Author's Note: I went round a round thinking about how to finish this up, this is the second to last chapter. Initially the story was only supposed to last three chapters but I decided to draw it out a little. I still think this chapter is a little underwlehmling but I want to get it posted before I go away on a trip. I'll most likely come up with a better idea for this chapter after I post it so I'l just accept that and move on.
Thank you for reading.
Disclaimer: I do not own Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4 or it's characters.
Souji awoke to a sunny Sunday morning, spoiled only by the fact that he was sleeping on a couch. He lifted his groggy head and saw someone in the kitchen. Yukiko was cooking breakfast. Correction, Yukiko's Shadow was cooking breakfast. Souji was getting sick at how used to her he'd become.
"Moring dear, how do you take your eggs?"
Souji began folding up the sheets to his couch-bed, "Why don't we skip that today."
"Because you're not my girlfriend."
"Really? But you've been eating my dishes for the past few weeks now. You've been betraying the real Yukiko for a long time."
Souji fought the urge to argue so early in the morning, "Whatever. What do you want to do today?"
Shadow Yukiko put food on her plate and looked out the large window in their apartment. She could see half of Tokyo.
"Let's stop by Inaba today. I'm pretty sure that big TV in our Junes is still there."
Souji raised an eyebrow. For a shadow that hated Inaba so much she certainly was keen on making routine visits.
"Souji-baby, you know that every time you ask me 'why' the answer is always the same: Because Yukiko's life depends upon it."
"Shadow attacks have been on the rise in Inaba. Are you worried about that?"
"Don't be stupid!"
Souji suspected she was worried. Shadows were testing the bounds of their world, and nowhere was that more evident than in Inaba. Souji kept tabs on the news over there via internet, the police were baffled.
"Are you worried? About other shadows overtaking our world?" Souji walked up behind her, "You can stop it all by returning to the Midnight Channel. If you go back, maybe the other shadows will behave."
Suddenly, Shadow Yukiko spun around, eyes glowing yellow. She grabbed Souji's neck.
"I call the shots in this relationship Souji!"
"Admit it! You're scared of what you've started!"
Shadow Yukiko was strong, she pinned Souji to the ground like a doll, "Listen you son of a bitch! You belong to me! Forget about the real Yukiko, forget about the other shadows, forget about thinking! Do as I say!"
Souji stopped struggling, it was useless anyway. He stared at her. She stared right back. Eventually, he was released.
"Alright. I'll do as you say," said Souji through the bile in his throat.
  
Chie lived in a condominium with her folks on the edge of Inaba. Souji, Yosuke and the thing wearing Yukiko's face climbed the steps towards Chie's room.
"Now one thing before we get there," said Yosuke, "Chie's still a little depressed about failing all her entrance exams so don't expect sunshine when we get there."
Souji and Shadow Yukiko nodded in unison and the door to her condo slowly opened. Her parents were out so it was no surprise when the living room and kitchen were empty.
"Chie-san?" called Shadow Yukiko, "It's us!"
Souji opened the door to her room. It was a mess, clothing and empty boxes of frozen steak were all over the place. Her bed was one big messy lump.
Yosuke walked in and took a seat at her desk, "Oh, I hope she didn't go back to the arcade. I've seen her play fighting games, even the employees get scared."
Souji took a seat on the bed and Shadow Yukiko opened the window, "It stinks in here," she said waving fresh air in.
"This sucks, I really want to tell her about Kyoto."
Souji's ear pricked up, "Kyoto?"
"Oh crap, I shouldn't have let that slip. I've been thinking a lot about all of us. And you know what? I think we should all go on a trip."
"To Kyoto?" asked Souji stupidly.
"Yeah. I mean, all of us won't be together forever so, why not?"
Souji thought about it. If it wasn't for Shadow Yukiko he would have signed on immediately. But he wasn't about to share such an intimate vacation with a monster.
Everyone thought in silence.
Souji felt a tickle on his waist. He looked back and saw Chie's sleepy face poking out from the covers like a kitten, "When do we leave?"
"Chie!" shouted Yosuke.
"Who did you expect? This is my room!"
"We were all worried about you so we decided to stop by."
Chie sat up, wrapped up in her covers, "I don't need cheering up. I need a brain."
"Chie, how do you expect to pass anything when you don't study?" said Shadow Yukiko.
"Don't start Yukiko; you know this stuff has never come easy to me. Now. Someone spill about the Kyoto thing."
"My dad can get us discounted hotel tickets. And heck, if we used the TV world we won't have to pay anything for travel."
Chie disappeared under her sheets, "It sounds too schoolish."
"It'll be fun! Come on, get up."
In his haste to pull Chie from her bedding cocoon, he stepped on one of the many DVD's littering her floor. There was a distinct crack.
"Oops," Yosuke murmured.
"What was that?" asked Chie. She came out, "Was that my DVD?"
"Lift your foot! Now!"
Yosuke had no choice but to do as told. Souji inched ever closer to the exit just in case.
"My movie!" Chie roared. She stood up in her bed, "Die!"
Yosuke fled with Chie in pursuit. They circled the room a few times. Shadow Yukiko tried to be cool and break it up but she got an elbow across the face and crashed into the trash can.
Souji jumped onto her bed for cover.
"Every time you come here Yosuke! Every time you're here you mess something up!"
"I'm sorry! I'll by you presents in Kyoto! I'll by you steak!"
Chie dove for the kill but missed. Yosuke used the opportunity to pull out one of the drawers from her dresser.
Chie chomped her fangs, "Put my underwear drawer down!"
"Not until you calm down!"
"I'll snap you like a twig!"
Yosuke held her underwear drawer out the window, "Calm down or else I'll drop it!"
Even Souji recognized how crazy that was, what was she thinking? He knew Chie was dangerous when angry but this was extreme.
"Calm down or I swear I'll drop it, the entire town will get to see your panties!"
Chie backed up, "Okay, okay, I'm calm, I'm calm."
The tension loosened and Yosuke set the drawer on the edge of the window.
"Good. See how beneficial it is to be calm?"
"Just shut up Yosuke and make your point."
"Good. We'll go to Kyoto, you can get yourself out of this slump and when you come back, you'll be ready for the entrance exams."
It was a good plan. What wasn't a good plan was Yosuke leaving her panty drawer on the edge of the window sill. It slipped off and plummeted below before their eyes.
"No!" Chie cried.
  
Kanji and Teddie were outside the condominium. The official term for what they were doing was killing time.
"You know what Teddie?" asked Kanji while munching on a topsicle.
"This town is as boring as hell. Don't get me wrong I like the quiet n' stuff, but man. Kanji Tatsumi is a man who craves adventure."
Teddie spared him a funny glance.
"I've been reading a lot of Manga lately. Those silly speeches just get stuck in my head."
"Yeah I guess you're right," said Teddie eating a topsicle of his own.
A wooden drawer hit the street in front of them and broke into a hundred pieces. The sudden noise made Teddie jump into Kanji's lap. Seconds later the two were showered in multi-colored pieces of fabric.
Ted pulled a pair of pink panties off his face, "Kanji."
"It's raining panties."
Kanji pulled a pair of bikini's off his shoulder like they were a foreign substance, "Yes Ted, it is."
He peeked at the tag inside, "Holy crap! It's raining Chie's panties!"
"This is the coolest town ever!" yelled Teddie.
  
Back at Souji's apartment in Tokyo, storm clouds hovered in the sky. But only over the apartment. It was a bad metaphor but the only one Souji could grab.
"We're not going to Kyoto," said Souji without a shred of hesitation.
His demonic girlfriend did nothing but blink a few times, "You can stay if you want but I'm going."
"Why? For what purpose? Why the hell are still in my life!"
Shadow Yukiko pouted, "It's been weeks now Souji-kun. I would have expected this attitude to end already."
"Well my feelings for the real Yukiko don't die that easily."
Shadow Yukiko didn't make eye contact. She hissed, "Are you saying that even after all this time you still want that other Yukiko back?"
"More now than ever!"
There was a cold silence. Shadow Yukiko stood up, "Baka Souji."
She quietly exited the apartment with her head hung low.
"Where are you going?"
"Wherever the hell I want!"
She slammed the door shut. Souji made sure to lock it tight once she did.
  
The Tokyo Junes was crowded as usual. Shadow Yukiko didn't mind, she started blankly at all the groceries, never minding the occasional request to move so that others could shop. She was confused. She expected Souji to resist her at the beginning but she was sure that he'd reverse his position as time went on. She was the real Yukiko after all. Shadow Yukiko felt the lethargic grip of doubt take hold of her body. If Souji was never going to love her, then what point was there to remain in the real world?
It was Yosuke. Shadow Yukiko removed the yellow glow from her eyes, "Yosuke?"
"Funny seeing you here alone. Where's my dude?"
"Oh right, that makes sense."
For some reason he didn't leave. Moments passed.
"Yosuke-kun? Everything okay?"
"Yeah, I'm still worried about Chie though."
"She'll get over it, trust me."
It hit Shadow Yukiko so hard she spun in circles. Yosuke pinned her to the shelves and looked down on her with a face not befitting his kind nature.
"I would have expected a shadow to say something so heartless," said Yosuke.
This was it, though Shadow Yukiko. She couldn't keep up the charade forever and now she was busted. She played the situation the only way she could. She pretended to look hurt and when Yosuke dropped his guard, she pushed him down.
The sudden commotion drew attention so Shadow Yukiko made her escape.
She ran and ran but couldn't get away. Yosuke cornered her in the frozen goods area.
"You haven't cared a bit about Chie this entire time! I knew something was wrong!"
"Do you think someone of my stature can be bothered with that commoner? She's no prince, she's a weakling!"
"Where's the real Yukiko?"
Shadow Yukiko rushed him, grabbed him by the collar and flipped him hard onto his back.
Then, she secured her escape to the back room. That big TV everyone was using to travel to Inaba and back was still there. She'd hide there for the time being.
She wasn't prepared for what was waiting for her.
  
Souji was angry but all that anger was leading to fatigue and the result of fatigue was sleep. He slept most of the day away in fact; the lack of Shadow Yukiko put his mind at ease.
It began to rain.
His cell phone rang loud, causing him to nearly hit the ceiling.
"Um…hello?" he answered rather zombie-like.
There was nothing but static on the other line.
"Souji?" The voice was weak, so weak he couldn't hear anything after his name.
"Who is this?"
"Souji…don't come to Inaba. Please man."
Souji's heart stopped, it was Yosuke.
"Yosuke? What's going on?"
"Just don't…come back…I'm sorry man, I found out about Yukiko but…"
The call disconnected. What kind of a message was that? Had Yosuke really wanted him to stay out of Inaba he would have worded it differently. Souji grabbed his jacket. And a baseball bat from under the futon.
  
The TV world was quiet…and fog-free. Souji made his way through it without putting his glasses on at all.
When he found a way to Inaba, little had changed. He stepped out of a 60" television onto the tile floor of Junes. The music and jingles were playing on the loud speakers, but there was absolutely no people present to listen. The Junes Inaba was usually quiet, but not this quiet.
The sliding glass doors leading outside slowly creaked open. Souji was immediately smothered by thick fog. The sweat on his brow froze. This was it; the border between the Midnight Channel and reality had shattered. He wasn't standing in the Inaba he knew. He looked up at the sky; it was swirling with the colors black and red. Yes, this was anything but Inaba.
He ran around the Junes building, finding little more than nothing. The hills were quiet and the streets were empty. He jogged all the way to the shopping district; he used the main street because there were no cars hit him. There was a considerable amount of shadow hovering over the shopping district. The moment he passed Konishi Liquor it was like walking from day into night.
There was a monster sitting in the middle of the road, a shadow whose mere sight sent Souji reeling. It was in the shape of a large man in flowing robes that took up the whole street. He had a tall hat like the nobles in Japan's history and a head of hair as long as his robes.
"Souji Seta," the shadow's voice was deep enough to vibrate the small stones at his feet, "I am finally graced with a face to put the name to."
The shadow faced him. His eyes were glowing and his mouth was decorated with fangs.
"Who are you?" Souji asked.
"I am a shadow."
The monster stood up, towering over Souji, "I am the product of this town you love so much. Of citizens who obsess over other people's pain rather than face their own. They all watch the news, soap operas and reality television, eager to see other people's pain and suffering while ignoring their own. I am the result of this town's ignorance of the truth."
There wasn't much Souji could do other than hold up his baseball bat. His friends were gone, he was alone.
"Go back to where you came from."
"I tire of being ignored. If this town's people had the courage to face their demons, I might not have come. But they didn't, and now they need to accept us or disappear."
Souji grinded his teeth and prepared for a fight that would most likely take his life.
"I have someone to thank for this Souji Seta, the girl who showed me the way over to your world."
The robbed shadow's hair began to move. He pulled from his robes a girl. It was Shadow Yukiko, unconscious.
"This haughty but delicate little thing was quite courageous when she crossed into your world. And thanks to her breakthrough, we shadows no longer have to hide in fog."
The shadow threw Yukiko into Souji's arms. Moments later, the towering shadow also tossed Shadow Souji towards them.
"And now Souji, this is the end. You're no different from everyone else; you refuse to accept your true self."
The buildings all shook violently. Swirling clouds of darkness covered the robbed shadow's hands. Souji recognized the color; it was the color of Mudo magic.
Souji clang to Shadow Yukiko, but death never came. His opponent groaned in frustration. A young woman had cut off a part of his long hair with a katana. Souji didn't need more than a glance to know it was the real Yukiko.
Her clothing was torn and her hair was messy, but it was her alright.
"Souji!" she cried.
The robbed shadow before them showed off its sharp nails, "Amagi!"
"You have no idea how much trouble I'll be in when my grandfather realizes I stole his katana! Now come on! Show me how badly you want to stay in this world!"
"Ha! You both have no personas!" The massive shadow swung a paw at Yukiko but she cut through it like butter. Souji began to identify a problem with their opponent, he was so wrapped up in robes it was impossible to tell where its vital parts were.
There was nothing Souji loved more than his girlfriend's fiery attitude, but this wasn't a battle she could win on will power alone.
"Yukiko! Look out!"
Yukiko swung again and again. The shadow's hair coiled around her body and forcibly disarmed her.
"Behave yourself Yukiko-san, this is unbecoming of you."
Souji tried to swing his bat but he too was trapped in the monster's flowing hair. Unlike Yukiko however, Souji was being strangled.
The monster shadow bellowed, "No more! From either of you!"
Yukiko struggled against her bonds. Souji could only imagine how painful it was for her to watch her lover strangle to death.
Black consumed his vision.
  
When Souji came too he wasn't in Inaba, he was in a car. And he was no longer seeing black, he was seeing blue. He was in the velvet room.
Across from him was the all too familiar face of Igor, a short old man with a long nose and grin that could intimidate anyone.
"Are you startled to be here my boy?" said Igor.
"Yes. Am I…dead?"
"Of course not, but you are unconscious. I bet you're wondering why I've called you here."
"Sure am considering I already fulfilled the contract I made with you."
"I have to say I was not expecting you to find yourself in this kind of situation again. Fate is funny, yes?"
Fate was cruel, but Souji shut up a listened to the rest of Igor's speech.
"It turns out your journey was not over like we thought, but that's no matter. I'm here to help."
"There's nothing you can do. This isn't like last time."
"On the contrary, it is. I'm not going to spoil this little appendix to our story with the solution though."
Igor snapped his boney fingers and presented Souji with a piece of paper.
"Allow me to show you another contract."
"Is this the solution? If I sign this will everything return to normal?"
"That all depends on you. By signing this contract you pledge to be honest with yourself. Subsequently, you also pledge to pursue what you truly desire."
Souji stared at the mystical paper before him. He had to pledge to be honest, huh? Souji thought about everything that had happened. He thought about Tokyo, college and Yukiko, both the real version and the shadow version. Honesty.
Souji gripped the floating pen beside the contract. He signed his name.
"Such a quick decision," said Igor with a sharp smile.
"I can't believe I didn't see it sooner," said Souji.
His vision began to break up, along with Igor's image.
"I have to say Souji," said Igor before vanishing, "I have never met a guest so strong and yet so fragile at the same time."
  
When Souji woke up, he was on the ground.
Souji lifted his eyes to Yukiko's voice. But it wasn't Yukiko; it was her shadow. Nearby, Shadow Souji and the real Yukiko did all they could to keep the robbed shadow at bay.
"I was so worried!"
"Wow. You really do care for me don't you?"
Shadow Yukiko wiped some tears from her eyes, "Yes. If only you'd care for me back. I'm…sorry for starting all of this."
"That's okay. Now, how about we end it?"
Shadow Souji was kicked out of the fight and landed nearby, "I'd like to make my peace now."
Souji laughed, which Shadow Yukiko naturally found strange.
"Did you expect this to happen when you first came over?"
Her expression said it all. The real Yukiko was falling back; it looked like none of them stood a chance.
Souji stepped up to the big shadow and hoped it would listen, "If you are so concerned about the truth I'll spell it out for you. I'm scared of Yukiko. She's always intimidated me. It took everything I had to ask her to move in with me, and even then I was still scared."
Souji wondered what Yukiko thought of that, but he wasn't ready to face her. She put a hand on his shoulder, "Okay. I'll come clean too. I don't want to return to Inaba, I want to live with Souji in Tokyo."
She sighed like she was about to eat something terrible, "And yes, I do like to come off as a perfect woman, I guess my mom had more influence over me than I like to admit."
The shadow grumbled, which sounded like thunder due to its size, "I see there are at least two people in this world willing to face the truth."
Souji grinned, "You have no idea."
He and Yukiko snapped their fingers and became enveloped in wind.
"All right," Shadow Yukiko laughed, "You win Souji-kun. But if you ever get tired of that uptight poster child for femininity, call me anytime."
She turned into a tarot card. Shadow Souji whistled, "Nice knowing you Amagi-san keep him in line okay?"
He too turned into a tarot card.
"Persona!" yelled Souji and Yukiko in unison. Yukiko's persona, Amaterasu, flew high above her head while Izanagi flew above Souji.
"What?" bellowed the shadow, "But we're in the real world!"
It was surprised? Thanks to shadows like it, the line between the Midnight Channel and reality was perpetually blurred.
"If you think I'm intimidated…" the shadow began. Souji cut it off, "Go back to your world!"
The shadow roared, "That won't change anything! You can't ignore us forever! How long will it be until your own shadows return to you? Humans are incapable of accepting who they really are!"
Souji and Yukiko stood their ground.
Finally, the shadow gave up, "As you wish, but you're only delaying the inevitable. We'll meet again."
The shadow wrapped itself up in its robes and disappeared into a ball of swirling shadow. The display was powerful enough to blow both Souji and his girlfriend back, but when they opened their eyes again, Inaba was back to normal.
  
The last train to Kyoto was moving out with its passengers.
Yosuke hung his head out the window, "Damn it!" He pulled his head back in and yelled at all his vacation-dressed friends, "Well this is a disaster! I told Souji and Yukiko this train left at 9:00am sharp! Damn it!"
"Did you call them?" asked Chie.
Yosuke pulled out his phone and began to dial.
"You know, maybe senpai made other plans," mused Kanji.
"They better not have!" Yosuke finally got Souji's call music, which sounded a lot like the music from a video he'd been playing called Catherine.
"Hello, this is Souji."
"Souji! Where are you and Yukiko! You've missed the train!"
"Oh, um, about that. We're already at the hotel in Kyoto."
Yosuke heard Yukiko's voice in the background, "The hotel clerk is old and hard of hearing so speak up when you get here."
"Oh," said Chie casually, "They're already there. Cool." Her face suddenly changed, "Wait a second, they're already there? Alone?"
Yosuke tried to think of a good way to phrase it, "Souji? Why did you two decided to get there early?"
Yosuke heard the sound of running water, "Souji? Is that the shower?"
Again he heard Yukiko in the background, "Ouch, too hot, too hot."
"We have to go Yosuke, let's say I have a contract to fulfill. See you here!"
The call disconnected. Yosuke could feel the intense stares of all his friends. He said the only thing he could, "Well…King Moron is turning in his grave right now."