Happy Holidays everyone! I apologize for not finishing this sooner. As you know, the Medical Residency I'm attending to and Ohta-chan's work can be quite demanding, but we are always doing our best when it comes to this story. So enjoy this little Christmas gift and have fun!
FoolsSin: This chapter shall answer some of your questions. And bring up a few more.
ObsidianNoir: I understand your point. It was a little tricky to pull off since when I started this fic P3P wasn't released yet, but when it was, I had to add Minako to the plot. Since the butterfly effect theory was a major theme of the game I decided to make use of it. Anyway, I'm glad you like the plot so far.
KO: Those are some interesting persona choices. Such wicked designs! I might have some room for them. Regarding Souji's shadow, I do have plans regarding him and the anime did give me some ideas, but I'm not telling anything else for now. As for Arena 2, yeah I heard about it. Helped me finish this chapter big time.
Kitanalao: Are you kidding me? I love reviews! And reviews like yours make things as worthwhile. I'd like to hear more from you. :3
Blitzshine: I'm glad you liked it. Yes, I have some trouble fitting all the cast sometimes. That's why I have to focus some chapters on part of the cast, but I try to fit as much people as I can on most scenes.
Wolf . IV : It's a possibility. I can't say much regarding his family's past as it is a major part of the plot. But I'm glad you like it. :3
A few warnings: (Yes, I put those before every chapter to avoid issues)
-There will be spoilers for all games! You've been warned.
-The Main characters from each game in this fanfic are called Minato Arisato (P3:FES), Minako Arisato (P3P) and Souji Seta (P4)
-There'll be some cursing. (Anyone that played any persona games knows that some characters on it curse quite a bit.) as well as some heavy subjects.
-Main Pairings in this fanfic: MinatoxYukari, ShinjiroxMinako, SoujixYukiko, KanjixNaoto, AkihikoxMitsuru, YosukexChie.
-Hinted Pairings(in later chapters): JunpeixChidori. (Hinted because Chidori doesn't appear much on this story) KenxNanako (Ya know those little girl's crushes on older boys? It'll be along those lines) FuukaxKeisuke (Other than Minato and Junpei, Fuuka only displayed some sort of close relationship with Keisuke the club president. I found it kinda cute.) TeddiexRise (Just for giggles. They are after all the two hyperactive cuties of the team X3)
Have fun ya guys. On with the show!
Chapter 21: Clash of Anti-Shadow Weapons.
It wasn't every year that a school out in the boonies received transfer students; but six in a single semester was next to zero. They stood out amongst the rest of the student body, just like Souji did when he first arrived in April 2011. Three weeks had passed, but they were still garnering a lot of attention from the other students.
The relationship between Souji and the twins was obvious enough, although rumors did tend to fly when either brother was alone with Minako, mostly caused by the confusion that both males didn't resemble the auburn cutie whatsoever. Heck, they even thought that Minato and Kou were long-lost brothers having been separated since childhood, given Kou's history of being adopted from an orphanage. Having dealt with this type of situation before, the siblings just left the rumors alone to let it die a natural death. The rest of Souji's friends did a pretty good job of spreading the word that he and Yukiko were dating, just so that creepy guys would leave her alone.
Shinjiro had better luck of keeping people away from him. A death glare here and a threatening growl there, were enough to warn others that he wasn't one to be trifled with. There was one downside to this, and that was the spreading of rumors about him being a relative of Kanji Tatsumi, which annoyed the two of them to no end.
Labrys on the other hand, was no longer the shy girl the transfer students met in the office. Having joined the student council, her confidence seemed to have blossomed, making friends with others instantly. She could be seen all over the school grounds, scolding boys who were breaking the rules or greeting girls during her 'patrols'. She reminded them of Mitsuru, only less scary.
In a nutshell, school life was normal; Homework was a pain and tests even more so. The teachers talked too much and whined occasionally about their lives, namely Kashiwagi, often taking it out on the class. The gang always looked forward to having lunch together. And it was nice to have someplace else to escape to after school, even if it was a part-time job or fighting Shadows.
Rumors didn't just spread in schools. Even in town, people's tongues wagged; the focal point being the supernatural sightings, strange occurrences and rumors, and the new addition of town, the dorm. It just so happened that Yukari and Fuuka were returning from Okina one day, passing by Souzai Daigoku as housewives gossiped amongst themselves. The two girls caught some of their conversation.
"My son told me about the new transfer students in his school. City kids by the looks of it, just like Detective Dojima's boy," one of them said. She was wearing a yellow apron.
"That's old news. According to my daughter, they're staying at that so-called dorm. And get this…it's co-ed. And they're sharing it with a few college kids," another woman in a red apron chipped in.
Her friends gasped, scandalized. "Why would they build such a thing…doesn't the mayor know about this?!"
"Haven't you heard? The building that dorm is occupying used to be the haunted mansion on the side of the hill."
"Maybe that's why the real estate office was so eager to do something about it. I heard my husband mentioning about that house being unable to sell for decades!"
"I remember back in my high-school days where the boys would go to that awful place and test their courage during the summer. Why, one of my husband's friends…"
And from there the topic steered another way. Fuuka had to drag Yukari away before she could barge in on their conversation demanding to know more about the ghosts. As they got further away, sure enough, Yukari was shaking. "Now now Yukari-chan, don't listen to them. It's just a silly little rumor being passed down for a long time. You know how it is with the countryside," the petite scanner consoled her friend. "Besides, after you got that talisman, we haven't experienced something like that since it happened."
"Fuuka, you don't understand. It's happening all over town now. It's only a matter of time before whatever the hell's going on out there reaches us!"
"You don't know that. If anything weird is going on, don't you think I'd have been able to sense it by now? Besides, Kanji-kun, Yukiko-chan and Chie-chan never mentioned anything like that to us, and they've been living here their whole lives."
Yukari went silent. Never had she doubted Fuuka's scanning abilities, but all this talk about ghosts was spooking her out. "You're…y-you're right. It's just a s-silly urban legend being p-passed down from one person to another. Some of the facts got twisted along the way."
"That's right," Fuuka said. "Remember what happened to me back in school? People just assumed I died because they didn't know what was really going on behind the scenes."
"Thanks Fuuka. I feel a little better," Yukari sighed. "Mind coming with me to Junes? Minako-chan needed some groceries to make dinner. I'd hate to run into Teddie and he starts following me all over the place."
"Sure, let's go."
Meanwhile at the Dorm…
Mitsuru was walking along the halls of the boy's floor, and knocked on a door. She heard a grunt, indicating the occupant was inside. "Akihiko, may I have a word with you?" She waited patiently for him to come out.
The handsome boxer opened the door. His thin cotton shirt was drenched in sweat, a towel thrown over his neck. He must have been training.
Mitsuru resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "I need to talk to you about something. I'll be waiting in the meeting room." And she walked off, just like that.
Akihiko raised an eyebrow. She hadn't used that crisp tone on him since they graduated high school. Whatever it was, it sounded important. He quickly changed into dry clothes and made his way downstairs. He found his girlfriend already seated, in front of her on the table was a laptop and some papers. "You wanted to see me, Mitsuru?"
"Ah, yes. Please have a seat." She gestured to the chair opposite to her.
'I wonder what this is about…' Akihiko thought, since it was only him and Mitsuru in the dorm today.
"How is your schedule? Everything to your preference?" Mitsuru started the conversation.
"Yeah, pretty much. Thanks to Shirogane's personal archives, I have enough reference for my studies so I don't have to travel to Okina's public library. The rugged terrains here are more than enough for my training regimen."
"I see. Have you ever considered taking a part-time job while we're staying here?"
"I did, just haven't found one that caught my interest yet."
Mitsuru gave him a smile. "Then today is your lucky day." She slid a piece of paper towards him across the table.
Akihiko read it. His eyes opened wide. "Assistant coach? At Yasogami High?!"
"The twins came to me one day and told me about one of the teachers there desperately needing an assistant. Sadly, they're low on funds to hire extra help. I plan to do something about that. I have also spoken to the headmaster on the phone regarding this, and he agrees wholeheartedly."
"You're gonna ask The Group to sponsor Yasogami?" he asked in a sarcastic tone, having heard enough from her about the pompous stuck-ups that were currently governing the board.
Mitsuru smirked. "You don't need to worry about them. I will make it happen, no matter what it takes." The firmness in her voice caused goosebumps to run along his arms, but in a good way. "So, are you taking it or not?"
"Count me in!" Akihiko gave her a devilish grin. "Besides, I can't wait to see the look on Shinji's face when I start my first day."
Yasogami High, track field...
It was the time of the week for Physical Education again, everybody donned in their Yasogami jerseys. Those who sincerely loved sports welcomed it. A majority of the class liked it, because it gave them a chance to mingle around outside the classroom. Some hated it, because they would prefer to be in class, catching a snooze.
Souji learned from past experience that these were the best times to catch up on some school gossip before the teacher showed up. He ordered his friends to spread out among their fellow classmates and try to catch on some of their conversations. Currently, he was standing in front of a group consisting of three girls whom he recognized were always seated near the class entrance, pretending to ignore them but listening intently.
"Hey guys, I discovered something neat while I was browsing my favorite fashion blog last night – " one of the girls started talking.
"Oh come on, not that again. You haven't shut up about that stupid trend going on in the city right now. Trust me, that look never does anybody any favors," her friend rudely cut in.
"But, it's different this time, I swear!"
"Come on, let's hear her out. This might actually be interesting," the other friend said, trying to avoid an argument.
There was a small hush before the fashion-obsessed girl from earlier continued. "Okay, as I was looking through the various forum threads there, a weird link suddenly popped up. I clicked on it out of curiosity and my computer went blank for a second…"
"Oh, for goodness sake – !"
"Wait, I didn't finish yet! Suddenly a text came in my cell. I didn't realize that it was already so late when I looked at the time the text came in, precisely at twelve midnight. I thought it was spam at first, but I opened it to see what it was about. It said 'If you want to see the life of the person you hate totally destroyed, just reply to this message and send the name of that person.' It completely creeped me out and I shoved my phone into my desk drawer. I was going to show it to you guys this morning, but it totally disappeared from my inbox!"
'Now this is new…' Souji mused, sharpening his ears even further. He felt a familiar presence standing beside him.
"Are you for real?!" the rude friend asked incredulously. "Are you absolutely positive you weren't dreaming?"
"Hey, if you don't believe me, try it out for yourself!"
Souji felt the person beside him grab his arm. It was Shinjiro.
"That sounds awfully familiar," he growled softly. Souji could see the muscles of his jaw tightening, and his right hand was slightly rubbing his chest.
The silverette knew what that meant. "We definitely need to meet up after school."
As soon as Souji finished his sentence, Mr. Kondo stepped out into the field and headed for the soccer goalpost, a broad grin on his face. It wasn't uncharacteristic for the teacher to display his cheerfulness, but his panda eyes did make him look rather creepy. "Alright guys, gather around before I announce what sport the guys and the girls will be playing for today!"
The students immediately obeyed. For some reason, the PE/English teacher's grin broadened even further. "We won't be having our usual pop quiz today. Instead, I have an important announcement. Those of you who have read the school paper most probably know that we're a bit understaffed lately. Which is why today is such a special occasion!"
The students stared at him blankly as crickets chirped in the background.
"Uhhh…okay, that was awkward. Without wasting any more time, I'd like to introduce you guys to my new assistant. He was made so because he doesn't have the qualifications to be a teacher, but given his track record from his school days and his passion for sports, he'll be helping me train you lot. Hey, come on out here already!"
Anticipation thrummed as footsteps were heard from around the corner. His bright silver hair, red shirt and white jacket gave away his identity to the senior SPIES. "Hi guys. My name is Akihiko Sanada. I'll be Kondo-sensei's assistant from today onwards. Pleased to meet you," the former boxer greeted politely. Before any of his teammates could return the greeting, a majority of the females began to emit high-pitched squeals.
"Kyaaaaaa! He's gorgeous!"
"Oh my God, he's so HOT!"
"That body. That face…he's so perfect!"
Shinjiro face-palmed, and pulled his beanie down to cover his ears, trying to block out the noise. He wasn't successful. 'I should have expected this…I knew something was up when he couldn't stop smiling last night. Damn you, Aki!'
The twins only shook their heads, grinning in amusement at Akihiko's annoyed reaction to the screaming. 'Poor Senpai…even after all these years, he still can't catch a break.'
Souji and his friends were dumbfounded, not sure how to react. Neither did the rest of the male population in their class.
After much effort from the teacher and the class representative, the screeching girls managed to calm down somewhat. "As I was saying before…" Mr. Kondo cleared his throat before continuing. "Sanada-san here will be my assistant. His duties include assisting me with some of the PE classes, and he will also be working with the basketball and soccer teams with their training. I was made to understand that his stay in Inaba won't be a long one, so I hope you guys can get along with him!" The girls started to make noise again, most of them pouting in disappointment. "Alright, now that that's settled, I'm gonna announce what you guys will be doing today. The girls will head off to the indoor gym and get started on volleyball. The guys will remain out here practicing soccer under Sanada-san's supervision. Now go on and scatter, all of you!"
Souji caught Akihiko giving a superior smirk to Shinjiro's direction. 'School is definitely becoming more interesting…'
As usual, the gang gathered at the roof top during lunch period. They chatted, but not as lively this time.
The door slammed open and immediately closed again, revealing a flustered Akihiko. "Tch...I finally lost them. To think the boonies has this much of a crowd…" Then he went to join his friends as if nothing happened. "So, what's up guys?"
"Had a rough day, Aki?" Shinjiro sneered, polishing off his bento. "Seriously, things never change around you."
"Tell me about it. I thought it'll quiet down, y'know. But the girls here are just as loud and annoying as the ones in the city. No offense to you guys," the former boxer apologized quickly.
"None taken," Naoto sighed. "I understand your current predicament. Unfortunately, they're also just as relentless, so you're going to have to bear with it for a while."
"If you ask me, the solution's obvious," Rise chipped in.
A question mark appeared above Chie's head. "Solution? What solution?"
"Could you guys be any more clueless? Make out with Mitsuru-senpai in front of the entire school, of course!"
Everyone did a spit-take of their lunches except for Shinjiro, who continued to chew on his food properly.
"Rise-chan, how can you suggest such a shameless thing?!" Yukiko scolded.
"Doesn't surprise me. I've been telling him to do that since middle school, way before they even started dating," Shinjiro said, ignoring his best friend's blush. "Of course, she'd flat out refuse back then. And execute him for good measure. But I've never seen any girl messing with her."
"That's right. A woman of high class, intelligence and beauty like Mitsuru-senpai…there's no way those girls will ever stand a chance in the short amount of time that he's staying here," Rise boasted, happy that at least one person was backing her up.
Everyone stopped shoving food in their mouths and gave it some thought. To the boys, that was a surefire way of ensuring that people got the message all throughout town in the shortest amount of time. To the girls, it was embarrassing, but even they got to admit that it might just work.
"Yeah, Shinji-kun's right. Any girl would be foolish to mess with Mitsuru-senpai. I was lucky enough not to get harassed too much by Akihiko-senpai's fans back in Gekkoukan, mostly because they knew that I was living in the same dorm with her," Minako said. "Girls can be pretty cruel that way."
"I actually overheard one girl telling her friends she was going to put her name up in that sick website Strega was handling," Minato said, almost breaking his chopsticks in half. His eyes darkened with anger. "I threatened that girl somewhat, but she got the message and avoided Minako after that."
Yosuke perked up. "Hey, that kinda rings a bell. I actually heard about something like that before I transferred here from the city. Remember that ghost story I told you guys at the ski resort, about one of my friend's sister? He told me something about a website that can help you get rid of the person you hate. Just type in that person's name, and bam! The next day something bad happens to them."
"That was Strega's M.O. They track the person down and take 'em out during the Dark Hour, leaving no evidence that they committed the crime," Shinjiro said.
Souji gasped. "So, those girls weren't making things up…"
"Making what up, Sensei?" Teddie asked.
The silverette told them about the conversation he overheard in PE class. It was the others' turn to gasp.
"What does this mean?" Chie wondered. "Will more people get hurt because of this?"
"I don't know. But just as we said before, things will get worse. I'll have Fuuka look into that, but we still don't have a solid lead on whose behind all this, so we'll just have to keep our eyes and ears peeled for anything," Minato said. "Speaking of, have any of you guys seen anymore spirit sightings? The dorm has been quiet after the cleanup event."
"Nope, I haven't heard anything new from the Housewives Network. Unless you want to count the amount of people into horror movies these days," Yosuke pointed out. "I just found it unusual after doing inventory for the video section the other day. Apparently it's selling like hot cakes."
"I noticed that too. A lot of the guests staying at the inn kept asking the staff about any local ghost stories. Mother was worried that might attract unwanted attention from shady reporters again so she ordered them not to say anything," Yukiko said.
"Shady reporters?" Akihiko repeated while munching on a yakisoba roll.
"The Amagi Inn received a lot of unsavory media attention after word got out that the late Mayumi Yamano was staying there before her death," Naoto explained. "But the ghost story angle is worth looking into. There might just be a pattern there."
They pooled in all the info they collected from people around town. So far no luck…
"Another dead end," Kanji sighed. "I haven't seen any spirits floating around either, seeing that I live next to the shrine. Good thing too…I'd hate for them to scare Ma in the middle of the night."
"We'll have to gather more information," Metis concluded.
The bell signaling recess was over rang throughout the school. The Persona-users quickly cleaned up their mess and headed to class.
After school, 2nd floor…
Standing beside a shady corner near the stairway leading to the 3rd floor, Souji waited for the members of the Occult Club to pick up the requested idols after class. Luckily, no one paid any attention to the large sack he was carrying. They simply passed him by, or glanced at the out-of-place object and disregarded it.
As if emerging from the shadows, the two creepy students walked up to him. "Ah, Seta. Perfect timing as ever," Black Hair praised, anxiously eyeing the sack. "I see we were right in trusting you with such an important request."
Souji passed said item to them. "Always glad to help. Feel free to check them and make sure they're suitable for your needs."
Brown Hair wasted no time pouncing on the sack, his hands greedily disappearing into the opening, inspecting the contents. "Perfect!" His creepy eyes glinted and his voice was filled with rather disturbing glee. "These will certainly provide us with enough spiritual energy for all our members' initiation!"
"Once again, Seta, you never fail to impress." Black Hair grinned toothily, in such an ominous way that Souji felt shivers running down his spine. The other student failed to notice this as he pulled out a small velveteen box from his jacket pocket. "And of course, such a feat cannot go unrewarded. I'm sure you'll find this artifact to be more than worth your trouble."
Souji hastily picked the box out of his bony hands, wanting this to be over as soon as possible. He pried it open and took a quick glance at his reward, blinking in surprise. 'This…this is definitely better than I expected..."
He shifted his gaze to face the two. "Thank…you…?" Surprised to find both gone, and so was the sack containing the dolls. "…Were they this mysterious last year?" He looked at the upper part of the stairs. "You two can come out now. Coast is clear."
The twins ran downstairs to meet up with the silverette. "That was weird alright," Minako said. "Not as weird as most requests Elizabeth and Theo-kun asked of us, but close enough."
"Can't argue with you on that one." Minato was more interested in the small box Souji was holding. "So, what kind of item did they give to you for the trouble?"
Souji showed them the artifact: a small, silver dragonfly pendant decorated with tiny precious stones of different colors. The way it glinted under the hallway lights was mesmerizing, the smooth metal soothing to the touch. The silverette gripped it tighter, the cool temperature of the silver sending delightful tingles across his warm skin. Smiling softly to himself, he felt at ease in a way that he hadn't felt in a while as he placed it around his neck.
"Woah, that's so pretty…" Minako cooed, snapping Souji out of his trance. "You're so lucky, Banchou-kun. I've never seen a piece of jewelry like this. It's pretty old, so it must have been a family heirloom."
"I agree. There's something special about this artifact. I can sense it," Minato said. "It's certainly fits you."
"Really? How so?"
"Dragonflies are positive cultural symbolisms for maturity and depth of character. It also represents the sharpness of one's inner mind, looking beyond the surface and into the deeper implications and aspects of life, opening one's eyes and defeating self-created illusions," the blunette explained as he smiled. "Actually, that explains a lot about you and what you've been through. It's a perfect match."
Minako nodded enthusiastically in agreement. Souji rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment. "They're also a symbol of power and poise, especially in here in Japan, representing summer and autumn. It's a creature that's admired and respected, so much so that the samurai use it as a symbol of power, agility and victory. A lot of the imperial crests are represented by dragonflies," she said, before sticking out her tongue. "Ono-sensei made sure to remind us of that on a daily basis. Sofue-sensei is clearly fascinated by Egyptian and world history, but not to the point of unhealthy obsession like he has with the Sengoku era."
Souji chuckled at that. "I know. Kanji mentioned his enthusiasm during the school trip last year. He and the first-years got stuck in a special lecture given by him. Not to mention he even cried in the middle of a lesson about the tale of Masamune Date when I attended Gekkoukan. I swear I've never seen anyone get so emotional over a historical figure."
The trio sweatdropped, before bursting into laughter for a few minutes.
"Anyway, those guys from the Occult Club seem to take this paranormal subject way too seriously," Minato said, turning solemn. "Such fascination can't be a good thing."
"Aniki, don't be so paranoid…" Minako scolded lightly. "But then again, we've had our share of problems with cults and occult fanatics in the past…" She caressed the leather strap of her wristwatch, trying to shake off the bad memories of Strega and the Cult of Nyx.
Souji tried to ease their concerns. "Easy, you guys. From what I know of them, their curiosity is mostly harmless. Besides, discretion is the key element to their club, so I doubt they'd do anything drastic that could expose them to the whole school."
"It makes sense… But still, I think we shouldn't approach them for the time being," Minato decided. "Let's go get food before we head for the daycare. I'm starving for some Chinese."
After school, the 1st floor…
"Get back here, ya damn bear!" Yosuke shouted as he chased Teddie down the hallway. "You're not getting away this time!"
"But Yosuke, Sensei said I already made up for what happened at Yakushima!" Teddie whined, trying to keep himself at a safe distance from his foster brother.
"That was before you bailed on me last time! Do you have any idea of the freaking, ear bleeding lecture I've got from Dad for that?!" Yosuke fumed. "You're coming with me even if I have to rip your bear suit and use it as a cleaning rag!"
The blonde panicked as Yosuke closed in on him. Even without his suit, he wasn't fast enough to outrun the wielder of the Storm God. He could only pray for someone or something to save him.
"HALT! BOTH OF YOU!" A female voice commanded. The owner of the voice came into their field of vision, holding up a hand as a stop sign.
Startled, Teddie screeched to a halt, causing Yosuke to crash into him and sending both of them face first to the ground, only a few inches from her feet.
"Why does this always happen to me?" the senior muttered.
"Yosuke…get off…you're squishing me…" Teddie moaned, feeling very unpleased in their current position.
"Are you two alright?" the same voice asked, now filled with some concern.
The boys quickly got back to their feet. "L-Labrys-san!? I'm sorry! I didn't mean to! Are you okay? We didn't hurt you, did we?!"
"Whoa, calm down, Yosuke-san. I'm okay, but what about you and Teddie-san?"
Teddie beamed, always loving the attention. ""Even better now that you're with us, Labby-chan!"
"Now, care to explain why you two were running in the hallway?" The self-proclaimed prefect crossed her arms, expression stern. "You know that's against the school rules."
"It was this little runt's fault!" Yosuke was quick to point a finger at Teddie. "He was trying to ditch work!"
"What!? That's a lie! I was just heading out to Junes!" Teddie protested in self-defense. "I'd never run away from my responsibilities!"
"Is that so?" Labrys' expression softened. "Since it was for a good reason, I'll let it slide this time then. But you two must promise me that you won't do it again, okay?"
"Of course, Labby-chan! You're so understanding~ And too sweet~" Teddie tried buttering her up, eyes gleaming with happiness, throwing in some sparkles for good measure. The girl couldn't help but giggle, not minding the flirting attempt.
Yosuke raised an eyebrow at how quick he suddenly changed his mind, knowing the bear was only doing it to impress Labrys. A sneaky grin made its way to his lips, deciding to use it to his advantage. "Alright, Teddie, let's get going. We don't want to be late for work now, do we?" He gripped his shoulder and clenched it very tightly, to make sure the sneaky little bugger wouldn't escape again.
Teddie let out a small 'eeep' of pain, knowing that his flirting tendencies have backfired on him once again. "S-Sure thing!" he stuttered, trying to act brave in a girl's presence.
"You two are funny," she giggled at them. "Well, I must be going too. Momma's waiting for me. See ya tomorrow."
As Labrys was about to turn a corner, she almost bumped into someone. "Oh, I'm sorry about – " Her sentence stopped there when saw it was Metis. Immediately her eyes narrowed. "Metis…" she hissed.
"It's okay, Labrys-san." The other girl smiled at her, her eyes glowing with innocence,
Labrys snorted arrogantly. She walked past her, not bothering to look back.
The black-haired android cocked her head in confusion. "Was it something I said?" she mumbled to herself as Yosuke and Teddie walked up to her.
"What's up, Metis-san?" Yosuke greeted.
"I don't know…Labrys-san's mood always seems to change whenever I'm around."
"What do you mean?" Teddie asked.
"Remember when Chie-san and Yukiko-san gave me a tour during the first day of school? Along the way, we met her. She was really happy when they offered to show her around, but when she saw I was with them, she turned serious and glared at me several times. She's been showing signs of hostility towards me ever since."
"I think you're just imagining things," Yosuke waved it off. "Labrys-san can be strict, I'll give ya that, but only when she's sure she's right. Discipline seems to be her thing."
"Maybe…I'm not really good at reading human emotions compared to vital signs," she sighed. "Labrys-san is hard for me to understand. I just don't want make her upset."
"You? Never, Metty-chan!" Teddie said. "You try your best to help everybody! Why would anyone be upset at you?"
Metis felt slightly better. "Thank you, Teddie-san."
Before he could open his mouth to use some pick-up lines on her, Yosuke grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. "C'mon you little troublemaker, you're coming with me to Junes and that's final!" He turned to Metis, ignoring Teddie pouting. "Sorry, but we need to get going. Want us to accompany you to the school gates?"
"I appreciate that, Yosuke-san. Thank you."
The school building was empty, except for a young couple walking through the hallways of the main school building, making their way to the shoes lockers. It was already late, and they were anxious to get home.
"Hey…" The boy suddenly inched closer to his girlfriend. "Did you hear something?"
"Oh please, if you're trying to flirt with me, you're gonna need a better line," she huffed in annoyance, pulling her normal shoes out to replace her school issued ones.
"No! I'm serious! I heard something." He cupped a hand to his ear. "Listen."
The girl complied and became silent. At first she heard nothing, but then it started – a chanting, monotone chorus that started faint, almost a whisper that it was barely audible. But then it grew louder and louder, as if was alive and stomping towards them. "W-What was that?!"
"I-I dunno…" her boyfriend stuttered.
"C-Could it be those ghost lights thingies that people keep talking about?!"
"Hear us…" the eerie voice echoed. "As the pale golden moon rises in the sky and the crimson fog covers the land, the spirits of the damned will rise to plunge the world into chaos once again!"
Shrieking loudly, the couple broke into a mad dash for the exit as moans and wails erupted from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
In a secluded classroom…
A group of students, all of them wearing masks, were chanting around a rune circle drawn on the center of the floor, occasionally interrupted by moans and wails. Posters of arcane symbols and characters were all over the walls. The curtains were closed so that the only light source was coming from the five candles surrounding the drawn circle.
The leader of the group suddenly raised a hand, and everyone was silenced. "Very well, that'll do for today." He took off his mask and stood up. It was Black Hair. "Well done, my fellows in the practice of the Dark Arts. These idols are most certainly filled with spiritual power."
"Once we tap into that power, we shall be able to delve further into the forces of paranormal," Brown Hair rubbed his bony hands together. "And then… we'll find the truth behind all mysteries!"
The members of the eccentric club stood up and cheered.
"Remember, remain secretive," Black Hair ordered. "No one shall interfere with our plans!"
They cleaned and split up, leaving no traces of their presence of having ever used that classroom.
Daycare, on top of the hill…
The Wild Cards were surrounded by children, most of them kindergartners tugging them from all directions, trying to get the new assistants to focus their attention to any sort of trouble their young minds could conjure up, while making as much noise as humanly possible.
"Mister, Mister, Kaoru pooped in his pants again!"
"I did not! Stop lying, you big fat liar!"
"I'm thirsty. I want juice!"
"No! He's gonna get me takoyaki!"
"Toki-kun is bullying Haruhi-chan again. Please save her, Yuuta-kun!"
"Featherman Ultra Chop!"
"Onee-chan, do you have a boyfriend?"
Luckily for Minako, she was pulled aside to attend to a fussy little girl no older than three years old, because she didn't like being near boys. And lucky for the kid, he was still a kid, so Minato and Souji couldn't do anything to him for using a pick-up line on their sister.
When work time was almost over, the trio sighed in relief as the number of children dwindled down after their parents picked them up. The only ones left were Yuuta and the girl Minako was taking care of earlier, Reiko-chan. She was an adorable child, a bit small in size compared to average children her age, with chestnut brown hair and big, cocoa eyes. Having taken a strong liking to Minako, she stuck to her like glue.
Yuuta was playing Featherman with Minato and Souji when Eri showed up. "Yuuta, are you ready to go home?"
The little boy's face lit up. "Yup, I'm ready!" he announced boisterously, running to her side and gripping her hand.
"Oh, I remember you two," the young mother said. "You're from the summer festival, with Souji-kun's other friends. Thank you for taking good care of Yuuta for me."
"It's not a problem. We love kids," Minato said. "It was really fun playing Featherman with him. He really knows his stuff."
Souji was staring at Eri the entire time. Despite not knowing her for long, he noticed there was something different about her. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but the young mother's smile was brighter, her skin and hair more radiant. Overall, she was glowing. He decided to ask the most obvious question in mind. "Eri-san, out of curiosity, why did you send Yuuta back to daycare again?"
"Oh that. You see, he missed some of the friends he made when he was here last year. So my husband and I talked about it and we decided to send him here twice a week so he could play with them."
"That's very considerate of you. At least that way, you'll have some time to yourself." Minako smiled as little Reiko's hold around her tightened. The auburn-haired girl swayed her body gently, rocking the fussy girl in her arms to sleep, rubbing soothing circles on her back.
"You're such a natural. You'll make a wonderful mother someday," Eri praised, rubbing her stomach gently. "That tall, scowling young man you were always with at the festival…I'm positive he'll make a great father too."
Minako cheeks turned as red as her eyes. "Eeeehhh!? Eri-san, that's…!"
The silverette noticed the gesture Eri was making and finally put two and two together. "Eri-san, could it be…that you're…pregnant?"
The glowing woman's smile widened even more. "Yes, I am. I just found out yesterday. Only Yuuta knows, and we're planning on how to surprise his dad with the news."
"I'm going to be the bestest big brother ever, just like you, Mister!" Yuuta boasted, puffing his chest out proudly.
"Congratulations. Wow, that's quite the news. Why didn't you break it to your husband first before telling us?" Minato asked.
"To be honest, I was going to tell him the minute I found out, but I got nervous. I needed to tell someone though, and if you haven't noticed, the people in this town aren't that good at keeping secrets. I trust Souji-kun as much as I trust Yuuta. He honors you two very much, so I know I can keep this between us until the time is right."
The twins felt flattered that Eri had entrusted them with her precious secret without any doubt. They felt a familiar connection with the expecting mother.
Thou art I, and I am thou,
Thou hast created a new bond,
Thou shalt be blessed when creating Personas of the Temperance Arcana.
They were interrupted when the head caretaker came by with their paychecks. "Here you are." She handed them a brown envelope each. "With all the chaos today, you deserved every single yen. Oh, and Reiko-chan's parents just called. They'll be here in another half an hour. I'll watch over her until then so you can go home."
"Ah, that's alright. She's sleeping right now, and I don't mind waiting until they arrive," Minako said.
"I should be getting home too. I'm making Yuuta's favorite croquettes today," Eri said, her son cheering beside her. They left the daycare holding hands.
Minako turned to her brothers. "You two can go back first. I promise to be home before dark."
Her twin looked at his watch. "Yeah, you better. In the meantime, Souji-kun and I will stop by Junes to pick up some stuff."
"See you tomorrow, Aneki."
Minato texted something on his phone and smoothly put it back in his pocket. He and Souji were walking back from Junes, deciding to take the route crossing Samegawa flood plains.
"Who did you text, Aniki?"
"Shinjiro-senpai," Minato answered simply. "I figured he just finished his shift and is available to walk Minako back home. I asked him to pick up some tofu as well since he was in the area."
Just as they were about the reach the floodplains, they bumped into Daisuke, not surprised to see him in his Yasogami jersey and breathing heavily, no doubt back from jogging. He was sweating all over, his hair plastered on his head like a strange skullcap.
"Daisuke, fancy seeing you here," Souji greeted him with a wave.
"Souji, Minato. Yo!" He stopped, but continued with his stationary paces. "Training as well?"
"Nah, we're just heading back after our part-time job at the daycare, and Junes obviously."
"Whoa, pretty hardworking aren't ya? No rest for the wicked, as they say. I never knew what that meant, anyway…" Daisuke admitted shamelessly. Souji and Minato sweatdropped. As they were about to continue their conversation, a loud grunt interrupted them, followed the sound of something being whipped.
"What was that?" Souji wondered. They walked further to the wide open space by the gazebo, and saw a young man dressed in the traditional kendo clothing, practicing with a bokutō (wooden sword). His back was facing them, so they couldn't see his face.
"He looks familiar…" Minato mused. "Almost like…"
"Oh, him? That's Hayase-san. He moved here about 4 months ago with his mom and brothers," Daisuke told them. "Around the same time that new factory opened up near Okina, where he works at. He's always training here after his day shifts are over."
"You know him, Aniki?"
The young man stopped what he was doing and turned around, distracted by someone calling his name. His gaze immediately zoomed onto the blunette. "Minato?!"
"I knew I recognized you, Mamoru. Wow, you haven't changed a bit!"
The two friends embraced each other. They then exchanged pleasantries, almost forgetting the other two on the side, until Minato introduced them. "Mamoru, meet my friends. This is Souji Seta, a childhood friend, and Daisuke Nagase, captain of Yasogami High soccer club."
"I've seen you around," Mamoru told Daisuke. "Always gotta admire a fellow athlete. You remind me of myself from my high school days. I should get my little brother to join your club when he starts high school next year."
"Speaking of high school, are you still continuing your pursuit for kendo?" Minato asked.
Mamoru's grin widened even more. "Heck yeah! I'll never give up kendo!" Then he frowned. "To tell you the truth, I'm having a bit of difficulty adjusting here. It's not that I hate this place…"
"Then what is it?" Souji queried.
"I like this place, I really do! Ever since my mom's health deteriorated, the doctor suggested we move to the countryside because the city air was bad for her. A colleague told me about a job opening at the factory, and we made a unanimous decision to move. My brothers love it here, and so does my mom. Her health is improving ever since she started gardening and stopped working so hard. It's just that – "
"Oh, I see. You miss your kendo buddies from your old place, right?" Minato finished the sentence for him. "Haven't found that perfect 'rival' you've been looking for?"
"That's what I like and hate about you, Minato. You always could read my mind." Mamoru rubbed the back of his head, frustrated. "You know I always like a challenge, but this place isn't giving it to me. Honestly, the only worthy rival I ever had was…well…you."
Minato chuckled. "You flatter me."
"Now that you're here, care to have a go? You can even use by back-up shinai." Mamoru looked at him imploringly. "Come on, dude. Don't make me beg."
The blunette thought about it for a while. "Alright, you'll get your challenge, but it won't just be coming from me." The others were confused when he said that, until he pushed Souji forward. "Why don't you try it out against him too? He hasn't had many swordsmen to spar against lately."
The fire in Mamoru's eyes burned brighter. "Really now?" He eyed Souji from top to bottom. All of a sudden, he threw his bokutō towards the silverette. "Here! Show me your stance."
Souji caught it with ease, and did what Mamoru asked.
"Wow…you look so natural, like you were born to hold a sword. Have you ever even taken kendo lessons before?"
"No…to tell you the truth, I've never touched a sword until I moved here last year."
Mamoru's surprised grin turned into a smirk. "That does it! You're going to spar with me whether you like it or not. You might even be more of challenge than Minato here."
"Hey watch it," Minato protested lightly. "I gave you a run for your money in the regionals. Don't think I can't do it again."
Souji couldn't help but feel excited. There was something about this Hayase character that stoked the spark of competition in him.
Thou art I, and I am thou,
Thou hast created a new bond,
It brings thee closer to the truth,
Thou shalt be blessed when creating Personas of the Star Arcana.
The three of them made plans on when to meet and start their training, Daisuke watching them on. Somewhere along the line, the subject of Aiya Diner's new menu item came up. They roped in Kou into their plans without his knowledge, and decided to show what Mamoru had been missing these past months. Since it was getting dark fast, they parted ways, eager to test their strength against each other in the upcoming days.
A few days later…
Souji crossed paths with his classmates from the dorm as he walked to school. It was when they were approaching the school gate that they heard the whispers, causing a feeling of uneasiness. The Wild Cards, who were more sensitive, felt it even stronger, but hid it from their friends until they had a better notion of what's going on.
"Why's everybody so worked up?" Shinjiro asked, not amused.
"Not sure. I don't think it's good, though," Souji replied.
"Let's check it out," Minato said.
As they made it to the front gate, they were greeted by the worried faces of the rest of their friends, which only intensified their sense of dread.
"Hey guys!" Minako waved, but not as her usual cheerful self, despite the effort. "Something wrong?"
"You guys read the school paper?" Chie asked nervously.
At their negative, Naoto handed them her copy. They huddled around to read together.
On the front page in big, bold letters, the headline said:
Yasogami High Is Haunted!
"Students claim to hear unearthly chanting along with moans and wails after class," Metis read the accompanying article aloud. "Could it be related to the ghost lights surrounding Inaba? Or the ghosts of those murdered last year have returned to punish society for their demise? The Principal, the teaching staff and the Student Council refuse to comment on the subject."
A heavy silence fell over them. "What does all of this mean?" Yukiko asked after what felt like forever.
"The stakes are getting higher," Minato said, his eyes never leaving the paper. "This is one of the things Igor warned us about."
"We might be running out of time," his sister added, sounding worried.
As the Persona-users chatted about it, the two members from the Occult Club were eavesdropping from the shadows. "Our prayers were answered! The spirits have manifested themselves!" Brown Hair whispered to his partner excitedly.
"You know what that means. We must double our efforts!" Black Hair said. "We'll hold club meetings daily! We must not let our otherworldly comrades wait any longer."
They left, and not a single person felt their presence.
Metis stood next the school gates after school. The students learned not to pay any mind to her, though occasionally some guy would walk up to her, asking if she'd like to hang out together or offer to walk her home, but she'd always refuse, claiming she's waiting for someone.
Soon enough, the person she was waiting for arrived. And she wasn't alone. "Hello Metis," Aigis greeted her warmly, Koromaru barking twice. "How was school today?"
"Oh Sister, today was wonderful! School life is so exciting!" Metis' eyes gleamed as she knelt down to pet Koromaru. "And how are you, Koromaru-san?"
He licked her face in response, making her smile. "I see."
"Ready to go home? Everybody's waiting at the dorm to discuss the spike in supernatural activity," Aigis said.
"Yes! Let's go!"
As the two sisters and white dog headed back, they failed to notice another pair of crimson eyes watching their every move.
"Unit #024…. Snowy…" Labrys started shaking her head. "No! Don't be ridiculous… Those are not them. They…they're long gone…"
"Spying on people this time?" a voice snickered. "Tsk tsk, Miss President. You're not setting a very good example, are you?"
Startled, Labrys spun around, coming face to face with a young man: Short and bright red hair, dark grey eyes, a very pale complexion. An X-shaped scar cut right across his face. He wore the blazer of the Yasogami High uniform around his waist, paired with a dark green collared shirt and a yellow armband with a black star on his left arm, and yellow sneakers.
"Minazuki-kun…" Sho Minazuki from class 3-1 is what people would call a genuine troublemaker – always cracking bad jokes or breaking the school rules to get people's attention. Labrys would often run into him during her patrols, so they were acquainted with each other to say the least.
"Skip the formalities, will ya? I already told ya to call me Sho," he berated. "Anyway, what's with spying those two?"
"I wasn't spying on them! It's just... I mean…" Labrys groaned in frustration. "Fine! Metis reminds me of someone I once knew…satisfied?!"
"Plenty." Sho smirked. "I'll be honest with ya, she's cute. But I wouldn't bother getting to know her better. She hangs out with a huge and weird crowd anyway. Not a fan of those."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Since you just moved to this town rather recently you probably don't know, but let me tell ya that things were pretty dull around here when I've moved in seven months ago. Man, this place really is out in the sticks. But then, the ghost lights started. Around the same time Metis and her friends from the city settled in." He gave a shrug, like all of this was normal. "Probably a coincidence, but I gotta admit it made things around here way more exciting."
"Way more concerning you mean," Labrys corrected him. "The whole school is worried about it. No one knows if those things are real or not, and if they are, whether or not it could do any harm to the students."
"You think way too much. If they were dangerous, wouldn't they have showed it already?" Sho smirked that annoying smirk of his. "Or maybe…you're just jealous of her."
"She may not be as sociable as you are, but she's considered to be pretty smart and cute by many of the guys and even the girls here." He crossed his arms, looking at her lazily. "You two are alike in that way."
"I'M NOT JEALOUS!" she shouted, and blushed faintly when people looked in their direction. "That's completely and utterly ridiculous!"
"Whatever. I gotta go before the old man gets on my back for not helping at the shop…again." He picked up his school bag with one hand and slung it over his shoulder. "Want me to get in trouble so you can scold me tomorrow? That always seems to cheer you up."
"Hmph! You wish!" Her blush intensified.
"Heh, you do look cute when ya blush," Sho teased, walking away. "See ya around."
'Ugh…! Why are boys so aggravating?!' Once he was out of sight, Labrys took a deep breath. "Me? Jealous of Metis…as if!" she huffed. "Why would I be jealous of her? Just because she has friends, goes to school, and everything else #024 deserved to have. And that was denied to her because…because…" She paused for a while. "Because there can be only one…"
Labrys turned her gaze to their direction but Metis and Aigis had already gone home. Her expression became dark. "There can be only one…" Even her voice turned raspy. "I'm settling this…once and for all!"
The next day…
Metis walked out of the school building and headed towards the gates. Aigis always instructed her to walk home together with someone, be it the twins, Souji, or any of their friends to avoid trouble whenever she was unable to pick her up, but a classmate had requested her help with math homework earlier and she really couldn't refuse.
"You're not supposed to be here," a cold voice echoed out.
"Huh? Who's there?" Metis clutched her schoolbag, looking around. "I…I know students are not supposed to stay on school grounds after school activities are over, but I'm just leaving."
"You really don't get the picture, do you?" The voice sounded more annoyed as its owner approached her. It was Labrys. She was more hostile than usual. "You're not supposed to be in this school, or any other for that matter!"
"Labrys-san? Why do you say that?" Metis asked. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"You're not a normal student…you're not even a human being!" Labrys said, breathing hard. "You're a machine! An Anti-Shadow weapon!"
Metis froze. 'How could she see through my disguise?! Even Sister and Yukari-san said my camouflage was flawless!'
"If you keep attending school, my dream will be ruined!"
"Huh? Your dream?"
"A normal life… to live a normal life. That's what I've always wanted. And here in Inaba I've finally achieved that…" Labrys glared again. "But then you had to show up and bring along all these weird things goin' on around here! All my hard work to fit in as a normal student will go down the drain!"
"To act as a normal student…" Metis suddenly realized something. "So that's why you're always hostile towards me…You're not a human yourself!"
Labrys gritted her teeth. "That's right. I was created to destroy Shadows…a weapon. But when I fully awoke, they were no longer a threat, so I had no other purpose for existing before Momma took me in…"
"She didn't treat me like a machine and taught me how to behave like a normal girl. For her…for myself…I won't let anyone take that dream away from me!" The angry girl pointed her finger at Metis. "Anti-Shadow weapons like you….have no right to be a high school student!"
"Labrys-san, how can you say that when you're an Anti-Shadow weapon yourself? Isn't that denying your own dream, denying who you are? That makes no sense at all!"
"J-j-just… Just shut up, okay!? If you don't plan on leaving school by your own volition…" Something leaped from behind her back and a huge axe materialized before her, accompanied by mechanical sounds. Labrys grabbed it with a single hand and pointed it to the other girl. "I'll just have to force you!"
Metis tensed. 'If Labrys-san is as strong as Sister…I'm confident I can take her down…' she thought. 'But… fighting on school grounds is not allowed… I'll cause problems for others if I break the rules…'
"Well, what's your decision?" Labrys asked, tentatively swinging her giant axe.
"Labrys-san, I have no intention to stop coming to school, but I won't fight you here," Metis said firmly. "Not only is it against the rules, but it'll also cause trouble for my friends."
"Hm… I suppose you have a point…" Labrys said thoughtfully. "Then we'll just have to take this fight somewhere else!"
Without warning, the long-haired mechanical maiden threw her axe in the air and it morphed into some sort of jetpack. While it was still mid-air, she jumped up and the jetpack attached itself on her back, allowing her to hover above Metis.
The black-haired android was impressed by the sight before her, but she had no time to gawk as Labrys dive-bombed and rammed into her, sending her flying towards the direction of the floodplains.
"You give me no choice… I'm sorry…" She flew off, to where Metis will crash land.
Down below, there were others who had witnessed her actions.
"What the…! That was….?" Yosuke stuttered, before finding his voice again. "What the hell was THAT?!"
Chie, Yosuke and Teddie were just leaving (no thanks to the latter, as usual) when they heard arguing. They decided to investigate, and were shocked to learn the existence of another android in their school, and even more so when they saw her turn violent and attacked Metis.
"L-Labrys just s-sent Metis flying!" Chie choked on her sentence, barely believing what she had just seen.
"We should help Metty-chan!" Teddie announced, snapping them out of their stupor. "Labby-chan looked mad as heck!"
"You're right, Ted. Metis could be in serious trouble. I'm calling Souji." Yosuke took out his cellphone. "Let's follow her. Chances are she already calculated where Metis will end up at."
After a short hand-to-hand sparring session, Souji and Akihiko walked to the shopping district. They bumped into Shinjiro as he was leaving his part-time job at Aiya's. He said goodbye to Aika, who silently nodded and waved passively.
"Hey Shinji," Akihiko greeted him. "How's the job coming along?"
"Tch…" Shinjiro shrugged, still not used to telling other people what he was up to. "Fine." The fact that he answered at all showed he was in a good mood.
"Looks like you and Aika are becoming good friends," Souji said.
"The girl's quiet, only asks what she needs and doesn't fool around when it comes to delivering the orders. She's pretty easy to work with."
"Better be careful, or Minako might get jealous," Akihiko teased.
"You wish. It was her idea in the first place." Shinjiro smirked darkly at his best friend. "If I were you, I'd be careful about getting too friendly with those new fangirls of yours. You wouldn't want to face Mitsuru's execution, do you?" He snickered when Akihiko flinched.
Souji laughed silently at the duo, until he spotted the newly opened antique shop. "Hey, that's the new shop Rise and Kanji mentioned."
"Shinshoudo Antiques…" Shinjiro read the name out loud. "Hey, doesn't that name ring a bell?"
"Yeah, I do know that name from somewhere…" Akihiko scratched his chin. "That's right! It's the name of that store at – "
The ringtone from Souji's cellphone cut him off. He saw it was Yosuke's ID and answered. "Yosuke? What's up?" The other two beside him heard panicked shouting and even something squealing in the background. "What?! Say that again…Labrys is a what?! Okay…okay, I get the picture! Listen, head over there and try to find her before Labrys attacks her again. I'll be there soon."
He quickly hung up. Akihiko and Shinjiro could see that news wasn't good.
"What happened?" Akihiko questioned.
"Metis was attacked….by Labrys."
"That school president wannabe?!" Shinjiro was surprised. "She's never been friendly towards Metis, but…"
"According to Yosuke, Labrys is an Anti-Shadow weapon too," Souji explained. "Apparently that's was the reason she was so hostile towards her."
"No way! Aigis and Metis were supposed to be the only ones left!" Akihiko said.
"That's not the point right now. If Labrys is serious about not allowing Metis to attend school as Yosuke said, I fear she might be in big trouble. I'll head to the flood plain to find her before Labrys does. I need you guys to let the others know about this."
"Got it. I'll call Minako and her brother," Shinjiro said. Akihiko took out his own phone and started dialing. "Watch your back."
"I will." Souji ran off, making a quick stop at Daidara's.
Quickly, they began splitting up, failing to notice the owner of the antique shop walking out the door, a frown etched on her face. "My child…What have you done this time?"
Aigis was smiling all the way as she headed to Yasogami High. She couldn't help but feel happy for her sister, experiencing the joys of school life and how much she has matured in the past weeks. It was amazing to witness her growth and be a part of it, just like what her friends had done for herself.
Something whizzed past her above her head, catching her attention. At first glance, it looked like a humanoid figure with mechanical wings. "What was that?" she wondered out loud. "And why…why does it look familiar… somehow?"
She didn't have to dwell on that as she saw Chie, Yosuke and Teddie franticly running towards her. Judging from their faces, something was wrong.
"A-Aigis-san!" Yosuke halted suddenly, causing those behind him to crash into his back.
"Yosuke-san, what's the matter? You all look agitated."
The three of them looked at each other and back. Despite the emergency, they had no idea how she would react to what they just found out.
"What is wrong?" Aigis insisted, her concern growing. "Maybe I can help if you tell me."
"Metty…" Teddie panted. He took a deep breath before blurting out "Metty-chan is hurt!"
"W-we saw the whole thing…" Chie began to explain what it was they saw just now in full speed. Yosuke and Teddie never heard her talk so fast.
Aigis turned around and ran to where the flying thing was headed. Turmoil of emotions built up inside her – concern for Metis' well-being, and anger, because someone attacked her for no apparent reason. She didn't know how to feel about this 'Labrys'. Who is she? Where did she come from? What was she doing in Inaba? And why did she attack Metis?
Metis groaned as she opened her eyes, finding herself on the bank of Samegawa River. "She is strong…" She tried to stand up, albeit slowly.
Labrys landed before her, her jetpack turning back into her axe. "Now, we can fight without interruption." She pointed her weapon at Metis. "Draw your weapon!"
Metis looked around and found her school bag. She took out a cylindrical object, and it expanded into her Cross Rod after pressing a tiny button. "Labrys-san, it doesn't have to be this way…"
"I have to do this!" Labrys took aim and swung her axe, lunging towards her opponent. "Ready or not, here I come!"
Rod and Axe collided, both mechanical maidens equally matched in strength. Labrys swung her weapon violently, trying with all her might to break through Metis' defense. She was hesitant to fighting at full power, trying to break away from the other.
"Fight back! Fight back!" Labrys shouted, her frustration growing as she strike harder and harder, Metis successfully blocking each one. "Why…Won't…You…Fight…BACK?!"
As she parried the blows, Metis' mind wandered back to when she first arrived at the dorm in March, 2010. She had injured Ken, Mitsuru, Junpei, Koromaru and her own sister. Even if they all had forgiven her, Metis still felt guilty about it. "If I fight at full power, I'll just bring problems for them…"
"Are you mocking me?! Do you think I'm JOKING?!"
"Huh?! No! That's not it…!"
"Enough fooling around!" Labrys twisted her axe at an angle, the striking force so hard it was enough to knock the rod out of Metis' hands and shoved her back, barely falling down.
"I've had it with you!" The long-haired girl raised her axe above her head.
Metis closed her eyes and waited for the blow. She could hear the axe coming down.
That's when the Wild Cards arrived. "Labrys, don't!" Minato shouted.
"STOP IT!" Minako shrieked.
Their pleas went unheard. Surprised by their arrival, Labrys jumped back, but she wasn't done yet. She rocket-punched the air in front of her, her hands which were connected to a chain from her arm extending far beyond her normal reach, and grabbed Metis by her blazer collar. She pulled the defenseless android towards her, using the other hand to swing down her axe. "You're finished."
The three could only watch in horror. Time seemed to slow as their friend got beaten up badly by the vicious attack. But Labrys didn't stop there; using the momentum from the previous swing, she redirected it to slash Metis again, and again and again. By the time she was done, Metis slumped to the ground, defeated. Her uniform was completely ripped to shreds; the mechanical parts exposed leaking motor oil and sparks from the massive damage taken. Her white arm was literally broken in half, her hair was a mess, and a huge gash marred her left cheek.
"Hmph!" Labrys sniffed with disdain and walked away, her back facing them.
In no time, the trio was by her side. "Metis! Metis!" Souji called to her as he held her in his arms. "C'mon, say something!"
Metis looked at them sadly. "S-Sorry…"
"Why are you apologizing?"
"I didn't…want…to cause…trouble…" She was struggling to even speak. "Fighting…without reason…only hurts…others…"
Minako gently brushed a few stray hairs aside. "Metis, hang in there."
Labrys turned back around, rage in her deep, red eyes. "If you can't stand up for yourself, how are you suppose'ta accomplish anything?!"
Souji and Minato stood up, while Minako held their injured friend. "What's the meaning of this, Labrys? It's not like you to attack people out of the blue!" the eldest Wild Card scolded.
"I've already told her my reason. There can't be Anti-Shadow weapons attending school. It's dangerous for the students!" She pointed at Metis. "And all the strange incidents that's been happenin' started after SHE came along just confirms it."
"How can you put the blame of that phenomenon on Metis without any evidence to back it up? That makes no sense!" Minako protested.
"But you're an Anti-Shadow weapon yourself, aren't you?" Souji said. "You understand better than anyone how beings such as yourselves can mingle among humans and befriend them. Isn't saying Metis is dangerous and cannot attend school saying the same thing about yourself?"
A pained look crossed Labrys' face, before the anger returned once more. "S-SHUT UP!" she shouted, eyes glazed with tears. "I know what I'm doing! It's the only way!"
She lifted her axe and made her way towards Metis, but the Wild Cards blocked her path. "Move it! I'm finishing what I started!"
"Sorry, but we cannot allow that," Minato said, pointing a titanium baseball bat at her. Souji armed himself with a golf club and Minako did the same with a composite hockey stick. These were the only weapons the silverette could borrow from Old Man Daidara on such short notice. "Metis is our friend. And if you mess with her, you mess with us too."
"It doesn't have to come down to this, Labrys. You're not a bad person. I know it," Minako said.
"I can't back down now. If I do…all my efforts will be for naught!" Labrys swung her axe down at them, missing on purpose. "Get back! This is your last warning!"
"Please… don't…" Metis coughed, using the last of her energy reserves to stay conscious.
"It'll be okay, Metis," Minako told her. "Don't overdo it."
"You just rest for a bit, okay?" Minato added. "Fuuka and Aigis will be able to heal you. They should be on their way."
"We've got this one. Don't worry," Souji assured her.
Metis gave them a brief nod before closing her eyes, her systems shutting down to save energy.
Labrys was growing impatient. "I'm not repeating myself. If you insist on siding with her, you'll be punished as well!"
"Must you be so stubborn?" Souji sighed. "If we can't talk some sense into you, then we'll just have beat it in."
"Fine! Have it your way!" Immediately, Labrys lunged forward, swinging her axe horizontally. Despite the size and weight of the weapon, she had full control over every attack.
"Yikes… and I thought Shinji-kun was good at handling axes!" Minako dodged the blow, and countered another one with a good swing of her hockey stick. The hit did no damage whatsoever. "Jeez…"
"Her resolve is as hard as her steel body," Minato said, ducking another blow. "Without our Personas, we're in for a tough fight."
Souji parried a blow that almost sliced his head off, his golf club ending with a dent. "No kidding. It'll be hard subduing her. Our best chance is to attack all at once."
"You're right. You two ready for it?" They kept dodging and blocking, waiting for the right opportunity. Minako finally spotted a good one. "On the count of three!"
They ran up to their opponent all at once, and aimed their attack from different sides. To their shock, Labrys easily blocked them all with her axe and arm. "Too slow!" She spun around the same time her axe glowed red, slicing cleanly through their weapons. A shock wave knocked them off their feet.
"Dang… She packs a punch harder than Akihiko-senpai on training day…" Minato groaned, rubbing his head. "You guys okay?"
"Just a bit dizzy…" Minako shook her head.
Souji got up suddenly, senses on high alert. "Wait, where did she go?"
Labrys slowly made her way towards the fallen Metis. Her eyes were hidden by a metallic visor. Paired with her gigantic axe, it made her look like an executor ready to carry out a death sentence.
"Stop this madness, Labrys!" Souji commanded, standing in her way. The twins backed him up and shielded Metis. They were bleeding and bruised in certain areas, but they weren't about to give up just yet.
"I told you already, I can't! Once I'm given a duty, I must finish it! I don't wanna hurt you guys, but I will if I must!"
"Get away from them!" Another voice shouted, followed by what sounded like a shooting machine gun.
"?!" Thinking fast, Labrys jumped backwards, narrowly missing getting pierced by a volley of bullets.
With a somersault, Aigis landed in front of the leaders, smoking coming out of her fingers that were aimed at the ocean-haired girl. "Come any closer to my sister and friends, I'll show no mercy!" she warned, her tone ice cold.
"Another Anti-Shadow weapon? Where are they coming from?!"
Yosuke, Chie and Teddie finally caught up. "Sorry *pant* we didn't *pant* get here any sooner *pant* Dang, she's fast!" Yosuke said, catching his breath with every word.
Chie froze upon seeing Metis' condition. "Oh no, Metis…"
"Labby-chan, please stop! This….this isn't you!" Teddie pleaded.
"Teddie…" Labrys shook her head. She always had a soft spot for him, despite the blonde always flirting with her every chance he got, not minding the rejection time and time again. This time, that wasn't the case. "No…this is for the best. I'm takin' you all down!"
Within a fraction of a second, she attacked again, the thrusters in her axe fired up, giving her a boost of speed.
Aigis narrowed her eyes, the processors in her brain calculating that the next strike would be harder and faster. While she knew Labrys had activated her Orgia Mode and removed her limiters, her anger and determination preventing her from backing down. "Two can play that game! Activating: Orgia Mode!"
Both androids vanished in thin air and reappeared on the wide grass field near the gazebo. They were exchanging blows at such amazing speed, it was impossible for the humans to keep track of their movements. They could only see blurry figures moving at incredible speeds, and the sounds of gunfire and metal colliding echoing through the air.
"They're evenly matched," Minato observed. "If they keep fighting at this pace…"
"None of them is gonna win," his sister said. "It's a losing battle for both sides."
"B-b-but Sensei! We can't let Ai-chan and Labby-chan fight like that forever! They'll just get hurt like Metty-chan!"
"I know Teddie, but as we are now, we're powerless to stop them," Souji said, feeling frustrated.
After what felt like an eternity, the battling mechanical maidens stopped, smoke evaporating from their metallic bodies in order to cool down due to overheating of their systems. Despite that, they kept an offensive pose, a clear sign that neither was willingly to give in.
"I'm *pant* I ain't done *pant* yet!" Labrys used her axe to support herself. "I'm ending this!"
"Not *pant* Not if I end it first!" Aigis said. She was running out of ammo, given the amount of bullet shells scattered across the ground, yet she was adamant on winning.
The rest could only watch, unsure of how to stop them since intervening would only get them killed. Before the fight took a turn for the worst, that's when…
"LABRYS!" A voice yelled from across the plains. "STOP THIS IMMEDIATELY!"
Said girl froze, dropping her axe.
Aigis and the others were confused at her actions, until another presence made its way towards them. It was Labrys' mother, the owner of the antique shop.
The older woman grabbed Labrys' hand. "Explain to me why you're acting in such a barbaric manner, young lady!" Anger and disappointment oozed out of every syllable.
Her daughter said nothing as she looked at the ground, her expression a mix of pain, sadness, shame and guilt as her body trembled from the strain of the battle and emotional turmoil she was currently feeling. Her bottom lip quivered, eyes becoming glassy.
"What am I going to do with you?" Ms Shinshoudo sighed softly, pulling the girl into her embrace. "There, there…"
While Labrys was being comforted by her mother, Aigis deactivated her weapons and turned her attention to Metis, being held by Chie. Without saying a word she lifted her up gently. "It's okay, Sister… I'm here now…"
"If only I could use my healing powers on her…" Yosuke said, feeling guilty over something he had no control of. Chie held his arm, trying to comfort him.
However, the twins were surprised at the sight of the older woman. "Her mom is Ms Shinshoudo?!"
Aigis' ears perked up at the familiar name. She took a better look, recognizing her as well. "You?"
"You guys know her?" Souji asked his surrogate siblings.
"She helped SEES in the past," Minato said. "But I had no idea she's the owner of the new antique shop at the shopping district, because whenever we passed by, only Labrys was there. Even though shop's name was familiar, I never made the connection until now."
"I've always found her ability to fuse Personas into weapons quite unusual, but…" Minako said hesitantly.
"F-fusing Personas into w-weapons?!" Yosuke sputtered. "How is that even possible?"
Further discussion was interrupted by Ms Shinshoudo. "You two… I've heard about you and your SEES friends living here, though I didn't expect us to meet under such circumstances…" she sighed. "I suppose I owe you all an explanation."
"You can start by telling us who Labrys really is," a cold voice demanded, owned by none other than Mitsuru. The rest of SPIES were right behind her.
Ms Shinshoudo sighed again, looking away from Mitsuru. "I should've seen that coming…" she muttered sarcastically. She turned to face them after Labrys let go of her. "My daughter, Labrys…is the Fifth Generation Anti-Shadow Suppression Weapon."
Such revelation left the Persona-users speechless for two different reasons: confusion (SEES) and cluelessness (Investigation Team). Before anyone could say anything, Ms Shinsoudo held up a hand. "I intend to answer all your questions, but I suggest we discuss this at a more proper place." She took a glance at Metis. "She needs expert care immediately. I can help with that, but I don't have any equipment."
Everybody agreed. Despite the situation, a team mate's condition was far more important. "On one condition. You can use our equipment, but Yamagishi and Aigis will be the ones to assist you while the rest will keep your 'daughter' under careful watch," Mitsuru said, her tone held no hint of negotiation.
Ms. Shinshoudo gripped Labrys' hand. "Very well."
In silence, they all headed back to the dorm, various questions lingering in the air. The thick cloud of tension surrounded them, unlikely to disperse soon.
No one noticed a certain red-headed young man watching them from behind the gazebo. "Will you look at that? Things keep getting more and more interesting around here," Sho smirked devilishly, tossing one of two short-bladed katanas in the air and catching it back, repeating his little game as he followed them from a safe distance. "I wonder what'll happen next."
This chapter was rather fun to write, despite having some difficulty writing the battle scenes. Hope you liked the new character introduced. We'll be seeing him quite a few more times. ;3
Have fun and don't forget to Read and Review!