Cutscene: Turn the Page, Fair Youth
As the sun slowly began to drift beneath the horizon, the sky became alight in a blaze of golds and reds and pinks. They danced across the clouds of the late evening as a living painting, moving and shifting in some intricate pattern of nature as twilight drew ever closer with each passing moment. The burning reds and golds gave way to softer pinks and yellows, yielding control of the sky to the more gentle colors if but for a moment. And then finally even those passed away to be replaced with the dusky grays and blues of twilight.
Masumi reflected to himself that the day he could no longer appreciate such breathtaking natural beauty was the day that he would simply die, unable to live as such a cynical and closed-hearted person. He turned away from the large double-windows only well after the magnificent display was over, but did not draw the black velvet drapes across the portals to the outside world just yet. The night would be coming soon, carrying with it the serenely austure beauty that cannot be experienced at any other time. Masumi enjoyed the night.
The youth's eyes finally drifted away from the windows to the room about him. It was strange seeing it so bare and empty, almost to the point of the surreal. This had been his room for his entire life of sixteen years, and now almost everything that once marked it as his had been packed into boxes to be moved across town to the KNOWS complex. He could feel a distinct mixture of both melancholy and quiet excitement at the change which the empty room represented so poignantly. The closing of one chapter so that another might be opened.
Masumi walked over to the closet and slowly allowed one delicate hand to rest on the doorknob. This was his very last night in this room, in this house. So many memories were attached to this home, so much had happened here; both the good and the bad mixed together to create a deep ambivilence about the prospect of leaving all of them behind. But he couldn't help but to think that perhaps the bad memories had become increasingly common as he'd grown older, slowly but steadily outweighing the good ones. Honestly...he found that he didn't even quite remember the last time he fully felt comfortable and at-ease around his family.
Except of course for his sister. She had always been his light, had always been there for him, had always supported him even after the distance robbed him of her constant presence. He knew the reason she came back from Sumaru to visit every other weekend without fail. As much as she got along with the rest of the family -- in contrast to himself -- they would never have elicited such unfailing dedication from her. She came back for him. She came back because she knew that he still needed her strength to face a world hostile to those that were different, to face a family that turned its back on him because he dared to step out, break the mold, and throw off the chains.
Masumi's hand continued to rest lightly on the doorknob, unmoving, as his mind returned to a moment earlier in the day.
The bright light of the late morning streamed in through the double-windows of Masumi's room as his older sister helped him to pack the bulk of his things. Their conversation over the course of the last few hours had wandered across the whole gamut of available topics as all conversations of such length are wont to do -- nostalgic memories from years past when Hikari still lived at home, how he was doing in school, how her graduate studies were going, her almost-boyfriend that turned out to be a creepy-stalker, the paper she just recently had published, his second recent brush with death.
But throughout it, Masumi kept getting the vague sense that there was something she was waiting to broach until the proper moment, but it came and went at random intervals. First he would think that she did, then become convinced that he was mistaken, and then feel like he was right in the first place. Even with his natural intuitive sense, Hikari was always so hard for him to read -- not because she was closed off, but because she was always so perfectly tranquil. Like a crystalline lake whose pristine waters could not be disturbed by even the most ferocious of storms, nothing could even stir her perfect calmness. He had always wished he could be more like her.
The moment finally came once the house emptied out, each other member of the family leaving to pursue their normal individual Sunday afternoon activities. Silence reigned from both stories after the outside door downstairs finally closed shut for the last time for a while.
Hikari suddenly looked directly at him with that serenely piercing gaze of hers that seemed to see everything, as if she were looking directly into his mind and soul and searching out all of his secrets. He had never been able to hide anything from his older sister, even on the rare occassions that he had actually tried. Most of the time he wanted to share everything with her, the one person in the world that truly understood him. But she always knew before he even opened his mouth. And now, the question she delivered to him was as piercing as her deep emerald eyes, the softness of her tones only making it all the more so.
"So when are you going to tell me what KNOWS really is?"
Masumi at first opened his mouth to ask whatever could she mean, but the lie died immediately on his lips underneath her piercing gaze -- and he found himself flushing hotly as once again she pealed back all of his secrets and left him exposed. It was always so intensely painful the way she cut straight to the heart of the matter, but equally it was such a sweet, sweet pain. He didn't have to hide. He /couldn't/ hide. Everything was out there for her to see, as all the lies he lived every day were one by one stripped away. All that was left was the truth.
Masumi finally averted his eyes to the floor, unable to weather the quietly intense gaze of a such a goddess any longer. He was silent for several long moments, but ultimately there was no question that he would answer the question honestly. "It's a..." he began slowly. He couldn't even bring himself to wonder how she knew. She just always /did/. "It's an organized group of Persona-users sponsored by Kandori's SEBEC. A...coterie of sorts of the Awakened." His voice was very small underneath the intensity of her gaze that he could still feel.
"But you have doubts about it," Hikari continued, her voice losing some of the intensity and becoming more gentle. It wasn't even phrased as a question. She could see it in him as easily as she could see the walls of the room about them.
The feminine youth nodded slowly, still not looking up even as he felt her gaze growing softer. "I'm...I'm not sure I entirely know what I'm getting into, Nee-san," he admitted quietly. It was not something he would have ever revealed to anyone else in the world. "I can't, I can't /not/ pursue this -- I've dreamed of the work they're doing for too long. But at the same time..." His words trailed off even as one fist clenched tightly in frustration, both at his unsurety and inability to properly express his doubts.
Hikari's hand came to rest lightly under his chin as she gently lifted his face up so that he met her gaze again. There was no trace of judgment in her gaze, only unconditional support and love. "Imouto," she began softly. She only ever called him that when no one else was around, and it never failed to touch him deeply. Little sister. A single tear slid down his face to splash against her hand. "I believe in you. You will do the right thing, and you will find your dreams." She inhaled slowly. "And if you ever need to talk, about anything, then I am here to listen. Please never forget that."
Masumi's recollection was abruptly interrupted by the sound of the front door downstairs slamming shut, and then raucous laughter which indicated that his older brother had returned home with a few of his friends. That was one of the many things he would certainly not miss -- they were all so crass and obnoxious, and never failed to mock him for his appearance, as if somehow they were better than he was. It was almost laughable really. Not a one of the possessed a fraction of his understanding of the deeper things, or of his vision. Though they didn't know it consciously, his presence made them cozignant of the chains of the world they could not possibly throw off, and so they mocked him to feel better about themselves.
No, not laughable. They were sad, pitiable. It was not their fault they could not see.
Realizing that it was growing later and he still had a little packing to do, Masumi picked up a box and finally turned the knob and stepped inside the closet. He wasn't entirely sure why he had hesitated, except that perhaps that once he was done, the final signs of who had lived in this room for sixteen years would be gone. The room would stand empty for a little while before being claimed by someone else in the family for one purpose or another. There wouldn't even really be a whole like there had been when Hikari left, because he had spent so long avoiding them and they avoiding him. Life would carry on as if nothing had changed. He would quickly be forgotten.
Masumi wasn't sure what prompted him to do what he did next. Though his activities at times certainly skirted the boundaries of the law, he had never been a /delinquent/. He had never been among the crowd that flagrantly defied authority or destroyed property or caused trouble simply for the sake of it -- such things were beneath him. They were crass and tasteless, and ultimately caused the most harm to the troublemakers themselves, for they had the most to lose through such actions. No. That had never been him, nor would it ever be. The very idea was abhorrent to him.
So in the end Masumi did not know why the urge came upon him so strongly to do what he did next, but he knew only that he very deeply /needed/ to. As if outright possessed by that inner urge, the silver-haired youth reached up to the shelf in the walk-in closet where he kept one of the ceremonial knives used in his occult ceremonies, silently thankful that it had not been packed yet, and then stepped silently to the back of the closet. Then, with all the loving care of a master artisan, he began to carve into the wall. The creation of such a shape was intimately familiar to him by now, and in the end it was perfect. They would never forget him now. This carving would serve as a permanent reminder of the person they had turned their backs on.
Masumi stepped away from the wall and bent down to begin packing again, leaving the pentagram forever engraved there.
Time passed, and the night waxed older. The incessent noise coming from downstairs diminished and then finally died away altogether as friends left to return home and household members began turning in for sleep. The peaceful tranquility of the night that Masumi so deeply loved reigned over the home at last, and he presently found himself closing and taping the very last box. He breathed in deeply in a mixture of accomplishment and quiet excitement at the prospect of tomorrow, the ambivilence cleared away to be replaced only by a profound sense of expectation. This was the closing of one chapter to clear the way for a much greater one.
But as he stood, he happened to notice in his peripheral vision that he had somehow missed something, and he stepped closer to it to pick it up -- it was an old notebook of his that he had thought to be lost, but instead had simply gotten misplaced underneath other things in the very far corner of the closet. Taking it over to the small pile of blankets he had laid out to sleep on for the night, Masumi sat down and began to casually flip through the pages. A lot of the pages had been appropriated or torn out for schoolwork, but about the middle some of his old sketchwork began to appear.
Masumi couldn't help but to laugh a little at himself for how horrible some of those early draws were, but at the same time, he felt reassured to see just how far he had come since that time, while a small smile hovered at the corner of his lips. He would never be on the level of a professional, but he had clearly made great strides in what ability he did possess. That knowledge created a pleasant feeling.
And then that bit of light vanished altogether as Masumi finally stopped on a freeverse poem that he had written, back before he had adopted his immaculate appearance three or so years ago. A deep sense of melancholy overtook him as his eyes traveled down the page, inciting renewed emotions within him that he rarely allowed himself to /truly/ feel. Oh, perhaps he put on a good show of being true to himself, but was he really? Or was he still repressing those feelings after all this time? Such questions repeated themselves endlessly as he found himself reading the poem over and over and over again, losing all track of time.
He was tired, he realized -- very deeply exhausted. Tired of always hiding. Tired of not being who he truly wanted to be. Tired of settling for second-best and surface-level appearances. Tired of constantly having to hold the walls in place because of society's expectations, never being able to express himself the way he truly wished to. But there was no answer to this curse. No stepping back and taking everything in as a whole to devise a suitable solution. He felt trapped but could not see any way out. Not truly. All he could do was settle for a little gleam of light every now and again. The notebook eventually fell out of his hands as he wrapped his arms around himself and began to slowly rock back and forth.
And he wept.
Some days I look a little scruffy,
Threw on some clothes that were a little untidy,
They were what I had at hand.
So many times you tell me how awful I look.
But you never would have said it if I were a girl,
Even if I did look a little subpar.
Girls are to be complimented and reassured.
But not me. Because I'm a boy.
I'm a boy, so it's okay to insult my appearance,
because of course I must not really care.
I'm a boy, so of course I don't need compliments.
Of course it doesn't hurt when you down me.
Sometimes I'm a touch lax in my posture.
Sometimes my clothes aren't the best.
Sometimes my hair is a little out of place.
Sometimes the pimples mar my face.
I know these things, I see them.
But that doesn't mean I don't care.
That doesn't mean that sometimes,
Sometimes I feel so ugly that it hurts.
But of course I can't have insecurities
About my appearance. I'm a boy.
Boys never feel depressed,
When you tell them how ugly they are.
I could change it, it's within my power.
I could spend the hours and hours,
To make myself look perfect.
Immaculate. Pristine. Breathtaking.
But what purpose would it serve?
Would anyone really notice? Would you?
Would all the time and energy spent,
Really make anyone think me beautiful?
No, because I am a boy, and that is my curse.
Boys cannot be pretty. They cannot be beautiful.
No one ever compliments boys,
Just because they know it helps.
I know that if you read this,
You would only tell me to grow up.
You would only be angry and call me immature.
Because boys aren't allowed to be insecure.
And so I silently put pen to paper.
And I say all the things that remain bottled inside,
Words never to be read save by strangers.
While your cloud of negativity hovers over me.
But maybe that is all I need.
Perhaps it is time to quit repressing,
That which I know to be true.
To allow myself to feel that which they say I should not.
I am a boy. But I still feel the pain.
I am a boy. Of every stinging word,
I am a boy. Said so carelessly,
I am a boy. Because I am a boy.