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"Where... are we?" Chie rubbed her eyes as she sat up. Everyone was crumpled on a hill overlooking a large outdoor theater, shaded by the many trees in the area. The theater appeared to have a capacity of about 6000 people, but currently no one was in the crowd or on the stage. The trees lining the hill the theater area gave the area some pleasant shade, and large buildings could be seen in the distance. The sun hung high in the sky, suggesting it was mid-afternoon. In the distance, the group could hear the sounds of cars and trains. Perhaps they were near the city.

"Sniff sniff, sniff sniff... I don't know," Teddie responded despondently. "My nose doesn't seem to be working, and it doesn't seem like we've been here before either."

Rise stood and stretched, wincing as her back popped. "Wait, this place looks familiar... I think I played a concert here once, when I first started performing overseas." She twisted around several times, popping her back a few more times. Back to her bouncy self, she said, "Phew... We landed kind of rough there."

"Over... seas?" Yukiko was looking around nervously. She looked to Yu. "What do we do, Narukami?" She wasn't pleased when Yu had no answer. Her hair was a mess, so she went to trying to detangle it, but wasn't nearly as invested in that as she was with taking in her surroundings.

"Wait... let me see... This must be... Los Angeles?" Rise walked toward the theater and examined the area as best she could. "I've done so many concerts... but this looks like the Greek Theatre. It was one of my first concerts in the U.S." Rise doubled over. "I don't... feel so good after all..." Yukiko rose to help her.

"Los Angeles? Shit." Kanji was helping Naoto up, helping her dust off her jacket. "How the hell are we going to get back?"

Naoto clung onto Kanji as she rotated her ankles, wincing. "Perhaps we should ask for directions. Who has the best English among us?" No one said anything. Naoto sighed. "I suppose it would probably be either Rise or me." Out of the group, they were the only two who had been overseas.

Chie was nursing her knee. "I think I landed on this pretty bad, you guys..."

Yosuke rushed over. "Do you need me to do anything?" He placed his hand on her knee and quickly drew it away, as if remembering something. "I... just mean... I can help you walk if you need help, Chie."

Chie stared at the ground. "Thanks, Yosuke..."

Marie stood, dusting herself off. She then helped Yu up, who said, "I think Naoto's plan is sound. We should find a way out of this park area and to a main street." He nodded at Rise, who straightened herself and nodded back, then giving Yukiko a quick hug from the side.

The group made their way down the hill, through the audience seating, and toward the exit of the theater. A guard gave them an incredibly suspicious look as they walked out.

"I'm sorry," Naoto began. "We appear to be lost."

"I don't know how you got in there," the guard huffed, "but if you tell me where you need to go, I can give you directions." Noticing Chie, who was leaning on Yosuke, he added, "You need a hospital, kid? You fall or something? That knee looks pretty busted up."

"Um..." several voiced, and Chie shook her head, adjusting herself awkwardly so she wouldn't lean too much on Yosuke.

"I saw some foreign kids like you get on a bus to Santa Monica Pier. You're about a half hour behind them, and it's a two-hour ride so long as there isn't a Sigalert, but maybe they're part of your... ah... group."

Naoto looked at Yu, who nodded. "Yes, perhaps they were a part of our class," she lied. "Which is the quickest way to transport to that area?"

"Say, your English ain't that bad for a foreigner, kid. Walk down this road to Commonwealth Canyon Drive, then wait for the DASH. It'll take you to Vermont/Sunset, and you can take the 204. People at that stop can help you from there."

Naoto bowed her head. "Thank you, sir."

The group waved to the guard, who was talking into a radio and waving back, as they made their way to Commonwealth Canyon Drive and waited for the DASH. Soon enough, the bus bearing the "LADOT" logo stopped at the intersection. No one had any fare, but the bus driver was feeling generous that day and could tell the students were nervous and "not from around here," so he dropped $4.50 so the group could ride. Everyone thanked him as they went to find seats in the back, and for the next fifteen minutes, they tried not to panic.

"What do we do, sensei?" Teddie turned around in his seat and gave Yu a worried look.

"I don't know," Yu responded, looking at his knees. "Maybe at Santa Monica we can find a phone, as it doesn't look like ours are working." He flipped his open, then shut again. The phone didn't turn on. Others did the same, with similar results.

"Are you sure this is going to work, bro?" Yosuke scratched the back of his head. "I guess we don't really have a choice, do we?" He looked out the window and shrugged. "At least the view is pretty cool. I've never been outside Japan."

"I'm glad someone finds this exciting," Chie murmured, massaging her knee.

"This is your stop, kids!" the driver called from the front, and the group filed out. This time, Chie asked Marie for help walking. They all waved as the bus driver continued his journey. As they made their way to the next bus stop, a large black limo pulled up beside them and stopped. Slowly, the window rolled down.

"Margaret," Marie said, without emotion.

"Please, join us," Margaret said, smiling at Yu, and rolled the window back up.

"Is that the fortune teller lady from last year's festival?" Yukiko asked.

"It's Margaret," Marie and Teddie responded simultaneously, opening the limo door and crawling inside.

"How do you guys know her?" Yosuke asked, but followed them inside like everyone else.

Somehow the limo had enough room for all of them to sit comfortably, though most of them hardly looked comfortable with the situation they were in. A familiar piano tune lightly played in the background, and Igor sighed heavily. "Welcome... to the Velvet Room. Previously, only a few of you had ever been in here. However, it turns out that we are in quite a situation, and while we cannot directly intervene, Margaret and I felt that we should at least help you as much as we could."

Margaret reached to Chie and handed her a bottle. "Please, rub this ointment onto your knee. It should look familiar." Indeed, it did look like something from their dungeon crawling days. Addressing the group as a whole, she added, "It appears that someone is altering reality. You will find that you no longer have access to the TV World--"

"Shit we could have tried that?" Kanji lamented. "I didn't even think of that."

"--or to your Personas." Margaret closed her eyes and placed her hands on the compendium. "Currently, no Personas are listed, as if they did not exist."

A murmur spread around the group. "What idiot is doing this?" Marie asked angrily. "I wanted to start school. I wanted to live normally."

Margaret averted her eyes. "We are unsure as of yet..."

"But you have an idea," Naoto asserted. She was never slow to pick up on body language.

"I think I saw Adachi before we were transported," Yu admitted, and everyone turned toward him. "I don't know for sure, but I thought I heard him laugh."

"Impossible," Naoto responded, and Kanji put a hand on her shoulder. "He's still in prison."

"Yes," Igor said, nodding slowly, his nose still resting on his hands. He and Margaret exchanged a concerned look. "Adachi has been released. We have no reason to believe he is the one behind all of this. It is possible he is working with the culprit, however."

"Why?" Naoto asked.

"In time, my dear. We cannot lead you astray with our suspicions. You will be responsible for finding out the truth."

"Cut the shit, old man," Kanji began, but Margaret interrupted.

"We have acquired living arrangements for you in what are known as Villa Royale Penthouses," she said, smiling. "Three people per apartment, as there are three bedrooms. I am incredibly jealous that you will have these to yourself, so be sure to get up to trouble while you're there." She laughed gently as she handed a bag full of keys to Yu. "Be sure to choose your living arrangements carefully, as they may affect your search for truth." The group felt the limo come to a stop. "Yu, you still own the contractor's key and may use it at any time, including in your apartments."

As people climbed out of the car, Igor held up a hand. "Teddie, Marie. You must be especially careful." The two nodded and climbed out of the car, sharing worried looks.

"What do you think he meant?" Marie asked, but Teddie only shrugged and groaned quietly.

"Whoa," Kanji said breathlessly as the group looked at the villas. Each one had to be worth millions of dollars, and they were going to have three of them to themselves. "Dude." Naoto stood next to him, just as in awe as the rest of the group.

"Sweet!" Yosuke exclaimed, jumping into the air. "This is so cool!... Other than the whole being lost thing," he added quickly, looking at Yukiko and Chie.

"We better head over to our section," Yu said, turning one set of keys over in his hand. "I have a feeling we have a lot to talk about."

February 2017

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Athena Blackquill
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