They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. And for most that might be true. But this one wasn’t like most. It was more than just a photograph taken on a special yet solemn day. Containing eight smiling faces with a well-earned sun on their backs, this picture he held was a testament to everything they had accomplished in but the short span of a year. The fact that he would never have believed such words had they been told to him a year ago made him grin lightly to himself. And to Souji Seta, all that meant it carried much more than a mere thousand words. Sure, words like ‘friendship’, ‘trust’, even ‘love’ tended to repeat themselves behind each of their faces, but each was a different story in its own right.
On his right stood the Magician, the jokester and the all around tender-hearted Youske Hanamura. Like Souji, he had come to the small community of Inaba thanks to his parents’ career. And like Souji, he wasn’t sure what to expect out of such a place, but it certainly didn’t include the adventures and pain they had shared. Seta knew that the loss of Saki-senpai to the Midnight Channel still ate away at Youske sometimes, and it was hard for him to acknowledge just how much it did until Souji pushed the issue. But together, they had faced both the need to belong and the want to share such limited time on earth with those who mean the most, finally cultivating their friendship in an all-out brawl. The grey-capped transfer student could still feel the solid left hook that the shaggy brunette knife-wielder had slugged him with, and it made him smile just a bit more. Though he had to wonder, now that Hanamura had come this far out of his shell, just when he would finally admit his feelings for another in their group. It was as obvious as the sun was bright, and he knew Youske could be just as caring, given the chance.
In front of the Junes heir stood perhaps the most energetic, most curious and certainly most innocent Star he’d ever seen. The bright haired, blue-eyed wonder had started as the most unusual of creature; a talking bear-suit, and a cute one at that. When they had first encountered him inside the TV, none of them were sure what to make of it, or it of them even. In fact, it went so far as to accuse them of the very crimes he and Youske had sworn to derail, nursing the seeds of their merry band. Yet he seemed to be just as inquisitive about Souji’s world as he was about himself. But more than that, he was as determined as he was probing, always cheering on his ‘Sensei’ and the rest of them, ready to sacrifice his fuzzy fur for them if need be, especially in the quest of scoring with one of the ladies among the crew. And that unbeatable will, combined with such innocent curiosity combined into the personification in the greatest questions in any man’s heart. Which made him more than just another Shadow like the ones they fought, it made Teddie a friend, an ally and certainly unforgettable.
On Seta’s left was the Emperor, seamster, and all-around rebel, Kanji Tatsumi. Just the way he looked radiated the strength and temper he possessed, but Souji understood why. After all, men are supposed to be good with their hands, but not good with a needle and thread. And so Kanji had put on a very stern front, to protect both himself and others from the truth. And after a long drawn out battle with the blonde’s inner self, Seta had found that lost bit of innocence and longing for acceptance and pulled it into view. With a little encouragement and a strong bit of determination, Tatsumi had faced what he was afraid of, and now was helping pull in much more business for his mother’s textile shop, all the while ready to crash his fists through anything that stood against them. But like Youske, this tall blonde badass was still at odds with his own desires when concerned with another of their party. It was only a matter of time before he overcame any remaining shyness left in his core and came clean to his own feelings to one so special to him. Souji had a funny feeling that Kanji would blurt it out eventually, but wondered who else would be involved in that little ploy.
And that member that was pulling on Kanji’s heartstrings was oddly enough just on the opposite side of his reach in this moment in history. The Detective ‘Prince’, the epitome of Fortune, and perhaps the most modest of them all, young Naoto Shirogane. She had come to them like the expert sleuth she was, hunting for clues on a mystery that seemed to defy logic itself. But like Kanji, her own insecurities began to seep into the mix, so she seemed to draw in closer still, until Souji had found that weakness and faced it with her, awakening Naoto to the simple fact that being a woman didn’t matter as long as she was true to herself. Perhaps that had touched off a spark, for when he was forced to board the home-bound train, she had jokingly decided to go home with him. Even if she recanted that, Seta had to wonder just how they would have meshed. Both were a bit reserved, but the eloquence she spoke with and the way the lighter blue of her eyes mixed well with the deeper cerulean of her hair made the pair of them a bit of a contrasting match. But since was variety not the spice of life?
Standing with a smile in the middle of them all was the dark-blonde warrior, worthy of the Chariot she commanded. Chie Satonaka, pupil of every martial arts master from Bruce Lee to Van-Damne and with an equal affinity for sweet red meat. She was the first one to reach out to Souji when he had started Yasogami High and had slowly weaned him into the ways of country life. But that was just the way she was, always the protector, the shepard. As valiant as she was agile, but not exactly the best with the books. Still, she was never discouraged, even while sharing her fighting styles with him at the river’s bank. Sure, she was and always would be a tomboy at heart, but she’d grown to accept that with his help, letting go of some of the jealousy she carried for those who were graced with softer beauty. Still, they had grown quite close indeed, sharing many lunches on the high school rooftop or memories of long ago after trying their best to beat down their training target. Souji was pretty sure she and Youske were bound to be together though. The ways they bickered and denied the possibility were too natural and sometimes too annoying to ignore.
Beside her, wrapping up her senpai in a tight hug around her was the idol, the outspoken, the Lover, Rise Kujikawa. Of all the places one could take to get away from show-business and fame, Rise had come to Inaba, centerstage of its own murder mystery. So it was unfortunate that instead of peace, she found herself a target to be rescued by Souji and crew. Perhaps it was due to simple gratitude that she was close to him whenever she could be, but there was more to it than that. The way she was tired of everyone else just seeing her idol self ‘Risette’ would grind on anyone, so he had pushed that aside and focused on the person behind the name. Even when her manager had come back to drag her back onto the stage, she’d bluntly refused, concocting a quick while lie about the fact she and Seta were soon to be married. It stunned the hell out of him, but he played along without a second thought, as much to her gratitude as to his curiosity. After that was when she had really begun to play at the idea of them being together. And he had to admit, Rise’s sheer cute factor was enough to melt a man, but the sweeter, more honest side she had shown to them is what really got him wondering.
Finally standing far left, there was the Priestess. The soft-spoken, quirky and devoted heiress of the Amagi Inn, Yukiko Amagi. She was the team’s first victory, their first successful rescue from the Midnight Channel and the horrors of the TV world. Both her nature and her resounding beauty in her dark, flowing hair and shimmering eyes leant her to being a target to many a lustful man, yet none stood a chance against the Amagi Challenge, not even Youske. But Souji had not fallen for such a tasteless trend and instead pushed past that, brushing into the weight she bore along with her name, and the self-chained burden she tied to herself because she relied on her friends more often that she wanted. Yukiko and Chie were usually inseparable, which benefited both their strengths very well, but as they grew closer, it was Souji that she came to more and more. Until finally, at the town shrine and likely in full view of the fox that lived there, Seta finally admitted to her that he really liked her. It was a gamble, and a mighty one at that. For failure would mean that he would have been the next victim of the Amagi Challenge and drifted into awkward silence.
Thankfully it was just the spark that was needed for Yukiko to look inside her heart and see who had taken root there. The person that occupied more and more of her time and thoughts, the hands she had wanted to be slowly enveloped in. What followed after that could only be described as the word bliss. Souji didn’t realize it could happen so fast or pack such a punch, but love tends to affect more than just those who share such an intimate bond. Naturally, it wasn’t long before the rest of the group noticed and gave their approval, agreeing to keep the news as subtle as possible. As it were possible to hide the smile on his face or the cherry in her cheeks as their fingers intertwined or their lips softly connected for the first time or anytime after. The time they had spent together could make time stand still. From sampling Yukiko’s cooking trials to the cherished and intimate comfort that was Christmas Day, Seta was certain that he knew where his life was pointing him.
And as a bearer of the World, he would not dare disappoint its core.
So, this is a little something I had stowed away deep in the depths of an old hard drive. And I’m feeling nostalgic as heck. So, why not dip into the good feels for something that brought me much joy.
I hope you all enjoy.