Chapter 40 - The Path Of Anger
Laying in the bed at the nurses office had been necessary for Shinjiro's sore back. He'd only realized how tense it was after they'd escaped from the collapsing Senior classrooms. He clearly remembered what had transpired in those halls, and the new enemy that had revealed itself to him.
All stood completely still as they stared at this enemy. Most had their faces locked in expressions of shock and confusion, though whether it was because the man before them was someone they recognized or because of who he had been just a few seconds ago, no one could tell. Even Salvatore looked shocked, implying that this was a secret to her as well. He briefly glanced at her, observing her injuries, before looking away, apparently deciding that she wasn't worth his time..
"Mrrr...!" Mao finally breathed out before speaking in a voice of confusion and, if Shinji didn't know any better, pain. "You are... the Super Hero!"
Super Hero? The man certainly didn't look like any super hero that the Persona user had heard of. His robes made him look more like a man who was either linked to royalty or was some sort of wizard. Still, it was the only name he had for the foe before them, so he thought he may as well use it.
In response to Mao's question, the Super Hero laughed. "Hahaha... It's been a long while, old friend."
He spoke with a strong voice, but also one that made his words sound anything but friendly. Mao obviously shared that opinion. "What friend!? Don't you mess with me!"
"Do you hate me? Are you frustrated? Do you want to kill me? Then be angry! Begrudge me! Curse me!" He responded, growing more passionate with every word. Shinji dared to glance around in the hopes that someone knew what was going on. Alas, everyone seemed as confused as him, with the exception of Almaz who looked like everything inside him had just stopped and all he could do was stare ahead.
"...Heh... hehehehe! You're trying to provoke me?" Mao said with a smile. he was too far away to tell if it was genuine or forced. "As you wish, I'll fix up your body and turn you into a life-sized figurine!"
"Ah well... I'm going to have to pass on that one. It's not 'the time' yet." He said calmly, his previous passion suddenly gone and his voice now sounding more bored than anything. "The finishing touches still need to be made. Right now, you won't even be able to cut strand of my hair."
As soon as he finished speaking, everything moved. One side of the room began to tip and objects and people began falling down the newly slanted floor. All who didn't at the very least stumbled and struggled to hold on. Only the Super Hero didn't move. "I look forward to the next time we meet... I'll be waiting."
And before anyone could stop him, he vanished. Mao lunged at him a moment too late. "Wait, Super Hero!"
His allies grabbed him as he still tried to reach where his enemy had once been, desperately trying to get him out before the Senior classrooms fell out of the air. While he struggled to escape their grasp, he yelled at the empty space where the Hero once stood. "I'll never forgive you!"
Escaping was all that filled Shinjiro's mind now. He briefly glanced Gin grabbing Salvatore for some reason, and Aki pulling Masaru to his feet, but these thoughts were quickly pushed aside. Hastily grabbing Kirijo's hand and pulling him upright, he began running, following behind Samantha, Saiduq and Damia, who had already had the same idea as him.
He could only hope that the others followed him and got out before the worst happened.
He vaguely remembered seeing the Seniors frantically escape their crashing base. Some flew out, others chose to teleport, while some simply ran or dived out, hoping for the best. He even saw some Archers and Heavy Knights use zip-lines to disappear into the vast reaches of the buildings below. It was of little concern to him however. All that mattered was that he and his allies made it through the Dimension Gate. Thankfully, they all did and together they watched as the classrooms they had been in for far too long crashed somewhere beyond the main campus of the Academy.
While he breathed a sigh of relief, Mao stormed back to his room, not a word leaving his lips as he did. He briefly considered following him, but thought better of it, seeing that the Demon probably wouldn't appreciate his company right now. Also his back was starting to protest from all the work he'd been doing and demanded that he find somewhere to lay down. The others didn't object to the chance to relax for a little and separated.
And that led to this moment of time, with him lying on this bed with just his thoughts. He had hoped that a moment alone would help him understand what was going on. Instead of answering the questions he was currently struggling with, it brought forth a new one that silenced them all.
Why was he getting involved?
He had known his mission for days now. All he had to do was fight the Overlord and make him open the gate. He didn't need to help Evil Academy against this supposed Super Hero. He didn't need to follow Mao around in the hopes that he would lead him the right way. So why was he?
It was true that he didn't want something terrible to happen to this world, but if he didn't hurry, something even worse could happen to his own. Could he put the lives of strangers above the people he cared for the most? Could he fight to save Demons, beings that Humans were taught to fear, instead of the closest thing he had to a family?
He knew this wouldn't get him anywhere. Ultimately, he'd still help them because he felt they'd help him in return. He knew he'd need their help if he wanted to beat the Overlord.
But he still wished that the fighting would be over soon.
The sound of the door opening disturbed him from his thoughts. Opening his eyes, he had expected numerous people for various reasons. None of them were the person who actually walked into the room. Or rather, the person who floated into the room.
"Do you ever walk, or are your feet just for show?" He said snarkily. Damia smirked at this, before stretching one of her legs across his bed.
"Why don't you tell me." She responded, using the same seductive tone of voice she always did. Part of him wondered if she could say anything and not sound like that. Then he remembered that he didn't really care.
"Tch. Unless you have something important to say, go away." Turning away from her, he made it clear that he didn't want to talk to her right now. Sadly, she was not going to accept this and instead climbed into the bed behind him, making sure to press herself against his back. He sighed in annoyance at this as she wrapped her arm around him. "I won't tell you again. Out."
He could only assume that she pouted at this. "Aww, but that's no fun. And watching you fight made me want to have lots of fun."
Choosing not to answer, Shinji decided to stand up and walk over to the door. Opening it, he pointed through the doorframe, wordlessly telling her to leave. Damia made a disappointed sound, but got off the bed and floated towards him. Stopping in front of him, she looked at him with an almost shy expression. "I really owe you, ya know."
He stared at her in confusion for a moment. Was she actually being serious for once?
"I mean, who knows what they would have done to me if you hadn't let me go. So, I gotta repay my debt." Even her usual seductive tone of voice was gone and she sounded strangely sincere. "And I always pay people back."
And before he could react, she'd grabbed his left hand and prssed it against her breast, squeezing his fingers once it made contact. For a second he froze in shock and embarrassment. The next second he physically threw her out of his room, slightly annoyed that her wings stopped her from hitting the floor. All her previous seriousness vanished as she laughed. And that was the last he heard before he slammed the door. He could never afford to let his guard down around her.
"Do you have to cop a feel of every girl in our team? Is it some sort of leader privilege?" He spun around in shock at the source of the voice. Sitting in a chair in the shadows was the familiar face of Masaru, who looked as bored as usual despite his mocking question.
"How long have you been there?" Shinjiro asked, clearly confused. Masaru put his hand to his chin in mock consideration, before snapping his finger, pretending to have remembered.
"It was around the time you squeezed her boob." He said. The sentence sounded strange when he said it in such a thick monotone. If anything though, that just made it all the more embarrassing for the brunette, as he hastily tried to explain.
"S-she grabbed my hand! I let go as soon as I realized what she was doing!" He sputtered out, avoiding eye contact.
"You really need to come up with better excuses for this kinda thing." The swordsman responded, not even bothering to look at his leader. "I don't care either way. What I do care about is my sword."
Mildly surprised and deeply thankful for the change of subject, Shinji picked up the sword that Masaru loaned him and drew it from its scabbard. After confirming that it was still in one piece, Masaru grabbed it and rested it against the bed. He then pulled out a new sword.
Unlike the katana that he'd previously given Shinjiro, this sword was long and straight. It seemed to match the design of a western longsword. The cross guard was wide, which in theory would help keep his hands safe. Sensing that Masaru wanted him to grab it, he did so and tried to get a feel for the weight of it. He noticed it felt lighter than the katana, even with its sheath still on. Holding the hilt of the blade, he noticed a large pommel at the end. This might prevent the blade from slipping from his grip if he tried to hold it with his right hand. Still, that wasn't something he wanted to test unless he had to.
As he examined his new blade, the black clad Ronin picked up the katana and clipped it back on to his waist. "Don't expect me to loan you either of these again."
His tone had a blutness to it that clearly showed that he wouldn't change his mind. Shinji didn't know why those swords were so important to him, but given how close he came to killing Raiga after he broke one, he must have had a pretty good reason.
"Well, I expect that you'll want to go grope some other girl." Masaru calmly stated, immediately snapping Shinjiro out of his thoughts and bringing redness back to his face. With is leader fully embarrassed, the dark haired demon moved to leave.
"Wait." Shinji said, stopping the other man in his tracks.
"If you're going to beg me to keep your secret about Damia, don't worry."
"That's not it. I wanted to ask you something." The fact that Masaru turned to face him implied he was willing to listen. "That man, the so called Super Hero. I want to know everything you know about him."
He watched the card float into his hand again. Ever since he had recieved his Persona, he was fascinated by it and the card that summoned it. Observing the image on the card, as well as the number printed on it, he deduced that his Persona was of the Emperor Arcana. If he remembered correctly, that Arcana was associated with leadership and fatherhood, amongst other things.
He bitterly laughed at the idea. He was neither of these things. He had failed as a leader, taking a back seat as the world was at risk. And as father he had done even worse, sending his daughter into the front-line of the war between humans and monsters, robbing her of a normal life in the process. What right did he have to call himself either?
Still, these thoughts were, if anything, welcome in Kirijo's mind. As long as he remembered these thoughts, he could work to make up for it. He could keep fighting in the hopes of atoning for his failures.
Speaking of which, there was something else he needed to fix, something he may need to address more quickly than his other sins.
His ignorance over the experiments was both truth and a lie at the same time. He knew nothing about what his own scientists were doing, or if they even still worked for him while performing these monstrous acts. Still, to say he didn't suspect that his fathers crimes continued to this day was a lie. He had numerous suspicions that some unsavoury experiments were still carried out by people his father trusted, people that weren't assigned to the study of Shadows and therefore survived the explosion that claimed the former Kirijo leader's life. But he had failed to find them and began to assume that he had been wrong.
And now, as he was faced with proof that he had failed, he knew that he had been wrong. And it was time to make up for it.
But until the time where he can look at her and honestly try to fix the damage he had failed to stop, he would think. About the new information he had learned on the nature of Shadows and Persona, and how they were tied together. How Shadows lived in the hearts of man, and how they could turn into the strength of a Persona. How a Persona could be summoned without an Evoker.
He would need to look for answers to these questions when he returned to the world, but not before he made amends to his daughter.
She watched him staring at the card. Part of her considered attacking him, not lethally, but enough to remind him that he had a long way to go before she would ever forgive him. Ultimately, she decided not to. If she did, she would either badly injure someone who they needed in fighting shape for the inevitable future battles or accidentally kill someone that she knew was trying to honestly atone.
Then again, what did it matter to her? She would probably be dead in about a day anywhere.
Without her pills, Medea would turn on her, and when that happened, nothing would be able to save her. That realization caused new thoughts to dawn in her mind. First, if she died once and awoke somewhere else, would the same happen again? She hoped that would be the case, so that even if she failed, she might one day be reunited with Junpei anyway.
Second, if the members of SEES and now the older man sitting in her line of sight could control their Personas naturally, why couldn't she? Was it because hers wasn't awakened naturally and theirs were? And if that was the case, why did some need Evokers while Shinjiro and Kirijo didn't? Thinking about this one was pointless. She didn't have scientific knowledge of Shadows or Personas, so any theories she came up with would almost certainly be flawed.
And finally, would her contribution matter? She would die, possibly before they even reached the portal home. So why bother? She would just slow them down.
Then again, even if she did choose to simply wait for Medea to come and claim her life, Shinjiro had made it clear that he wasn't leaving her alone. It wasn't unreasonable, after all she was once his enemy. She wouldn't have wanted to leave her alone either.
So, was her fate to die surrounded by strangers, having achieved no atonement? Would her second chance be a waist of time, merely a speck of light to be consumed by darkness when she approached it? Why was she still alive?
These thoughts would get her nowhere. Whether she died or not, she had to go with her new allies. She didn't have a choice. All she should focus on now is getting a chain to attach her axe to her wrist. If nothing else, at least then she would use a weapon she was familiar with.
At least then, her last battle might end in a victory for someone who deserves to live.
The classroom was silent. Even though the man sitting in it was barely containing his rage, he barely made a noise. He had sent Juro to get something for them to eat, but both knew it was an excuse to get some time alone.
Why did they have to accept one of THEM into this group?
He had difficulty working with Monsters of any kind, but a Succubus was a different story all together. He HATED all Succubi. Didn't matter if they were as pretty as everyone else says or how nice pretend to be. He'd seen the true face of a Succubus and it was ugly. Getting involved with them was just asking for trouble.
And asking him to get along with one was impossible. Dai would never accept a single Succubus as long as he lived.
So where did that leave him? He couldn't stay. He'd inevitably try and kill her, and the others would turn on him if he did. But he didn't want to abandon the others either. He couldn't just leave them to fight an extremely dangerous enemy because of one person. So what was he to do?
He reached his answer around the time Juro returned. "I've made up my mind."
"Huh?" Juro answered, not knowing what Dai meant when he said that.
"I... need to go my own way. Fight these enemies on a separate front to everyone else."
"Are you crazy?!" Was the immediate response. Juro clearly doubted the logic of that plan. "You're going to get yourself killed!"
"And what'll happen if I stay, man?! What'll happen when I lose control and put my axe in that goddamn Succubus' head?!" He yelled, all his anger pouring out. A moment later he tried to calm himself down. "I know that the others want to keep her around, trust her even. But if I try to make them see its impossible, I just know they're gonna turn on me. We can't risk that..."
Juro was silent for a minute. He couldn't argue with Dai. He knew that Dai's past experiences were horrible, but they were blinding him to the truth, filling him with rage. He couldn't tell the others without breaking his promise to keep it a secret. But he couldn't tell Dai to move past his hate, because he knew that the scars were too deep for a few words to heal them.
These wounds needed a lot of time and a lot of support. "Alright... We'll tell Shinjiro about our plan, grab some stuff then head on our way."
"Oh no! You are NOT coming with me!"
"No offense Dai, but you can't stop me. Where you go, I go. Someone has to watch your back." The two stared each other down at this, neither looking away or showing weakness to the other. After a few seconds though, they both smiled and pulled each other into a brotherly hug, laughing as they did.
"Well, if anyones gonna watch my back, it may as well be my best buddy!" Dai said, pulling away with a smile on his face. Juro patted him on the shoulder in response. Together the two left, silently deciding that they would tell Shinji together.
Deep down, they both knew this was probably the wrong choice. But for now, it was probably the only thing they could do.
He was breathing deeply, as if he was afraid his lungs would fail if he did anything less. His encounter with the girl in pink, and the subsequent chase between the two that came as a result was the closest he had come to death in several years.
But that was of no concern to Terre. He knew that his life meant very little, so the concept of dying held no fear for him. What had bothered him though had been the face of his attacker. A face so different yet so familiar. He knew her all too well. To see her so engulfed in madness and hatred caused his entire body to ache with despair.
And he knew that when she blamed him, she was right.
All of what she had become could be traced back to him. Maybe he should not have moved when her fingers were around his neck. Perhaps he should have just accepted his punishment.
Those thoughts soon left him. Regardless of his feelings, he needed to report back to his boss about what had happend in the Senior classrooms, even if he had run before he could witness the remaining events. Having failed his mission and seen what he had created, Terre felt he had but one choice left.
And so, without a word or any hesitation, he strode towards the Dimension Gate in front of him. He knew where to go.
He knew where she would find him.
"And thats all I know about him." Masaru finished, having just explained about the Super Hero to Shinjiro. Thanks to the explanation, he know knew that the hero, whose name he had learned was Aurum, was famous for slaying Overlords and was apparently famous in the Human World. This immediately raised two questions in his mind. The less important question he thought of was how he had never heard of this Aurum and his deeds. Then again he didn't know that Demons were real but other Humans apparently did, so he could just count it as something to figure out later.
The more important question was what the Super Hero was doing leading the Seniors. Was it part of some strategy to attack the Overlord? Why go to all this trouble with the mass hypnotism of the students? It just didn't make sense.
"Can I go now?" Said the voice of the other man, his body language implying he was tired of standing around a hospital room. It successfully snapped him out of his thoughts and he gave Masaru a gesture to imply he was allowed to leave, giving one last order as he did.
"Meet me by the statue in an hour. If you see anyone else, tell them the same." Masaru made no effort to acknowledge that statement, but it was impossible for him to have not heard it, so Shinjiro assumed that he would listen. With that much time for him to prepare, he sat down in a nearby chair, determined to get some rest before the next extremely dangerous part of his journey began.
After a few moments of rest, he heard a knock on his door. It wasn't long before Dai and Juro entered, both wearing serious expressions. he breathed a deep sigh before addressing them. "This is about Damia isn't it?"
Dai clenched his fists at her name and Juro noticeably flinched. Still, neither contradicted him, so he could only assume he was right. After a few deep breaths, Dai spoke up. "I know that I can't convince you to get rid of her. I also know that if I stay, I will kill her. So... me and Juro have decided to continue the fight in our own way. By ourselves."
He had hoped that wouldn't be the case, but he suspected they were going to say that. His team was shrinking one person at a time and they were already struggling to get through each day. But even if he could convince the two to stay, Dai killing Damia in a blind rage would cause more problems than it was worth. As reluctant as he was, he knew he had to let them leave. "... What will you do?"
"We've been talking about it." Juro stated, deciding that he should explain on Dai's behalf. "We think some students might have avoided brainwashing. If they did, we're gonna find 'em and make sure they know where to go when the fighting starts."
It was as good an idea as any. In fact, gathering more allies was probably the best thing they could do right now. With a sense of reluctance, he lowered his head and spoke in a quiet voice. "Just... make sure you're there when we need you..."
The two nodded, though he didn't see it, and silently left. Juro glanced back at his leader once more as he did, wishing that this separation could have been avoided, but knowing that it was impossible. So instead he turned away and made a silent vow that he would make this up to his friends someday. And with that thought, he was gone.
Shinjiro rubbed his face, the contrast of his warm palm and cold metal hand being painfully noticeable. How was he going to explain this to the others? Dai may have been hard to get along with, but most people liked Juro and no one could argue that the two were skilled warriors. It was a severe loss and one he had to find some way to compensate for it.
Before he could even begin to think of what his next move should be, the door opened again. He briefly wondered if he would get any peace today, as his fourth guest entered the room. This time, it was the familiar face of Almaz that greeted him, his face heavy with worry. "Let me guess... Bad news?"
With pain in his voice, Almaz answered. "Y-yeah. Mao's not taking the betrayal of his friend well... He's planning to... he's planning to..."
Shinjiro anxiously waited for Almaz to finish that sentence, but as soon as he did, he wished that he never heard them, for they made his heart feel like it had stopped.
"He's planning to destroy the Human World..."
It is seeking something around this Netherworld.
It is seeking something for itself.
Swaying as it walks, with nothing in its mind and all reason is lost.
It moves in silence, with nothing but a thirsty-sounding rasp.
Shivering and trembling.
"H#y, some %5*#3 I$ tR1p 99#ng 0& our area."
Someone approaches with whines.
"H#y, what $ * hell / you $UPpo7e 2p be?"
Demons approach it. Two more appear.
" 4u better b#G ready to 4yu M52cy 86$#&* we rip &8u 62 pieces."
"I rather B#&* 67e shit out ^6 it."
Death threats are thrown at it. It does not remember why it is here.
The creature doe not understand, so it should go.
"H#Y! T67 B s4^*d is running!"
"tCH! D04't l#4 it gET way!"
"We'll J6s5 CoR834 it 67 Kill it"
"I ^44 first D9bbs on 89ll/i5g it!"
The squeaking continues, the creature keeps going. Anywhere away from its pursuers.
It was cornered.
"/45/3$%^ 4Haha#453^$^!#$#ahaHahA5$ ^^%!# #aHAha$53!"
"No where to run now. Any last words freak?"
They followed it. They cornered the thing - predators trapping the prey in a dead end.
Who is the predator and who are the prey?
They echo loudly to the thing...
That its stomach growls.
The area turned black - and the creature lashed out at the Demons.
"Hey #$ h#LL!? wH#2t Is 89 d0ing!?"
"A-Ah #$%$%%$^ do6'$ run, help # ehhhhh!"
One Demon dropped after another. The creature attacked the next and the next.
"Ha, ha, ha, W# t 9%$ yo-!"
"G-get W6y! I-I'm so#R6. I hiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!?"
The taste of Demons... It is of rust - like blood.
The screams died down, the black creature the only thing left with nothing than the sound of it's rasp disrupting the silence. The Demons lay still - neither dead nor alive.
Though eaten more than a King's feast. The creature is not satisfied, staring at the empty sky of the Netherworld.
...Not enough. Need more...
Just to let you all know, I didn't write that last bit. It was written by a friend of mine (they requested I not give any name) who wants to get into writing, and I agreed to include anything they write if I feel it would work. I'm sure my friend would like feedback, so please tell us what you thought.
Not much else to say, other than I hope you look forward to the next arc of this story. The journey to the Human World.