Chapter 111: Old friends' meeting
It had happened only a little bit after Souji and his friends had saved Nanako from the Hell dungeon.
With all the chaos that had been going on after Namatame had murdered the prison's director and Adachi, a dark figure had used its chance to appear out of the ground and sneak around the shadows, unnotice by the jailors and police officers who were running around hectically, trying to restore order and re-capture the other inmates who had managed to break out as well, and at the same time try to do something against the fire that had been caused by all of the explosions that Namatame had let loose and that was quickly spreading throughout the facility.
Letting his gaze drift over the chaos shortly, the figure sighed, before it crabbily threw down the corpse of a small child that it had brought with it to the ground, and started to move towards its destination.
The figure silently scurried through destroyed corridors, easily lifted up debris that was blocking its way, and finally reached a now rather disgusting smelling cell in which Adachi and the director's corpses were lying.
"Hmm...", the figure - Yosufu Bagman hummed - and breathed in the air long and slowly, as if he was trying to sniff out something specific inside the cell. "Now, where is...?" He took out his cane underneath the black traveling coat he now wore, and waved it through the room several times before looking rather annoyed. "It's not here...", he grumbled and angrily kicked the director's corpse. "It's your fault, you stupid fool! Who told you to actually die!" He sighed onc again and closed his eyes in thought. The thing which he was looking for had to still be inside the prison. "With this many people here, it has to be quite close. After all, it clings to the first person it can find...", he surmised and left the cell again.
He quietly sneaked up to the next floor and was just about to enter another dark hallway when he suddenly sensed someone behind him, unfortunately too late. The moment the old Shadow turned around, he came face to face with a person who was just about to strike at him with an old and rusty pocket knife. But something silvery-white immediately appeared in front of Bagman, taking the hit instead of the old Shadow and throwing the attacker to the ground. The apparitional figure dissolved in a scream of agony, followed by a bright light that allowed Bagman to get a short glimpse at his attacker's face.
"You're...!", the old professor began.
"Ahaha... It went Boom!", Mitsuo Kubo chuckled and hectically jumped up from the ground, his whole body shaking with excitement as his grin got brider and crazier. "Do I get a level up or something now?"
"Ugh, do I really have to get annoyed by vermin like you...", Bagman sighed, Kubo already jumping at him again. One wave with his cane and Kubo was thrown against the wall where he sank to the ground, unconscious. "Stupid brat!", the old Shadow snarled at Kubo and walked towards him, annoyed, only to suddenly stop in his tracks. He looked at Kubo for a short while, seemingly lost in thought, before he waved his cane in front of the unconscious man a few times. He smiled. "Your Shadow looks interesting, my dear. A rather sturdy barrier that protects the user at all costs, huh...?" He was just about to grab Kubo when he suddenly heard some loud noise coming from outside. Bagman whirled around, slightly startled, and looked outside one of the windows. "Oh, how delightful!", he said the next moment, his eyes fixated on something quickly moving outside the building. "Delightful, indeed." His smile turned into a triumphant grin as he felt that something that he had been searching for inside the prison come nearer and nearer.
"How about `Yosukey´?" A first suggestion after long time of thinking.
"`Yosukey´?", the other person in the room repeated questioningly and amused at the same tim.
"Well, you know...", the first person tried to explain, a bit embarrassed now.
"Uh, yeah, I get what you mean..." Another amused chuckle by the second person. "Well, how about `Yosuke´ then? Ya know, without the `y´ at the end?"
"Hmm..." The first person looked long and thoughtfully at the peacefully sleeping baby inside the crib. "Yosuke... That sounds nic."
"Doesn't it!", the second person said and also looked at the infant. "This is our baby, Aigis."
"Hmhm...", the first person - Aigis - agreed and nodded happily.
Aigis sighed deeply while she, still deeply lost in her memories of the past, stared at the giant black door that she had just now reached, surrounded by thick yellow fog. She was just about to take another step towards the giant building when suddenly another figure with jet black hair appeared out of thin air, wearing a red mask in the form of a butterfly.
"Metis.", Aigis said, nodding, and continued her way towards the building, followed by Metis.
"I came as fast as I could once I'd sensed you sumoning me, sister.", Metis said, and her voice took on a slightly unsure tone as she continued. "But do you really think it's wise to face her like this?"
"I will be meeting an old friend, Metis.", Aigis replied, now having reached the entrance - the giant black gate - with her robot sister. "I want to fully be the person that she said goodbye to so many years ago once we meet again."
"Alright...", Metis said, although with some displeasure, and returned to Aigis' sea of souls a moment later.
"Orpheus...", the former blonde Anti Shadow Robot mumbled seconds later when she felt the presence of the Persona she had given to Metis returning to her unconsciousness, while at the same time the ice that had frozen her heart and made her unfeeling and uncaring was slowly melting, now that Metis - her emotions incarnate - had returned to her.
Aigis looked up at the giant gate one last time, before she finally opened it and entered it.
Three voices, one more different in terms of emotional state than the other, snarled at the same, their voices echoing through the dark arena that Aigis had entered, and for a short moment a raging storm started to let loose which immediately vanished once Aigis had taken a few steps inside the arena.
"Yes?", Aigis only replied, nodding, and hurriedly continued through the arena, blood dripping randomly from the stones it was made of, as if an artist of abstract arts had worked on decorating the place. Having reached the other side of the building, Aigis immediately opened the other gate and had just taken the first step of an especially long stair behind it that led downwards when a loud howling could be heard. `An alarm system against intruders, I think...´, the blonde guessed and continued her path downwards the stairs, into the depths of a structure that continued to spread endlessly throughout the TV world's underground, like a tree's roots that continued to spread out more and more.
Having reached the end of the stairs, Aigis stopped dead in her tracks when she heard the question of a female person not far away from her, the thick fog only partially giving away her silhoutte. But still, the blonde could quite clearly make out who it was that was standing over there.
"Aigis.", she merely answered and noticed the other person shuddering a bit in the fog.
"Aigis...", the person repeated, sounding slightly nostalgic, before they moved towards the Anti Shadow weapon. "What do you want here?", they finally asked once they stood face to face. "Have you come to finally settle this with a fight?"
"No.", Aigis immediately replied.
"Then do you want to join us?", the other female asked, voice instantly hopeful. "Oh, I knew that one day you wo-"
"No, that's not it, either.", Aigis interrupted her, shaking her head.
"Then what?", the other one - Mrs. Hanamura - snapped, now with a rather frosty voice.
"I've come to talk to you one last time.", Aigis answered and looked around the structure of the Abyss of Time. "Where are the other two?"
"... Elizabeth is protecting the gate. I dunno where Margaret is, and frankly, I don't give a rat's ass.", Mrs. Hanamura said after hesitating for a moment.
"And Elizabeth won't join you here?"
"Since I was already near the entrance when the alarm system went off, she will leave taking care of the intruder to me, and rather continue to protect the gate.", Mrs. Hanamura replied. "But no matter what you may tell me, I will pass everything on to her either way."
"As you wish...", Aigis sighed and startled the next moment when she heard a muffled grumble, not far away from them. "What was...?"
"The reason I'm here.", Mrs. Hanamura explained and returned to where she had been standing before, followed by Aigis who slowly could make up the outlines of something big, before he eyes widened, faced with the thing in front of her.
"Is that... Jin?", she asked, almost whispering.
"Yup.", Mrs. Hanamura replied and also looked up at a giant black gate, slightly disgusted. There, positioned at the highes part of the gate and obviously writing in pain, was Jin Shirato - his upper body that was sticking out of the door (the rest of his body seemed to be stuck inside the gate itself) was as black as the gate -, screaming and blindly swinging his arms in fury.
"What...? Who did-?", Aigis began, disbelieving.
"Elizabeth and I did that, shortly before Margaret joined us.", Mrs. Hanamura answered her question. "Erebus had appeared time and time again to forcefully rip open the gate Minato was sealed inside, no matter how many times we destroyed him. In the end we sealed that disgusting Catdog imitation in this gate here, the same way Minato had done so with Nyx." She sighed. "Unfortunately, this seal here is far, far weaker than the one Minato created. If we don't come back here again and again to renew the seal, Erebus would have long since escaped again. This is only a makeshift method. A rather clumsy one, at that."
"... And Jin just agreed to that?", Aigis asked.
Mrs. Hanamra laughed, albeit without any humour in her voice. "Of course not.", she finally answered. "But who else should we have taken? Only scum like him deserves something like this, nobody else." She threw a last disgusted glance at Jin before she moved back to the stairs, Aigis right behind her. "We had first thought about exchanging Jin with Minato at the golden gate, but that would have been a complete failure. It needs someone of the same strength as Minato - the strength of a Fool -, or else Nyx will break the seal with ease. And that would obviously be-"
"... I see there is still a spark of hope.", Aigis suddenly interrupted her.
"You're trying to keep Nyx sealed away. That's good.", Aigis explained, looking sad. "I'd started to fear that you would do anything - no matter the outcome - to get Minato out of the gate."
"Tsk! Don't be ridiculous!", Mrs. Hanamura snapped at her. "If that were, the case, I would have long since exchanged that annoying Margaret for Minato! She would strong enough to hold the seal in place, after all!" She looked to the side, annoyed. "Actually, I had already thought about doing so. Arrogant annoying bitch!" She looked back at Aigis, face serious. "But that wouldn't help Minato either. Do you know why?"
Aigis nodded. "There is only Minato's soul inside the gate. His body has long since been buried at Port Island's graveyard, decayed. If you were to release the soul from the gate, there would be no body to bind it, and it would be sucked into Nirvana after a while, forever lst..."
Mrs. Hanamura shuddered before she slowly nodded. "... And that's why there is only one possible solution.", she finally whispered.
"And what are you talking about, exactly?", Aigis asked her, now a bit irate. "Are you talking about what you're doing right now? Is that the possible solution you're talking about? A possible solution that has already cost hundreds of lives and will cost even more?"
"You're wrong!", Mrs. Hanamura snarled at her angrily. "What we're doing won't cost even one single life!"
It was now Aigis turn to laugh, without any humour in her voice. "Just open your eyes already! Why are you talking in future tense? This little game that you're playing has already destroyed dozens of lives!"
"Not because of us, it didn't!", Mrs. Hanamura protested vehemently.
"No, you weren't directly involved, of course.", Aigis agreed angrily. "But you have let loose that abhorrent killer that has already killed several people at Tanaba University! That's your fault!"
"That was only because that person didn't have their powers under cont-"
"This killer - created by you, may I once again remind you - also led Yosufu Bagman's Shadow in this world! The same Shadow that has already killed thousands of children! Children, you understand? It's your fault!"
"I'll say it again, that only happened because that person lost contr-"
"Excuses. Nothing but excuses from you.", Aigis sighed, disappointed. "I thought you might at least feel somewhat guilty. I thought you had realized that it's all your fault. That's why I came here: To talk with you, to give you one last chance and get you back. But that was a mistake..."
"Our plan was perfect!", Mrs. Hanamura snarled at her. "Nobody would have had to die if that useless failure hadn't messed up everything!"
"Putting all of the blame onto somebody else won't change the truth either!"
"It's not our fault!", Mrs. Hanamura screamed back at her.
"And there will be even more deaths, should your plan succeed!", Aigis continued, dunning, ignoring Mrs. Hanamura's angry protest.
"How so?", Mrs. Hanamura asked derisively. "Bagman's as good finished. Once he comes here and tries to join us, we'll kill him!"
"I'm not talking about Bagman. I'm talking about your idea to pull Minato's soul out of the gate and replace him with someone else. It won't work.", Aigis clarified, looking really worried now, while she continued in a hushed voice. "Please... you have to stop it. Behind that gate... there's not only Nyx waiting behind it."
"... Hmm?" Mrs. Hanamura looked at her curiously. "Not only Nyx? What do you mean?"
"One of the three is sealed behind it. The moment you try to free Minato, this creature will use its chance instead since it is linked to him!", Aigis explained.
Mrs. Hanamura just stared at her for a while before she suddenly smiled triumphantly. "Oooh, nice try, Aigis! Really, that was really good! But not good enough!"
"What do you-", Aigis said, confused.
"One of the three, you say? Hah!", Mrs. Hanamura interrupted her, deridingly. "Two of them are living inside the humand world, and the third one was killed by SEES several years ago inside the Abyss of Time, liar!"
"Liar!", Mrs. Hanamura repeated, shaking her head. "Really, having to resort to lying, Aigis. Are you really that much of a scaredy cat?"
"I'd rather be a scaredy cat than running blindly into my doom!", Aigis countered, agitated.
Mrs. Hanamura sighed. "But I'm not, stupid.", she calmly said and looked at Aigis with disappointment in her eyes. "Do you really think I didn't think about every possible option before starting with this plan we decided upon? You yourself just said a few moments ago that I obviously want things to end in a good way, Aigis."
"There are several possible ways to accomplish our goal. Let me tell you about one of them.", Mrs. Hanamra interrupted her. "Our killer is capable to control the Shadows, as you have surely noticed by now. So let's just say we use the killer and let them gather as many Shadows as possible. With this many Shadows gathered we would be able to do what the old Kirijo had once envisioned: Traveling in time." Aigis looked at her in disbelief. "And I'm not talking about the time travels we did in the Abyss of Time, leading us to place and time we can't decide ourselves. Using this method, we can choose where and when to travel. We could travel to the exact point in time Kirijo decided to gather Shadows. We could simply kill and everyone else involved in the project so that the Dark Hour would never come into existence. Since they will die anyway during the experiments, nothing of value would be lost. Minato would be free forever!"
"That would have unknown consequences, yes.", Mrs. Hanamura interrupted her, nodding. "We would completely change history by doing so. What if the future we created would be an even darker one?" She shook her head. "No, that option is far too risky." She looked back at Aigis. "I'm not just running blindly in the darkness, as you can see. So what about you then, scaredy cat!"
"As I already said. Yes, I may be a coward.", Aigis said. "I'm far too scared of what you will call upon if you continue like this. I'm far too scared of what you will do to the boy."
"And now we're about to talk about Yosuke again, your favourite subject.", Mrs. Hanamura sighed, annoyed. "As I have already explained to you, this thing-"
"He's not a thing!", Aigis interrupted her. "He's your son! OUR son that we both raised in the beginning!"
"Hmph..." Mrs. Hanamura looked her unimpressed. "From the moment he was born into this world, his destiny had already been decided: To serve as the vessel for Minato's soul!"
"How can you...? You've lived alongside each other for many years now, as mother and son!", Aigis screamed at her.
"Yes, indeed we did.", Mrs. Hanamura agreed. "I've raised him for years, saw him grew up in that twisted way, and at the sime time waited longingly for the moment we can finally use him!"
"Liar!", Aigis snapped at her. "You really want to tell me that he... that Yosuke has been nothing but an animal you raised and nurtured until it is time to slaughter him like this?"
"Yes, that's correct.", was Mrs. Hanamura's simple reply and indifferent reply.
"That's a lie...", Aigis mumbled in disbelief and shook her head. "That's not... You're not the person anymore that I knew so well back then..."
"We all change during the years, Aigis. Nobody stays the same way they were as a teenager. Our characters all change, unlike yours, apparently.", Mrs. Hanamura explained, matter-of-factly.
"If only that change hadn't occured to you either!", Aigis heatedly shouted at her. "Do you really think Minato would be proud of you? He would look at you with disgust if you-"
But she didn't get to say anything else. The moment she had talked about Minato like that the ground had exploded underneath Aigis' feet. She was able to regain her balance just in time before she would have fallen to the ground rather painfully.
"You know NOTHING about him! I'm the ONLY ONE!", Mrs. Hanamura yelled at her, her usual hazelnut brown eyes suddenly blazing yellow, swinging her hand violently.
"Y- What...?", Aigis started in confusion and dodged another explosion beneath her feet.
"You don't know anything!", Mrs. Hanamura continued to scream and swung her fist at her again. And this time Aigis noticed what was going on: The movement of Hanamura's hand caused a powerful gust of wind to strike the ground underneath Aigis' feet, making it explode in an instant. The Anti Shadow weapon jumped to the side again and looked at Mrs. Hanamura in worry.
"Stop! I'm not here to fight you!", she shouted at her.
"I don't care! You dare to talk about him like this, you face the consequences!", Mrs. Hanamura barked as an answer and swung her fist once again. But she suddenly stopped right in the middle, shouted in pain and sank to the ground gasping, grabbing her stomach in pain.
"Yukari!", Aigis shouted, slightly panicked, and ran over to the brunette.
"... Don't touch me!", she snarled at her and tried to get up again, only to sink back to the ground, face-first.
"Yukari...", Aigis mumbled in pity and looked from Mrs. Hanamura's - Yukari Takeba's - now yellow eyes to her stomach that she was still holding in pain. "I get it now... So that's what you did... And the pain is the punishment for that..."
Yukari looked up at her and smiled maliciously. "I already told you once: I would do anything for Minato! Even become something like this!"
Aigis sighed deeply before she asked: "... Did you know that you were pregnant?"
Yukari's eyes widened for a moment before she smiled, apparently relived. "No, I really didn't know that.", she replied. "But it's better like this. I really wouldn't want to be like my mother and raise a child that I wouldn't be able to lov-"
Aigis stopped her by slapping her face. "Disgusting!", the blonde shouted at her and turned away from her.
It took a while before Yukari finally managed to stand up from the ground, Aigis still having turned her back towards her.
"Is that all you wanted to talk about with me?", Yukari asked.
"... No.", Aigis answered after a short moment of silence. "I had actually wanted to tell you more." She saw a short scene in front of her inner eyes that showed her and Ryoji fighting against each other on the Moonlight Bridge, followed by an explosion that killed Minato's parents and Minato himself. "I have managed to uncover some things that I had wanted to tell you about as well..." The scene changed to Minato and the other members of SEES being hung up on those crosses at the observatory, and Aigis doing as Ikutsuki told her, killing one friend after another. "But... if you're not ready to have your eyes opened up..." It changed to Minato's room where he and Ryoji were standing at the 31st of December, Minato killing Ryoji instead of letting him live, choosing to lose all his memories. "... There is no sense in talking to you any more..." `Master Igor hat called it "Fishing for Destiny"...´, Aigis thought as she miserably walked back to the stairs.
"Aww, leaving so soon? I thought we were going to talk some more about good old times?", Yukari called after her in derision. "You, me and our little Yosukey! Ahaha!"
But Aigis wasn't listening to her anymore as she walked up the stairs, feeling powerless and exhausted now that her attempt at convincing her old friend had failed. `Ebisu's "Fishing for Destiny"... The ability to change unwanted things and lead them towards the desired path... If what Master Igor has told me is really true, then we're all just marching right into the direction Ebisu wants us to, like puppets without free wil...´
Author's notes: Kinda lost the will to write for no reason. I don't know when I will update again. Sorry.