So here's this one-shot I decided to put together, which is stuck somewhere between Persona 4's bad ending and an AU fic. So yeah, obvious Persona 4 spoilers. You'll see what I mean later on. Also, kudos to you if you get the reference the title of this fanfic makes.
So, without further ado, I give you...this thing.
Morning broke over the dying town of Inaba. The sky was coated in a deep, yellow fog and the sun could not be seen. The unreal phenomena began earlier that month, and with it came in a wave of unbridled, uncontrollable chaos. Indeed, the fog had cast the town into the darkness, but not only obscured the people from the warm rays of the sun, from the normalcy of their lives, but also the truth. The people of the town were cast in a sea of rumors and lies that led them to believe that the end was at hand, that the fog marked the end of their lives on the earth.
Perhaps if this mentality were never achieved, then perhaps the end of all life would have been avoided. In the end the fog was completely harmless. All it did was obscure the humans' sight- their sight of reality, their sight of the truth. That was all it ever came down to.
It was now December the 18th, with most of the town's residents carrying about wearing menacing gas masks that they believed would save them from the fog- essentially their own folly. Concealing themselves from what they believed to be harmful was the only way for them to achieve absolution. But these barriers were perhaps a sign that the truth would forever be lost to them. And as time went on, the number of these barriers increased rapidly, with the number of people succumbing to the lies and rumors increasing every single day. It didn't matter where you went- Yasoinaba Station, the Junes Department Building, the Shrine, the Shopping District, Yasogami High School- everywhere people were found in such a state, with some having accepted their inevitable deaths and stopped moving altogether.
The only seven people who ever knew exactly what was happening to their town, the only seven people who had even the smallest comprehension of what the truth really was, did not fare much better than these people. But at least they still had their sanity, if only for the moment. They had been very optimistic to the very end, but they were losing hope and fast. After all, the solution to their dilemma was too impossible to reach. All of the leads had died out. There were no people in the town who would suspect anyone of murder. There were no signs. At one point they had just started calling names out at random. They had even suspected Adachi of all people, someone with little to no motive nor relevance to what had happened.
To Souji Narukami, who had been the sole observer of this town and its descent into madness, this scenario was quite possibly the equivalent of a worst ending. Things had never been so pitiful in this town before, and he doubted things would ever improve. But in the end, he supposed that he was to blame. In the end, his daily routine had been reduced to going to school, aimlessly wandering around town, and then simply just watching as random street crimes and terror rallies occurred everywhere around him. He observed, he did nothing more than that. He observed, with the array of voices penetrating his mind kept him bordering on the edge of madness himself as his twelve personae all lashed out in anguish at his failing mind and body.
He woke up that morning, planning to meet up with his friends for another day of futile clue gathering. Most of the people lingering around town were too intoxicated by their self induced lethargic state to talk about where they were yesterday, let alone what happened months ago. Essentially they were just spending their days, trying to keep the illusion that they had any influence over anything around them alive for as long as possible. But they were just simply waiting for their inevitable downfall. It was pointless to continue onward, especially with such a dull certainty hanging over them.
Souji was interrupted from his thoughts by the vibrating of his phone. He reached over from his futon to where it was resting and checked the text message he'd received. It was from Chie.
Another busy day :(
We just need to keep trying. I'm sure we'll figure it out sometime.
Stay optimistic, k?
Souji almost smiled at the message he'd received, but he was far past that point now. He was still somewhat surprised that it was Chie of all people who'd tried to improve his mood. After all, given how abrupt their relationship ended, he assumed that she hated him. It didn't help that Naoto, one of her best friends, was the current object of his affections- if you could call them affections any longer.
He decided that he should get up now rather than later. Without so much as shifting his gaze or blinking his eyes, he dressed himself before heading downstairs and into the vacant and hollow living room, which no longer buzzed with the sound of the TV or with the sounds of Nanako's warm morning welcoming.
Nanako. Why did he have to think about her again? It did more harm than good.
It was unfair. It was so unfair. She'd been taken from them, even though she was completely innocent of absolutely everything. It was something completely unavoidable, yet it was something that his friends were willing to kill Namatame over. Of course only Naoto had managed to get herself out of that room before Souji was forced to take matters into his own hands.
They all cried for Nanako. Naoto didn't cry until she was alone with him, while Chie cried almost on the spot. Kanji flared and howled, while Rise stood silently by his side. Yukiko cried silently to herself, while Yosuke could only mull over how this was no different from what had happened to him. Kuma disappeared entirely from their dimension, but Souji was certain he had cried himself.
Perhaps her death was what made them submit to their fate.
He left the silent place without so much as locking the door. He slowly trudged down the street, not so much as greeting Naoto who promptly latched herself onto him as if to provide some sort of physical comfort. Souji had stopped caring about these small signs of affection long ago. They continued down the street, while Naoto tried to get him to say something while Souji simply stared ahead. She wondered if he even knew she was there anymore.
But Souji's condition was to be expected. After all, his recently established yet beloved family crumbled before him, and the pressure of leading a pack of lost sheep could not have made that situation any better. Of course the rest just proved how ignorant they were, with Kanji fuming at Souji for his lack of care and Yosuke storming away from their table, being unable to take Souji's lack of feeling.
Naoto voided both of those things, however, but still had nothing to show for it. After all, even though her presence was there and very real, he could never seem to recognize it. No matter how many times she'd sacrificed hours of sleep to stay with him, no matter how many times she continued to assure him that everything would be fine and that they could stay together no matter what, she never received anything in return.
Perhaps if he could still feel, then Souji would be distraught. But no such emotions filled his blank expression.
But deep down Souji realized that this was all true, that he had reduced himself to this.
And so he figured that today would be the day. Now would be the time that everything came to fruition. The past year would finally reach its climax, with the end of their investigation nigh.
They gathered at the food court, upon which Souji spoke- or rather breathed- the name Adachi. They all looked at him somewhat dumbstruck, more surprised at the fact that he'd spoken. But in the next few minutes, Souji explained everything. And as if they were a pack of ignorant children would couldn't understand anything unless it was spelled out for them, they all suddenly started dropping suspicious information about Adachi, as if they'd all suddenly remembered it out of the blue.
How foolish. How foolish they all are.
They went straight to the hospital, where despite the fact that Namatame had been transferred already, Adachi was still lingering around, most likely visiting Dojima. As soon as they found him, they managed to get him to crack, getting him to say the single thing that they needed him to say- the phrase "put in," with which they knew he was the culprit for certain.
Adachi's eyes met his, and then he spoke, realizing his position.
"So this is how you dispose of your toys, Narukami?"
"…Not quite." Souji murmured, reaching towards Naoto who was standing next to him and swiftly pulled her handgun out.
He pointed the gun straight at him, pulling the trigger. Adachi let out a loud laugh at the last moment, which was cut short by the bullet making its mark in his chest. He fell over, unmoving. The rest of them were unable to process what had just happened.
"This is how I like to dispose of my toys."
The moment he said that, multiple gazed turned towards him, and several voices began to emerge amongst the ringing sound left behind by the bullet's launch. Souji began to move, quickly turning towards Kanji, shooting him between the eyes, and then dashing off. Multiple screams rang out at once, while Yosuke, still in a daze, tried to chase him purely off of instinct, still unsure of what he was even doing. But Souji had already made it to the nearest television, and with that he'd disappeared completely, and the others were unable to chase him any further.
Souji was cast down into the depths of the television and found himself surrounded in what he believed to be his own influence on the world of people's hearts. It was a deep place void, with the ground beneath his feet built from what seemed to be a mixture of every type of terrain physically possible, from flat grassland to hard steel. This must have been the result of his twelve personae, each of which being a personality all on their own. Despite the inconsistent and generally sporadic nature of the world around him, Souji felt that this was a place that was suitable for someone like him, and found it a perfect resting place after the long and arduous year that he spent amongst the humans.
Indeed. It had been a long year, filled with nothing but constant and consistent kidnappings and murders. It had been a long year, filled with times that were both grim and pleasant, with Souji finding people he believed to be his closest friends in the world. But all that time, he knew with an absolute certainty that the day would come that all of it would come to an end. He knew that one day he would have to reveal everything, so that perhaps they could stop him and save this town themselves. But they were all too foolish, and in the end they might not be able to find him. But death was certainly the path that he wished at this point, given how death would be his only escape from a world he once tried to make perfect but failed miserably at re-shaping.
The day he arrived in Inaba he was visited by the Goddess, or rather the one who maintains the death of all human beings on the earth, purely out of spite and pure malice for her once beloved husband. She proposed to take him as her new husband under the pretense of re-shaping the dying world. Souji, being a visionary deep down, accepted this plan after witnessing human folly at its finest within the town.
Souji's master plan was simple. Purge the town of The Fool- slaughter anyone and everyone who reveled in the pain of others and do so one by one so perhaps the survivors would be able to comprehend their own folly. Souji could only do so much on his own, however. He could massacre criminals of a various sort in the streets, break up drug rings with sheer force, and make a Yasogami student or two go missing. But not on a grand scale- the scale that he needed.
Souji was given assistance of a more vague sort, with two other people very much like him, although one was simply mad with power and the murderer of Mayumi Yamano, while the other, Yamano's lover, was simply a broken and shallow man with no strength to speak of. Souji had to gather them, but in the end only Adachi ever forged an alliance with him, given his own desire to stand above the rest of society, even though he could never escape from it. However, the two of them managed to formulate a plan to trick the third, Namatame, into helping them behind the scenes. The plan was to make him understand what his purpose was so that he would join them by having them encourage accepting his power in anonymous ways.
However, this plan fell to pieces before it really began. Souji had managed to seduce the elder Konishi in order to get her alone with him, an act he'd already performed on several other girl students to do much the same thing. Once he'd managed to trap her within the TV, making sure that Namatame was already well aware of her circumstances as the witness of Yamano's corpse, it was all a waiting game. But Souji still did not quite understand the fundamentals of the Midnight Channel, or that it even existed until Namatame started to express his concerns over Konishi to Adachi, who Souji had stake out the phones at the police station over that period of time.
Even after Konishi's death, the Midnight Channel continued to display things. The silhouettes of his newly found friends all appeared one by one, and continued well into the year. The kidnappings were all a fundamental accident. In the end he'd never really so much as understood why Namatame acted out the way he did. But he never cared much for his personal outlook on the world around him. Souji used his friends and their developing Persona abilities to cross into the world of peoples' hearts, while placing Adachi on the back burner, having him casually drop information in front of the group while secretly signaling the current state of affairs to him.
It all worked out- at least until Nanako appeared on the Midnight Channel.
Souji was too enraged at the time to notice that Adachi had given himself away- he hadn't expressed any form of surprise at the list of names in Namatame's "death note" even though they were names of people who hadn't been killed. But Naoto had apparently figured it out, but had decided to remain quiet after the group determined that Adachi wasn't guilty. She had probably told him about it countless times over that month of December, but he had stopped hearing through his ears long before that.
But Namatame on the other hand- he'd spilt Nanako's blood. And for that Souji could not forgive him. Understanding that throwing him in the TV was not the best idea, considering how his friends were about to lower themselves towards the bottom of the pit, so to speak, he forced to act as a leader and forced them to let it go. But Souji would not let Namatame go quietly.
The following morning he casually revealed himself, and much to Namatame's horror, explained the exact nature of his power, saying that it was because of his power that things had gone so wrong. And had fully convinced him that his life had no purpose. It wasn't very surprising when Namatame took the knife Souji handed to him and finished himself off. It wasn't such a strong willed revenge, but it was revenge none the less.
Souji waited for them. He waited in that undefined place for his foolish friends to stumble upon him. He waited for them to appear before him so they could kill him. That was the best solution to this scenario.
But they didn't seem to know where he was. He was afraid that he'd be trapped here until the world ended. He feared that he'd be forced to watch the end with all of the fools as nothing more than a sheep. For a moment he considered suicide, but eventually they all appeared, having braved the unknown dangers of his own mind.
They hated him. It was just as he had expected- just as he had planned. They all hated him enough to kill him. Yosuke, now the leader of the pack, led the inevitable battle. He, along with Chie, Naoto, and Yukiko, all rushed him. Rise was completely missing, most likely because she was planning to bury Kanji, so their ability to predict his every move was practically non-existent. It was far too easy this way. After all, he knew all of their weaknesses and strength. In the end only Naoto and Chie were left standing, with Yosuke falling to Jiraya's weakness while Yukiko simply ran out of willpower. The only two who's Personas had ever evolved were the only two who could still fight him.
Souji still stood defiantly before them, with his completely disfigured Izanagi at his side. At this point Souji didn't even know what Persona he was using- their voices all meshed together in his mind to form one massive cry. Perhaps this Izanagi was the result of all of that. He prepared a Mind Charge, which he would follow up with his recently perfected Armageddon spell, a spell that would wipe the two of them out in a single hit.
But then something extraordinary happened. Souji wasn't even sure if he had been hallucinating, but the words he heard come from the two of them sounded real enough.
"Come back with us, Souji." Chie extended her arm towards him.
"We understand. We won't blame you." Naoto added. They nodded towards each other before looking back at him.
"We can fix things. Don't worry. Everything's over now, right? We found the killer…" Chie's voice almost died out.
"We'll let everything go. No one saw you shoot Kanji… We can make it look like Adachi did it. Rise won't be a probelm either. So you don't have to worry…" Naoto's expression was one of longing. What had they witnessed here, in his disfigured section of the world of peoples' hearts that had brought about this?
"…Do either of you have any idea what you're saying?" Souji hissed.
"Don't worry…We know what we're doing." Chie whispered as she walked closer to him, as did Naoto.
"…This is some sort of cruel joke."
"No, Souji-senpai…This isn't anything like that." Naoto slowly reached out to touch the hand he was holding his katana with.
Souji's hand, even if for just a moment, wavered.
"We're just…So sorry…." Chie placed a hand on his shoulder, resisting the urge to embrace him. Naoto did no such thing, and the second the katana fell out of Souji's hand she immediately crashed into him.
"That's right….No one…" Naoto said, even though it sounded like she was sobbing. "…No one should ever have to go through something like that…"
Chie's other arm reached for Naoto's shoulder. They huddled together like that while Souji tried to piece together information.
There was no way. There was no way they could possibly know about that…Unless this place had told his whole story to them. But that made no sense, otherwise Yosuke and Yukiko wouldn't have attacked him on sight the way they did. How could they possibly have known about that…?
Souji chuckled. It was the first sign of expression he'd shown in months.
"You're both foolish. So foolish." Souji forced himself out of Naoto's grasp, quickly grabbed his katana.
"Souji- no…!" Naoto tried to reach out to him while Chie, who'd stumbled over after he'd suddenly moved, scrambled to her feet.
Souji turned the blade towards his own chest. Just as the blade made contact, he could hear two screams, both carrying his name. He couldn't hear anything past that, but he could see them both rush towards him as his final moments expired.
Everything was black after that. It was too familiar a feeling.
In a matter of seconds he was greeted with a familiar sight. The shadows were carrying him, off into the distance, away from that terrible place. The shadows he'd slaughtered countless times were now carrying him off, much like a king, away from that place that he hated all so much. He could hear the sounds they made- they were crying- perhaps for him or perhaps for themselves.
Before now, he could never understand them. But now, he could hear their cries.
Oh, misfortunate one!
Oh, poor wretched soul, forsaken by the gods!
Oh, poor legion of darkness that follows in his wake!
Oh, please, misfortunate one, oh paragon of darkness, please, save us!
He understood deep down why he could hear them. He knew deep down that he was the same, a Persona without an ego. He was twelve, yet zero. He had abandoned his personality long ago, perhaps thousands of years ago.
Yes, perhaps that was how long ago it was. One thousand years ago- the start of this endless cycle. A cycle of either the end of the world or his departure from that place, a place that he now hated unconditionally.
That place, Inaba. The town of the endless year, a year he would repeat for all eternity, because he chose to stand against the gods.
He had left the year behind him. He had boarded the train, the train that would take him back home, and away from his dear friends. It was something that he had desperately wanted to avoid. And low and behold, the gods, as spiteful as they were, granted him just that. And just like that, he found himself in that same seat, heading in the opposite direction, back towards Inaba.
He had taken advantage of things at first. He'd set things straight that he could not originally, and he'd been able to make everyone's lives as perfect as possible. But in the end the cycle remained eternal, and eventually he lost the light his eyes once held. He'd gone from trying to revel in other's happiness to simply existing, watching the endless foolishness of the people around him and despising them for it. He'd done horrible things in the past cycles, whether to his friends or to just anyone around him. Sometimes he'd be arrested, sometimes he'd be murdered by women he'd betrayed, and sometimes he'd just end up killing himself. He never could really leave Inaba. Sure, he would visit Tatsumi Port Island, where he had once been the culprit in a murder that he completely got away with, and he could also visit that seaside town by scooter. But he was locked into these places. No matter where he went, he could not leave those areas; the world would simply prevent him from leaving them. There were no trains at the station whenever he went there (which he had done a great many times). There was no escape.
He lost all feeling. He simply acted off of impulse now. Sure, Naoto and Chie had become aware of his suffering in the last cycle, but he knew that in the end it wouldn't have made any difference. He was unable to feel for them. He simply acted based off of what he believed was the norm. He couldn't feel any sort of love for them. He couldn't smile at them when they experience a happy moment together. He couldn't even smile or greet Nanako when she woke him in the mornings. Every time he began a cycle, he would simply name himself, acquire his persona army from Igor and then proceed based on whatever he could realistically do. He'd played the role of the hero. He'd played the role of the culprit. He'd done so many different things even without even really wanting to.
But he was not alone. He had the shadows, his only friends in this terrifying world. After all, with each cycle they suffered as well, as they would all be mercilessly slaughtered by the Persona users. They desperately wanted to be free of their suffering as well. They cried. They wanted help. They wanted to be free, and so they wanted to free him as well.
"…I suppose it's time." Souji murmured. The shadows wailed in fear. "…Maybe I'll go easier on you all this time." The cries died down a tad bit.
They released him on to the faceless ground beneath him. He looked off into the distance and saw him there- his Izanagi, the one he'd created during the past thousand years. He was as powerful as could be. Realistically, nothing could stand against it.
"…I suppose we'll go again. No point in sticking around here."
Souji turned towards the yellow fog that stretched as far as this place, the world between dimensions. He suddenly remembered something.
"Ah, right, I think I wanted to name you." Izanagi "looked" at him with a curious "expression". Was he deliberately going to change an aspect of their endless fate? Did those two mere schoolgirls really have such a strong influence on him?
"…A Persona completely warped by my broken personality. A Persona twisted by the twelve that serve zero. Honestly, I can't find a fitting name for you…"
Souji's eyes snapped open. "…But now that I think about it…We've been cast into this place that's akin to hell, isn't it? ...No, perhaps it's more like Purgatory, but there is no heaven to speak of. It's like we're crossing the threshold into the underworld. It's like crossing river Styx and through the gates of Tartarus…" Souji slide his eyes shut for a moment. "…Ah, that shall do." He looked upward towards his other self.
"…Hades. That shall be your name." Souji seemed to smile.
"…Now, let's go, Hades. Let us go back, back to our endless fate." The two proceeded into the deep fog.
Indeed, their fate was eternal. Perhaps it was a hopeless endeavor to ever hope to usurp it.
But as long as Souji had the shadows- then perhaps he could withstand it.
For the shadows cried.
And he could cry with them.
And so concludes this one-shot. However…If I get some decent reception I might decide to turn this into a multi-chapter story (which would most likely be rated M for somewhat obvious reasons). So yeah, if you liked it, please review. Leave any comment you feel like leaving. Thanks in advance.