Initially, none of them had thought too much about it.
A politician came by Yasogami High School and wanted to speak to the students regarding the worsening fog. He interviewed dozens of students, including Chie, Yukiko, Yu and Yosuke as they were leaving the school gates.
They all gave vague answers (Yu wryly remarked that worrying about the fog won't help him with his exams) to the politician's dissatisfaction.
On the news that night, the politician made comments how the younger generation did not seem too concerned with the fog and certain students appeared more focused on schoolwork than the changing environment.
None of them appeared on the news nor did any of their names and they thought that was the end of that.
“ You have a fever,” Nanako frowned, hands on her hips like a disapproving parent.
Yu would have liked to disagree but he was currently in the middle of a hacking cough. His entire body ached as he leaned back against the couch and he tried to fight off the sudden chills that trembled through his body.
With a deep sigh that no child her age should be able to emit, Nanako hurried to the kitchen. “ I'll make some herbal tea,” she said. “ And then you should go to bed and sleep. You'll feel better after.”
He couldn't remember the last time his mother worried about him. He couldn't remember the last time anyone had fussed over him like this.
“ You will make a great mother,” Yu sincerely told her.
Nanako beamed. “ But you are still going to bed early,” she said sternly and he couldn't help but smile.
“ We all watched the Midnight Channel last night, right?” Rise said in a low tone as Yukiko helped Nanako prepare warm soup in the kitchen.
“ It was definitely Yu,” Chie chewed her lip worriedly.
“ But how is that possible?” Yosuke hissed. “ He didn't show up on TV.”
“ Naoto is looking into it.” Kanji crossed his arms. “ But our first concern should be Senpai's safety.”
“ Should we tell him?” Teddie wondered.
Chie frowned. “ I don't know if we should. I mean, he's got enough on his plate, being sick and all.”
“ And knowing him, Yu will probably get into more trouble just to catch the guy if he knew he was the next target.”
“ Let's take turns staying here. We can just tell Nanako and his uncle that we want to check up on Yu.”
“ Sounds good! No way the killer will get to Senpai as long as one of us is around.”
He drifted between sleep and wakefulness.
Yu could have sworn he heard the voices of his friends mingling with Nanako's throughout the day. He wondered why they were here, did they not have school or better things to do than to watch over him?
He thought he heard Yukiko murmuring an apology, the inn had an emergency and needed her right away. Yosuke and Teddie would be coming in less than ten minutes, would Nanako be okay until then? Nanako gave a cheerful reply and the door closed shut not too long after.
But it seemed like no sooner than Yukiko leaving, the door bell rang.
There were voices, one belonging to Nanako and the second one ... Yu couldn't recognize it. It was too deep and low to be Yosuke or Teddie.
He was still blearily trying to figure out who it was when he heard Nanako scream.
His first reaction was to get out of the bed and protect Nanako. It must be a burglar or thug attempting to get in and hurt Nanako, his groggy mind panicked.
But surely Nanako would know better than to open the door to strangers, wouldn't she?
Staggering to his feet, Yu managed to crawl out of his bed and teetered down the stairs while grabbing onto the wall, wobbling almost drunkenly in his delirious hurry to get to Nanako.
He made it to the first floor just in time to see a frightened Nanako being shoved into the closet by a tall lanky man, just as the man turned towards him.
Yu lunged towards the man, thinking only of Nanako's safety. But the man was stronger than him in his weakened state.
Hands pushed him down and down he went into the darkness.
Dojima had rushed back home to find Nanako sobbing in Teddie's arms and Yosuke Hanamura standing vacantly in front of a busted door and that Yu was missing.
He barely managed to compose himself or Nanako when the rest of Yu's friends arrived.
“ What happened?” Kanji Tatsumi yelled, wide eyed terror mingling with his fury.
Adachi, perhaps sensing Dojima's turmoil, took over. He explained that Yosuke and Teddie arrived to find Nanako crying and banging at the closet door. Nanako tearfully explained the delivery man demanded to see Yu and when she hesitated, he forced himself in and grabbed Yu who was just coming down the stairs and disappeared into the night.
Yukiko Amagi had tears in her eyes. “ I am so sorry. I shouldn't have left,” she said. “ I should have stayed until Yosuke and Teddie arrived. It was because of me that Yu got kidnapped.”
“ Don't say that!” Chie Satonaka was quick to say. “ It wasn't your fault, Yukiko. You couldn't have predicted this. It's no one's fault but – ”
They all turned towards Nanako. “ I let the delivery man in,” she whispered. “ I see him all the time. I didn't think he would hurt – ”
She couldn't continue, breaking down into sobs once again.
“ Nanako. It's not your fault,” Dojima soothed, kneeling down to place his hands on her shoulders.
“ Yeah! It's the guy who's doing all of this!” Yosuke Hanamura immediately jumped in.
“ But – but because of me, big bro is gone!”
“ We will find him,” Naoto Shirogane firmly said. “ We are tracking the car's license plate as we speak. The kidnapper couldn't have gotten very far.”
It was little reassurance to Nanako who continued crying in her father's arms.
Dojima waited until Adachi escorted Nanako to the police car before he turned towards Yu's friends.
“ Yu was involved with the murders, wasn't he?”
He held out the letter he had found in the mailbox this morning. He shouldn't have opened it without Yu's permission but his instincts told him to. He was going to talk to Yu about it, but he was not so cruel to interrogate his own bedridden nephew.
Naoto Shirogane was the only one who gazed back directly at Dojima. “ What do you intend to do now?” she calmly responded with a question of her own.
The letter crumpled in his hand.
“ Tell me everything.”
Yu woke up with a violent jerk.
He tried to move his arms and legs but they were like lead. His mouth and throat was painfully dry. He tried to lift his head, only for a wave of dizziness to assault him and all he could was allow his head to flop back down against the floor that rocked every few seconds, enough to make him want to retch.
That was when he realized he was in a car.
The man – it was Namatame the delivery man, he now recognized – sitting in the driver's seat was muttering under his breath. Yu thought he might have heard, “ Didn't mean to frighten the girl” and “ You will thank me after”, but he couldn't be certain.
Izanagi raged and stormed at the edge of his mind. The others hissed and agreed, sending pricks of pain across his forehead.
His hand flexed and clenched in a desperate attempt to summon help.
But this was the real world and none of his Personas would come, no matter how much they wanted to.
It was a painful and bitter reality when they reached the truck and found that neither Yu or Namatame were there anymore.
Almost immediately, Yukiko ran towards the television.
“ No! Yukiko, don't!” Chie grabbed her in time. “ It's too dangerous!”
“ Let me go! I have to help him!”
“ He wouldn't want you to risk yourself like this!”
He really wouldn't. Yukiko knew this, as did the others. Yu was far too kind for his own good and would rather bear the burden than let others hurt on his behalf.
With a frustrated sigh, Yukiko let herself fall back into Chie's arms.
I can't believe the boy would appear on it. I must save him no matter what!
The words in Namatame's journal were baffling and only led to more questions.
It was almost a mockery of their own determination and conviction to save their friend.
Just before the paramedics could wheel him away, Dojima reached out with a bloodied hand, grabbing Naoto's wrist.
“ Please ... find him.”
His hand sluggishly stretched forward.
His Persona burst forth with a vicious vengeance, slashing at Namatame's arms where he had been half-dragging half-carrying Yu further into the fog. He screamed, releasing Yu who stumbled to his knees.
“ Don't you know I'm trying to save you?” Namatame snarled.
The heaviness of the fog weighed painfully against Yu's chest, making it difficult to reply.
“ The police. Those brats. Why don't they understand that I saved them? And this is the thanks I get?
Shadows swarmed and surrounded Namatame, casting him in an unholy darkness. His voice descended into a maniacal sneer.
Izanagi tensed, raising his sword protectively over Yu.
A deformed humanoid creature with a circling ring floating above its head now stood instead of Namatame. Its red bulbous eyes fixed with a ravenous hunger on Yu.
A strange sensation trickled through his body, as if invisible strings were coiling and tightening over him. Yu tried to get up, only to remain frozen on the ground. Izanagi was the same, hissing at his apparent helplessness.
“ I will save you from them,” the creature intoned.
His friends were coming.
With a dawning horror, Yu realized what the creature would make him do.
“ Stay back,” he weakly called out.
But it was too late. His friends got too close and the creature flicked its hand towards them.
They won't be coming for me.
The soft despairing tone of Yu made them stop in their tracks. “ Senpai! Where are you?” Kanji yelled out.
Everyone always say they will remember me. But once I leave, they always forget about me. Like I was never there to begin with.
“ That's no true!” Teddie cried.
Maybe it would be better to just stay here. Stay in this world where I won't be alone anymore.
“ There!” Naoto shouted, pointing ahead for them to squint past the fog and to see Yu kneeling on the floor.
Yu looked horrible. His face was alarmingly pale with only splotches of his fever highlighting the hollowness of his cheeks. His body was trembling in the effort just to stay up right.
They cried for him and tried to run to him, only for Izanagi to charge at them with an agonized howl.
Summoning both Kohryu and Sraosha in rapid succession proved to be too much for Yu.
But he would gladly do it again to defeat Kunino-Sagiri and they were able to retrieve the unconscious Namatame.
Warm hands touched his shoulder and he swayed and the adrenaline that had been pumping through his body was gone, leaving him a shivering mess.
His vision tilted and blurred. Cold sweat coated his skin. Every breath took more and more effort. His right hand, burned when he grabbed the ring controlling him, throbbed, sending spikes of pain up his entire arm. The reluctant damage his friends had done to stop him was seeping deep into his bones, gnawing at his consciousness.
He thought he might have heard someone call his name before he fell.
His friends, panicking and distressed, told him to hold on.
But he couldn't.
(even if he really wanted to)
There was something unsettling about how lifeless the kid looked, Adachi thought.
The doctors were puzzled. His sickness should not have gotten this bad. They ran tests and found nothing conclusive.
His friends were in and out of the room. Like restless insects, they couldn't remain still. Some stood by the window, tapping their fingers over the glass. A few sat at his bedside, holding his hand, talking in quiet voices.
Dojima came by whenever the nurses weren't looking. He was always just stare at the kid, not saying anything, just gripping the ends of the wheelchair in a tight grip. One of the kids brought Nanako over and she broke down into sobs and had to be escorted out after.
What a drag, Adachi thought.
It would be more simple to just unhook the kid from the machines.
The thought certainly crossed his mind and it was very tempting to do so when it was just him and the kid alone in the room.
All people are doomed to die anyways. Some sooner than others.
Hell, the kid might even consider it a mercy.
“ All doctors and nurses, please head to room 022. I repeat, please head to room 022. Please – ”
The room was silent, like the entire world was holding its breath.
He was almost as white as the sheets that covered him. If they were foolish enough, they could convince themselves he was merely sleeping and would wake up any moment now. If they had thought of him still before, it was nothing compared to how he was now, now that he was –
(not dead not dead not dead not dead not dead not dead not dead)
Dojima bowed his head, resting it against the crook of the arm and the chest. He looked very old and very small all at once.
Nanako kept shaking him, begging him to wake up. Please don't leave me, she had cried and her pleads fell unanswered.
The others stood helplessly at the side. Tears freely trickled down their cheeks, mingled with shock, fury and disbelief.
The doctors were speaking in a gentle tone but none of their words were heard.
The sun that brightened their lives was extinguished and no gravity could keep them from floating into the darkness.
The snivelling cries that Namatame made was pitiful to hear and it did very little to calm the terrifying storm that burned through their veins.
“ Don't cry.” Naoto's voice was frightfully devoid of emotion. “ It's pathetic.”
“ Tell me why you did it, you bastard,” Yosuke demanded, fists shaking badly.
“ It's not fair!” Chie stamped her foot in frustration. “ He didn't deserve this!”
“ Why should you get to live when Senpai – ?” Rise couldn't even finish the sentence.
“ We – we didn't even get to say good bye,” Teddie whispered.
“ You took him away from us!” Yukiko choked out.
“ Dude wants to die that badly. I'd say we help him,” Kanji coldly announced.
How easy and simple it would be, to toss Namatame – the murderer! the criminal! the bastard! – into the television.
Make him disappear from the world.
Just like Yu was gone from their world.
“ If I'm not around, you guys will take care of Nanako and my uncle for me, right?” Yu asked, seemingly out of nowhere.
“ What are you doing about, dude? Don't say stuff like that.”
“ What Kanji means, is that we will. They're like family anyways. You have nothing to worry about.”
“ Not that anything will happen.”
A soft smile. “ Of course not.”
In the end, they didn't.
“ It would seem that you have died,” Igor contemplatively said.
“ An unexpected turn of events,” Margaret added. “ The challenges you have faced might have proven too much for your body.”
“ And yet, this was not how your journey was meant to end,” Igor continued. “ There was a change of your fortune that led to this. However, not all is lost. Your fate has been changed yet again, this time towards your favor. You truly are an amazing guest.”
“ The bonds between your friends were the key to your salvation and to the salvation of your world,” Magaret smiled. “ Your hard work has paid off.”
“ Now go and continue to seek out the truth as you have always done so.”
The hand that Dojima held twitched.
The heart monitor began to beep.
A soft inhale of breath could be heard.
“ I – I don't believe it,” a doctor said.
In their opinion, he still looked very pale, thin and weak. Amongst themselves, they all made promises to stuff full of proper food once he left the hospital.
“ How are you feeling?” Yosuke asked.
Considering that his entire body felt like he had been hit with a truck and he could probably sleep for another few years, Yu simply settled with, “ Ghostly.”
Yukiko was the first to break the silence by laughing. Before long, Yukiko's snorts were infectious because the tension that agitated them the last few days finally dissipated and they all started laughing.
" That was a good one," Yukiko managed to say between her giggles.
“ Good to know you're still the same,” Chie grinned. Her eyes were suspiciously bright.
“ Bear-y good,” Teddie added, inconspicuously trying to wipe away his tears.
" I'm just glad you're okay Senpai," Rise sniffed.
“ The next time you plan on being a hero, don't,” Kanji said without much heat.
“ Or at least no theatrics like this time,” Naoto dryly said.
Yu weakly smiled. “ I'll keep that in mind.”
Nanako's eyes remained teary despite his assurances he was fine. “ Are you sure you're okay, big bro?” she asked. “ You won't be leaving us again, right?”
Her unspoken fears of what happened to her own mother were still very much the forefront of Nanako's mind.
A wiser person knew that he could not make that promise, knowing the killer was still out there, knowing he would return to the television world and its dangers, knowing the school year was ending and he would leave Inabi no matter what.
But Yu was not that kind of person.
Instead, he reached forward and patted her head, even if the effort made his body tremble.
“ I won't. I promise.”