Fool's Gamble

Life 96

Chapter VIII: The Reality of Causality

The Resewn Wings of Samael:

The Prime Minister's Office, Nagatachō

April 15th, 2016

"Minister Shido, sorry to interrupt, but we have a situation on our hands." Naoki Tsichida said with anxious energy as he burst into the office, the sound of flowing water accompanying him as the silver fountain poured forth the waters of life.

Naoki hadn't been an assistant for very long, but thankfully Shido wasn't that forceful of a boss, nor as rude as some of the people he had worked for before. He had quickly grown used to the hustle and bustle, and the mountains of hateful mail that came in, though he still winced at the unkind words to a man he so respected.

"It's fine Naoki, what's happened now?" The older man said with a concerned glance as Naoki took a seat before his desk, the younger man fretting as he wondered how best to address it, his thoughts wandering as he did.

Masayoshi Shido, a man once loved but much darker, now reviled and honest in all things, was a complex man.

He had once been Japan's star, beloved and wished by all to lead them, a man that could do no wrong, a man who held all the answers and Japan's hopes and dreams in his clenched fist.

Then one day, roughly twelve years ago, he changed almost overnight, confessing every single sin he had ever committed.

He had seemed to have a change of heart, and many didn't like that, years of carefully constructed plans being discarded in an instance.

Naoki hadn't been involved, but had heard the news as the Minister revealed that he had been at the head of a conspiracy to take over Japan, and had then turned around and exposed his conspirators, ensuring they were arrested.

He set off a whirlwind, as everyone from actors and idols, to politicians and yakuza were found to be working with him for the shared goal of a conquered and oppressed Japan.

Until he changed his mind, choosing to do what was right, rather than what was easy, confessing everything on live television.

He had been imprisoned for a time, a lighter sentence for turning against his once allies, and somehow managed to return to the Diet and eventually become Prime Minister, despite his horrid reputation and the scores of people that didn't trust him.

Shido had done the impossible, becoming Prime Minister despite being hated by most of the country, and somehow managing a decent approval rating as well.

And yet, while Shido held many enemies and fewer places to hide from them, he never let it hold him back from doing the right thing.

Masayoshi Shido was a very complicated, but good man, that much Naoki was sure of.

"Do you remember a doctor by the name of Tae Takemi? She was a researcher on the Alpha Initiative, head of the Peace Program." Naoki said carefully as a frustrated look flooded Shido's eyes, the man only running a hand along his beard as he sighed.

"I certainly do remember Doctor Takemi… Last I heard she went quiet. I'm assuming that's not the case anymore?" Shido asked with an exhausted glare as Naoki just laid a folder on the desk, the familiar handwriting of Goro Akechi on the cover.

"Well, she went off the grid for a bit, hard to keep track of her, and somehow got a job as Shujin Academy's nurse. Your son contacted us an hour ago, do you remember his report about the rage virus he discovered in the school's population?" Naoki explained as he opened the folders and began laying out documents for purview, a CCTV photo of Takemi in front of Shujin, along with the chemical makeup of the virus that had plagued the school being front and center.

"Akechi-San confronted Doctor Takemi after having a suspicion, and she admitted to manufacturing the virus, seemingly in an attempt to get revenge for you closing down the Peace Program. He has confirmed a list of infected individuals that Takemi put together, the total casualty listing is over four-thousand people in Tokyo, varying cases across the country."

The situation was grim, seeing a list of every single person affected by Takemi's actions, and indirectly, due to Shido's own.

He had shut down her research after all, driving her to create a virus in stark contrast to the one she had once dreamt of, to bring about the nightmare he had feared.

No matter what they may say, Shido felt the weight of all of them on his shoulders, as this was his fault.

"I figured this day would come, that someone would finally target my son in an attempt to get back at me. The fact that it is a vendetta that I helped create, makes it even worse..." Shido said with a huff as he looked over the list of confirmed infected, most of his cabinet was listed along with several names he knew from junior Diet members along with their friends and families.

And yet thousands more were infected, not just those that he knew, and it was his responsibility to fix his mistake.

Just like before, and he would shoulder the blame again, no matter the consequences.

Takemi held a stranglepoint over their society, and was aiming to destroy them all, creating a tragedy that they may never recover from.

Shido could not allow that to happen.

"Akechi-San stated that Takemi confessed to him that the virus was not self-destructing as previously suspected. The virus lies dormant after the initial infection period, and then can be remotely activated from there on. She threatened to activate every infected person and leave them like that, thousands left in a ceaseless rage that could never be stopped." Naoki said with a heavy heart as he saw the humanity reflected in the Minister's eyes, both of them very aware of how horrific a situation it would be if Takemi drove Japan mad with bloodlust, of the thousands of lives that would be lost in just a single day. Let alone months, or even years…

But neither had an idea how to stop her.

"Your son confronted her and was given an ultimatum to either arrest her and have her activate the virus, or to let her go. He chose to arrest her, only for a classmate of his that she infected to attack him. He managed to purge the virus from the other boy, and apparently they're working with Professor Masami Magatsu to try to create an antidote."

And that gave a measure of hope, one that they desperately would need, especially now.

"Okay, you said that Goro's still at Shujin, right? Contact Doctor Shimizu and have him collect the Field Team, and have all of them head over to Shujin with the medical report we got from the Kuwata boy. Have them provide any and all assistance Goro may need, funding is approved. This is a priority, and can not afford to be delayed. As well, keep an eye on Magatsu and his research, we can't afford to fail." Shido said with a hard gaze then as he stared down at the photo of Takemi, a deep breath taken as he focused his gaze anywhere but at the embodiment of his regret.

"In a flash Minister, would you care for me to oversee the operation?" Naoki asked with a confident glance as if the wind had been forced back into his sails, the young man eager to prove himself vital to his boss, and overjoyed to have a part to play in helping save so many people.

"I only ask that you help my son, and… You said a classmate of his was helping? A formerly infected classmate?" Shido said with a confused glance then, as Goro had often turned away potential partners during his work with the Police, preferring to work alone aside from Magatsu's assistance, though the Professor was more of a resource than a partner.

The fact his son had actually allowed someone else, a stranger at that, to help him was… curious.

"Oh yes, the new transfer student to Shujin. Bright kid from what I've read, was an honor student before he came to Shujin. Akira Kurusu."

At that, Shido paused for a second, something ringing in the back of his mind, like he should know that name… Like Kurusu, whoever that was, was strangely important.

"Never heard of him."

Shujin Academy, Aoyama-Itchome

Seven Hours Earlier

They found themselves in a confused, and tense silence then as the two stared at one another, not even stopping when both of their masks and costumes faded away and leaving their uniforms behind.

Yet both knew that something had radically changed within them both.

"For once in my professional life, I find myself at a loss. You see, it truly is the twisted difference between wisdom and knowledge. I now hold so many different things in my mind, the knowledge of… Personas, of Shadows, even whatever the hell the Sea of Souls is. Even more puzzling- I can speak English now." Goro Akechi said with a frustrated glare, and a flawless accent as Akira found himself almost as confused, as the last thing he remembered before his Palace has drawn him in, was being knocked unconscious… and yet he knew that something had happened to him during that time, considering he was in an entirely different place and facing off against a new and unfamiliar version of Goro Akechi.

One who seemed genuinely confused, which made no sense at all.

But that outfit Goro had manifested, and that mask, were neither of the ones that Akira knew, and this Goro was truly an enigma.

As was how it was possible for him to manifest a Persona in reality…

"I mean, I had a friend who's Persona was an Eldritch creature, and he learned to speak R'lyehian. They imprint on us in a way, and so can I." Akira somewhat explained as he found himself remembering the oddness of having a Persona. In his previous life, he remembered the effects. After awakening Arsène Lupin, Akira could speak flawless French, albeit with an older accent. When Haru had awoken Milady de Winter, she had found herself with the same gift, the two of them taking great delight in holding conversations that none of their friends could understand.

However, he didn't understand why his English accent was vaguely British, though he would assume it had to do with Mephisto's influence, which was another thing he dreaded going into.

Mephisto was a Demon, and Akira now knew things he wished he didn't.

Hell existed, there were beings similar to Shadows, known as Demons that were even stronger.

Just as they could summon Personas, there were people that could summon and control Demons, and there were an entire pantheon of beings that masquerade as humans and walk among them.

As well, he learned many revelations about his past and the truth of Personas, things he wouldn't have even guessed at.

Lucifer, his shining soul having been a comforting presence on Akira during the roughest of trials, but now he knew that the Lucifer he had fused as evidence of his bond with Hifumi, was nothing more than a figment of human imagination.

The Persona he had wielded was the embodiment of Humanity's idea of Lucifer, and the real deal had a desire to destroy the planet and everyone on it… Which was concerning to say the least.

"You seem oddly calm about all of this Kurusu, almost as if this isn't the first time you have, would awoken be the correct term?" Goro asked with a critical eye then as Akira could only wonder what would be the correct way to handle this. He was beginning to believe that this Goro wasn't the Black Mask, and that was becoming more and more obvious the more he spoke to him.

"I've been around the block a little, I'll admit, but basically there's another world parallel to ours, called the Metaverse. It's a world of cognition, and we can use our Personas to fight Shadows within that world in order to affect the real world." Akira said with a sagely inflection as he remembered his first introduction to all of this, Morgana hastily explaining things away as he and Ryuji struggled to deal with the strange reality they had found themselves in.

Now, he found himself playing that same role that Morgana had once played for them.

"That sounds remarkably like Cognitive Psience… Are you telling me it's not mindless garbage?" Goro asked with a surprised glance as they noticed something form on the edge of his coat then, what looked like a silver pin of a magnifying glass.

On Akira's own coat, a scarlet pin of an upside down cross appeared, though he was quick to flip it around.

Best not to start rumors he really didn't need to deal with.

"It's all real. The Metaverse, changing hearts… The Mental Shutdowns are the actions of someone else with our ability, a person that I've been trying to find. From what I could tell, there are at least two other people out there with powers like ours, the one causing these deaths and someone that is changing hearts." Akira said as he felt a chill go over his spine then, almost as if something dearly important was happening and he didn't have a clue what it could be.

"Changing hearts?" Goro said with a confused glance as they found themselves sitting besides the scattered furniture, the two of them feeling a sudden exhaustion set in that Akira recognized from his first awakening. Fortunately, Sojiro had packed him a thermos of Blue Mountain that morning, which he was more than glad to share with his new found ally.

And he couldn't get over how odd it was that out of everyone he could have found himself awakening alongside, he hadn't expected Goro Akechi of all people to need him to explain the Metaverse…

"Within the Metaverse, there are Shadows that are deeply connected to people within the real world. When a person becomes cruel or distorted in some way, their Shadow grows in strength and a realm known as a Palace forms. Within that Palace, their Shadow grows in power unchecked, and begins to override that person's base personality. If one kills the Shadow, the person will die as well. If you only defeat the Shadow, and force them to return to their other self, then the person will return to how they once were." Akira explained carefully as he made sure not to mention the concept of Treasures, not willing to step back into that trap.

They had thought themselves doing good work, stealing Treasures and changing hearts, but the Treasures hadn't been the source of their distorted desires. Their Treasures had been what protected them from Yaldabaoth's influence, and stealing them had allowed the Demiurge to take control of them again.

Akira would not play into the God of Control's hand, not again, nor would he allow his allies to fall victim to that mistake again.

"So, if you defeat the Shadow, the person will reform in reality? Quite interesting of an idea, reforming a person through defeating the embodiment of their twisted aspirations… Do you believe Takemi would have a… Palace, then?" Goro asked innocently enough as Akira found himself doing a double take, as if he felt confused before, it was nothing compared to the disbelief he now faced.

"Takemi? Tae Takemi?"

"One and the same. She became Shujin's nurse some months ago, and engineered the Hate Virus to get revenge on my father for shutting down her research. She infected you while you were in her care, though I do believe your awakening was successful in purging it from your system, though now I find myself lacking a sample of the virus to reverse engineer." Goro explained to him then as he realized that Akira wouldn't have exactly been in the know considering the concussion and the virus' influence over his mind as well.

"As well, she had poisoned thousands across the country, and revealed to me that she can reactivate the infected at any time, creating a blood rage that will never end. I believe that is her plan here." Goro said with some hint of fear then, as he truly was afraid of what the fallout of his actions would be, of whether he should have accepted her deal despite the consequences.

Whether he would be responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people.

"That's… that's a bombshell, but only one way to find out…" Akira said with a deep sense of sadness then, as it broke a piece of him to learn that Tae was such a dark figure in this world.

And he found himself short of breath as he felt the world slow to a crawl, and a voice he didn't expect to hear echoing in his mind.

I am thou… Thou art I…

Thou hast suffered a loss most grave.

As Fate shifts further, the bond you formed no longer exists, the link between your hearts shattered beyond reconciliation.

Fate has broken the strength of your heart, and no way forward lies before you.

With the ruin of the Death Arcana, you have lost a piece of yourself that you will never recover…

If that somber announcement wasn't enough, Akira found himself fading away from the confines of the nurse's office, a dark void surrounding him as he knew he was now inside of his Mask, the dark energies of the Metaverse phasing into life around him.

And the Persona standing before him was one he knew very well, and he thought this might happen…

The familiar blue dress, the dead emotion in her eyes, and yet a shade of sadness fell on her usually sadistic face.

"Hello again Akira. It has been sometime since we last played together."

Alice had come to say goodbye, and he found himself beginning to tear up, the ghost girl having grown to become one of his favorite Personas.

"Hello Alice… I will miss you."

"And I you. The time I was your Mask, reminded me much of the world before. You taught me a lot, Akira Kurusu, may we meet again." Alice said then with a sad whimper as a genuine smile grew on her pale face, Akira finding himself giving the young girl a hug as he felt the essence of the Death Arcana fade from his mind, Alice vanishing into blue flakes of lights that began to trail away into the darkness.

And Akira found himself once more in reality, the Metanav app opened on his phone as he saw the destination selection screen, a part of him having to steel his nerves for what he knew was coming.

"Please enter a destination to begin navigation." The app said aloud as Goro jumped, the detective obviously not expecting it to speak, but Akira paid him little attention.

Not when he felt the shattered and sharp remains of his bond with Tae, the edges like glass as he carefully tried to avoid feeling what was left of his friendship with her.

"Tae Takemi."

"Match found: Tae Takemi."

And that was the final nail on the coffin that Tae was no longer the kind hearted healer that Akira had known, instead something dark and twisted having taken her place, Goro's explanation sadly real as he now found himself believing that Tae could actually poison the children under her care.

Despite how much it hurt to consider.

"What is that, Kurusu?" Goro asked aloud as he looked over Akira's shoulder, the entry screen awaiting a location.

"The Metaverse Navigator, or Metanav. It's an app that allows us to enter and travel through the Metaverse. This just confirmed that Tae Takemi does have a Palace, but we have to guess what location she had distorted in her mind, and what she believes it to be." Akira explained dully as he already had an idea of what her keywords would be, but a part of him dreaded seeing the Palace of his former friend.

"Shujin Academy." Goro suggested then as the app lit up once more, a confirmation ringing out as Akira knew that he had to do this, that they had no choice in the matter.

He would have to steal Tae's heart, no matter how hard it would be.

"Laboratory." He whispered under his breath as he stared coldly at the app, Goro's body tensing as a scarlet light began to emit outwards from the phone.

"Match found: Tae Takemi. Shujin Academy. Laboratory."

With the feeling of his Mask returning, and the burning grip of Mephisto on his mind, Akira knew he alone had the responsibility to remove the distortion from Tae's heart, as he knew she would have hated the person she had become.

"Beginning navigation."

Under the Blackened Mask:

At the same time that Akira Kurusu and Goro Akechi decided to put an end to the threat that Tae Takemi posed to not only them, but to the entire country, a figure stood alone elsewhere in the dark.

A phone's light illuminating their features as the familiar entry screen of the Metaverse Navigator met their sharp gaze, their mind set and decided as they spoke aloud the fulfillment of their oath.

"Tae Takemi. Shujin. Research Laboratory." The Black Mask said aloud as they felt the weight of their helmet form over them, the feel of their pistol growing heavy as an ominous light washed over them.

"Match found: Tae Takemi. Shujin Academy. Laboratory."

"Beginning navigation."

They had a job to do, and they would not allow anyone to stop them, not when the end was so close at hand.

Only a few more and they would finally be done…

And it would all be over.

But the Black Mask wasn't alone, two others walking through the front of Takemi's Palace, and they found that this was an interesting situation.

They were not alone in the ability to use a Persona.

This required extensive observation.

And should these Persona users prove troublesome, they would require extensive termination.

Of that, the Black Mask was absolute.

The Biology Classroom, Shujin Academy

Masami Magatsu was confused to be honest, he had expected Goro back quickly, and yet now the boy was late and Masami found himself trying to examine the structure of the virus even closer.

Things were not going well in the slightest.

Do you not find it foolish to hinge your hopes on a mere boy? A familiar voice spoke within his mind then as he put aside the virus slide, the sample not large enough to analyze, and thus useless to find a method of curing it.

"I've done it before to great benefit, so I would say you shouldn't count Goro out so soon." Masami said under his breath as he found himself looking out of the window into the falling night, the sky so very familiar to another that he had spent so long staring at on cold nights.

And should the boy fail? Do you have any plan to avoid ruin? Do you even know how to?

"I don't need to. I have faith in him, and I know he will pull through. He's a Wild Card after all, that means something." Masami said with a small grin then as a militant figure appeared beside him, the creature's sharp blade close by as it slammed it's harsh fist against the countertop.

Why must you stagnate? Why could you not be the one to resolve this malevolence? Could you not do just as well as the boy?

He probably could, he was more than powerful enough to force a weak Shadow to reform, but Masami wasn't that person anymore.

He was out of the Game, he had no further role to play in it.

"You know I can't."

Do you still follow his instructions? You hold the power of a god at your fingertips, and you find it fair to rot away in this prison of emptiness?

And at that, Masami snapped as anger flooded his mind and his fist found it's way around the figure's throat, the otherworldly specter struggling as Masami's fingers dug into the translucent flesh of the being.

He could feel the breath falter from his Persona as he held it firm, the being's eyes wide as Masami's own eyes began to glow a violent scarlet, the lines between the worlds weakening around him.

You would allow this world to burn, merely to abide his selfish punishment? You would disavow your own self, allow this world to fall just to do as he asks? When did you allow weakness to drown your heart?

"Izanagi, enough."

And with that, the warrior vanished, and Masami was alone once more.

He had done his part, his time on the stage was over now.

This Game belonged to another, and he was an unwanted addition.

He had learned his lesson about playing someone else's game…

And yet, he sat in wonder as his cell phone began to ring, a name he never expected to hear from again.

With a debate of what he really wanted, he answered the phone, that old familiar voice he missed so much on the other line, his heart freezing at the softness in her voice as she said his name so beautifully.


The Fool Who Sought Identity:

"The train to Shibuya is departing shortly. All passengers, please find your seats in a timely fashion." The announcer said with a crisp voice as a man walked past the station's metal detectors, his badge being enough to make the attendant ignore the beeps, the man's service pistol hanging from his waist as he found himself taking a seat beside an older man, one with dark red eyes.

"Got here quickly enough I see, good to see in someone so young. I'm Detective Niijima, but you can call me Minori. Since we couldn't get a hold of Detective Shirogane, you and I will be working together while you're here." The older man said with a slight grin as his companion just looked out past the windows of the train, Tokyo having changed in his time away, the movement of the train causing his hair to sway into motion.

"I read up on your work, you know. You caught the Inaba Hangman, you did a good job. Your record's impressive, still can't believe your closure rate in your first year, put most of the boys to shame. Even met your brother once, he had nothing but praise for you, but I've always wanted to meet you myself."

The younger detective just scowled then as he looked down at his phone's screen, the announcements of a high school website displayed there, surrounded by news of sports and other garbage.

He didn't care about any of that, only for one person in particular, the reason he had returned to the hellhole that was Tokyo.

"Takemi is in the wind, but-"

At that, Minori was tuned out as the young detective let his thoughts wander, remembering a promise made and way too many regrets.

An oath not to play this game again, one that he had broken.

This was all his fault, he had lost everything, just because he didn't know how to be happy.

"Narukami, you dozing off on me?" The train had arrived in the time he hadn't been paying attention, the senior detective gesturing out into the crowds of Shibuya station, Yu trying to build back his composure as he stood to follow the man.

"Right behind you."

Author's Note:

Finished Resident Evil Village, and I loved it.

Still haven't started P5Strikers, but I'll get to it eventually.

A trend in this series, is that in each arc of the story, the protagonist of the previous arc will feature in the latest arc.

Thus, Naoya will appear in the Persona 2 arc, Tatsuya will appear in Persona 3, Minato

and Minako will appear in Persona 4, and as you can see here, Yu Narukami will play a role in Persona 5. However, when they star in arcs that are not their own, they will not be heavily focused on. Think of these appearances as them being NPCs, rather than protagonists.

Yu will not be a confidant of Akira's. Adding to that, Protagonists of different Decks (Arcs) will not be confidants with each other. Minato and Minako will have their own as they are twins, and Goro and Akira shall have theirs, but Minato will not be a confidant of Yu's, and etc.

I have as well revealed all the pairings that this story will include, for every arc.

For the Hunger Arc (P1), the main pairing will be Naoya Tudou and Maki Sonomura.

For the Order and Chaos Arcs (P2/P2EP), the main pairing will be Tatsuya Suou and Jun Kurosu.

For the Solace Arc (P3), the pairings will be Minato Arisato and Aigis, with the secondary pairing being Minako Arisato and Fuuka Yamagishi.

For the Identity Arc (P4), the main pairings will be Yu Narukami and Marie, with the secondary pairing being Souji Seta and Naoto Shirogane. (All shall be revealed)

And of course, the main pairing of the Ruin Arc (P5) will be Akira Kurusu and Haru Okumura.

As well, I do have ideas for Persona 4 Arena, PQ and PQ2. Elements of Strikers will appear, but the main events of the game will not occur due to the changed timeline.

Following that, there will be several crossovers inside this story, either from series that are already connected to Persona in some way, and some that I merely believe fit well in the world. You might have missed it, but I actually tied in Yakuza in the first chapter.

This has officially been my longest note on this site, but I wanted to give you all an indicator of the direction I'm taking.

Also, new art on the AO3 page.

That is all.