Author's Note: This story is based on the best ending of Persona 3: Portable, following the female MC's story path. It includes material from Persona 3: FES, usually small details I felt should have been kept in P3P. In this fanfic's backstory, The Answer didn't play out exactly the same way it did in-game. But a similar storyline did occur, which will be explained as this fanfic progresses.
This story draws on the best ending of Persona 4 as well. It's a crossover, however ninety-nine percent of the story is from the P3 characters' perspectives. For the most part, the P4 characters only indirectly affect the story.
About Death: The SMT wiki describes Thanatos as a normal Persona whose appearance reflects the true Death. This fanfic treats Thanatos, Pharos, Ryoji and the Nyx Avatar as different facets of Death; they're all the same being.
There's also a fair bit of Greek mythology, but I've played pretty fast and loose with it.
Disclaimer: The Persona series is the property of Atlus. M rating is for strong violence as well as very disturbing and/or potentially triggering content. Language and non-explicit sexual themes are at a T rating.
Death and Ker
There's always been a slow ache. I can't remember where it started, in my head or my stomach or one of those untouchable places – mind, soul, heart. All I can tell now is that I hurt all over. I can't feel the individual parts of my body, only rods of heat where a spine could be, or wrists, or those long bones in my thighs, or my neck, or the very top of my skull. It doesn't matter what's touched because touching one thing is touching everything. There's no taking things in small doses. Everything hurts together.
It isn't bad. Pain isn't bad. I had the flu once, and I could feel my arms and legs aching even when I was asleep. But the pain didn't keep me from sleeping, or from growing stronger.
A voice breaks into –
I hunch deeper in myself, looking for a center to clamp down on, an anchor within, bracing for Erebus.
The shiver of touch, all through me – my body and the Seal, it's all together. The ache, for a moment, is gone. Erebus isn't attacking. I can't even hear his harsh breathing. Is it – ?
It happened once. They were here, I could hear them. I could almost feel them, though they couldn't come close enough to touch. I wished so badly I was strong enough to destroy Erebus myself, so they could come close to me.
But if my friends are here, that could only mean that Shadows have broken through and overrun their world. I run my thoughts through the Seal, searching for any breach or weakness, almost wishing Erebus would approach again. I could touch him, try to read the layers of his thoughts. Humanity's despair is like an ocean, the small sadnesses sparkling on the surface, the water growing cooler and heavier with each kick downward. Has something new happened? Is –
His palm rests on the Seal, ungloved, skin more finely grained than wood, thread-thin channels of blood taut beneath flesh. His pulse beats in his wrist, breath puffing against my surface. The Seal's surface, not mine – I'm separate? – I can feel my body – my arms – my arms are bound in wire, my hands –
What are you doing?
Yes, it's Minako-sama, what are you doing?
I am doing my utmost, actually, to restrain Erebus.
That isn't all Theo is doing. I brace myself, as if I could spread myself back into the Seal, willing away the feeling in my arms, my back. I am not separate. I am the Seal. I am Minako. One is the other. Nyx touches my back, cool as adrenaline. My edges crackle, resonate, the gate's eyes open, the inscriptions on my golden surface glow. I am strong enough to hold Nyx and Erebus off from each other. That cannot change.
Thought and feeling stab through me as I separate again, snarls of wire tightening on my wrists, light flaring against my shut eyes, the softness of my hair against my neck.
Power bursts from me – I feel it lift Theo off his feet, thrust him away from me.
What is wrong with you? Why are you trying to break the Seal? Don't make me –
I check that thought, leave it unfinished. Of course Theo realizes. He knows that if he tries to destroy the Seal, he'll have to fight me. But I can hear the humor under his reply.
In your current state, you would give me some trouble. (His hand rests on the Seal again, damn him, if he tries to – ) But if you would please listen: My master wishes to speak to you.
Somehow, I think that if Igor wanted to see me, he could do it without – Stop that! Stop trying to take me off the Seal! Why are you trying to destroy the –
I'm not. Please, give my master enough attention to hear his voice.
He's crazy. There's no way I can take my mind off the Seal. Erebus is always waiting.
I will protect you. I will always protect you.
I hesitate, then command myself to relax. Cold air ruffles past my skin, lifting my hair, a tall blue door rushing towards me through my thoughts.
My eyes open – and just then, I feel the softness of velvet under me, against my back – I'm in my lyre-strung chair, a table before me, and the Nose regarding me from the other side.
Igor folds graceful hands under his chin and smiles. "Welcome to the – "
"What's going on? Theo's holding off Erebus, but he can't do it forever, and I need to – "
"Do not be alarmed. The flow of time is arrested in this place. You must remember that from before. Theodore will not miss you long."
I swallow and square my shoulders, more or less settling into my chair. "Sorry. So... what's going on?"
Igor studies the table. There's a blue-tinted map spread across it, though I can't tell what country. He passes his hand sidelong over it and it vanishes. "What has Erebus told you? Of late."
"He doesn't change much." I gaze over Igor's shoulder. The Velvet Room is rising again, light flashing through its sharp-angled grillwork. The clock spins. For a moment, I could almost see a train station's clock superimposed over it, dripping blood. Or a pocket watch. Or the moon. "He's been apathetic. That's worse than when he's angry, when he wants to hurt me. I can fight a rival. I can't fight something that hardly cares." Oh hell, I'm Akihiko. "At the same time, there's an anxiety. Some kind of panic under the surface. " I flinch, recalling Erebus' attacks, throwing himself against the Seal, digging his claws in. He'd slump then, as if unable to hold himself up, using his weight to drag his claws deep through me.
"You find it difficult?"
"I'm not worried about the Seal. It can take –" Erebus reflects the souls who fuel him. My eyes jerk back to Igor. "Has there been an outbreak of Apathy Syndrome? No, there can't be. Nyx hasn't broken through at all."
"Nyx hasn't caused this." A slow smile stretches under Igor's nose. "That...fog of indifference and anxiety you feel is the handiwork of someone else entirely. And not your concern," he adds, turning his head to look at me out of one eye. "There is someone else trained in the art of cosmic ass-kicking, and you may trust him to do his job."
I raise my eyebrows, more at his choice of words than the rest of it. "Good to know."
"Indeed." He leans forward. "Has Erebus felt stronger?"
I study my fingers on one armrest. The half light makes my skin paler than usual, almost pale blue. "He's felt...scattered. Kind of erratic. I don't know if that means he's weakening or massing strength."
"Do you know what a ker is?"
I almost ask him to repeat the word, thinking I'd heard care. "No."
Igor's smile freezes a bit. "You never did bother to study mythology." He stretches one arm out and gestures to the curtained door at the side of the room, though I don't see anything change. "If you had, you would have had fewer surprises." He leans his elbows into his knees. "The keres. The children of Erebus and Nyx."
"Aren't... aren't I supposed to be keeping anything from happening between Nyx and Erebus?"
"Erebus broke the keres off from himself long ago and left them for humanity to incubate. The 'scattering' you feel is them gathering strength, wishing to unite with Erebus."
"So they're among humans?" My fingers knead the plush armrests. "What are they? You say 'children', but what does that mean?"
"My first thought is to call them – " he pauses " – Death-Fates. They are a type of Shadow."
"Shadows that would see themselves as inexorable. They have stronger wills than most Shadows." Igor glances at the door, the corner of his mouth turning down with what I think is impatience. Nothing happens at the door. "Their leader could almost be a Persona, or a Persona-user."
"The eldest and strongest child. She encompasses them all and is called Ker."
If I ever look back on this moment, I'll probably say something about how it's been so long since I've talked to anyone that even Igor's roundabout uselessness is welcome. But that's later and this is now. "You said they were all kers. Keres," I correct myself. "So she's called Ker too?"
Igor has leaned back, almost straightened his spine, and is staring intently at the door. "Yes. Ker is a ker. Now where is – "
The door clicks open and a blue figure glides out. For a moment, my eyes see what they expect to see – and then I realize the figure is too slim and feminine for Theo. She takes Theo's place behind Igor's chair, short platinum hair curving on pale cheeks, coin-like eyes slowly coming to rest on me.
Almost as slowly, I drag my eyes back to Igor. "Why are you telling me all this?" As he's settling himself to begin a lecture, I break back in, speaking as steadily as I can. "Igor. I'm dead."
He watches me.
I gesture around the room. "I'm not just Minako Arisato. I don't even belong here. I'm something else now." My arm comes back down, palm anchored on the armrest. "I made my choice."
He watches me.
"I made that choice on the condition that I could never go back."
"You never can," Igor says.
"So – " And my voice breaks off in that very human, un-Seal-like way. "You can't ask me to help."
"I can't force you to help," Igor says lightly. "But I will be surprised if you don't."
"I just said – "
He holds up his hand, and that still stops me, somehow. "Because of its unique heritage, a child of Nyx and Erebus can only be killed by a fellow ker. They can also, like any Shadow, be tamed. Some do, in fact, rise directly from the souls of strong individuals. There are sixteen keres, but you've dealt with several already."
"Several of them have taken the forms of Personas. Your own Personas." His long fingers unfurl as he counts off. "Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. Together, they form one ker, the Fates. They belong to the Wild Card and are in responsible hands at the moment. You need not concern yourself with them.
"Then there were Doom and Sleep. They took the forms of the Personas Moros and Hypnos. They died alongside their first selves."
"Jin and Takaya." I look at the carpet, as if resolve is sitting between my feet, then up at Igor. "I'm the Seal, Igor. I can't leave it, not even to fight these keres."
Igor watches me, the light in his eyes almost soft. "Another is Nemesis." I start. "Retribution. Ken Amada's Persona. She has ascended to Kala-Nemi, but she remains a ker."
"And capable of destroying the other keres. So Ken should be here, not me." Ken's alive? What year is it? How long has it been since they came to the Seal?
"And lastly – " the light in Igor's eyes has condensed to glacier hardness " – there is Death."
Something shifts in my mind.
"Igor – "
I can feel it, my second self stirring his shoulders, lifting his head. And I can't put him to sleep. He vibrates under my thoughts, alert, re-aligning his being with my own.
"Thanatos is a unique Persona, even for one such as yourself. Unlike a true Persona, he did not arise from your soul. You and he existed separately before you met on the Moonlight Bridge. Your bond has been unpredictable, but I believe it is stronger for being so unprecedented."
I need to think.
"You are no longer the Wild Card," Igor says. "That power has been inherited. You retain only three Personas: Orpheus Telos, Thanatos and Messiah. Only Thanatos, a ker, will be able to help you in these battles."
"I haven't agreed – if someone else has the Fates, why aren't you asking them to join the fight? Or are they guarding a Seal too?"
Damn, Minako, unfair shot. For once, Igor's smile turns grim, and I glance down. "The Wild Card has fought long and hard and must husband his strength for a time. He has his own destroyer to face." And then the eerie benignity is back. "I believe you are more than capable on your own."
We fall silent and stare at each other. I'm not trying to out-glare him – I couldn't, not with eyes that round – and Igor doesn't glare so much as refuse to blink. I don't have to speak. I've said my part.
He knows. He knows I can't go back. It's not my world anymore. Or it's my world because I exist only to protect it. Either way.
I can fight the keres by fighting Erebus, as the Seal.
"Ken Amada is strong," Igor says. "But I don't believe he's strong enough to destroy all of the remaining keres."
My gaze flicks downwards.
I'm not sure how much time passes, but I swallow and look up, and am unprepared for the shake in my voice. "You said I couldn't go back."
"We said that you are no longer just Minako Arisato. You cannot go back to your mortality."
"If I – if I did this, what about the Seal? I can't fight and hold it at the same time."
Igor is leaning forward again, the edges of his lips curling with satisfaction. There's nothing relaxed about his posture though. "If you act quickly, Theodore's power can maintain the Seal in your absence. He will not be a Seal himself, but he is strong enough to hold its power in stasis."
"If I act quickly. What's quickly? What happens if I take too long?"
"If Theodore's strength runs out, he will have to release his hold on the Seal. It will be left vulnerable. Nyx and Erebus will destroy it between them. Your soul will return to the wreckage and remain there, guarding nothing." He pauses. "You will be trapped."
"And the world ends once Nyx shows up." How does he come up with these schemes? "No. It's too risky. I can't guarantee I can destroy – what, eleven keres? – before Theo runs out of power."
"You will not be the only one destroying keres." He plaits his fingers. "The others have already been set on their way."
I swallow. "Others?"
And I don't glance up, because I'm waiting for him to say something else.
How many years have passed for SEES?
Eleven keres to be killed between me and Ken? And Theo trying to hold onto the Seal? And if he can't hold it together – if I do this, if I take myself off the Seal, I'll be risking the entire world.
"Ken Amada is not strong enough to take all of them," Igor says. "You can remain the Seal, but if the keres are unchallenged, they will spread despair and violence before them."
"And Erebus will only grow stronger. I'm damned either way." I lift my head, spine straightening. "I –" Again, swallowing. Hardly makes a difference, but my voice is finally level again. "I'm not going to fight alongside SEES. It – they'd want me to be Minako again. They'd want me to stay, and I'd –"
I take a deep breath. "When they saw me as the Seal, they were able to leave happy. They were at peace. It's better if they don't see me again. And – " My fingers splay on the armrests. "I don't regret my choice, but it hurt so much. It's better if I don't see them again."
Igor gives me a smile and a dry blink. "I was going to suggest that myself. Now then – " He raises his arm. "I bid you farewell and good luck."
The world ripples around me. I clamp down on the chair. "Igor."
The edges resolidify. "Yes?"
"You're a bastard."
He waves me on.
"And I need clothes."
Igor lowers his eyes from my face and regards me. "So you do." After a moment's study, he reaches an arm back and gestures the woman in blue forward.