April 15th

Lazy Detective Agency

Souji wasn’t quite sure what he’d had in mind when Raidou had asked him to his office, but an old building in Shinjuku with the words “Narumi Detective Agency” written in faded lettering on the door hadn’t exactly been it.

The woman, sitting behind the desk of three monitors and two laptops, caught him even more by surprise.  She wore a giant headset on top of her neat black bun, yet still managed to look up when they entered.

“Welcome home,” she greeted.  “The tea’s ready.”

“Thanks.”  Raidou gestured to a couch in front of an old coffee table.  Souji and Butterfly cautiously sat down while their host poured them tea, bring it over on a tray, along with some red bean cakes.  The woman behind the desk resumed her tasks.

Raidou sat down across from the two persona users, reclining easily in the battered old armchair.  It had clearly been there a long time, seeming to conform the tall man’s form.  A black cat jumped on the chair’s back before settling its gaze upon them.

“That cat followed us,” Butterfly opened, staring uneasily at the feline.

“His name is Gouto. My secretary is Sakura Narumi.”

“The cat part of the agency too?” Butterfly asked.

Gouto nodded.

“So you really are a detective agency,” Souji mused, looking cautiously around.  Several black and white pictures hung on the walls, and he could just make out a staircase in the back.

“Correct.  We’ve been around since well before the bombings.  My grandfather and her great-grandfather ran it.”

“A family business?”

“We re-established it ten years ago,” Miss Narumi explained.  “However, our segment of the building is indeed from before the war.”

Raidou rested his head on his fist, gazing at Butterfly.  “First question, what are you?”

Souji jumped.  Butterfly, however, didn’t seem so surprised.  “Me?”

According to Igor he was a soul and god fused together, but Souji had no idea how Butterfly described himself.

“I’m a ghost,” Butterfly answered.

“Ghosts rarely manifest in the primary realm,” Miss Narumi remarked.  “While it answers the question at its most basic level I find it an unsatisfactory explanation.  It doesn’t even begin to cover your ability to manifest in a physical form.”

“All you’re getting.”

Raidou sighed.  “Miss Narumi?”

The woman stood, pulling out her phone.  “Stand in front of me,” she commanded.  Cautious, but more curious, Butterfly did as he was told.

Miss Narumi clicked her tongue.  “Thanatos.”

“Like this?”

“He appears to have modified some of his base data,” she continued.  “I do believe this may be the origin point.”

“Interesting,” Raidou mused.  “Go ahead and sit.”  Miss Narumi sat back down at the desk.

“I’m not just Thanatos.”

“Obviously,” Miss Narumi replied.  “Your information would come through clearly if you were.”  She looked at Raidou.  “Most likely a pact.”

He nodded.  “A man who runs suicide clubs and a god of death.”  He turned his gaze over to Souji.

“We’re friends.”

“You’re the one Kyou called out.”

Butterfly glared at Raidou.  “Tell him.”

“What?”  Souji turned to regard his companion.

“Go ahead.  I’m curious.”

“But-“

“He knew about me,” Butterfly reminded him, “so just tell him.”

“Why is he after you?” Raidou prompted.

“We got into one of his clubs.”

“And took down a woman spreading apathy syndrome,” Butterfly added.

“So it is actively spread,” Raidou mused, biting his lower lip for a moment.  Miss Narumi typed vigorously at her keyboard.

Souji and Butterfly both nodded.

“How?”

“We’re not quite sure, to be honest,” Souji replied.  “It has to do with shadows, but beyond that we don’t really know.”

“Shadows?”

“That which we hide,” Butterfly explained.  “Everything we repress, the shadow of who we are.”

“Shadows can come out and attack people,” Souji added.  “When I dealt with them at first they only appeared within a special realm connected to the human conscious, but these people seem to have figured out how to harness for their own purposes.”

“Similar for me,” Butterfly added, “but they actively prey on people who fit a certain profile.  These people develop apathy syndrome.  I’m not quite sure what’s happening this time.”

“Do you know his motives?”

“No” Souji admitted.  “That’s what we’re trying to find out.”

“They’re ripping shadows out of people,” Butterfly added.  “They then use those to create more powerful ones.  The suicide clubs draw people in, people who want to die, and they use them.”

A pause hung in the air.  Raidou chuckled slightly a moment later.

“I see.  Just one more question then.”

“What is it?”

“What can you do to stop it?”

There it was, hanging in the air like a heavy fog.  Souji looked to Butterfly for support.  He received an encouraging nod.  No reason to turn back now.

“Sometimes a full shadow comes out of someone.  Instead of a single fragment it’s more,” Souji paused, “more complete.  These shadows actively try to break the person they emerge from.  If they win, the person dies.  If the person instead accepts their shadow they can become a persona user.”

“This group, Armageddon, I think they do something similar, but instead of accepting their shadow and becoming persona users they steal the shadows from someone else.  I’m not sure why this is preferable, but I believe their leader is the only true persona user among them.”

“Persona,” Raidou whispered.

“In the psychology of C. G. Jung, the mask or façade presented to satisfy the demands of the situation or the environment and not representing the inner personality of the individual.  The public personality,” Miss Narumi recited.

“It’s what we use to combat shadows,” Souji added.  “We have to accept ourselves completely, but then we use these aspects to form persona and battle.”

“Well,” Miss Narumi remarked, “I suppose that would count as satisfying the demands of the situation.”

“You summon it?”

“Outer personality,” Butterfly reminded him.

Raidou looked up at Gouto.  “Have you ever heard of this?”

The cat shook his head.

The detective turned to look at Souji and Butterfly again.  “Could you show me?”

Souji sighed.  “I’ve never just summoned it to show someone,” he admitted.  “I’m not sure anything will happen.”

“Just try it,” Raidou urged.

Miss Narumi held out her phone.  “I’ll see what data I can gather,” she explained.  “I’m curious how this registers.”

Souji closed his eyes to concentrate.  “Izanagi,” he whispered.  He could feel the persona stir within him.  A moment later he felt the surge of energy as it materialized.  “This is Izanagi,” he announced, slowly opening his eyes.  “He’s my primary persona.”

“Fascinating.  The energy doesn’t register at all.  Are you getting anything, Raidou?”

He stood up, staring up at Izanagi.  “Can I touch him?”

“I don’t really know,” Souji admitted.  “He’s physical, but not, especially outside the shadow realm.  I guess you can see what happens.”

Raidou reached out his hand, tugging gently on Izanagi’s coat.  The tug connected and the coat moved.  To Souji it just felt kind of nauseating.  Raidou backed off.

Izanagi diffused.  “I can summon him a long time to fight, but I’ve never just pulled him out to show off before.  It does seem a little more exhausting in the real world.”

“Raidou?” Miss Narumi interjected sharply.

He looked at her.

“The police have a lead.”

Raidou stepped back to look at Souji and Butterfly.  “Looks like we have a lead on a suicide club.  The police can round up people.”

“But they can’t deal with shadows,” Souji confirmed.

Raidou nodded.  “If you’re telling the truth, I may not be able to either.”

“There’s a terrifying thought,” Miss Narumi responded.

Nodding, Raidou asked, “Do you want to come?”

“Really?”

“I’m not exactly endangering you further.”

What a different mindset from Mitsuru.

They both heard the whirr of a printer.  “If you’re going to work with us then you’ll need to sign some nondisclosure forms,” Miss Narumi explained.  “There’s no guarantee this is the right club, but it is owned by Kyo Kinamo.”

Raidou walked over to pull a couple of forms off the printer.  He brought a pen over as well.  “We need to protect confidentiality.”  He placed a contract in front of each of them.

Butterfly skimmed the contents.  “Well, this isn’t a bad way to keep us quiet.”

“We are professionals,” Miss Narumi reminded them.  “If you want to get involved we need to know you won’t become a liability.”

“So fast,” Souji whispered.  All of this, so fast.

Raidou walked across the room, grabbing a larger coat that hung.  “I’m leaving fast.  Thanatos, can you cover your own transportation?”

“I’m called Butterfly, and I can stick with Souji well enough.”

“Good.”

“He primarily uses a motorbike,” Miss Narumi explained.

“Excuse me,” Souji interjected, “but this contract almost makes it seem like I’d be working for you.”

“You’ll function as an intern.  You don’t have the appropriate background for it, but at least you’re the right age.”

“We may not get an opening like this again,” Butterfly reminded him.

“We still don’t know how much to trust them.”

Raidou pulled a weapons belt off the rack.

“I feel fairly confident they’re prepared at least.”

“No kidding,” Souji responded, eying the gun, “but it doesn’t help against shadows.”

“That’s what you’re for.”  Raidou turned to look at both of them.  “We can’t dawdle.”

“I’ve told the police to let us handle it, but they’re not exactly fond of the idea.  If you wait too long they’ll get moving.  We can discuss the full terms of your internship later.  For now, let’s just call it a trial run.”

Souji looked up at Raidou for a moment.  How had everything gone so smoothly?  He seemed understanding at least, even if not entirely trustworthy, and they definitely knew what they were doing when it came to detective work.

“Connections with the police would help,” Butterfly reminded him.

Souji signed the contract.

“Let’s move.”

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