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There was a new student in Yusuke Kitagawa's class.

What had been an unassuming day thus far had turned interesting upon his finding the homeroom class full of buzzing gossip, instead of the more subdued chatter that usually greeted him as he went to find his seat. Being lonesome as he was, homeroom usually held little interest to him - t'was not as though he had friends there to speak with, after all. Yet this time, he'd been able to overhear something of note: someone new was going to be joining them today. Mid-term transfers were not common at Kosei, and usually spoke of a story… a story the likes of which the Phantom Thieves might have interest in. Yusuke would have to pay attention to this.

They had recently conquered the palace of Kunikazu Okumura, the, ah… what was it? The great profiteering sinner of greed. The man had confessed on national television; and while the Thieves had been anxious that the broadcast might still somehow end in scandal, it had passed with as little incident as a Change of Heart could. Yusuke's friend Haru, who happened to be Okumura's daughter, had been occupied since then with helping her father to restructure the company. She was stressed, but… well, as an artist, Yusuke couldn't help but spot the difference in her smile since her father had been delivered from his twisted cognition. Their mission had been accomplished: Haru was happier, the employees at Okumura Foods would no longer be mistreated, and the Phantom Thieves were once again the public's darlings. Everything appeared to be proceeding well.

Most importantly, all this meant that the Phantom Thieves did not currently have a Palace to infiltrate. And while the group were all on the lookout for their next big target, as it were, they each were left to focus on smaller matters as well - the ones that could be taken care of in Mementos. It wasn't that Yusuke saw himself as a defender of the Kosei student body, exactly… he could never claim to be capable of solving all of their problems, especially when so many of them struggled to view him as a peer. But then, it wouldn't be the first time that he had helped someone through the Metaverse because he had noticed them at school.

He was curious to see what type of student this transfer would be.

His homeroom teacher finally cleared his throat, and the chatter died down as Yusuke directed his attention to the front.

"Class, as you may have heard, a new student will be joining us today. I hope you will all welcome him as you welcome each other." He made a gesture, and a figure of average height entered the room - walking plainly to stand beside the teacher, then, upon prompting, bowing politely to the class. Yusuke watched, settling his gaze on the boy stood in front of the chalkboard-- and...

Oh…

Oh, he was beautiful

Alabaster skin sat over the smooth contours of his face. Dark hair a similar colour to Yusuke's own fell across half of his face from an almost-careless side parting; unlike Yusuke's, however, there was a certain texture to it, a volume which complimented the curve of his jaw, the soft curve of his cheek. His languid gaze fell somewhere into the middle distance, his blue-grey eyes almost hollow-seeming - while some might draw fear from such a sight, to Yusuke, it reminded him only of the unseeing stone eyes of marble statues from Western museums. So close to alive, and yet… in fact, this student seemed almost like a statue himself. Not that Yusuke expected to see him breathing from this distance, but there was a stillness from him that set Yusuke's artistic senses alight. There was something truly captivating about this boy. Yusuke was determined to find out what.

"Ah, then… please introduce yourself," the teacher prompted, after a few long moments of silence.
"Arisato Minato." Arisato's gaze did not shift. He offered nothing further.
"...well, then, Arisato-kun, I hope you'll settle in well. If you could take the seat over there…"

Yusuke's heart sank a little when it wasn't the desk next to his own. Well, then. He'd simply have to approach Arisato during the lunch period.

--

Arisato wasn't difficult to find. He was simply sat at his desk, taking out plain sandwiches that appeared to have been prepared by someone else - at least if Yusuke had to judge by the note. Perhaps he had simply moved here due to his parents' work..? Standing by Arisato's shoulder, he peered at it.

I hope these are to your liking.
Let me know if you want me to change anything.
- Seta-san

Seta-san… not a parent, then? Or perhaps he just had an unusual family...?

Hm.

"Arisato-kun?" Yusuke said gently. To his surprise, Arisato didn't jump. People usually did that when Yusuke addressed them. "Excuse me; do you have a moment?"

Arisato turned that cold gaze to Yusuke. Yusuke had to fight not to get lost in the stony depths of those eyes…

"...ah, do you speak Japanese? My apologies for assuming so…"
"Yes," Arisato said.
"Oh! Very well, then. I have a proposition for you."
Arisato said nothing.
Yusuke persisted: "As you may know, Kosei has many scholarships available, among them an art scholarship. I happen to be one such scholar, and therefore I have access to many of the school's facilities when it comes to producing artworks. I was wondering if you would like to model for one of my paintings?" He held his hands forth, making a frame through which to view Arisato's mysterious stare. "Of course, I would ensure you received a print of the finished work."

Arisato said nothing.

"I will be in the studio from six o'clock onwards," Yusuke continued. He had to admit he wasn't used to being met with total silence, but well - it wasn't a refusal . "I'd be very glad indeed to see you there, Arisato-kun."

Arisato continued to meet Yusuke's eye for a few moments longer, then slowly turned back to his lunch. There was no acknowledgement, and for all he considered himself not exactly an amateur in reading the emotions in people's eyes - he had to replicate them on the canvas, after all - he couldn't discern anything from behind Arisato's cool irises. Anything at all. And yet… and yet..! There was something there, wasn't there...? Something that captured Yusuke's interests, drew him in...

Damn it all. He had a talent for picking muses with difficult personalities, didn't he?

Chuckling softly to himself, he made his way back to his desk.

--

A.T.: Don't take photos of people in class, Yusuke. It's creepy.

M.N.: Ann's right.

I'm concerned he may not attend the studio, though. :Y.K.

A.T.: That doesn't mean you can just take photos of him like some stalker!

I suppose you're right. :Y.K.

R.S.: anyway, whaddya mean by odd? is he out of uniform or somethin?

No. His uniform is perfect, actually. :Y.K.

That's almost what's concerning me. :Y.K.

I've been watching him for most of the day. :Y.K.

R.S.: not helping yourself with the stalker thing, dude

He shows absolutely no deviation from instructions given to him. :Y.K.

If a statement is not clearly an instruction, he practically ignores it. :Y.K.

A.K.: That is strange.

M.N.: Are you going to talk to him about it?

I'm considering it. :Y.K.

I'm uncertain of how to approach it, though… :Y.K.

A.T.: Just be friendly!

A.T.: He's probably nervous to be at a new school where he doesn't know anyone.

A.T.: I bet he just needs a friend he could confide in...

You're right. Thank you, everyone. :Y.K.

--

The rest of the day passed uneventfully, but Yusuke couldn't get his concern for Arisato out of his mind. He had a feeling it would be difficult to find him again outside of class, so before the classroom emptied, he rushed to corner Arisato at his desk. Arisato put up no argument - sitting, passively as always, and only turning to look at Yusuke when he was addressed.

"Are you staying in the dormitories, Arisato-kun?"
"Yes."
"Ah! So am I. What building are you in?"
"North."
"Ah… I'm in the west one, but I'll see you at dinner, yes?"
"Yes."

Yusuke paused. Usually, he was the one giving answers which were too short for everyone's liking. It was… refreshing, he supposed, to have the situation reversed.

"Is there any particular food you like?"
Silence.
"The food at the caféteria can be expensive, but you can pick up a lot of rice or potato snacks for very little, I find."
Silence. No acknowledgement.
"Ah… but I can tell you're frustrated with the topic. Would you like to walk towards the dormitories together?"

The classroom was largely empty by now, and yet Arisato hadn't moved from his desk. Yusuke stepped away a little and tried again. "...Arisato-kun, let's go back to the dormitories."

Finally, Arisato stood up and began walking towards the classroom door. "Ah! Don't forget your things--" Yusuke picked up Arisato's bag and trotted after him, handing them over to the shorter boy. Arisato took it, but didn't acknowledge Yusuke any further afterwards. Hmm...

Yusuke smiled, but his heart was troubled. Perhaps it was merely his artist's intuition, but… he had a feeling there was something very wrong with Minato Arisato.