PERSONA 5: THE PRODIGAL THIRD
Chapter 1: Soaring Expectations
It was sometime around March of 2010.
I was about nine years old, and completely unaware of the situation. My parents put me at the back of the car to attend some kind of event.
My black suit was hastily put on, and I watched as the raindrops fell on an otherwise sunny day, as if nature itself forgot how it was supposed to feel. I remember how I felt though, and I felt really bored.
Soon enough, the lock on the door was lifted and I got off of the car to enter a peaceful yet dreadful scene.
I was at a funeral.
The one who passed was one Minato Arisato, a cousin whom I barely knew.
Many people were crying in front of me, and I recognized their uniforms as those of a nearby High School. Gekkoukan, if I remembered correctly.
I was sure these people knew my cousin more than I did, but the stares they gave me back then were still painful, stinging as if I were doing something wrong somehow.
Was it my fault that I didn't know the person who died? Was I somehow bound to the expectations of other people I barely knew?
If they expected me to cry just because I had the privilege of being relatively closer to the person inside the casket, was I supposed to?
Yet, I felt something. Something happened back then, something I had forgotten.
All I remembered after the funeral were my parents scolding me for something I did. I wonder what it was.
For the next six years, that thought always came up from the back of my mind.
I shook my head, now wasn't the time to lose my head, I had to remember what I was here for.
Oh yeah, the train.
I was headed to Shibuya in Tokyo to a dormitory there. I was to transfer to Shujin Academy, where a mysterious someone had apparently paid for my tuitions to go there for the school year.
That someone even gave me a free place to stay, and it only made the mystery run deeper.
… Something was up, but I had no idea where to start looking. All I knew was that my parents had accepted, and I was now headed to unfamiliar territory. Free was free, and that sealed the deal.
I wonder who it was. My father said it was a young and eccentric woman with white hair garbed in blue. She had apparently known of Minato Arisato…
There it was again, the name of the certain someone I barely knew was the cause of another turning point in my life.
Why was Minato Arisato so important? Why was he so damn significant?
I opened my dorm room with and threw the bag near the door. I was exhausted beyond belief and
I went down like a ragdoll in the bed I was to sleep in for the rest of the year.
It was like stepping on something slippery, and the world before me fell apart.
I woke up in cold sweat in the middle of the night.
My body was tired, but it seemed to reject sleep. I was left to watch the ceiling when the door to my room opened. In walked a woman with short, white hair and clad in a blue dress. Her eyes were bright yellow, and her mouth was twisted in a smile that was both warm and eerie, like a puzzle that kept on changing.
For some reason, I felt like I met her before.
"Hello." She said. "How was your day?"
I shrugged. "Surprising. You?"
"This is most surprising. You claim to be fazed and yet you can hold a decent conversation at this time of night. Very interesting, I must say."
I shook my head.
"Look, lady. Right now, I'm actually really, really uncomfortable and I'm trying my hardest not to scream. I mean, you just snuck in my bedroom at this hour! How the heck am I supposed to react?"
She grimaced for a split second before shrugging.
"Are you sure that's the first thing you have in mind?"
I shook my head.
"No. I just really want to know why I'm here. You paid for my boarding and tuitions, am I right?"
"Seems you humans are attracted to currency, so I just flipped some switches here and there…"
"Why me, and why right now of all times?"
I couldn't help butting in. It was MAY, goddammit. The school year already started when this happened.
"I need your help. There are things even I could not do alone. Someone from years past taught me that."
"Uh huh." I scratched my head. "In that case, I'm sure you'll find someone better somewhere. Me? I'm not good for anything."
"Ah… I can see that the years have gotten to you, no? I must have been mistaken when I thought of the young boy with bright eyes those six years ago. And yet, I can still sense the power from within you…"
It was at that moment when something from the back of my head clicked.
Like a dam deep within my mind had suddenly been torn asunder, a flood of memories washed my head.
She was there at the funeral.
She walked up to me, with those yellow eyes of hers and a forced smile.
"My, my… Could it be?"
I instinctively put my fingers on my temples, as if trying to force myself to remember more.
"What is your name, little one? Could you write it down here?"
I looked at her.
"Back then… What did you make me do?"
She smiled once more.
"Ah… I almost forgot. I made you sign a contract right…"
She pulled out what looked like a book seemingly out of nowhere. Flicking through the pages, I felt my heart stop.
What had I gotten myself into?
"… Here." She said, handing me an intricately designed piece of paper coloured blue. I took it in my hands and saw my nine year old self's writing, my name scribbled at the bottom of the page barely on the line below.
From that moment…
No… From the moment I signed that piece of paper six years ago, I knew my fate was sealed.
"So… What do I do?" I said out loud, albeit unintentionally.
"Ah, it seems you have accepted your fate easier than I thought you would. And here I thought I would've had to apply special human techniques to get you to oblige."
I raised an eyebrow.
"What kind of techniques?"
She suddenly blushed.
"Someone once taught me… No, it's…"
The large presence that invaded my veins with fear earlier was now mumbling like a lovesick schoolgirl in front of me. I couldn't help a chuckle, and she didn't seem to mind.
"Anyway… I sensed a great deal of potential from within you. Back then, I had hoped this contract would be necessary in case we needed someone of your talents."
I butted in.
"I speak of my master and the other inhabitants of the Velvet Room. I shall explain this to you another time, but for now, I shall just discuss with you the specifics."
She cleared her throat.
"There is a looming presence that I could not explain, nor can I sense my family from within that room, and as such I need some help from someone with the potential."
"So, we're going to find this looming presence together?" I asked.
"Unfortunately, I have… other matters to attend to. Someone special to me forfeit their soul for the world to keep living. I am looking for a way to at least release his soul from this burden. I… I cannot prioritize anything more than this."
"I see." I said, nodding. "So I'm alone, then?"
She shook her head.
"There are others like you in this school, it seems. The root of the problem might be related there as well. In any case, there would be a place where you can get allies and solve the problem in a fell swoop."
I nodded. It didn't seem like there was any way out, and I just couldn't help feeling like this were something I was meant to do.
"I'm glad you understand. I'll see you tomorrow after school, Minato."
I froze in my tracks.
After a few moments had passed, she seemed to realize her blunder.
"I'm sorry. I meant to say Ryosuke. It seems you are more alike than I had thought, though. I expect a great deal from you."
There it was again, expectations from a complete stranger.
When she left, I sighed.
I didn't need to be a detective to know she wanted Minato to do this crap, not his easily forgotten relative.
I couldn't sleep anymore, so I turned on the lights and fixed my stuff.
It was May 2, and it was almost sunrise.
I made coffee and prepared a sandwich to eat after all my things were in order.
Cleaning wasn't that tiring when you had things in mind.
After taking my breakfast and dressing up, I went to school early.
I was supposed to meet with the principal, so I walked around campus looking for the office while staring at the building when all of a sudden, the speakers blared on.
"All students please go to the school gymnasium for general assembly!"
Was I supposed to go there or-
God, this is more of a hassle than I thought.
"I wonder what this is about." One student asked another.
"Is this about the girl who tried to kill herself?" Another asked around.
So… someone tried to kill themselves? Not a great introduction to this school if you asked me.
Who I assumed was the principal was on stage. Good, saves me the trouble of waiting in the office for an hour or something, depending on how long this assembly is.
"Mr. Kamoshida, please get off the stage!"
A teacher was onstage crying and… confessing?
"I… I did terrible things. It's true that I… I was beating students… molesting female students… I was the reason Shiho Suzui tried to kill herself! I even tried to expel students just because I didn't like them… and I rescind those."
"Eew… So he IS a creep."
"I can't believe someone this bad is a teacher here."
The student body was filled with whispers, but I was quietly assessing the situation.
What the heck kind of school is this?
"So… I will resign from my position as a teacher… And kill myself to atone!"
Wow, pride much?
"No, you will live to atone for your crimes!"
A blonde girl was shouting from the students.
"You're right… I… I must atone. I admit that I forced myself on Ann Takamaki for my own selfish reasons… SOMEBODY CALL THE POLICE!"
Wow, what a dick.
This is a messed up first day of school if you ask me.
"Alright, alright! Go back to your classrooms!"
I headed to the principal's office and waited for his return.
And I waited.
And I waited.
God, the situation might have been worse than I thought, because a different teacher told me which class I was to attend as the principal was apparently too occupied.
I mean damn, that scandal is going to end up in the news.
This was all on my first damn day of Shujin. Well, I couldn't say anything about it not being memorable in years to come.
While I was walking at the hallway, I came across a seriously beautiful girl. Her brown hair was in a bob cut with blunt bangs and a French-braid headband that matched her hair, and her eyes were reddish brown… Something about her was making me feel differently. From the looks of it, she was a third year student in this school, and I never was the kind of person to fall for older girls, but this one…
There was a grace to her, like the gentle breeze in the spring. She looked imposing yet serene, like a candle burning bright and warm on a cold winter night.
I realized that I was rambling, but my thoughts were running wild. This never used to happen before, and I was sure as hell it'd never happen again.
Crap. I didn't think I'd get this far.
"I-is there… W-where's Class D? I mean do you know if- I mean 2-D, of course… Uhm…"
She pointed up the stairs.
"It's near the end of the side over there. Are you a transfer student?"
"Nice to meet you, I'm the student council president, Makoto Niijima. I apologize for the rather aggressive morning, but I hope you like it here."
I was shocked, but I tried to pull myself together.
"I-I'm Ryosuke Arisato. A second year- but you probably already know that… it's nice to meet you too."
She smiled at me before returning the greeting with a nod.
The moment we went our separate ways, my heart was beating faster than a machine gun could spray lead. I was more shaken than I thought, and I nearly tripped more than once on my way to the classroom.
God, what a woman… Dammit, keep your thoughts down, Ryosuke, and let's look for the damn classroom already.
Class 2-D was apparently the last room with an open slot. It didn't seem too shabby at first, but I was worried when I heard whispers of "he's gonna kill you" and "that guy with the criminal record".
Well, I guess I'll be lucky if I could last a whole year with a convict.
… Oh right. Where the heck was I going to meet with that weird lady?
"Hey, new kid! Wanna join us? We're going to the ramen place!"
I waved my hand.
"I'm sorry, but I'm supposed to meet with someone right now. What about next time?"
I looked back and saw the person who invited me was already gone. That was rude, leaving someone hanging. Maybe he was just trying to be polite, asking the new kid out to eat.
Still, what a dick.
"I see you've gotten the hang of this place?" The lady from last night asked.
"Naw, lady. I'm actually really disoriented and my first day was pretty crappy. What do I do?"
"I apologize if your living conditions aren't as good as I would've thought. In any case, we must be on our way."
"To the ramen place I keep hearing about! Seems delightful, don't you think?"
Crap, I just turned someone down. Showing up would just be a really dick move.
"Can we go somewhere else? I heard the diner here has lots of incredible tastes." I replied.
She thought for a second.
"But the ramen-"
"Please?" I asked again.
"My, my, it appears that you seem to enjoy the tastes of the fine dining there. Very well, our meeting will begin once when we get there."
… I feel like I'm missing something.
"My name is Elizabeth."
I knew I forgot something.
"Is there something you wish to inquire?"
I shook my head.
When we got there, we ordered some and went to business.
"Okay, what's the deal?"
"The Velvet Room has always been a place where in we help people obtain their goals. We encourage our guests and grant them the power to control and shape their inner psyches. We call this power 'Persona'."
"Okay… Go on."
"We have always been on the side of humanity, believing that it could survive any challenged imposed on it with pure will."
"I have not heard from the Velvet Room in a while, and neither have my siblings. It seemed as though our master… closed his doors, in a way. The last to see him was my sister, Lavenza, and yet it seemed as though we couldn't reach to her either."
"… So, what do I do?"
She looked at me.
"I need you to find out about the state of the Velvet Room as of the moment. A storm is brewing, and it seems the room is within the eye of it all."
I thought for a second.
"This storm… figuratively, how big would it be?" I asked.
"I assume it could affect the whole of humanity itself." Elizabeth answered.
The responsibility on my shoulders…
Weighing me down…
The expectations be damned…
"I see…" I answered.
Was it too late for me to back out?
"Isn't there anyone more suited for this job?" I asked.
"There might be someone else…"
I raised an eyebrow.
"But I fear they will not get here in time. They are preoccupied with their own matters, it seems."
Was I… truly alone now?
"Elizabeth… was Minato one of these people? A guest in the Velvet Room, I mean."
She looked down.
I looked at her.
"Is there a possibility that I could die?"
I clenched my fist.
"Did he die because of this… responsibility?"
I gritted my teeth.
"Did he die alone?"
Her yellow eyes seemed renewed with conviction.
"He did not die because he faced a threat he couldn't handle, that I could say for sure. He died when he realized it was his purpose to give his life so the entire world wouldn't fall."
"What do you mean-"
"His soul is out there, suffering in an effort to seal an ancient evil from destroying the world. I'm doing everything I can to find a way to save him. I… I must do this!"
I've never seen someone so composed be so fired up in an instant like this.
"Fine, I'll do it. Just don't expect much from me, alright?"
She smiled in return.
"Good. We'll start later on this week."
With that said, she stood up, gave me a lot of coins, and left.
I felt a few hands patting my shoulder with words like "you'll get 'em next time, kiddo" and "the right one'll come soon enough".
Honestly, I think most of the people here misunderstood the situation. Nonetheless, it made me chuckle once I got home.
On May 6, I met her near the station after school.
She was carrying a briefcase of sorts, and she waved at me as I walked towards her.
She opened it and inside was…
"It's your Evoker. You point it at your head, pull the trigger, and out comes your Persona."
It's a gun.
It's a damn gun.
"Woman, are you joking?"
"Oh, I do love to joke, but this doesn't seem to be the right time to do so, don't you think?"
Her face was still smiling.
I couldn't help but scratch my head.
"This is going to unleash my power?"
"Are you kidding me?"
"As I said, this isn't the time-"
I pointed at the briefcase.
"This is a gun, and you're asking me to put it on my head and pull the trigger. No way in hell that's gonna happen."
"Ah, but I'm quite serious."
"Your whole story about the Velvet Room and stuff like that seems pretty far-fetched too. Were you just kidding me all this time?"
Her face turned serious.
"If I were kidding, I wouldn't be giving you one of my prized possessions. I wouldn't be giving you Minato's Evoker if I weren't serious, young man."
Her gaze was piercing, and her yellow eyes seemed to dare me to say otherwise.
That aside… Seeing the case still made me have doubts.
"If what you're saying is true… Then show me."
Her frown turned into curiosity.
"What do you mean?"
"Show me how this could make me make use of my potential or something."
She shook her head.
"I don't have a need for an Evoker; my Compendium is all I need to summon Personae."
"Then…" I scratched my head. "Why not just give me the Compendium or something?"
"I'm afraid you can't handle the weight of such power." She replied.
"Fine, but at least prove me that this Evoker thingy won't kill me or something."
She took out the Evoker and pointed it on the ground. She pulled the trigger once and…
"It doesn't use bullets. I believe that its shape is some weapon and that makes the rush of deathlike Euphoria is what unleashes your power."
"Wow that sounds pretty kinky." I replied.
"I believe I do not understand this… 'kinky'. Would you mind rephrasing?"
I shook my head.
"It's nothing. Just… what do I do with it?"
She gave me the case.
"As I said earlier, it unlocks your potential, although it would be best if you used it only in dire situations and not for your own amusement."
"Sure. I'm not the type of person to point a gun at my head willy-nilly anyway."
"I leave this responsibility to you. Your job is both to learn of the Velvet Room's current conditions and to look on the possible threat that I sense here. I also sense Shadows somewhere, but it seems I cannot find them."
"Woah, what the heck are Shadows?"
"They are the human psyche that one wishes to hide from others and cannot accept. In other words, they take the forms of monsters and you will most likely encounter them time and time again."
"Woman, you could've told me this earlier!"
I rubbed my temples.
"Do not worry; I would not have given you this task had I believed you did not have the strength to overcome what comes your way."
"I told you not to expect much."
"Then I do not expect, as I may already know that you can do what you need to do."
"I don't know where to start though."
"It seems the best course of action would be to look into the people in your school who possess the same potential you do."
Oh, well that wasn't so hard.
"Well, do I just ask people outright if they have Personae or something?"
She shook her head.
"Don't worry; you'll be surprised at how well fate can guide you to where you need to be."
In the back of my head, I still thought she might've had problems, but that all changed when the next day, I stumbled into Akira Kurusu, Ann Takamaki, and some other Shujin student that I didn't recognize hanging out near the subway.
I was in the middle of approaching them when all of the sudden the world seemed to become shades redder.
"Keyword accepted. Mementos."