Persona: World And Judgement – Chapter Twenty-Six

The Yamagishi Bully

Well, hello there you beautiful people! Here we are, the twenty-sixth chapter, and the best part, it isn't even close to ending yet! I hope you all have had a good gander at my profile. If you haven't, there is some information on there some of you might want to see. So get on there! Now that the announcements are done...LET'S GT-R-DONE!

08/07 - Dark Hour

They had all been too used to the rainy weather at this point, but on this night, the atmosphere was just as heavy as the first night they fought together in the TV. The situation was just as routined as any other night they had experienced thus far, but the teammate they couldn't rescue from falling under the hooded boy's control was someone crucial to providing vital information for their battles. Even Rise was feeling the pressure of giving everyone this backup on her own; it was a familiar feeling, but it was much greater than the times when she had to provide intel for the Investigation Team only.

"Is everyone ready?" Yu asked as he stood next to Mitsuru's TV. He was just as nervous as everyone else was, and the only response he got were varied nods of the head; some feigned confidence and some hesitated to answer. They all knew that anything before them would be completely different to what they would expect; Rise's power to give everyone the right information never faltered to cause any disadvantage, but without Fuuka, it was just too much work that she had no choice but to bear.

"I'm just thinking now..." Ken spoke in the uncomfortable silence, " offence to Fuuka-san or anything, but if you think about it...don't you think this might be an easy fight?" At first, everyone looked at him with interest, but they weren't quite sure as to what he meant. So he continued. "The Shadows we fought before resembled our Personas, right? So since Fuuka's Persona can't give her the ability to attack, then surely this would be the case for her Shadow. Am I right?"

Understanding his thesis, some of the S.E.E.S members approved of Junpei's thought. But the Investigation Team knew too well why it wouldn't be possible having gone through the experience in the past. "It's a nice theory," Naoto said, "but it might not be possible. Rise's Shadow was able to attack when we fought it even though her Persona isn't able to."

"Hey c'mon..." Akihiko interrupted abruptly, "...we don't even know Fuuka has a Shadow yet. Don't start assuming the worst when you don't know it yet." Ken just scratched his head shamefully after listening to Akihiko's order. Yu couldn't agree more. "Of course," he said in defence of Akihiko's view, "we should get going as well. The quicker we find her, the more chance we have of rescuing her without having to fight." And with that, the conversations ended and everyone began to make their way into the TV world.

In a single file, they each slowly climbed through the TV screen, launching themselves into the familiar corridor of black and white. As they all delved deeper and deeper towards the exit, they made their way past the rectangular, TV-shaped outlines that made the illusion before them. It was always a dizzying experience to go through, especially after experiencing it multiple times, but everyone managed to refrain from letting it go to their heads.

08/07 - Dark Hour - The TV World

Helping each other of of the stacked TVs, they were once again presented with the tainted landscape around them. The air was just as cold as the last time they came here, and the fog was just as thick. But the challenges they were faced with have changed, and in a way that didn't favour them at all.

Rise took her stand near the edge of the platform and took her Evoker out of her holster. With no time wasted, she quickly pointed the barrel to her forehead and clicked the trigger with a hasty finger, bringing out Kanzeon from the depths of her psyche in the common indigo inferno.

As Kanzeon placed the crown over Rise's eyes, she began to scan the entire area for Fuuka's whereabouts all on her own. Before her eyes was the look of a computer screen, showing multiple graphs and scanning frequencies that aided her in her search.

Rise looked intently through Kanzeon's eyes and searched far and wide with the long range she had to find any sign of Fuuka around the area. But after a while, Rise was struggling, only being able to find thicker layers of fog and the corrupted backgrounds where they all fought before. "Nrrrrg...come on..." she muttered to herself with a concentration that felt like a needle prodding her mind.

"Rise, are you okay? Don't push yourself too hard..." Yu advised with a great concern when he saw her slightly grimaced face from her strong concentration. Rise didn't want to lose any valuable time for scanning the area. She cared about Fuuka, especially when they were both beside each other as if they both acted as a team of their own. But she could understand Yu's worry; she was tortured by Ken's Shadow from the night before right in front of him. And as that thought came to her head, she heeded his plea, not just for her health but for him as well.

And suddenly, Kanzeon sensed something, passing it on to Rise with a tingled feeling of realisation. "Oh! I've found her!" she shouted to the others, dismissing her Persona as she turned round. Everyone gathered around her for her verdict with eager wills to get going. "Fuuka's in some sort of school from what I gather...Gekkoukan perhaps? I'm not sure which room though..." Rise said, and upon mentioning the school, the members of S.E.E.S and even the Investigation Team were surprised about Fuuka's location.

S.E.E.S seemed very confident about the ongoing operation since they knew the place very well, and even some of the Investigation Team could say the same; they fought at that same location, and it was the very place where they rescued Mitsuru from her Shadow. As Yu looked towards her, he could see the look of disgust and misery on her face upon the mention of it.

"The school?" Yukari asked herself as well as the others around her, "...The you think she'll be in there?" The Investigation Team felt that the one room she mentioned could have been one of many possible rooms she could be in; it was a school after all. But S.E.E.S knew perfectly what she was talking about. "It's quite likely. Going by Fuuka's previous experiences with the school, the gym if by far the best guess we have." Mitsuru theorised, only deepening the curiosities of the Investigation Team.

But precious time was of the essence, and Fuuka was getting ever nearer to a possible outcome that they all knew too well from their aching muscles they kept feeling after every night so far. "Whatever the reasons, we have to get down there," Yu said confidently in his signature tone of leadership, "Fuuka is a very capable girl, and since she has the same power as Rise's, she would do very well in avoiding anything in the dungeon. But if we ever come across her Shadow, which we all hope won't be the case, be prepared for a difficult battle. Her powers could be quite formidable if they're being used against us." Everyone admired Yu's concern for the people he cared for and even his consideration of the risks that lied ahead of them all.

With the preparations ready, they quickly set off, following Rise's and Yu's lead through the mixed layers of fog and mist. The Investigation Team had a vague idea of where they were going, following their path with some level of confidence using the knowledge they had from their operation that rescued Mitsuru. But the fog were less thicker back then, and the beaten path before them limited their vision, which in turn lessened their confidence in where they were going. Even Rise was pressured with finding the right path to the corrupted high school.

"I'm just curious, but..." Yukiko began, feeling as if she was intruding on personal matters, "...we know now that Fuuka-san is at the school, but you also mentioned the gym there a reason why that might be?" Upon being asked, S.E.E.S was delved back into their memories, back to the time when they conducted their own investigation on Fuuka's disappearance that caused many false rumours to spread around the school. It was a very irritating time just remembering the voices of those that mocked Fuuka, but they felt the need to answer Yukiko's question. "I don't know either..." Ken said honestly, "...did something happen to Fuuka-san in the gym?"

"Well..." Akihiko began, giving a soft clear of his throat, "...before we met Fuuka, she was bullied by other girls constantly everyday. One of those girls was Natsuki, the one we saw on the Midnight Channel tonight." Only a fraction of the way through the story, and the Investigation Team were already confused by the thought of Fuuka's bully being the very thing that drew her into the TV.

But Akihiko continued, "After school one day, Natsuki locked Fuuka in the gym overnight as one of her bullying tactics. But when they came back to let her out, she was gone. And it so turned out that when Fuuka was still in the gym and when the Dark Hour was active, the school, including the gym, transformed into Tartarus. And amazingly, Fuuka had to survive that tower for nearly ten days." When Akihiko finished talking, the Investigation Team were absolutely shocked by what they heard.

"Ten days?!" Yosuke raised his voice with an exaggerated shock, "I wouldn't even last just staying here for two days!" Most of the people around him found it quite amusing to hear, but they couldn't find it in them to give even a small chuckle; the matter at hand was just too grave.

No one said another word afterwards. Yukiko's question had been answered, and nothing else needed to be said. They all just focused on making their way through murky air in the quickest pace they could go at. They couldn't run in case of any early injuries that could have happened if they had done so; they could only power-walk their way.

After a long while that seemed like forever, their trek finally ended as the landmark that was the Gekkoukan High School stood before them with a scenery that was surprisingly very unfamiliar to the S.E.E.S members. They could only remember the school on the surface and as the dark labyrinth that was Tartarus. But now that they were in the TV world, the rules were completely different.

"I always say that I hate school..." Junpei joked under his breath in an attempt to calm himself from the nerves that were shaking him up, "...but this just takes the cake..." After saying it he wish he didn't even mention it, only making himself as well as others around him feel more fearful for what might come in this corrupted building.

The look of the school was unwelcoming and the air was just too ominous to even step through the doors without expecting any problems upon entering. But nonetheless, there was someone in the very belly of the dungeon that they couldn't afford to lose, both as friend and teammate. So they all entered through the glass doors in a single file, trying every effort to not make any noise in the discomforting silence.

When they closed the doors behind them, everything became motionless; the hallways that were laid out before them were dead, and there wasn't even the slightest sound of wind or even life that made the surroundings seem anything to be alive. It was a barren wasteland in every corridor and every room of the school, a feeling that the Investigation Team and Mitsuru were cruelly reminded of.

The speculation they all made earlier lead them to believe that Fuuka might be waiting in the gym, and as they made their way, they could only hope that she hasn't come across her Shadow or even come into contact with it if there was one. But as the seconds kept passing by, the hope they had gradually diminished to the point where hope wasn't the thing to rely on with the dreadful situation that was being pictured in their heads.

Rise and Yu ran at the front of the group as the navigator and the leader, and even having not had much time to learn the school well from last time, Rise's amplified sense of direction, as a result of Kanzeon's ability, was the very thing that made the group advance towards where they needed to go with a dramatic progress.

"Fuuka! Fuuka!" they all shouted individually as they ran through the blackened corridors of the now-haunted school. The only response they got was the echoes of their own voices, bouncing off the marble walls and floors that were tainted with green and red discordance.

Eventually, after spiralling and zig-zagging through endless hallways and corridors, the large doors to the indoor gym were finally in sight, and fortunately, there were no more corridors to run across. To everyone, the doors in front of them seemed as if they were slowly crawling further away from them, but with the many corridors they had experienced along the way, they knew that it was just the trick of the eye.

As they approached the doors, Yu grabbed the vertical doorhandles and pulled them towards him to swing them open. But in doing so, the doors didn't even budge. The locks were applied, and with each vigorous pull Yu makes in an attempt to break those locks, the fear of not being able to open the doors in time was settling with each attempt. "The door's locked?!" Yukiko shouted in a release of panic, watching as Yu pulls the handles and hearing the slamming of the locks as he does so.

"C'mon, c'mon! Open up!" Yu shouts with worries rising. When pulling was not getting him anywhere, the only thought that came to his mind was just to punch the wood of the doors, even though he knew it wouldn't do any good; it was all a response to his panic.

Fortunately, Junpei had a lot of experience with locked doors in the past and rapidly came forward to the front of the group. He quickly reached into his pocket and pulled out was seemed to be a paperclip that was twisted and bent into a deformed shape. When they saw this little piece of metal, everyone knew what Junpei was about to do; it was one of the many old tricks in the book.

Junpei grasped the paperclip with the gentle squeeze of his index finger and thumb, and he immediately poked it through one of the keyholes that were too low for him to stand up straight doing was his doing. As he bent down, he prodded around for the little triggers in the lock's mechanism and thought very hard to remember the correct sequence of clicks he was meant to perform whilst poking around for the triggers.

Everyone was getting anxious as Junpei continued to perform what looked like an impossible task, and the urge for him to hurry was getting to the point where impatience was the only thing they were feeling. They didn't want to hurry Junpei in case it might make him panic more than he is now, but there was a precious life at stake and even he knew that.

Suddenly, the lock made a clunk in accordance with a twist of Junpei's paperclip, and everyone flinched at the sound with a startled twitch in their muscles. Knowing that the door was unlocked, they all quickly swung the door wide open with such a force that the hinges nearly broke from their bolts. And as they all poured into the indoor gym, they all stopped in their tracks with a painful squeak of their shoes against the polished floor.

They were stopped by a sight they unwillingly pictured perfectly from the start of the operation, and the gasps that came as a result of their shock echoed throughout the gym so they could hear their reaction over and over before the collective sounds of everyone died into the silence.

In front of them was Fuuka, already showing the golden eyes and wicked look that all the other Shadows from previous fights could relate to. The same chilling expression applied to all Shadows, but with Fuuka, it was frightening to the core to see her pull such a look; it was like putting two opposites together that created an ugly combination. The Fuuka they knew was sweet, kind and considerate. But finding that expression on her face gave her a different personality altogether.

Her actions were also effected by the Shadow's control over the turquoise-haired innocent. Behind Fuuka was Natsuki, donning the angelic outline that shone from every inch of her body with a calm glow. Fuuka was grabbing the spirit by the wrist, holding on tightly with a grip so excruciating that even the bones of a human being couldn't stand. Even though she was grabbing her, Fuuka gave her full attention to the group that stood before her, snarling and standing between them and Natsuki as if she was protecting her best friend.

"Stop Fuuka! You're hurting me!" Natsuki cried out as she held her wrist in writhing agony. Fuuka heard this, but instead of giving her the look she gave to the others, she looked at her friend with a look of disapproval, yet she seemed sad.

"But...Natsuki-chan..." Fuuka whimpered with the familiar Shadow's tone lingering in her voice-box that sounded as if she struck a wrong chord, "...we're best friends...don't you want to be with me...?! We're meant to look out for each other...!" Fuuka's shouts of emotional distress almost sounded as if she was giving out desperate pleas to her friend to stay with her. At first, to everyone, it 'sounded' like it was like that. But they remembered that it was her Shadow that was speaking; her pleas came from her inner thoughts. What she said was true.

"We don't have to be apart see...?" Fuuka continued, forcing a smile to Natsuki with the corner of her lips, curling in such an inhumane way that it almost made Fuuka seem more Shadow than anything that resembled a normal human. But when she turned back round to the others, there was no trace of Fuuka left. All that they could see was a Shadow that only took on an appearance of someone they once knew.

She gave them the same snarl. "Why are you punks still here?!" Fuuka yelled to the group, acting in the way that was completely different to how she would normally act; and the word 'punk' was something entirely new and totally unlike her on such a level. She continued to yell, "You never cared about me why now?! Of all times! ...But there's no need for it now...I don't need your pity! ...I've got Natsuki-chan now...she's the one who truly cares about me...but to you, I'm just a voice in your head...hardly even listened to..."

This was Fuuka unlike anything they've seen before. Everything was different about her, and this Shadow was by far the most controversial one they saw that was, if not, seemed completely the opposite to her original self. Even most of the group couldn't accept that it was the real Fuuka, but it was right there in front of them. There was no use arguing about it, and all of them knew that Fuuka was the one who was denying if it was to reach this stage.

"Fuuka, what's gotten into you?" Yukari asked her with austerity, yet with a great concern for her friend, "What do you mean 'we don't care about you'? Of course we do, we all do! We value you just as much as we value everyone else. Why would we think less of you?" Yukari tried to get through to Fuuka, only for her words to be ignored and spat back at her face.

"Then tell me, you value everyone as much as you value Minato?" Fuuka scoffed with the same crooked smile, immediately silencing Yukari with the name and the truth behind what she was saying. Yukari didn't know how to answer to Fuuka's reply; it was so cunning, yet it lurched her heart into a way that felt like it sank below her stomach.

"That's enough!" Yu shouted to Fuuka, holding out his arm in an act of protecting Yukari from her words. He knew that words weren't going to get through to her. He knew that from his previous experiences. The only reluctant option left was to bring Fuuka back to her senses with a battle. Yu brandished his sword as he held it behind him in preparation. And as he did this, everyone else took this as an indication to spread out across the gym, holding their respective weapons tightly in their grip.

But before anyone could say anything, Fuuka belted out a laughter that resonated throughout the gym with the evil echoes that repeated over and over. These echoes however, wasn't the end. As Fuuka continued to mock the group with her laughter, blankets of darkness enveloped her, and the dark shrouds that danced around her were sent as a warning to those who were witnessing it.

The power she gathered was then thrown out into the open battlefield, causing gales of massive forces to push everyone away from the source of the explosion of darkness. As this happened, the pitch-black colour that erupted from where Fuuka stood started to spread along the floors and walls of the gym like a disease. And when the whole area was covered in nothing but black, everyone's vision was cut off by a dramatic margin.

This only lasted for a short while, but afterwards, everyone opened their eyes slowly to see the dread that towered over them. They widened their eyes to see the true form of Fuuka's Shadow.

The top half of what seemed to be Juno was standing on its hips in a pool of black Shadow flesh, and its size was much larger than the original Persona. But instead of standing in its usual stance, it held out its two hands to hold a massive crystal ball using telekinesis to slowly spin it.

Inside the crystal ball was clear water that filled the glass right to the top. But the very thing that shocked everyone when they looked closely inside it, was Fuuka, holding up her hands and head in the way Juno did. Her clothes had undergone a drastic change, going from her usual thick casual clothing to something that made her seem angelic, yet demonising at the same time.

She wore silk and velvet sari-like scarves that matched her hair colour. But also, these scarves were covering up her bare body, and they were swaying gently in time with her hair as if Fuuka was floating underwater. The thing that made her looked contrary to the beautiful image she was donning was the yellow eyes that were just peeking through her eyelids; she seemed as if she was asleep.

The entirety of the Shadow, was the spitting image of a fortune-teller, but more disturbing, mainly because of the power Fuuka had at her disposal. Fuuka was able to tell where an opponent was, and on top of that, she could tell what the weaknesses and patterns of attacks the opponent has, which was a problem when they saw the full view of the Shadow.

"I am a Shadow...the true self..." Fuuka bellowed those familiar words with the Shadow's voice speaking over her original tone, "...if you truly value me as a friend, leave me here...with MY best friend..."

Before anyone could make any thoughts on attacking, the floor underneath everyone rumbled along with Fuuka's words. But the rumble after a short moment became much larger in magnitude, almost as if they were standing at the source of an earthquake. And when the shaking underneath them was at the point of making them all lose their footing, Fuuka slowly lifted her hands above her head, which in turn raised Juno's hand with her.

As everyone watched this happen, the fears started to rise knowing that anything can happen with Fuuka, and because of the quaking ground, it was very hard to see what she was trying to achieve. But then suddenly, Fuuka's eyes widened with a yell that screeched throughout the area, causing everyone to hold their ears in pain, struggling to stop the noise from entering their canals.

Eventually, the noise was so powerful, that everyone suddenly blacked out, collapsing to the floor with staggering legs that tripped them out due to the shaking of the earth. Yu was the only one who managed to keep his mind clear before giving into the blackout that everyone else succumbed to. As he collapsed to the ground, the last thing he saw was the shadow of his eyelids slowly closing. But before he knew it, his body landed on the ground with a thud.

Gradually, the noise started to fade from his mind, and the only thing he could hear was dead silence; the sound of unconsciousness, the sound of loneliness, but worst of all, the sound of defeat.

But then, the weight on his eyelids started to lift, and he was beginning to come to, waking his mind from what felt like a slumber. He slowly picked himself up, dusted himself off, and picked up his katana that was laid on the ground from a distance away.

He looked around for the others, only to find that they had gone; no one was is sight, not even Fuuka and her Shadow. But there was worse around him. The landscape around him changed dramatically from a blackened gym, to a labyrinth of corridors and hallways; those that were completely different to what he and the others went through in the normal school dungeon.

The corridors were tainted with black and purple colours, and some corridors just led to a dead end. But the frightening feature about the walls of these corridors were the large purple mask-like faces that were poking through the walls with eyes closed and neutral expressions. There was also the occasional dripping of blood falling down the corners of what looked like a maze.

Yu didn't find any of this familiar at all. But he suddenly remembered what S.E.E.S had told him about the school during the Dark Hour. He remembered the tower it became when it becomes midnight, and when he thought about it further, it hit him.

"Is this...Tartarus?" he asked himself, shocked and stiffened as a result of his fright.

And that is the twenty-sixth chapter guys! This was quite a hard chapter to write, but I'm still having fun nonetheless! And I hope you are all enjoying it too! Anyway, keep reading and reviewing and in the meantime...the TWENTY-SEVENTH chapter will come to you in no time! CYA!

Next Time... [Midnight Channel broadcasts...]

BGM: Backside of the TV - Persona 4 OST

Yu: What happened, Rise?! How did we get separated?!

?: After my hiatus, I think it was time to get back into the swing of things with you.

Ken: Y-You can't make me look to the past! Now let go of Junpei!

Shadow Fuuka: Without your friends, you are weak. And you remember that so well from the last time you left them.