A.N. - Wow, a new story. Wait a minute... this title seems familiar? Aw, damn it! It's just a rewrite!
Prologue - The Fool
And so, the snow continued to fall.
The sound muffled.
The sky and sun out of sight.
A barren land of ice and snow, one devoid almost completely of life.
"You can't see it, can you…"
The words of a young boy spoken in a quiet tone, the person he is conversing with tilting her head at what he said.
"Can't see what?"
Her voice is one that sounds melancholic, a beautiful one that draws forth one's emotions from just listening to it. Yet to hear such a voice from one who looks so young, the girl with the expressionless face couldn't be anything but special.
A moment of silence, before the first voice replies.
"This isn't my first time here, but you still can't see the sky. Even now, the falling snow makes it difficult to see. The moon is barely visible through the clouds, and the only way to describe this place is… sad. So, so sad. Yet, despite this sadness, I can't help but find this world truly beautiful."
He continued after a brief pause.
"Thus, I find it a shame that this world is about to die. From my time here, I came to love this world."
"This world represents another aspect of humanity. A memory of love, tragedy, and regret. The judgment of my ancestry, the sadness and suffering caused because of what happened. I can't help but love this world despite all of that. And yet..."
He turned to face her.
"If I said that I didn't want this all to end… would you try to live?"
"What are you proposing?"
"A contract." His face was serious. "A pact between us allowing you to reside within my body until you regain your former power."
"In other words, you're asking for me to hide in you until I recover."
Amidst the falling snow, the two figures continued to stare at each other. It took her a moment to respond, but the young boy heard her response.
"Our desires coincide, and a contract will be made. With this pact, this world will continue to exist within your soul."
Even though they made a promise that day, Nagi couldn't help but think back to how this all started. The moment when he moved away to another city and everything that has happened since.
That day, when he was caught breaking into that facility…
Persona (1) - Rescue Mission
Nagi Kujikawa knew he was making a mistake.
He was leaning against a low wall outside the monorail station wearing casual but dark-colored clothes. The sun was already setting in the distance, and Nagi watched the crowd thin out as fewer commuters began to exit the trains. Tapping along the rhythm of the music playing in his headphones, he waited nervously as the clock in the distance continued to move.
A man moved past him, almost bumping into Nagi even though he scooted away at the last second. The man gave him a disapproving look, having caught sight of the blond hair on his head before deciding to quickly move away from him.
The reaction was something he was used to. Most people thought that he was often up to no good. Even if he explained that he didn't dye his hair, most seemed to automatically assume that he was some sort of delinquent at first sight. A lot of them never seemed to take his small frame or soft features into account. Maybe he would be treated better if he wore a wig to disguise the vibrant color, but that was something that felt like extra effort over what shouldn't have been a big deal in the first place.
Well, maybe they were right about something. After all, the reason he was here in the first place was to cause some trouble.
But already, he was wishing that he hadn't come. It was dangerous, it was stupid. All these arguments had passed through his mind the entire morning he spent traveling here. And if he was caught, there was a chance that he could get into serious trouble. Not just the kind teenagers usually caused, but enough for someone to press criminal charges. After all, this was serious. He was planning on breaking and entering a private facility.
Nagi was planning on committing a crime.
He could just give up here. Go back home and pretend that none of this ever happened. But then again, the train ride here did take a few hours. And if he spent that entire time feeling guilty over the thought of condemning others to a fate worse than death, he would drive himself mad. Or he could stick to his original decision and continue with the plan, with the high risk of getting caught and thrown in jail if he didn't escape on time.
Both sounded like terrible options in his opinion.
Finally, a couple of hours passed and Nagi checked the time. It was late enough that most people would have already gotten off work and gone home for the day. Any later, and Nagi wouldn't be able to use the train to get home after he was finished with his plan. Making up his mind, he removed himself from his spot and began to leave the station.
The walk only took maybe a dozen minutes from the station to the obscure facility located in the business district of the city. A place that Nagi had scouted out the weekend beforehand to make sure that it was the right place.
On the outside, it looked like a normal commercial space that might have been used as the building of a small business. But if you paid attention, you could spot the dark-tinted vehicles parked outside in the parking lot. Or the secure digital locks that covered the entrance. And most definitely the intimidating guards keeping watch from inside the lobby visible through the glass entrance.
That was why Nagi was standing outside a distance away instead of waltzing right through the doors. He knew that the place would be heavily guarded, but this wasn't the first time he came here. Until now though, he hadn't had the guts to push forward with this plan of his. After all, this was serious.
"Don't wuss out now," he whispered to himself. "You know what's going on down there. You can't ignore it anymore."
Even if he messed up, it wasn't as if it was the end of the world. Sure, he might get arrested if they don't bother trying to silence him for seeing too much. But Nagi knew for sure that they definitely weren't going to kill him. Although, some would probably consider that more of a curse than a blessing.
And that was that. Pushing down the sense of rising fear, Nagi pushed forward and began making his way around the building.
Of course, the area was fenced off with signs warning that this was private property. But Nagi had found a spot last weekend where he could slip through an opening and into the premises. Another door greeted his sight when he moved closer to the building, and Nagi rattled the locked doorknob several times until he heard a strange click.
Smiling, he thanked his fortune that they never bothered to replace the staff's door with anything fancy. After all, his entire plan hinged on this major flaw in their security system. That, and the hope that there weren't any silent alarms he triggered due to that action.
Quickly getting inside, he closed the door behind him and found himself in a small corridor. Passing through it, Nagi passed through the door at the end of the hallway and found himself in a large space.
The area was huge, an amount that was deceptively hidden by the building's exterior. When Nagi found out what this place was, he expected the building to have several floors leading underground to store all of their stuff. But with how large this place was, it was most likely that there would be no need for such space.
Nagi looked around. There were no workers still around, just as he hoped.
And suddenly, a blue butterfly flew past him, causing him to look up with a startled expression. The butterfly floated towards an entrance leading somewhere else before slowly fading away.
The phenomenon wasn't something Nagi was unfamiliar with. Although he never knew why it happened, he learned to trust whatever message it tried to convey to him every time it appeared. The butterfly was something that told him where to go on a deep level of his mind, just like how people's instincts made them pick between two equally probable choices without any significant reason. It was a warning, a message, and a choice.
And Nagi decided to trust it once more.
Continuing to move, his body tensed as he heard several voices ahead of him. His eyes quickly scoured his surroundings before landing on what appeared to be a metal rack holding several lab coats. A crazy idea passed through his mind, and he quickly moved towards it. Pulling one of the lab coats off the hook, he threw it around himself and shifted his posture so that he would look taller. Meanwhile, he desperately hoped that the simple disguise would work while praying inside of his mind.
Right as he did so, two men quickly moved past him without even glancing at him. If they bothered to glance at him from the corner of their eyes, they would have dismissed him as another colleague of theirs with how distracted they were.
"Prep the children for the next few tests," one of the scientists said. "We've already tested their potential, now we'll begin observing and recording data."
Their voices faded as they moved away from the general area Nagi stood.
After they left, Nagi finally gave out a sigh of relief. Glancing in the direction they just came from, his lips pursed as he recalled what one of them said. He took a deep breath before he began making his way further inside the building.
What he found once he did shook him to his core.
Several figures were strapped down to gurneys with complicated-looking machines hooked up to them. Next to them was a metal table with what looked like surgical tools spread out. Even with a glance, Nagi could tell that they were barely older than fifteen or sixteen at the most. The youngest looked as if she was barely ten.
He tore his eyes away from their bodies as he quickly counted how many people were in the area. Either his timing was fortunate or there wasn't much security, but other than the three figures trapped here there wasn't anyone else around.
A young voice called out to him, and Nagi turned to see where it was coming from. A young girl with red hair stared back at him with a look of confusion on her face.
"Hey," Nagi scowled. "I'm fourteen, thank you very much."
Unlike the earlier scientists, the comically large lab coat wrapped around him couldn't disguise how young he looked to the people staring at him. But it was more accurate to call him a teenager, even if the difference between the two wasn't that significant in this context.
"I'm here to rescue you all," Nagi quickly explained. "Are there any others trapped down here?"
The girl's eyes widened, and Nagi saw the other two people raise their heads in surprise at his words. One of them, a boy older than Nagi judging by his appearance, answered his question.
"N-No… we're the only s-survivors of t-their experiments…"
That caused Nagi's eyes to narrow in displeasure, but he quickly shook his head. "Never mind then, I'll help you three get free first. Once you're not bound any longer, we're getting the hell away from this place."
They could barely contain their excitement as Nagi quickly removed the straps holding their limbs down to the metal stretchers. The three of them shakily stood up and smiled at him.
"W-Who are you…?"
"No time for questions," Nagi interrupted. "Come along, there are still people in the building. We need to sneak away before they notice you're free."
They nodded, and Nagi was relieved when they didn't continue to ask anything else. Taking the lead, the four of them began making their way back the path Nagi used.
"Now, I know this all seems scary." Nagi began to prattle as they walked. "But don't worry, fear isn't something unusual. Blood pumping, heart beating, adrenaline running. All of that means that you're more alert than you've ever been before. And that means that if anything happens, we'll be prepared to—"
Unfortunately, that was when everything went wrong.
The sound of voices approaching them caused the four to look at each other in alarm. Before they could react, what looked like a security guard suddenly appeared in front of them.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!"
Before Nagi could react, one of the others did so first. Lunging towards the metal table, he grabbed the sharpest thing he could and quickly roared as he charged towards the guard. Without any warning, the guard could only widen his eyes as his body jerked upright as the knife entered his chest.
Everyone froze at the action, all except for the guard who collapsed to the ground.
"T-This…" the older-looking boy stared up at the others with the knife in his hands. "I didn't mean for this to happen…"
Nagi wanted to scream. How could he say that after just having stabbed someone? But before he could say anything else, the boy suddenly bolted and left the three behind.
The other boy, who was silent up to now, spoke. "We have to move now."
"But…" the girl glanced downward. "What about the guard…?"
"Who cares," the boy almost yelled. "What the heck are we supposed to do? He was in our way, and he had to be taken out!"
"But that doesn't mean he deserves to be stabbed," Nagi yelled back. "He's going to die at this rate!"
"What's the matter with you," the boy snarled. He glanced at the girl. "What's the matter with both of you?! Who cares about him, he's working with the people keeping us down here."
The security guard groaned, and Nagi glanced down. The man was still alive, but a pool of blood was forming on the ground.
A hand pressed down on him, and a glow lit up as the girl knelt next to the guard. The glow dimmed and faded before she frowned.
"That's all I can do, the rest will be left to chance."
After saying that, the girl stood up and quickly left. The other boy glanced back towards Nagi before following after her as well.
Nagi also began following after them only to stop as he heard another moan coming from the security guard. Feeling sick, Nagi realized that whatever the girl did to heal the man wasn't enough. There was a scary possibility that the man might still die from his injury.
He knew it was a stupid choice, but he couldn't just leave someone behind to die like that.
Kneeling down, he placed a hand on the man's arm. "Don't worry, help is on the way. Just hang on a while longer, somebody will take you to a hospital."
The sound of footsteps approaching him told Nagi that his words weren't false. Several men and women dressed in lab coats poured into the room, all of them crying out in alarm as they took in the sight before them. Before Nagi could say anything in defense, somebody tackled him to the ground and kept his body from thrashing around in retaliation.
Somebody must have called the police because soon, the sound of sirens began to surround the building. An ambulance arrived and Nagi sighed with relief as he saw the guard get loaded up onto the vehicle.
Of course, that was when everyone finally concentrated on him.
"It's him, officers." The man dragging Nagi around pushed him forward. "This was the kid who stabbed the guard."
Somebody came forward with handcuffs. "Don't resist if you know what's good for you."
Nagi wanted to say something. But his voice caught in his throat when he suddenly noticed something in the distance.
Three people were staring at him with wide eyes, the same people that he had just risked his life to rescue. The eldest, the real person who stabbed the guard, stared at him with horror in his eyes.
Turning his gaze away, Nagi stayed silent.
He couldn't risk them getting captured again. Even if the blame for the incident fell on him, the truth would eventually reveal that it wasn't him who stabbed the guard. But if he said anything now, then the police might try to capture the three people he just saved.
No, it was better to just take the blame.
Two police officers escorted him, his arms bound behind him as the two led jerked him away. Nagi couldn't help but glance back one last time towards where the three were.
Without him noticing, they had already left.
He chuckled to himself.
I messed up in the worst possible way. He closed his eyes. I thought I could stop Strega from forming, but now I'm the reason they exist.
His plan was for him to take them somewhere safe before taking them to someone he could trust. Someone who would have looked after them despite their origins. But now, it seems that they would only take the path available to them.
And it was all Nagi's fault.
The door slammed next to him, and the police car he was in drove off into the night.
So yeah, I've been taking a break from writing this past month. But now, I've decided to finally get back into things by working on one of my previous projects.
Only instead of writing a new chapter, I'm starting over... again!
I know, I've already tried to do a 'soft reboot' of this story, but this time I'm redoing everything once again, and with Persona elements too. I've still got all my notes from both previous stories, with more stuff since I finally finished the DNAngel manga (it's nice, read it if you got the time).
Fun fact, it's been exactly one year ago since I started on Lost Artworks of the Moonlit Hour. This time, things are going to start differently from how they did then. The first two or three chapters will focus on the Persona side of things first, before making its way into the DNAngel side of things.