Chapter 11: Is This a Game?

It was Saturday and Minato found himself wandering around the shopping district skipping school. He was irritated as King Moron began to lecture him, and the clutter of nonsense flowing from his buck-toothed imbecile forced Minato to leave the grounds in thoughts of calming his nerves down.

"Minato?" A familiar voice stopped him in the shopping district. Minato turned around to see it was Naoto Shirogane dressed in his summer attire. His outfit consisted of a blue short-sleeved button up shirt, dark blue pants and a yellow tie.

"Yeah, and you're Naoto right?" Minato asked.

"Yes, that is correct. What importance do you have to be out here when courses still commence in school?" Naoto asked shoving his hands inside his pant pockets. Minato resisted best he could from letting his agitation from getting the best of him. He paused and took a deep breath.

"It's because I couldn't stand that idiot lecturing me with his nonsense. I had to take a break to relax to calm myself." Minato sighed.

"hmmmm, Is it also true that you've been associating with Yukiko Amagi and Kanji Tatsumi as of late?"

"Yeah, why are you asking?" Minato's suspicion rose.

"Following a lead that is all. Thank you for your cooperation." With that Naoto took off leaving a slightly confused Minato.

Minato awoke the next day to his phone ringing off as he picked it up in his tired state he paused until he heard Chie's voice.

"Chie, what's up?" Minato asked as he noticed a slight panic in her voice.

"Did you hear? Another body was been found today! Chie stated.

'This doesn't make sense. No one was on the midnight channel last night.'

"I don't get it, everyone's meeting at Junes right now. So hurry right away." Chie hung up as Minato rose readying himself.

Minato arrived to see the group seated in the cafeteria with soft drinks on the table. For some reason Yosuke and Rise was missing though.

"What do we know so far?" Minato approached the group.

"Nothing, though Yosuke went to check on the scene." Chie answered.

"Guys!" Yosuke came running through the other end of the cafeteria.

"Yeah, it was murder alright. The body it was dangling upside down on a rooftop's railing!" Yosuke stated as he bent down panting.

"Did you get a glimpse at who it was?" Minato asked in which the group was kind of shocked at his unwavering determination to collect information.

"Um, yeah...the victim...was King Moron." Yosuke hung his head low.

"How could that be?" Yukiko asked as everyone stood up in shock.

"Why? What on earth is going on here?" Chie shouted.

"You gotta be fucking with me! I thought the killer was targeting people who appeared on T.V? But I've never seen King Moron on T.V or the Midnight Channel." Kanji violently shouted, causing other customers to fall into silence around them.

"Maybe the Midnight Channel doesn't have anything to do with this." Yukiko hung her head low.

"Dammit what the hell is going on?" Yosuke sat back down nearly slamming his head into the table gripping it.

"Are we in over our heads here? Trying to catch a criminal even the cops can't find?" Yosuke shouted.

"Calm down." Minato spoke firmly as everyone drove their attention at him.

"There's a logical explanation for everything, and I have already managed to build up theories for why this happened. This is no time to panic, keep cool. We will catch him." Minato stated firmly.

"Damn straight. We did this cause the cops couldn't tell the asses from their elbows, and if we don't continue this that shithead will be on the loose forever. Save the time for bitching and moaning. We just gotta keep on keepin on." Kanji clenched his fist while Minato gave him a confirming nod.

"Wow, big talk coming from you Kanji." Yosuke smirked.

"What's thats'posed to mean?" Kanji's eyes widened.

"Never mind that, Minato what ideas do you have?" Yosuke asked.

"Before I relay them to you, I need to confirm something. We need to go talk to Teddie." Minato took off inside the store.

Inside the store, the group saw fellow workers having a discussion in front of the television section.

"Do you think they found out about the T.V?" Yukiko asked.

"I'll check it out." Yosuke motioned with his hand for them to stay back as he approached them.

"Oh, we're glad you're here. Did the manager tell you anything about a campaign or event going on today?" The workers asked.

"Did something happen today?" Yosuke raised a brow.

"Yeah, there's been this weird mascot roaming around the store lately." The male worker spoke.

"I think he said is name was Eddie, or was it Terry?" The female worker pondered to herself.

"Oh, shit." Minato face palmed overhearing the conversation.

"You don't think…" Chie paused as Minato simply nodded.

"Please don't tell me." Yosuke quickly glanced around the store to find the brightly colored bear seated comfortably in a vibrating recliner chair.

"He's here." Yosuke hung his body low in disappointment.

"Why are you here?" Yosuke asked irritably

"I've been waiting for you guys. It took you long enough." Teddie's voice flowed with the vibrating of the chair.

"Are you okay on this side?" Yukiko asked.

"How did you even leave your side?" Kanji asked with his eyes widened.

"Duh, there's an exit. It never occurred to me till now, but I can use the T.V as an exit to come here just like you guys. I got bored with nowhere to go so I decided to wait for you guys, and a couple of people asked me who I was. I told them I'm Teddie." The bear stated.

"That's right, we wanted to ask you something. Teddie did you sense anyone on your side before you left the T.V?" Yukiko asked.

"No, I waited until the fog set to leave. But no one visited."

"You're positive? You didn't sense a single person?" Yosuke asked

"I just said that! Weren't you listening?" Teddie responded irritably.

"And you're nose wasn't clogged or anything?" Yosuke continued.

"I was one hundred percent alone! That's why i came over here! Then again I can understand why you don't believe me. My nose hasn't been up to snuff lately." He sank in his seat in thought.

"I believe you. It adds up as well." Minato folded his arms.

"Sensei, you're kindness it's radiating from you!" Teddie's eyes shone with happiness.

"What do you mean it adds up?" Chie asked.

"Well, King Moron was never inside the T.V nor on the Midnight Channel. It's possible that the killer after all the times we stopped him, he was brought into a manic state. A compulsion to fill his need to kill and so he straight out killed someone in the real world and hung him in the same fashion. This is a horrible mistake on his part though, all natural evidence should still be on the body." Minato stated as his mind went into thought.

"That does make sense." Yukiko nodded.

"HA, so that bastard got tired of our shit and slipped up! Now it's time to take him down!" Kanji shouted.

"Is something bothering you, bro?" Yosuke noticed the concerning scowl that draped upon Minato's face.

"Yeah, I may just be overthinking it though. If the killer was so thorough before with throwing people into the T.V, would he really be pushed to the point where he would do something as drastic as this?" Minato scowled.

"Well at least this leads better than nothing." Chie sighed.

"Hey, guys! I wanna go somewhere!" Teddie lept out of the recliner.

"Now's, not the time dude. You seriously don't plan on going back do you?" Kanji sighed.

"I want to give Rise these!" Teddie showed the group a pair of pink glasses. These glasses are the same type each of them has, that enable them to see through the dense fog of the T.V world.

"Rise will probably back us up for now on. Since I've upgraded to Teddie 2.0, don't think of me as the helpless cute old Teddie. This one's as ferocious as a real bear! A New Legend of Teddie has been born!" Teddie growled into the ceiling.

"Wow, a new legend!" Yukiko her voice clearly echoing here dumbfounded state.

"I can't wait to see what unfolds" Yukiko suddenly bursted out laughing making the rest of the team sigh.

"Ok, let's discuss all possible people that would have motive for each one of you and King Moron?" Yosuke sat and pondered. A few moments of silence and it was clear on each member's face that they drew blanks.

"Dammit, the only thing I can think of is someone who goes to our school. No one I know meets the criteria though. What about you guys?" Minato folded his arms behind his head as he gazed up in the sky, the silence from them was enough to confirm that they drew blanks.

"AHHHHHH, I'm soo hot in here!" Teddie began undo the zipper around his head.

"Whoa! What are you thinking? People will freak out if they see an empty costume running around!" Yosuke abruptly slammed Teddie's head back down.

"Hey, knock it off! Besides I'm not empty anymore!" Teddie shoved Yosuke off and lifted his head off.

"Ahh, it feels so good!" A young blonde teenager was now sitting inside the costume. His blonde hair was swayed to the side, he had bright blue eyes, and tanned skin. The shock of this nearly killed everyone at the table, drinks and food were spit out from this odd sight.

"What the hell, how…how…" Minato couldn't even finish his sentence. The concept of making a body out of literally nothing defies all logic.

"Is that really you Teddie?" Chie asked.

"Yep, see I told you I wasn't empty." Teddie smiled.

"How the hell did you even do that?" Yosuke shouted as he looked to his friends for answers.

"Yeah, man that's just freaky." Kanji stated.

"Well, I don't exactly know how. Sometime after you guys left last time, I got this body. How does it look though? Think I can score with you, Yukiko?" Teddie winked.

"Can we please drop the score thing?" Yukiko mumbled.

"And I thought I've seen everything, well at least now I won't be surprised if he ends up shitting magical rainbows next." Minato chuckled.

"My perfect cuddly fur is enough, I don't need any gimmicks like that!" Teddie pouted.

"Speaking of fur though, I'm like a newborn baby right now." Teddie glanced around the customers nearby.

"Oh crap! What do we do guys!" Yosuke began to panic gripping his head.

"We'll handle this!" Yukiko shouted. In mere second her and Chie flew off with Teddie into the store.

"Okay, meet us at Rise's house when you're done!" Yosuke covered the sides of his mouth with his hands as he shouted.

In the distance Yukiko and Chie arrived towards the guys in front of a store near Rise's tofu shop. With them was Teddie who was now wearing a buttoned white blouse-like shirt with a red rose ornament placed upon the right upper part of his shirt. He looked as if he came straight out of some modern Shakespeare adaptation.

"Teddie is that you?" Yosuke staggered back.

"Oui, monsieur! How do I look?" Teddie spread his arms and legs out.

"Hardly recognized you." Minato nodded.

"My mind was totally blown, but he's Teddie alright. Everything was so new to him, and he was so excited, that everything just became a mess. You even caused a mess in the women's section. You really gotta learn how to behave dude." Chie scolded. In response Teddie slouched over moping.

"Well, he can't help it. It's his first time here." Yukiko patted Teddie on the head.

"Yeah, i guess you're right. Though if you start to behave you could be pretty cute." Chie smiled.

"You mean it!" Teddie bursted with excitement.

"Is he cute...? What do you think Kanji?" Yosuke nudged Kanji with his elbow. His smug smirk clearly trying to egg him on.

"Oh, what you're reallr asking is "Can you please beat the shit out of me, Kanji?" Kanji nearly crushing the stick of the soft Topsicle ice cream in his fist.

"Let me just get popcorn first!" Minato raised up his hand with a grin on his face. Suddenly Yukiko bursted in one of her uncontrollable laughing fits, which irritated Kanji.

"Hey, now please dont fight over me baby." Teddie waved his hands in a soothing fashion.

"You wanna get beat next?" Kanji shouted.

"Geez, here... get whatever ice cream you want." Kanji stood shocked as Yosuke hand him a thousand yen bill.

"Oh thank god you're feeling in such a generous mood today, Yosuke. Maybe you're really maturing." Chie nodded splacing her hands on her hips..

"What do you mean? What's going on? Yosuke spoke in suspicious tone.

"Well we had no money, and Teddie's clothes were expensive so we charged it to you." Chie spoke with a vibrant fast tone.

"YOU DID WHAT?" Yosuke shouted gripping his hair.

"Everything there was too expensive, what were we supposed to do?" Chie frantically argued.

"Anything but that! I'm broke, because i have to repair my messed up bike!" Yosuke shouted.

"Hey Teddie, you want a Topsicle?" Kanji waved him over to the ice cream shop.

"Well i guess that's are cue as well." Minato nodded at Yukiko as they all left Yosuke and Chie to bicker by themselves.

Outside Rise's house stood a familiar figure as the gang approached the shop. It was the young detective Naoto Shirogane.

"I had a feeling you'd come" The young detective Naoto approached the two members of the investigation team.

"What's up?" Minato asked as in a tone as if nothing was wrong and was familiar with the young detective.

"I came here under the presentiment that you were going to try to initiate Rise Kujikawa into your gang, seems as though I am correct."

"We're just paying her a visit that's all." Minato smiled. Yosuke came up from behind them discussing the issues with his charged card.

"Huh, you're that detective dude." Yosuke's attention was now focused to slight tense aura of the group in front of him.

"Precisely, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?" Naoto folded his arm.

"Sure, what's up?" Minato shoved his hand into his pant pockets.

"Kinshiro Morooka was a teacher at the school you all attend to correct?" Naoto lightly gripped the bill of his blue hat.

"What about it?" Chie slight stuttered.

"The public is purely focused on the fact that he is associated with your school, when in fact that is irrelevant. Kinshiro Morooka has never appeared on television. Also if you look at the case, the victims only connections up till now are their appearance on television; but if you point your attention to your group. Things start falling into place." Naoto stated with a cold serious tone.

"What are you getting at? Minato folded his arms and raised a brow.

"What I'm specifying is that whatever game your playing is over. The police currently have a suspect in custody as of right now, and you can no longer hide the fact that you all are somehow involved in this case. Why else would people who have never had much affiliation to begin with, start grouping together after their sudden disappearances?" Naoto glared at them, his cold blue eyes seemingly antagonizing Minato.

"This is no game for us, in a situation where someone has died and lives are endanger, even the thought of treating it as some sort of game pisses me off!" Minato tightly gripped his bicep between his folded arms.

"Yeah! Someone really important to me was taken away from me, I'll be damned if I were to sit and do nothing! Maybe it's you who's the one that's treating this like a game?" Yosuke shouted rattling the headphones that sat around his neck.

"Maybe you're right, After all it's my job as a detective to solve cases." Naoto smirked causing the group to pause in silence.

"But there's one thing that's been bothering me.." Naoto paused lightly gripping his chin.

"What's up? Something you missed?" Minato began to relax himself a bit.

"No, it's nothing." Naoto shook his head.

"Well, I'll be taking my leave as of now. I ask you all to remain out of this from now on." Naoto glared back at them before taking off down the road.

"Sheesh, what's his problem?" Yosuke shrugged.

"Let it go for now, let's go update Rise on the current situation." Minato entered the Tofu shop.

'If it's true that the police really do have a suspect, then there's nothing we can do for now.'

Later, the next night the midnight channel appeared a young teenager with dead-like eyes speaking with words "catch me if you can" in a cold tone. Behind him was a large forest path, slightly lit by the sunlight as the trees swayed in the breeze.

The investigation team met up at Junes to discuss what they saw last night.

"So do any of you guys recognize that kid?" Kanji asked the group. Each one of the shook their head no, except for Minato who was in thought.

"If I remember correctly, I nearly bashed my fist into his skull on my first day here. I think he was trying to start shit with Yukiko and Chie." Minato pounded his fist into his palm.

"You should've done it!" Kanji shouted.

"Oh, yeah I think he was trying to hit on Yukiko!" Chie pounded her fist into her palm.

"Strange, I don't remember that." Yukiko sighed.

"You, don't even know half of the guys in school like you." Yosuke mumbled.

"The way he was saying catch me if you can, makes him seem like the culprit in all of this right?" Rise leaned forward.

"Yeah, it does. I mean if the dude escaped into the T.V no one would be able to catch him there. It would be the perfect escape plan." Yosuke stated.

"Then what are we waiting for? Let's go in there and confront this shady dude face to face." Kanji pounded his fist on the table.

The investigation team came across a large red and black swirling portal blocking the way Rise guided them.

"Is he here?" Yosuke asked Rise.

"Yes, I can sense him from behind this door, but this doorway has a weird aura to it be careful when you enter guys." Rise stood with her persona activated.

"Well, this looks like the only way in. Let's enter in all at once." Minato stated; everyone nodded with assurance before stepping through. All then faded to black in their eyes.

"What the hell?" Minato awoke gripping his head in pain. Horribly disorientated, his vision was blurred and body felt heavy than normal. He heard a loud clang of metal down by his feet, it then became clear as to why he felt weighted down. He was wearing a coat of armor, clad in blue and gold. At his side was a rather large sheathed broad sword, and in his left arm was a hefty blue shield. He rose becoming aware of his surroundings and none of his friends were in sight, only in his company were large trees and a light blowing breeze.

"Who gave me this equipment?" Minato shifted his arms observing the coarse metal that covered him. Such heavy armor and weaponry made him uncomfortable; his style was fast, strong, and precise. A light suddenly caught his attention on his right forearm. It was a small screen revealing, small icons at the top with two large bars reading HP and MP.

"Is this some sort of video game?" Minato knelt down gazing at the ground. His eyes caught on to a blade of grass; though its texture and movement seemed genuine. Closely observing it, he could see the pixelation in the structure.

He heard a loud rustling behind him. He unsheathed his sword, and began to circle himself waiting for the unknown creature to strike. Shifting the shield on his arm, he frowned that something like this was weighing him down; he needed to plan his tactic to adjust to this new style. Out the brush came a rushing dog-like creature. Snarling at him the creature began pacing around Minato. Making sure not let the creature get the upper hand, Minato mirrored his movement with his shield at the ready. The creature lunged at him only to forced back by a smack from his shield. Unfazed the creature rose again bearing its teeth once again the creature lunged at Minato, but instead of the same attack pattern, it quickly lifted itself to the side mid-run. Keeping in time with its lunging movement Minato swung open his shield letting him go in for a strike with his sword. The sword sliced open the creature's belly, and black aura spewed from it as it whimpered to the ground. It was clear now that what Minato had just fought was indeed a shadow.

"Hm?" Minato heard the screen on his wrist beep. Gazing at it, it now showed a map and an objective to make it to a nearby village titled Ogenmor.

In Ogenmor, Minato found himself surrounded by civilians passing by dressed in ragged clothes; they spoke in an odd manner resembling that of medieval times. Surrounded by lodges made entirely of wood, and the streets were lined with stands as people shouted prices and sales. It sent chills down his spine how realistic this felt with the cold wind passing through his lungs and the course ground underneath his metal boots.

"This world is very detailed and more complex than the previous areas." Minato spoke to himself as he walked through the village. His clanking armor drew the attention of passerby's each gazing in awe on his shining armor while asking each other who he was. The unneeded attention irritated him, he resisted his reflex to shout at people that might only be Non-playable characters or worse shadows that he didn't wish to provoke unnecessarily.

His navigator led him to a rather large stone castle in the center of the village. Continuously beeping the navigator lit up with the words "Go meet the king!"

"Fine, if it shuts you the hell up!" Minato shouted at it.

"My, my thou hast come at such troubling times." A bearded man spoke in a loud voice from atop his throne as Minato stepped through the huge white doors. As he approached closer Minato could see the man covered head to toe in gold jewelry and a crown stood on top of his head.

"Well, security here is a piece of shit. What's the issue?" Minato gazed around at the near empty palace. The only other occupants were the two guards standing idly next to the king with spears in hand.

"I am King Adalmund, and our greatest hero hast gone missing, he ventured off to defeat the king of dragons. Our forces have dwindled in search of him, so we ask of you noble knight will you led us your strength?" The king bowed his head.

"Where can I find this king of dragons?" Minato asked.

"In his castle at the ridge of the country, the fierce king plagues our kingdom and thus our land has become poor. Will you please accept this daunting task?" The king refusing to lift his head spoke it a despairing tone.

"Yeah, I'll be taking my leave now." Minato's tone was cold as he walked off.

"Wait!" The king shouted as a man in a cloak knelt in front of Minato bearing a small diamond object.

"This gem will help unlock your full potential, please take it with you." Minato observed his bracer light up where the symbols were.

"Also take our sorceress with you. Though she is a novice, I am sure she'll be of use to you." A woman in a cloak walked up to Minato before taking off her hood.

"Rise?" Minato was shocked to see Rise stand before him. A staff in her hand and the quite skimpy purple wardrobe she wore with confidence.

'I don't think Yosuke would be fit for combat anymore if he saw this.' Her tight wardrobe wove in an out of her curvy slender body. It clearly revealed her slender stomach and her breasts perked up forming an enticing, revealing cleavage.

"Do you like this sort of thing Minato?" Rise bent over towards him showing off her body and spoke in a soft seductive tone; Only to see Minato folding his arms in deep thought seemingly oblivious to the question. He was quickly running through his mind about the possible outcomes of this game, and variables that would affect the battles to come.

"Rise, have you ever played a video game RPG?" Minato raised a brow.

"For such a cool leader, sometime you sure are weird." Rise mumbled disappointed.

"There's a more pressing matter at hand than the fact of whether I like your clothing or not. So have you?" Minato fumbled around with his arms testing the full rotation and weight of his suit.

"No, why would I?" Rise shrugged which made Minato let out a huge sigh.

"Well here's your crash course, because we're in one now!" Minato pointed at his bracer.

"New party member accepted!"

Chapter End

Hope you enjoyed reading!