A Moment’s Peace
Naoto: Mitsuru just informed me that she believes shadows are involved in a recent number of suicides. I’ve been told to pass it on and urge all of you to be on the lookout. So far they’ve only had isolated cases in Tokyo, but the cause remains unidentified.
Rise: Oh man. I have a concert coming up too. I was hoping things would stay calmed down.
Yosuke: Seriously? That sucks.
Teddie: You make me beary sad, Naochan.
Souji’s hand hovered over the digital keys on his phone. He had no idea what to say.
Rise: Hey, Souji lives in Tokyo, right? Man, I hope he’s okay.
Yosuke: Now that you mention it, he usually responds by now.
Naoto: That is part of why I selected this time.
Souji sat in a café, where he always studied between classes, staring at his phone. Even so far away they knew him so well.
Butterfly peered over his shoulders to watch the conversation. “Say something.”
Souji sighed. Butterfly was right, of course, but what should he say? Maybe just a confirmation would do.
Yosuke: There you are, partner.
Rise: Thank goodness. We were starting to worry.
Naoto: I’m glad you’ve responded.
Another window for a chat between just him and Naoto.
Naoto: Have you noticed anything?
“I can’t lie to her.”
Butterfly leaned back. “Hmmm. Maybe feel her out first?”
Reasonable enough advice, he supposed. It felt a little wrong not to just immediately trust Naoto and her judgment, but maybe this way they could get some new information.
Naoto: Yeah. Several hundred cases of apathy syndrome were reported yesterday in central Tokyo.
“Hundred?” Souji choked. That woman had caused hundreds of cases? He’d been there and he still couldn’t quite wrap his head around it.
Butterfly reached out, gently tapping on the phone.
Souji: How widespread?
Souji glared at him. Butterfly shrugged.
Naoto: Pretty much everywhere within the Yamanote line. Researches are investigating the cause, but it’s hard to explain why it happens even with the proper knowledge.
That seemed like more than the area he and Butterfly had covered. They exchanged looks.
“It is an organization,” Butterfly reminded him.
“Yeah, but just how big is it?”
“At the rate she was moving it wouldn’t take long to cover the area within the Yamanote line.”
“I guess, but still…hundreds of cases.”
“Fewer than you’d expect.”
Butterfly nodded. “A lot of fewer. We were lucky. Or perhaps she drove people straight to suicide.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Not this time.”
Souji sighed. How could anyone make fun of that?
Naoto: The Shadow Operative are stumped. Apparently, there’s never been an outbreak quite like this.
“Wrong,” Butterfly whispered, “but perhaps not this sudden.”
“Wouldn’t be quite like it then.”
Souji: Do they have any idea what caused it?
Naoto: It should be a powerful Shadow, but they haven’t seen any like that recently. A lot more small ones though.
She was being so open with him. Her trust reminded him of the strength of their bonds.
“I have to tell her.”
“Only if she promises to leave the others out.”
“Why does it matter so much? Don’t you want them to help?”
“No,” Butterfly snapped. He stood up. “They’re your friends. Do what you will with them.” He began to sulk towards the exit.
Several heads turned towards them, but Souji did his best to shrug them off. Now what had he done?
Fortunately, Butterfly didn’t actually wander off. He just stood staring at the campus.
“Don’t’ try your community tricks with me.” He looked up at the sky. “Clear day.”
“Yeah. It’s nice after following all that shadow stuff around.”
“Butterfly, why don’t you want them involved? You fought together before and I’ve seen them in combat. They’re incredible.”
“I know that.”
“I wanted them to move on,” he whispered. “I wanted them to drop it.”
“How could anyone do that after an experience like that?”
“How could they forget?” Butterfly whispered. He turned to Souji. “They forgot. All of it. Gone. Never happened, and then they pretend they can never move on.”
“You can move on, and they have. Yukari is a model. Akihiko is studying to be a detective. Ken is almost done with high school.”
“And yet they fight.”
“How could they not? They want to help.”
Butterfly turned away. “Come on. You’ll be late to class.”
“I just heard from the morning class,” a student hissed excitedly, “Miss Suzuki is out today.”
“Man, that sucks.”
“Maybe we’ll finally get someone who makes some sense.”
“I like her.”
Souji barely paid any attention to hubbub. A teacher calling in sick wasn’t such a rare thing that it warranted astonishment. Especially since she had a toddler. Who knew how many diseases that woman got exposed to in a day?
The lecture hall door opened.
Izanagi reacted, but in a way Souji couldn’t identify. Whatever it was, it had all of them on high alert. Even Butterfly seemed to be tensing from his hairclip form.
Whoever was coming through that door was dangerous.
A man only slightly older than the students walked in. He wore a white button down shirt with no tie and a black leather jacket. His pants appeared to be leather as well, as did his boots. He stepped up to the podium and stared up at the silent class.
With a sigh, he turned around and wrote his name on the board.
Whispers erupted around the room.
“Isn’t he the freshmen slayer?”
“I heard they never let him teach.”
“Getting a crush on him is referred to as a curse.”
“He’ll kill you if you so much as look at him wrong.”
How had Souji never heard of this guy?
The temporary instructor turned back to the class. “Done yet?”
His sharp tone and level eye contact made it quite clear that only one answer would do.
Now that Souji thought about it, that even gaze seemed way too close and personal for how far apart they were. His eyes shouldn’t have been so clear. Certainly, not clear enough to identify the hint of blue.
Raidou looked down the class roster. He then glanced back up. “And the odds all of you are seated correctly?”
Assigned seats? Yeah right.
“Very well. I’ll start by asking you, Seta-kun.”
Souji stood. Class began.
After class with Raidou, Souji wanted nothing more than to rush out of the room. The substitute had been brutal. His explanations of the material were alright, and he clearly knew his stuff, but he also clearly thought of anyone who didn’t know his stuff as an idiot. He hadn’t handled questions well at all. Topping it all off his phone had gone off during the class. A teacher’s phone going off? Seriously?
For some reason though, Butterfly urged him to stay.
That’s why he found himself lingering as the rest of the class ran away. That’s why he found himself now staring awkwardly at Raidou.
“Ask him anything,” Butterfly urged inside Souji’s head. “I just want to get a feel for him.”
Why? “Just wanted to confirm the homework.”
Raidou sighed. “You wrote it down.”
Souji bit his lip.
“And you’re a terrible liar. Can I go now? E-mail Serena with questions. It’s her class.”
“You know our teacher?”
Radiou just gave Souji a dead-eye glare.
“Sorry. Guess that’s pretty obvious. Are you both in the graduate program then?”
Raidou slowly nodded.
“What’s she like?”
“Stop wasting my time, Seta.” Raidou grabbed his bag.
He didn’t wait. For a moment Souji just stood there, staring at the door.
“Interesting,” Butterfly remarked, materializing beside him.
Butterfly tilted his head. “He felt wrong.”
“Think he’s with Armageddon?”
“Not sure,” Butterfly admitted. “Something’s off though.”
Souji’s phone buzzed.
UNKNOWN: Click Here
“What do you think?”
“Looks like a video link.”
“Then why can’t my phone just load the video. It has internet here.”
UNKNOWN: Password: PH4RO5
Souji and Butterfly exchanged concerned glances. Then, he clicked on the link.
He typed in “PH4RO5”.
A video popped up. Kyou stood against a view of Sky Tree.
“Hey, darlings,” he greeted with a grin.
Was this really the man they’d met just a few days ago?
“Thought I should let all of you know that we’ve got a bit of a problem lately.” It finally registered with Souji that this video was taken at night.
“Just a few days ago our dear mother Nephtys was brutally attacked while spreading the message. The attackers, a pair of dastardly persona users, show no regret for destroying the peace and even went so far as to attack her shadow directly.”
Souji looked at Butterfly. He’d never asked how he’d found everything out.
“Unfortunately, this forced her to the stage of final breath. Without her the spread of contentment will be greatly slowed.” He pouted dramatically. “So, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands.” He held up a photo of Souji. “Cute face, huh? Strange how those always hide the brutal murderers. This hotbed of deceit needs to experience the stages. Needs to find his answer and face Armageddon. And so, I say, bring him to me alive. I’ll be waiting at the club.”
The video abruptly ended.
UNKNOWN: Why is he targeting you?
Souji: Who are you?
UNKNOWN: A friend. Why is he targeting you?
Souji: I can’t answer if I don’t know who you are.
No immediate response. Souji looked up to Butterfly. “You killed her?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why is he targeting you?”
Souji and Butterfly both turned sharply to the door. There stood Raidou Kuzunoha.
“Where’d you come from?”
“Just closed the door.” The man stepped forward. “Heard everything.”
“Why were you spying on us?” Butterfly demanded.
“Why is he targeting you?”
“Did you send that video?” Souji asked.
“Someone wants you dead, and you’re worried about who warned you?”
“Who are you?” Butterfly demanded.
“Raidou Kuzunoha the Fifteenth,” the man responded. “Devil Summoner.”
“Correct. My agency has been investigating the recent outbreaks of the disease known as apathy syndrome.”
“Why?” Butterfly asked.
“Abnormal occurrences is what we do. We’ve had eight, ten, people come in reporting loved ones with apathy syndrome they believe related to illicit activities. Three cases lead to suicide clubs where several more incidents were discovered. Seven cases appear to have simply occurred. In only two of these could we trace anyone who might have a motive to cause such a state, and we still haven’t found what causes it in the first place. The only common thread is in the suicide clubs, all run by the man in that video.”
“The man targeting me,” Souji added. “That’s why you’re asking about me.”
Raidou nodded. “What do you know?”
“Only about the suicide clubs,” Souji answered. He figured it was true enough. Non persona users couldn’t help with something like this, no matter how otherwise competent they might be.
Raidou sighed. “Come with me.”
“Shinjuku. Easier to have a candid talk at my office.” He glared at Souji. “I don’t appreciate run arounds.”
“It’s what you’re getting,” Butterfly retorted.
“We’ll see.” Raidou looked directly at Souji. “Are you coming?”
“Look, you can tell me what you know. Let me in. Or I can tail you until I find out anyway.”
“Must be hard when you tell everyone what you’re up to in the beginning,” Butterfly snapped.
“How do we know we can trust you?”
“We could use each other. I need information. You’re going to need protection.”
“We can take care of ourselves.”
“Cute, but doubtful.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Not even gauging your enemy well enough to know when you’re targeted?”
“That doesn’t reflect our abilities in a fight,” Butterfly countered.
He backed down.
Souji looked at Raidou. “And if we do come with you?”
“We have a nice chat.”
“That’s really it?”
“I think we should go.”
Souji nodded. Butterfly shrugged. “Alright then. Guess we’re following you.”