to Inaba, and then transferring him again into a cramped bucket.

Thorns and brambles clutched at her; roots tried to snag her feet. Shiori pushed on regardless, in grim silence, shoes crunching along the undergrowth, made brittle by the coming of winter. Shion would be waiting for her; the police officer had requisitioned a car from the Inaba Police Department on some pretext or other. Shiori didn't really ask about the details, since she wasn't sure she wanted to know.

The path is hidden, but some strange instinct guides Shiori to the opening in the forest, where she can dimly see a dirt track leading further into the mountains. She cannot push a cart up the path, and so the bucket it is. The forest seems to open up as she approaches, guiding her way.

Shiori had worried about whether she would be able to find her way back to the waiting car, but some strange sense was guiding her unerringly there. It didn't seem like it came from her Persona abilities, but Shiori had no way of confirming that. A gift was a gift, and Shiori trusted in her instincts for once to lead her the right way.

The fish looks up at her with questioning eyes. Shiori cannot find the words to explain why she is doing this now, why she could not do it earlier, or what she is doing. She mumbles empty apologies, as she ascends. And as she ascends, she begins to feel more and more at ease, slowly approaching a vast, seamless understanding of the world, and her own place in it. But when she tries to grasp that feeling, it slips away. Only a little more to go, only a little further...

Midnight had come and gone; Shiori didn't need to worry about the Dark Hour, when she returned to Port Island. The trip to Inaba had taken most of the evening, and the trip back would likely find her back at her current temporary home just before dawn. Just a place to live, for the moment; she felt like an outsider there. A much-loved guest, to be sure, someone who would be welcome anytime, but an outsider nonetheless.

Shiori reaches the river. The current here is fast and strong, but a small calm pool has formed to the side in a clearing, almost as though it is inviting Shiori to complete her errand over here. There is a sense of peace here, and everything is right and true. There is no more need for apologies, for conflict, for despair, because this is home, and this is home, and-

Shiori ignored the gentle urging in her mind, whispering sweet thoughts to go back to that clearing. She would be safe there; the Guardian would protect her. The Guardian would make sure she would never have to fight again, never be lonely again, forever-

She does not belong here.

Shiori burst through the forest, stumbling onto the open road. She glanced around for a moment before spotting the headlights of Shion's car, made blurry by... strange. Why was she crying?

Shiori carefully pours out the bucket into the pool. The fish slips into the water, and is gone, with nary a fin nor a ripple. Shiori hesitates, wondering whether to say goodbye, but the night is pressing in. She turns, and follows the path back down.

Shiori opened the car door and climbed in. Fastening her seat belt, she nodded gratefully at Shion, and dozed all the way back to Port Island.

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