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Reversing Arcana, Chapter 16

Title: Reversing Arcana

Rating: T, for violence and language. Spoils everything.

Summary: Persona 3 and 4.  Six months after Souji leaves Inaba, he wakes up to his house on fire. The Investigation Team are the only ones who know he survived. But that's only the beginning of their troubles.

Author's Note: Chapter lengths are all over the shop in the run up to the end.  This is a slightly shorter one.

Previous chapter


Reversing Arcana

Chapter 16


“Mediarahan!” Yukiko calls out.
The healing light passes over them as Isis fades from existence.
It had been a tough battle.  Naoto flexes her fingers.  Even keeping back, she had felt the bite of the cold, the encroaching numbness.  Isis wasn’t as smart as a human, but had definitely been smarter than your average Shadow.  Every attack had been carefully aimed and carefully selected, maximising every little opening.
“Damn.”  Yosuke drops to his knees, and slams his fist on the ground, his yellow-eyed reflection mimicking the gesture with extra gusto.  “Damn!  He got away again.”
“Don’t worry ‘bout it, Senpai.  We’ll find our way first,” Kanji says, voice gruff.
“It’s weird, though!  Why’re Souji’s Personae attacking us?” Chie complains.  “Adachi I can understand, but we’re here to help!”
“They’re not just keeping Adachi away… they’re keeping everyone away,” Naoto murmurs.
Yukiko nods, tucking mussed strands of long black hair back behind her ears.  “It makes sense.  We haven’t heard Souji-kun at all in this dungeon.  I can’t imagine he can control them from a distance.”  She turns to the junior detective then.  “More importantly… Naoto-kun, what happened to your Persona?”
Naoto looks away, struggling to contain the urge to fidget.  It doesn’t really work, when her Shadow reflection does it for her.
She understands now, better than she ever wanted to, what Yosuke had gone through when Jiraiya answered his call instead of Susan-O.
“Adachi,” she forces herself to say, because it’s important, and they need to know to protect themselves.  “He’s discovered a weakness.  He’s figured out how to break our Personae.”
“What?!” Kanji shouts.
“You mean-?” Chie gibbers.
Naoto tugs her cap down low over her eyes, not able to bring herself to see their faces. 
It’s a terrifying possibility.  Personae are born from their sense of self – reflections of their personalities.  And Adachi has discovered how to tear them apart with self-doubt and guilt and recrimination.
It took only the tiniest trigger, and people would backslide.  A strong sense of self could be worn down over time, a traumatic event could tear it away... their power is not as unassailable as they'd been led to believe.  Even the TV world is proof of the regressive nature of humankind - how easy it is to crave deceit.

It's a harsh lesson.  It’s not enough to achieve it – you have to be vigilant ever after.
Yosuke’s voice is shaking.  “Teddie… I remember you saying once… about what would happen if a fully-formed Persona was later denied again…” 
Teddie lets out a low, keening sort of sound – the most animal noise she’s heard him make in the time she’s known him.
"So if Adachi can break our Personae..." Yukiko whispers.
"How could he break Senpai's, though?" Rise demands.  "He had so many of them!"

An uncomfortable chill settles over the group.  It seems impossible, but the proof is there, in Jack Frost and Isis and who knows what others patrolling these corridors. 
"I don’t really get it, but it’s kinda weird, though, ain’t it?" Kanji mutters.  "I mean, they still look like his Personae, more or less.  If they’re not Personae anymore, I dunno…. shouldn't Senpai's Shadow look at least a little like him?"

"Yeah, you've got a point," Chie agrees, tapping her chin in a thoughtful manner.  "They only change when you reject them."
“So that means…” Rise murmurs.
“It means it really is a race,” Naoto says.  “A race... until Senpai runs out of Personae.”
Adachi kicks the Shadow out of the way, and keeps running down the corridor.  How many fucking more of these Personae does that messed up little brat have?
Some of them are piss weak – he’ll toy with them, kicking them around, letting them throw their feeble little Agis and Zios and Bufus at him until he blows them into dust in the crushing grip of darkness of an overcharged Mudoon.  But there are a few that’ll cook him and skewer him and freeze him six ways to Sunday if he’s careless, and it can be hard to tell which are which, since size doesn’t seem to matter a damn bit.
Like that creepy white-haired baboon carting a book around that had a disturbing array of spells, including Megido which hurt like a bitch.  Still, that hadn’t been quite as annoying as trying to kill a unicorn.  It hadn’t packed much punch, but it had been damn resilient.  He can’t wait to taunt the little bastard about such a girly Persona. 
That water elemental had been a bit hot, though.  Her ice magic had been weak enough for him to shrug off, so he’d taken some sadistic glee in knocking her around.  Shame he couldn’t call on any fire magic.  He could have made her squeal.
Voices up ahead make him slow down, sidling around a corner.  The labyrinthine dungeon makes it easy to lose his pursuers, but it also means he has to be careful about crossing paths with them by accident.  They’re all heading in the same direction, after all, and however well-hidden the stairs might be, there’s only one set per level. 
It’s that bitch from the Kirijo Group and her two cohorts, fighting a massive shikigami Adachi thinks looks a bit familiar.  Invulnerable to anything but magic, if he remembers correctly.  He enjoys watching them struggle.  Maybe he can take advantage, attack once they’re finished and tired and their guards are down.
Then he sees something that makes him lean forward.
The Persona summoned by the weird blonde chick isn’t the same one she called against him earlier.  This one is all fire, and burns up the shikigami in short order.
Damn.  Another freak like the brat?  Maybe he’d better rethink that plan.
The white-haired punk wipes the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.  “This is getting us nowhere, fast.  Don’t we have any way of scanning?”
“The motorcycle was hardly going to fit inside the TV,” Kirijo replies.
“Huh.  Guess you’re right.  Shame we couldn’t bring Fuuta-chan.”
Kirijo walks ahead, boots echoing oddly against the gleaming floor.  “We didn’t have time.  And you two are the only ones I’d trust with this anyway.”
“Not even Yukari-chan?” The blonde one – Aigis, yeah, that was it – asks guilelessly.
That makes Kirijo stiffen.  The guy gives her a wry look.  “…Yeah, I guess she wouldn’t take too well to hearing the Kirijo Group’s playing with Shadows again, would she?”  He adjusts the bandages protecting his hands.  “That’s the part I don’t get, though.  Why did you start this up again?  I thought we’d finally left it behind.  All of it.”
Interesting.  Adachi wonders if he can use this. 
“I can’t easily explain it.” Kirijo almost sounds confused, for a moment, before covering it up with a brisk, “It’s complicated.  Come on.  We shouldn’t waste any more time.  We can’t delay the justice department forever.”
Adachi waits until they’re gone before stepping back out into the corridor.
He doesn’t have any intention of going back.  Out there, he’s hopeless, pathetic, and meaningless.  His entire existence is an exercise in boredom.  But in here…
In here, he’s a God.  Izanagi, the master of creation.
And if he wants to keep his domain, that means stamping out every little insect who threatens it. 
He cranes his neck upwards.  He might not be able to sense as well as he did under the thrall of Ameno-sagiri, but he knows he’s getting close, now.  His pulse throbs in excitement, and the impending, total victory is already sweet on his tongue. 
“Not much longer, Souji-kun, and we’ll see who really deserves to be a God.”
They’re close.  Even with Kanzeon struggling to make sense of the odd readings in the dungeon, she can sense Souji-senpai.  “Guys!  We’re nearly there!”
Their shoulders sag in relief – they’ve been in here for over a day now, longer than any journey into the TV they’ve made before.  The dungeon is maze-like, the mirrors disorientating, and the Shadows all over the scale in terms of strength.  If it weren’t for Kanzeon, they could have been lost in here for days.
As it is, a dull headache is forming behind her eyes that not even a TaP soda could chase away.  She has to be vigilant, so they can avoid and spare Senpai’s Personae.  Even then, they’ve been forced to destroy five others since Isis, and Rise can only pray that more still linger beyond the range of Kanzeon’s senses – especially knowing that Adachi and the Kirijo trio will not have the same hesitation.
Teddie trails her, despondent at not being able to help, and Naoto keeps pace beside them, guarding instead of taking point – her Persona had been terrifying at full strength, but this weaker version is less useful than even Jiraiya.  “Are we the first?” she asks.
Rise shakes her head.  “I can’t tell more than that, sorry.”  But they’d better be the first.  As far as she can tell, neither Adachi nor those other strangers have a sensory-style Persona on hand, and they’ve been running themselves ragged all day, stopping only for toilet breaks and food.  “The entrance is just up ahead.”
A nervous energy buzzes through the group, and through Kanzeon’s visor it looks like a wave of orange.  They’ve struggled to make it this far, to rescue their leader when the rest of the world had already given him up for dead.  Without him, they were lost, and fought and accused each other and ran in pointless circles and missed the obvious.  Their Personae are crumbling in his absence.  But they’ve managed to make it this far, regardless, and they will take Senpai back!
Through the distant fog, tall doors come into focus - solid, black steel with simple silver edging.  They’re intimidating, but oddly reassuringly familiar.  They’re Souji, somehow, the first hint of him they’ve seen in this endless labyrinth of mirrors that they still don’t want to think too deeply about.
They come to a stop in front of the massive doors.  “He’s just past here,” Rise warns.
Yosuke shifts restlessly from foot to foot, and glances back her way.  “Hey, Rise, do you have any Somas?”
She has two left, which go to him and Yukiko.  Chie, Kanji and Naoto all make do with the last of her sodas – food and drink, the sugarier the better, have always had a peculiarly energising effect inside the TV.  It’s a shame the fox isn’t nearby – they’d left her behind in a safe area hours ago after using some of those weird magic leaves, but maybe it’s for the best.  The fox had given them freebies earlier, but she’s notoriously stingy with anyone other than Senpai.
“Right.”  Kanji cracks his knuckles and readies his shield.  “Let’s do this.”

Next chapter


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 20th, 2011 06:26 am (UTC)
You mistress of cliffhangers you! I want more Persona 3 love please. :D
Nov. 20th, 2011 12:20 pm (UTC)
...That one wasn't even that bad? XD So greedy, there was a whole section dedicated to the P3 crew here. :P
Nov. 20th, 2011 08:21 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I know it's primarily a P4 fic. That dosen't stop my fansqueal upon seeing old friends and wondering what they're getting up to now. Plus... with Mitsuru KNOWING how Yukari would take them messing around with shadows again, I really want to know her justification.
Nov. 20th, 2011 07:13 am (UTC)
I really, really, really love how you tie in so many elements of human psychology in a way that's understandable and yet frighteningly true, if we only look inside ourselves, and in a way that makes it creep onto you.

Souji's slow denial of himself has been hinted at since the first chapter and it's really, really interesting. Personae, after all, are the faces that people show other people, and what, in the persona games, represent their strength of character.

It is also a way of defending oneself, as we can see with Souji now. While he might not be conscious of it, his particular dungeon has been difficult in itself: mirrors, for people to come in to see their shadows -- the and unconsciously the position that Souji himself has been playing for them.

(People love talking about themselves. It's a courteous and smart person who gives them the opportunity to express themselves.)

His defenses are not particularly shadows, no matter how strong they are, but his Personae. And so far, the Investigation teams and Adachi have been tearing down what they can find - walls upon walls of personae into the core that is pure Souji, undefined by those he interacts with.

... poetry, this is.

.... also, late review, since I was torn away for lunch. sob.
Nov. 20th, 2011 12:30 pm (UTC)
I really love the psychology of Persona 4, they don't really make that big a deal out of it but it's pretty nuanced and I've been struggling to do it justice. Adachi's a good case - he actually checks every single identifier on Bob Hare's psychopath checklist! Anyhow, thank you, glad it's working for you so far. (I worry sometimes that I get a bit too pretentious with some of these ideas.)

How they managed to wrap up stuff like that in an outwardly cracky exterior in the game defies understanding.
Nov. 20th, 2011 12:48 pm (UTC)
They're japanese, I think it contributes. Somehow, you're able to work all of it no problem, so please, keep it up!

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )