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Chie’s hurtled into Yosuke almost before he’s made it through the classroom door. He lets out a startled oof and takes a moment to process that he’s being hugged, rather than tackled with intent to wound.

Ha! She missed him! He’s going to file this away for the next time she kicks him in the shin.

Not that this information will save him from a shin-kicking, but it might at least be comforting to have on file.

“Hey,” he says, half-laughing.

“How was your holiday, Yosuke-kun?” Yukiko asks over Chie’s shoulder. Yosuke wasn’t expecting the reunion hug, but Yukiko doesn’t seem fazed by it at all. He has to wonder whether she’s actually noticed that it’s going on.

He glances over at the classroom clock. Yeah, they’ve got time to catch up. He set off pretty early this morning.

Maybe he was looking forward to seeing Chie again, too. He hopes she can’t hear him thinking that.

“Not much of a holiday,” Yosuke says, carefully extricating himself from Chie. “My dad was just trying to figure out if Okinomiya had space for a Junes.”

“You think you might open one there?” Chie asks.

She sounds a little anxious. Maybe she’s worried that the Hanamura family will pack up and leave.

That’d suck. Yosuke’s only just getting used to this town; he’s not ready to move to somewhere even smaller.

“I mean, probably not,” he says. “Not going by the place we were staying nearby. It was this tiny little nothing village called Hinamizawa. No reception, nothing to do. I was kind of losing my mind.”

He’s never going to complain about Inaba again. At least Inaba’s big enough to have separate classes for different years in the school. Apparently every kid in Hinamizawa just gets packed into one room. Kind of hard to learn anything when you’re sharing your lessons with kids of totally different ages.

He’d liked the teacher, though. Maebara-sensei. He was a very lively, engaging guy. Yosuke hasn’t been looking forward to classes with King Moron.

“So what’s happened while I’ve been gone?” he asks.

He’s just making conversation, maybe hoping to be introduced to the new kid who’s sitting next to Chie’s desk. Guy kind of draws the eye, although that might just be because he’s prematurely grey.

But instead Chie and Yukiko freeze. Glance at each other.

“Uh, hello?” Yosuke asks.

“You haven’t heard?” Yukiko asks.

“No reception, remember?” Yosuke asks.

“Saki-senpai,” Chie says.

Yosuke suddenly has a terrible feeling. “What?”

-

Why would anyone want to kill Saki? He keeps asking himself, endlessly, and there’s just no answer.

She was, what, seventeen? She was just a normal girl, she went to Yosuke’s school, she worked at Junes. She was normal. It doesn’t seem possible that she could have been caught up in something like this.

She went missing before she died. Yosuke can’t think about that space of time; it makes him want to throw up.

Why was she targeted? What happened to her? Did she know she was going to die?

-

The new transfer student is called Yu, it turns out. He’s a fellow city kid, but he’s ended up out here, living with his uncle and his younger cousin.

Yu’s uncle is a police officer, apparently. Yosuke finds himself dwelling on that sometimes. Are the police close to finding the culprit? Do they know why Saki died?

They’re probably not at the ‘please let me interrogate your uncle about confidential police information’ level of friendship yet.

Getting to know Yu is something else to think about, at least: something that isn’t what happened to Saki. Yu is quiet, smart, thoughtful. Reassuring to be around, somehow.

-

Nobody’s seen Yukiko in days. Chie is freaking out. She keeps talking about how Yukiko’s not the kind of person to just leave without a word, and there’s fog next week, and—

“Fog?” Yosuke asks. “What’s the weather got to do with anything?”

Chie stares at him, eyes wide. “Oh, yeah, you weren’t here. There was fog on—” Her voice kind of spikes and wavers. “There was fog on the days they found the bodies.”

The bodies. He sees Saki when she says it, clear and vivid in his mind.

He never actually saw her body, of course. But he’s overheard how it was found, he’s caught reports on the news. It’s hard not to picture it.

He swallows. It doesn’t seem to make his throat any less dry. “But that’s a coincidence, right? It’s not like we don’t get much fog here.”

It’s not a coincidence; he can feel it as he says it. Some maniac suspending people from television aerials? You’re going to catch people’s attention, they’re going to notice you doing that. It makes sense to do it under the cover of fog.

“It’s a coincidence,” he says, again. “Yukiko’s gonna be fine.”

-

Chie and Yu are talking rapidly when Yosuke gets into school the next morning. There’s an urgent feeling about it that puts Yosuke on edge.

“Did something happen?” Yosuke asks, slinging his bag onto his desk.

Chie brings her voice down to its lowest setting, ‘indiscreet’. “We saw Yukiko on the Midnight Channel.”

“The Midnight Channel?” Yosuke asks. “That weird rumour?”

You’re supposed to see your soulmate on it, right? Chie’s soulmate is Yukiko?

Honestly, that kind of tracks.

Wait, Yu’s soulmate is Yukiko as well?

“It’s not just that,” Chie says. She doesn’t look like she’s slept. “We watched it before, too, when you weren’t here, and—”

She hesitates, and suddenly Yosuke knows he won’t want to hear whatever’s coming next.

“It was kind of dark and blurry,” Chie says. “Like, we couldn’t have figured it out. I didn’t get it until last night. We couldn’t have done anything.”

It doesn’t feel like a good idea to ask, but he asks anyway. “What are you talking about?”

Chie swallows. “I think we saw Saki-senpai on the Midnight Channel, too,” she says. “Just before she died.”

-

Chie’s pretty frantic, understandably. Yosuke suggests that they wander around town after school, see if they can learn anything about where Yukiko might be.

He doesn’t have much hope. But they can’t just sit here. If it’s true that Saki was on the Midnight Channel as well...

What does that mean? Some psycho kidnapped these girls and broadcasted footage of them before killing them? What did Saki go through? What is Yukiko going through right now?

But maybe that was a live broadcast. Maybe Yukiko is still alive. They can’t just do nothing.

They end up at Junes. It’s the only place Yosuke could think of, really. A lot of customers; maybe one of them knows something?

They end up in the TV department, Yosuke staring at a flat screen, trying not to picture Saki or Yukiko on the Midnight Channel.

And then Yu touches one of the televisions, and they end up somewhere else entirely.

-

This whole thing is crazy. A world inside the television? Monsters? Talking bear suits?

But it looks like they might know where Yukiko is, at least.

Chie’s all for charging straight ahead, into the monster-filled unknown. Yosuke barely manages to persuade her that they need to head back to the real world first, make sure they’ve got weapons.

He finds a sword that might suit Yu in the closet at home. As he’s handing it to him, though...

He can’t explain it. He’s handing the sword to Yu, and suddenly something inside whispers to him that maybe this isn’t a great idea, maybe he should hold on to the sword himself. If Yu can go into televisions—

It’s too late. Yu’s already taken it.

Yosuke kind of jolts as their fingers touch, and his train of thought gets cut short. He tries to laugh it off.

-

Their footsteps echo off the stone around them as they run through the castle hallways. Echoing and echoing, building up behind them until it sounds like there’s a mob chasing them down.

Saki. Yukiko. Two girls who go to their school, two girls Yosuke knows.

He feels like someone’s focus is narrowing in on him.

He’s imagining things. There’s no way this is about him. He didn’t know the first victim, right?

But it’s hard to shake. He feels like they’re all standing in the dark, everyone at their school, listening to some kind of creature picking off the kids around them.

Is Chie going to be next?

He can’t think like this. They have to focus on finding Yukiko.

-

Yosuke never used to be able to go into televisions. This is definitely a new development.

It’s Yu who brought him in, right?

How many people could have that kind of ability? How many people in the world, let alone in Inaba? It’s really not something you hear about every day.

Something about this is bothering him.

-

They find Yukiko, in the end. They save her, they bring her out. Chie is breathless with relief.

Saki is still dead.

They have a celebratory meal at Junes. Yosuke has to excuse himself partway through, though.

He’s glad Yukiko’s okay, of course he is. He’d feel a lot worse if they hadn’t made it to her. But seeing her now, here and safe, because they went in and got her out – it just makes him think of how they didn’t do the same thing for Saki. How she could have been saved, and instead she died in the static.

And something about being across the table from Yu, catching his eyes every time he looks up...

Anyway. Yosuke’s not able to handle it right now.

He should go study or listen to music or something, some kind of distraction. He can’t keep staring into television screens, thinking of Saki. This isn’t a habit he can allow himself to get into.

He’s telling himself that even as he wanders back into the electronics section.

He stops in front of the screen they always go into, staring at his own indistinct reflection on its surface. Or the screen they always went into, he guesses. He doesn’t know if they’ll have a reason to go into the TV world again.

He doesn’t really know if he hopes they will or he hopes they won’t. It felt kind of good to be doing something that mattered, sharing this secret with Yu and Chie. But he doesn’t want any more murders, he doesn’t want the sense of this shadow looming over the town.

A figure appears behind him on the screen, and he practically has a heart attack. He whips around.

“Are you okay?” Yu asks, frowning slightly.

“I’m fine. I’m fine!” Totally not crapping his pants. “Uh, you okay?”

“You disappeared,” Yu says. “I was worried about you.”

They’re alone in the electronics section.

Why is Yosuke so aware of that?

They’re alone. Yu could kiss him, or push him into a television, and nobody would see.

Yosuke needs to get some fresh air. His thoughts aren’t making any sense.

-

Yosuke’s been thinking a lot about Yu. About his shoulders, his eyes, his quiet seriousness. About—

About the fact that—

Yosuke presses himself into the corner of his bedroom, as if he can somehow squeeze the thoughts out of himself against the walls.

About the fact that Yu can go into televisions, and he can bring people with him. Yosuke. Chie.

And so can the murderer.

-

He calls Chie. Phone in one hand, kunai in the other. It’s not like he’s expecting Shadows to attack him in his room, but somehow he feels better when he has a weapon to hand.

“Hey,” he says. “Uh, do you remember when Yu came to Inaba? The actual date, I mean?”

“What?” Chie asks. “Ask him.”

His stomach clenches at the thought of asking Yu. It’d probably sound like an innocuous question, but... “I’m already on the phone with you, right?”

“Uh, I think it was just before school started?” There’s a pause; maybe she’s checking a calendar. “Yeah, we met on the twelfth of April. He said he got into town the day before.”

Once he’s hung up, Yosuke looks up when Mayumi Yamano’s body was found. Twelfth of April, noon.

---

Yosuke hasn’t been to school in a few days, hasn’t been picking up calls. Yu’s been worried, he was afraid that it would be Yosuke’s silhouette on the Midnight Channel during last night’s rainstorm.

It wasn’t. But someone was there.

It doesn’t look like Yosuke’s at school this morning, either. Yu sends him a text message. Can I talk to you?

It’s a couple of hours before the reply comes. rivrbank 6pm

-

Yu’s not sure whether Yosuke will actually be at the riverbank. But he spots that familiar hair when he’s making his way down the stairs, and his chest seems to tighten a little.

Yosuke’s at the edge of the river, looking out over the water, passing one of his kunai restlessly from hand to hand. He’s a strangely isolated figure in the evening light, no one else around right now.

He turns sharply as Yu gets closer.

“It’s good to see you,” Yu says.

Yosuke makes an indistinct noise.

Yu glances at the kunai. “You brought a weapon?”

There was a point, in the TV world, when an enemy dropped Yosuke with a lightning spell. Yu can’t forget Yosuke’s expression as the Shadows gathered around him, the pale terror as he stared death in the face. Yu had barely managed to heal him in time.

Yosuke’s expression now takes him straight back to that moment.

“It calms me down,” Yosuke says. His voice is uneven.

For a moment, Yu considers letting that slide. But he needs to understand what’s going on with Yosuke. “You don’t look calm.”

Yosuke swallows visibly. He’s holding the kunai so tightly that the blood has gone out of his knuckles.

“Why haven’t you been at school?” Yu asks.

Yosuke throws the kunai away from him, suddenly. It clatters against a rock.

Yu stares over at it for a moment, then looks back at Yosuke. He has absolutely no idea what’s going on.

Yosuke’s breathing hard, he looks more terrified than ever.

“Do you want me to pick that up for you?” Yu asks. Something tells him it’s a bad idea to pick it up without making his intentions clear first.

Yosuke drops his eyes to the ground and says something, so quietly that Yu has to go back over it in his head to make out the shape of the words. I don’t want to use it.

Yu isn’t sure he wants the answer to this question. “You mean... you don’t want to use it against Shadows, right?”

“I don’t want to die,” Yosuke mumbles. He’s almost in tears. “But I don’t want to kill you, either. I think I might be in love with you.” He looks up into Yu’s eyes at last. “I just have to know why you killed Saki-senpai.”

“Why I killed...?”

They stare at each other for what feels like a very long time. All Yu can hear is his own heartbeat.

“Why are you always so calm?” Yosuke demands.

Yu doesn’t feel calm. There’s too much to process here; he doesn’t know where to start. Yosuke thinks his own life is in danger? Yosuke’s in love with him? Yosuke thinks Yu’s the one behind the murders?

Yosuke’s been thinking about killing him?

Say something!”

Yosuke lunges at him. It’s wild and uncontrolled, a clumsy move that, from an enemy, would be easy to dodge.

Yu isn’t expecting it from a friend. It knocks him to the ground, and he’s left gasping for breath, damp grass against his back and Yosuke pinning him down.

“Say something,” Yosuke begs him.

His hands are against Yu’s throat. They’re not pressing down, or they’re not pressing down yet. But they’re there.

Yu swallows, very carefully. Speaks, very carefully. “I haven’t killed anyone.”

Yosuke drops his head, and for a moment Yu thinks he’s just shuddering, and then he realises that Yosuke is crying.

“I really wish I could believe you,” Yosuke says, very quietly, his voice thin as thread. His head is almost against Yu’s chest. “But it’s... it’s not like a whole lot of people can go into TVs, you know?”

“Why would I want to hurt Saki? Or the announcer?”

“I don’t know!” It sounds like it’s torn out of him. “That’s why I’m asking!”

Yu raises a hand, very, very cautiously, and rests it slowly on the back of Yosuke’s head. Threads his fingers through Yosuke’s hair. Yosuke’s shaking gets worse.

“We’re friends, right?” Yu asks.

“That doesn’t mean you didn’t kill them.”

“But you know we’re friends? You know you’re important to me?”

Yosuke raises his head a little. The low light gleams off the tears in his eyes, on his cheeks. “I know you’re important to me. I don’t know how you feel.”

“We saved Yukiko together, right?”

Yosuke’s shaking so badly that Yu can feel it through his entire body. “I don’t want to kill you.”

If Yu wants to come through this situation, he needs to understand Yosuke’s goals. He needs to find a way out that satisfies Yosuke and ideally doesn’t get either of them hurt.

“What do you want?” Yu asks.

It feels like he doesn’t really understand what he’s asking until he actually voices it. The words prickle up his body as he says them. He feels too warm, he feels too aware of Yosuke at every point they’re touching.

Yosuke stares at him for a moment. Yu can feel him breathing, too quickly.

The silence stretches out until Yu wants to scream just to break it. He’s always been comfortable in silence; he doesn’t know why he can’t cope with it right now.

Yosuke leans down towards him. His weight shifts forward with the motion, and suddenly Yu can’t breathe, the pressure’s too strong on his neck.

A moment later, he can’t breathe for a completely different reason.

Yu didn’t come to Inaba looking for romance, and there are definitely safer options out there. For example, a girl. For example, someone who doesn’t think he’s a murderer.

He doesn’t want the safe options. He wants this. Yosuke kissing him, in tears, his hands around Yu’s throat.

“Oh—” Yosuke mutters against his lips, and then he breaks away, frowning down at Yu. Yu draws in a few urgent, ragged breaths as the pressure eases. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

It takes Yu a moment to collect his thoughts, process what Yosuke’s saying, and he almost laughs when it hits him. Yes, he did ask Yosuke to meet him for a conversation, didn’t he? The original purpose was kind of driven out of his head, given the making out and the possible murder attempt that he might still be in the middle of.

“Did you watch the Midnight Channel last night?” he asks.

Yosuke goes very still on top of him. “It was raining?”

“Were you sleeping?”

Yosuke shakes his head. “Don’t think I’ve slept in, uh. A while. I guess I just wasn’t... taking things in.”

There’s a pause.

“Was someone there?” Yosuke asks, in a kind of strained casual tone. He hasn’t moved his hands; he could still kill Yu with a single decision.

“It was hard to see,” Yu says. “I think it was a guy. A high schooler, maybe.”

Yosuke frowns. His breathing feels like it’s starting to steady, just a little, although that’s not saying much; he’s been on the edge of hyperventilating for a while. “The others were all girls, right?”

“We might have been wrong about the pattern.”

A dog wanders past, just at the edge of Yu’s vision. It’s a strange reminder that they’re still in the world. For a while, it felt like there was nothing but Yu and Yosuke and this bizarre position they’ve found themselves in.

“We have to save him,” Yu says. “I wanted to ask if you’d help us.”

“It could be you who put him there,” Yosuke mutters.

“Then stop me,” Yu says.

Yosuke swallows, twice, the sound dry. Moves his hands away at last.

“Okay,” he says.