The investigation team had stumbled upon a strange dungeon in the shadow world and after much deliberation decided to check it out. Yosuke hadn’t been too keen on the idea – the dungeon looked like a dark cave and wasn’t tied to anyone that they knew of – and neither had Rise. She couldn’t sense anything in there and that bothered her. Chie insisted that meant there wasn’t anything in there and was curious and wanted to check it out, while Naoto was similarly interested from an investigative standpoint; they still didn’t know who the culprit was, so she deduced they should thoroughly investigate any lead. Teddie was also surprisingly wary, for he hadn’t ever sensed the place before and to him it didn’t smell like the rest of his home. But he didn’t detect anything harmful either so he wasn’t against the idea. Yukiko and Kanji were pretty indifferent and didn’t care either way.
That left it up to Yu, who studied the cave carefully while listening to everyone’s opinion before deciding Naoto had a point and it would be better to investigate and cross off the place as a possible lead. Yosuke felt his stomach drop upon his announcement, for his gut instinct was telling him there just was something wrong about that cave. Rise also looked pretty uneasy and stepped closer to Yu as they headed inside. “Be careful everyone – just because I can’t sense anything doesn’t mean it’s safe in here,” Rise cautioned, her voice wavering instead of confident like usual.
“You have nothing to worry about,” Chie said, confident in her place. “Hopefully this will give us some sort of clue! We haven’t had anything good in awhile!” She seemed excited, which amused Yukiko as she strolled beside her best friend. “Besides, you know that we wouldn’t let anything happen to you!”
“Yes, Chie would karate chop away any shadows that tried to attack you,” Yukiko giggled, and Chie looked like she was torn on whether to take that as a compliment or if Yukiko was teasing her.
“Yeah, like Yukiko said!” she replied, deciding to take it in stride.
Yosuke was walking silently next to Yu in the lead and had his arms crossed. He looked tense and instead of joining in on the banter like he usually did, he was vigilant instead. That bothered Yu, for he usually took Yosuke’s advice to heart and he didn’t like that his decision had obviously upset his friend. Yosuke hadn’t questioned it once he made it though, and Yu was pretty certain his partner and second in command would had voiced his concern if he had been really upset. Still, the silence and the fact Rise still seemed so uncomfortable as well did not sit easy with him.
Behind him, Kanji was describing everything around him while Naoto was using his observations to jot down notes. It was pretty dark in there and she had to use her phone as a light to see by. That in itself was odd, for usually the dungeons had some sort of lighting for them to go by, unless it was a trick floor and the lights went out. Naoto liked Kanji’s instincts and how he sometimes picked up on things the others didn’t, so she often used him when making observations and gathering evidence as a tool. They made a good team that way.
Teddie had fallen toward the back and also seemed abnormally quiet. He was walking slower and would stop occasionally to sniff or test the air. Yu stopped the group once he realized how much farther behind the bear was and asked, “Hey Teddie, what’s up?”
Teddie didn’t seem to hear him or was too focused on what he was doing to respond. Yosuke spoke up next upon realizing that Teddie was distracted. “Ted!” he shouted, startling Yu and finally getting Teddie to turn. “What’s holding you up, you dumb bear?”
“Sensei, I think we should leave,” Teddie replied, his voice sounding nervous. “I smell something beary bad and I don’t like it…”
Rise stepped closer to Yu again, lightly grabbing hold of his uniform jacket, while Chie and Yukiko also huddled closer together. Kanji stood a little closer to Naoto in a protective stance as well while she looked around as if trying to see what had Teddie so concerned. “What do you mean?” Yu asked.
“I can’t smell the shadow world anymore,” Teddie confessed. “I’ve been sniffing and sniffing but it’s been no good. I think my nose is broken again…” He looked very distraught, but next to Yu he noted that Rise had stiffened. Yosuke was also abnormally still and wasn’t tapping his foot or shifting impatiently like he usually did when they stopped.
“What’s up?” Yu asked, turning to look at Rise.
“Teddie’s right. I can’t sense the shadow world anymore,” Rise said softly. “It’s like it’s…”
“Gone?” a voice asked, sending shivers up everyone’s spine. “I was wondering how long it would take you to notice.”
The whole group drew closer together, gripping their weapons and looking around for any signs of the speaker. The voice began laughing, the same distorted laugh that their shadows usually made when they spoke. Like it was someone’s voice yet not their voice. “Who are you? What do you want?” Chie asked nervously. Yukiko held onto her jacket for comfort and pressed closer when she noticed how scared Chie actually was.
“You should have listened to your friends when they warned you not to come,” the voice continued, ignoring her. “Now one of you will have to pay for it.”
“Where is this place?” Naoto asked cautiously, noting that the voice had simply ignored Chie.
“This place is nowhere,” the voice answered. It appeared to only respond to questions it liked. “There is no exit. You will wander aimlessly unless you agree to my terms.”
Everyone tensed, before looking around them. Sure enough, it did appear pretty empty. When they had first walked in, they had thought it was a cave but now they realized there were no walls that they could see from the light of their phones. Rise couldn’t sense anything in there either, like she usually could in a dungeon. And if Teddie couldn’t smell the shadow world then they really must have been transported to somewhere different.
“What are your terms?” Yu finally asked after they had walked a few feet in every direction and hadn’t come across anything tangible. It was like they simply existed in the inky blackness – there was only void all around them.
“One of you must stay behind,” the voice replied, and the team gasped.
“What?” Rise asked, covering her mouth.
“If one agrees to stay, the rest will leave. Keep in mind, the one who decides to stay will remain here for eternity. You will not see a way back in,” the voice replied.
Noise erupted from the investigation team as everyone began to talk about how unfair it was and how they would find their own way out and would never leave anyone behind. Yosuke, meanwhile, watched Yu quietly, seeing the wheels turn in his friend’s head. He could see it in his partner’s eyes, the way he was weighing each and every situation and option that he had. Yosuke also knew that Yu would not let anyone sacrifice themselves in that way. Anyone but himself that is. And Yosuke recognized who the most necessary member of the team was to keep everyone together and to ensure they solved the mystery and protected Inaba from the strange things that kept going on.
“I’ll do it,” Yosuke spoke up, causing everyone to quiet and stare at him. Especially Yu whose gray eyes stared at him in panic.
“No, Yosuke, you will not. If anyone were to…” Yu started to say, but Yosuke shook his head with a sad grin.
“I’m sorry partner, but I’m afraid that’s not your decision to make. The shadow voice thing only said that someone had to agree, not that the whole team had to agree. And I already agreed first,” Yosuke countered, and the voice began to laugh again.
“Your friend is right. He has agreed and now I will make good on my promise.”
A portal opened up behind them, showing the platform in the shadow world that led back to the TV in Junes. Teddie was immediately hit with the familiar smell of his home, while Rise was relieved to finally sense the shadow world and shadows again, something she never thought she would want to feel. Shadowy tendrils shot forth from the portal and began dragging the rest of the investigation team away. As they began to be dragged back, they struggled to pull away, calling Yosuke’s name and reaching for their friend. Tendrils also held Yosuke back, but he didn’t struggle and instead watched his friends get pulled to safety, a resigned expression on his face. He had a slight smile, even if it seemed a bit strained as he watched them get pulled to the safety of the portal.
“Partner!” Yu called desperately. He was struggling the hardest and was reaching as far as he could for his best friend. Yosuke turned to look at him, for he had been avoiding his gaze after he saw how sick Yu had looked once he realized Yosuke was right and had tricked everyone. “Promise me…” Yu struggled, almost at the entrance of the portal. “Promise me you’ll come back!” Tears immediately sprang to Yosuke’s eyes, and they began to flow harder when he also heard Teddie desperately wail his name.
“I promise!” Yosuke said, starting not to look so resigned to his fate anymore. “Yu, I definitely promise! I’ll find a way!” Those were the last words his friends heard as they were suddenly pushed through the portal and thrown back into the shadow world, landing into a heap on the platform. Yu immediately jumped up and ran for the portal, but it rapidly closed and disappeared before he even had a chance. He stumbled and fell to his knees, sitting slumped in defeat as the rest of the team sat in shocked silence at what had just happened.
Chie was also crying, and she was trying to wipe the tears away on her sleeve. “Stupid Yosuke – why is he so self-sacrificing,” she sniffled while Yukiko wrapped her in a comforting hug.
“He always puts everyone else before himself,” Yukiko agreed, her eyes also wet with tears. “I wish he thought of himself more – he looked so resigned afterward…”
“We’re going to save that stupid punk, you hear me sempai!” Kanji said, getting fired up and punching the ground in irritation. “I can’t believe Yosuke-sempai would do that instead of coming up with a plan with everyone.”
Naoto placed a hand on his shoulder to calm him down. “I think Yosuke-sempai was doing it to stop our leader from doing it instead,” she said softly to Kanji. Yu stiffened from where he sat, but he didn’t say anything or face the rest of the team. There were no encouraging words or plan of action. Just the form of a hopeless boy who had just lost his best friend.
Teddie, meanwhile, had popped out of his bear suit and was crying in his human form with his head on his knees. “Yosuke,” he kept repeating over and over as he sobbed. Rise felt bad for him and instead of trying to comfort Yu like she wanted, she crawled over and placed a comforting hand on Teddie’s head, gently brushing her fingers through his hair until he calmed down.
“Kanji’s right,” she said, once Teddie had been reduced to sniffles. “We’ll find a way to save our sempai. Between my senses and Teddie’s nose, I’m sure we can find it again. No matter what that dumb voice thinks. It’s never had to deal with us before, now has it?”
The others turned and smiled at her, glad for her encouraging words. Even Yu finally unsteadily stood up, although he kept his back to them and was still staring at the portal that had taken Yosuke away. “This was all my fault,” he said, his voice sounding a little broken.
“What do you mean, Yu-kun?” Yukiko asked in confusion.
“I made the decision to investigate. Even though I could tell Yosuke didn’t like it. And now…” Yu replied, his voice sounding broken.
“Rise-chan’s right,” Teddie said, zipping back into his bear suit and standing up. He was obviously still sniffling which caused his voice to sound kind of funny, but he sounded better now. “We’ll save Yosuke and then kick him for being a dummy! Besides, it wasn’t your fault sensei. If anything it’s all our faults because we make decisions as a team.”
“Ted’s right,” Kanji said. “We all could have disagreed, even Yosuke-sempai, and you would have listened. But we didn’t. We all let sempai down, not just you.”
“Yeah, and it’s ok to cry,” Chie said, stepping forward and placing a hand on Yu’s back. He stiffened before relaxing slightly. “I know I would if it had been Yukiko back there too. And honestly all of us cried a little over that idiot.”
Yu turned to face them after that, and they saw that their leader had indeed been crying as well. They had never seen him cry before, but they knew how close he was to Yosuke and so weren’t surprised. That’s why he hadn’t wanted to face them after Yosuke disappeared. “You’re right. I won’t let Yosuke be taken away from us,” Yu agreed. “We can’t leave until we get Yosuke back – there’s no way we can return to Inaba without him.”
Everyone smiled at his words, before nodding to show their resolution. “Hell yeah, let’s get sempai!” Kanji shouted.