A/N: Hey guys! This took longer than I expected. I wrote up a good chunk of the chapter, didn't like it, added some stuff made a ton of revisions to compensate, blegh. Not to mention I had a bit of tough time with the shadow battle. I used the animation as a template, with some artistic liberties of course. Anyways, I hope the result is something enjoyable. But before I sign off, I'm going to respond to my reviewers!
Pinpon: Thou wish hast been granted.
Awesome: Thank you kindly sir/madame! I plan on doing just that!
Bingo: Some fics have explored it, but still, I feel as if it's a worthwhile avenue to go down. Especially for good relationship development in the future!
Alleywayjack: Glad you enjoyed the last chapter. I hope to deliver on the premise I set up in the next chapter!
Meia42: I agree, and am glad you found the conclusion to the last chapter satisfying.
MrRaumulus: Join uuuussss! Haha, in all seriousness though, glad you enjoyed the read!
Now read on! And leave some feedback if you are so inclined! Thank you all for your support!
Ever since her talk with Yukiko, Chie's mind had been thrown in a loop. She had walked to school almost mechanically, oblivious to her surroundings as her thoughts swirled like a maelstrom in her head. Cursing as she entered the school gates, she vainly tried to shove the thoughts aside, completely clueless on how to handle the strange new feelings that had entered her heart. No, Chie thought. They weren't new. Yukiko had simply forced her to finally acknowledge them. Those strange sensations that had run through her after Yu had shared his lunch with her for the first time, when he had called her 'cute' after freaking out in front of Nanako, when he had complimented the way she looked at the camping trip, and many other times as they had spent time together. Chie made a face, realizing she had slipped into a very uncharacteristic train of thought, at least for her. She had never been one to make a fuss about boys, yet here she was, daydreaming like some sap. The thought was enough to further sour her mood.
"Is something wrong?"
Chie's eyes widened as she turned to face Yu. "O-oh, hey Yu-kun! I was just… uh thinking about the case y'know? Just a little anxious that's all…"
Yu didn't look totally convinced, but didn't venture further on the matter. "I understand. Don't worry about it too much, we'll do whatever we can to stop this from escalating."
Chie nodded firmly, not fully trusting her mouth at the moment. Yu gave her a reassuring smile, leaving her as he made his way to their classroom. After he was out of sight, Chie let out a breath she hadn't even realized she was holding. Closing her eyes, Chie sighed, taking a moment to collect herself. Yukiko sure did pick a good time to bring all this up, Chie thought bitterly. She could hardly look at Yu without pondering over her friend's words, an unnecessary distraction, especially in the midst of what was shaping to be another kidnapping.
She took in a deep breath. Relax, Chie convinced herself. Such thoughts would have to wait, the team would need her focused whenever they went back into the shadow world. Maybe after the next rescue, she could face herself head on, and Yu too. With the matter settled, at least for now, Chie felt a little better. Straightening her shoulders, she walked into class.
"Alright guys," Yosuke began. "Keep an eye out for anyone suspicious." The Investigation Team was currently posted around the corner about a block away from Marukyu Tofu.
"The only people who look suspicious out here are us senpai," Kanji sighed.
"Hey guys, what's going on?" A voice behind them asked. The group turned around and were greeted with the sight of what appeared to be a younger plainclothes detective.
"Adachi-san?" Yu asked, apparently recognizing the man. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be at the precinct helping out Uncle Dojima?"
"Well you see," Adachi began, "Dojima-san asked that I keep an eye- I mean… I was just passing through the shopping district! Dojima said to do some… uh, surveillance in the area!"
"Great," Yosuke groaned. "A babysitter, just what we need!"
Suddenly Kanji's eyes narrowed. "Yo senpai, check out that one guy!" The teen motioned toward a strange looking man, carrying a camera as he strolled through the shopping district. Stopping in front of the Tofu shop, he quickly snapped a couple of photos. Noticing a nearby light pole, he looked around for a moment. The shopping district was unusually quiet today, so the man assumed the coast was clear and began shimmying up the light pole.
"Just what he doing up there?" Chie wondered. Maybe the killer really was just some creep! She thought.
"I dunno," Yosuke admitted. "But I think we may have found our culprit!"
"Step aside kids," Adachi said suddenly. "Leave this to the professionals!"
The group grimaced collectively as Adachi stormed towards the shop. "Hey, just what are you doing up there? You wouldn't mind if I asked you some questions, would you?"
The man was obviously spooked, quickly sliding down a bolting down the street.
"Let's get 'em senpai!" Kanji roared. Chie, Yosuke, and Yu nodded, quickly joining in the pursuit. "Hey, come back here punk! You ain't gonna hurt anyone else!"
They quickly gained on the mysterious man, who was obviously not in very good shape. Running into a busy street, the man paused, cornered for the moment. Turning around to his pursuers the man cried out, "Don't come any closer, I'll jump out into the street if I have to! I know for a fact that taking discreet pictures isn't illegal in Japan!"
"We don't give a shit about your damn pictures!" Kanji snarled. "You're not killin' anyone anymore!"
"Wh-what!" The man shrieked, before being stormed by the group.
Adachi ran up to them, having caught up at last. The man's eyes widened as the detective pulled out his handcuffs. "Wait, I didn't do anything! I just took some pictures, I swear!"
"Save it for the station buddy," Adachi intoned in his best hardboiled detective voice. A childish expression broke upon his face. "Man, I've always wanted to say that!" Turning to the Investigation Team, he cleared his throat. "Thanks for the help kids, I'll take it from here!"
The group stared as Adachi lead the suspect away, a strange sense of dissatisfaction coursing through them. It was strange, really. Chie knew that she should be feeling some sort of closure, happiness even that their days of investigation and ventures into the shadow world were now over. Instead, she felt a sort of hollowness where the case used to be, and as she looked at her friends' expressions she saw that her feelings were mirrored. "So I guess that's it, huh?" Chie thought out loud.
"Yeah, I guess so," Yosuke agreed half-heartedly . The rest of the team cast their eyes downward glumly.
"I'm not so sure," Yu said suddenly, prompting the rest of them to turn to face him. "Let's say for a moment that that guy was able to overpower Ms. Yamano, Saki-senpai, and Yukiko-san. But Kanji-kun?" He shook his head in thought. "I'm not so sure about that."
Kanji nodded in agreement. "Yeah, you're right senpai. No way that guy woulda caught me by surprise. Not to mention he stuck out like a damn sore thumb. Guy doin' shit like the first couple of murders woulda had to have flown more under the radar, or somethin'." He grunted in resignation. "'Specially with all these damn cops around."
Chie had to admit that their logic made sense. Not to mention she had a gut feeling that told her things weren't quite over just yet.
"Well, it's going to rain tonight right?" Yukiko piped up. "We should check it just to be sure."
The rest of the Investigation Team nodded in assent, mentally preparing themselves for the worst case scenario.
In truth, Chie half expected for nobody to appear on the Midnight Channel that night. But at the same time, when the screen began to display images of Rise Kujikawa, albeit bereft of much of her clothing, she wasn't too surprised. In fact she felt a strange sense of excitement running through her. Chie had never felt more alive than she had in the shadow world, summoning her persona, fighting alongside her friends. Realizing herself, Chie shook her head in disgust. As long as the killer was out there, people were in danger. And yet here she was, thrilled at the prospect at being thrown in the thick of it all once more. Sighing, she set out her futon, attempting to wrest her conflicting feelings under control before she went to sleep.
"Teddie, have you sensed anyone coming in lately?" Yu asked.
Teddie looked at Yu blearily. "What? Oh sensei, I didn't hear you all come in…" The bear frowned, looking decidedly down.
"Yo, what's up with you?" Yosuke prodded.
Teddie cast his eyes downward. "I've been thinking lately, about where I come from… I think and think, but I can never remember. I wanted to cry, but I couldn't… I guess I don't know how…"
"Don't stress about it too much dude," Yosuke replied. "After all you are just hollow on the inside right? Don't strain yourself."
Teddie narrowed his eyes at Yosuke's 'reassurances.' "Quit saying that!" The bear looked on the verge of tears at this point. "Y-you guys are all out having fun in the real world… no one remembers poor Teddie…"
"Teddie," Yukiko said softly. "That's not true at all. We need you."
"Yeah that right!" Chie joined in. "If you weren't here, we wouldn't have able to save Yukiko or Kanji!"
"R-really?" Teddie asked, sniffing. The girls nodded in response. "Then do you think that maybe… one day I could score with you guys?"
Chie rubbed the back of her head sheepishly, "Uh, yeah sure…"
At this Teddie perked up considerably. "Then I'll make sure that I work hard so that I will!" Turning to Yu, he asked, "So who are you guys looking for again?"
"We're looking for a girl named Rise Kujikawa. She's a teen idol who recently moved to Inaba. There are rumors running around her fan base that her sudden hiatus from her career was due to personal problems. Is that enough for you to go on?" Teddie nodded vigorously then began to sniff the air vigorously.
Chie looked at Yu, impressed. "Wow, you knew all that off the top of your head?"
"I did some asking around at school, got a hold of a second year who was a big fan of hers. He filled me in."
Chie chuckled, "Wow, you must take after your uncle a bit huh?"
Yu shrugged, "I just asked the right questions."
"Yep, you definitely do!" Chie laughed, confirming that Yu definitely did possess at least some of his uncle's knack for detective work.
"In any case, good one partner!" Yosuke added. "With any luck, we'll be on Rise's trail in no time!"
Teddie ears suddenly perked up. "Sensei! I beary well may have found the trail!" Without further the delay, the bear wandered outside the Junes TV entrance, the Investigation Team filing in behind him. After navigating for a while, they finally reached what appeared to be some sort of club.
"Is this…" Yosuke began, hardly believing what he was seeing.
Teddie nodded firmly, "Yup, I'd bet my fur on it!"
"Something… seems strange about this place," Yukiko noted, prompting the male members of the team flush in embarrassment.
Being the first to recover, Yu quickly said, "Let's get moving." The rest of the Team nodded, passing the entrance and entering the buildings darkened halls. Pushing their way through waves of shadows, they eventually made their way into a large room, with a pole prominently displayed in the center. The sight made Investigation Team shift uncomfortably: They knew what was coming now.
A spotlight illuminated the center of the dark room, and Rise's shadow sashayed out shortly afterward, sizing up the newcomers. "Aww what's the matter?" The shadow asked. "Aren't you all excited to finally see the real me bared before you all?" Huffing at the team's grim expressions, the shadow continued. "Fine then! Looks like we'll have to bring out our special guest!" Another spotlight appeared on stage, revealing the real Rise kneeling on the stage. "Well, what have you got to say for yourself, other me?"
"Stop, please," Rise begged.
The shadow giggled, "Why would I do that silly? I'm so sick of being forced to play the flirt! I just want to show them all every… last… inch of me!" The shadow swayed its hips provocatively, proceeding to swing around the pole at the center of the stage. Finishing the maneuver, the shadow flourished its hair dramatically. "Well I think it's time to start the show!" Moving to untie its top, Rise suddenly cried out in protest.
"No! This isn't what I want!" She shouted desperately.
The shadow's expression quickly became a malice filled grin. "Who are you trying to fool? I want to show everyone the real Rise, with nothing to come in the way!"
"You're wrong," Rise denied. "This isn't what I want!"
"Here goes," Kanji remarked.
"You're not me!" Rise cried out.
The shadow smirked before breaking out into laughter, the dark aura around it growing in intensity. The shadows figure twisted, and warped, its skin becoming a flowing mosaic of bright colors as it grew many times its original size. "I am a shadow," The monster intoned, "The true self." The Investigation team promptly evoked their personas, preparing for battle. The shadow appeared to be appraising the new threats, the satellite positioned where its face should be suddenly emitting a green pulse that quickly ran over the team along with their personas.
"What's it doing?" Yosuke cried out.
"Doesn't matter," Kanji barked, "That things going down! C'mon Take-Mikazuchi!" The titanic persona quickly obliged, rushing towards the shadow, poised to deliver a crushing blow. The shadow dodged the blow easily, gracefully moving to avoid Kanji's attack.
The shadow laughed at the attempt. "My turn!" The shadow suddenly blasted Take-Mikazuchi with a blast of wind, sending the persona staggering back, prompting Kanji to grunt in pain.
"Careful Kanji," Teddie warned, "Your persona is weak against wind!"
"Yukiko, make sure Kanji gets back on his feet," Yu ordered. The girl nodded and ran toward Kanji, prepared to dispense healing if needed. "Chie, Yosuke, you're with me! Let's see if we can get some hits in!"
"On it partner!"
"Gotcha!" Chie replied. "Let's go Tomoe!" Her persona responded quickly, flying alongside Izanagi and Jiraiya toward the shadow.
"Now Izanagi!" Yu shouted. The persona quickly sent a bolt of lighting toward the shadow. The shadow seemingly anticipated this however, erecting a magical barrier that redirected the spell toward Jiraiya. The bolt home, catching Jiraiya straight in the chest.
"Damn, what the hell was that!" Yosuke cursed, clutching his chest.
Chie quickly ordered Tomoe to go in for a strike, hoping to catch the shadow off guard while it was distracted for the moment. Tomoe brought down her staff violently, yet the shadow was too quick, easily dodging this blow as well.
"I see everything, I know all of your strengths and weakness," The shadow said, quickly sending a fire spell toward Tomoe, bathing the persona in flame and bringing Chie to her knees as her body was wracked with pain.
"Chie!" Yu cried out, sending Izanagi in for back up.
"Nuh uh uh!" The shadow taunted, launching a violent blast of wind toward the persona.
Yukiko, who had only just helped Kanji to his feet, watched in shock as her friends were struck down.
"How boring," The shadow said, pantomiming a yawn. I guess it's time to finish you all off!" The shadow grabbed the stage pole, shaping it into a five barreled cannon. "Time to die!" The cannon emitted several strings of multi colored light, targeting the Investigation Team's personas with their corresponding weaknesses.
Chie's body grimaced as the blast hit. Looking up she glanced at her falling friends, each of them struggling to endure. As the assault continued Chie knew though: They couldn't take much more of this.
Yu seemed to have realized this as well. "T-Teddie!" Yu shouted. "Take Rise and get out of here!"
The bear looked shocked. "B-but sensei! I can't just leave you all bearhind!"
"J-just go! We c-can't hold out much longer!"
"No!" Teddie cried. "I don't wanna be left all alone! I need to do… something! I…" Teddie suddenly paused examining his body, now visibly radiating a powerful energy. "Wait, what's happening?" He suddenly started rushing toward the shadow, "My feet are moving on their own!" Suddenly his expression became serious. "I understand, now it's time for me to help sensei and the others!"
The shadow took notice of Teddie, the approaching bear posing enough distraction for it to momentarily pause its assault. "What's this? No, impossible!"
There was a deafening blast accompanied by a blinding light when Teddie impacted the shadow, leaving the team temporarily disoriented. As soon as she had recovered her senses, Chie rushed forward. The other members of the Investigation Team soon joined her. They found Teddie on the stage, although significantly flatter and more ruffled than before. "Did… I save everyone?" The bear asked weakly.
"Yeah," Yu answered, smiling. "You saved us all."
"Thank you sensei that-" Teddie paused, apparently examining himself suddenly. "What! What happened to my beartiful fur!"
"Tch, and to think I was worried about the guy," Kanji muttered. "Stupid bear, coulda gotten himself killed."
"Well he seems to be alright," Yosuke noted.
"We should check on Rise-chan," Yukiko said. The rest of the Investigation Team nodded, finding the shadow back in its previous form, flickering like static. Rise was lying nearby, having fallen unconscious after the battle began.
The former idol began to stir, slowly pushing herself off the ground. She quickly put a hand to her head and groaned. "…Where am I?" Seeing her shadow, she cast her eyes downward. "I'm sorry, this was all my fault…"
"It can't be easy, hearing all the things about yourself that you don't want to admit. We understand," Yu answered firmly.
"Thank you," Rise replied gratefully. Turning to face her shadow, she sighed. "You're right, I wanted to realize who I really am. But… now I understand, there is no one, real me. Risette, you, they're all a part of who I am." Her shadow nodded, glowing brightly before transforming into Rise's persona, a tall, elegant figure who appeared to have the same scanning abilities as her shadow.
"There's no… real me?" Teddie wondered out loud, his voice sounding strangely empty.
Suddenly, a nervous feeling crept into Chie's gut. "You all right Teddie?" She asked cautiously.
"No, stay back!" Rise shouted. "There's something coming out of him!"
A black mist formed behind Teddie, slowly gaining form. The mist dissipated suddenly, revealing a larger and far more malicious version of Teddie, its eyes glowing with the same telltale gold as the other shadows of the Investigation Team.
"Woah, is that Teddie's shadow?" Yosuke asked.
"He must have been more troubled than he let on," Yukiko said softly.
"Something's off," Rise noted, her newly gained persona attuning her to the flow of energy in the shadow world. "It was as if an outside presence intervened in bringing it out!"
Teddie, confused at the others reactions, promptly turned around, squeaking in surprise as he came face to face with his dark inner self. "W-who are you?"
"I am you," The shadow replied flatly. "And you are empty. You say that you are searching for your memories, but there are none for you to find. If you have forgotten anything, it is this one truth. Still, you continue to fumble blindly for answers that aren't there, a truth that does not exist. Close your eyes. Lie to yourself. Live in blissful ignorance. It is a much more intelligent way to exist."
"What! You're just using big words to try and confuse me!" Teddie protested.
The shadow went on, unabated. "You are hollow, empty. At your core you know this, yet still you seek a new form, a defiance of your very nature. You are but a mere-"
"Shut up!" Teddie cried, charging at his shadow, only to be brushed aside with ease.
The shadow shifted its gaze towards the Investigation, appraising them disdainfully. As those cold eyes, devoid of any sort of emotion ran over her, Chie felt a shiver run down her spine. This… thing, seemed to be the very antithesis of what Teddie was. Then again, the rest of their shadows had really shown them in the most flattering of lights, and if Teddie's near breakdown before the search had any indication, there was definitely more going on with the bear than he had let on.
"It would seem that all of you as well grasp blindly for the truth. How can for you search for something when you don't even know what you are looking for?" The shadow asked.
"The truth has to exist," Yu answered firmly. "The answer might not be readily apparent, but I won't stop until I find it!"
"Such a futile struggle," The shadow replied. "Finding the truth is simple… All you have to do is believe, and you can convince yourself of any 'truth." The shadow began to glow with a dark aura, sending out an obscuring fog. Moments later, a giant claw swept aside, revealing a monstrous form. A giant twisted form of Teddie lay before them, its face cracked, revealing a dark abyss inside. "Let me grant you one truth: You will all die here…" Letting out a defining roar, it swept violently at the investigation team. With a fraction of a second to spare, they all quickly managed to dodge the attempt.
Chie grimaced. It wasn't likely that they would be able get many more lucky breaks like that. And if the deep claw marks in the ground where they were only seconds ago was any indication, this thing was powerful.
The team quickly moved to retaliate, sending a flurry of spells toward the behemoth, though they seemed to have little effect.
"Crap, how the heck are we gonna take this thing out if we can't scan it?" Yosuke cursed.
"I can do it…" Rise replied firmly.
"Wait, Rise-chan! You've only just-"
"Don't worry," Rise reassured. Her expression quickly became stoic. "Himiko!" She cried, prompting her persona to appear, lending her its scanning abilities. Her forehead wrinkled with concentration as she attempting to examine the colossal shadow.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team attempting to keep the shadow at bay long enough for Rise to find its weak point. Chie sent Tomoe soaring the shadows left eye, scoring a minor hit. The shadow roared, swiping at Tomoe angrily. Chie winced as her persona was sent reeling.
"That's it!" Rise cried. "That eye is its weak point!"
"Chie, Kanji cover me!" Yu shouted.
"On it!" Chie replied.
"You got it senpai!"
"Go, Izanagi!" Yu shouted. Izanagi quickly flew towards the shadow, Tomoe and Take-Mikazuchi alongside him. The shadow quickly sent an arm flying towards them. Take-Mikazuchi charged into it headlong, pushing it to the ground and impaling it with its lightning spear. The Shadow roared as it struggled to free its arm, yet the persona remained steadfast, not giving an inch. Izanagi continued forward unimpeded now with only Tomoe. In a desperate act of preservation the shadow swung at them with its unimpaired arm. Chie anticipated this however, commanding Tomoe to deflect the blow away from Izanagi. The persona obliged, delivering a violent shoulder rush to the approaching arm, halting it momentarily.
"Now's your chance Yu!" Chie yelled, straining to stay her ground.
Izanagi closed the remained distance, stabbing the eye in the center, sending the shadow flickering into static and screams of agony. Izanagi promptly withdrew its blade and leapt off the surface of the monster's eye, leaving it to dissipate into a black flowing mist. The mist quickly shrunk, regaining the shadow's former, smaller size.
The shadow stood impassively as Teddie approached it warily. "It's true," The bear admitted. "I don't know if there's any answers at all… but it doesn't matter. I'll look for them no matter what, no matter how hard it gets. If there's an answer, I want to find it."
"And we'll be here to help you while you look," Yu said.
"Sensei…" Teddie beamed. "Thank you, so much, all of you… I'm such a lucky bear!"
Teddie's shadow suddenly began to glow, transforming into a red, spherical figure adorned with a cape and armed with a large missile. Teddie stared at the card in disbelief as it descended. "I have… a persona?"
"A powerful one too," Rise added smiling. Teddie beamed at her appreciatively.
"We're there for you and all, but man I think I speak for us all when I saw I'm beat," Yosuke groaned.
"No kidding," Chie sighed. "One big shadow was more than enough, and then we had another one."
"Come on," Teddie said with renewed vigor. "Let's get you all back to your world! I'll be waiting for when you all get back!"
Yosuke eyed Teddie suspiciously due to his unusual display of cheeriness. "And just what're you gonna be up to?"
The bear grinned mischievously, "Training for my comeback!"