It all started when he asked Futaba what was her late mother's job.
"A cognitive scientist," the head-phoned girl replied.
She turned around from her computer screens and glared at him. "You don't know what a scientist is?!" she exclaimed loudly, bringing up her hands at her mouth to cover her mouth.
Akira ignored her mocking expression. "I know what a scientist is, Futaba. I just don't know what a cognitive scientist is and what it actually means. Like what do they even do? Do they do what other scientists do too? Mixing chemicals and things?"
"Heh. Just playing with you." She returned back to her computer screens and brought up an article online. "Here. A cognitive scientist specializes on the interdisciplinary study of mind and intelligence, embracing philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, linguistics, and anthropology. "
"…Did you just read out a Wikipedia article?"
"Same. Although she does dabble on chemicals and the likes, they are more on the medical side than what media shows 'scientists' do in their jobs. Anyway, mom focused on artificial intelligence development and how memory works at some big organization years ago and before she…" Futaba paused a moment before she continued. "Before she left, she also joined some group that split off from the original organization. It's also one of the reasons why I was able to track you guys."
That caught Akira's interest. "You mean, aside from the bug you had planted at the café?"
Futaba nodded, not even bothering to turn around, and changed the screen showing the Wikipedia article into a Command Prompt Window. "Yeah, Medjed was an alias, a cover, of the organization my mom worked at. I have spent countless of times following mom around that I'm quite familiar with her job. Not that I know her actual job, just what she's working for and the likes."
"And when Medjed demanded us to stop, it coincided with your small mission in tracking down the Thieves," Akira concluded.
"Pretty much. Say what brought up this idea anyway? I never thought you would be interested in my mom's job."
Akira paused. He really had no idea why he asked it in the first place. It was a surprise to him as it was to her when he asked it. He was only sitting there in her room, admiring the Jack Frost doll he had brought to her room days ago, when the idea of asking Futaba of her mom's profession came to his mind.
"I… I was curious," he answered. "I thought 'Why is Futaba so good with computers?' and immediately I thought 'Maybe because her mom was good at it?'"
"Sorry, but that's what I thought."
"Yet there's some truth in it, to be honest."
Akira sighed in relief. Thank the gods that Futaba accepted his bluff. "So, what are you making? Is it some kind of new code for the app?"
The younger girl grinned, her smile reflected on the computer screen as it briefly dimmed out to load her program. "I was actually waiting for you to ask me that! Here, check this out…"
That evening when he went to Kanda and helped out Chihaya in picking a good book to read at the second-hand book store, the same incident that happened earlier that day occurred again.
"What makes your fortunes so accurate anyway?" he asked her as they sat down at a nearby bench to inspect their bought books. "Are they actual glimpses to the future?"
His mind came up with the idea of Chihaya seeing the future and was only laying down the cards according to what she had seen but where it actually came from eluded him. It was like a sudden craving for takoyaki despite not passing a single takoyaki stand for an hour.
Chihaya stared at him and laughed lightly. "If that was the case, then I would have been a psychic. But sorry to crush your dreams, Akira-kun. It's not like that."
She pulled out a paper fan from her bag and fanned herself, the wind it produced also reached him since she was right beside him. "Many people actually came to ask me that. I've wondered when you would ask me that, to be honest. But I don't sense any malice from your question, just pure curiosity, so I'll try to give you my opinion on why my fortunes seemed to be so accurate."
Akira looked straight into her eyes, focused on her next words.
Placing down her fan and closing her eyes, Chihaya continued, "Many people think that our fate is decided by the cards and not by our own hands, that's a foolish way to think. The cards are only there to show us the possibilities we could encounter on the way, regardless of what they were planning before I dealt the cards to them."
"But how does that even connect to your fortunes being so accurate?" he asked, confused.
"That's the thing. I personally believe they don't. Instead, people change their own fates in order to follow the one being showed by the cards. And that makes it so 'accurate'. It's quite ironic, as you can see, that they want to see what their future is only to unwittingly make it by their own hands."
He kept silent, his opinions currently frozen due to how ironic fortune telling seemed to work, allowing Chihaya to speak freely even further.
"However, there are some cases that the cards seem to stick to single fortune, regardless of the deck being reshuffled after each session. That's where my said 'accuracy' and 'legitimacy' comes to play."
"I… I really have no idea. Those are the times that I felt the person receiving such fortunes are literally being dealt with by the Fates themselves, sealing off their possible futures to a single result. And most cases I've seen, they weren't pretty. Just like yours."
Chihaya looked down, her fan covering a portion of her face. "Remember the first reading I gave to you? The one about Death looming further in your future. It's still the one for every reading I've done in secret after that."
While it seemed to be ominous, Akira found himself thinking of how 'death' was always lurking at every corner of the Mementos dungeon if they spent more than 5 minutes on the tracks. He smiled at her instead of frowning, saying, "Death have a different meaning, aside from its grim connotation, right? Change and transformation?"
That seemed to give Chihaya some sort of relief, her face visibly deflating from tension and fan lowering to show her slightly flushed cheeks. "Yes… Yes… That's one way to interpret the reading. But I can't seem to take off my mind the alternate interpretation, its basic and literal interpretation."
She fanned her face quickly as if to blow a fly flying near her. "Now you just reminded me of what happened to that other day's reading! That's one thing I also can't take my mind off! Unlike yours, hers changed so drastically in just a few hours! Did something happened so quickly after she left that seat? Did her boyfriend stood behind a streetlight only to wait for her finish the reading?"
Her flushed expression and mutters of concern brought a smile to Akira's face. While the sudden thought of Chihaya's fortunes as potential channel to take a glimpse into the future proved to be fruitless, it sure did bore fruit of letting him show how serious his friend was on her job.
Even if she had swindled him about ten thousand yen when they first met. The stuff he sold from the junk his team collected at the Otherworld covered the money he had given to her in exchange for a strange stone.
The third time another weird thought came to his mind was when the team was hanging out at Café LeBlanc after a successful 'heist' at the Mementos Dungeon. While they were waiting for Master to finish up the drinks they had ordered, Ann had brought out her smartphone and played a game on it with the volume at its max.
Ryuji, the ever curios one, looked over Ann's shoulder and gasped at what he saw. All four of them and Morgana dropped what they were working on and focused on Ryuji, attention caught at the gasp he made. It was the gasp of fear and concern, one they all became familiar with when dealing with the demonic Shadows in the Palaces and the Mementos dungeon.
"What's wrong Sakamoto-kun?" Makoto asked, looking up from the magazine she was reading.
"Yeah, what's the matter Ryuji?" Yusuke inquired, laying down his sketchpad on the table. "That gasp you made was something."
"Inari's right," Futaba voiced out from her stool, earning a grumble from their Bufu specialist. "What caught your attention? Oh, was it the game she's playing?"
Ann finally noticed everyone's focused looks at her phone and started to look around. "What? What did I do?"
"It's not what you did. It's more what you're playing," Akira answered, sliding the cup of coffees to each of his friends. Master, as what they call him when they're in the café during work hours, left them a minute ago to fetch something from his house, leaving the café all alone to them momentarily. "Ryuji's shocked to see what you're playing with. What is it anyway?"
"Oh. This? Amnesia. I finally managed to get my hands on the mobile version lately and I wanted to play it again."
"Ah." That made some sense but… "So why are you surprised Ryuji?"
"It's already more than a year old! That's what. Why are you even playing this at this year? It's 2016!"
Ann bristled at Ryuji's words, earning him a pinch at his cheek when Ann turned around and reached out to him over the café's seat. "The story is great. So what if it's already 'old' by your standards, it's still amazing to play. Besides, I want to experience the game again on mobile. My computer got a virus lately so my game there's gone."
"What kind of game is it?" Akira asked, sitting down on a stool beside Futaba, who returned to her laptop. He was intrigued by Ann's words. "Is it good?"
"Maybe for me but you? I don't know if you'll like it. Basically, I'm playing as a girl who got amnesia and she has to find a way to remember her memories. The thing is, I'm currently in the 'world select' menu and I can't decide on which world I should pick."
Seeing his confused expression, Ann elaborated by putting down her phone and focused on answering Akira. "It's like that Velvet Room you're talking about to us, a place between realities? The game makes me want to choose which route I'll be talking. Sure, all of them are the same in essence but there are minute differences between each world, all because it has a different character as its end-route."
"Ohhhh!" Futaba spoke, interrupting Ann's small spiel. "You're playing a visual novel? An otome game? "
Ann visibly perked up and grinned. "Yup!"
His mind then blanked out, echoing a single question that somehow resonated with the topic of the conversation he had moments ago. "What about the other worlds?" he asked. "What about the other worlds that didn't got picked in the end? What happened to those?"
"…You're thinking into it way too much, Akira. It's still there except the player can go to the other world after they had cleared the other one. Storywise, it really has no effect because it's the type of game where there's no True Ending . It also has no effect on the gameplay, since it is a visual novel. Sure, they are similarities between the different routes, but there are major differences between each path. The crucial evidence of that is the character they're actually gunning for." Futaba then made a once over at him, grin on her face widened after finishing her reply. "Why? You want to play one? I can download one to your phone later."
"…No thanks. I like my phone the way it is right now," he said, patting his pockets to ensure his phone was there where he had kept it.
"Too bad. I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Say, who did you pick last time? Was it the Clubs or the Diamonds?"
"I chose Clover."
Akira looked at his side and saw Ryuji sat down on the stool beside him, holding his cheek that was slightly red. "She really has a hurtful pinch. I swear my face will be destroyed by her hands."
"Don't worry, she can heal it up afterwards."
The fourth time a weird question popped into his head was when he asked Igor what he meant about his 'Journey' as a 'game'.
Igor just laughed at him and replied, "Life is a game. I believe nowadays entertainment tries to emulate real life through games, despite it being a farce at the very beginning. Yet people still throw themselves into this illusion of false life. I wonder how about you. Do you see your life as a game?"
He had no answer to that. Even though the long-nosed man was helpful in making sure the Shadows he recruited from the Otherworld gets fused properly and in giving him tips in exploring the place, Caroline and Justine's Master always speak in riddles. Riddles he had no time to ponder on.
"Hey you! What's gonna be this time? The one you left at the next cell has its weakness patched up."
Akira sighed and focused his attention at the twins outside his prison cell. Noir was getting antsy for quite some time because of the looming wedding she had over her head. With his fists tightened on the metal bars, Akira requested the twin holding the 'List'.
"I had brought a Scátcach and a Decarabia earlier. What can I fuse using them?" he asked, frowning at how hard convincing the demonic Shadows to join him as his Personae.
"Hm… Well, here are the ones that are available to you at the moment…"
Things were fine before the team had gone home that evening. Despite all of them were exhausted with infiltrating the Space Station brought into life by Noir's father, all of them had smiles in their faces before leaving the Scramble Crossing to retire. Even Noir herself had surrendered in the face of exhaustion, vowing to return and steal the treasure of her father's Palace in spite of her body near collapsing from the amount of stress it was burdened with.
All of the Shadows in the Space Station were weak to the Psy Skills Noir's Persona excelled in, which in turn made her desperate to prover herself that she had interrupted all of his and the other's attacks when all of them had noticed the Shadow was weak to Psy Skills. Because of that, her body had worked itself overtime to compensate the stress summoning Milady into existence. Noir was new to the Otherworld, her body wasn't yet used to the stress of summoning her Persona, much less taking damage from the Shadows; she's a civilian, an heiress of a large company, a normal student living a 'normal' life.
It spoke volumes how the rest of their team had 'normal' lives before awakening to their powers.
Nevertheless, with how all of them had painstakingly endured plowing through the Palace for 5 days straight, it was unanimous Noir's 'suggestion' to take a break was accepted instantly.
"Tomorrow's a Sunday. We'll all take a good night's rest, enjoy a massage from a parlor, and eat a lot of food with the money we earned. Then when Monday comes in, we'll finish the Palace and change his mind!" Mona cheerfully declared when he climbed up on Akira's bag and made himself comfortable. "We are already at the end. We have left the note and tomorrow, for sure, we'll get the treasure. But we all need a break. Get a good night's rest Noir!"
"You too, Mona!"
"See ya guys on Monday!"
Everything was fine that night. He even walked Futaba to her house after he and the father and daughter duo helped themselves on Akira's curry; Sojiro-san was to meet someone he knew at Kanda that night and left the two of them to clean up the café. Morgana himself had relaxed by the window of the attic when he was in the middle of a massage from Sadayo-san that night.
It all went into chaos the next day when the police came to the café while he was working on the stove. Sojiro-san was with them with a depressed and confused expression on his face. Futaba was there too, shock written all over her face.
Akira couldn't remember much what happened afterwards. Only being handcuffed, being led into a police car for the second time around and being brought into an interrogation room. He was then bombarded by questions from an officer who came into the room carrying several papers.
"Of all people to take advantage of, it's the daughter of a CEO. The same one that would be married with her fiancé the week after. How despicable?"
He had no words to say.
"You know what I despise the most? Rapists."
"?! What did you say?! Are you- "
"And you know what I even despise more? Rapists that think they could get away from what they did. Good thing that the fiancé of hers had gone to the station so early in the morning after he had been confessed to by your victim. And he even brought in the girl to have her fully examined."
The officer sat down on the chair in front of the table with a loud thud, dropping the folder of papers on the table. Akira took a glance at them and his eyes widened at what he saw.
"Yes, and we have her fully examined. Can't believe you had the gall to fool her friends that you were only helping her with her club activities that night. Heh. Club activities . Is that the new slang for that term? Rape?"
Akira's vision began to dim. No, this wasn't happening. Was he being framed for the deed her scumbag of a fiancé did? He realized they were fools, thinking that the only problem was her father's mindset. They apparently forgot to deal with the possibility that man would do such a thing to her.
It was obvious that with Haru-san 'mingling' with them, she was being defiant of her father's authority over her actions. It would be a very bad image to uphold having a wife so unrespectable to her husband, much more if the said husband was to be the upcoming CEO of a very large company. What could be a better way to break her morale than to destroy the thing she was getting her strength from? Haru-san certainly has no close people to call friends before she joined the team, making her resistance appear as an influence of her new peers.
He closed his eyes. He couldn't accept this. Not this. Most likely, Ryuji and Ann were being targeted at while he was being interrogated. Akira began to see Ryuji being brought into the station, wearing his weekend clothes, under the suspicion of dealing drugs or extorting money from the heiress. Ann was being brought to the station under the suspicion of using her charms to 'sell' the heiress; her already beautiful looks were being rumored as an asset of hers in a prostitution circle somewhere in Shibuya by the people they had encountered on the streets.
Yusuke in a cell after he was arrested of under the suspicion of creating pornographic material of the heiress. Makoto being reprimanded by her sister and her dream of getting into college thrown into the garbage bin after receiving a smug smirk from their school's Principal. Futaba getting distraught after police ransacked her house and confiscated her computers under the suspicion of her hacking into the heiress' company's servers.
Akira's mind began to swirl. Everything was falling apart. This wasn't supposed to happen.
Where did everything fell apart?
He couldn't accept this.
"-ker? Oi, Joker? You okay?"
His attention suddenly focused on Skull waving his hand in front of his face. Joker immediately took in his surroundings. They were in the middle of a highway, cars littered at the side and a long line of people queued to an imposing building.
"Oh, still can't believe it eh?"
He looked down and saw Mona standing on a metal railing beside them. "This place is a-"
"Place created by the heart of… What's his name again?"
"Madarame. Madarame Ichi... Sorry, I can't remember," Mona replied, looking down momentarily before coming back up with a grin on his face. "Let's go. There's the door to the Safe Room. Where's Fox?"
"I'm right here, Mona."
That's right. They were coming back from a day's rest in tackling the Museum. Fox was a great addition to their team, with his Persona's Bufu and Physical Skills. While Skull was their first Physical-oriented member, it wouldn't hurt in the long run to have another Physical-oriented Persona-user in their team. Besides, Skull's affinity is with Zio and Panther's Agi. His was Eiha and Mona's Garu. With Fox joining them, all of the basic Elements are now covered, except for the occasional Psy and Frei, at which the recruited Shadows turned Personae would take over.
"Do you want to check out the other parts of the Museum, Fox? I know we have inspected the latter areas but you didn't see the areas we had gone through before," Joker asked, getting out the guns and the spare bullets from the bag he carried over from the real world. "Oh here, an assault rifle for you. Skull, the shotgun slugs are in a plastic case while Panther's submachine gun cartridges are in a separate case."
He paused for a moment, checking the ammunition of the said assault rifle was filled already. Seeing it was filled, he returned the gun to Fox. He then brought out his semi-automatic pistol from the bag and placed it in the holster around his waist, the spare magazines following afterwards in a small belt bag.
Joker was honestly relieved that the owner of Untouchable, Iwai-san, had opted to keep the ammunition he bought in a bag and kept it hidden in a coin locker, sending him the code to the said locker after he locked it. It had been what they had agreed after Akira had helped Iwa-san in some of his business, secrecy for both parties. Akira would then pick it up from the locker and then shift to the Otherworld in order to avoid being detected carrying firearm ammunition, especially with his recent purchase of an assault rifle. For the life of him, the black-haired teen couldn't find a logical reason why Fox requested to have a K2 AR-100 that uses 5.56 NATO cartridges. Such a specific type of firearm that even Iwai-san gave him a skeptical look when he placed his order personally.
He shook his head. Skull and Panther had no idea what types of guns out there when he brought up the idea of them using firearms against the Shadows, especially after seeing Mona snipe a Shadow with his super-sized Pachinko balls. Certain objects have a weird tendency to change in the Otherworld after the shift, like Mona's Pachinko balls. The reverse could be said the same as well, with the various books he had 'liberated' from the Castle turning into scratch papers after he returned to the real world. Keyword: certain objects . Gems and other things that seemed to invaluable were able to fully exist in the real world, hence giving the team a steady source of yen after every 'heist'.
Honestly, Joker thought stealing things from the Palaces and the Mementos dungeon was becoming his official part-time job. The yen he got from selling the gems and the mysteriously-suddenly-genuine-all-of-its-serial-codes-were-legit money from the Shadows were enough for him to buy the deluxe menu of Big Bang Burger thrice over.
Akira still have to check whether the serial codes of the money the team had 'received' from the Shadows were the same money reported to have lost. The chances that the Shadows also receive money from Caroline and Justine in return of being 'hired' to enter the Velvet Room are also high. He also wondered if the twins would go out of the Velvet Room sometimes and use the money he pays to them to buy food or drinks. He had a feeling Igor doesn't even have plans to remove himself on his seat, hunger or thirst be damned.
"No, it's fine. Time is of the essence at the moment. I want him to feel shame for what he did to other members of my family," Fox replied, eyes strangely focused at the exterior of the Museum.
Joker nodded. He walked slowly towards the door of a security guard's quarter and opened it, revealing Skull, Panther and Mona in the middle of a very serious conversation. With a wave, he gestured Fox to follow. Fox quickly make his way to the Safe Room, carrying his sheathed katana in one hand and the assault rifle hanging around his body on its strap. "Suit yourself. Come on, I have to show you how the Safe Room work here."
Joker quickly pulled Fox back, stopping him from tripping the security laser. He inspected it and yes, even with the light indicating its status was suspiciously broken, it was active.
"What the problem, Joker?"
"Mona, do you have that smoke bomb with you?"
The bipedal cat perked up and brought out a smoke bomb he made the night before. "Oh, you want to see if the lasers are there. Alright, one smoke bomb, coming through!" He then threw the bomb near the corridor with enough force to make the black powder ignite from the impact. The dye being burned created enough smoke for them to see the various lasers shining through the corridor.
"Okay, next time, I'll buy from Untouchables smoke grenades instead of making them. Look at that burn on the carpet, Mona! Look at the burn!" Joker complained. "No more homemade smoke bombs! Check it off the list!"
Mona groaned out in disappointment but the rest of the team paid it no heed. Instead, they backed off from the corridor barred with laser lights and slowly creeped towards the door at their left. As Joker picked the lock of the door and Skull and Panther looking out for any roaming Shadows at the corner they came from, Fox kneeled beside him and asked, "How did you know that the security lasers there were working? We all didn't know the indicators were broken."
"Intuition," he instantly replied. "What else could it be? I felt that the lasers were active so to make sure I was correct, I had Mona throw a smoke bomb. And besides, we four had to go through an entire hallway full of those lasers at the outer portion of the museum."
Fox seemed to accept his explanation, nodding at Joker after he finished. Just as he had successfully picked the lock of the door, Mona came down from a vent above them, shaking his head in grief. That was unfortunate. The vents in their current location were evidently barricaded if Mona wasn't able to get to the other rooms with it.
Opening the door slightly, Joker and Fox peeked through and saw a Shadow-ed Museum Curator inspecting a painting. He noticed that his fellow thief grimaced at seeing the painting admired by the Shadow. While it was apparent that the paintings in the Museum weren't exactly the same as the paintings in the real world, Joker felt that Fox was getting mad at the way his fellow apprentices' works being brandished as Madarame's works.
Joker placed his hand on Fox's shoulder, causing the masked thief to look at him. He nodded at Fox and gestured towards the Shadow. "Want to let out some steam?" he inquired, looking towards his back at Skull and Panther. Three minutes were already over and the two should be back by now.
"May I do the honors?" Fox questioned back. Joker just grinned and gave the blue-haired teen a thumbs up. The fox-wearing thief then handed his katana to Joker before grabbing his firearm at his back to shoot the Shadow. A couple of aimed shots at Curator's Mask and the otherworldly being collapsed down to the ground, exploding into several individual demonic Shadows; all distressed and bewildered at their surprise fission, creating cries of disbelief and surprise.
A lightning bolt instantly struck at the sole Apsaras, alerting Joker and Fox that Skull, Panther and Mona had returned in time for them to see Fox struck first at the Shadows. Several fireballs then followed, hitting the sash-wearing Shadow, while a flurry of super-size Pachinko balls made holes at the Hua Pos' wings, rendering all 5 Shadows prostate on the carpeted floor.
Joker grinned at Skull and Panther's decision to take the initiative. He then pulled out his pistol and shot the floor beside the Apsaras, signaling the rest of the Thieves to follow him and initiate a Hold Up at the downed Shadows; wide open to the Thieves' attacks, only if they give what the Thieves want would be they allowed to walk away without a scratch.
The Shadows seem to want them being corporeal and solid, contrasting the mist they all explode after they receive sufficient damage. A thing the Thieves enjoy doing to the Shadows and unsurprisingly despised by the said demonic looking beings.
With a smirk, Joker began his demands. It's time for him to do the sweet-talking.
Although they had already stolen the treasure that was important to Madarame in his Palace, the Thieves felt it was unfair for Yusuke to return to the house he grew up since he was young. Even if Madarame was taken to court for admitting he had done wide-scale forgeries in national television, the place Yusuke once called home still has the aura that kept on reminding him of the times he was actually being deprived of his basic needs by his own mentor.
All of them agreed it would prevent Yusuke from completely recovering from his ex-mentor's lies. Thus Akira volunteered for Yusuke to continue staying with him at the café until he could face the house safely. The amateur artist already had stayed at the café with him for a couple of days after Yusuke had heard the lies of his mentor directly from his mouth.
Yusuke's temporary dorm request was still being processed. So, while he waits for the approval of his temporary residency at his school's dorms, Akira made sure his small but homely space above Café LeBlanc was neat and tidy for his brand new friend. Personally, he preferred his blue-haired friend to stay with him, be a roommate of sorts, but Sojiro-san made himself quite clear that Akira was only being allowed to stay at his café's attic out of duty only. Despite him being a friend of his parents – acquaintance would have been accurate due to him being out of the loop with his parents –, Akira doesn't have the final say on what happens inside the Café LeBlanc building.
Akira had almost crawled on his knees at the church in Kanda when he asked Sojiro-san to let Yusuke stay at his place on that night the team had ended their first 'heist' at the Museum with Yusuke. Thankfully it didn't reach to that point. The only 'payback' Sojiro demanded for Yusuke's lodging was an art piece for the café, something Yusuke had whole-heartedly accepted as a challenge when he heard it.
Currently, Akira was sitting on his workbench, creating a few more lockpicks in case there are more briefcases and lockers the team would encounter on their excursions at the Mementos dungeon. It wouldn't hurt to have a couple more of lockpicks. There's also the possibility that he would lock himself out again of the café and he rather want to avoid scaling up the wall beside the café in order to reach the second floor window. He couldn't have his only roommate help him open the front door because Morgana was a dead as a catnip when he gets himself comfortable enough on his bed, making him want to have a human roommate even more despite Morgana's superb skills.
He looked at his side, stretching his arms to avoid being stiff at the same position they were at for an hour. Yusuke was on his phone and idly sketching on his sketch book while Morgana was… in front of the television, watching Featherman. Akira shook his head at the quirks his cat has and stood up, walking towards Yusuke. He sat down beside his friend on the old sofa and tapped at his shoulder.
Yusuke made a glance at him and warmly smiled. "Oh, Akira. You done with the lockpicks?"
"Done and finished. Taking a break before I get back to finishing my homework. You?" he replied, looking at Yusuke's phone. "What is that black and white thing?"
"Hmm?" Yusuke stopped his sketching and stared at the picture on his phone. "Ah. They say it's an abstract painting. I think they're just joking. Anyway, I'm practicing my sketches with this. Can you guess what it is?"
Akira squinted and focused. "A… funyarinpa."
"A what now?" Yusuke asked, surprised.
"A funyarinpa. You don't see it?"
Yusuke shook his head. "It's a dog."
"A… dog? How?" The picture was mass of black and white shapes that really doesn't make any sense. "I can't see a dog here. What I see is a wing here, a tail, a leg and a nose." He traced the parts at the picture. "See."
His friend gave him a hard look of disbelief. "It's a dog. Akira. Some say it's an abstract painting because of how it's original picture was so saturated when it was caught. Here, this is the original picture." He swiped the picture revealing another picture of a pitbull dog. "Look at it closely. Now, here's the black and white picture." He swiped it back to the previous image. "Can you see the resemblance?"
"Woah. You're right. It is a dog."
Yusuke smirked. "That just shows how a change in perspective can affect the entire image. I came across this picture yesterday in our class by our teacher. The topic was interesting but the images she showed to us really caught my attention, as you can see."
"So, you're actually practicing sketching abstract paintings? Or is it only a test run?"
"It's something in between. After all, I am an artist, a painter, even if I'm an amateur one. Despite my mentor being a sack of lies, his teachings were quite useful. Practice really pays off in the long run because it allows you to be more comfortable in your work. Much like everything else in the world, now that I think about it."
Akira took Yusuke's phone and focused on the two pictures. "Just like my coffee, right?"
Yusuke grimaced. "Ugh, I really hope you got some practice before handing me your next batch. It would be a waste to throw it out."
"I did, okay? I'm sure my next batch will be good. I hope."
Yusuke shook his head and sighed. "I hope so."
"Say, what topic did your teacher discussed when she showed your class these pictures. I'm curious on why she showed these to you when I'm absolutely sure it really has no relation to your school's curriculum." He did a research on what Yusuke's school's curriculum was so that he would know what his friend was doing during school hours and whenever he would have problem with schoolwork. Akira learned the hard way when they he and Ryuji planned to finish the Castle that afternoon, only to find out Ann had backed out in favor of finishing her homework. The two of them still went to the Otherworld with Morgana in tow and made some progress in the Castle, reaching another Safe Room. The next day, though, both he and Ryuji had suffered hard from their teachers' disappointed glares and infuriating zeroes on their class records the next day; Anne only smirking in victory all throughout the day with her perfect 100% homework, contrasting his and Ryuji's zeroes.
Never in his life he felt so ashamed for getting a zero. He was the only one in their class that haven't done their homework and Ryuji was an exception with him skipping most of their classes, reputation and grades be damned.
"It was a silly thought, now I remembered it. One of my classmates brought up how he never seen a certain abstract painting before but he got correct on guessing what the hidden object in the painting was. Much like the dog in that black and white picture a while ago."
"Maybe he was lucky?" Luck sometimes work in mysterious ways. Akira couldn't say his luck was the best though, an almost 'straight-to-the-juvie' card dealt to him would certainly crush a person's dreams and hopes, but he was absolutely lucky he had met Ryuji, Ann and Yusuke in his new school because of that. And Morgana too. Can't forget that cat.
"Majority of our class agreed to that statement but our teacher, who was just waiting for the bell to ring, chimed in with the article she read before. About how a group of people subconsciously 'transmit' ideas to other people through some weird then showed us first the black and white picture."
"And?" Akira asked.
"Aren't you a curious one," Yusuke said, laughing lightly afterwards. "Just joking. Everyone was surprised why she showed us that. She made us guess what it is. At that point, we all don't know what exactly it was, so in the end most of us in the class have various answers."
"What was yours?"
Yusuke looked away from his momentarily and covered his face with his hand. "A dragon." He turned back to Akira. "Quite unique among my classmates' answers. Some were rabbits, a caricature of some religious figure and even the Slenderman. But there were some in our class guessed a dog and they're quite large. About 7, mind you, which is quite a fourth of our class."
"So, does it have any sort of significance to the other picture? Since it's a dog, after all."
"Yes, it does. According to our teacher, there was a test done long time ago somewhere in Europe about those two pictures. When they showed the first picture and made some people guess what it was, most were shocked to know it was a dog after the… filter was removed."
"Quiet you. Your snark isn't appreciated at this moment. Reserve that for the Shadows tomorrow."
"Sorry. Go on."
"Okay. Now this group, according to our teacher, decided to do the test in a different location. I think it was somewhere in Asia or America. All I remembered was that the place had no way of fast communication to Europe and if there was, it would take about a day or two."
Akira kept silent, listening to how Yusuke told him the story given to him by their teacher. He also focused on how Yusuke played with his pencils idly as he was speaking, much like how he plays with his phone and pens in class when there's free time.
"When they made the test again to the people in the new place, the group was surprised at how majority of their respondents answered 'dog'. Of course, they asked why but they received no concrete answer how they all knew it was a dog."
"But that seemed to be a coincidence to me," Akira reasoned out.
"Yeah. But it was the basis of a theory; a theory how people sometimes knew things they shouldn't have known before. I forgot what the actual term is but it was like a field or something."
"Ah. That's cool. It somehow explains why some people come to a… what is it called again? Epi- Epifa… Epiphany! Yes, an epiphany."
"Yes, you could say that. Nevertheless, it was an interesting topic we had yesterday at class. It also gave me two new pictures to practice my sketchings. Though, I have to admit, this dog could use some grooming."
Akira loomed over Yusuke's shoulder, making a peek at the picture of the dog again, and sighed. "The dog doesn't look that bad, Yusuke. I'm not even a dog person but I can say the dog looks fine to me. I'm more of a cat person."
Yusuke chuckled. "Morgana here is the proof."
"Hey! What does that mean?!"
AKira shook his head and stood up. "I'm gonna go down. I'm getting hungry. Wanna come and watch me cook some curry?"
"And see you make a fool of yourself in the kitchen?"
The way Yusuke seemed to say it implied he was going to fail majestically. Like it was another attempt to brew a cup of coffee.
"It's cooking. It's so much different from brewing."
"Sure I will watch. I heard many thing from Sakamoto-kun how you failed in making the 'perfect curry' one time he was here and I'm feeling I would be experiencing it in just a few moments. Beats sitting down here," Yusuke said, standing up. He grabbed his sketchpad and pouch of pens and pencils before calling Morgana to follow him down.
Morgana, that smartass cat, hopped to the television and turned it off before catching up to Yusuke who was already on the stairs towards the ground floor. Akira stood there as the two went down ahead of him, an aghast expression written all over his face,
"Hey! Wait! I'm the one cooking for you two! I should be the first one down there, not you guys!"
A successful strike of lightning made the Shadow kneel to its knees before Panther used her whip to finish it off. Skull and Panther made a high five to each other before they followed Joker and Fox to where the two were hiding.
Yuki's request site, the one the team use to check whether they are any 'targets' open for 'stealing' in the Otherworld, had a few requesters post their problems on it and the Thieves were deep in the Mementos dungeon, battling the Shadow of one of their targets. It was their luck that despite being the same Shadow types the team had an easy time fighting previously at the Museum, their targets' Shadows had no such weaknesses to the common elements and had a shitload of stamina.
At first, with only Panther, Skull, Mona and him in the team, fighting the Shadows of their targets were a series of hits, misses, and hiding. Using their surroundings were essential in making sure none of the elemental attacks being thrown by the Shadow would hit them, much more if the said attack was an element they were weak to. Having firearms to counter their inherent disability to confront the Shadows head-on was a blessing. Panther's absurd control in whips – something that Mona was ecstatic to hear and both Joker and Ryuji were terrified to learn – also helped in surprising the Shadows and keeping them in a certain range for them to be safe.
While chaotic to take control of, having Fox join the team assured the Thieves that it would be much easier to fight the Shadows with another team member. They were partially correct. Skull had joked that the Shadows grew jealous of them gaining a brand-new member that it forced them to have their own flunkies around them.
Unfortunately for him, Mona wasn't in the mood of hearing half-assed jokes, throwing him out of the van and making him stay at the roof for the entire heist.
Currently, Skull and Panther had just finished the backup their target's Shadow had called. Good thing that the one being called were their regular mill type Shadows, hence having the weaknesses their types had. As the two were busy, both he, Fox and Mona were also busy whittling down the stamina of the main Shadow, throwing out their multi-hit Physical attacks with their Personae. Goemon, Fox's Persona, excelled in dishing out Physical attacks, much like Captain Kid, as well as having Bufu skills, making him their small party's main damage dealing. Mona kept him and Fox stamina up by having Zorro cast Dia upon them every once in a while, as he joined Fox in throwing out elemental attacks that weren't being resisted by the Shadow.
Like his codename, Joker, he switched Arsene for the recent Mask he had 'recruited' from the Jack Frost at the Museum and called up for a charged up Bufula. Garu and Agi were being resisted, making them ineffective, as well as Zio, which led to Mona their healer and Skull and Panther keeping the backup busy from healing the main Shadow. Though Skull's Persona had Physical skills, which were much stronger than Fox's, he was weak to Garu skills, the same attacks being flung around by the main Shadow. It was no brainer to the rest of the team to stop Skull from joining in battling the Shadow, despite his complaints of not having fun.
"Say that to you beat up bottom," Mona quipped to Skull after he was flung towards the metal bars by the green colored vortex the Shadow had conjured up. Skull had relented and went to Panther after that, Carmen materializing to patch up the bruises Skull received from the impact as well as the various cuts his arms and legs sustained from the Garula.
With Fox and his joined attack, they managed to cripple the main Shadow. Mona saw the chance to stun it further by swing the dull end of his sword at its head as Panther and Skull joined in the fray, Panther's whip making gashes at the Shadow's body and Skull's last shotgun shells making deep holes at the Shadow's abdomen. A shriek came out of its mouth before black mist began to pour out of it, leaving behind the human-like Shadow of their target instead of the demonic form it had earlier.
Joker stepped towards the Shadow, danger now non-existent as it had no more strength to resist hearing them out. The Shadows were like what Mona said to him and the team weeks ago, they're just repressed emotions of people and humanity in general. If there's a Shadow in a shape of a human and had yellow eyes, it's the repressed side of the person it was taking form at; making negotiations to it subconsciously affect its other self.
This was what they had learned after the 'heists' they had done at the Palaces, albeit having to 'steal' first the metaphysical object of their desires. It was a barrier and a blockade of their negotiations, as well as an anchor of their corrupted thoughts and desires, making it be 'stolen' a necessary step before they could change their 'hearts'.
They also had learned that with the 'anchor' stolen, the Palace will then collapse; leaving the 'enslaved' Shadows scattered at the Mementos dungeon.
Panther and Mona have various theories as why their targets and the masters of the Palaces differ in negotiations. Their targets' Shadow would form into the object their other self subconsciously tries to repress, simultaneously removing it from the real world, while they have to first 'steal' the manifested object from the master of the Palaces. Panther had theorized their targets' object of obsession was only a new thing, as they all had noticed their targets' problems were quite recent, while Mona theorized the 'treasures' of the masters had lot of repressed stuff kept in it that it grew into a Palace.
All of those two theorize hold water but they all agreed they're just theories, nothing concrete unless they have a solid source of information. Mona's words could be trusted as he was having trouble remembering his true origins, making his credibility level the same as theirs.
A grunt from the Shadow alerted Joker that it understood his point, after he had told that it wasn't their fault that it happened and it was his negligence his troubles came to fruition. Some Shadows had to be confronted with the brutal truth, like the Shadow in front of him. It began to speak words of realization and resolve to change things before it then disappeared into motes of light, leaving behind an item of importance to the Shadow's other self.
"Well, that's that. Let's go back. We have… 2 more to finish," Fox said, flexing his arms idly.
"Yeah. Panther, Skull, you guys okay?" Joker asked, snatching the floating item and inspecting it. It was a necklace. Probably the same necklace their requester had complained that caused their partner to be abusive to them. Surprising how material objects seem to affect people greatly.
"I'm fine. You guys?" Skull answered first. "Panther got me patched up but I'm already low on ammo. Panther?"
Panther leaned on one of the concrete barriers inside the small cell the Shadow was confined in. "Kinda winded here. You got some of those drinks, Joker? Or some of those perk-ups?"
Joker rummaged through his pockets and found it empty. "Huh, I guess that was the last Snuff Soul I had. Let's still go back to the Station. I have to restock." It was a chore to run out of their 'perk-ups', as Ryuji had coined it. "Anyone else ran out of ammo? Mona? Fox? I'm out too." He confirmed it with an empty click done by his pistol after he pressed the trigger.
"I guess that's it. Mona, let's go," Fox calmly ordered, making Mona roll his eyes before transforming into the van they all use in exploring the Mementos dungeon. "Still can't get used to it."
"Hey now, get it. I'm not entire used to it, despite it being 2 months for me," Mona called out from the radio speaker of the van.
Shrugging, the team went in the van and made themselves comfortable, with Joker in the driver seat and Fox beside him. Skull sat down behind the driver's seat while Panther made herself comfortable on her own, reclining her body to stretch out her stressed muscles. With a step on the gas, the van sped off towards the portal connecting the disconnected cell of the Shadow to the rest of the Mementos dungeon.
The van landed softly on the train tracks of the dungeon, making no excess movement to disturb the resting Panther and Skull behind Fox and Joker. Fox decide to be his navigator as he gave Joker directions from the map they had made earlier before entering the portal. Mona couldn't help them in navigating as it was taking all of his concentration to make the van exist in a stable state, leaving Joker to drive the van himself. Thankfully, he got some experience in driving cars from his uncle before he was made to transfer near Shujin.
A couple of turns and some very lethal hit and runs at the roaming stitch-up giant Shadows, they had reached the escalator towards the next floor of the dungeon. Making sure to close the gate after disembarking the van, he and Fox woke up Skull and Panther from their nap inside the van before Mona ended his transformation.
"Guys, you and Panther are too tired now. Let's go home for now and return tomorrow. We already dealt 3 requests today," Joker voiced out after Skull and Panther sat down on the Station's seats. "You two were knocked out back there. Let's go back."
Sighing, Panther nodded as Skull widely yawned. Fox smiled slightly before nodding. "I guess that's that. Let's all go back. Mona, call up the elevator will you?"
Mona hastily pressed the button of the elevator, calling down it from the ground floor. The elevator's green doors opened a minute and the team filled in one by one inside.
"Man, I thought today we could clear all the request this week," Skull groaned out as he pat his pockets for any leftover items. "But those Shadows were quite strong."
"You said it right," Panther said, almost silently. "Can't believe that Shadow was like the ones we easily beat up last week."
"Those Shadows were different from the ones last week, Panther!" their stout member butted in, jumping at Panther's eye level. "These were Shadows of specific people while the ones last week were just generic reflections of humanity. Of course they would be stronger, they're much more personalized and concentrated than the one we faced."
"Still doesn't make me feel any better, Mona. Still doesn't make me feel any better."
"I have to agree with Panther, Mona," their kitsune-masked member voiced out. "Nevertheless, we have made progress. That Shadow's other self was being abusive to their partner; physical abuse is much more prevalent than I thought."
Joker hummed in agreement at Fox's words. "You're right, Fox. We did made some progress. The fact that we had successfully changed their heart meant we had stopped the abuse they were doing; too bad we can't force ourselves to do more today. But cheer up guys, tomorrow we will finish all the requests!"
At that, everyone lightened up and cheered, simultaneously joining their cries with the chime of the elevator. One by one, they came out of the elevator and honed towards the pile of bags near the ticketing machines. Even though the light of the Station wasn't bright to completely shine the place, it was enough for the Thieves to see their respective belongings and equipments were. Panther and Skull immediately removed their weapons from their belts, whip quickly tossed inside a pouch while a large bat was then stored inside a locker. Fox also removed the gun slung around his shoulder and placed inside a locker, locking it with a resounding click, while also storing his sheathed katana in it too.
Panther and Skull's weapons and firearms shared a single locker, with Panther's whips hanginging on a hook while her and Skull's guns take up the majority of the space, with the large bat sharing it as well. Mona and Joker's weapon equipment share also the same locker, the large sword occupying mostly the locker while the folding slingshot and its pouch of Pachinko balls hid in further. Joker's knives hang at the sides with hooks along with his guns.
After the team had finished tossing their respective weapons and firearms at their lockers, locked good with the locks they had brought from the real world, they all grabbed their school bags before whipping out their phones to initiate the shift. Silently, they pushed the steel doors of the Mementos dungeon to the outside world, shivering slightly as the climbed up stairs from the weird and empty scenery of the Scramble Crossing. One by one they all leaned at the wall before pressing the button of the app. Just like how they all shifted from the real world to the Otherworld, it was smooth and fast that nobody, aside from them, noticed they left. Their get-ups also disappeared, replaced by what they all wore before shifting.
"Well, see ya guys tomorrow!" Ryuji called out before sprinting to the other side of the road, his bag wildly swinging at his side. "Bye!"
"Me too. Goodbye!" Anne said, walking down back towards the real world Underground Station.
Yusuke also made his farewells before going down the stairs. Soon only Morgana and Akira left hanging, Akira checking his e-mails while Morgana made himself comfortable on his shoulders.
"Aren't you going back to the café, Akira?" Morgana asked, his voice ringing in his head. "Or are you planning something else to do tonight?"
Akira looked up towards the quickly darkening sky of Shibuya. Even if they spent hours at the Otherworld, exploring the dungeon or checking out the items they could steal from the Palaces, time would stand still in the real world, leaving Akira with the dilemma what he should do with the rest of his time.
"I dunno, Morgana. I mean, I somehow know all of the lessons being taught in class. I don't even feel studying anymore to be honest."
"Are you saying you're too smart for school? Man, I'm so jealous. Wish I could go to school too."
"Technically, you are already going to school. You just don't attend formally."
"Shut up. It was a… figure of speech. Yeah, that's it. Figure of speech."
"Whatever. Wanna go and check out the Takemi-san's medicines? I think she said she'll have a new batch by Thursday last week."
"Sure, let's go."
Walking down the stairs, he absently gave the person at the ticketing booth the exact amount for the ticket to the station near Takemi-san's clinic. Akira had half a mind to think Yusuke's teacher's theory of people subconsciously giving out their own experiences to people who can receive it was true, with him knowing several things he shouldn't have known.
Like the things his teachers in school was teaching them. He doesn't remember the exact date it started but recently he found himself answering the stuff in class easily, like he already learned those things before. But he know for sure he never studied the topics, he really doesn't like studying.
And there was also his skill in making the foam in LeBlanc. Sojiro-san was perplexed as where he learned to do frothing milk when he couldn't even yet perfect the right brew for a macchiato. Akira couldn't find fault in Sojiro-san's perplexed expression, even he was surprised when he immediately grabbed an empty metal pitcher at the side and poured milk from the refrigerator, bringing it to a boil on the stove. He was only following his body in whisking the hot milk until it began to foam, quickly pouring it over his created cup of coffee.
Despite his coffee was a 'piss poor quality', Sojiro-san commended his attempt to 'imitate the foam technique of an amateur'. He wondered why he felt so insulted when he heard Sojiro-san said it that night.
Despite pain shooting through his head, Joker wondered where everything went wrong. As he was spazzing in pain on the ground from the pain of his head figuratively being stretched out to its limits, Joker questioned why he was experiencing such pain.
The other weren't crying out in pain after a Shadow struck their weaknesses. Not even he had cried nor writhed in agony from being 'downed' before. Was it because he was too injured? Too weak? Panther, Skull and Fox were roused up from passing out by a simple snap of his fingers, magic coursing through the innate power of the Revival Beads. Even Mona crawls out of the battlefield and hid behind a wall or a barrier after he was knocked out.
No, the pain he was experiencing had nothing to do with them receiving damage from the Shadows. Joker could hear his teammates screaming out in surprise and in pain. He also could see figures jumping at them, tearing their clothes and throwing out their weapons at the sides. The figures looked all so familiar to him.
"Joker! Get a grip! Call your Persona off Panther!"
That's right. No wonder it was so familiar. It was the Yaksini he had recruited earlier. Why was it attacking Panther?
"Joker?! Are you- Woah! What are you- Hey! Cut it off!"
He couldn't concentrate anymore. The pain was too much. He could see several shapes taking form around him and immediately, he identified them as the Personae he was 'equipped' with. Jack Frost, Oni, Suzaku and Sandman. They… They're attacking his teammates!?
Joker tried to get up but a blast of ice threw him towards a wall, knocking him almost out. He tried to open his eyes further but the pain in his head was too much. He could hear Queen and Fox call out their Personae to fend off the attacks but after that, nothing else.
The last thing he heard was Sandman's laughter and mocking voice saying, "Too bad, kiddo. The contract's says we can do what we want if you're dead. And you're already half dead. Better make this quick, kiddo. Welp, see ya in the next life." He was then blasted again with harsh winds, drilling him in the wall, making him black out from the pain.
He cupped his face and neck. It wasn't smashed. Akira sighed in relief. He then grabbed his phone at his side and checked his e-mails. Strange, no one was messaging him in the middle of the night.
Akira then tried to remember what he dreamed of earlier but just like any other dream, it was quickly fading into obscurity. All he could remember was that he being… forced into a wall and his head was smashed into pulp. A very terrifying dream to dream of. He shivered in fright before hugging Morgana close to him. With him having only a sole pillow, he couldn't have a body pillow to hug with, making Morgana his cuddle buddy that night.
Morgana meowed out in complaint but made no movement to resist or deny his want. Akira sighed in relief again. He made a glance at the date on his phone and resisted to groan out. It was a Saturday and was only hours before Sunday. He needed all his strength the next day.
They already had made to the Engine Room before all of them had to retire for that day. All of them knew that they would have to deal with a very high-profile target one day, it was already a given with their vision in mind, but to think that in just a span of a few months after the group was established they were already tackling in changing a politician's heart. Akira knew that all of the members of their team had a connection with their target, except for Yusuke, making the entire operation a very personal one.
Especially to his detective friend. He had a feeling back inside the interrogation room was only an act made his friend. Certainly he was acting. Akira was sure of it.
Now he wasn't sure. Nevertheless, tomorrow they'll all know the truth. Futaba had already scanned the next room they're going to enter before retiring and she detected his friend beyond the door. With her claiming she had a feeling the detective was totally himself, Akira felt that he was sure of his initial hypothesis.
But… he suddenly had a gut feeling that the detective was in total control of his action. It was like a whisper in his ear, like a silent prayer to the gods. It was akin to… how his Persona would speak to him.
However, Arsene was silent. Only Arsene was the one he felt comfortable after doing an operation in the Otherworld. The other recruited Personae he had felt slimy and disgusting to him, making him nearly threw up one time when he subconsciously 'switched' Arsene to another. Arsene would then chuckle in his mind, echoing his mocking laughter through his ears hours after the incident. Yet it felt so natural, so right, so appropriate to Akira.
None of his other recruited Personae spoke to him too, even though they were still able to voice out their opinions. Akira felt he was alone at the moment, not even Morgana's warm body gave him the needed reassurance. He decided to sleep it off, though.
Maybe things will be better when the sun rose up.
Akira still felt he had spoke that line too many times for it to take any sort of effect.
This was it. All of their hard work and effort realized. The sky was red and with the blood-colored rain pouring over them, they went through the arc of the humongous tower that seem to emulate the Tower of Babel. There in the middle floated the one that he, Akira Kurusu, had trusted for almost an entire year. He had even confided to him his troubles concerning his Persona-wielding difficulties, fusion mishaps and even the team's Otherworld explorations.
But there he was, showing he and the rest of the Thieves his true colors, shedding off the fake skin and disguise it had wore over the course of 9 months. And it disgusted him. To see the creature play him, his friends and even caused so much mayhem to the city he grew to love and care for. It made Akira loath the creature so much.
He yelled in defiance at the offer the creature made at him after it had shed its disguise. His friends joined in as well, screaming protest of absurdity at it. Akira smiled at how his friends backed him up, feelings obviously in sync with the rest of the team.
The creature spat out in disgust before it transformed to a caricature of something holy and benign , that everyone in the room almost want to gag. After all it had done to them, it even had the gall to take the form of sacredness that it was absolutely ironic it was even shining. Futaba's Persona immediately manifested and in their minds, she voiced out how absurd the creature's actions were being made.
Using the Shadows of the people in Tokyo to sustain itself as well as using their subconscious desires of 'salvation' to launch its act of 'answering people's prayers'. Futaba's words were certainly correct, it was absurd.
With a roar, he and the rest of their team summoned their Personae and went to strike the creature. They won't allow it to do what it want. All of them had faced the hidden desires of people in Tokyo and have battled the manifestations of humanity's negativity in the form of demons.
Battling a creature with a god-complex was only a step higher than what they had went through.
Where did they went wrong? They had cut down its only source of power. But apparently, it stood strong against their collective strength. It stood tall while all of them were already on the ground, one knee kneeling on the ground and gasping out of breath.
All of them were exhausted from fighting the creature and it still looked like it was having the time of its life. He had already spent all of their recovery items, their Somas were empty and Snuff Souls were gone like a bag of chips.
Ann and Ryuji were supporting one another as Futaba was being helped by Yusuke in getting up. Even she who was usually safe up in the air with her Persona's help was actually wasn't safe from the attacks being thrown by the creature, hitting her and making their Navigator fall down and crash to a nearby wall. She was almost a goner if it weren't for Makoto and Haru coming to her rescue, their Personae batting the attack with their last reserves of strength. He and Yusuke were busy in making sure any more attacks coming from the creature was to be redirected immediately, their Personae doing their best in shielding the attacks.
All of them were now on the defensive, offensive tactics thrown out at the window after the creature decided to roll with using Almighty attacks and Light and Dark skills, immediately halving their stamina. If only his detective friend was with them, he could shield them with his inherent resistance in Almighty skills. But the creature had played with him, still missing in both the Otherworld and the real world.
As another wave of attack was approaching them, both his and Yusuke's Personae collapsed, leading for the mass of energy straight to them. None of his friends screamed in terror, though.
"Heh. We did all we could. It's like what we all had agreed earlier. Either we win or we're the first to fall."
Akira had nothing to say. His attention was at his friends around him and Yusuke.
"I had no regrets Akira. I bet everyone else had no regrets. Thanks for being the family I never knew I would get in my life."
No. He can't. He won't allow this. They're so close. The light was so close he could feel its heat.
He turned around. Ann and Ryuji were closing their eyes, hugging each other, while Futaba was being wrapped by Makoto and Haru, all three of them eyes closed with calm and serene expressions on their faces. Yusuke beside him also had his eyes closed, smiling as he slowly clenched his hand around Akira's fist.
No way he would allow them to fall.
He shook his head. Was he daydreaming again? Akira looked out of the train and Shibuya Station approaching. He should get ready. It was a chore having to wear the uniform of his new school despite him not yet an official student of it. Seriously, all because it was a saturday and he have to be 'formal' or else people would think he's skiving off?
It was already bad enough that he had been expelled from his previous school all because of some lousy politician not getting what he wanted, even if it was absolutely against all laws of moral decency and respect to humanity. All because money could buy everything.
What a world they all live in.
Sighing, Akira placed back his book inside his bag and closed his eyes. It was better that way. It wasn't he had many friends back in his old school. In fact, he didn't have one, all because they were uncomfortable with him and his ideals. All of them were also suspicious of him, thanks to his history of being a kleptomaniac. Now that he had a police record, everyone in his old school were too happy to throw him at the side.
Hopefully things would go smoothly in his new school. Having to transfer seemed to be a big thing but to Akira, it was a brand new start. A new place with new people, things would be different than it was before.
He looked at his uniform and frowned. What kind of school would use a word that sounds so close to 'prison' in their native language? Certainly his new school, even though its intended meaning was 'excellence'. Most people would think it meant 'prison' instead of 'excellence'.
Akira wondered if the school he'll be attending would be his literal 'prison' for the upcoming year.
He certainly hoped not so.
Blame all of this to Futaba's mom description in the wiki: A cognitive scientist.
Google cognitive scientist and you can guess what the theme in this fic.