Inside Out

 

Souji watched Raidou go down, but with a giant crocodile, hippo…thing coming at him, found it impossible to respond.

“Don’t let it hit your persona,” Butterfly warned.

Persona nothing.  Souji didn’t want the giant shadow slamming into him at all.  He dove away, moving away from the unconscious Raidou as well.  Better the enemies never even notice.

The shadow followed him.

“Ziodyne,” he hissed.  Izanagi appeared long enough to send a bolt of electricity crashing down.

The huge shadow barely slowed.

Izanagi became Loki.  “Garudyne.”

Wind whipped around the giant shadow.  It barely slowed.  Just how strong was this thing?

The sound of a lyre gently struck.  The beginning of a melody.

Souji couldn’t even describe it.  It just made life seem threadbare, pointless, and miserable.  Around them several of the apathy syndrome cases slowly died.

“What is this?” the shadow user hissed, stepping back.  Even her shadow had stopped, caught in the melody.

Souji felt caught too.  He couldn’t get himself to do anything.  Tears slowly began to roll down his cheeks.

A pair of hands gently covered his ears.  The song seemed to vanish, but even so he could feel it.  A funeral dirge for all those lost.

“Attack now,” Butterfly whispered in his mind.

Souji looked at the woman and her shadow, both pressed down by the funeral dirge.  Only one attack seemed right now.

“Alice,” he whispered.  A persona in the form a young English girl appeared.  “Will they die for me?”

The girl twirled and curtsied.  A moment later cards rained down from the sky.  The woman simply looked up at them, her shadow doing likewise.

The shadow dissipated.  The woman fell to her knees.

The hands moves away.  The dirge had stopped.  Butterfly approached her.

“Not so hard to destroy a shadow.”

She stared at the ground.  “How?  You couldn’t even harm it, and now it’s gone.”

“You’re right.”  Butterfly kneeled down across from her.  “Shadows are never really gone, just severed.  To use shadows not even your own.  Despicable.”

Souji glanced over at Raidou.  The cat, Gouto, crouched on the fallen man’s back, carefully keeping an eye on things.  What had happened to him?

“What do you know?  You who found joy.”

“You take joy in harming others.  In encouraging them to simply stop.”  Butterfly reached out a hand, palm resting on her forehead.  Her eyes widened.  Then, with just a soft whimper, she fell.  Butterfly stood.

“How’s Raidou?”

Souji stared.  “What did you do to her?”

“Just let her know what dying feels like.  It should keep her down for a while.”

“Why aren’t the police here yet?”

Butterfly looked around at all the bodies.  “Maybe better that way.”  He moved over to Raidou.  “May I have a look?”

Gouto jumped off.

“Souji, could you flip him over?”

“Huh?  Sure.”  Souji moved over to turn Raidou over to his back.  “Why can’t you do it?”

“Feeling prickly.”

Raidou’s breathing was shallow, but steady.

Souji let out a relieved sigh.  “He looks like he’s sleeping.”

“Hmmm…” Butterfly lightly tapped Raidou on the nose.  Nothing.  “Someone’s not home.”

“Meaning?”

“Shadow world.”

“What?”

“I don’t know how,” Butterfly admitted, “but I think he got drug in.”

“He’s not a persona user.”

“We need to go after him.”

They heard a great crash from next door.  A moment later a couple of armed police officers charged into the room.

“No one move,” they shouted.

Butterfly and Souji immediately held up their hands.

A plainclothes detective walked through the doorframe.  “Put your guns down.  Just because we said it might get dangerous doesn’t mean you need to look for an excuse.  Identify people who’ll need help when the paramedics get here.”

“Yes, sir.”  The armed men began examining the room.  The detective approached Souji and Butterfly.  He cast a concerned look down at Raidou.

“I’m guessing one of you is Souji Seta?”

“Yeah. That’s me.”

“Good.  I’m Detective Daisuke Sakamoto.  I’m Raidou’s guardian.”

Guardian?  That felt weird to think about.

“Well, I was.”  He sighed.  “What happened to him?”

“We’re trying to figure that out,” Butterfly explained.  “If you get us somewhere quiet I think we can help him.”

“Somewhere quiet?  Hmmm.  Hard to do smack in the middle of a crime scene, especially moving this many people.”

“Speaking of which, the woman over there,” Butterfly gestured to the shadow user, “she’s part of the group running this.”

“Is that so?  Alright then, we’ll keep her confined until Raidou can question her properly.  In the meantime, agency or hospital?  I can have one of my men drive you.”

“Agency,” Butterfly responded.

Souji nodded.  It would probably be best to move Raidou somewhere familiar.

“Alright then.”  He pulled out a radio.  “I need someone to drive some witnesses to the Narumi Detective Agency.  Yes, that one.”  He sighed.  “Alright, we’ll wait.”

“The medics just arrived, so they’ll help move him.”

“Thanks.”

“Yeah, well, you all owe me an explanation when this is done.”

 


 

Souji hadn’t realized the agency had an upstairs, but by the time they’d gotten back Miss Narumi had already rolled out a futon for Raidou, made tea, and gotten some warm water ready so they could all wash up a bit.  When they got there she’d easily led everyone upstairs and cleaned off Raidou’s face.  She’d also removed all the excess equipment so he could rest more easily.

“Now, is there anything you two need?  According to Daisuke you think you can help.”

Butterfly nodded.  “Just quiet.  Don’t freak out if we’re not here.”

“Do you have any idea how many background checks I have to run?  I don’t intend to notice.  Gouto can keep an eye on you two.”

Souji bit his lip.  He had to ask.  “Um, excuse me, Miss Narumi?”

“Seta?”

“How can you just accept this at face value?”

“Why wouldn’t we?  We’ve seen things over three fourths of the population vehemently denies, and even fewer actually see.  Why would we assume there wasn’t yet more to see?”

Butterfly smiled.  “How practical.”

“Denial serves no one.  Now, is there anything you need before I go?  And do you have a time estimate?  How long before I start worrying?”

“I have no idea,” Butterfly admitted.  He turned to Souji.  “I can get us in, but I’ve never done something like this.”

“I don’t know where it will put us, but it really depends.”  Souji regarded Miss Narumi.  She stood calm and confident.  “Hard to stay in for more than a couple hours though.”

Butterfly nodded before turning to Miss Narumi.  “Give us two hours.  If we’re not back by then you can worry.  Also, Raidou might show physical signs of stress.  We’re connecting to his mind, so I don’t know really know what will happen.  If it gets too intense he may need medical care.”

“Understood.  I’ll come up to check periodically.”

“Thanks, Miss Narumi.”  Souji looked at her.  “But, I’ve been wondering something.”

“Don’t you need to hurry?”

“She’s right.”

Souji sighed, but nodded in agreement.  How could they just trust him the way they did?

Miss Narumi seemed content with that and headed out.

“I don’t get it,” Souji whispered.

“Aren’t you the one all about friendship and faith?’

“Doesn’t it seem weird to you that they trust us so readily?”

“A bit,” Butterfly admitted, “but I don’t think they’re as trusting as you think.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think they’re more about giving us the chance to prove it.”  He looked down at Gouto.  “After all, it’s not like we’re unsupervised.”

“Meow.”

“I guess so.”  Souji shook his head in an attempt to clear it.  “Anyway, how do we do this?”

Butterfly wrapped his arms around Souji.  “I think you just hang on.”

“What?”

Souji felt something prick into his arms and shoulder.  “I can act as a portal.”

It hurt, seeming to wrap not just around his body but around Izanagi as well.

The world spun.  Souji closed his eyes.  The spinning sensation stopped.  He opened them again.

A giant Torii gate stood right in front of them.  Butterfly stood.

“Guess this is the entrance to his dungeon.”

“Yeah.”  Souji stood as well.  He felt a little dizzy, but otherwise fine.

“Ready?”

“Yeah.  Let’s go save him.”

They walked through the gate together.

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