P5R: Rebel Girl (A FeMC Story/P5R Rework) Chapter 38: The Strength of Others
After school, Ren went looking for Sumire. Eventually she found her. “Sumire…”
“Oh. Senpai” Sumire said, surprised.
“Um, are you feeling alright?” Ren asked.
Sumire paused for a moment. “Well, I feel a little better, but I’m actually going to talk with Dr. Maruki this afternoon.”
“Oh. I see” Ren said, a bit disappointed.
Sumire smiled. “Don’t worry. You’re still my senpai. You’ll always be someone I can turn to.” Ren lit back up. “But…”
Ren smiled. “I get it. And really, it’s fine. I just knew you were having a hard time today, and I wanted to be sure you’re alright.”
Sumire giggled. “Thank you senpai.” She continued to walk to Dr. Maruki’s office.
Meanwhile, Ren got a text from Ann.
Ann: Hey, Shiho asked us to hang out, and she wants you to come over too.
Ann: Ryuji and I are already outside the school with her.
Ren: Alright. See you in a few.
Ren headed down to the entrance and met up with Ann, Ryuji, and Shiho. “Hey.”
“Hey” Ann said back.
“So, where are we goin’?” Ryuji asked.
“Well, it’s been a bit since we just hung out,” Shiho began, “so I just thought we could do whatever.”
“That sounds great!” Ann said.
“Totally!” Ryuji added.
“Oh. Um, do you want me here then?” Ren asked. They all looked at her. “It’s just… You’ve known each other for a while. I’d hate to intrude…”
Shiho grabbed Ren’s hand. “It’s OK. I asked you to come along.”
“Yeah,” Ann said. “We’d still be fractured if it weren’t for you.”
Ren smiled. “Thanks.”
“Oooo, we should head to the arcade,” Ann suggested. “It’s been a while since we went together.”
“Yeah,” Shiho said.
Ryuji paused for a moment. “What’s that look for?” Ann asked.
“Well…” Ryuji began. He sighed. “I have been recently.”
“Huh?” Shiho said.
“What for?” Ann asked.
“Well, it was when Ren asked us to look after Sumire,” Ryuji explained.
“Oh…” Ann said.
“Yoshizawa-chan?” Shiho asked.
Ren nodded. “She’s going through a lot right now.”
“Oh… Right…” Shiho said. She looked off.
“Shiho…” Ann said. “You can’t blame yourself for everything.”
“I know,” Shiho said. “It’s just… I was so caught up in fighting my own demons that I couldn’t see anyone else’s.”
“It was like that for me too,” Ann said. Shiho was surprised. “I was so preoccupied with what Kamoshida was doing to me that I didn’t give much of a thought to what he was doing to you. I thought I was helping, but I wasn’t. I’m sorry.”
Shiho stood still for a moment. “Heh heh” she giggled. “We can't keep doing this. We’re apologizing so much for what that monster did to us. At some point we need to learn to let it go.”
Ann chuckled back. “You’re right.” The two of them continued laughing.
Once they stopped, Shiho turned to Ren. “So, how do you know Yoshizawa?”
Ren was caught off guard. “Well, we ran into each other on the train. She was standing up to give an old lady her seat, but some business jerk sat in it instead. I offered to help, but she said it was fine. Once we reached our stop, we got out and started talking.”
“I see,” Shiho said. “Well then, what are we waiting for? Let’ head out!” The four of them nodded and they went to the arcade.
Once they got there, Ann gave a sly look to Ryuji. “You didn’t by chance play THAT game with Sumire-chan, have you?”
Ryuji smirked. “Are you kidding? I would never play THAT game without my trusted partner, right.”
“Of course” Ann said. “So let’s…”
“GO!” they both shouted. They rushed to a dancing game machine. They paid and started a dance off.
Ren was slightly confused. “Don’t worry,” Shiho said. “They do this every time they come here.”
“I see…” Ren said.
“I usually watch, since it can be entertaining,” Shiho continued. “But I was thinking, maybe the two of us could try something instead.”
Ren nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”
Shiho looked at a light gun game called Gun About. “This looks fun.” They approached it and began playing two player. While they weren’t fully adept at the game, they could play it well enough.
However, when things got really challenging in the game, Ren noticed Shiho seemed to change. Shiho would get REALLY into it and start yelling at the game intently. When they eventually lost, Shiho got scared for a second. She looked around only to find Ren looking at her. She calmed down. “...Sorry.”
Ren was concerned, but felt like not pushing it at the moment. She simply smiled and said “It’s fine.”
From across the arcade, they could hear Ann and Ryuji still competing with their dancing game. “Oh yeah! Take THAT!” Ryuji shouted.
“Oh no you don’t!” Ann countered.
“Wanna go watch them finish?” Shiho asked. Ren nodded. The two of them walked over. Ryuji and Ann were actually fairly skilled.
Eventually though, Ryuji just barely managed to beat out Ann. “Oh YEAH! Who’s the king?!”
“Ugh, no fair” Ann pouted. “You came here without me!”
“I did so all the time back when I was in track, and you never got mad at me then” Ryuji argued.
“WHAT?!” Ann shouted.
“Oh um, you didn’t know?” Ryuji stammered. Ann glared at him. “I never played the game without you before… Honest.”
Ann still glared at him. However, she just looked away and said “I’ll believe you. For now.”
“It’s always like this,” Shiho said. Ann and Ryuji looked up to see their friends.
“How do you manage?” Ren asked.
“Well, they’re my friends,” Shiho answered. The two of them giggled.
“Hey! Quit it” Ann asked, annoyed.
“Yeah, don’t make it sound like we’re a bunch of weirdos” Ryuji added.
“Relax,” Shiho said. “We’re here to have fun, aren’t we?” That softened Ann and Ryuji a little bit. “C’mon, let’s keep going.” They spent some more time playing different games at the arcade. Ren was a little concerned about Shiho, but she didn’t seem to react to anything else like she did with Gun About.
Eventually, they left and went somewhere to eat. “Man, it’s been a while since I’ve felt like this,” Ryuji said.
“I know what you mean,” Ann said. “Although next time I’ll win for sure.”
“Oh yeah?” Ryuji said. “I’d like to see that.”
They continued to argue with each other about the dancing game. Ren looked on for a bit until Shiho asked “You’re rooting for them too, aren’t you?”
“Huh?” Ren said, caught a little off guard. She looked at the squabbling pair again. “Yeah.” She turned back to Shiho. “How do you know they like each other?”
“Well, I’ve been their friend for a while now,” Shiho explained. “I can just sense these things.”
“Any tips I can pick up on?” Ren asked.
Shiho chuckled. “Well, let me ask you this: How long did it take for Ryuji to ask you out?”
“Almost immediately” Ren answered. “Well, technically, he was gearing up for it when I shot him down.”
“I see,” Shiho said. “When I first met Ryuji, it was kind of the same. One of our first interactions, he made a pass at me. I kindly rejected him, saying I wasn’t interested in anything like that.”
“I see,” Ren said.
“Although, I didn’t hate him for it, and we still remained friends,” Shiho said. “He hasn’t tried since. However, he has yet to ask Ann out even once.”
“You’re kidding,” Ren said, surprised.
Shiho shook her head. “That’s Ryuji’s tell. Whenever he’s serious about something, he’ll try his best not to mess it up. You should have seen him in his track days. He might be lacking in the brains department, but he was really serious about perfecting everything about his track performance.
It’s the same with him asking people out. He usually expects failure, so he doesn’t give much thought whenever he asks someone out. However, he REALLY wants it to work out with Ann, so he hasn’t asked.”
“I see,” Ren said. “So what’s Ann’s tell?”
“Well, honestly, it’s kind of the same,” Shiho said. “Ann’s used to all sorts of attention from guys, so she never pays it much mind. However, she does care about what Ryuji thinks.”
“Oh, I’ve seen that,” Ren said. Shiho looked at her. “Something happened recently where it ended with Ann and Ryuji having a heat to heart.”
“I see,” Shiho said. She giggled. “Did Ryuji say something stupid again?”
“Yeah,” Ren said.
Shiho smiled. “Poor Ryuji. Always so close, yet always no cigar.” The two of them laughed.
Ryuji and Ann stopped squabbling. “Hm?” Ryuji grunted.
“What are you two talking about?” Ann asked.
Shiho and Ren looked at each other, turned to them, and said “Nothing” before giggling some more. Ann and Ryuji were curious, but couldn’t think of anything to follow up on that.
After they finished eating, Ryuji and Ann headed home. Shiho was about to do the same when Ren grabbed hold of her. “Wait,” she said. Shiho looked at her. Ren let go. “Um, you don’t have to tell me, but what happened with the whole Gun About thing?”
Shiho looked distant for a second. “I suppose I should open up to you about myself a little more. It’s only fair, since I did it with Ryuji and Ann.” Shiho refocused herself. “I guess… I just got a little overwhelmed. And recently when I’ve felt overwhelmed, it was because of Kamoshida.”
“Oh” Ren said.
“It sucks,” Shiho said. “I vowed to bring back the volleyball team, but if I can’t get over Kamoshida, how can I bring everyone back?”
Ren was confused. “You haven’t started?”
Shiho shook her head. “I’ve been practicing on my own, but I don’t have the confidence. I want to bring the team together, but if I’m still afraid, I don’t know what will happen.”
Ren pondered this for a second. “Um, no offence, but I think you might have this backwards.”
“Huh?” Shiho said, surprised.
“It’s just, what you said got me thinking” Ren said. “Back at home, I was incredibly anti-social. But ever since I transferred here and met new people, I’ve gained a whole lot of confidence. I’ve been able to do things I hadn’t even thought possible back where I come from. So maybe you don’t need to get over Kamoshida to bring the team back; you need to bring the team back to get over Kamoshida.”
Shiho was stunned. “You’re right. Heh heh. I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. One of the reasons I love volleyball is because it’s a team effort in the first place. Everyone has their part to play. You can’t function alone.” Shiho smiled. “I’ve been so blinded by the darkness in that man’s heart that I had forgotten that.” She turned to Ren. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” Ren responded.
“So, if you don’t mind me asking, do you know what your tell is?” Shiho asked.
“Huh?” Ren asked.
“I think I figured it out, but I want to be sure,” Shiho continued. “So, what do you do when you like someone?”
“Oh, well…” Ren said. “Usually, I just… let them drift away…”
“Huh” Shiho said, not expecting that answer.
“It’s just, whenever I’ve liked someone in the past, it always ended up not working out” Ren explained. “So I’ve gotten in the habit of not trying…”
Shiho smiled. “Looks like it’s time for me to return the favor.” Ren looked at her. “We’re all still growing, so while you have come a long way since coming to Tokyo, I’m sure you can gain enough confidence that when you find someone you like you can ask them out.”
Ren smiled. “I hope so too.”
“Trust me,” Shiho said. “Everyone has a part to play. I’m sure someone will come along to play the part of your lover.”
Ren giggled. “You really have what it takes to lead a team.” Shiho blushed. Ren blushed soon after. “Thank you.”
Shiho smiled. “You’re welcome.”
Hope-Shiho Suzui: Rank 3
Ren and Shiho split off to head back to their homes.
Once Ren entered LeBlanc, Sojiro turned to her. “Heh. You look chipper today.”
Ren smiled. “I finally had a little time to relax this after noon with some friends.”
“I see,” Sojiro said. “Maybe I should-” Before he could finish his thought, he got a phone call. “Hello?...Oh, yes...I see...Very well...See you soon.” He hung up. “I have to close early tonight.”
Ren nodded. “Very well.”
Just as Sojiro was about to leave, Ren heard him mutter under his breath “I hope you’ll be ready soon. I’d like you to meet her.” She found it confusing, but didn’t think she could ask Sojiro about just what that meant. At least, not yet.
Almost immediately after Sojiro left, Ren got a phone call. “Hello?”
“Ah. I’m glad you picked up.”
Ren was confused. “Lavenza?”
“That is correct,” she confirmed. “I thought we could make good on our bargain.”
Ren tried figuring out what she meant. “Oh, you mean me taking you about town?”
“Indeed” Lavenza said. “I’ll be waiting.” Lavenza hung up. Ren felt like she had nothing better to do, so she left LeBlanc and headed out.
Once Ren made it to the Velvet Room door, she saw Lavenza standing outside. “Hey” she said.
“Hello” Lavenza responded.
“So, do you just want me to show you around town, or…?” Ren asked.
“Actually, I have a specific request,” Lavenza said. “I have heard tell of a place where the atmosphere makes you feel like you’re in outer space. Where the food is more massive than the cosmos themselves.”
Ren thought about that for a moment. She then realized what Lavenza meant. “Oh, are you thinking of the Big Bang Burger?”
“I believe that is what I’ve heard people call it, yes” Lavenza answered. “You seem to know about it, so could you take me there?”
Ren smiled. “Of course. Let’s go.”
Ren started to walk, but felt a tug on her skirt. She looked back to find Lavenza holding on. “Um, if it’s alright with you, could we please hold hands?” Ren smiled and reached her hand out. Lavenza grabbed hold, and the two of them walked over to Big Bang Burger.
Upon entry, they heard some clapping. Lavenza looked over to see some of the wait staff congratulating an exhausted-looking patron. “Trickster, what is going on there?”
Ren looked over. “Oh, they just completed the Big Bang challenge.”
“What is this ‘Big Bang Challenge’?” Lavenza asked.
“Well, they give you this enormous burger, and if you can finish it, you get rewarded” Ren answered.
“I see,” Lavenza said. When they approached the counter, Lavenza placed one of her hands up there as best she could. “Hello. I wish to partake in the Big Bang Challenge.”
“Huh?” The server said, confused. She looked down at Lavenza. She smiled nervously. “I’m sorry, but we have an age limit. I’m afraid you can’t take the Big Bang Challenge. But I can get you a kid’s meal, if you would like.”
“I see,” Lavnza said, slightly disappointed. She looked at Ren. “Would it be possible for you to try the Big Bang Challenge?”
Ren looked down at Lavenza. Lavenza’s big doe eyes made it hard for her to say no. “Sure, I guess.”
“Then it is settled,” Lavenza said. She turned back to the server. “She will take the challenge, and I will graciously accept your offer of this ‘kid’s meal’.”
“Awe, aren’t you just adorable” the server said. “Right this way then.” Ren and Lavenza got seated.
Lavenza got her meal, and shortly after Ren was presented with the Big Bang Challenge. “Woah!” Lavenza said. She looked hesitant. Ren looked over. “You… You don’t have to eat all of that… if you don’t want to…”
Ren saw that Lavenza was feeling slightly guilty for putting her up to this. She simply smiled and said. “It’ll be alright.”
“3...2...1...GO!” the server said. Ren began eating.
Lavenza looked on in amazement. “Woah! Can she really do it?” she wondered. Ren continued. “She's only doing this because I asked her to.” Ren kept going. Lavenza got determined. “YOU CAN DO IT! GO GO GO!” Ren gained a second wind and started eating faster.
Thanks to Lavenza’s encouragement, Ren managed to finish the challenge. “Oh my. We have another champion” the server said. “Congratulations!”
“Heh. Thanks” Ren said, a little out of it. “Can I get some water?”
“Of course.” The server went to fulfill Ren’s request.
“Hey,” Lavenza said. Ren managed to look at her. “Thanks.” Ren nodded.
“Here you go” the server said, giving Ren her water. “And here’s your prize.” She handed Ren her prize.
While Ren was resting up, Lavenza finished eating her food. Once she was finished, Lavenza looked at Ren. “Are you… able to move?” Ren nodded. “Very well. I am ready to leave.” Ren paid for the food, and the two walked out. Once outside, Lavenza turned to Ren and asked. “How are you feeling?”
Ren looked at her. “Well, I’ve been better, but I also feel some sense of accomplishment. So, overall, I think I’m alright.”
“I see…” Lavenza said.
“Is there any reason you wanted to take the Big Bang Challenge?” Ren asked.
“Well, when you told me what it was, I thought it would be a good way to test my meddle,” Lavenza explained. Ren was surprised, but intrigued. “Ever since this whole thing began, I’ve been thinking. While it had not come to pass, there was a being with the ability to split me in two and overpower my Master. Such strength is unimaginable. As my Master’s assistant, I should be able to protect him, but…”
Ren smiled. “I get ya.”
“I asked Master if I could go out and learn about the world in order to get stronger, but even then I had to ask you to escort me as well…” Lavenza lamented.
Ren patted Lavenza’s head. “Wanna know something?” Lavenza nodded. “There’s a strength in that as well. Admitting something like that isn’t easy. It can be painful. But if you’re determined, you can utilize something you think is a weakness and turn it into strength. Of course, having people on your side is helpful too.”
“I see,” Lavenza said. “Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it,” Ren said.
Lavenza thought. “You know, I noticed that you began doing better at the challenge once I started cheering you on. Such is the strength of the Wild Card.” Ren was curious about where this was going. “Your bonds with people and Personas alike are your strength. Perhaps if I were to have been split, you could have made me whole again.”
Ren smiled. “I’d like to think so. Although, that isn’t just my strength.” Lavenza was curious. “I think everyone could tap into that kind of strength.”
Lavenza thought. “Indeed. The Fool, the card that represents you on this journey, is also a representation of humanity as well. Perhaps even I could learn from humanity’s strength. Of course, I will continue asking you to assist me.”
Ren smiled. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
I am thou... Thou art I… Thou hast acquired a new vow...
It shall become the wings of rebellion that breaketh thy chains of captivity.
With the birth of the Strength Persona I have obtained the winds of blessing that shall lead to freedom and new power.
Strength-Lavenza: Rank 1
“Although, I guess I will have to wait a bit until I can take the Big Bang Challenge,” Lavenza said.
“Aw, it’ll be alright,” Ren said. “I mean, there are advantages to you being you now. I mean, you got that cool rocket ship toy, right?”
Lavenza took out the rocket ship toy and smiled. “I guess that’s true. This is indeed amusing.” She began playing with it.
Ren giggled. She reached out her hand. “Come on. Let’s get you home.” Lavenza nodded. She took Ren’s hand, and Ren guided her back to the Velvet Room. Afterwards, she returned to LeBlanc and fell asleep soon after, since she didn’t have the energy to do much else after the Big Bang Challenge.