The situation we had here was extremely strange, to say the least.
A girl, who could somehow sense my Personas' presence. She could operate during the Dark Hour; she knew about Tartarus and the Shadows—though that was to a more limited degree—and she apparently used what she referred to as a "magic book" to learn what she knew. Something told me that she was simplifying things a little and that the longer explanation would have been a bit confusing.
She probably thought she didn't have the time to go too in-depth. And she was right.
As I leaned back against the bench outside the restaurant, my mind wandered with several questions. The first being, how exactly did she come to know about Personas to begin with?
Had Igor somehow gotten in contact with her? Had Elizabeth? Ikutsuki, maybe... No, probably not. He would have told us about another person who was fighting the Shadows. Especially one that was operating in the city. For all his quirks, he wasn't one to just keep us locked out of the loop over this kind of information.
Secondly, how did she come to acquire this "magic book" that she's using?
I'd thought that books dealing with Personas only existed in the Velvet Room. They must have. If Compendiums were acquirable, Mitsuru would have told us by this point. She probably would have even given a few of them to us. Narukami clearly wasn't a part of the Velvet Room. She didn't recognise Elizabeth at all.
Since she had the potential to enter the Dark Hour, how come she wasn't able to use a Persona? And how exactly did she fight Shadows, as she'd said herself?
I was under the impression that only Personas could defeat the Shadows... That's just another question I'm going to have to ask her.
I glanced over at the counter through the window. Yuka wasn't there, so I had to assume that she was still helping in the back.
There was something off about her. That being said, the voice for the Social Link didn't really say anything bad about her, unlike when I'd established the Jester with Ikutsuki. Plus, I'd like to think I can trust someone who has the "Angel" Arcana. There was definitely more to her than what I could see...and the only thing I could do for now was wait.
Induction of an Angel
"Oh, you're still here?"
"...You said we'd continue our talk at seven. It's seven."
"...Oh, yeah, I did." The look on her face told me that she really did forget that. She looked at me with an apologetic expression. "Sorry, I have a lot on my mind."
"That's fine," I told her, seeing no reason for her to be sorry. I turned to Elizabeth. "Please wait by the steps. I won't be long."
"Of course, Master." She smiled.
After Elizabeth had left, I walked over to Yuka. "So, what do you know about Personas?" I questioned, not wanting to waste any time.
"Wow, straight to the point," she responded quickly, surprised at my forwardness. "Well... I know a lot, but I can't claim to know everything. There's a lot that's outside my knowledge."
"Anything specific you can tell me?" I asked. "Any kind of information about Personas, or Shadows, or anything like that."
Yuka looked to the side in thought for a few moments before looking back at me.
"I assume you already know the basics—what a Persona is and what a Shadow is?" I nodded. "Well, I know that there are different types of Personas, though my knowledge on those is rather limited, as well as different types of Shadows. You don't have to worry about the different types of Personas for now, but what I think you would be interested in are the Shadows." She would be right. "There are at least four different kinds of Shadows that I know of so far. There're your garden-variety Shadows—no doubt you've run into them quite a few times. There are the more powerful Shadows—I haven't run into those yet but from what I could gather, they look just like humans."
So, Shadows like Rosalia and Furiae then...
"Those ones are quite dangerous but are also the ones most open to communication with humans. The book I have doesn't explain why though."
That made me curious but I decided to wait until she was finished talking before asking anything else.
"There are the more bestial kind of Shadows—unable to speak, unlike the Shadows I just mentioned, but are just as dangerous. If not more so. They're the ones most likely to go berserk and cause a lot of destruction. Though I haven't seen any trace of them here... And then there are those Shadows. Which I'm pretty certain don't exist in this world."
"What makes you say that?" I asked, finding what she just said rather strange. Her book has knowledge of these Shadows. So, logically, they exist. And yet, she was pretty confident in her assertion. It didn't take long to discover why.
"Because their strength is equal to that of a god," she explained, her voice turning stern. "The book states that nothing short of a god or goddess themselves would be able to take one of them down. And if those Shadows were to go on a rampage, well...it would be very bad."
"...How bad?" I asked, not sure if I wanted to know the answer.
"Um..." She took a little breath, as if trying to figure out how to phrase what she wanted to say properly. "End of the world."
She said it almost casually, but the weight of what she said still hit me. I knew what she meant now when she said that they couldn't exist. If there was something like that around, Mitsuru would undoubtedly have known something.
"The book still has knowledge on it regardless, so I accept their existence as fact," she added, shrugging her shoulders. "Even if it seems so unbelievable, if it says it's true then there's no question that it is."
We fell into silence for a while. I absorbed all that she told me, which was quite a lot that I took the moment to think about it. And yet, there was something I noticed. A glaring omission, as it were.
"You just told me a lot," I said, "but you haven't actually told me what they were. Do these Shadows have names? Something they're classified as?"
She let out a giggle. "You sound like Ekoda."
I immediately took umbrage with that. "No, I do not sound like that—!" And then I realized what she actually said.
"You know Mr. Ekoda?" She nodded in response.
"Well, yeah. He's my Classic Lit teacher."
"...You go to Gekkoukan?"
"Yeah," she replied. "That's how I found out about you to begin with."
"What do you mean?"
"You and your friends caught my eye a while back. Three people with Personas talking together. A boy with blue hair; a popular, pretty girl in a pink cardigan; and a guy wearing a baseball cap who sported a goatee. A rather unlikely trio. I wasn't willing to dismiss it as a coincidence, so I assumed that—"
"You've been stalking me."
"No!" she immediately yelled, sounding incredibly offended. "Stalking is just...brrr! Just no! I was just investigati—"
Brows raised. "You were stalking me. And my friends."
"I hate stalkers!" She stomped her foot, her cheeks puffing up in anger. I would have laughed at how much she was acting like a child, but I didn't. Mostly because I knew that would have just made her angrier. I never really had much of a chance to tease a junior like this. Well, except for Fuka, but I didn't think I could go through with doing that.
Alright, Yuki, you've had your fun. Back to the conversation at hand.
Yuka's face returned to normal as she looked down at the ground, as if a dreary thought just crossed her mind.
"...Why do you fight the Shadows, anyway?" she questioned, her tone melancholic. "What do you get from it? Aren't you...you know..."
"...Aren't you afraid of dying?"
Not this song and dance again...
Despite my weariness at hearing that question again, I felt that she deserved an answer. Considering what I was planning to ask of her, it was only fair that she knew my reasons for fighting.
"I am," I replied. "Of course I am. Death is just so...final. Once you die, that's it. Everything you are just vanishes. More than anything, however, I'm afraid of losing the people I care about. I won't let that happen. I won't let them die at the hands of Shadows or anything else... And I think you wouldn't either, if you were in my shoes."
"...Is that really your only reason?" she asked curiously. "Do you realise how much you sound like an anime character?"
Look who's talking, Miss Puffy Cheeks.
"It's a reason I'm willing to stand behind... What about you? You're fighting alone, without any Persona to aid you. What's your reason?"
"...Well, it's not as noble a reason as yours," she admitted. "I don't really have anybody like that to protect. W-well, e-except for two people." I thought to ask who it was but something told me that she wouldn't say. The look on her face made it clear that she was going to keep that bit of information private. "I just...wanted to do what I can for the people here. I'm trying not to get in over my head with all this, because..."
She stopped herself.
"What is it?" I asked.
"...The only reason I'm even alive right now is because..." she trailed off, gripping the bottom of her shirt with her right hand. "It's nothing," she eventually said, a wistful, mourning expression on her face. "Forget about it."
...What did she mean by that? The only reason she's still alive...? I shouldn't have asked.
Something must have happened to her that would make her disposition turn sour so quickly. And I'd made her remember it, all for an admittedly selfish reason. I didn't think she would refuse to join S.E.E.S. if I had asked her. I could tell that her sense of justice was rather strong. She wouldn't be willing to let innocent people get harmed if she could help it.
That's how I thought I would be able to get her to join. But, now that I thought about what she said, I suddenly didn't feel so good about what I was doing.
"...I'm sorry," I told her, surprising her with my sudden statement. "I shouldn't have said anything abou—"
"I'll tell you everything tomorrow."
"I said, I'll tell you everything tomorrow. What I know about Shadows and Personas, in detail."
"...Are you serious?"
Yuka stared at me with the blankest, inexpressive stare I'd ever seen. And I thought I was the master at that kind of stare. "You wait outside a fast food joint for a half hour just to speak to me; listen to me tell you all this information about the Shadows; and when I say I'll tell you everything else, you think I'm joking?"
"Okay, fair point, that does sound stupid," I conceded. Listening to her put everything that had just happened like that in a comprehensive list quickly made me see her point.
"...Listening to you talk about protecting people important to you...it made me remember something. Something that...I don't really like remembering. Something involving the Shadows."
Oh... "Again, I'm sor—"
"Don't be," she cut me off and replied with a sad smile. "It happened a long time ago. It's silly that I'm still letting that get to me... I guess I'm just not good at letting the past go." She reached into her pocket and checked her phone. After a moment, she placed it back in her pocket and looked at me. "Meet me at Paulownia Mall tomorrow. I'll be at Game Panic, on the Symphonic Resonance machine. Bring your friends along if you want. Right now, I have to get home. My mom's waiting for me."
"Alright." Yuka made to walk away but turned back around for a second to give a few words of farewell. "Take care."
She ran off, leaving me in front of Wild-Duck Burger, all by my lonesome self.
...Huh. That went...better than I thought it would... Hang on a minute.
All those questions I'd wanted to ask about the book. I had completely forgotten.
—and there was that to deal with...
"Thou shalt be blessed when thou chooseth to imbue thyself with the Angel Arcana..."
"Master, are you alright?" Elizabeth asked as I made my way back over to her.
"I'm fine, just a slight headache." Really need to remember to ask Igor if there's a way to stop that. "...Has there ever been a case of a human obtaining a Compendium from the Velvet Room?"
"...Forgive me, but I have no knowledge of that," she admitted. "Perhaps Master Igor might know...I suggest asking him for details concerning if a human has ever obtained a Compendium."
"I see. Thank you, Elizabeth," I replied. "I'll be sure to do that."
But not tonight. S.E.E.S. and I still had Tartarus to deal with. I planned to question Igor about it tomorrow.
"Is something troubling you, Master Yuki?" Elizabeth questioned. "You've been acting rather despondent ever since we'd left that quirky restaurant whose mascot was an anthropomorphic duck."
"Are the burgers you've eaten causing stomach troubles?"
"No," I chuckled. "I'm just feeling a little bit uneasy..."
"...I thought I had the will to do anything against the Shadows," I replied, slumping in disgust. "I thought I had the strength to do whatever it took to destroy those monsters, through good or...questionable means... I had the best of intentions, and I didn't mean to, but... I just don't know."
I'd struck a sensitive nerve with Yuka. I must have. I didn't intend on it, but it was like I was trying to appeal to her sense of justice to get her to join our side. All I had managed to do was dredge up some painful memories. Besides, I was just operating on an assumption from the beginning. What if she turned out to have only known just as much as we did?
I shook my head, hunching over in my seat. "I just don't know what I've been doing."
"Don't be so hard on yourself, Master," Elizabeth said. "In fact, why aren't you proud of yourself?"
"There have been many other Wild Cards before you who've faced this kind of ordeal. They steel their bodies and minds to do whatever is necessary to defeat the Shadows, only to find that they could not. This isn't a sign of weakness. It is merely a sign that you still have your humanity, and that you're willing to stay true to your values. That is true strength if I've ever seen it."
"...Never thought of it that way," I admitted, scratching my cheek.
"I suggest you start doing so." She smiled at me before continuing. "Humans often find it easier to succumb to brutality in order to achieve their goals, thinking it the only route available when a situation gets desperate. However, such a mindset is unhealthy and would only lead to a vast number of...undesirable outcomes. Yet, while staying steadfast to the values you've been raised with is noble indeed, it would be quite troublesome when those same values get in the way of achieving your goal..."
"...That's true," I replied. "I guess it all boils down to making the choice you think you'd regret the least."
And I regretted the way I handled the conversation with Yuka. I promised to be more careful in the future.
"I hope that, in the future, your choices won't be ones you regret making," Elizabeth told me. "I admit...I do not wish to see you so sad. I must prefer it when you smile. It makes the world...brighter."
"You're welcome, Master."
THOU SHALT BE BLESSED WHEN THOU CHOOSETH TO IMBUE THYSELF WITH THE WORLD ARCANA...
...Okay, I admit, I should have seen that coming. But why is it so loud...?
"That girl...," Elizabeth said as the renewed headache subsided. "She's rather strange."
I snorted in amusement. "Funny," I told her with a smile. "She said the exact same thing about you."
"Oh, I'm sure," she smiled back. "Someone with those kinds of eyes wouldn't be able to see me in any other way."
When I got back to the dorm, I found the lobby populated by everyone except the Senpai and Ikutsuki. Yukari and Fuka were on the couch, studying and transferring notes, while probably being in the middle of talking about...girl things, and Junpei was watching television, sitting on the armchair with a bored expression on his face.
He got up out of his slump after I burst in through the door.
"Dude! Where have you been? You said you'd be back here by seven," he said, startled at my sudden advent into the dorm.
"Sorry," I told him. "I had some business to settle and it took longer than it should have. Anyway, I've got news."
"What kind of news?" Yukari questioned, still focusing on her notes with Fuka by her side.
"I've found someone else who's been fighting the Shadows."
That got everybody's attention.
"Someone else?" Fuka stood up from the couch, curious over the prospect of another potential member of S.E.E.S. "Who is it?"
"Her name is Yuka Narukami," I replied. "She goes to Gekkoukan, like us, but she's a junior."
"How'd you find out about her?" Junpei wondered, getting up from his own seat.
"She just flat-out told me that she knew about Personas," I said. "And she knew that I could carry multiple ones."
"What—how'd she know?" Yukari exclaimed. "How could she know about these kinds of things when we barely even know anything about the Dark Hour...?"
"Speaking of the Dark Hour, she also knew about Tartarus—though she didn't know it by name, the Shadows, and the fact that I hang out with people who have Personas as well."
"She told you all of this?" Fuka asked me.
I nodded in response. "She also said she was going to give me the rest of the information she had on Shadows and Personas tomorrow, after school. I'd like you all to come with me."
"Should we let the Senpai in on this?"
"Of course we should," I said to Junpei. "That's pretty much a given."
"...That's true," he admitted. "So...tomorrow, then?"
"Yes," I replied. "Tomorrow, we'll meet with Narukami and see just what she has to offer us...I'd like to give you one piece of advice."
They stared at me, waiting for what I had to say.
"Listen carefully to everything she has to say. She's told me quite a lot, but something tells me that she was holding things back. Probably because she knew that I was going to bring all of you along for the meeting. The information she possesses is valuable. And while it might seem unbelievable at first, I believe it's one hundred percent accurate."
"What makes you so certain?" Yukari asked, tilting her head to the side.
"...You'll see what I mean," I replied. "Has Mitsuru-senpai returned yet?"
"Yeah, she came back from practice a while ago," Junpei told me. "She's up in her room at the moment."
"Actually, Iori, I'm right here." A familiar voice cuts through the air. We all turned to see Mitsuru, stepping into what was classified as the living room. "Is something wrong?"
I recapped what we discussed already for her. She looked surprised when I mentioned Yuka's name and brought her hand to her lip in thought.
"Narukami...," she murmured to herself.
"Do you know her, Senpai?" Junpei asked. Mitsuru nodded.
"Well, yes, I do. Not her, specifically. Her mother is actually an acquaintance of mine. You remember the Muramasa blade I brought in?" We all nodded. "She was the one to confirm its validity. Our families worked together in the past, and we've kept in contact ever since. I don't think her mother is aware of what her daughter has been up to..."
"We're meeting up with her tomorrow," I told her. Mitsuru nodded.
"Understood. I'll inform Akihiko and the Chairman about this." She turned to walk away, but one of us was curious about something.
"Is there something wrong, Mitsuru-senpai?" Fuka asked. "You've been up in your room for quite a long time."
"Oh, n-no, there's nothing wrong," Mitsuru replied quickly. "I just came down to make some tea." She started to make her way to the kitchen, but I thought this was as good an opportunity as any.
"Actually, Senpai," I called out to her. She turned to look at me. "Can I speak to you in private about something?"
"Of course." She motioned for me to follow her to the kitchen. I turned my head to look at the others and gave a quick nod before following Mitsuru.
Once we stepped inside, Mitsuru quickly got to work. Gathering the tea leaves—which, judging from the container, were imported from England, filling the kettle with water and setting it to boil, and grabbed the milk from the fridge. While waiting for the water to heat up, Mitsuru spoke up.
"So, what did you want to speak to me about?" she asked. I remembered the conversation I had with Igor about her. His words regarding her Arcana and the possibility he had shown me swirled in my thoughts, unable to just go away. I couldn't get it out of my mind. The possibility itself, and the other person involved in that possibility. So, I just came out and asked her about it.
"Is... Is there anyone that's special in your life, Mitsuru-senpai?" I asked.
"My, that's...that's certainly a very personal question, Yuki," she said softly, surprised and, from the look of it, a little embarrassed. "Is there a reason you asked?"
I felt embarrassed now just asking it. It is a rather personal question to ask someone, especially so out of the blue like this. My lack of answer must have caused her to think of a reason on her own. And the reason she thought of was probably the most obvious conclusion one can come to.
"W-well, I'm very flattered, Yuki," she eventually said. "But I'm already—"
"Oh, no no no, you're misunderstanding," I said quickly, to clear things up before continuing. "It's just that Akihiko-senpai said something about it the day after we rescued Yamagishi, after you left the Command Room in a hurry, and we all couldn't help but be curious."
Mitsuru was silent for a while. The kettle chimed in to tell her that the water was hot enough. She placed the tea leaves into the two teacups she already prepared beforehand and poured the hot water in them. As she mixed it with a nearby spoon, pouring a little milk into them as well, she spoke up.
"That person... She's very special to me," she said, her voice much warmer than what I'm used to hearing from her.
"I've known her for such a long time now. I trust her with my life—with everything. Even if she believes she doesn't deserve my faith, I do. I..." She looked lost in thought. This lasted for a few seconds before she went on to say, "I can't imagine what my life would be like without her in it."
That was the last she said to me on the topic, putting the teacups on a tray and making to leave the kitchen.
"Oh, one last thing, Senpai," I called out to stop her. She turned back around. "...I asked Igor and Elizabeth about that person. They don't know him."
"...I see," she replied, looking disappointed. But it seemed as though this wasn't unexpected for her, going by her relatively neutral tone.
"Who exactly is this guy?" I asked curiously. It took a few seconds for Mitsuru to answer.
"That man saved my life once when I was young. Then he just disappeared before I got the chance to thank him... I'll tell Akihiko about the meeting. Get some rest. You look tired." She left the kitchen and made her way back up to her room, tray with teacups in hand.
I made my way back to the others, who seemed rather curious.
"That conversation lasted a while," Junpei said. "What did you guys talk about?"
"Was just reporting back to her on something she asked about," I told them. "Though I did learn something from her. About her special person."
Fuka looked especially curious as to what I was talking about. Remembered that she wasn't there when Akihiko told us about this, so it came as no surprise that she would be.
"Did you get a name?" Yukari asked. I shook my head.
"No, but I did learn that it's a girl," I replied. "And that she trusts her with her life—with everything, to use her own words."
The others seemed very surprised, to put it bluntly. Yukari especially.
"What kind of person is this chick that Mitsuru-senpai can place that much faith in her?" Junpei asked the question that none of us would be able to answer. I shrugged my shoulders.
"I don't know. But I think we'll learn the answer to that someday," I said. After everything that had happened that day, I wasn't really feeling up to venturing into Tartarus. "Actually, can we postpone our trip into Tartarus for the moment?" I asked. "I feel kind of tired right now."
Everyone looked at each other for a moment before returning their respective gazes toward me.
"It's alright," Yukari told me. "If you need to rest, you need to rest. You are the field leader, after all."
"Have you eaten dinner yet?" Fuka asked, tilting her head.
"I've eaten more than enough for tonight," I said hastily, getting up off the seat and heading to the stairs. "Night, everyone."
"Good night," Yukari said. "Sleep tight!"
"I will. Remember! We all meet up tomorrow, after school!"
We all gathered outside the school when the last bell rang and started to make our way to Paulownia Mall. Light conversation filled the air, mostly about how the day had went for everyone. Nothing too memorable happened, though it was nice to hear about the mundanity of school life. Compared to what we get up, the mundane is relaxing.
Eventually, we reached Paulownia Mall.
"She said she'd be in Game Panic, on the Symphonic Resonance machine," I told everyone, turning around to look at them. I happened to catch a glimpse of Fuka, who looked really excited at the mention of the game. Though she tried to hide it—not so well from my eyes.
"I know where it is," she said quickly. "Follow me."
We didn't question Fuka as we followed her into the building. She led us further in and up the stairs. She pointed out the machine to us and explained what the game was about. Apparently, it's a "dancing action role-playing game", where you fight large creatures using the dance pad in time with the music, level up by defeating said creatures and upgrade your gear by using the parts of the creatures that drop. The higher the difficulty of the song, the better the loot that can drop.
That sounds rather simple. I can tell that it would get complicated really quickly, though.
"Oh yeah, I've heard of it," Junpei said, nodding his head. "It is a rather unique game among the ones people normally play here. High skill ceiling from what I hear. How do you know so much about it, Fuka-chan?"
"Oh, I've played a little bit of it," she answered dismissively. Even without Mitsuru's amused hmm sound, I would have doubted the truth of Fuka's words.
I looked towards the machine again. I saw Yuka facing toward the screen, wearing more casual and form-fitting clothing—probably so her clothes wouldn't get in the way while she danced. She was seemingly unaware of our presence but having about six pairs of eyes looking at you is bound to make one notice something. Indeed, she looked behind her a few seconds later and noticed us.
"Oh, hey there!" she called out. We walked over to her. "I didn't think you'd bring literally everyone," she told me, looking at the group of people I'd brought with me.
I shrugged. "Everyone needs to hear what you have to say."
"Fair enough." She let out a giggle before turning around. "You mind waiting a few minutes? I'm almost done with this last set."
We didn't mind. Besides, I think most of us were actually curious as to how this sort of thing worked. I know I was. It was such an unusual combination of genres that I think you have to see it in action in order to truly grasp what it was.
She chose what seemed to be a faster-paced song, and the difficulties ranged from Very Easy, Easy, Normal, Moderate, Hard, Very Hard, and Chaos. She picked Chaos, no doubt the hardest difficulty on the list. The song began about ten seconds later, after a loading screen. We saw the ruins of a city as the camera panned across it until it landed on a terrifying-looking beast.
A sort of large tiger, but much bulkier. The mostly red fur covering its body with the exception of white for its mane. Fire danced across its fur like a demonic puppet show, and it roared at us as the battle began. Two bars indicating the player's health and the monster they would be facing rested at the top of the screen.
Yuka began to dance in earnest, hitting the notes in time with the prompts on-screen. The song was fast, and I had trouble keeping up with the notes as they appeared. Yuka didn't seem to have too much trouble with it at the beginning, but she took some hits near the middle. She managed to finish the song, though her health was in the red by the end of it.
She looked exhausted. She grabbed the bottle of water that was nearby and took a drink out of it.
"That song on Chaos is bruuuutal~" she let out. "I don't think I can even do the next song on the list." She looked at the screen. "Annnnnd I didn't even get the drop I wanted. That's swell."
From the corner of my eye, I saw Fuka walk over to her, leaned up, and whispered something into Yuka's ear. Yuka stepped away once Fuka was finished speaking, though I did notice a hint of red on her cheeks—hard to notice in the slightly darkened room.
"Well, that certainly explains why I had so much trouble..." She shook her head. "A-anyway, I was thinking it'd be better if we talked in a more...private environment. And hopefully quiet as well."
"You have something in mind?" Yukari questioned.
Wild-Duck Burger... At least this booth is out of the way. Nobody can really hear us here.
"Right. So I think we should start by introducing ourselves; your Personas, skills, and general roles in the group," Yuka said after we all had gotten settled in. "We'll start with the guy in the cap, then go from left to right."
"Is this really necessary?" I asked. "I mean, you—"
"It'd be more convenient if we knew each other's names while talking about this stuff, right?" Yuka countered. "Also, I'd like to get a good read on what all your strengths and weaknesses are before talking about the Shadows we discussed last night."
"...Alright." I nodded. "Junpei, start us off."
"O-okay...my name is Junpei Iori. My Persona's called Hermes and I'm pretty much the tank of the group. I use a katana as my weapon, and Hermes mostly uses fire spells and offensive attacks. So yeah. Pretty awesome, huh?"
Everyone was silenced for a few seconds. Yuka wrote in the palm of her hand with her finger as if jotting something down in a notepad.
"DPS–slash–comic relief," she said. Much to Junpei's indignation and our amusement. Fuka let out a giggle in response, trying to cover it up with her fist. I would have defended Junpei's honor here...but it's true.
"My name's Yukari Takeba. My Persona is Io, and I use bows and arrows against the Shadows. Io uses wind spells for attacking but is way better at performing healing spells."
At least Yukari didn't end her introduction with a "pretty awesome, huh?"
"I'm Akihiko Sanada. I control Polydeuces, and my main weapons are two silver gauntlets. My Persona is mostly an offensive type, using buffs to improve our strength, and primarily uses electric attacks. Mitsuru thinks he can use healing spells if I train him more in that aspect."
Interesting. Wasn't aware that offensive types could learn healing spells. Needed to keep that in mind, perhaps my own Personas could develop those kinds of skills...
"My name is Fuka Yamagishi. My Persona's name is Lucia, and while she doesn't have any real offensive spells, she can detect Shadows. As well as sense their weaknesses and strengths."
Here is where I noticed something odd. Yuka suddenly became rather shy, looking down at the table and unable to keep eye contact with Fuka for more than a few seconds. She was able to look at Fuka after a few seconds and spoke up.
"W-well, it's nice to meet you. You probably already know this, b-but I'm Yuka Narukami."
"It's nice to meet you too."
Yuka turned to look at Mitsuru, who seemed to notice something we didn't. She spoke as soon as they made eye contact.
"I'm Mitsuru Kirijo, leader of S.E.E.S., and host of the Persona Penthesilea. She is adept at both offensive and healing spells, is weak against fire, and can also analyse the Shadows for their weaknesses, though not to the extent that Yamagishi's Persona is capable of."
"Wow, you're multi-talented," Yuka said, sounding rather impressed.
"Thank you," Mitsuru said. "Though, to be perfectly honest, I feel much more comfortable with a sword in my hands."
My turn was up.
"My name is Makoto Yuki. I'm the leader out in the field, and I can control multiple Personas at once. My main Persona, and my personal favorite, is Orpheus. Other Personas I can use include Pyro Jack, Jack Frost, Angel, Apsaras, Forneus, Inugami, and Pixie. I can use multiple spells with effects ranging from offensive, to defensive, to healing, to even spells that can cause instant death...and my strongest Persona is named Thanatos."
"So you're a 'Master of All' type, huh?" Yuka questioned. "Though I've never heard of a Persona named Thanatos before...the book doesn't mention anything about that name either."
"I don't know why he's with me in the first place," I admitted. "But he's useful in certain situations."
"...Alright. I think I get the gist of things." Yuka cleared her throat. "I guess it's my turn. My name's Yuka Narukami, but I suppose I've already told you my name, hehe. I don't use a Persona to fight—I'm not actually capable of summoning one. What I do have is this."
She zipped open a bag which I just noticed she was carrying around with her, and fished a rather sizeable tome out of it. A white hardcover book, with thin black metal on the cover, spine, and back—forming a rather intricate pattern that never broke. It's hard to describe the pattern—it was a rather abstract thing—but just from looking at it, I get the feeling that there's a wealth of knowledge within the book, and the pathways the metal created are what connect the book to the source. That's just speculation on my part though.
There's no title, though the cover showed a rather unusual symbol, engraved into a large piece of the black metal itself. A symbol of a woman with her eyes closed, holding a sword, with damaged wings—the feathers falling off them... Or was it her blood? I couldn't be sure.
"What's with the cover?" Junpei asked, sounding rather perturbed by it. Yuka giggled at his reaction.
"Funny thing is, I actually did ask it once what the cover meant. It told me that it was 'the beginning of sorrow.' Whatever that could be... For some reason, I always feel sad whenever I think about what could have happened to inspire such an image..." She shook her head and held it up for us all to see properly. "This is the Anima Recorder. A massive compendium of knowledge on the world. This is how I know so much about Personas and Shadows. It'll answer questions I ask of it, though there are certain questions that the book refused to answer—though I can't begin to guess as to why. I can also use it to summon illusions of deities to do my bidding. They're not Personas, like you might think. These illusions are called Mirages. Technically, you could consider me to be a wild card, except I wasn't born with that power."
"Wild Card?" Fuka asked. "What's that?"
"You don't know? It's what Yuki-san is. A Wild Card is someone who can control multiple Personas. The name symbolises that he isn't locked into a single mindset. That he can be anyone he needs to be, or wants to be."
Everyone gave me quite the stare. I didn't like it one bit, so I decided to break the awkwardness.
"Where did you come across such a book?" I asked Yuka.
"I was involved in an accident years ago. My mother and I survived, but...my brother and my dad didn't."
Though I sympathized, I decided to make no remark. She didn't need to know about my own family, not right now at least.
She continued, "A few years after the accident, she gave me this book and told me to never let it out of my sight. Ever since then, the book and I have been inseparable. My mom was the one who told me what Mirages are. She used this book herself quite a bit before I was born, and even had to fight a Mirage herself... What was its name again?" she asked softly to herself before snapping her head back up. "Cú Chulainn, that was it."
"Ireland's Child of Light?" Mitsuru questioned, surprise evident in her tone.
"The very same. I don't know how she managed to survive against his weapon, and I'm not sure if I want to know. Gáe Bolg is said to be always fatal when thrown, bending reality in order to make sure you can't escape from it. Either my mother was extremely lucky, or..." She shook her head. "N-never mind. Anyway, thanks to this book, I have a pretty good degree of knowledge on Personas and Shadows."
"Like what?" I questioned.
"Like the fact that almost every person has a Shadow."
"...You weren't aware of that?" she questioned, almost like she was surprised that we didn't know. She stated it like it was common knowledge, but none of us had a clue about that.
"What do you mean?" Mitsuru asked.
"Alright, I'll try to keep this simple: Shadows and Personas are the same thing," Yuka replied. "That's why you're able to fight them in the first place. They're not mysterious invaders or anything like that, they're always born from the darkness of something."
If I recalled correctly, Igor had told me of something like that. But the implications had never really struck me enough to come to this kind of conclusion.
"Shadows are the lower parts of one's psyche," Yuka continued on. "They are suppressed human thoughts and feelings given physical form. Thoughts and feelings that humans reject and cast aside. When people are unable to face their darker selves, their Shadows break loose, free from all control. Sometimes, though, people's Shadows can be tamed when they have the drive and determination to clear their mind and accept their suppressed selves. When that's all said and done, the Shadows become Personas."
Everyone was either shocked or they didn't know how to feel.
I was actually not all that surprised at the concept of Shadows being untamed, uncontrollable Personas, but...the fact that I had been controlling what were basically reformed monsters was more than a little unnerving.
After all...what did that mean about me? If I could control multiple Personas, did that mean I'd been just controlling Shadows that I'd somehow managed to tame without any form of effort at all?
"I know what you're probably thinking right now," Yuka said, snapping me out of my thoughts. "And, I'm sorry to say, I don't have an answer to that question. Wild Cards are rather mysterious. Unpredictable, as their namesake suggests. The Recorder refuses to tell me much beyond that."
...Putting that to one side for now. "You mentioned last night that there are different kinds of Personas and Shadows. What about those different types? What are the differences?"
"Oh, that's an easier question to answer. It might take a while to get through though."
"That's fine. We need all the information we can get."
"...Alright. I've told you about the Shadows last night, but I'll repeat it for everyone else. What I know about Personas is rather limited. The book doesn't tell me much when I asked it. It has told me quite a bit about the different kinds of Shadows that exist, which I have a feeling you're all more interested in."
The majority of us nodded.
"Alright." She nodded before continuing, "I'm sure you're all familiar with the most common types of Shadows; the blobs, the birds, possibly beetles?"
The memories of the battle with that giant beetle ran through my mind. "Definitely beetles as well," I told her.
"Yeah, well, those are your garden-variety Shadow, rather tough but manageable to a degree." That was putting it lightly. "You then have the more powerful Shadows: Prime Shadows. They look human, probably act human as well, but you can still tell that they're Shadows. The most obvious tell is that they have golden eyes. I don't know if you've seen any yet..." She noticed the looks on our faces. "...and going by your expressions, I take it you have."
Turned to Fuka. She met my gaze. Turned back to Yuka. "We have," I replied.
"They're quite dangerous, but they're also the ones most open to talking with humans. They're able to speak and understand any language, so barriers are practically non-existent. The reasons why some of them are so willing to talk to us wasn't explained to me by the Recorder."
Rosalia and Furiae were some of the most dangerous and powerful Shadows we'd ever seen. And yet they hadn't tried to kill us. Let alone harm us. They'd warned us, in fact, of coming dangers; even allowed us to flee from the tower. At any moment, they could have just beheaded myself and Fuka on the spot. Yet they'd chosen not to.
"On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the Primal Shadows. Terrible, terrible beasts," Yuka continued on, unaware of my thoughts. "Unable to speak, but are just as dangerous. More often than not, they'll go berserk if angered, or if you just run into them. I haven't seen any trace of them in Iwatodai, and I think we should be thankful for that."
Nodded, told myself to retain that kind of information, but then remembered something else she'd said, and wanted to get to that as quickly as possible.
"You mentioned Shadows that you think don't exist 'in this world,' " I mentioned to her. "What exactly are those Shadows?"
"...They can be called a lot of things. Violent God, Raging God, Malevolent Deity. Whatever you want to refer to them as, the Recorder translates their existence into a name that, in Japanese, encompasses all of that: Aragami Shadow."
"Aragami Shadow?" I repeated, the name feeling heavy on my voice. Like I was repeating words that were forbidden.
"W-why do you think they don't exist?" Junpei asked, sounding a little nervous.
"...These Shadows live up to their name," she said simply. "They possess a strength that matches the gods of old. Nothing short of a god or goddess themselves would be able to fight them. And if they go on a rampage—"
"It would be the end of the world, is what you said," I finished the sentence for her. That shocked everyone at the table. They began to see why she believed they couldn't exist, just as I did. "And yet the Recorder still told you about this kind of Shadow."
"Yes." She nodded. "That's why I accept their existence as a fact. If the Recorder had knowledge on it, then that meant they had to exist at some point in time. However, that doesn't mean they had to exist in this world."
The odd emphasis implied a lot more than I think she's letting on, but we could save that conversation for another time.
"...Is there anything at all that you could tell us about Personas in particular?" Fuka asked suddenly. "Any special circumstances or anything like that?"
What is she up to? I wondered. The question seemed oddly specific for the topic that she wanted to discuss. She was trying to find out something in particular. Yuka looked down at the table in thought. She tapped her finger on the book—on the engraving—for a while before looking back up at us.
"Well, there are scenarios where humans aren't capable of summoning Personas. It's rather rare that this occurs, though. The circumstances...well, they're rather extreme."
This sounds rather familiar...
"What do you mean by extreme?" Mitsuru asked, sounding pretty interested in this.
"Most humans are capable of summoning Personas, but if they can't... Well, there's probably something rather special about them." Silence. "What's even more extreme is one losing their Persona. I haven't seen anything like that happen, but if...," she took a moment to collect her thoughts. "The only way I know that can happen, is if one gives it up willingly. And the only way I can see that happening is by giving up your humanity entirely."
"...What does that make you?" I had to ask. She said right from the start that she couldn't summon a Persona. What circumstances had she gone through in order to not have that capability?
"Me?" she asked in return. "I just simply draw my power from a different place than you all, that's all."
Silence reigned over the booth. The answer to Fuka's question left a chilling air that surrounded us.
"...I've been thinking about what you said last night," Yuka said to me, breaking the thick, overwhelming silence. "About how I wouldn't let the ones I...the people I care about die at the hands of the Shadows. And you're right. I wouldn't. I don't think anyone who has the power to do something would just sit by and do nothing. Which is why I'm willing to help you guys any way that I can."
"The Anima Recorder would be a great help to us," Mitsuru said. "Would you be willing to let us borrow it?"
"I would, but the book is rather picky about what questions it'll answer, and to whom it will answer them for. So I'm not sure if it'll be of use to any of you... I'd like to make a request."
"What is it?" I asked, having a very good feeling what it was. And even though it was what I wanted from the beginning, I still didn't feel good about it.
"I want to join you all in the fight. I want to join S.E.E.S."