Translated first chapter of the Persona x Detective Naoto novel.
For me, being a detective had been my aspiration ever since I was aware of my surroundings. I believed that becoming a detective in the future was my fate as Naoto Shirogane, born into the fifth generation of the Shirogane lineage of detectives.
Even if we had gained a reputation in crime scene investigation as the “Noble Shirogane,” naturally the opposition to me, a young woman, was not light. However, rather than questioning my abilities in the face of such difficulties, I instead attributed it to my youth. I gained recognition by conducting myself as if I were of age, but that was my reason to live at that time.
As the result of a number of cases in which my obvious accomplishments accumulated, I became known to the world as the “Detective Prince.”
Afterwards, I came to realize that my thoughts at that time were rather biased. I was so ignorant it was frightening. As a detective, I did not lose even to the adults as far as having the necessary knowledge, but in exchange, I did not know how to enjoy myself in a way appropriate for my age, nor was I familiar with the joy of being a student.
The ones who changed me were my friends. Naturally, I was perplexed in the beginning. During my happy everyday life, I became worried that, as a detective, I would outlive my usefulness. I soon realized my fears were unfounded. I was simply afraid of the new experience. As a result, I was able to become much stronger than my previous solitary self.
When I thought of my friends, I was invincible.
That was one year ago – I had returned to the unchanging, restless days of a detective, running around from north to south, east to west, anywhere there was a case and a commission. However, no matter where I was, I did not feel that I was alone.
It could be said that I was always in contact with my friends via phone and e-mail. It really is embarrassing, so I won’t say much about it, but I was able to cheer up just by thinking that my friends were each doing their best under the same sky.
On a certain day. A message came from one of my friends. It was from Rise Kujikawa.
She frequently contacted me, but it was rare to receive such communication during the daytime. As she was a popular idol and was busy working, normally her messages would come at night.
Did she have some urgent business? While postulating such things, I picked up the phone, and Rise Kujikawa cried out in a voice that sounded like she was completely at wits’ end.
“Naoto-kun! It’s terrible! Please! Help me!”
As well as being in the same school year as myself, she was an extremely important person in my new life. Needless to say, I immediately canceled all my plans and came running to her side.
And what was waiting for me when I reached the place that she had specified was–
Blue skies, white clouds, and a brilliantly shining red sun. Before my eyes was the blue sea, a white sandy beach, and a girl in a bright red swimsuit with a dazzling smile. The place was a southern island. It had an eternal summer.
“That’s great, Rise-chan! You’re so cute! You have the absolute best smile! You’re just like an angel alighted on the beach!”
Even though he was standing nearby and talking endlessly, the cameraman’s voice was far away; my ears hurt with the sound of the shutter clicking without pause.
Slowly, I dropped my gaze to look at the exposed skin of my own body. The sigh that fell from my lips was as heavy as lead.
“...Ah, u-um, you’re Nao-chan, right? You’re cute, you’re really cute, but... You’re absolutely depressing, you know...? It sort of feels like you’re the Reaper alighted on the beach...?”
The surrounding adults were smiling and telling me, “Smile! Smile!”, but, please excuse me, I really am sorry, I was not in the mood to obey. In contrast to the location and the eternal summer, my heart was as gloomy as the Sea of Japan in midwinter.
Please, I would like someone to tell me – why am I standing in a swimsuit, frozen in place, as the waves beat against me?
The season was spring. It was late March. While the people of Japan were still shivering in the cold with scarves wrapped around their necks when they walked outside, I was in the incomprehensible situation of having my natural body exposed.
By the way, the cold could not be felt. Rather, it was quite hot. The reason for this was that I was on the leisure resort on one corner of the “Artificially Made Southern Island”.
This was the state-of-the-art all-weather leisure resort called the “Yagokoro Premium Gaia”, located on the outskirts of Yagokoro. It was a place uninfluenced by the season, where, for example, one could get a taste of summer even during winter.
In short, this was all a plot. A plot by the girl who had chosen to live as an idol.
A gloomy sigh at odds with the location escaped me a second time.
It really was troublesome. This might have been the first time I had experienced such anxiety. Even though there were so many men surrounding me, the only thing covering my body right now was a small piece of navy blue cloth. I was as flustered as could be and wrapped both my arms tightly around myself, wanting to hide my breasts, but instead achieved the opposite effect and ended up emphasizing my cleavage even more.
I was very, very embarrassed, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t lift my face; I didn’t think I had the mental fortitude to face the camera and smile.
“Excuse me, Staff! It looks like we’ve gone a bit beyond what she can handle, so please let us have a short break!”
The girl next to me called out to the people around us in a lively voice that perfectly matched our location. The girl forcefully grabbed my wrist and energetically dragged me away, quickly advancing along the shore and heading toward the trees. As soon as the girl reached the shade of the trees, she looked back at me, planting her hands on either side of her waist that was pinched like a glass flower vase and huffing.
“Sheesh! Naoto-kun! If you spend forever acting all embarrassed, the photoshoot won’t ever end, you know!”
I’ll introduce her. She was the mastermind of this unhappy situation, Rise Kujikawa. That’s right, she was the one who deceived me.
“Don’t be absurd. I’m different from an idol like you, Kujikawa-san!”
If it was the usual me, even when faced with someone from the same school year, I would normally continue to use polite speech, but there was no need to do so with Kujikawa-san, who I knew through and through.
“What was that ‘Naoto-kun! It’s terrible! Please! Help me!’ about! I’ll tell you now, did you know I cancelled all my other plans for you and came running?”
This was exactly the conclusion I had come to after extensively brooding over the situation. It seemed like there had been plans for a photoshoot with a female idol from the same office, but she wasn’t able to come, so I was called upon to act as a substitute.
“But if I didn’t say that, you wouldn’t have come to this ‘gravure photoshoot’, Naoto-kun.”
[Gravure photoshoot: see Wikipedia article.]
She knew me through and through as well. Where speech style was concerned, the innocent Kujikawa-san was much less reserved than me.
“You look fine! A ponytail really suits you, you know! It’s because you’re cute, Naoto-kun. The active idol ‘Risette’ has given her seal of approval, so have some confidence!”
“...That’s just your opinion.”
“It’s true. I’m not lying. You’re really stylish and your bust is even bigger than mine!”
“...I-it’s not that I wished for it to become this big. I would have preferred being about your size, Kujikawa-san.”
“Hey, what’s that? Are you trying to pick a fight with me?”
Kujikawa-san pouted, looking at me with reproachful eyes, and brought her pursed lips close to my nose.
“Would you please stop teasing me? Kujikawa-san, I don’t have as much free time now as you seem to think...”
“I’m not teasing you. I’m serious!”
As soon as she finished, Kujikawa-san let out an “Ei!” and prodded my breast with her fingertip. In my surprise, a “Hyaa!” escaped my throat in a voice that I would normally never imagine using.
“Sheesh! Don’t get mad! Naoto-kun, this is for your sake, you know?”
“...For my sake? Are you trying to say that being made to wear such a small swimsuit and publicly expose myself to so many people, a situation that I can only think of as a punishment, is for my sake?”
I quickly swept my gaze over the surroundings. Naturally, I trembled at the countless number of stares boring into me.
“No, no! You’ve got it all wrong! You should be happy, Naoto-kun! Everyone’s watching you because you’re cute! Isn’t that something to be proud of?”
Kujikawa-san widened her large, round eyes and spoke with great fervor.
“It’s fine, isn’t it? Naoto-kun? You’re called the ‘Detective Prince’ and normally pass as a boy, but you’re definitely a girl. Girls look like girls. Girls act like girls. It’s not weird at all, right?”
I meant to object and ask what she thought she was saying, but in the end, no words would leave me.
“Plus! You’re a cute girl, Naoto-kun! You should make an effort to be cute!”
While confirming the roundness on my own body, I dropped my gaze to my sand-covered toes.
I was truly beginning to feel that I was at my limit. More than one year had passed since I met Kujikawa-san, and we would at last become third-year high schoolers in the coming spring. People could not oppose time. Time would force the person called Naoto Shirogane closer to being female...
“...ah, sorry. It’s not like I’m trying to torture you, Naoto-kun. I think you’re pretty cool when you’re acting like a boy too. It’s true.”
Did she think I had fallen silent, not because I was lost in thought, but because I was depressed? Looking apologetic, Kujikawa-san continued speaking.
“...I’m an idol, so I don’t really have many friends my age, so I always thought, if I was somehow able to make friends with a girl my age like a normal girl, I wanted to go shopping on off days, eat crepes while walking around, and talk about makeup and love... I was thinking that it would be fun if I could do that with you now, Naoto-kun... So I know it’s selfish of me, but I would be really happy if you would act more like a girl...”
At some point, I had lifted my face, and:
“And also! Naoto-kun, it’s not as bad as you think being a girl, okay? I’m glad I’m a girl, you know? It means I can do the idol job I love now.”
I took a long look at Kujikawa-san’s face as she spoke with a serious expression. Soon afterward, realizing I was watching, Kujikawa-san became flustered and hid her face.
“A-anyway! You should listen obediently to your best friend’s advice!”
Kujikawa-san raised her voice even more. The nearby staff were surprised and simultaneously turned to look at us.
“I-in any case! It’ll be impossible if you don’t act like a girl. You’ll put the gravure idol style to shame! I won’t forgive you!”
It may have been because she felt awkward, but Kujikawa-san began speaking nonsense. However, I realized that the fair-skinned Kujikawa-san’s ears and the nape of her neck were being dyed red, so I said:
“W-what do you mean you won’t forgive me? I – I don’t understand what you mean...”
I was just as shaken as she was.
My heart was racing and my face flushed. It was hot to begin with, but because of the strange way Kujikawa-san was acting, the heat had spread even to the depths of my chest. In order to regain my composure before my heart was struck by heatstroke, I shook my head once and took a deep breath.
“...There is some truth in what you say. But doing a gravure photoshoot in a swimsuit is much too sudden. Don’t you think these things should be done in a certain order?”
So saying, I turned a carefully indifferent gaze toward her. However, as I should have expected of Rise Kujikawa, instead she said, “No, isn’t it like shock treatment?”, and grinned brightly without a hint of shyness.
“Geez, Naoto-kun, wait! Sorry! I’ll apologize! I’m begging you, please help me! If we search for another girl at this point, the sun will set!”
“Goodness, at last your true feelings are revealed, Kujikawa-san.”
“Nuh-uh, what I said before were my true feelings, you know?”
This sort of argument with Kujikawa-san, who had returned to her normal impudent self, was like a breath of fresh air and served to lighten my mood.
“I know very well that you’re bad with this kind of thing, Naoto-kun! But just for today, think of it as helping out a friend, okay?”
I hesitated to say anything to Kujikawa-san before me, who met my gaze with a cheerful expression.
“...Saying it that way isn’t fair.”
As I was now, when I was told, “Think of it as helping out a friend, okay?”, there was no way I could turn down the request.
“Don’t worry! If you just copy my poses you’ll do fine! It’s a really easy job!”
At the close of the intense argument, I squeezed out in a small voice, “...Only for today,” and unwillingly gave in.
After enduring countless hours of what felt like Hell, my current mental state was the horribly pessimistic view of “No matter what, I will never again listen to what Kujikawa-san says.” But there was no guarantee that I would be able to refuse her, who was particularly skilled at convincing others.
As I sank down in the shade of the palm trees, wetting my throat with a carbonated drink, I felt someone’s presence approaching me from behind, accompanied by the sound of a coquettish chuckle.
“I almost didn’t recognize you. You’ve become completely girlish, haven’t you?”
When I looked up reflexively, in front of my eyes was a very familiar figure.
A woman was standing there in a gray suit at odds with the southern location. She was a tall-statured woman with exceptional, though not gaudy, style.
“It’s been a while.”
At once, I jerked my knees toward myself and hid my defenseless body. It really was nice seeing her, but being seen in such an immodest state by an old friend caused me to tremble even more.
As if finding my panic funny, Touko-san leaned over, a laugh leaving her throat as her shoulders shook.
Her name was Touko Aoi. She was a detective. She was a woman who I had troubled many times in the past. She was a person who I had always aspired to be like.
Whether it was an atrocious criminal, a brawny male detective colleague, the higher-ups among the prefectural police, when I saw her fearlessly arguing with them as an equal, I felt that she could be relied upon.
“It’s been about three years since we last met at a crime scene...”
“...That much time has passed, huh. After three years I didn’t recognize you, Naoto. That boyish Naoto is now a thing of the past.”
“That’s... It may only be because me wearing a swimsuit does not match with your idea of me. I think I haven’t changed that much myself...?”
“Really? I thought the Naoto I knew three years ago didn’t have any friends who she could show her girlish side to?”
Touko-san directed her gaze at Kujikawa-san, who was performing the gravure photoshoot with lively expressions and actions.
–Friends. Hearing it again from a third party made me both happy and embarrassed, and I immediately averted my gaze from Kujikawa-san.
“...That may be so.”
It was true the “solitary” me of three years ago that was eagerly hurrying one day at a time toward becoming a full-fledged detective was a very different part of me than my current self, who had my senpai, Kujikawa-san, Tatsumi-kun, and Teddie-kun, and also Nanako-chan and Dojima-san, and a lot of other important people.
“And also... Is it just my imagination, or have your breasts become quite magnificent compared to three years ago?”
“T-that is, um, please don’t stare at them like that.”
In my embarrassment, I panicked, grabbing the front of the robe I was wearing and pulling it closer to my chest.
“You haven’t changed at all, Touko-san.”
She was a tall and slender woman. However, she wore little makeup, and the only jewelry she had was an amethyst pendant that rested upon her chest. Even that was something she had worn since the moment we met, so it really seemed like she was a person who went without unnecessary decoration.
It may have been because she was beautiful to begin with. As a whole, the person called Touko Aoi gave off an air of a “perfect beauty”, which had not changed from three years ago. In fact, the nearby photoshoot staff were guessing, “Is she an actress?”
“Do you really mean that? Even though this February I joyously celebrated the last year of my twenties?”
“That’s a foolish question.”
“Oh, I’m happy.”
Touko-san’s smile was a sign for the two of us to start laughing. It was nostalgic and gave me a very warm feeling.
“By the way. What turn of events brought you all the way out here just to meet with me?”
“What do you think of me, Naoto? This place is within the jurisdiction of the Yagokoro police; is it so strange to think that I decided on the spur of the moment to drop by for old times’ sake when I heard you were coming?”
Touko-san was really exaggerating.
“You must be joking. You wouldn’t come out to the weather resort without good reason, Touko-san.”
I knew that Touko-san was not fond of showy or bustling places
“–There’s nothing it could be but a case, right?”
That was all that was left by process of elimination.
“...That’s correct. I have an official request for Naoto Shirogane from the Yagokoro Police.”
As Touko-san’s lips curled into a thin smile, she brushed back a lock of her soft black hair.
“The matter is an ‘investigation of a series of disappearances.’ Two students of ‘Yagokoro High School’ within the Yagokoro area have disappeared in succession. One week after their disappearances, there still aren’t any strong leads. However, we’re also pursuing another important case. So I was really hoping that you would be able to find them, Naoto. Starting in April, I want you to infiltrate Yagokoro High School as a third-year transfer student and conduct an internal investigation.”
As if saying it just to be polite, Touko-san continued, “That’s how it is, so I look forward to working with you.” She clapped me on the shoulder once and said, “As soon as the particulars are arranged, I’ll have one of my subordinates contact you,” and turned on her heel.
“Please wait, Touko-san! What will you do if I refuse?”
It wasn’t a lie. In my mind’s eye, I saw the faces of the people important to me, and my eye was caught by the shining idol at the water’s edge. In truth, following our reunion after a long time, I felt a bit of loneliness at the thought of parting with her. It would be my last year of high school. I had wished to get away from cases for a little while and prioritize spending time with my friends.
“You can’t do that.”
The reply was immediate.
“You know how I am, right? Do you think I would allow you to refuse?”
Rather than replying, I gave her a bitter smile. I couldn’t match up to Touko-san.
“And there’s one more thing, the main reason I think you won’t refuse, Naoto–”
Turning only her head to look at me, Touko-san smiled triumphantly and said this.
“–The Naoto Shirogane I know is a ‘detective’, isn’t she?”
At that moment, my heart thudded strongly.
“If you’re seriously aiming to become an idol, I’ll give up. If it’s you, Naoto, you’ll do well even as an idol. I’ll give you my blessing, since I know your work ethic and capability well.”
Touko-san informed me smoothly and began walking again. However, Touko-san, who was bad with people, soon stopped and murmured, “That was pretty forced.
“...Ah, that’s right. By the way, the case this time is pretty complex, you know. If it’s handled poorly, it’ll definitely leave a pretty bad taste in our mouths. What’ll you do? If you’re going to refuse, now’s the time.”
I stood up and shook my head. A smile was forming on my lips.
“...That’s a foolish question.”
For example, like Kujikawa-san, who had found her calling as an idol, or like Tatsumi-kun, who had decided that nothing compared to making crocheted animals.
“I will take this case.”
Because I was – the detective, Naoto Shirogane.