A Goddess's Arena

Prologue
Intro to a New Fray

(Uploaded on August 30, 2018)
(Updated on May 27, 2020)


Summary: Two months have passed since I came back to life.

Two months of getting accustomed to everything again, and awkwardly sidestepping the issue of revealing myself to my friends. (I mean, I did die and all.)

(Un)fortunately for me—that's all about to change.


Notes: This fic is an alternate retelling of Persona 4 Arena, serving as a pseudo-sequel to one of my earlier fics, A Goddess in Reality. None of the extra content in Persona 4 Golden regarding Marie is canon for this fic. Spoilers for both Persona 3 (FES / Portable) and Persona 4 Arena will be present, obviously.

This chapter was updated on May 27, 2020 to improve Minato/Marie's characterization and the writing in general. Bits of dialogue are borrowed from the True Ending to Persona 3.


The sun shone brightly in the clear, blue sky.

Pink petals fluttered softly above us, indicating to us that a new season had officially kicked off. A cool spring breeze blew through the air—a bittersweet feeling to experience, after everything we've gone through this past year.

"The wind feels so nice…" Aigis noted, looking up into the sky. "This is my first time experiencing spring."

As I laid on her lap, I couldn't help but let my lips twitch upward in contentment. "It… really is beautiful, isn't it…?" I said softly.

It was just the two of us, up here on Gekkoukan High's rooftop. All of my friends were at the theater, listening to Mitsuru's graduation speech—except for Minako, who was over at the hospital visiting Shinjiro. (I don't know what she sees in him, sometimes—but hey, it's her love life.)

"I… I never thought I'd… get to see this again," I continued, fighting past my exhaustion. "If it wasn't for you and… everyone else, I… don't know if I could've made it this far."

A smile rested on her face. "That is a very strong statement to make, Minato," she remarked. "I am… glad you think of me so highly."

She brought her gaze down upon my peaceful form. "After fighting alongside you and facing the world's end… I finally began to understand what it means to live. Thinking for yourself… Not running away… Accepting the inevitable…" She closed her eyes. "All things eventually come to an end. Every living thing will one day disappear. It is only by accepting this that one can discover what they truly want—and what the meaning of their life will be."

Aigis…

You've really grown these last few months, haven't you?

I couldn't have imagined we'd ever turned out the way we did: her having grown a sense of humanity, and me having learned how to live again.

(I wonder what Liz would think of us now…)

A small grimace appeared as her recollections resumed. "I understand now why I was so tormented by my lack of strength. Protecting others became more than just an order I had to obey. I wanted to do it for my own reasons.

"I realized this once I decided to try and prevent the Fall. When I thought I might never see you again, something else became clear to me—what I wanted most. And so, I made up my mind."

Her voice cracking, she spoke to me of her resolve. "And so… I made up my mind. I decided that I would continue to protect you. I want to be your strength. I know I'm not the only one who can do this… but that's okay." Tears started to well up in her eyes. "My life will be worth living, if it's for this reason."

I raised a trembling hand to her cheek and wiped some of her tears away. "Don't cry, Aigis… it'll—it'll be alright."

She sniffed several times. "You're right…" she sobbed. "What am I doing? I understand now—so I should be happy…"

As she contemplated her emotions, I heard voices calling out from the stairs.

"Heyyyyyyy!"

"S-Sorry we're late, Minato…!"

Junpei. Sis.

"Everyone…" Aigis trailed off. "I realize now that I have friends as well. You don't have to save the world to find meaning in life… Sometimes, all you need is something simple, like someone to take care of. I'll keep on living no matter what, so that I can protect you." She put a hand to my cheek. "…thank you for everything, Minato."

I let her keep doing so, if only to make her feel better before I died. "…thank you for everything too, Aigis." Because without you, and Minako, and all of my Social Links, I—

I never could've seen for myself how beautiful this world is.

And knowing that… I wouldn't change what I've done for anything.

(I just wish I… had more time to say goodbye.)

"You must be tired," the Anti-Shadow Weapon noted. "Please get some rest. I'll stay right here with you."

The sounds of footsteps and familiar voices grew closer and closer, as my eyelids grew heavier and heavier.

I smiled sadly.

Sorry, Sis, everyone.

We're not gonna get that perfect happy ending after all.

I…

I hope all of you can forgive me for this, someday…

"Soon, all your friends will be here by your side…"


[Marie]

The Great Seal

I opened my eyes and sighed out loud.

"Jeez, that memory again…" I muttered, kicking my feet up and down from atop my former prison. "It's been two years, and I still can't get it out of my head." A small frown came onto my lips. "I wonder if that makes me a good friend or a bad one."

That's… a question I've been asking myself a lot. Maybe more than is honestly healthy.

You'd think that, having achieved the Universe Arcana, I'd have all the answers I need to know. But I don't.

Emotions can be so complicated sometimes…

I looked into the starlit void beyond, a realm far separated from the normal boundaries of the Collective Unconscious.

Here, there was silence. Nothing more than the purest essence of life and death; no one around aside for me and occasionally Liz. It was a good place to sit and think for a bit, contemplate my current existence and all—

…even considering the slowly reforming hand of Erebus in the background.

I raised an unamused eyebrow at the pool of darkness bubbling far below me. He'd take a while longer to grow to his full size, but that didn't mean I was gonna sit there and let him do so.

"You really don't know when to quit, huh?" I rhetorically asked. "It hasn't even been two months since your last curb-stomping. But if you're so offering to be stress relief…"

I held my palm out, willing a tarot card to hover above it—an unusually golden one, depicting this decorated sage. In seconds, I crushed it handily, and summoned a Persona in red, with a face as black as night and ears as long as a bunny's. Her cloak, looking akin to multiple banners layered atop one another, was impressively massive, too; its sheer width alone probably contributed to half of her grace.

She was a Persona I was growing increasingly fond of using—a gift from… my sponsor, of sorts.

Kaguya.

I pointed a finger down toward my sworn foe. "Kaguya, hit 'im where it hurts! Shining Arrows!"

A veritable army of swords spawned above me, each of them comprised entirely out of golden light. With but a simple thought, they went raining down on Erebus, piercing through his arm faster than a set of playing cards could cause papercuts.

His half-formed limb went limp and dissolved soon after.

The corner of my lips edged upward. Heh. Serves you right.

And thus, peace and quiet had been restored. I like my peace and quiet, so you can probably tell I appreciated this.

But it didn't alleviate my omnipresent sense of unease.

I'll admit: lately, I've been feeling stressed. Stressed straight through to my very core. It was to the point where I couldn't even distract myself with my usual tunes or writing some pathos.

…I wish I could lie and say that I didn't know why that was.

That it's simply my nerves acting up, or my period or something.

But it wasn't.

And I knew why.

(…I wonder if they ever forgave me.)

"Ah! There you are, Marie!"

I turned my head, and beheld the appearance of a velvet blue glyph floating in the air. Within seconds, my girlfriend—Elizabeth—bounded in from out of it, still clad in her familiar elevator attendant wear.

I cheered up immediately upon seeing her. "Liz. You found me."

She merrily plopped down next to me, beaming as brightly as she could. "I had a feeling you'd be here. Still prefer your personal space, do you?"

"I wouldn't be me if I didn't," I joked. "Sometimes, a gu—girl needs time to space herself out. Today's… one of those days."

"I can see that!" She lifted a finger and poked my cheek. "A frown doesn't suit your cute face, y'know. What's making you feel so indigo today? Is it anything I need to Megidolaon?"

I hesitated. Normally, I'd be up for telling Liz anything. She's my faithful attendant; there's nothing I wouldn't trust her with.

It's just that… this is…

…well…

…personal.

"I… well…" I brought a hand in front of my eyes—a dainty, feminine hand; still mine—and exhaled quietly. "It… It still feels a little strange; being here like this—like a dream that could fade away at any time. It's a second chance by all accounts, and I should be grateful, but…"

I trailed off, and didn't finish.

Liz hummed. "I see… you're having doubts about yourself."

She's as perceptive as ever.

"You could say that, yeah. There's so much I want to do, that I really should be doing… but I keep hesitating at every turn." I crossed my arms and tried not to let too much of my discomfort show. "Am I being a coward? Regressing to being antisocial again? I just—"

I sighed. "Sorry, Liz. I—I know this must sound pretty petty to you."

"No, no, it's fine!" She pecked me on the cheek and slung an arm around my shoulder, golden eyes twinkling as brightly as the day I met her. "Any problem you have is an important problem indeed! It seems to me that you need something to boost your confidence… like this fighting tournament happening today!"

I blinked. "Fighting tournament…?" I repeated, confused.

She nodded enthusiastically. "That's right~! I am not entirely sure where it is happening—I think it is behind one of those 'television' thingies—but it sounds very exciting!" She opened up her Compendium and shattered a tarot card—and Thanatos, the God of Death, soon appeared behind her lithe form. "I'm going to be entering with Thanatos! He may be penancing… sentencing?"

"Menacing," I dryly corrected her.

"Ah! That's right! He may be menacing, but I'm sure that he'll be right at home with everybody else."

"I'm sure he will." I cracked a smile and reached up to touch Thanatos' face. "You've been taking good care of Liz, haven't you? I hope she hasn't been too much of a hassle for ya."

Thanatos roared affectionately – well, as affectionately as he could get anyway.

Even after all this time, it was clear he considered himself my Persona, first and foremost. Liz may be borrowing him, but I don't think he'll ever forget the time he spent inside my heart.

Still though, I'm happy to see that he and Liz got on well together.

…maybe too well together, now that I think about it.

Liz took my statement in stride. "He's been a good sweetheart," she agreed, "though as sweet as you."

I looked away, fighting to hide my blush. "Lizzzzzzz…"

She got up and stretched her arms high. "Well, I suppose I should hurry up to the tournament. I wouldn't want it to start without me!" She turned to me and added, "I think you'd be good for you to join, Marie—it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, after all! Now, I must be off! We—or rather, I—have a date with destiny, as they say~!"

My attendant opened up another magic circle, glowing a brilliant blue amidst our extraterrestrial surroundings. Without further hesitation, she comically jumped into the portal, expressing a "Wheeeeeeeee~!" as she went.

I shook my head and chuckled. "That's my Liz."

Now, I had a decision to make.

Follow my girlfriend into whatever this tournament is… or sit back and keep wallowing in my own self-pity.

…well, when I put that way, I guess the answer's kind of obvious.

I jumped to my feet and patted my clothes down, eyeing the portal in front of me in mental preparation. "Okay. Okay. Here we go. I'm not a Fool for nothing."

I scrunched up my knees, took in a deep breath… and then leaped into the glyph.

"Alright, Liz!" I said, mostly to myself—"Here I come!"


I guess I should properly introduce myself, huh?

A-Ahem!

Hi. I'm Mariko Kusumi.

Avatar of Izanami; little-known Goddess of the Universe.

You… might know me better as Minato Arisato, depending on which world you're peeping into.

…yeah. Not what you were expecting, huh?

Two years ago, I sacrificed myself to seal away Nyx and stop the Fall from happening. As a consequence, I became the Great Seal: bound to forever serve as a shield against Erebus, for however it took until humanity as a whole stopped wishing for death.

Technically, I haven't stopped the Great Seal. My original body's still acting as the barrier, empowered by the limitless power of the Universe Arcana. It's just that my mind's been transported to a new body for me to use, courtesy of Izanami.

(I am so grateful to Liz for convincing her to do that, by the way.)

It does mean I'm a girl now, but—that's something I can easily deal with. I mean, I get to stretch and eat and live again. Compared to the alternative, I'll gladly take it.

Anyway, now that I'm not a statue for all of time, you'd probably expect for me to have reunited with my old teammates at some point. And yeah, under normal circumstances, I would! I totally would!

…but these aren't normal circumstances.

It's been two years. Everyone thought I was dead. Hell, I was dead, for all intents and purposes. So suddenly coming back to them as a completely different person, long after they've gotten past their grief?

I—

I don't think it'd go over well.

Maybe that's… selfish of me, but—I don't want to cause my friends any more pain.

(And I don't want them to end up hating me, in the end.)

I suppose that's part of why I'm electing to participate in this 'tournament' to begin with: to try and get over all the fears and regrets deep inside my heart.

I don't know if that's something I'll be able to do, or if it's just a pipe dream…

…but I'll never know if I don't try, right?

Whatever awaits me from here, I'll face it head on, like I did for Nyx back during my Journey.

And with Kaguya (and Messiah) on my side… I can't lose!


So, let's get a little more self-indulgent, shall we?

As a semi-important series on my account, I want the A Goddess in Reality series to have at least one proper multi-chapter fic in its repertoire – a centerpiece, if you will. I also wanted to both explore Marie's character and push her to reunite with the Shadow Operatives in a believable way.

Thus, her in Persona 4 Arena.

Hey, it's easier than coming up with an all-new scenario myself.

Naturally, this fic is going to serve as something of an additional route to Arena; each character path contradicts each other so wildly, there's not a whole lot else I can do. I'll do my best to make things fit however I can (i.e. Elizabeth's first meeting with Labrys), and make Marie's 'campaign' as interesting as I can. Don't worry, though—she'll encounter Yu and the Shadow Operatives at some point, mark my words.

This chapter is pretty different from its original incarnation: I added in a flashback to Minato's time of death (like an uncreative hack), and essentially cut Erebus from the chapter entirely. Given that he already made an appearance in A Goddess in Reality, I figured it'd be redundant to add another fight with him in here—so out he goes. I figure I can use the time to better flesh out Minato/Marie's thoughts, anyway; since this fic is set only two months into her new life, she'd naturally have a lot of conflicting emotions going into this.

Well, that's all for now – tune in next time for the real beginning of the story!