Chapter VIII: Atom & Evil

A/N I do not own any of the characters or concepts regarding Shin Megami Tensei, this is a fan work and is non-profit.

Cerberus leapt out from the darkness and straight at Doman with the ferocity of a lion defending its pride. With a swipe of its mighty claws the beast tore through the demon's thick skin and scraped out whatever it could. Doman's expression did not change however, even as it clutched the wound with its left hand and swatted the beast away with its right.

"Diarama" Doman chanted causing the wound in its chest to heal over. From that he clasped both hands together in a prayer-like gesture.

"Agilao" Flames erupted from his hands and darted towards Cerberus who batted them while charging once again at Doman. The demon saw the incoming beast and prepared his fists to once again force Cerberus to halt. Cerberus refused to do so and instead grabbed Doman's right fist with his paw and forced it towards the ground. Once off balance he rammed his head against the demon's chest and pounced on his body using his limbs to pin him in place.

"GRRRRHH!" Cerberus snarled at his opponent and flashed his fangs at Doman's indifferent stare. Doman tried to force the beast off him but failed to even nudge Cerberus from his position. Digging his claws into the demon's body Cerberus placed his face right in front of his foe, looking one last time, for some signs of remorse. When he found none he proceeded to tear into the demon's body like a piece of meat. No sounds of pain could be heard, even as Cerberus tore the demon's head off his body, ripped and tore through layer after layer of hardened skin only to rip out whatever insides he could find.

After what seemed to be but a just a few minutes, the demon's body was nowhere to be found. Its link to this realm severed. However the damage it had inflicted remained. Cerberus turned around to see his master and his allies lying comatose on the ground. In a hurry he sped to Kazuya's side where he leaned down to check for a heartbeat. What he found was weak but passable. Taking parts of the boys' cloths in his teeth, he dragged them to safety, away from the smoke. Once they were down he shut his eyes and concentrated.

"Samarecarm" He uttered as a magical circle appeared around him and his master. A white light shined down on Kazuya and enveloped his body healing his wounds and removing smoke from his lungs as it did.

"Ughhhh…" Kazuya groaned as he bent his back and forced himself upright. He rubbed his eyes and tried to brush the soot off his clothes. Cerberus nodded and proceeded to do the same thing to Yuji and Takeshi who both awoke in similar manners.

"What's going on?" Takeshi mumbled as he adjusted his glasses and inspected his surroundings.

"The battle… it's over?" Yuji asked as he looked around for some lingering sign of Doman's presence. Finding none he turned over to Kazuya who could be seen petting Cerberus affectionately.

"My guess is that Pas- no, Cerberus took care of him for us, and we can probably thank him for saving our lives from the smoke and flames as well." He mouthed a word of thanks to the beast and let himself become captivated by its majesty.

"Really? That's incredible!" Takeshi lit a cigarette with his left hand and punched the air with his right. The other boys sighed inwardly at the irony of Takeshi smoking after nearly dying from smoke inhalation.

"Is that so…" Yuji contemplated as he grabbed his sword off the ground and sheathed the blade, resisting the urge to wipe the blood off of it. Yuji had been brought up with very strict values of honor and discipline and was taught that to have someone save your life was a very important act. While he had not ever heard whether those same principals applied to non-humans, it seemed to be an irrelevant detail for now. Turning towards Cerberus Yuji dramatically fell to one knee and lowered his head before the beast.

"Huh? Yuji, what're you doing?" Takeshi asked finding the whole gesture kind of strange. Kazuya folded his arms and smirked at the behavior of his ally, glad that his best friend was getting the respect he always felt he deserved.

"I am in your dept Cerberus sir, please, continue to look after me." Yuji thanked Cerberus earnestly before returning to his feet so he could move over to pet the demon's fur.

"I was only doing my duty." Cerberus accepted Yuji's thanks with a sense of gratification feeding his sense of pride. From his perspective these boys were his responsibility to protect being the powerful, guardian beast that he was.

"Of course you were Cerberus, of course." Kazuya remarked before drawing his attention back to their current objective.

"Getting back on track, I suppose we can assume that with that demon defeated that those guys back there have either ran away, or are pacified as a threat." Kazuya summed up the situation with the same analytical sense of detail that the boys had come to expect.

"Right, so next stop would be that where we left off right?" Takeshi chimed in after adjusting his glasses for the umpteenth time.

"Can't think of anything else they could throw at us worse than that last demon, so I suppose we've got nothing to lose." Yuji considered after trying to piece together what happened to him against that last demon. Cerberus nodded his head in agreement and turned to his master as if awaiting command.

"Alright, on we go!" Kazuya made the announcement and the party headed back through the halls to the scene of their last battle.

Since there wasn't anything actually flammable in the hall that they had fought in, the magical fire had died out leaving only a light smoke and loads of ash on the ground. However smears of blood still left their streaks' on the floor tiles. The boys tried to avoid looking at them and instead stared straight ahead as they entered the room where the strange device was located.

What they found was that the room was completely deserted. The old doorframes had disappeared as well, and they could now see what lay in the center. It was a computer terminal sitting on a podium. It appeared to be rather modern in its design but was rather small when compared to most home PCs.

"This…. Is the teleporter?" Takeshi asked in disbelief, slightly disappointed by the mundane look of the device.

"I, guess?" Yuji shrugged deciding to forgo judgment in favor of simply letting the party's more technologically literate members discuss the matter. Kazuya glanced over at his armcomp and then at the teleporter, looking for similarities in their style of design. He figured that if this was indeed the genuine article than it would probably be reminiscent of his father's invention.

"It's certainly a lot more inconspicuous looking if you ignore the design of the room around it. Perhaps I should tes-" Kazuya's musing was cut off by a loud snarling noise that was coming from around his chest.

"Grrrrrr…." Cerberus's growl forced the boys to take attention. He started to paw at the floor and flex his jaw muscles. An uncontrollable feeling of primal rage and power was overtaking the beast and forcing his greater intellect to submit to its instinctive desire to destroy.

"Cerberus? What's wrong?" Kazuya's face lost its cool demeanor and became a picture of innocent concern for his demonic guardian's mental state. He was about to lean down to pet him but retracted his hand when Cerberus snarled and raised its right paw to bat his arm away.

"This… is bad…" Takeshi backed away from the beast and reached his quivering hand into his jacket to pull out his gun. He was afraid that this might happen, anytime he took a liking to something boy, girl, animal or whatever, it tended to get angry at him and become violent. This line of thinking led Takeshi to the conclusion that he was to blame for this outcome, but quickly realized that such he had made a critical error in his thinking.

Sighing, Takeshi reminded himself that Cerberus was Kazuya's friend not his, and that if anyone was impact that beast on such a level it was probably it's master, not some guy it's known for less than a day or two.

"Let me try this." Yuji closed his eyes and focused on casting a healing spell on Cerberus to little change other than the healing of a few cuts and scratches on his beast's body. Cerberus continued to glare at the computer terminal growling and snarling at increasing frequency and volume. In an act of desperation Kazuya checked his armcomp and attempted to scan Cerberus for any information he could use.

"Damnit! Nothing." He cursed his inability to calm down his demon ally before realizing he could simply dismiss him.

"Wait! I'll try to just…" Kazuya raised his vision from his armcomp to the computer terminal just in time to see Cerberus leap at the machine like a tiger attacking its prey.

"GRRRRRRRRRRAAAAHHH!" The demon beast roared, filling the entire room with echoes of its voice.

It was only a manner of seconds; Cerberus attacked the computer only to become enveloped in bolts of lightning that froze him in place. Before anyone could come to terms with what was happening Cerberus disappeared entirely into thin air as if nothing had happened.

The three boys were unable to hide their shocked expressions as they watched their most powerful ally leave them just shortly after saving their lives. Only the echoing noise of the beasts' last cry served as proof that he had ever existed. And once that faded tears began falling uncontrollably down Kazuya's face.

"Ah...Ahhhh...Ugh..." Kazuya fell to his knees and simply stared at the spot that his best friend once occupied and tried to tell himself what he had just seen was not the death of the last person he had ever loved. He remembered how he felt when he realized his mother was dead, how he was so struck with despair that he couldn't even bring himself to realize his father was also gone, and when combined with the apparent death of his friend and buddy Pascal, it was just too much to take. The other boys watched silently, letting their leader grieve for his loss. They were prepared to wait a few minutes for him to let it all out, which is why they were surprised when he got back on his feet and checked his armcomp.

"Cerberus is no longer listed under the demons I control, so like the Weredog, for all I know, he's dead." Kazuya concluded all the while forcing himself to keep from sobbing loudly in front of his allies. Even with tears still staining his eyes red he assumed the mantle of the cold, tactician, ready to count his loses and move on. The effect this left Yuji and Takeshi feeling rather scared of his sudden change in attitude.

"Kazuya, if you want to let it out you can, there's no shame in grieving for a lost friend." Yuji tried to reassure Kazuya who tensed up at the suggestion. Shaking his head and quickly brushing the tears from his face Kazuya turned and scowled at the boys.

"We don't have time to waste crying over the causalities of war. Pascal is simply M.I.A, that's all. We need to push forward or more people will suffer." Kazuya made clear his intentions and then moved to examine the computer terminal.

"R-right… okay." Yuji backed off and turned over to Takeshi who simply shrugged his shoulders in response. While they could both tell what Kazuya was trying to do was unhealthy, neither one felt right in trying to force him to deal with his emotions when he had so much else to worry about. As much as they hated to admit it, they needed him to be the cool, rational head that kept the three united. Without his leadership and knowledge they would all be doomed to squabble and fight until they were killed.

"This is the Echo COMP transmission terminal." Kazuya read the information off the screen.

"Those with valid COMPs may access at their leisure."

"Do you suppose the computer on your arm is compatible?" Takeshi suggested.

"If my observations are correct…" Kazuya accessed his armcomp and performed a compatibility check with the terminal. The whole procedure took a few minutes which were passed in total silence save only the tapping of Kazuya's fingers on the respective keyboards. Once he had established the necessary connection Kazuya nodded and turned to face his allies once again.

"Well?"

"I've made the connection. We can use this terminal to teleport us to another location simply labeled as LAB."

"Are you sure that's safe? After all, there are tons of things that could go wrong." Yuji suggested in caution. Kazuya shook his head.

"We don't have much of a choice, and besides we've come this far. I'd like to see if this actually works, don't you?" He smirked a bit as if proposing a test to Yuji's masculinity. The decoded message reached Yuji loud and clear and he instinctively nodded in agreement.

"Alright, if this is what it takes to find Yuka, then let's go!" Yuji shouted with burning passion while Takeshi discarded his cigarette and grinned.

"Let's give this puppy a spin." He commented imitating a bad action movie star like one-liner, complete with a confident strutting over to the terminal. With all three in agreement Kazuya finalized their decision and activated the teleporter.

The process didn't take very long and the boys barely felt a thing before they were enveloped in bolts of lightning that temporarily left them unconscious. When they recovered they surveyed their surroundings only to find them rather familiar.

"The hell? We're back where we started!" Takeshi shouted

"Not necessarily." Kazuya replied. He examined his armcomp for a few seconds. "It appears that all of these terminals are designed to look identical to one another. My mapping function indicates we have indeed travelled through time and space." He closed his armcomp and sighed. He had hoped to find Cerberus through the teleporter, but there was no indication that he was anywhere around them.

"Any sign of that scientist/summoner?" Yuji inquired. Kazuya checked the terminal monitor and shook his head.

"None that I can find, all it says here is your standard thank you message." He sighed and rubbed his forehead while turning to exit the room.

"I'd imagine this place is probably infested with demons as well, so be on guard guys. We don't have Cerberus with us anymore to bail us out." Kazuya's snarky attitude came as a bit of relief to the other boys who saw this as a sign that, despite the hardships he was feeling okay. However neither quite realized how off such an analysis was from the truth.

"Got it." Takeshi readied his gun.

"Understood." Yuji drew his sword.

"H-help…" The weak voice of a man met the boys just after leaving the terminal room.

"Let's go." Kazuya and the others turned the corner and entered the room adjacent to theirs and were faced with a twisted humanoid creature in a white lab dress. He sitting on a swivel chair in a small room packed with computers and documents lain about everywhere. His body was completely hairless and he looked starved to the bone. His skin was that of a bruised peach that seemed very unhealthy.

"…Wow, I'm surprised you were able to make it in here." The man noted with forced breath. He struggled to smile but was unable to do so before relaxing his jaw, leaving in dangling in a perpetual frown. Kazuya placed one hand on the handle of his sword and stared the man down.

"…" Silence passed between the two as Kazuya examined the man from head to toe. He was looking for some sign of demonic nature or places where he could conceal a weapon. The man however found himself terrified of the boy's icy gaze and began thinking of ways to make conversation.

"So… what on earth is going on in the outside world?" He asked hoping to hear about the results of his labor and how he was to be praised for his work.

"Explain yourself." He threatened with his face making clear that he did not trust this man one bit. The man shook in fear and nodded his head in compliance before thinking of how to explain himself.

"I've been working on our secret Terminal System project. I had to transmit all the data from my experiments over the computer to the main center from here."

"Terminal System project? Did you happen to hear from my father? Saito Akanaka?" Kazuya blurted down causing the man to cower even more.

"N-no. I never had direct communication with the project leaders." He explained with overwhelming honesty in his expression. Kazuya sighed and decided to drop the issue.

"Never mind, go on." He insisted.

"Anyway, three or four days ago, we were attacked by a mob of demons. Everyone was either killed or turned into zombies." The researcher was about to continue his explanation until a loud clomping noise was heard echoing from the hall. Suddenly he collapsed to the floor and adopted the fetal position. Takeshi pointed his gun behind him but found nothing there.

"What's going on!" He glared over at the researcher who seemed like he was about to have a heart attack.

"…Hurry…,…Get out of here…" He whimpered before closing his eyes and hiding behind a desk. The boys took this as a sign that danger was coming so they left the room on the watch for any demons.

Just as they entered the hallway there were faced with an Orc demon standing in their path with a twisted grin adorning his grotesque pig face.

"Looks like we've got a newcomer! Welcome to earth, congrats on making it here!" The orc greeted the boys even going to shake their hands and pat them on the back as he talked.

"Err what?" Yuji vocalized his confusion with the greeting they had received. Kazuya & Takeshi exhibited similar reactions as well. Despite this the Orc continued his warm welcoming speech.

"Take it easy for a while. Get used to your new home. I'm sure you must be tired from your long trip from the abyss." The boys quickly figured out their predicament and decided to play along for now.

"Sounds great, plane shifting it seems really is as exhausting as everyone says. I think I'll take you up on your offer." Kazuya stretched out his arms and yawned while motioning with his hands for the other boys to follow him as he passed the Orc by.

"Just as I thought." The Orc agreed. As Kazuya walked by him he examined the boy closer and was impressed by the level of detail he used for his disguise. Something that he realized was true for his companions as well.

"I see you've successfully turned into humans…" He complimented them as Takeshi walked by in toe with the others. His curiosity peeked the Orc took a sniff of the boy and then came to a startling realization. Takeshi shuffled around with the inside of his coat as soon as he saw the Orc's expression change.

"Wait a minute, you ARE humans!" The Orc cried out its final words as just milliseconds after exclaiming this fact, his head was pounded with four bullets of led directly through his cranium sending his bloodied corpse against the wall.

"I was wondering when he'd figure it out." Takeshi blew the smoke from his gun and flashed a devious smile at his handiwork. Yuji frowned in disapproval and folded his arms.

"Takeshi, you shouldn't be attack your enemies off guard like that, especially when they were so friendly not a few seconds ago." Yuji leered at Takeshi who contorted his face in disbelief.

"A-are you serious!" Takeshi asked wondering how screwed up his ally's sense of honor went. Kazuya turned his head and prepared for the inevitable clash of ideals.

"Nah, I'm just kidding. That was awesome." Yuji gave a goofy smile relaxed his arms. Takeshi took a moment to realize that he had just been played but once get got it he let out a slow uncomfortable laugh that the two ended up sharing while Kazuya watched from the sidelines.

"Oh man, you had me going there! I thought you seriously sympathized with a fucking demon." Takeshi laughed while clutching his chest.

"I know, I just wanted to show that, hey, even I have dark side you know." Yuji joked while grabbing his ally's shoulder for support. Neither one seemed to have any problem with the fact that they were joking about killing something in a rather brutal fashion. Kazuya took note of this as well as a sign that the two were slowly becoming friends.

The three began their search through the building for any signs of an exit. They descended a set of stairs and explored the floor below finding nothing of value to them. It was clear from the large number of closed off areas that something horrible had indeed occurred here. While signs of struggles we prevalent, actual bodies were rare. Kazuya speculated that the demons may have eaten the humans after killing them. Whatever light actually entered the building was obscured by the wreckage that was laid against the walls and corners.

"We've got you now humans!" The party looked around for the source of the voice but was helpless against the cloaking darkness.

"Stay together and shoot whatever moves gu-" Kazuya's order was interrupted by a flash of lightning that bound him in place. The light illuminated the dark hallway and revealed the presence of four winged gremlins.

"Kazya!" Yuji clapsed his hands together and uttered a silent prayer as his magic began its work.

"Dia." He chanted healing the burns on Kazuya's body. He was about to reassure the others about their situation but was then bombarded from behind by one of the gremlins.

"DIE SCUM!" Takeshi shouted as he opened fire at the two gremlins in front of him. The first one was hit in the chest with the bullet piercing him without enough force to kill it instantly. The other dodged the shot and dived at Takeshi who dropped to a crap like stance, pulled out his spiked rod and in a lucky swing, batted the demon away.

Once the paralyzing effect on Kazuya's body wore off he grabbed his sword and swung at one of the gremlins missing badly. The gremlin kicked at him forcing him against a wall where he was met by another gremlin who punched him in the face almost breaking his nose. Kazuya however shrugged off the pain and took advantage of their close proximity. He noticed that the gremlin was only about 2 ft tall and was fairly slim. Taking his chance he picked up his katana and with one hand grabbed the demons throat. And with the other hand he forced his katana's blade up vertically, piercing the demon from below and through its shoulder.

"Not by you." Kazuya spat at the corpse that remained impaled by his sword.

After Kazuya was kicked Yuji shoved the demon to the ground where he took a look into its black malevolent eyes. Seeing no reason for humane treatment he indulged in his sickest fantasies of torment. Pinning the demon with his feet he gripped his sword and carefully turned the blade to the part of the demon's body where the wings were connected.

"GAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!" The demon's scream nearly burst Yuji's eardrums as he careful cut the demon's wings from its body. Once he was finished he stepped back and examined his work. The demon's face was frozen in humiliated terror that meant numbed the intense physical pain. The gremlin felt as if it had been castrated and was now being mocked for its inadequacy. Terrible shame bearing down on it he ran as fast as he could hoping to hide. However as soon as his back was turned Yuji pulled out his gun and gunned the demon down scowling all the while.

The enemies were dead, that was true for a few seconds until four more gremlins rushed to the scene in defense of their fallen comrades.

"Our brothers will be avenged!" The gremlins cried out before diving in.

"Yuji fired off at the new wave of the demon enemy while Kazuya readied his sword and blocked the oncoming diving attack. Takeshi meanwhile, growing tired of these battles summoned forth his magical talents and unleashed them in all directions.

"Maha-agi" He uttered as a wave of flames shot forth from his hands and caught each of the gremlins on fire. Kazuya & Yuji were lucky enough to duck on time and so they watched from below at the demons fell from the air and collapsed to the ground a charred shell of their former selves.

"You're really on the ball Takeshi!" Yuji complimented his ally as he and Kazuya got back on their feet and dusted themselves off. Takeshi flashed a smug grin as he reached for another cigarette and lit it proudly.

"No problem." He responded feeling pretty good about himself at the moment. Kazuya remained detached from the interaction and instead called forth pixie so she could heal him and the others since Yuji was distracted.

The three didn't encounter any other between then and when they noticed light coming out of a small manager's office. They agreed to check it out but kept their weapons handy just in case.

"Welcome Kazuya." Steven greeted his longtime internet friend from his wheelchair behind a desk.

"Steven! H-how did you…? Never mind! What is this place exactly?"

"Steven? Who's that?"

"Some friend of Kazuya's. Apparently he made the terminals and opened the portal to the abyss."

"Cool… wait, WHAT!"

"Shhhhhhh! They're talking!"

"Oh, sorry."

"This is the laboratory where we developed the Terminal System." Steven continued his explanation. Kazuya noticed an inconsistency and so he held out his hand palm out.

"Hold it, my father told me he was going to America for the project." Kazuya snapped at Steven who paused for a moment before responding.

"I'm afraid that was a lie, the project was top secret you understand and so we couldn't allow anything secret to leak out." Steven's explanation caused Kazuya to lower his head and frown in despondence.

"But then how did my armcomp reach me? I mean if it was that protected…" Kazuya meekly asked. Steven could see from his expression that Kazuya's spirit had already been crushed numerous times. So he didn't have the heart to tell him that he had been the one to leak the machine to him. He had wanted Kazuya to carry happy memories of his father, not to realize the kind of man he had become.

"He was a driven man, he was determined to get that to you and together we set up a series of transfers of the device until it reached you." Steven's explanation brought a sense of relief to Kazuya's face.

"As I was saying, this is where we developed the Terminal System. However, Gotou's influence has spread to here as well, and is now under his control." Next it was Yuji's turn to lay bare his daddy issues.

"Again you say that this Gotou is the one responsible, you aren't referring to Gotou Tokumura are you? My, father." Yuji lunged over at Steven with barley restrained intensity. Steven blinked and paused as he considered what the implications of his loose tongue may be.

"I'm afraid I can say no more on the topic. Needless to say you would be better advised to speak to your father directly." Steven dug up an explanation that he hoped would ease Yuji's temper. And to his relief, it worked, Yuji withdrew himself and apologized.

"So…" Steven searched his mind for the topic he knew he needed to bring up.

"Has my Demon Summoning Program been useful to you?"

Kazuya took a glance at his armcomp and reflected on his experiences with it so far. It had been an invaluable tool so far and was quite likely the only reason he was still alive. With that in mind he answered.

"Yes, yes it has."

"Ah good, but let me ask." Steven seemed to have something on his mind. Kazuya was intrigued.

"Are you satisfied with the number of demons you can control?"

This question was less obvious and took more consideration. After thinking about the matter he realized that even if he was satisfied now, it would only be a matter of time until he was lacking in power. Once he realized that he responded in kind.

"No, more power would be preferable." He blankly stated in a manner that sounded more ambiguous in its meaning than the others had intended. Steven saw the desire for strength in his pupil and decided to satiate that hunger.

"Very well then! Give me that computer, and I'll increase its memory for you!" Steven's excitement became rather infectious so that Kazuya was more than willing to hand over his armcomp.

While Steven and Kazuya dealt with technological matters Yuji and Takeshi talked amongst themselves.

"So you're dads in league with the demons huh? Didn't see that coming." Takeshi remarked sending Yuji into a fit of defensive anxiety.

"H-hold on! We don't know that for sure! And besides my dad's a bigger patriot than I've ever seen. There's no way he'd do anything like this if it wasn't in Japan's best interests." Yuji had heard before from Steven that a man named "Gotou" was involved, but he tried to tell himself that it was just a coincidence. But now it seemed to be clear, his father was behind what was happening, and to Yuji, it just didn't make sense.

"Well, have you considered that perhaps he means to use the demons as a means of reviving the Japanese empire? An old guy like that might still have a bit of that Imperialistic spirit left in him." Takeshi joked simply saying whatever came to mind.

"There's j-just no way that's true. He always said he didn't want to me to grow up in the violent world he grew up in. He was about protecting peace, that's what he dedicated himself to." Just as Yuji began to withdraw into a shell of introspective angst Steven's voice announced his results.

"Done! You should be able to store two more minions than you could before. With this adjustment my Demon Summoning Program should be even more useful" Steven explained his improvements with a childlike sense of pride and accomplishment. Kazuya smiled back.

"Thank you Steven, by the way, do you need our help getting out of her?" Kazuya asked wondering how Steven was supposed to protect himself being wheelchair bound. Steven shook his head in response.

"No need, after all I have the Demon Summoning Program as well. Any danger that comes my way I am more than prepared to deal with." Steven explained in a manner that made Kazuya feel stupid for even having asked.

"I see, well in that case I suppose we should get going." Kazuya made a light wave and started to walk out.

"We're leaving? Alright we'll leave this talk for later alright?" Takeshi suggested. Yuji quickly nodded his head and joined up with the others.

"How the hell did you manage to get in here!" Just as the boys were about to leave they were confronted by an aggravated orc wielding a hand axe.

"Oh dear." Steven put on a faux worried voice seemed to neutralize the orc's attempt at intimidation. Kazuya and the others drew their weapons and prepared to fight.

"Let's move." Kazuya prepared his sword and awaited the orc's incoming attack. He charged clumsily at Kazuya and swung his axe with a notable lack of finesse or skill. Kazuya easily blocked the strike and took a step forward to counter.

"ACK!" The orc moaned in pain as Kazuya's blade dug into his left arm causing him to drop his weapon. Takeshi all the while aimed his gun for the perfect moment to shoot. However his attempt at a headshot missed and instead hit his upper chest. Regardless the shot forced him even further off balance. Yuji saw his opening and as he fell, stabbed the orc through the chest effectively killing the demon.

"Like a well programmed er… program." Steven attempted at a joke after witnessing his friends skills in combat, needless to say it fell flat.

"Err… right." Takeshi feigned amusement.

"Anyway, we'll be going for real now." Kazuya restated his intentions and the boys made their real exit.

The building turned out to only be two floors tall and so the boys were able to leave it only minutes after departing from Steven.

"So what now?" Yuji asked once they were out in the open. The environment around them was in far worse condition than Kichijoji. The only things it seemed that were still upright were the large buildings that surrounded them. Even as the afternoon settled in, an aura of gloom still hung over the city.

"Well, what we need is information first and foremost. About the location of Yuka, Gotou's involvement in this mess, the location of the other Yuka, and if possible, the location of someone who can help us fix this mess." Kazuya's mind shuffled through the few candidates he could think of to fit that last role. The only one he really had any faith in was the man named "Shirogane".

"That'd be pretty sweet yeah!" Takeshi agreed while lighting another cigarette. "Hey, there's supposed to be a nice underground mall around here. If demons seriously are tearing shit up on the surface, that may be the only safe place around. Plus there'd be plenty of people to ask there for info right?"

"Sure, sounds fun." Yuji added with a nod.

The party headed north and into a small building that sheltered the stairs into the mall. They headed down into the mall and took a quick look around.

The sounds of tons of people all busy with activity served as a massive contrast to the desolate nature of the surface. The boys struggled their way through the crowds that were bunched at the entrance.

"Well I suppose we better start our search right guys?" Yuji reminded the others who were still in awe of the amount of people down there.

"Uh, s-sure right." Kazuya tried to hide his anxiety and failed in the process.

"Yeah, no problem." Takeshi let out a lamentful sigh and put his hands in his coat pockets. Unlike Kazuya who avoided the public, he dealt with crowds regularly, though that wouldn't mean to imply that he was any good at it.

"Alright then let's try to stay together." Yuji gave the orders and with that the three began their battle charge (of sorts) into the crowd.

"Hey, lookout. Ugh! Watch it!" Takeshi aggressively charged through the mobs not caring who he shoved or where he shoved them to get through. Despite the bad impression this gave people, it meant that he was the first to break through the crowd and into the left based of the three halls.

"Sorry, pardon me, are you alright? Right this way ma'am." Yuji politely danced his way through the horde with the finesse of a gentleman. He was no stranger to public manners or dealing with large groups of people. This sent him off to the right based hall shortly after Takeshi.

"…" Kazuya remained silent as he put on his headphones and listened to music as passively moved straight through the crowd absentmindedly. He was the last to make his way through the throng of people and the only one to run right into someone. And as if willed by some cosmic rule of drama, that person happened to be a cute young girl around Kazuya's age.

"Oh! I'm sorry!" The girl apologized despite her complete lack of wrong doing.

"…ngh." Kazuya got up from the ground and retrieved his headphones which he placed around his neck. The girl bent down to see if he was okay, even going as far as to place her hand on his forehead, checking for a bruise.

"Are you alright?" The level of concern in her voice was something Kazuya could barley fathom. Once he got back on his feet he looked over at the girl and noticed something about her.

"Yes I'm fine thank you." Kazuya spouted off the canned response while subtly suggesting that she leave him be. The girl wore a long white robe with a blue dress over it. On it there was a prominently displayed picture of a cross in red that was placed proudly in the middle of her legs. He had an idea of what might happen next, and was not looking forward to having to answer.

"Excuse me, may I ask you a question?" She looked at Kazuya with her wide, innocent eyes seeming too pure their own good. While he wanted to refuse, he realized that after being so kind to him, he could at least play along.

"Sure, what is it?"

"Do you believe in god?"

And there it was, one of the most divisive questions known to mankind. And he was going to have to answer it honestly, because he knew that lying to her would only come back to haunt him in the end.

"No."

The look on her face that followed was just about what Kazuya expected, as was the reaction she gave.

"That's not right!"

"Is that so?" Kazuya snarked.

"No! It isn't!" The girl fumed at Kazuya's answer and glib response. Her posture became noticeably distressed and she started acting personally insulted. And then before Kazuya could walk away she pulled a flyer from her pocket and thrust it into his hands.

"Join our Mesia Church, together we will pray to god for salvation!" The girl was in full on evangelist mode now and Kazuya's patience had just run thin.

"I'm not here to humor your delusional notions of a deity, thanks." Kazuya unleashed his brand of cold sarcasm upon the girl who now felt as if this was a sort of personal challenge to convert him. The end result of this being that even as Kazuya leisurely walked through the halls away from her, she started to chase him.

"Hey get back here! If everyone prays to God, he will surely send a savior to rescue humanity!" The girl preached as she ran, stumbling over her robes to keep up with Kazuya's brisk pace.

"Look I've read the bible okay? When trouble comes a' knockin, god's modus operandi tends to be more along the lines of kill everyone and start over. So I doubt that he will be of any help." Kazuya continued to dismiss the girls attempts to reach him, each one fueled with a bit of the frustration he felt over his current predicament. As if he hadn't say anything at all she continued.

"In these dark times, God is humanities only hope… there is none other we can turn to!"

"Yeah, yeah, help me obi-god YHVH! You're humanities only hope!"

END OF CHAPTER VIII

A/N: Alright, I'm tired, creatively exhausted and filled with anxiety over how people will react to the direction this is going. I'm just now getting to the meat of the first act, and will be happy to sink my teeth into the conflict as it grows. I swear I've written enough scenes where the characters simply look on in disbelief/horror to fill most stories. Of course the bit at the end was fun for me to write (yes I made the Mesian girl look kind of silly, but hey 95% of her dialogue was from the game) and while I'm sure not all of you will share my sense of humor regarding well… religion… but hey, if that stuff was a touchy subject for you. You wouldn't be reading this story would you? Anyway…

Yuji: Drake…. Are you using Kazuya to parrot your own views regarding theology?

Drake: What? No!... okay maybe a little…

Yuji: That's lame man, really, really effin lame! You call yourself a writer!

Drake: Actually I don't-

Yuji: NOT THE POINT! What is important here is that you learn to keep this story true to the spirit of the game. No one wants to read some self-indulgent author tract where the whole story is constructed purely to promote the authors own particular views on a subject. That kind of thing get's called preachy, and coming from you, is kinda hypocritical don't cha think?

Kazuya: Lay off Yuji, it was just a bit of comedy. Besides if you know what happens in this game, then you realize that my statements are actually pretty accurate.

Yuji: Kazuya! Are you telling me you agree with what this guy said?

Kazuya: Actually I agree with what I said.

Yuji: Ugh, what he wrote for you to say that's what matters here!

Kazuya: So what? He writes everything you say too, especially here in this bonus sections where he isn't bound by canon or the story.

Yuji: Waaa… huh?

Suddenly an existential moment is felt by all and the forth wall is broken even further.