I apologize for the wait, but let's continue with Dual Journey! Enjoy!
In Game Date: April 19, 2009
Chapter 6: The Tower of Demise
The next day, Minato woke up and tested his legs to see if they're any better than they were yesterday. 'Still a little sore, but I think I can manage today,' he thought. 'Since today's Sunday, I have the day off. I wonder what I should do…' Minato walked over to his desk and opened a drawer, pulling out the Velvet Key that he owned. 'I could try to find whatever door this belongs to, but that would probably be fruitless…' He then glanced at the laptop on his desk. 'And the Internet is down, according to Yukari… Dang. Well, there is something I want to learn, but I can't do it here. Guess I'm going to the library then.' Minato quickly got ready and headed downstairs, where he found Mitsuru and Haumko eating breakfast.
"Morning Hamuko. Morning Mitsuru-senpai," he greeted them.
"Hi, aniki!" said Hamuko.
"Good morning, Arisato. Are your legs feeling better?" Mitsuru asked.
"They feel a lot better than yesterday, but they're still kinda sore," said Minato. "Say, senpai, is the school library open today?"
"No it isn't, Arisato. When the school is closed, like it is today, all of its facilities are closed as well," Mitsuru replied. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, I wanted to research something, but the Internet here is down. And if the school library is closed as well, that option's out. Do you know if there's a public library around here?"
"A public library? Well… no, Arisato, there isn't one. I apologize," Mitsuru apologized. "However, if you are interested in doing research, take your laptop to the Chagal Café at Paulownia Mall; they have free Wi-Fi, so you should be able to do your research there. Also, I heard their tea and coffee is c'est magnifique!"
'French? That's quite surprising.' "Parlez-vous du français?" Minato asked.
"Oui," Mitsuru nodded. "You do too?"
"Oui, senpai," Minato replied. "Grandfather taught us the basics of a few languages."
"Impressive, Arisato," Mitsuru couldn't help but smile.
"So, aniki, what exactly do you want to research?" Hamuko asked.
"Something I heard off-hand at school yesterday," said Minato. "Would either of you like to come with me?"
"I apologize, Arisato, but I already made plans with Akihiko today; we're getting a room ready for a new student," replied Mitsuru.
"A new student? Is he or she joining S.E.E.S.?" Minato wanted to know.
"Yes, he is joining S.E.E.S. You will meet him tonight," said Mitsuru.
"Ah, okay," Minato nodded. "What about you, Hamuko?"
"I have no plans today. I'll tag along," said Hamuko.
"Cool. What about Yukari-chan? I don't mind if she comes as well," Minato inquired.
"Takeba has already left for the day, Arisato," said Mitsuru.
"Oh, okay," Minato sighed. 'Aw… I has hoping to spend a little time with her.' "So, are you ready to go then, Hamuko?"
"Let me finish breakfast and we'll head out," Hamuko was finishing up her food.
"Might as well help myself then," Minato sat down and helped himself to the food left on the table.
After finishing their breakfast, the Arisatos bid farewell to Mitsuru and left for the train station. There, they boarded a train for Port Island. Once at Port Island, they used the map that had been used to locate the S.E.E.S. dorm to find Paulownia Mall. After a short time, they managed to find the mall, which was not that far from Gekkoukan.
"Heh, who would've guessed they had a mall near the school?" Hamuko remarked as they entered the mall.
"I know. I wasn't aware the mall was that close to the school when we came here as kids," said Minato.
"Yeah. Too bad that we couldn't see the school with our parents," Hamuko sighed.
"I know," Minato frowned. "Anyways, wanna take a quick look around before heading to the café?"
"Sure, aniki," said Hamuko. "I hope they have a nice shoe store here!"
'Heaven help me if there is,' he facepalmed.
After a brief exploration of the mall, Minato found himself sitting on a bench. He was waiting for Hamuko, who had managed to find a shoe store in Paulownia. 'Heavens, why did we have to find a shoe store?' he groaned. Minato sighed as he looked at a map of the mall he managed to pick up. Other than the usual stores, there were a few things that caught his eye. 'Besides stores, there's a nightclub, police station, karaoke, an antique shop, a café, an arcade, a pharmacy, a jewelry shop, and more? This place apparently has it all,' he observed.
As he waited for Hamuko to come out of the store, he spotted something out of the corner of his eye. He turned to see that Yukari was at the mall, wandering aimlessly. 'Whoo! Finally! Now I won't be bored!' he inwardly cheered.
"Yukari-chan!" Minato called out. Yukari was snapped out of her gaze to see that Minato was waving her down.
"Minato-kun?" she gasped, surprised to see him there.
"Hiya, Yukari-chan!" Minato greeted her as she came over.
"What are you doing here?" she asked as she sat down next to Minato.
"Well, I came here to go to Chagal Café to get some research done, since the dorm's Wi-Fi is down. Hamuko tagged along with me and she spotted a shoe store. I've been waiting out here since. And it's been over an hour," Minato lamented.
"Hehehe," Yukari laughed. "I feel bad for you."
"So, what are you doing here?" Minato asked.
"Well, to be honest, I was suppose to be on a date," Yukari admitted.
"A date?" Minato asked, his interest piqued.
"Yeah. Someone from third year asked me out last week and we were to have a date here today, but the idiot stood me up. Never even got a call or a text," Yukari explained.
"Any guy who stands someone up is a douche," said Minato.
"I agree. He has no idea what he's missing out on," Yukari smiled. "So, what exactly are you going to research?"
'Well, I had intended to learn about these 'Social Links'. Fool and Lovers… Why were they called 'Arcana'? Also, that comment Igor mentioned about Orpheus and Eurydice… I want to know what he meant,' thought Minato. "I wanted to learn more about our Persona," he said.
"Our Persona? You could've just asked the senpai about that," Yukari replied.
"Not exactly. My Persona… 'Orpheus'… I know I've heard that name somewhere before. I wanted to learn more about that," Minato clarified his answer.
"Oh. I've never really thought about it that way. I suppose that would be interesting," Yukari nodded.
"Yeah. There's probably a reason why I have Orpheus and why that Thanatos thing popped out of it," said Minato.
"Thanatos? Yeah, that was kinda weird," Yukari shrugged, a bit confused.
"Aniki! Yukari-chan!" Minato and Yukari saw that Hamuko had just came out of the store holding two big bags. "What's up? I hope I didn't keep you waiting," said Hamuko.
"Oh, no you didn't. I was having a ball until Yukari-chan showed up," Minato replied, sarcasm dripping off of every word.
"Aw… you're such a good aniki," Hamuko giggled. "And Yukari-chan, I didn't expect to see you here!"
"I know, same here. I was supposed to be on a date, but I was stood up," Yukari huffed.
"Oh, I hate it when a boy does that! Men are just stupid! Half the time, they're interested in us just to get into our pants! And most of the other half only sticks around as long as the relationship is 'fresh'," Hamuko ranted, wagging her finger the whole time.
"Um… Hamuko, I'm a man," Minato meekly interrupted.
"Oh!" Hamuko blushed. "Sorry. Well… MOST men are like that."
"Thanks, Hamuko-chan. That makes me feel a little better," Yukari chuckled. "Anyways, weren't you and Minato-kun supposed to do some research?"
"That's right!" Hamuko gasped. "I totally forgot! It's just that there were a lot of awesome shoes…"
"Oh, don't worry about it, Hamuko. How about we go to the café now?" Minato suggested. "Not only can I get my research done, I can get a bite to eat as well. You're welcome to join us as well, Yukari-chan."
"Hm… Sure, why not?" Yukari agreed.
"Excellent. Then let's get going," Minato got up and began the trek to the café, Hamuko and Yukari following right behind him.
As Hamuko and Yukari were drinking tea and eating sandwiches, Minato was on his laptop, surfing the Internet, a half-eaten sandwich in hand. "Any luck yet, aniki?" Hamuko took a sip of her drink.
"Well, I did find a rather comprehensive history on Orpheus," said Minato.
"Oh? Do tell," Yukari was intrigued.
"Well, it's a long story, so I'll just hit the main points. Apparently, Orpheus was a rather famous Greek poet and musician back in ancient times," Minato read off the screen.
"That would explain why he had that giant harp on his back," Hamuko mused.
"Actually, Orpheus' instrument of choice is a lyre," Minato corrected her. "His music was apparently so serene, it could soothe even the most savage of beasts."
"Wouldn't it be sweet if we met a man who was that good with music?" Hamuko asked.
"Yeah. A man capable of sweeping you off your feet with song… How romantic…" Yukari sighed.
"Anyways…" Minato rolled his eyes. "Orpheus was also one of Jason's Argonauts."
"I remember leaning about the Argonauts last year," Yukari recalled. "Their leader, Jason, set out to find the Golden Fleece so that he could reclaim his throne."
"Correct, Yukari-chan," Minato nodded. "It also says that Orpheus had a wife; her name was Eurydice."
"Oh!" Hamuko gasped. "That's the name of my Persona!"
"Your Personas are modeled after a pair of ancient lovers? And not to mention you guys are twins as well…" Yukari's face took on a serious expression.
Minato instantly recognized Yukari's train of thought. 'Oh crap! Don't tell me she's thinking what I think she's thinking!'
"Yukari-chan?" Hamuko tried to get her attention.
"Have you heard of the myth that soul mates are reincarnated as twins? You two are twins and your Personas possess the names of ancient lovers. You gotta admit, that does raise a few questions," Yukari explained.
'She said it. She just had to say it. First Igor and now Yukari-chan. Is this going to constantly happen?' Minato shook his head in disgust.
"Wait… Are you saying that… Aniki and I…" Hamuko blanched. "OH HELL NO!" she stood up and slammed her fists hard on the table, attracting the attention of the entire café. "Minato and I are NOT lovers! That's just nasty!"
'If there's any justice in this world, please let me be whisked away by the angels now,' Minato silently prayed.
"Um… sorry, Hamuko-chan…" Yukari apologized, her face lit red with embarrassment.
"Apology accepted," huffed Hamuko.
"Psst… Hamuko, sit down!" Minato harshly whispered. "People are staring at us!"
"Huh?" Hamuko took a look around to see that everyone was indeed looking in their direction with varying degrees of confusion on their faces. "Oh! Uh… nothing to see here, people! Move along now!" And she slowly sunk back into her seat, blushing just as much as Yukari, leaving an awkward silence in the cafe.
"So… um…" Minato tried to end the silence after a couple of minutes. "Anyways… Eurydice was Orpheus' wife and the daughter of Apollo, Greek god of the sun. One day, a snake bit her on the heel and she died. Orpheus ventured into the Underworld to reclaim her. By using his music, he was able to persuade the rulers of the Underworld, Hades and Persephone, to let him take her back to the realm of the living on the condition that he walk in front of her and not look back until both were back in realm of the living. However, Orpheus was impatient and once he was back in the living realm, he looked back, forgetting that both of them had to be in the living realm. He only glimpsed upon her for a second before Hermes, the messenger of the gods, whisked her away, never to be seen again. Orpheus would eventually meet his end by being torn into pieces by the female followers of Dionysus, the god of wine; the only things left from the carnage were Orpheus' head and his lyre. Well, that'd explain the organic head and mechanical body…"
"That's so sad!" Hamuko was crying into a napkin.
"Wow, poor guy. I certainly help the same thing doesn't happen to you, Minato-kun. And I certainly wouldn't want Hamuko-chan to suffer like Eurydice did," Yukari expressed her worry.
"We'll be fine, Yukari-chan, don't worry," said Hamuko.
"Yeah. It'll take more than a mob of girls to take me down," Minato smirked.
"Okay," Yukari nodded.
"So, Yukari-chan, what's the name of your Persona?" Minato asked. "I wonder what kind of history it might have."
"Well…" Yukari turned away, blushing. "My Persona's name is Io."
"Io?" Minato repeated the name.
"Yukari-chan, why do you look ashamed? Do you already know?" Hamuko asked out of concern for her new friend.
"Well, I…" Yukari turned redder. "Kinda."
"Ah, here's Io," Minato found what he was looking for. "Well, it says here that Io was a nymph and one of Hera's priestesses. Zeus seduced her and made her his mistress. When Hera found out, Zeus turned her into a cow to hide her away. Hera then tried to drive Io to madness, but Io managed to flee to Egypt, where Zeus restored her. She then married a pharaoh and her grandkids eventually returned to Greece. In some versions of the Io mythology, she ended up becoming the goddess Isis, Egyptian goddess of motherhood, magic, and fertility."
"Yeah, that's pretty much it," Yukari timidly nodded.
"What's there to be ashamed of? I find it kinda cool," Minato smirked.
"Same here!" Hamuko agreed.
"Well… um… thanks…" Yukari blushed.
"So, Yukari-chan, do you know the names of the senpais' Persona?" Minato asked.
"Hm…" Yukari thought for a moment. "I think Mitsuru-senpai's is 'Penthesilea' and Akihiko-senpai's is 'Polydeucus'."
"Okay…" Minato's fingers flew on the keyboard, searching for information. "Ah, here we go," he smiled as he finished off the sandwich in his hand. "Penthesilea was the sister of Hippolyta, the Amazonia queen, and the daughter of Ares, Greek god of war. She had accidentally killed Hippolyta with a spear, which caused her so much grief, that she wanted to die, but her honor as an Amazon demanded that she couldn't die by her own hand and had to die in battle. To do so, she entered the Trojan War on the side of the Trojans and was slain by the Greek hero Achilles, who had fallen in love with her."
"That's just as sad as Orpheus and Eurydice," Hamuko sniffed.
"Man, why do these things have to be so depressing?" Yukari sighed.
"I honestly have no clue," said Minato. "As for Polydeucus, or Pollux as he's better know, he is the son of Zeus and twin brother of Castor. However, the twins had different fathers, leaving Pollux immortal and Castor mortal. When Castor died, Pollux pleaded with Zeus to allow him to share his immortality with his brother so that they could be together. Zeus honored his wish and transformed them into the Gemini, the star constellation."
"Okay, seriously. What is with our Personas and having tragic histories with them?" Hamuko asked. "And they're all Greek at that."
"It is odd that they're all Greek. Why that is, I don't know. What I do know is that the greatest heroes often are born from tragedy, Hamuko," Minato replied. "Tragedy breeds resolve. Resolve breeds revolution and change."
"I suppose that's true, but still…" Hamuko sighed.
"Yeah, I know. I wish tragedy didn't occur at all," Minato finished her train of thought. "Anyways, that's all the Personas then."
"What about Thanatos?" Yukari suddenly asked.
"Thanatos?" Hamuko asked, wondering what Yukari was talking about.
"Thantaos. The name of that Persona that exploded out of Orpheus," Yukari explained. "Remember? It was that one with the katana that slew that dragon.
"Oh yeah!" she remembered. "What was up with that?" Hamuko asked, curious as well.
"Honestly, I don't really know," Minato shrugged.
"So, what about Thanatos? What's its story?" Yukari asked, curiosity biting at her.
Minato glanced back at his screen and searched for info on Thantatos. "Well, I'll be damned."
"What is it, aniki?" Hamuko asked.
"Thanatos is the personification of Death itself…" he whispered. "Son of Nyx, goddess of the night, and Erebus, god of darkness, and twin brother of Hypnos, god of sleep, he basically served the purpose of Grim Reaper."
"Wow… That's kinda scary," said Yukari.
"So, what does that make you, aniki? The Avatar of Death? The Angel of Death?" Hamuko asked.
"Heavens, I hope not!" Minato exclaimed.
"Yeah, being the harbinger of Death doesn't sound exciting…" Hamuko took another sip of her drink.
"Let's just hope our Personas are not predictions of our future…" Yukari wished, hoping for the best.
That evening, Minato, Hamuko, and Yukari wandered into the dorm lounge after spending the rest of the day hanging out. As they entered the dorm, they found Mitsuru sitting in a chair, reading a book.
"Good evening," she greeted them. "Have any of you seen Akihiko?"
"No, we haven't," Minato replied. "Do you need him?"
"I sent him out to get some air freshener. We have a new student moving in today, and his room is rather… rank right now," Mitsuru explained.
"Wait. We have a new student moving in?" Hamuko asked.
"He's getting settled in as we speak. He'll be down any moment now," said Mitsuru.
At that moment, Akihiko walked into the dorm, carrying a couple of cans of air freshener.
"Oh, hi guys," Akihiko waved. "Mitsuru, I brought the air freshener. Where's our new resident?"
"Still upstairs, getting settled," Mitsuru informed him.
"So, who is this new guy?" Yukari asked the question on their minds.
"You'll see…" Akihiko nodded.
"Hey, senpai! Has Akihiko-senpai returned with that air freshener yet? My room smells like ass!" Everyone turned to the stairs to see Junpei walking down them, his hands behind his head in a lazy manner.
"JUNPEI!" Yukari screeched out, completely shocked to see him.
'What? Junpei is the new guy? Are the senpai serious? He seems to be a good guy and all, but…'
"Everyone, this is Iori Junpei, of class 2-F," Mitsuru introduced Junpei as he walked up to the group. "From today on, he will be a resident of this dorm."
"Whazzup, everyone?" Junpei grinned.
"He's staying HERE? You've got to be kidding me!" Yukari exclaimed.
"Is he really staying here?" Hamuko asked.
"I bumped into him the other night. He has the potential, but he just awakened to it recently…" Akihiko explained the situation. "I told him about us and he agreed to help."
"You have the potential? For real?" Yukari cried out in disbelief.
"He found me cryin' like a baby at the convenience store, surrounded by a bunch of coffins. I don't remember much, but man, that was embarrassing!" Junpei recalled. "He said that's, ya know, completely normal… in the beginning, like, being confused and not remembering anything. Did ya guys know that?"
"Yeah. My first few experiences in the Dark Hour are fuzzy at best," said Minato.
"Same here," Hamuko added.
"Oh, that's good," Junpei sighed in relief. "You should, since you're all Persona-users. But man, I was shocked to find out about you guys. I had no idea and I'm glad I'm not the only one. It could get kinda lonely, ya know."
"I agree," Minato interrupted. "The Dark Hour can be quite lonely, especially when you're the only one aware of it."
"I bet you're all stoked, right?" Junpei exclaimed. "Havin' me join and all…"
'Well, I guess he deserves a chance,' Minato quirked an eyebrow.
"Huh? Uh, yeah…" Yukari replied in a non-convincing tone.
"Well, we'll see," Hamuko said in a so-so tone.
"Well, enough with the introductions," Akihiko interrupted them. "I think we're about ready…"
'Ready for what?' Minato was on alert.
"Oh, are we going to do something? Sweetness!" Junpei jumped for joy.
"What exactly are we going to do, senpai?" Hamuko asked.
"With this many people, we can start exploring THAT place," Akihiko answered Hamuko's question.
"That place?" Minato asked.
"Wait… You mean… Tartarus?" Yukari seemed to fill in the blanks.
'Tartarus? Where did I hear that word before?' the word rang a bell. 'Wait! Are they talking about…'
"Tartarus? What's that? It sounds like toothpaste," said Junpei.
"I assure you, Iori, that Tartarus is not toothpaste. It is a place and we believe that we can find the reason for the Dark Hour there," Mitsuru answered the question.
"I hope so…" Yukari sighed.
"The Chairman will give us the details tomorrow night, so be ready," Akihiko warned them.
"I advise you all to get a good night's rest for tomorrow will be a huge day for you all," Mitsuru advised them; with that, she turned on her heels and went upstairs.
"I suggest spending this time getting to know each other. After all, starting tomorrow, you'll all be fighting side by side," said Akihiko. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have something to take care." And Akihiko went upstairs as well, but not before giving Junpei the air freshener.
"Well, now what?" Hamuko asked.
"I still need to get settled in. Anyone wanna help?" Junpei asked.
"I'll help you, Junpei-kun," Hamuko responded, and she and Junpei went upstairs as well.
Yukari turned to Minato, who had a strange expression on his face. "You okay, Minato-kun?" she asked.
"We're going to a place called Tartarus? What is it?" Minato asked.
"What?" Yukari was caught off guard. "Well, the senpai never told me much about it; they have told me that it is a place that only appears during the Dark Hour and that Shadows regularly come out of there. I've seen it once and it's quite a sight, and not in a good way. Why do you ask?"
"Because, I remember hearing about a place called 'Tartarus' in Greek mythology during today's research," Minato explained. "It's a pit that resides below even the lowest levels of Hades, or as you may know it, Hell. Tartarus was said to contain many prisoners, including may of the Titans, even Cronos, father of Zeus."
"What?" Yukari gasped, covering her mouth with her hands. "You serious?"
"I am. Whatever this Tartarus place is, I do know one thing," Minato sighed. "It's bound to be hell."
In Game Date: April 20, 2009
After a good night's rest, Minato arrived at Gekkoukan feeling great. As he and Hamuko approached the school gates, they overheard a couple of students talking. "Good morning. I'm always so drowsy on Monday mornings…" the girl yawned as she greeted her friend.
"Yeah, me too," her friend replied. "The only thing you can do is to sleep through first period. Wait…" she recalled something. "Tomorrow is when we have morning assembly!"
"Uggh…" the first girl groaned. "I'm too lazy for that. I'll just pretend I didn't hear that." As the bell rang, the two gossiping girls ran off to their classes.
"Hey, Hamuko, what was that assembly they're talking about?" Minato asked.
"Oh, that's right. While you were out cold, they held Student Council elections. Tomorrow's assembly is to announce who won. The new President will be giving a speech as well. Rumor has it that Mitsuru-senpai is our new Student Council President," Hamuko informed him.
"Really now? Well, that's bound to be interesting," Minato smirked. Another bell rang, forcing the twins to pick up the pace to avoid being late.
After a bout of morning classes, lunch had arrived. Junpei and Minato were striking up a friendly conversation while eating from their bento. Hamuko was drinking a can of soda as she read over the notes she had taken that morning. Yukari was struggling to stay awake, so she stood up to wake herself up. "Whoo!" Yukari yawned as she stretched. "I thought I was gonna fall asleep in there."
"I actually did. I don't know what is about the classroom, but it always makes me sleepy," Minato responded.
Just then, the door opened and Mitsuru walked in, getting everyone's attention. Whispers of 'Oh my gosh!' and 'Why is she here?' echoed in the room as she approached Minato and company.
"Can I have a minute?" Mitsuru asked the group. Everyone nodded, to which Mitsuru smiled. "Good. I ask that all of you come to the lounge on the fourth floor when you get back to the dorm. I have something to tell everyone."
'I'm going to assume this is about Tartarus…' Minato thought.
"Oh, are we having that talk?" Junpei asked.
"I'll save the details for later," Mitsuru replied. "See you there." With that, Mitsuru left as quickly as she arrived.
'Damn. I barely heard any emotion in her voice,' Minato noticed.
"Wow, she didn't waste any time leaving…" Junpei observed.
"She's meticulously efficient," Hamuko agreed with him.
"She's probably busy with things like Student Council, unlike us," Yukari scoffed, a dirty look on her face.
'I'm guessing all is not sunshine and daisies between those two. I wonder why?'
"Whoa, Yuka-tan!" Junpei held up his hand in defense. "Do I sense some hostility?"
"Well, it's not that I don't like her…" she defended herself.
"Then what is it?" Hamuko asked.
"Well, it's just that she's just… well… I hate it when she looks down on us. She looks at us like we're her damn pawns and not people," Yukari admitted.
'Oh, it's an inferiority complex? Or is it just plain jealousy?' he deduced.
"Yukari-chan… Grandfather taught us that there are all kinds of people in the world and that not all of them are going to compatible with you. While we can try and change them, sometimes it's easier and for the best to just suck it up and let them change on their own for change cannot be forced," said Hamuko. "Besides, there's always a reason someone acts the way they do."
"Wow, Hamu-chan. That was… inspiring," Junpei wiped a tear from his eye.
"Hamuko-chan…" Yukari sighed.
"Wow, imoto, that was rather impressive and mature." Minato complimented her.
"Thanks," Hamuko smiled.
"…I guess you're right," said Yukari. "Doesn't mean I have to like it, though…"
After school, Minato, Hamuko, Yukari, and Junpei quickly returned to the dorm for the meeting. When they arrived at the lounge on the fourth floor, they found Ikutsuki, Mitsuru, and Akihiko already there.
"Excellent. Everyone's here," Ikutsuki smiled. "Please. Sit down." All four teens took their seats. "I'd like your undivided attention. For the longest time, Mitsuru and Akihiko were the only Persona-users we had. But, that number recently jumped to six. Therefore…" Ikutsuki rested his chin on his hands. "Starting tonight at midnight, I'd like to commence the exploration of Tartarus."
"So, we're going on an expedition?" Hamuko asked.
"Exactly," Ikutuski replied.
"Yeah! I love exploring!" Hamuko chirped.
"Sorry… I asked this yesterday, but what's this 'Tartarus' thing again?" Junpei rubbed his head in embarrassment.
"You haven't seen it, Junpei?" Yukari asked.
"Hm?" Junpei seemed confused.
"I doubt so, Yukari-chan. He only just awoke to his power. And Hamuko and I haven't seen it yet, even though we've been here for a couple of weeks now," said Minato.
"It's no surprise, since it only appears during the Dark Hour," Ikutuski added.
"The Dark Hour?" Junpei was unfamiliar with the term.
"Remember when everyone turned to coffins, nothing would work, water turned to blood, and everything was illuminated green?" Minato asked Junpei, who nodded. "That was the Dark Hour. Hamuko and I refer to it as Green Midnight, but the Dark Hour is the official name."
"That is correct, Arisato," Mitsuru confirmed Minato's answer.
"Ah, okay, I get it," Junpei nodded.
"Tartarus appears during the Dark Hour, just like the Shadows. Interesting, huh?" Akihiko evilly smiled. "And it's the perfect place for us to train. You can think of it as a Shadow nest."
"Whoa… Their nest, huh?" Junpei said with amazement.
'Do the Shadows really come from Tartarus?' Minato asked himself. 'I know Yukari-chan said a bunch of Shadows come from there, but is it really their birthplace?'
"But, Senpai, what about your injury?" Yukari asked Akihiko.
'Wait, Akihiko-senpai is injured?'
"Thanks to some healing from me, Akihiko is just fine now. However, he will be temporarily benched as punishment for bringing the dragon to the dorm," Mitsuru shot Akihiko a death glare.
'Damn, that woman gets scarier every time she does that!'
"Yeah, I know," Akihiko looked away sheepishly.
"Well, I'm sure he won't complain, as long as you don't go too far in," said Ikutsuki. "Since we're dealing with Shadows, Tartarus isn't something we can avoid."
"Is Tartarus really all that important?" Minato asked.
"We believe so," Mitsuru answered.
"Relax, I've got your backs," Junpei assured everyone.
"As long as we work together, we should be fine," Hamuko added.
"I'm not so sure about this…" Yukari sighed, doubt evident in her tone.
'Doubt? Why is Yukari doubting herself?' Minato noticed 'I mean, if anyone, I would think it'd be my imoto doubting herself, with the Evokers and everything… And she did seem pretty competent during our fight with the dragon when the chips fell…' "What about you, Chairman-san? Are you coming along as well?" Minato asked.
"I'll stay here. As you know, I can't summon a Persona," Ikutsuki replied.
'Bleh. I bet that even if he did, he'd make us go without him,' Minato mocked him.
The group spent the next several hours getting ready for the expedition. When eleven o'clock came around, the group gathered their Evokers and, minus Mitsuru, departed the dorm for Iwatodai Station, Mitsuru saying she'd meet them there. Once at the station, they boarded the train and set off for Port Island. After arriving at Tatsumi Port Island, SEES left for Tartarus' location. After a few minutes of walking, Minato decided to ask something that had been bugging him.
"Senpai, where exactly is Tartarus?" Minato asked.
"We'll be there shortly, so be patient," Akihiko assured him.
"Okay," Minato replied. 'But… this is the way to school. Don't tell me that… No, that'd just be WAY too weird…'
After a bit more walking, the group arrived at the gates of Gekkoukan High School. Mitsuru was waiting outside, standing next to a motorcycle with audio equipment attached to it. "Wow, that's a sick motorcycle, senpai!" Junpei exclaimed. "That yours?"
"This is indeed my motorcycle, Iori," Mitsuru answered. "But do NOT touch it or I will execute you!"
'Shoot, this woman is always scary!' Minato took a step back. 'But she rides a motorcycle? Closet adrenaline junkie?'
"Anyways… Welcome to Tartarus," Mitsuru informed them.
"This is it? THIS is the place?" Junpei seemed surprised. "Why HERE?"
"Senpai, are you pulling my leg?" Hamuko was skeptical.
"You can't be serious. Tartarus is here, at school?" Minato voiced his skepticism.
"Just wait a few minutes; it's almost midnight," Akihiko assured them. The group just stood there at Gekkoukan's gates for the next couple of minutes, awaiting the Dark Hour. Suddenly, as the clock struck twelve, everything was illuminated green, signaling the Dark Hour. But that was not all, as the ground began to quake.
"What the hell is going on?" Junpei shouted.
"Look!" Hamuko pointed toward the school.
Everyone looked towards the school to see that something was sprouting out from it like a flower. A mass of twisted steel, concrete, glass, and various other materials began to reach towards the sky like a beanstalk. After a few moments, the twisted tower stopped growing and stood there, reaching to the moon. "What the devil is that?" Minato demanded to know.
"This is Tartarus, the labyrinth that reveals itself during the Dark Hour," Mitsuru explained.
"THAT is Tartarus?" Hamuko pointed towards the giant monstrosity.
"It is," Misturu nodded.
"Holy crap…" the twins whispered at the same time.
"Labyrinth? What are you talking about? What happened to our school?" Junpei was in a panic.
"Calm down, Iori. Once the Dark Hour passes, everything returns to normal and Tartarus fades away," Mitsuru attempted to calm it down.
Junpei suddenly whipped his attention to Akihiko. "This is the 'nest' you were talking about? But why? Why'd our school turn into a giant tower?" Everyone was silent, unwilling or unable to give an answer.
'That is a good question, Junpei. Why is Tartarus HERE of all places?' Minato asked himself.
After a couple of moments, Junpei was able to reel in his hysteria and faced Mitsuru. "You don't know either?" he asked her.
"…No," she replied after a moment of hesitation.
'Wait. Why did hesitate in answering? Does she know?'
"I'm sure it's complicated. Who cares anyways?" Yukari brushed it off. "It's not like it would change our minds about fighting."
"Oh, but it would, Yukari-chan," Hamuko interrupted. "What if this tower is the only thing holding back the true evils that the Dark Hour brings? What if by messing with what's inside, we makes thing worse? What if this came from some madman's disturbed mind? What if the whole reason this Tartarus and the Dark Hour are here is because this was the lesser of two evils?" Everyone looked at Hamuko like she had grown two heads. Mitsuru, in particular, looked like she was about to pass out.
'Strange as Hamuko's rant seems, she does have a point…' Minato mentally acknowledged.
"Just kidding!" Hamuko broke the silence while chuckling. "I'm sure it's nothing serious." Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and Mitsuru regained her composure.
"Hamuko-chan! Don't scare me like that!" Yukari fussed at her.
"Sorry, Yukari-chan," Hamuko apologized. She then turned and winked at Minato.
'Ah, I see what happened. Good one, imoto. Get these people wondering. Grandfather always said to never be satisfied with a given answer. Always search for the truth,' Minato praised his sister.
"Well, maybe we'll find out the reason now," said Akihiko. "Mitsuru and I have only gone in to take a peek; this will be our first time exploring it. Exciting, isn't it?" Akihiko slammed his fist into his free hand. "There has to be some sort of clue in here about the Dark Hour…"
Mitsuru walked up to Akihiko and put a hand on his shoulder. "Akihiko, while I do respect your enthusiasm, you will NOT be accompanying us today, understand?"
"I know," Akihiko frowned like a kid whose candy had been taken away. "You don't have to remind me."
'Damn. She has him whipped. Does that mean there's something going on between those two?' Minato let out a light chuckle.
"All right then. Everyone, let's go!" Mitsuru ordered as she walked over to her motorcycle. She then began walking it into Tartarus, Akihiko right behind her. Yukari and Junpei were behind them, leaving the twins to take the rear.
"Ready, aniki?" Hamuko asked.
"Ready," Minato replied. They then walked through the double doors into Tartarus.
Inside, the six of them took a look around. There was a giant staircase that went to the next floor, the entryway being a part of a clock's face. To the left of the staircase was a miniature golden grandfather clock. Near the entryway into Tartarus was an orange device that had green light shining from its platform.
'Wonder what those things are for?' Minato wondered.
"Whoa… It's just as cool on the inside…" Junpei stared in awe.
'Wow. He got over his shock fast. Is he like Hamuko?'
"It sure is creepy…" Yukari shuddered.
"It feels odd, yet nostalgic for some reason," Hamuko added.
"Nostalgic?" Yukari asked.
"Yeah. I can't really explain it, but I feel comfortable here," Hamuko replied.
"You know, imoto, I kinda feel the same way," Minato added. "Sure, it's creepy, yet it feels like a second home to me."
"Dude, that's just weird," Junpei noted.
"Well, I'm guessing that spending a decade in the Dark Hour makes it feel like second nature to them," Mitsuru theorized.
"I guess so…" Hamuko shrugged.
'This place really does seem nostalgic. I don't know why, but… it feels comfortable here,' Minato sighed.
"So, where are we exploring?" Hamuko asked.
"We'll be exploring the labyrinth beyond the doorway at the top of the stairs," Mitsuru pointed at the clock face at the top of the stairs.
"First, we'll have the four of you get a feel for this place," Akihiko informed them. "Why don't you go have a look around?"
"What?" Yukari shouted in shock. "By ourselves?"
'Just me, imoto, Yukari-chan, and Junpei? Well, I am confident in my skills and Hamuko's skills. I saw that Yukari-chan was okay with a bow. However, I honestly have no idea how Junpei will fare. And then there's the whole 'Persona' thing,' Minato analyzed the situation.
"We're not asking you to go very far, and I'll be feeding you information from here," Mitsuru assured Yukari.
"So you two didn't plan on coming in the first place?" Junpei asked.
"Well, I didn't think Akihiko-senpai would, because of Mitsuru-senpai's punishment," Hamuko answered. "But why would Mitsuru-senpai not be coming along?" She then turned to Mitsuru. "And how exactly will you be feeding us information?"
"With these." Mitsuru extended her hand. In her hand were three earpieces.
'Mini-radios?' Minato recognized them. 'Well, that'd explain where Yukari-chan got hers during the night the Shadows attacked and who she was talking to.'
"Take them and I can communicate with each of you," Mitsuru explained.
"And how will we be able to communicate with you?" Hamuko asked.
"Each transmitter also contains a small, yet powerful microphone. I'll be able to hear any and everything you say," said Mitsuru.
"Ah, okay," Hamuko nodded as she put in her earpiece. Everyone else did the same. Mitsuru then took a microphone from her motorcycle.
"Testing, testing, un, deux, trois," Minato heard Mitsuru speak from the earpiece.
"I hear you loud and clear, senpai," Minato whispered, his hand covering his mouth.
"Excellent. It seems that both ways are working properly," Mitsuru smiled. "Also, would each of you please take one of these?" Mitsuru reached back into her motorcycle and pulled out a small bag. Everyone reached into the bag and pulled out metallic wristbands.
"Metallic wristbands?" Minato asked as he looked it over. "With a screen on it?"
"That is correct. Put them on and I'll explain what they do," Mitsuru ordered.
Everyone put on their armbands and waited for Mitsuru's explanation.
"Now, if you'll take a look at the screen," Mitsuru told them.
Minato took a look at the screen on the wristband. 'What the heck?'
"Senpai, what is this I'm looking at?" Minato asked.
"You would be looking at your 'stats'," said Mitsuru. "The Kirijo Group made these in order for Persona-users to keep track of how they are doing. These wristbands will analyze you and then project your stats on the screen." Mitsuru took Minato's wrist and pointed at the screen. "The screen lists your Persona's name. It also lists your level, stamina, and magic; your stamina is represented by 'Hit Points' and your magical power is represented by 'Spirit Points'."
'Hm… There's Orpheus' name. It says I'm level two. I have seventy-two Hit Points and forty-nine Spirit Points.' Minato read the screen.
"Ah, I see it, senpai," Hamuko nodded. "It shows Eurydice's name, that I'm level two, I have seventy Hit Points, and fifty Spirit Points."
"Hey! Mine's blank!" Junpei complained.
"That is because you have yet to summon your Persona. The wristbands only work if you have already summoned your Persona," Mitsuru explained.
"Oh…" Junpei blushed in embarrassment.
"Senpai, what exactly do these numbers means?" Minato asked.
"Your level shows how strong you are. As you fight in more battles, you'll get stronger and your level will go up. Your Hit Points represent your stamina. As you get injured, that number will go down. Should it reach zero, you'll be unable to fight and most likely be knocked out. And if you're injured further after that, well… you don't wanna know," Akihiko explained, which made the four rookies gulp. "Spirit Points represent your magic. As you use spells, your 'SP' will decrease. Should you run out of SP, you cannot use spells."
"Wait, we can use magic?" Junpei asked.
"Should your Persona possess such skills, then yes," Mitsuru nodded.
"AWESOME!" Junpei cheered.
"Anyways, Arisato, if you press the button on your wristband, you'll go to a second screen," Mitsuru informed him.
"Oh?" Minato asked. He pressed the button found below the screen. The screen changed to list a different set of numbers.
"Strength: 2? Magic: 2? Endurance: 2? Agility: 4? Luck: 3 percent? What is this?" Minato was puzzled.
"Those would be your stats," Akihiko explained. "Each stat reflects how strong you are in certain areas. For example, Strength is how effective physical attacks and skills are. The higher the number, the more damage your weapons and Persona's physical skills will inflict."
"Sweet! So, the higher my Strength is, the more ass I can kick?" Junpei grinned.
"That is correct," Akihiko nodded.
"Wicked!" Junpei quaked in excitement.
"Magic is how strong your magical skills are. The higher, the better," Mitsuru continued to explain. "Endurance reflects your ability to resist attacks. Agility is a combination of how fast you are and how accurate you are. Luck, unlike the others, is measured as a percentage. It accounts for factors beyond your control. We have learned that, as this percentage increases, the more likely your Persona is to influence events in your favor."
"Wow…" Hamuko gasped.
"A question, semapi?" Minato interrupted.
"What is it, Arisato?" Mitsuru wondered what Minato wanted.
"Why is the Kirijo Group so invested in helping with dealing the Shadows, the Dark Hour, and Tartarus? The Evokers, the Dark Hour tech, the wristbands… What's the story, Mitsuru-senpai?" Minato interrogated her.
"The Kirijo Group is dedicated to helping everyone around the world. The Shadows and the Dark Hour are a threat, and to ensure the future of the Kirijo Group and the world, the Group is dedicated to doing whatever it can stopping them," Mitsuru explained with a straight face.
'That does sound logical. People and corporations often do good to protect their own interests,' Minato acknowledged. "Okay, senpai, I understand. I hope you don't mind me constantly asking questions."
"No, no, Arisato, its okay," said Mitsuru. "I understand that you don't want to be walking into a situation blind."
'Still, I should stop digging for now. Between Hamuko and myself, we've probably unnerved her,' he thought. "Thank you, senpai," Minato nodded.
"Anyways, we're going to appoint a leader to make any necessary decisions," Akihiko suddenly announced.
"For real? One of us?" Junpei gasped.
"That is correct. Akihiko, I'll let you choose," said Mitsuru.
"Okay, Mitsuru," Akihiko looked over the four rookies.
"Me me me! Pick me!" Junpei waved his hand in the air.
Akihiko spent another moment observing everyone before coming to a decision. "You're in charge," he pointed to Minato.
"Me?" Minato asked, wanting to be sure.
"Yes," Akihiko confirmed his situation.
'Well, I guess it makes sense. Junpei is too new and easily excited. Yukari, while competent, has very little battle experience. And Hamuko is too dependent on me to be a leader,' Minato reasoned. 'I've never really liked taking the lead; I've always been more of a follower, assistant, or ideas man, not an executive. But, I'll do what I can to make sure everyone makes it through okay.' "All right, Akihiko-senpai," Minato nodded. "I'll do my best."
"Excellent," Akihiko smirked.
"W-W-Wait! Why him?" Junpei complained. "He doesn't look like a leader!"
'What exactly is a leader suppose to look like? Cloud Strife? Sora? The Emperor of Japan? Zack Fair? Son Goku?'
"He has fought them before, Junpei," Yukari came to his defense. "And Hamuko-chan as well."
"Seriously?" Junpei was shocked.
"That's true, but there's another reason," said Akihiko. "You two…" he pointed to Junpei and Yukari as he drew his Evoker and put it to his temple. "Can you summon your Persona without any difficulties, like he can?"
"Yeah! Of course I can!" Junpei boasted.
"I think so," Yukari nodded, doubt laced in her voice. "I've done it before…"
'Yukari-chan doesn't seem very confident in herself. I'll have to help her with that.'
"What about you, Hamuko-san?" Akihiko turned his attention to the female Arisato. "Is your fear going to get in your way?"
"I'll do my best, Akihiko-senpai," Hamuko promised.
"And I'll be helping her every step of the way," Minato added.
"These are Shadows we're talking about here," Akihiko lowered his Evoker. "Without your Persona, you're screwed."
"Remember, senpai, we fought these Shadows more than once over the last decade," Minato motioned to himself to and Hamuko. "And we didn't have Personas then."
"Oh, that's right. I apologize. Regardless, without your Persona, you'll be a liability in there, endangering yourself and your team," Akihiko warned them.
"If you want to back out, now's your last chance. Back out now and we won't think any less of you. However, once you ascend those stairs, you will be obligated to help solve the mysteries of Tartarus and the Dark Hour," warned Mitsuru.
"I won't back down!" Junpei pounded his chest.
"I'm ready," Yukari nodded, holding her hands to her chest.
"Bring it!" Hamuko cheered.
"Let's do this," Minato solemnly nodded.
"Excellent. Before you go, here's some supplies," Mitsuru gave Minato a small burlap bag. "This has some first aid equipment, doses of adrenaline, smelling salts, and a few special 'surprises' for the Shadows. You may need them, either now or in the future."
"Thanks, Mitsuru-senpai," Minato slung the bag over his shoulder.
"Then, if you would proceed up the stairs, we shall begin the exploration of Tartarus," Mitsuru ordered.
As the party of four approached the stairs, Minato heard a weird sound. 'What was that? It sounded like a mix between a loud 'pop' and a phone ringing,' he observed. Minato took a quick look around and noticed a rather peculiar glowing blue door off to the left. 'Where did that come from? I don't recall seeing that when I came in. Is that the source of that weird sound?' The Velvet Key in his pocket began vibrating slightly, as if to alert him to something. 'Wait. What's with the key? Is that my way into the Velvet Room?'
Minato began walking towards the blue door. "Aniki?" Hamuko called out. "Where are you going?"
"I think I might've found my door. Gimme a minute," Minato told her.
"Door?" Hamuko cocked her head in confusion.
Minato approached the door and took out the Velvet Key. He put the key in the lock and turned the key. The lock opened with a soft 'pop'. "Well, I'll be. This is my lucky day. Let's see what Long Nose-san is up to," Minato spoke to himself, grinning madly. Minato opened the door and stepped inside. At the other side of the door, he found himself inside the elevator known as the Velvet Room once more. Igor and Elizabeth were waiting inside, like the previous visits.
"I've been waiting for you," Igor greeted him as Minato took a seat. "The time has come for you to wield your power. The tower that you are about to venture into… How did it come to be? For what purpose does it exist? Regrettably, you are not yet capable of answering these questions. That is why you must be made aware of the nature of your power."
"Oh? So, are you going to tell me what this 'Wild Card' ability I have is?" Minato asked.
"Your power is unique. It's like the number zero: it's empty, but at the same time hold infinite possibilities," Igor told Minato.
"The number zero? What's that suppose to mean?" Minato asked.
"It means that you, my boy, are able to possess multiple Personas and summon them as needed," Igor explained.
"I get multiple Personas? What does that make me, a Persona Trainer? Or maybe a Tamer or Summoner?" Minato asked.
"If you want, you can refer to yourself to all those titles," Igor smirked.
"But I really get multiple Personas?" Minato wanted confirmation.
"That is correct," Igor answered. "Most Persona users have only one Persona; however, a lucky few, such as yourself, are able to use multiple Personas. Exactly how many you can have, I honestly don't know. Yet, with those Personas, you will be able to stand up against the trials to come. And when you have defeated your enemies, you will see the faces of possibility before you. There may be times when they are difficult to grasp, but do not fear; seize what you have earned."
"Huh? The faces of possibility? What's that?" Minato asked.
"You'll see," Igor smiled.
"So, if I'm allowed to have multiple Persona, how many can I have on me at once?" Minato was curious.
"As of right now, six; however, as you grow in strength and power, so will the amount of Personas you can hold and control," Igor smiled. "I feel that out time is growing short; your friends and allies outside are waiting for you."
"That's right! They're waiting for me," Minato realized.
"Then go, and embrace your destiny. When you have the time, please come again; I'll tell you then about my true role, the manner in which I can best assist you," said Igor.
"Okay then. Will there be another entrance to the Velvet Room besides Tartarus and my dreams?" Minato asked as he got up.
"There will be and you will be alerted when that entrance is ready. Until then, farewell," Igor waved Minato off.
"Please come again," Elizabeth bowed and Minato walked out the door.
Minato found himself back in Tartarus, in front of the Velvet Room's door. He turned around to see that Yukari, Junpei, and Hamuko were all standing there, looking confused. "What's up?" he waved at them.
"Hey, are you alright, Minato-kun?" Yukari asked.
"Yeah, what's up? You look like a zombie," Junpei added.
"I'm fine. I just entered this door I found," Minato replied.
"Door? What door?" Yukari asked. "There's no door here."
"Man, you loco or something?" Junpei joked.
"Aniki, there's no door there. You okay?" Hamuko asked with concern.
'They can't see the door? Oh, great. Just what I need; more evidence that I need a first-class ticket to the loony bin,' Minato rubbed his forehead.
"You seem out of it. You sure you okay?" Yukari asked.
"I'm fine Yukari-chan, don't worry," Minato smiled. "I just happened to find the door that my key goes to."
"Huh? What are you talking about?" Junpei was puzzled.
"It's nothing important, Junpei," Minato assured him.
"Well, if you say so," Junpei replied. "But get your head in the game! You're supposed to be our leader."
"If you're done procrastinating, then can we move things along?" Mitsuru called out to them.
"I apologize, Mitsuru-senpai," Minato apologized. "Is everyone ready?"
"I'm ready, Minato-kun," Yukari hung her quiver on her back and gripped her bow.
"Let's go!" Junpei swung a katana Mitsuru gave him the air.
"Let's do this, aniki," Hamuko swung the naginata Yukari had given her over her shoulder.
"All right then," Minato took hold of his sword from the Shadow attack. "Let's roll."
"Good luck, you guys; you'll need it," Akihiko waved them off.
'Get ready, Shadows, Beasts of the Night, or whatever the hell you are, get ready. We're coming for you,' Minato smirked as he, Yukari, Hamuko, and Junpei ascended the stairs into Tartarus.
Next chapter, we start the exploration! Enjoy!