Atlus is the creator of the Shin Megami Tensei series of games, which this story uses as source material. As per the subject matter, all characters, events, places, and concepts used in this story are a work of fiction.
Fall and Rebirth
Judgement Arcana 3: Rise of the Reasons - Succession
"I am looking for Magatsuhi too," said Yukari.
"Have you developed a Reason?" asked Mitsuru.
"Sort of," replied Yukari.
Before Yukari could elaborate, Naoto's group had emerged from the Taj Mahal's mausoleum. They appeared to have been successful in gathering the Magatsuhi. When they noticed Yukari and Hercules with Mitsuru and Yosuke, they moved closer to investigate. In particular, Saemon was drawn to the black, tattoo-like mark on Yukari's breast. "Is that an Atma brand?" he asked.
"Atma brand?" asked Mitsuru, having heard his utterance.
Yukari herself did a double take upon seeing Saemon. He was a dead ringer for Minato Arisato, the one she loved. She was speechless for a brief moment, but quickly realized he could not be Minato. She regained her composure enough to speak. "This was given to me by Lucifer and Baal Zebul," replied Yukari.
1 Day after Conception
A bright light, from a single blue-white sun, filled the mind of Yukari, as though gazing upon her and introducing her to the new world. "You who are about to enter my world, show me what you hold in your heart," the sun demanded, through a disembodied, echoing voice. He paused momentarily, as though waiting for his reply. "You have nary a hint of a Reason. If you are to shape this world, this can not be. Go, and find yourself."
When the strange dream was over, the light of the sun filtered into Yukari's eyes. The brightness hurt them greatly and she bolted upright and covered her face. When she looked around, she found herself in the middle of a barren wasteland. Near her were the ruins of a familiar house. Just moments ago, she was visiting her estranged mother. After her time at Gekkoukan High with Minato, Yukari began to mend her relationship with her mother. They were making great progress, talking to each other about their concerns, and generally taking time to visit each other.
Apparently, it was all for nothing. Her mother went out to purchase some groceries while Yukari watched the house. Then, the tremors occurred, followed by the apocalyptic reshaping of the Earth. They were separated and Yukari had no idea where her mother had been taken, or if she had survived at all. She was alone, in the middle of a barren wasteland, near the ruins of her mother's home. She picked herself off the ground and looked around carefully. In the distance, the horizon curved up, as though she was on the interior of a ball.
In the distance, she saw what looked like a humanoid figure clad in green, surrounded by several buildings. Suspecting civilization, she travelled in that direction. As she went forward, the heat of the sun was brutal. She found a tree and took a rest in its shade. Since the sun was almost completely above her head, the Shadow was small and close to the tree. She felt dryness in her throat and the pangs of hunger. She needed food and drink soon, and fortunately, she was close to town.
Now closer to the figure, she could see that she was actually the Statue of Liberty, a monument from New York City in the United States. The buildings nearby had a haphazard placement and came from all corners of the former world. A few survivors resided here, trying to eek out a living in this harsh world. Like the buildings, they came from nearly every corner of the old world. Amongst them were other strange beings which looked like humans, yet periodically broke out in odd spasms. They had an odd, unnatural appearance to them, as though they were facsimiles designed to imitate humans.
Some of the inhabitants were ghosts, likely of people who once lived in the parts which made up this patchwork town. They likely had perished, but could not find rest, likely because of the supernatural nature of the apocalypse. The last inhabitants were nothing like humans, and were extremely varied. Many of them resembled creatures from myth and religion. A few even looked like true demons, yet they did not appear to be hostile to anyone.
"Are you okay?" asked one of the demons, a unicorn, noticing Yukari's dishevelled appearance.
"I'm tired, hungry, and thirsty, yeah I'm feelin' good," Yukari replied sarcastically.
Concerned, one of the human bystanders came up to her. "I have an unopened can of cola and an uneaten slice of pizza on my table. Help yourself," offered the bystander, a Caucasian man. He was as average as one can be, wearing sandals, a straw hat, khaki shorts, and a white T-shirt. He looked like he had been on vacation at a tropical resort before being caught up by the apocalypse. He was quite a Good Samaritan to have offered her food and drink like that.
"Thanks," replied Yukari, as she popped the can open and drank. She let out a sigh of relief as she wiped her mouth clean. "Where am I? What happened?"
"This is Liberty Town," replied the unicorn. "Its name comes from that statue."
The Good Samaritan told her about the Conception, as he had learned of it from the demons. Though he did not know who they were, a group of people had fulfilled the prophecy foretold by an ancient text called the "Miroku Scriptures." It resulted in the destruction of the world, ripping it apart and reassembling it to its current form, the Vortex World. Hovering high above the land was Kagutsuchi, an avatar of God, who awaited one who would come forward with a Reason. Kagutsuchi would then recreate the new world under the specifications of this Reason.
"Just like the Fall," remarked Yukari.
"Hmm?" asked the Samaritan.
"Oh nothing, just thinking to myself," she replied.
"Could you introduce yourself?" asked the unicorn.
"Sure, I'm Yukari Takeba," she replied and told the Samaritan and the unicorn further details about herself.
"I see, so you're from Japan," replied the Samaritan.
"Yeah, I don't know what to do now," said Yukari.
"Don't worry. The people here are very generous. They took me in and gave me a place to stay. You can claim one of the empty houses as your own. Stay as long as you need," said the Samaritan.
3 Days after Conception
Yukari woke up in bed in one of the ruined houses that made up Liberty Town. The last few days were like a nightmare, except one she could not wake up from. Thanks to the Conception, the previous world had been destroyed. There was nothing anyone could do to fix the old world. The only way was to create a new one, by bringing a Reason to Kagutsuchi. As she left her dilapidated wooden shack, she came across an interesting flier posted on a wooden fence. It depicted male and female religious figures dressed in black and red robes.
According to the fliers, those figures were members of the Cult of Gaia. Apparently, it was a religious and occult movement which worshipped demons, such as Lucifer, and non-Abrahamic deities who did not support God. The Gaians were coming to Liberty Town to speak about the Conception, preach the ideology of Chaos, and offer support to the community. Normally, Yukari would not be interested in some newfangled cult or religion. However, they had information about the Conception and she wanted it.
Since the Gaians were visiting later in the day, she decided to spend some time familiarizing herself with Liberty Town before heading to the meeting hall. When the time came, she took a seat in the middle of several rows of chairs. The regal Gaian preacher began by talking about the nature of the universe. Her universe was known as the Amala universe, home to countless worlds, many of them similar to her own. Kagutsuchi rose and fell in each of the worlds, bringing the Conception everywhere he appeared. Though this system, the Great Will of the universe, God, intended to refine all worlds into His idea of perfection.
"A world is created, populated by mankind, and destroyed. Over and over again, the cycle repeats, until the world meets the Great Will's standards," said the preacher. "This system is nothing more than a trap which mankind can not escape from. Lucifer opposed this system, and so rebelled against God. 'To toy with life, to create and destroy, that is to be God,' Lucifer told his followers. So, God cursed Lucifer and all who followed him, casting them to harsh darkness of the universe. Yet, Lucifer and his followers saw this as a blessing, for it was the way to true freedom."
"Freedom..." Yukari said to herself mentally.
"If you seek freedom, if you wish to be free of the Conception's cycles, journey to the Amala Abyss and meet Lord Beelzebub," said the preacher. "It is east of here, within a great Black Pyramid."
Yukari could not agree with the preacher, and Lucifer, any more than she already did. It didn't matter whether people wanted death or not. It didn't matter if the Fall could be halted, Erebus put down, and Nyx contained. God's will trumped them all, and God's word was law. Even if she were to bring a Reason to Kagutsuchi, it would only perpetuate the Conception system. Now, she understood that the Conception system essentially made Minato's sacrifice all in vain. It was something she just could not accept. It had to be ended.
4 Days after Conception
So, Yukari made the journey across the barren wastes to the Black Pyramid, which contained the entrance to the Amala Abyss. As she travelled across the wastes, armed with only a bow and basic provisions, she thought back to all that had led her to this point. She relished the joyous times with SEES and her growing feelings and love for Minato. He was there for her, at the beach in Yakushima, and all those other times. She felt pain from the loss of friends like Shinjiro, her father, and Minato's sacrifice to seal Nyx.
Her thoughts turned to the future, about how she could eliminate the Conception system. No one else should have to go through she did. One Fall caused more than enough pain and suffering. Billions or more across the universe was too much. What if her Reason could end that? What if it could force Kagutsuchi out of this world, never to return to cause another Conception? Nyx and beings like her could be easily dealt with, by provisions which prevented their formation or appearance in the world. All these questions and possibilities floated through her mind as she pondered the nature of the Conception.
After seemingly hours of travel, Yukari could see the Black Pyramid in the distance. A small settlement had grown up around the pyramid, which became the central, primary structure of the town. Many of its citizens were demons, but a lot were human too, many of which were Gaian Cultists. As she went into the pyramid, she was greeted by several demons which resembled starfish. They were strange creatures who had a single eye which stared forward vacantly.
"You wish to see Lord Beelzebub, I presume?" asked the demon, a Decarabia.
"Of course," replied Yukari. "If he wants to end the Conception system, I'm here to help."
"Very well, this way please," said the Decarabia.
The Decarabia led Yukari deeper into the pyramid, past several corridors lit by what appeared to be circuitry running along the wall. A red substance ran though this circuitry, giving the structure's interior an eerie red glow. The pyramid was crawling with demons, who acted as guards and staff for the pyramid. She eventually reached a vacant room, where the Decarabia directed her to wait. Dots of redness, like blood droplets suspended in the air, suddenly filled the room as it took on a darker appearance. When the Decarabia brought her out, she was in a very different location.
A pathway of stone extended forward across a vast black void. Several of the red dots surrounded the pathway, floating about randomly in the sea of darkness. Yukari felt a sense of supernatural power and a flood of emotions permeating the area. She passed through an archway into a spherical room at the end of the path. Inside was a single demon who resembled a blue-skinned "wild man," a tribal chief clad in a tiger skin. He had flowing, curly black hair, pointed ears, and burning red eyes. The demon carried a sceptre crafted from the spinal cord and skull of a dead human.
"So, this is our new recruit. Very well, leave us, Decarabia," commanded Baal Zebul. "Welcome young woman. I hope you didn't find my accommodations too off putting?"
"It's not something I'm used to, but I'm sure I'll manage," replied Yukari.
"Of course. I am Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies and the right hand of Lord Lucifer. In this form, you may call me Baal Zebul. I can see that you're no ordinary woman. You possess a great power, the same one my enemies had used against me."
Baal Zebul looked at his sceptre. A spirit appeared on the tip, silently pleading with Yukari, as though to warn her not to go forward with her current course of action. The spirit was that of Minato Arisato! "That's Minato! How did you get him?" asked Yukari.
"I found this brave soul guarding the way to a being known as Nyx. I removed him as he was blocking my way," replied Baal Zebul.
"Removed him? Why?"
"I wanted to destroy Nyx," replied Baal Zebul.
"Destroy Nyx?" asked Yukari. "You actually did that?"
"Of course," replied Baal Zebul. "In order to end the Conception system once and for all, Kagutsuchi must be destroyed. In order to reach him, it is necessary that a Conception take place first. We learned of a man who wished to do so, begin the Conception. His name was Hiroshi Matsumoto, a former member of the Kirijo Group."
"Yeah, I know about the Kirijo Group," replied Yukari.
"Matsumoto had acquired a document called the Miroku Scripture, which foretold the coming of the Conception. One of the signs was the destruction of Nyx."
"So you helped Matsumoto begin the Conception? To destroy Kagutsuchi?" asked Yukari.
"Indeed," replied Baal Zebul. "Even if I had not stepped in, Matsumoto would have found a way to destroy her eventually. He had demonic assistance. He had also eliminated another being, Erebus, before I had arrived on the scene."
Yukari was speechless. Now that both Erebus and Nyx were gone, Minato's sacrifice and vigil were not necessary anymore. That still left the question of the Conception. Even without Nyx to end all life, Kagutsuchi could still do the same thing. Even if a Reason became established, it would only be temporary, until it was time for the next Conception. A question lingered in Yukari's mind. "If Kagutsuchi were to be destroyed, what would happen afterwards?"
"It would mean the ultimate destruction of each and every world," replied Baal Zebul. "The flow of time would cease. The final battle between the demons and God would begin."
Yukari was stunned. While destroying Kagutsuchi would end the Conception system, it would also mark the beginning of Armageddon. That wasn't just the end of her world, but the end of all reality as everyone knew it. This was not what she wanted. "Is there no way around it?" she asked.
"None that we know of," replied Baal Zebul.
"There has to be another way. If we can't destroy Kagutsuchi, then can't we replace him?" asked Yukari.
Yukari's question seemed to pierce through Baal Zebul, for he was rendered speechless. None among mortals or demon-kind had ever thought of removing Kagutsuchi and installing a new world controller. Nearly every mortal involved in a previous Conception had opted to establish a Reason. Those who didn't usually opted to bring back their old world, unwilling to let go of it due to strong ties. The only being who had fully thrown his support behind Lucifer was the Demifiend.
Now, before him stood a mortal who had thought of a new way to resolve the demons' dilemma. In fact, it was looking like that would become her very Reason. "So you wish to replace Kagutsuchi?" asked Baal Zebul, finally regaining his composure.
"Why not?" asked Yukari. "It might be only for this world, but there must be someone out there who could replace him. He could bring back the old world and let it continue, but this Conception would be the last. He would let humans go about with their lives as they saw fit."
"I see," said Baal Zebul. "Perhaps your idea may have merit. I must convene with Lord Lucifer. In the meantime, please stay here as my guest. The Decarabia will show you to your room."
5 Days After Conception
Decarabia led Yukari back into the presence of Baal Zebul. "I have finished meeting with Lord Lucifer and I have good news. My master is interested in taking up the cause of your Reason. He agrees with your assessment and believes that humanity should be free to make their choices and mistakes. If you name Lucifer as the world controller, he will prevent future Conceptions in your world. In exchange, he will provide you with the support of his forces and a special gift. Do you accept?"
"Yes," replied Yukari.
"Good," replied Baal Zebul. "From today onwards, the demons will follow your Reason. Take Lord Lucifer's gift to seal the deal."
Baal Zebul produced a syringe filled with a blood red liquid. Though darker than it, the liquid resembled the substance which travelled through the circuitry in the Amala Abyss. "What is that?" asked Yukari.
"This is a syringe filled with the Atma virus," replied Baal Zebul. "This unique virus grants its host a special power."
"What kind of power?" asked Yukari.
"It's similar to the one you have already," replied Baal Zebul. "With it, you can take on the form of a demon, while still remaining fundamentally human. Your new demonic form is called an 'Atma Avatar.'"
"What kind of demon will I turn into?" asked Yukari.
"It will be something that reflects your personality and nature. I have no idea what it might be," replied Baal Zebul. "Now, I will administer the shot. This may hurt a little, so please bear with me."
Baal Zebul dabbed a cotton ball into rubbing alcohol and washed Yukari's arm with it. He pricked Yukari's arm and injected the virus into her blood. Instantly, her skin became covered by red veins. She felt like her body was on fire screamed in agony. Her vision started to blur, as did her memory of the event. Her body transformed into that of another woman, naked, dark-skinned, and dark-haired. She fell to the floor and all was dark.
Some time later, the sun's rays filtered into the room and seeped into her eyes. A vision of the syringe flashed through her mind, hovering close to her eye. Her eyes shot open and she bolted upright in a cold sweat. She immediately ran to a mirror and felt her face. Everything was where it should be. There were no wounds and no blood. There was nothing to suggest she had been pricked. However, her eyes were noticeably whiter than before, still human, yet not at the same time.
She noticed a strange black mark on the inside of her cleavage, just on the side of her left breast. It was mostly covered by her tank top and appeared to extend further down her breast. She removed her tank top and moved her breast aside to expose the mark in the mirror. The mark on her breast was a black tattoo, depicting the face of an attractive African woman. She wore a headdress which had several protrusions, almost like the appearance of the sun. It made her appear to be a woman of importance, possibly a priestess.
A knocking came from the door. "Lord Beelzebub wishes to see you. Do not dally," said someone from the other side. Yukari recognized the voice as Decarabia's.
Yukari threw on her top and made haste to Beelzebub's audience chamber. "I see that the virus has already taken effect. I think a test of your power is in order."
"What kind of test?"
"Try using it. Simply focus your thoughts and it will react accordingly," replied Beelzebub.
When Yukari did as Beelzebub suggested, the mark glowed with green light. Veins of such light raced across every inch of her body. The power strained her flesh, as though trying to burst out of her body. The pain ripped across her body. She was not used to this transformation yet. Her clothing became a veil-like mesh, covering her body like curtains. Her skin and hair turned dark, like that of an African woman. A violet headdress, pointed like the sun, appeared on her head. Now, she resembled the woman depicted on her tattoo.
"You've taken on the form of Black Maria, the Earth Mother," informed Baal Zebul. "She grew out of earth goddess traditions before the Abrahamic religions came into being. I'm sure you'll want to test out your new power, so head down to the training area below."
As Black Maria, the Decarabia led Yukari to a gladiatorial coliseum. Stone walls defined the circular central area, with only two steel portcullises allowing entry. Along the surface of the walls ran lines of glowing, blood-like substance. Above the portcullis was a separated area with a single throne for seating a VIP. A swarm of flies descended onto the throne and coalesced into Baal Zebul. He gestured to open one of the portcullises, releasing a dog-like demon, a Cerberus, into the arena. The dog demon snorted flame.
"Defeat this Cerberus. Begin!" said Baal Zebul.
Cerberus picked up speed, entering into a full speed charge at her. It pounced, but Yukari hovered away. Cerberus landed on all fours and turned to face her. It took a deep breath and exhaled a roaring gout of flame. Yukari surrounded herself in green light, a barrier to block the fire. Even as the flames washed around her, the heat was very discomforting. When Cerberus ran out of breath, Yukari held out her hand. A green tornado rushed forward and scooped up the demon. After being spun around, the demon collapsed in a nauseated daze.
"Good! Next!" said Baal Zebul. The portcullis opened again, releasing a griffon into the arena. "This griffon will be your next opponent. Begin!"
The griffon screeched and charged at Yukari. She suddenly floated up, causing it to overshoot. The griffon righted itself and looked around. It found her and tried to charge again. Yukari banked right and held out her hand. An arrow shot forward, slicing past the griffon's frontal left leg. The griffon screeched in pain and bits of black matter scattered from the wound. The griffon screeched out a sonic shock wave. It caught Yukari and hurled her back. She righted herself and fired another arrow, impaling it through the griffon's flank. It crashed on the ground and burst into black ooze.
"Good! Good!" said Baal Zebul. "Now, in order to bring your Reason to Kagutsuchi, you must secure caches of Magatsuhi. Once we get enough, I will forge a key. When the time comes, we'll also need to find a shard of Kagutsuchi, but we'll worry about that later. To assist in your search, Hercules will accompany you."
A gigantic muscleman emerged through the open portcullis. He wore leather sandals, a white cloth draped around his waist, and a lion's skin over his chest. "I am Hercules. My strength is yours to command, Lady Yukari," said Hercules.
9 Days after Conception
"My Reason is Succession," announced Yukari. "Even if He is God, He has no right to play with our lives like that. To end the Conception system, I will place Lucifer as the new controller."
"Who is that?" asked Yuzu.
"This is Yukari Takeba. She was a former member of SEES," replied Mitsuru. "It looks like she has developed her own Reason and is working with Lucifer to establish it."
"Lucifer?" asked Saemon.
"I want to replace Kagutsuchi with Lucifer," said Yukari. "No more Conceptions! Lucifer will end this system once I make him the controller."
"What you want means defying the Great Will," said Saemon. "He will not take kindly to that, especially if you intend to replace Kagutsuchi with Lucifer. He is not the kindly God your religions say He is. If they knew Him, most would see Him as a petty, spiteful tyrant."
"I've made up my mind. If any of you wish to join me, I'd be happy to take you on board," said Yukari. "I'll let you have the Magatsuhi this time. Let's go, Hercules."
Yukari and Hercules left the area, leaving the demon hunters to ponder her words and the revelation of her Reason. "Yukari has a Reason now," said Aigis. "She's really serious about stopping the Conception system."
"You aren't thinking of joining her, are you?" asked Chie.
"You heard what Saemon said," said Yukiko. "Are you sure you want to go through with this?"
"Don't do it. I smell a set up coming a mile away," said Kanji. "If you join her, you'll just go down with her."
Aigis seemed unsure, unable to decide how to proceed. "I don't know," she replied.
END OF CHAPTER