Getting drug around by the voices in your head didn’t exactly match Souji Seta’s idea of a good day, but it seemed to be what was happening. Butterfly had impatiently waited out the week, insisting they stick together via him turning into a hair barrette.
As such, Souji had gone through the week wearing a blue butterfly hairpiece which, unbeknownst to those around him, put him in a near constant state of pain. He had barely made it through the first day and even now felt like he had a constant splitting headache. It had become a dull thud in the back of his head, but his mother was definitely starting to wonder at the number of pain killers.
Now he sat in Starbucks, overlooking Shibuya crossing, while sipping a Macha Frappuccino. Maybe the sugar and caffeine would help.
Butterfly had decided it made a good place to look for anyone suspicious. What he was looking for, Souji had no idea, and he doubted his companion did either, but at least this way he could go on his date without irritating hissing in the back of his head.
“Sorry I’m late.”
Souji looked up and smiled at the girl who came up next to him, holding the same drink he had ordered. She had asked him rather out of the blue just a couple of days ago if he’d be willing to hang out in Shibuya with her and he’d decided to accept thanks to a mix of curiosity and boredom.
“It’s okay, Yumi.” She’d insisted that if they were going on a date they be casual. That suited him just fine. After all, your given name represented you while your family name represented, well, your family. If someone wanted to know the real him they could start by calling him that name which belonged to him.
She smiled and sat down. She had long black hair and wore trendy clothes, though almost always with an emphasis on the color red, and carried a cute black backpack for her purse. They had art together and, even though they approached it from different angles, had found they liked each other’s work. Souji’s was practical, the idea of art as a tool to convey an idea. Yumi preferred abstract drawings with an emphasis on form and emotion. Both looked to convey a thought, but in drastically different ways.
“I hope you haven’t been waiting long.”
Souji shook his head. He’d been here for hours, and was on his fifth drink, but he hadn’t actually been waiting for her long at all. They still weren’t actually supposed to meet for another ten minutes. “I like watching the crosswalk fill.”
The voice in his head piped up. “Three people about to die.”
Yumi stared at him wide-eyed. Clearly his indignant question hadn’t fit in with what she had said at all.
“Sorry. I, I just, I heard something. What were you saying?”
“I was asking why it was only a probably.”
“Oh, just hard to tell. They have to really pop out of the crowd.”
“I guess. Anyway, I was planning to hit 109, but then realized they pretty much only have girls’ clothes.”
“I don’t mind.”
Souji shrugged. “You asked me here, right? You must want me there for some reason.”
“Thank you. In all honesty, I want to try out some new things and would love your opinion.” She grinned. “You always dress so nicely.”
“Thanks. Just hope I can help.”
“I’m sure you can.”
After shopping for Yumi she insisted on hitting up some men’s clothing as well, and so Souji now stood on the train with a Shibuya 109 Men’s bag. He’d gotten a new jacket and a couple of pants at her insistence. At least this gave him some time to talk with the irritable voice in his head.
“What did you mean people who were going to die?”
“I can see if people’s souls aren’t strongly attached,” Butterfly explained.
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“It wouldn’t do any good.”
Souji clenched the handle. “We could help.”
“No. Most of them will die of natural causes. A heart attack or a car accident. Others simply no longer wish to live and must exist partially dead for years. There is no way to tell what the cause is, simply that it exists. I know you don’t like it and I’m sorry, but I can’t change anything.”
“But maybe we could.”
Butterfly didn’t respond.
The train pulled into Shinjuku-Sanchome. Souji stepped off to transfer to the Marunochi line.
“Piece of shit.” A burst of high pressure water threw Souji across the platform. He slid on the tile floor.
Someone screamed. Souji looked up to see a giant snake barreling towards him.
Butterfly burst forward, blocking the fangs with his katana. Souji got to his feet as the snake dissipated.
Onlookers kept a wary distance, staring uncertain along the sides. Across the way a disheveled Doctor Kishitani stared him down.
“I’ll eat you all,” he screamed. The snake burst forth again, this time lashing out at whoever was closest. Its fangs passed through the unfortunate onlooker and they fell to the ground, kneeling on their knees as though they no longer had the energy to stand.
“Apathy Syndrome,” Butterfly hissed.
Doctor Kishitani cackled. “Yes, yes, yes, I’ll extinguish you all. All of you, you pieces of shit.”
The two Persona, creation and death, charged forward. The serpent came to meet them. Butterfly immediately released his Persona. Izanagi parried. Souji could feel his energy draining.
What appeared to be a robotic man with speakers for his chest and a lyre on his back, came forward. A dramatic flourish and he sent fire straight at the serpent. It reeled back.
“No, no, no, no, no, no no no no no!” Doctor Kishitani fell to his knees, desperately holding his head.
The serpent pressed forward.
It roared as electricity and fire hit its scaled.
Butterfly took his opportunity. “Thanatos, to me,” he whispered. The katana appeared once more in his hands and he pressed forward.
Butterfly parried the attack, but with electricity raining down on it the snake couldn’t hold the block. It retreated back to Doctor Kishitani, receiving a nasty cut on the way.
The man screamed when it hit.
Souji let Izanagi dissipate and rushed forward.
The snake rushed through the station, dashing through anyone unfortunate enough to still be in its way.
“Is it a persona?”
“No,” Butterfly hissed. “It’s a shadow.”
Doctor Kishitani stood. “Yes, a shadow. The truth of humanity, the reality of the setting sun. It is Apep, and he is born of the desire to give up, to simply embrace what must be.”
“That’s not a way to live,” Souji snarled.
“If you want to give up then just do it,” Butterfly reprimanded. “Stop harming those who seek to live.”
Doctor Kishitani laughed. “No one really wants it.” Apep came beside him once more. “Just to sit quietly. No more ambition. No more corruption, acts of control, just peace and quiet.”
“This can’t be what you want.”
“But it is, and you’ll help me achieve it.”
Apep rushed Butterfly.
“Loki,” Souji called. A burst of fire descended upon the shadow. It screamed.
Butterfly rushed for Doctor Kishitani. “You will not take their will away.”
The man tried to run, but Apep couldn’t get out of Souji’s inferno and that seemed to hinder the person attached to it as well.
Another creature appeared, blocking Butterfly’s swing with crocodile teeth. Butterfly jumped back to see either a persona or a shadow with the head of a crocodile, the forequarters of a lion, and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus.
A woman, wearing a business suit, came down the stairs.
Souji moved beside Butterfly, who continued to back away from the newcomer.
The woman stood beside Doctor Kishitani. “The idiot wasn’t ready to combat slavers of your charisma.” She looked around at the apathy syndrome victims. “What a mess.”
“Who are you?” Souji demanded.
“What did you do?”
“So many questions.” She put a hand on Doctor Kishitani’s shoulder. “Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to disclose such information quite yet. One never shows their hand until the game’s end. Traesto.”
She and Doctor Kishitani vanished.
Souji looked, dumbfounded, around the platform. It hadn’t been overly busy, but there were still at least a dozen people kneeling on the ground with apathy syndrome.
“We should make sure none of them are near the tracks,” Butterfly whispered. He glanced up at the announcement board. Only one minute until the next train.
Someone new came down the escalator and just stared. Souji tried to ignore them as he placed people against the wall. He was about to say something about calling a hospital when a station manager ran down.
“What happened here?”
Butterfly’s katana became a series of small blue butterflies who fluttered away. He approached the confused manager. “We’re not really sure, but they probably need a hospital.” He motioned to Souji. “He’s making sure none of them get hurt when the train comes, but I don’t know what’s wrong with them.”
“Ah, right, do you need me to contact an ambulance then?”
“Probably. I hope they’re okay.”
The manager nodded before pulling out a radio to contact someone.
Souji came up to Butterfly. “What now?”
“We should leave. He’s too confused to ask questions, but we can’t guarantee the next people will be too.”
“Are you sure?”
Butterfly nodded. “We wouldn’t be able to give good answers. That could end poorly.”
“I guess so.” Souji looked around at the victims. “It just doesn’t sit well with me.”
“It shouldn’t, but staying would only cause more trouble.”
Souji and Butterfly calmly exited platform. Best to just act like nothing had happened, right?
Butterfly had stayed quiet through dinner, waiting to say anything until Souji got up to his room. At that point he resumed his more human form and sat on the bed.
Souji pulled out his phone to check messages. “Not really.”
“Best to tell me straight.”
Kirijo: There have been cases of apathy syndrome. Everyone stay on alert.
Yosuke: Seriously! Where?
Rise: You’re kidding, right?
Amada: Any idea what caused it?
Naoto: They were in Shinjuku.
Chie: Shinjuku? Does that even make sense?
Teddie: This is beary pekoalier.
Yosuke: Dude. Seriously?
Yukiko: Doesn’t Souji live near there?
Chie: Oh man, and he hasn’t responded yet.
Yamagishi: I’ve identified the victims. It’s not public knowledge yet, but none of them match his description.
Labrys: Sis and I are heading over there now to check it out. We’ll let you know if we find anything.
Yosuke: I hate to bring this up, but what if it’s Minazuki?
Labrys: All the more reason for us to be the ones who handle it.
“Sorry. It is a lot to read sometimes.” Souji looked over to Butterfly. “I don’t know what to say.”
“They’re talking about the apathy syndrome, right? You can at least tell them you’re fine.”
“But is that all I can tell them?”
“It’s all I would.”
Souji held his phone tightly. “It’s Mitsuru Kirijo who set out the alert, and a lot of your old friends are responding. Aigis and Labrys even went over there to check on things. You can’t keep them out of this.”
“They won’t get far.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Those people, the ones with the shadows, they’re after us. Now that I’m whole I thought it would just be me, but that doctor seemed intent on you too.”
“Guess I did mess things up.”
“Maybe, but I think it’s more than that.”
“That woman called us slavers.”
Butterfly nodded slowly.
“Why would she say that?”
Souji stared at his companion a moment, hoping for more, but it didn’t seem to be forthcoming. He looked back down at his phone.
Yukiko: Please, let us know if you find anything.
Labrys: Well do. You guys just sit tight.
A time jump in the discussion.
Aegis: We have completed our search and found simply residue and scorch marks. It appears some form of combat occurred within the station.
Yosuke: Scorch marks?! Anyone badly hurt?
Labrys: Didn’t find anyone, but it is weird, huh? Fuuka’s checkin’ the cameras now.
Aegis: Akihiko and Detective Kurosawa and checking up on the victims now. According to initial reports no one was ‘harmed’ per se.
Yosuke: Because apathy syndrome isn’t harmful.
Labrys: Any word from Souji yet?
Yosuke: Nah. I tried calling him, but he didn’t pick up. His parents apparently get really strict about using the phone when he’s around them, so hopefully it’s just that.
Labrys: Alright. I hope he’s okay.
Yosuke: Why wouldn’t he be?
Aegis: A young man matching his description was seen at the station shortly after the apathy syndrome broke out. According to the station master there were three people there. One who had run up to get him just after arriving, one with silver hair and a height close to Souji, and a smaller man whom he spoke to. The smaller man apparently had bright blue eyes and messy black hair, as well as an interesting coat.
Labrys: Yeah, the guy kept going on about this witness. Must have really stood out.
“They’re talking about you.”
Yosuke: Sounds kind of cool.
Aegis: Have you never seen anyone of that description before?
Yosuke: Nope. If the other guy really is Souji then this isn’t one of his friends from Inaba.
Finally, a fresh message.
Souji: Did someone say my name?
Labrys: Good to hear from you.
Aegis: Thank goodness you’re alright.
Souji: Why wouldn’t I be?
Yosuke: There were some apathy syndrome cases in Shinjuku.
Souji looked over to Butterfly. “I can’t lie to them.”
“Then just avoid the truth.”
“That is lying. I trust all of them completely.”
“I don’t want them involved.”
Butterfly looked away. “I don’t want to hurt them again.”
“Souji,” he looked back up, “I’m not Arisato anymore, and even if I were, I’m dead. That doesn’t suddenly change. I’m dead. I will never be alive again. When this is over, I will still be dead. I don’t want them to have to say goodbye again.”
Souji looked back down at his phone. “Guess I can understand that.”
Souji: I passed through Shinjuku today, but it was just on the way to Shibuya and back.
Souji: Yeah. I had a date.
Yosuke: DATE?! Pictures, now.
Souji smiled sadly. It felt bad not to tell them, but at least he’d gotten the conversation onto something he could talk about.